Killing off your characters, from LitCh@t

14 08 2013

http://litchat.com/2013/08/14/character-assassination-killing-off-fictional-characters/

Good list of resources about murdering characters, the whys and hows and whens.

For the absolute skinny on HOW, you must read D.P.Lyle’s blog or read one of his excellent books, available here.

Have fun offing your (fictional) characters!

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So, how do you DO a good murder (story) these days, anyway?

30 04 2013

I remember once having a lengthy and somewhat gruesome chat about how you would dispose of a body in these recycling focused days. Would you drop it by the medical school? Dissect it and put the hip joints and such in either the plastic or metal recycling containers? Take the head and the mercury fillings to the harmful waste dump day?

It’s a conundrum.

Likewise, how do you learn to write about murder most foul? Merely calling up your local cop shop and asking for tips  might lead to awkward questions and notes home from school asking you to please not offer to chaperone the next field trip. Calling a local psychiatrist and pretending to be a psychopath isn’t recommended, either – unfortunately, so much psychiatry is based on first impressions you might end up with way too much time to write and too many drugs to be coherent.

The obvious choice is to read read read read mysteries, following the excellent (if somewhat dry) Francine Prose’s guidelines to Reading like a writer. Well, I’ve done that, and I have a problem with that approach.

If the mystery is good, I get all wrapped up in the story and race through, barely noticing the plot techniques while I get pulled along. If it’s bad, I only notice the things that hold it up, ruin the credibility.

OHI0129-CritiqueRule1I remember once being so disenchanted with a book that I dropped everything to see if the plant the author had described actually grew in the place she’d put it. (It didn’t).

I know a book has missed the mark for me when I get that fussy.

So I take courses, rub up against “real” writers, shop my stuff to contests and unsuspecting friends, try to get critiqued. This last bit is harder than it looks. Even in writing groups, there’s the tendency to be nice.

Or horrified.

One of my stories involved a pedophile that I apparently described so well that people didn’t want to read my stuff anymore. So I had to play nicey nicey and write nicey stuff for a bit.

Inside, the seething dark looms.horrifiedwoman

So, instead, I send things to contests. The ones that give you feedback. I figure I’m paying someone my entry fee to have a close, uninvolved reader have a look.

Sometimes the feedback is useful, sometimes it’s just a line or two.  Sometimes it is harsh, sometimes it’s helpful. Lately, I’ve had the opportunity to turn it around and offer my comments on other’s writing. I can only hope I’m the helpful type.

In the meantime, I’ve had help from:

Gotham Writer’s Workshop

Crime Writers of Canada

Sisters In Crime

Bloody Words

Canadian Authors Association

and my favourite resource for ways to kill people and those awkward dinner table silences:

D.P. Lyle. Check out his books. Best way to find stuff out without getting asked questions you can’t answer…





It’s almost National Crime Writing Month!

29 04 2013

Now, finally, a blog topic that won’t involve endless self-examination and revelation and such. Phew.

Because I haven’t done any crimes.

Okay, I remember ONE TIME where I stole something. I was in grade 5. I STILL feel guilty about it. Ashamed, bad, totally awful. I’d make amends to the harmed party but I am too embarrassed to admit I did it.

So picture what would happen if I killed someone?

As it is, even a gentle thought crossing my mind about whether I’d like to kiss someone or potentially push them under a car – well, it’s all printed on my face. I’d never be able to lie about myself.

As a nurse and a writer, though, I can lie about other people. Thank heavens. Even if the lie is, ultimately, the truth – or at least it would be if I write as well as I hope.

In the meantime, head on over to the National Crime Writing Blog by the Crime Writers of Canada, and read how some pros handle criminous thinking/writing/acting. It’ll be worth your time…

And that’s no crime….





When love goes awry…

5 02 2013

“And you know what? To protect my kids, I’d lie, too. I’d lie on a stack of Bibles.”

Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013/02/11/130211fa_fact_keefe#ixzz2K2jZqwHp

This story is about a woman who murdered all of her colleagues, supposedly over tenure at a university. And about the “accident” years earlier, where she shot her brother, killing him.

It’s a fascinating story, terrifying in its implications, sad in the lack of help for someone who could surely have used it. And worrying for the children of such a set of parents.

