Madeleine Callway, Catherine Astolfo, Janet Costello, Helen Nelson, Jill Downie, Susan Daly
This past Saturday, I hopped on Highway 24 in Guelph and drove to Brantford for a lively panel discussion with six dynamic mystery authors. All are members of the Toronto Branch of Sisters in Crime, and two of them—Madeleine Callway and Catherine Astolfo—also belong to Mesdames of Mayhem.
The topic, “Women as Crime Writers,” was a timely one. The hour-long discussion flew by as the authors shared opinions and advice on everything from powerful openings to strong female protagonists to chick noir.
Thanks to Programs and Outreach Coordinator Robin Harding for organizing this event, one of seven in the Mystery Month series at the Brantford Public Library.
I was excited about meeting the visiting author, but worried about his reaction to the 25 pages I’d submitted. Would he like my work or would he gently hint about shelving the novel? After some preliminary small talk, he got right down to business.
Visiting Author: You’ve got an interesting premise here. And I like how you’ve what you’ve done with the female characters, but…
Me: Go on. I can take it.
Visiting Author: Almost everyone is over 50. You need more youngins.
Me: What do you mean by youngins?
Visiting Author: Characters in their twenties and early thirties. That’s what’s selling now.
I thanked him for his time, but decided not to follow his advice.
Yesterday, twenty of us gathered at Symposium Restaurant for a workshop with award-winning author J.K. Coi. Having written several novels in the urban fantasy, contemporary and paranormal romance genres, Coi is best known for creating compelling characters that “leap off the page and into readers’ hearts.”
Some of her tips…
Strong characters will offset weak plots.
Allow your characters to have flaws. There is no tension or growth in a perfect character.
Keep in mind that believable does not translate into realistic. Inject an element of fantasy to entertain the reader.
Make your character so unique that they couldn’t be dropped into any other book.
Feel free to make tweaks and twists that readers will appreciate, but not throw them out of the story.
Avoid cliches but respect reader expectations. If you must deviate, add humor or provide an appropriate back story.
Character-driven books have depth and are more memorable than plot driven stories.
Give your characters complicated relationships.
Secondary characters are there only because they have a purpose. They should not be more interesting than the protagonist.
Use other characters to reveal the protagonist’s blind spots.
Figure out the intricacies of the characters before starting the novel.
This afternoon, I joined several other members of Guelph Write Now for our monthly meeting at Lucie’s Restaurant in south Guelph. I look forward to meeting with other writers and talking about our respective writing journeys.
Lots of discussion and advice floated around the table as we discussed the pros and cons of social media, ebook covers, our WIPs and Fifty Shades of Grey. Organizer Cindy Carroll provided us with three prompts and we wrote spontaneously. Afterward, we shared out stories and commented on the different interpretations of the prompts.
We also enjoyed the delicious coffee, tea and desserts.
Last evening, seven of us gathered at Symposium Restaurant for our April dinner meeting. We are celebrating the second anniversary of Guelph Writers Ink.
A bit of history…
After completing Dennis Fitter’s creative writing course, a group of us decided to meet on a monthly basis to discuss our writing journeys. We came up with the following mission statement: We will inspire and encourage each other to write on a regular basis. Last year, Cindy Carroll and several members of Guelph Write Now joined us.
Lots of discussion and advice floated around the table as we discussed epublishing vs traditional publishing, agents, manuscripts and social media. Patricia Anderson, Linda Johnston and I have decided to bite the bullet and start tweeting before the next dinner meeting. No more excuses!!!
Congratulations to Linda Johnston–winner of the door prize.
A reminder…Dennis Fitter’s book, Mexico City is now available.