What’s in a Name?

posted in: Writing Craft | 1

How do you decide on a name for the fictional characters you write about? I thought about my own process of choosing names – it varies, and it’s complicated. I might search for a name by thumbing through an old phone book (a good reason to keep the one they throw at the end of the driveway) to find interesting combinations. I don’t use one complete directory listing (first and last name) in case that character gets into trouble and … Read More »

The Sublime Art of the Unreliable Narrator

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  We want those around us to be honest with us, to tell us the truth. Most of the time, anyway. We want them to be reliable in their narrations. But in fiction, great beauty resides within the unreliable. Author Wayne C. Booth coined the phrase “unreliable narrator” in 1961 to describe that narrative voice the writer employs with the goal of misleading us, the readers. It may not be the easiest thing to manage with success, but when it … Read More »

The Writing Life: Research, Part II

How do we inject realism into our writing? Research is one of those harder-than-it-seems actions that those with “google-fu” excel at, but the rest of us sometimes struggle to start. The bottom line in my experience is to just start. And to stay organized. And to be ruthless. To start, plug general terms for your research subject into your chosen search engine. Browsing will turn up repeated words. Plug those in as keywords. As your brain starts to digest the … Read More »

Corresponding with the Experts

posted in: Writing Craft | 10

As a reader, I’m willing to suspend disbelief to great extent, thereby granting license to Writer Jane to take liberties and push, even shred, the envelope in order to tell the story and entertain me. But Jane has a certain responsibility to get it right. I expect her to make at least a minimum effort to get right the facts of how things are or were, however mundane those facts may be. No matter the genre. Yet few among us … Read More »

Right Word, Wrong Year: Fun with Etymology

posted in: Writing Craft | 8

Sometimes while reading a short story or novel with an historical setting, you come across a word or phrase that causes a bit of a stumble. The reason might be obvious or not. It might be that the word or phrase is lumbering about way outside its era. Maybe it’s a novel of the American Revolution, wherein General Washington receives more bad news in frozen Valley Forge, and orders his lieutenant to Philadelphia with an urgent plea for help. So … Read More »

Get Cozy: A Chat with Novelist Nancy J. Cohen

posted in: Writing Craft | 24

My mother devoured every Agatha Christie novel ever written, and though I developed an early appreciation for Christie’s fussy little Belgian, Hercule Poirot, I didn’t become familiar with the term “cozy mystery” until many years later, but the moment I heard it, I knew it described Christie’s work to a tee. Or a tea, if you will. The cozy is the gentle workhorse of mystery fiction, a reliable subgenre with a dedicated following, and one that shows no signs of … Read More »

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