DL Fowler's Blog

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?

Another Excerpt from Lincoln’s Diary – a novel

Posted in Kindle, Lincoln's Diary, My Books, Nook, Show Don't Tell, Writing by DLFowler on February 21, 2011

Sarah took steady breaths as she walked down Cordova, a wide, lighted street lined with trees, bungalows, box houses and low-rise apartment buildings.  Interior lights filtered out of several windows, meaning at least a few people were still up. They’d be able to hear her screams if she got into deep trouble. Her pace slowed and her heart pumped faster as she remembered stories about people getting mugged in broad daylight, surrounded by diffident bystanders. So there was no guarantee anyone would help her. She scanned the shadows for anything that didn’t belong.

At the Chester Avenue intersection, her heart went into overdrive. It was a narrow lane with no streetlights.  The trees that bordered both sidewalks arched toward the middle of the street, creating the illusion of a vortex that led into another world. All she needed was for the black-cloaked Lincoln aficionados to pop out of the darkness and start chasing her.

A short distance past the tennis courts she craned her neck and peeked between rows of shrubs that framed the opening of a path into the park. She could hear her heart pounding inside her chest as she stepped back, calculating her approach.  Out of the corner of her eye she noticed a second path veering off just a few yards further down the sidewalk. She took slow, deep breaths and edged her way in its direction.  No more than five yards down that path she could see the bench she was told to look for. It was in plain sight, even in the darkness.  She clutched her bag close to her side and hesitated. Was her stalker close enough that he, too, could hear her heart thumping?

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The Truth of Consequences

Posted in Characters, Inside a Writer's Head, My Books, Psychology, Show Don't Tell by DLFowler on February 13, 2011

I’m lying in bed this morning testing the frontiers of technology – writing this blog post in my iPhone. Since the moments just after I wake up are often when I have my deepest insights, it makes sense to do. After all, the iPhone probably wouldn’t survive the shower – my other 20 minutes of inspiration.

The rest of the day I’m assaulted by distractions. I’m not a multi-tasker, somewhat OCD, so I only gave about 50 choice minutes a day.

Here’s what I’m thinking about. Behavior inhibitors. Those force fields that throw down gigantic blood-red stop signs in front of us.  

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Strong Female Characters

Posted in Characters, Lincoln's Diary, My Books by DLFowler on February 11, 2011

As I created Sarah Sue Morgan for LINCOLN’S DIARY – A NOVEL I hoped she’d become a strong female character. One of my readers called her a “female MacGyver.” Hopefully, that means I came close to the mark.  But since my next novel includes a female protagonist, I decided to do some additional research on the subject.

I think I struck pay dirt when I came across an article on  overthinkingit.com.  The flowchart probably overthinks the question a little, but the trail that runs along the top of the graphic provides a pretty good recipe for creating strong female characters. All you have to do is answer the following questions in the affirmative. Let’s see how Sarah scores.

  • Can she carry her own story? [check]
  • Is she three dimensional? [more concrete – does she have internal conflict? check]
  • Is she more than a flag bearer for an idea? [check]
  • Does she have any flaws? [and we’re talking ditz here … check]
  • Does she survive the second act? [check]

Bingo! She’s a strong female character. 

Of course that’s how I see it. The trick is making her live that way on the printed page.  If you take the time to check her out, please let me know if I hit the mark.

Non-violent Psychopath at Risk

Antisocial and narcissistic. Jacob has to avoid both at any cost. The stack of articles he’s pored over the last dozen years say so. They tell him he could have turned down the serial killer path long ago. But early on, he chose to flog the other seven ‘defects’ into submission. Or at least he’d channeled them into a brilliant career as a corporate CEO.   

 Burying the memory of the little girl who lit up his life – she always made him beam, at least until she was taken from him – helped balance his sense of right and wrong. As long as he kept that straight he could make his narcissism seem to be about other people’s wounds. It was easy to rally the troops when he defended another tormented or abused soul. That gave him a sense of belonging to something bigger than himself at the same time he got a taste of the justice he ached for. So he’d make it about something other than himself. Unselfishness at its highest. But if he fixated on his own horror, he’d be a lost soul no one else cared about. And eventually, all he’d become obsessed with balancing the scales any way he could.

 Keeping that stolen little girl buried in the clutter of his memories these last dozen years had kept Jacob on the sociable path. Now meeting Amanda took that option off the table. If their ripples had never met, he’d still be safe. So would the rest of the world. Except for Amanda.

So if he burned Amanda’s violator, would that just be the beginning? Or would justice taste so sweet he’d devour every scumbag who might have robbed him of the little girl he once cherished? A tingle rushed up his spine as he imagined draining the lifeblood from one bastard after another, like a vampire feeding its thirst for survival.

New Project – Ripples

Posted in Inside a Writer's Head, My Books, Ripples by DLFowler on January 2, 2011

RIPPLES is a story about choices and consequences.
And not just the chooser’s consequences. Because collateral
damages often eclipse the main event. That’s what happens
after Jacob’s 3 year old granddaughter is abducted.

Her kidnapping sparked my newest manuscript. It has nearly wiped out two families, and I’m just on page 28 of the first draft. So, stay tuned as the story unfolds.

But don’t expect any spoiliers. Only teasers. And possibly some footage from the cutting room floor. Not that it’s being made into a movie -well, not yet.

A lawyer who writes about justice?

Posted in Favorite Writers, Robert Dugoni, Themes by DLFowler on April 26, 2010

Of course that’s not me.  I didn’t even know lawyers have anything to do with justice.

But Robert Dugoni, NYT BestSelling author, captures the concept with the skill of an artist.  Not that justice is the theme I’m focused on – but you get the idea – expect to stand along side my characters as they face of life or death struggles fighting, or maybe convincing themselves to keep on fighting, for ideals or relationships they hold dear.

The stakes are always higher when they’re personal … so that’s what we’ll do – get personal.