Writers are always instructed to make sure everything within the pages of a fiction manuscript advances the story. While it's one of the better "suggestions", aka "rules", it too is not foolproof and inarguable.
Stories combine a multitude of factors. Characters, locations, sights, sounds, smells; literary, action-packed, ordinary, extraordinary, fantasy, supernatural, historical, criminal, styles and genres. If the above rule is applied religiously and unbendingly, the author will produce an Ernest Hemingway replica. And while some professionals love Hemingway, many readers do not. As I've said repeatedly about Hemingway, he was a terrible writer who told great stories (with the exception of The Old Man and the Sea).
I would guess editors are as diverse as writers which is a giant reason for using one who complements and understands the writer's style. Differing opinions as to what "advances" and enhances a story present significant conflict.
I enjoy details in a story. I like to read them and I like to write them. They don't have to be included for the sole purpose of contributing to a story but instead to provide a wider vision of plot, scene, etcetera. I like characters and their sometimes superfluous reactions fleshed out because to me it tends to make them more realistic.
If you've ever read a Tom Morrisey novel, you will generally read a lot of technical information included with his touching and action-centered literary style not usually found in this rare combination. Traditionally, you get one or the other, but Tom has a unique way of bringing them all together. One of my favorite novels is Tom'sIn High Places, the touching story of a father and son who climb rocks and experience the death and grief of losing wife and mother, and the son experiences first love while trying to figure out why his mother died the way she did. Meshed with the hard adjustments to being without the woman they loved, we feel the sorrow, the growing morose mood of the father, and all the while we're also reading about the technical equipment and instructions for rock climbing. Tom's a rare breed of author.
Authors can go off on tangents, and this rule is designed to restrict their falling in love with their flair for words. The evil red pen of editors can easily kick those extraneous words to the curb without even flinching, while the author of those precious darlings sits slumped in a chair bawling over the marked up manuscript. The decisions to keep or extract words should make sense and not feel like a death knell to the story by the author. Again, finding a compatible editor is critical for the storyteller.
The point of all of this is to tell a good story - to present an entertaining piece of work for readers to enjoy, to immerse themselves in a tale that accomplishes the desired results. It's important to note readers are as different as writers. Their fickle tastes cannot be served by obeying or disobeying every rule known to authors. Story will trump writing in most cases but not all. The idea is to give the best audience for your work the dual satisfaction of a good story and good writing. No easy task but worth the effort if you're a writer. And that's the point after all.
Father, apart from you, we can do nothing. Thank you for sharing your creativity. May we use it the way you intended. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Summer TV makes a case for Anna Wood and Cam Gigandet as the sexy Yankee lawyer Jamie Sawyer at odds with the Charleston, South Carolina, newly appointed City Attorney Roy Rader. If you like Southern sizzle and pop, Reckless is a well cast and tightly wound drama with good writing, plenty of conflicts, and each episode leaving viewers anxious for the next installment on CBS Sunday evenings at 10 PM (PDT).
With several conflicts in the police department and courtroom intersecting, these particular two characters have UST that just won't stop. Great onscreen chemistry.
If you enjoy that southern twang and the cultural discrepancy between the north and south, Reckless is an entertaining venture. The steamy scenes could easily be eliminated and seem to be included just because Hollywood must think without a sex scene quota, people won't tune in. When you present a series with as much good conflict and UST as contained in this drama, the slight graphics show up as unnecessary add-ons.
Other characters prove worthy of note and keep the reservoir of trouble active. Not your ordinary courtroom drama, although there are some highly charged battles within that environment. Each week reveals more and expands the knowledge of each personality. Reckless is a good summer replacement series and should earn a recurring role on the CBS roster.
Father, you're the source of real talent. Let those who use it well recognize from whom it comes. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Computers are a necessary evil and a frequent nuisance. I've been locked somewhere in the netherworld of no ethernet or internet for a few days. As you might've guessed, it has been . . . difficult. Now with a new modem/router and several hours of extra frustration setting up, it appears I am up and running.
I've been out of touch, and I've missed you, but now it's all good. I'll catch up eventually.
Father, all I can say is thank you. You keep me steady. Apart from you, I can do nothing. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Noble Intentions - Season One - (Episodes 1 - 5) by L. T. Ryan takes Jack Noble in a strange direction as his services lead him deeper into the criminal element run by the all-world gangster known as "the old man".
From assassin, sniper, to all-around hit-man, Jack sinks farther into a callous killing machine mode. His ability to eliminate not only "targets" but anyone who gets in his way or could identify him become the accepted norm. When he's supposed to meet with the old man about a particular job, knowing the gangster won't wait if he's late, the diversion of a little girl crying on the oblivious New York City street distracts him. She's looking for her mother who's nowhere to be found. The old man waits as Jack rescues the girl but drives away because of the delay. This is only the beginning of all kinds of chaos and jobs gone wrong.
Again through Paris, Monaco, and small towns in Italy to complete assignments from the old man and his former French espionage connection Pierre, Jack's outlook falters and he briefly questions himself about why he took the jobs. The unexpected plight of his girlfriend Clarissa, the little girl Mandy, and the need for his best friend and business partner Bear to protect them present difficulties neither Jack nor Bear anticipated.