But the quote I selected above is the scariest of all. What’s happened here?

Back in the time of responsibility, parents were the ones who took their children to the shopkeeper and made them return what they had stolen. I remember once having done something mean to a friend and my mother MADE me go and apologize. I had to walk the mile there and back, squirming in embarrassment, upset that I had to take the blame for what had been a joint girlfriend attack. But I never bullied again. (Well, until I got into management, and then it was only incompetence that drove me).

My parents made me wear my decisions, and I think I’m better for it.

Now, I’ve covered for my kids at times, but I would never cover for such a thing. Even when they were in school and their teachers would call me to wail about how my kids weren’t doing this or that assignment, I’d tell them – so FAIL them! I’m cool with that, I said. They have to learn consequences. The teachers never did, saying that the final result on the assignment was too good for them to be able to fail them. Unacceptable. How was I supposed to hold the kids accountable when their teachers wouldn’t?

In the real world, when you f*** up, you pay. You get a ticket, you lose your job, you go broke or bankrupt, you lose a friend or a lover. I find it appalling that now people seem to think that it is totally inappropriate to subject kids to consequences, leaving them unprepared to deal with life.

ImageAnd with a flexible sense of the truth.

I adore my kids. I’d walk over burning coals to support them, even the ungrateful one who still won’t speak to me. (Well, maybe not that one. I’m fed up.) But I wouldn’t lie for them.

I know they have their faults, as do I. But I expect to be held accountable for my faults, as they should.

Would I lie if they were threatened with a jail sentence, if they committed a crime? My heart would break, but I wouldn’t. We live as a part of society, and as parts of society, we’re expected to play at least close to the rules.

I hope never to have to deal with this, and my heart goes out to any parent who has to try to understand a monstrous child. I know I blame myself for my kids’ every fault already, so I can imagine how they must feel. But surely, lying for your kid, letting them off the hook, allowing them to turn into more horrific and self-centred creatures isn’t love.





Don’t ever get old: review

20 01 2013

cover14292-mediumWhew. In the first pages excerpt of this book (available online from NetGalley) so much is told, so much is started. I am awash in books to read and yet I’ve put this one on my “to grab soon” list. Friedman can write, powerfully, and I’m dying to see if the rest of the book pans out.
Though I have to say I am building up a resistance to the following: Thrillers involving Nazis; anything involving autism; anything involving children being put in harm’s way; more stories about the Great Wars that focus only on the American/British side of things. Or the French Resistance. Or anything with the words “50 shades of …” in the title. Or female porn loosely written up as if it was a good, mind-nourishing tale of female submission and torture.

This book looks like it might have two of my resistance items. But it also has one of my favourite things – a crusty old main character, who isn’t any better than he should be, who is a bit selfish and crabby and still holds grudges. I love characters with grudges.

I’d have a lot of them, myself, except for the memory loss I’ve suffered with MS.

But grumpy I can do. So I want to hear what this fellah Buck Schatz (even love the name) gets up to. Must go round up the whole book.





USA? Stay Away.

14 12 2012

abd7e331-dd87-4e27-83cc-59eb25ac61f5Why are we talking about the USA? Because it’s one of the countries on the list of where you might be from, and it’s on my mind right now. My horrified mind.

Some man went into his kid’s elementary school today and shot up the class and a whole bunch of other people. We don’t know yet whether he shot his daughter, whether this was some horrible custody fight, why the man, now dead, took it into his head to kill everyone today.

Of course it will be argued that he was mentally ill. You’d have to be mentally ill to shoot kids and teachers and such. But maybe he wasn’t as ill as all that. Big shootings are a common event down south. They seem to happen about once a month, at least. More in good weather. And they are speeding up, like in murder mysteries when the psychopath starts losing control and changes his pattern to kill more often.

Usually that’s when the detective catches the perp. Who is going to catch a country’s perpetrator?

It’s utterly horrible. Most Americans are wonderful people, most of the time the country is peaceful, bucolic even, given that most of the violent have been killed in needless international wars (oops, cynicism there). I grew up in the US, and my family members still live there. But I really don’t think I’ll ever go visiting anymore. I can’t support such a place.
You might argue that it’s individual people committing the crimes, but I disagree. A political and economic system based on creating inequality and competition and ever-increasing pressure to have more, take more, own more creates these monsters. It always has.

