As we welcome autumn/fall with its brilliant colour metamorphosis across the landscape, we begin to think of cooler weather and a new space to write. We transition from writing on the deck, in a beach house, or a lakeside cabin to a cozier study or quiet room with a view or flickering fireplace. The seasons affect our mood and in turn our writing. These seasonal changes can also add to our content.
If we are on the cusp of a new project, we can use the crisp mornings and evenings to walk in nature and percolate ideas. We can watch the flames dance in a fire-pit or the leaves dancing on the wind or crunching beneath our feet. Why not take day trips to a wine festival, a corn maze, a pumpkin farm, immerse yourself in the season and its special harvest of smells and sights.
Let your imagination experience this new season and bring your idea to life. Ask yourself what your new project’s genre might be.
Is it an autumnal romance?
A spooky horror?
A ghost story?
A contemporary ‘change’ of scene narrative?
If you are in the midst of a project use nature as an example and lose any extraneous content, edit with the thought that the project will be renewed, fresh and improved. It is a reorganization, much like changing your clothing to suit the cooler weather. The autumn/fall scenery can inspire more descriptive language – colour, scents, mood and more.
With the change to autumn/fall, we can utilize the season to promote a book that reflects it. For me, I begin to think about my little monster, Rumble, and his Halloween adventure. I will be looking at a specific promotion for this children’s picture book.
When we write a story, as the author, we are within the narrative – it’s characters, setting, backstory and genre format. We can become too close to the action and reveal our plot too early or make it too obvious. Here are a few tips to help entice your reader and keep them guessing, because if you can foresee a plot twist so can the reader. We have to think up options and/or steer the event in another direction to avoid being obvious.
One way is to use subtle misdirection, such as:
Red herrings – false clues or misleading information to steer readers in the wrong direction.
Dead ends – not writing the obvious outcome your readers thought was coming.
Misguided attention – Bury hints or clues where the reader is redirected to another scene, or dialogue and misses a cleverly dropped hint.
2. Foreshadowing is an excellent vehicle for adding subtle hints for a twist to come. These can be as part of a characters actions, or non-action, a secondary character’s dialogue or even disguising a plot twist within a plot twist. The twist, however, must be believable and necessary and also makes sense within the narrative.
3. Use a subplot that misdirects your reader.
It can feed into the plot line, or not – that is your choice.
Interact or intertwine your subplot in an unexpected or unusual way.
You can make the subplot more important to the overall story, than initially appears.
It can also distract from the main plot.
Depending on your genre you can use the ‘no-one is safe’ mentality to add tension and ‘what if’s’.
Other misdirection techniques include:
Killing off an important character.
A character discovers a plot twist organically.
Elevate a minor character.
Your big reveal instigates a twist ending.
Remember to keep up the momentum after the big reveal so that the reader will continue reading to find out the ultimate conclusion of your narrative. If you are struggling there are plot twist generators on the internet, you can use them or manufacture your own from the ideas.
How have you kept a reader guessing? Care to share?
Which book plot twist surprised you the most?
Here is a list of the more famous literary plot twists.
Last week, I was rather popular with two podcast interviews. The first with A Hot Take on Thursday with Jenna Greene and Miranda Oh and then another with Alive After Reading with Tim Niederriter You can find the links here:
I have been writing since 1987. I started as a journalist, went to college in my 40s, and continued to write after that. My first book, “A River of Stones” was published in 2002.
You write in multiple genres – do you start with the genre and then the story or the other way around?
The genre usually. For my most recent book, I knew what the genre was going to be pretty close to getting it going. I have written mystery, YA fiction, middle reader, nonfiction, a picture book, Christian fiction, Christian Historical Fiction and science/fantasy, so you can imagine what my mind is like.
Which do you find the most challenging to write – fiction or non-fiction?
That depends on the research. When there’s a lot of research, the time it takes to finish a book is lengthened. The easiest books for me to write are those that mostly come from my head. If the book is based on where I live or a place where I’ve vacationed, the challenge is lessened.
Where did the ideas for the Brianne James Mystery & Susan Cramer Mystery Series’ come from?
I really wanted to tackle a mystery, and so I thought how it would be if I was a detective, having no training and no experience in the field. This is Susan Cramer. She loves a great mystery but she really has no idea – especially in the beginning – how to solve the crime. I am like that. The ideas after that came from my ‘strange’ mind. I am always asking what if questions. What if someone died in an old hotel and everyone thought You were the murderer? What if you were on a cruise ship and an old man died at your feet?
Do you have a favorite character and why?
I would have to say Brianne James. She is the daughter to Susan. And she has a little more of her wits about her. She is tough, too.
Were the series planned ahead or did the character’s dictate a continuation?
The series was not planned ahead. “Scrambled” was a one book wonder in the beginning. I wrote it because I was attending college and I needed money for school. I received a $500 scholarship from Mystery Writers of America after sending in my first chapter – a chapter I wrote for one of my college classes.
What is your writing process?
Get up. Sit down. And write. I treat my writing like I would a profession because it is. Writing is NOT my hobby. Yes, I love it, but I write because I have to. I go through multiple drafts and revisions before I call something finished. A have a part-time job as an aide at an elementary school, and two businesses – we publish too over here, [Idea Creations Press] and run a non-profit [Trees For Keeps], so I keep myself pretty busy.
Do you have a favorite place to write?
Our family just returned from a vacation to Bryce Canyon, Utah. It is a beautiful place. Every morning I would sit out on the porch and write. I loved it. At home I have my office. It’s not as peaceful as an early morning in the canyon, but I love having a work space just for writing.
Does your own life experience play a part in your characterizations?
This question makes me smile. Yes. There is a lot of me in my books. The goofy girl. The question asker. The mystery maker. The searcher.
Where can readers find you?
I love it when readers find me at my blog and learn something new about writing, marketing, or publishing. http://www.ariverofstones.com. I also have a fun Author’s Amazon page here.
Kathryn is a lover of words and a bearer of mood swings. When she is feeling the need to inspire, she writes a Christian fiction book. If a mystery is waiting to be uncovered, she finds it. If something otherworldly is finding its way through her fingertips, she travels to it.
Kathryn has been a reader since she was a young child. Although she took classes in writing as a teen, it wasn’t something she really thought would become her career until she was married. And even then, it took a few more years for something worthy enough to publish to manifest itself.
Kathryn’s first book was published in 2002. Since then, many other books have found their way out of her head depending on the sort of day she is having. Kathryn is a journalist, a teacher, a mentor, an editor, a publisher, and a marketer.
Her greatest joy, other than writing her next book, is meeting with readers and authors who enjoy the craft of writing as much as she does.
I recently received an email from an author requesting a blog interview, which is normal. However, as I investigated her blog and social media to create the interview questions, I discovered she interviewed me back in 2015! A lot has happened in the intervening years as you can imagine. More books published and an increase in my reach and many more connections.
I am still reading When Robins Appear and will share my review once I finish. Most probably, that will be this week as I am going on a writing retreat. Whoop! My favorite thing.
I will be a guest panelist and co-presenter at When Words Collide, a virtual writing conference. I will be sharing my experience about my writing group organization, hosting meetings and events etc. The second presentation is with my publisher, Dream Write Publishing’s owner.
We will be in a private cabin beside a lake, so it is perfect for two writing companions and, of course, little Sammie. There will be lots of walks lakeside. I will be revising my current detective manuscript, reading, and relaxing. There is something about being near water that makes me happy. I would prefer the ocean, but a lake will do.