This month our Round Robin blog topic is: How do you handle/use violence, or any type of danger, in your stories?
For me, being a non-violent person (read mile-wide yellow streak down my spine) I find it very difficult to write villains and villainy into my stories. Murder mysteries and thrillers with graphic content tend to make me squirm or give up reading or watching them. That’s not to say that I can’t appreciate good writing or great acting, just that I’d rather not have my sleep disturbed by bad dreams after experiencing it. Case in point – I had to stop watching Criminal Minds because of the nightmares it gave me. Yes, folks, that’s just how much it upset me.
However, conflict is a must-have to write a good story. Without conflict there really is no story. I think of the example I have given to writing classes in the past of a couple cleaning their teeth. They go into the bathroom. He takes the cap off the tube of toothpaste, squeezes the tube in the middle to get the required amount of paste on his brush, gives her the tube. She squeezes the tube in the same place and as soon as her toothbrush is loaded, she screws the cap back on. It's routine. It’s boring. Nothing happens. It does not move the story forward. Heck, it isn’t even a story.
BUT – what if they don’t go into the bathroom together? What if he goes in first, showers, shaves, cleans his teeth?
When I write my own stories, I write the ‘nice’ bits first – the characters and things that come easily to me. Then I have to weave in the nefarious stuff. The nasty cousin, the thief in the night, or the blackmailer. But I work out their character lines as much as I do for my hero or heroine. I want to know what has made my characters the way they are, nice, naughty or just plain nasty. The results may never grace a page, but at least I know what makes them tick and can convey as much as is necessary through introspection or dialogue. I have to have some measure of empathy for my villains and hope my readers understand that.
Two books that I have read a couple of times each for spine-tingling, edge-of-my-seat suspense and examples of how to build tension are Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot and Dean Koontz’s Innocence. Neither has the kind of graphic, visual hit that makes me want to peer through my fingers. Rather, it is a slow build-up of little details that draw me in. If it’s an out and out fight scene, I don’t think anyone sets that up as well as Lee Child does in his Jack Reacher books. I mostly write Regency romance, but the basics apply to any era. In my second Regency I needed to set up a sword-fight scene so went to my local sword fencing club and got so much more information than if I had just read about it or watched YouTube clips – although I have to admit I find YouTube an enormously useful tool.
Writers are a resourceful lot and what works for one may not work for another. Let’s visit the authors listed her and see what works for them.
Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1i2
Victoria Chatham http://www.victoriachatham.com
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Anne Stenhouse http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
A.J. Maguire http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Marci Baun http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Anne de Gruchy https://annedegruchy.co.uk/category/blog/
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com