Look at other places. The countries with less income inequality, with a better social safety net, with fairer laws, with GUN control – well, there’s less violence. Unless you are in the middle of a war zone, there’s not much that matches the violence in an average US city.

The US prison population is over 2 million, more than those incarcerated in CHINA. 1 in 32 Americans are under correctional supervision. Everyone knows about the imbalance in racial background in the prisons, but with this many people incarcerated, a lot of people of every colour, sex and background are doing time.

WHY?

images-21

And then there are the guns. Everyone wants one. Florida crowed only last week about having issued their 1 millionth concealed gun permit. People are getting their legislatures to pass laws to allow people to bring guns to work, to coffee shops, to wherever.

Every time there’s a big shooting, the NRA tells people that the only thing that will keep them safe is more handgun ownership. They institute things like laws that allow you to shoot anyone you think may be trespassing on your land. Note: don’t go to a stranger’s door in the US and ask for directions.I am certain there will be some idiot who suggests that this shooting in Connecticut wouldn’t have happened if the teachers were armed. The NRA have a convenient “Women on target” program to teach women how to shoot pistols – perhaps this will become part of teacher training?images-22

I am in astonished grief about all the poor children and teachers and family members of this man who were killed today. I even spare a bit of grief for the man. But grief is not enough. This has to be stopped. It’s insanity on a country-wide scale.

I think the only solution is to start an embargo around the USA – no one buy anything from there or travel there until they pass some decent gun-control laws. And here in Canada, make sure our safety net is secure (fix it), and throw our Conservative, wish I had a gun too, government back into the oil sands.

It’s important. We’re up here in Canada, just waiting for the wave of hatred and killing to surge over our border. Our income inequality is worse than in the US. The only thing saving us are our gun laws and our inhospitable weather.

Incidentally, I googled “no guns” images, and these were on the front page. Including this one. I could cry, all day. How many more must die?NoGunsNoMoney-Variety





Thanks awfully, but…

12 07 2012

Way back, when I started this writing gig, I felt totally inadequate. All the best writers, I felt, had a disastrous childhood, a set of parents who beat or ignored or hurt them in some way, a problem with addiction, run-ins with the church or with the police or school.

Image

heading into my writing lair…

They had handicaps, couldn’t write because they had to work double jobs even at the age of 12, lived in grinding poverty and stole moments to write on scraps of the Sears catalog when they were shivering in the outdoor privy.They were unloved, outsiders, alone, had made up friends. You know, the poor pitiful writer thing.

That was back when I wrote comedy. Life, I thought, was a huge cosmic joke, and besides, I didn’t have any deep substantial trauma to write out of myself.  I tried to become an alcoholic, but just became depressed when the addictive part passed me by. I tried smoking cigars a la Hemingway but they tasted awful.

Well, the gods, I have to say, have listened to me. Though I rather with they hadn’t. Over the past few years, tragedy seems to be stalking me. I’ve developed the unpredictable disease, MS. I had to stop working and now see my life in a series of downward spirals of increasing disability. Well, okay, only on my bad days.

My parents both died in untold agonies. My marriage also. My family disintegrated. My relatives started perishing, also well before their time. My favourite uncle vanished one day, leaving me wishing for a goodbye, but too late. My favourite aunt withered away, her spirit unquenched until the last horrible days. My mother in law developed and died of ALS, a cruel destiny for anyone, but most especially for her, a strong New Zealand lass who took all of life in stride.

Then other bad things happened, stupid things that served to mess with my head – sexual assaults, terrible male friends with horrible pasts, financial disasters. Depression sauntered into my life and turned it grey. My daughter stopped speaking to me, and broke my heart.

Then, this past week, a lightning bolt that will change my life forever. It’s nasty enough to make me call back those gods and say, hey, enough already!

Suffice to say I have things to write out of me now. And it’s fortunate I like to kill people in my stories cos I have a few I’d like to really do away with but can’t as prison life isn’t healthy. And I couldn’t hurt someone deliberately, really. Sortof.

So listen, ye gods of old, unless you give me my own lightning bolt to fire, maybe you could lay off my life for a bit. I’m sure there’s some other wanna be writer who needs a bit of inspiration. I’m full up now. I’m good. Really.








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