DL Fowler's Blog

The Whole Story

Posted in Inspiration, Moments of Grace, Plots, Psychology, Reading, Themes, Transform Your Fiction, Writing by DLFowler on October 26, 2017

When I ask readers what a book is about, they often give a description of the Lead character’s physical journey. Such answers tend to reflect our human tendency to express ourselves in terms of a physical realm, even though our emotions operate at a psychological level.

Jesse Lee Kercheval explains in her book Building Fiction[1] that readers need to see the tangible evidence when internal conflicts are resolved. To satisfy that need, authors must manifest psychological change with physical consequences. (more…)

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The Hero’s Journey in Three Acts

Posted in Plots, Plots, Uncategorized, Writing by DLFowler on October 12, 2017

No matter how unique we want to make our stories, readers need a familiar pattern to follow. Otherwise, they will likely get lost. A millennia-old recipe provides a roadmap for the Lead’s journey. (more…)

A Story’s Moment of Grace

Stories often begin to lose steam near the middle. The Lead character has worked through, around, and over obstacles for almost half the story, having made little progress. We start to worry that readers will grow impatient. We become tempted to add extra scenes solely to ratchet up tension. Big mistake. There’s another way to energize the middles of your stories. (more…)

Book Trailer

Posted in Assassination, Kindle, Lincoln, Lincoln's Diary, Lincoln's Psychology, My Books, Nook, Plots by DLFowler on May 5, 2011

I’ve added video to the blog. Here’s a book trailer I created on my iPhone.  You’ll see more, including interviews with readers while I’m on my book signing tour later this month. I may even read excerpts from the book and post them here. What do you think?

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Lincoln Trivia Question #19

Posted in Assassination, Lincoln Trivia, Lincoln's Diary, Lincoln's Psychology, Plots, PTSD, Research by DLFowler on April 14, 2011

Yes, I know I’m skipping around. If you’re keeping score this is the third trivia question I’ve posted.  The complete list of 20 is on my website.  Okay, here it is:

Q: What deadly act did Lincoln offer to perform for his cabinet?

A: He offered to hang himself.

A pretty fitting question for the 146th anniversary of his assassination, don’t you think?

Well, there are a variety of explanations, but who knows what was actually going on in Lincoln’s head.  It’s true that he suffered from acute bouts of depression during most of his adult life. It’s also possible he was being melodramatic; it wouldn’t have been the first time.

Something else is worth considering. Have you ever dealt with someone suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? Lincoln probably suffered from that, possibly a variation called Acute Traumatic Stress. He suffered sympthoms common to both disorders, including catalepsy. In those episodes, he would slip into a kind of catatonic state. His law partner William Herndon witnessed more than one such episode.

When PTSD sufferers commit suicide, it’s rarely out of despondency. More often it’s an attempt on their part to take control of a situation that seems out of hand. In that vein, Lincoln might have seriously consided martyring himself to turn public and political opinion in favor of his Reconstruction Plan which was on the cusp of failure. 

Of course that’s something we’ll never know. Not unless he confessed it in a diary that’s not turned up in the last 140+ years.

Just sayin.

I Believe In …

By the way, the opposite of belief isn’t logic, it’s disbelief.   Reasoning is what we do to fortify our beliefs. 

A friend of mine (we’ll call  him John because that’s his real name, and since I know so many people named John no one will know who I’m talking about) – anyway, he told me “Human beings are not rational, we’re rationalizers.”

While I was doing research for my novel, Lincoln’s Diary, I discovered that Abe Lincoln was great at rationalizing. My favorite example was his reply to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court who complained the Emancipation Proclamation was unconstitutional. Lincoln replied that it  certainly was constitutional since, as commander-in-chief, he had the constitutional authority to appropriate enemy property to advance the war effort. But if slaves weren’t property, the Proclamation didn’t do anything, so it didn’t violate the Constitution. 

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No Idea How This Wound Up On My Blog

Posted in Characters, Inside a Writer's Head, Plots, Plots, Psychology, Writing by DLFowler on February 25, 2011

Here’s what we love in a good story – a protagonist we care about (it doesn’t hurt if we fall in love with that person) and an antagonist we want to see the world get even with.  Hmm … it sounds like the way we like our politics.

 I saw a comment recently to the effect that dictators (I think the reference was to the Saudi royal family) hold on to power with generous social programs. Who bites the hand that feeds them?  The commenter made a veiled reference to American politicians as well.

But here’s the real deal. Despots throughout history have seized and maintained power by employing the same emotions that help people like me sell novels. As human beings we love to hate demons and save victims.  Write a book that does both and it will sell (of course you have to get the word out, which isn’t easy.)  Demonize the other guy in politics and people will follow you even when they’re hungry, as long as you get the word out and you’re a sympathetic victim or you can find an embraceable poster child.

The nice thing about  being a novelist is that your plot doesn’t have to be so believable if you can pull off the love/hate thing well enough. Your plot can be sort of like … well, real life. And readers will suspend belief long enough to follow your characters on whatever journey you have in mind for them.

Oh, I forgot. Life is stranger than fiction. If your story is too much like real life,  people won’t  believe it.  They’ll go back to thinking politicians buy power with generous social programs, and what they said about their adversaries was, well, it had to be the truth. Right?

Reading is Why Writers Write.

Posted in Characters, Plots, Reading, Settings by DLFowler on January 7, 2011

Reading. Sometimes it’s being grabbed by the throat and dragged into someone else’s drama. Or crawling into someone else’s skin to experience life in ways we can only dream about.  Other times we get mesmerized by places we never imagined existed.

 Personally, I like stowing away in a character’s head.  I imagine myself parked in the place where all the nerves converge on the brain.  There I can taste salty tears backing up and dripping into a parched, achy throat. Tears of joy, tears of sadness – it doesn’t matter what kind. They taste salty just the same.  Or maybe, the tingle of fine hairs standing up under my collar. How about the weight of my heart dropping onto my diaphragm? Breath stalling in my chest.  Thoughts spinning like a turbine in my head. Squeezing my eyes half-shut as if that would help me read sense into senselessness.

 Hey, I could do this all night long.

Betrayal is like curdled milk in my stomach and a dead friend slung over my back. Good news makes my breath jump out of me and laughs as my body to chases it. Fear seizes up my heart and lungs. My legs won’t move. Joy comes like a wave and sweeps away, but I don’t ask where I’m carried to.

 Okay, you get the point. I love to get into my characters’ heads and feel their skin or any other place that has nerve endings. I’ll also describe a setting, but mainly where it reflects what a character feels. As for drama, I’ll get you there. But, not until my characters romance you a little. Because when you fall in love them (or despise them when appropriate) the drama has more impact.