a guest post by Lauren Carr
Lauren Carr is one of my favorite guests on this blog. She’s written so many books I can’t keep track of them all, so you can be sure she’s learned a lot about the art and craft of writing. Despite her crazy-busy schedule, she graciously provided some important advice about bringing your fictional characters to life. Keep reading to learn more about that, about Lauren’s new audio book, and about how you can enter the giveaway.
Last night, I bailed on a book. I’m not a quitter. Firmly, I held to the belief that by the time I got one-third of the way into the story, I would care enough about the characters to strive onward to “the end.”
I feel guilty for jumping ship on a fellow author’s book—especially since this book had been selected by my book club. Yet, when most of the other club members stated that they were moving on to the next month’s selection, I figured that gave me a license to do the same.
The overall complaint: We couldn’t connect with the book’s characters.
Why couldn’t I, or anyone in our book club, connect with the characters in this book? The writer never allowed us to get close enough to them.
Every writer dreams of readers getting pulled into their book. The best way for that to happen is to have your characters grab the readers and yank them into the plot to go along for the ride. But before that can happen, the characters need to get close enough to the readers to grab them.
For example, after several chapters into this murder mystery, I realized that I had yet to meet the murder victim. Granted, the victim in this cold case mystery was long gone when the book started, but still …
Every detail in the mystery was reported via narrative as the protagonist read reports and discussed the case with her colleagues. Through the detective investigating her disappearance, the readers learned the victim’s name, that she was a student, and the date she disappeared. We learned that she had parents and the major she was studying in college. Basically, the reader learned nothing more about the victim than what appears on the average resume.
In order to get close enough to the characters to connect with them, the writer needs to allow the reader to meet them.
Sometimes the premise can make this difficult. Once, I beta read a cozy mystery for a writer in which the amateur detective investigated the case via gossip from various investigators and witnesses. There were no visits to the crime scene. No direct dialogue with any suspects or witnesses. The protagonist learned everything second or third hand.
Think about this. If the protagonist is experiencing the storyline second-hand—then the reader is experiencing it third-hand.
Admittedly, this can be an issue for writers of mystery (especially cold case mysteries), suspense, or thrillers where the protagonists are investigators brought into the story after the fact. For example, the novel opens with the police detective arriving on the scene after the murder. However, there a tricks and tips to bring your readers up close and personal.
Involve Your Characters and Keep them Close: Keep your characters up close to the plot, either by time, place, or motivation. One common technique is to make the protagonist have a personal stake in the outcome. The antagonist targets him, or the victim is a personal friend.
Often, readers will joke about how common it is for the whole family tree of the amateur detective in a cozy mystery series to have been murder victims, witnesses, or suspects—all in the name of connecting the protagonists to the plot!
Actually, the protagonist does not need to be that close for the reader to connect.
In one murder mystery I read, the detective simply looked wistfully down at the victim, a sweet looking young woman. His partner asked him what was wrong, and he replied that the victim reminded him of a sweet Italian girl from high school who had won all the boys’ hearts.
“Oh, the one that got away, huh?”
“No, the one that I married,” he said.
At that moment, readers connected to the victim via the detective who took a personal interest in the case simply because she reminded him of his wife.
Other techniques for connecting readers to distant characters:
Prologues: If you are writing a police procedural or detective novel where the crime is committed before the protagonist is introduced, consider opening your book with a prologue. It doesn’t have to be a long drawn out scene. Mine are usually only about five pages long. Introduce the readers to the victim. Let them experience the event, the fear, the horror, first hand. This will grab your reader by the throat and yank them into the book. This type of prologue can serve a dual purpose if your novel has an otherwise slow opening.
Flashbacks: Most writing rules strongly suggest using flashbacks sparingly. If you are writing crime fiction in which your detective is not personally involved with the victims and witnesses (say a police procedural) you may want to consider using flashbacks, written from the witness’s or victim’s point of view during the investigator’s interviews with them.
This will take your readers one step closer to the action. Also, during the flashback, you are putting your reader into the witness or suspect’s head. This trick will engage them in the action.
That’s the whole idea. Before your readers can become engaged in the action, they need to connect with your book. The best ones to connect with your readers are your characters—but they can’t do that unless you let them get up close and personal with your readers!
Nikki Bryant’s Next Case Takes Her to the Wrong Side of Murder
One spring morning, Jodi Gibbons got up and went to school as she did every day. Her young life went sideways though when the police found that her mother had been brutally killed during the night.
Twenty years later, many in Pine Grove believe Jodi got away with murder. After all, how could she have possibly slept through her mother’s violent death in the very next room?
After decades of silence, Jodi accepts investigative journalist Nikki Bryant’s invitation to tell her side of the story. However, before the interview can take place, someone silences Jodi permanently.
Now it is up to Nikki Bryant and her friends to uncover the secret that Jodi Gibbons has been protecting—a secret someone believes it is worth killing to keep from being revealed.
The Wrong Side of Murder is another wonderful cozy mystery by author Lauren Carr. It has all the elements that draw me in – an intelligent female lead, an equally smart boyfriend who partners to help her, a complicated plot where clues are slowly revealed, people who aren’t what they seem to be, comedic moments to balance the darker ones, and several quirky pets full of personality.
It’s a wonderful book to escape into at the end of the day. And get ready to read into the wee hours as, if you’re like me, you won’t be able to stop reading until the mystery is revealed. -review by Marilyn R. Wilson, Olio by Marilyn
Nikki’s an intense individual who makes the perfect investigative journalist. She wants answers yesterday and she is willing to dig in to get them. She might get it wrong at the beginning but with the help of her family and close friends, she’ll get the answers she wants and needs.– review by Blooming with Books
Meet the Audiobook Production Team:
A relative newcomer to audiobook narration, Anita Alger is a producer and composer of dozens of musical themes for audiobooks. Working with veteran narrator (and husband) Mike Alger, they’ve teamed up to produce over 30 full length audiobooks. While her musical skills are usually at the forefront, she has also narrated three audiobooks herself, including the new Nikki Bryant Cozy Mystery Series written by Lauren Carr.
When not expressing herself in the arts, Anita is also a Senior Medical Laboratory Scientist working in microbiology, and therefor knows two dozen ways to kill you while making it look like natural causes.
A broadcast veteran of over 35 years, Mike Alger is best known as the award-winning Chief Meteorologist for KTVN-TV in Reno, NV. Narrator and producer of over 30 audiobook novels, he is also a successful author, having penned the Mystery-Thriller novel Snow Storm, and is the narrator of the audiobook of the same name. He collaborates with his wife of 40 years, Anita Alger, who writes and produces the musical themes for his productions.
Selling over half a million books worldwide, Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, Thorny Rose, Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries, and Nikki Bryant Cozy Mysteries—thirty titles across five fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!
Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.
The owner of Acorn Book Services and iRead Book Tours, Lauren is also a publishing manager, consultant, and virtual book tour coordinator for independent authors.
Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions.
She lives with her husband, and two spoiled rotten German shepherds on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.THE WRONG SIDE OF MURDER Audiobook Tour Giveaway
More guest posts by Lauren Carr:
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