The seemingly endless reach of the old man leaves each of them in constant danger. When the job for Pierre takes an unexpected turn, Jack is finally in real trouble with no one to help coordinate an escape.
Prior to this edition of the Jack Noble Novels, I really liked Jack. However, in this next segment of the series, I found the character less likable, more cocky, and unwilling to do a comprehensive assessment of who he's become. His conscience flares briefly, but he shuts it down with cynical precision. He's allowed himself to retreat from true emotion and assume his confidence and skills will make a way where there is no way. Of course this is expected of men with his training and in his position. There's a hint he's growing tired of it all, wanting to get out, find a way to disappear, but he's put himself in the position of never realizing true freedom. Looking over his shoulder, on the run, rarely trusting, and in danger: this is Jack's life.
Another thriller from L. T. Ryan, Noble Intentions - Season One is filled with episodes capturing more intimate looks at multiple characters. I was surprised by the accomplished toughness of Clarissa, not sure of having been adequately prepared for it and from where it came until a casual reference to her past seems to illuminate some training from her dad and Jack not previously acknowledged. I found it slightly difficult to fathom since there had been no previous evidence of her having to hold up under such horrific conditions.
Little Mandy serves to expose the last little particles of tenderness in the trio of Jack, Bear, and Clarissa. She inspires the utmost protection from them, and although Jack trusts Bear to guard her life, she becomes a perfect bargaining tool for the old man.
There are some twists at the end of these episodes, one expected, one not so much, and another motivated by guilt.
This was my least favorite of the Jack Noble Novels because of the deterioration of Jack as a person. Becoming strictly a gun for hire, even though his targets are usually reprehensible, is making him just another hardened killer not much different from the old man's other thugs - just better at his job. Leaving a wake of damage and death, he's immune to what it's doing to him most of the time. He's handling his personal demise with more drink and cigarettes, sardonic humor and taunting - none of it working to his benefit.
While cautiously looking forward to the next "season" of L. T. Ryan's Noble Intentions, I'm hoping for some kind of personal reflection from Jack Noble, the kind that will bring back some "nobility" to his character. And once again the vacancy in stories without any concept of God amplifies the absence of meaning in life's struggles and tragedies.
Father, we're desperate for you, whether we know it or not. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
If you've ever watched the TV series 24, you know what it's like to watch a thriller. I cannot think of another program that is as relentless with conflict as 24. From the first tick of the clock to the last, the action, the tension, the good and evil, rage on at a breakneck pace crammed into the 40 to 45 minute window of the allotted hour segment. I'm actually grateful for the commercials so I can take a breath.
If you've ever read one of Robert Liparulo's earliest thrillers, you know what it's like to read that incessant drum of conflict and ratcheted up tension. Life and death throughout the pages competing for attention and fulfillment.
Thrillers do allow for variety. In the Patrick Bowers Series by Steven James the pacing is less intense, but the tension can be palpable. You might call the books "thinking men's thrillers" which is no insult to the fast and furious thriller writers. What I mean by that term in this sense is there are more elements of complex mysteries in the Patrick Bowers Series. The action is dished out in spurts rather than permeating the entire story in each book while the psychological tension is immense.
I think there are several novels these days that are incorrectly labeled thrillers when in reality, they're mysteries or suspense novels. I'm no authority on genre labels, but you know a thriller when you read one. They stand out because of the extreme "thrills", not the genres of horror, mystery, or suspense, although all of those characteristics are probably present in thrillers. While there is a unique tension to each of these genres, that non-stop, relentless tension separates true thrillers from the other genres.
Father, thank you for all the types of writers you create. May each one of us find a way to bring glory to you. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Some authors prefer to create villains. Writers can make them as evil as they choose. If you want to read about some of the worst, I suggest you take a look at "Eenie" in Dean Koontz'sFrom the Corner of His Eyeor any of the bizarre and intricate bad dudes in the Patrick Bowers Series by Steven James. Evil. Treacherous. Smart. Clever. Creepy. Horrid antagonists. Not for the faint-hearted cozy mystery types.
So why is it they enjoy making up villains? Touching evil and bringing it to the page? Is it easier to imagine wickedness and inject it into a character than to create a solid "good" character?
The risk we run with "good" characters is to make them too good, cheesy in their goodness, syrupy sweet if female, or too heroic if male. The choice to truly design a good character, the actual hero/protagonist insures the writer use a serious measure of wisdom.
Some readers love the syrupy sweet and the major, seemingly flawless hero. Other readers despise those types of characters ranting about their lack of realism. One of the most difficult jobs for me as a writer is to create that "good guy". There really are some cool good guys in this world, but there are also some cool bad boys who aren't necessarily "bad" as in evil or wicked. None of us is without flaws, but attempting to make a male character "good" without making him a hero can be a tough task.
However, if the protagonist is a Christian, it's far easier to fall into the stereotypical, cliché, too-good-to-be-true categories, although the same possibility exists inwriting villains with the too-bad-to-be-true as the differentiating factor. But that doesn't really ever happen with the evil characters. There seem to be no limits as to the portrayals of the depraved.
As some of you know, I'm writing my first crime novel/police procedural. If you know me, you know I write character studies, love stories, and I'm soft on action. Not my gig. This particular novel is not a shoot-'em-up-bang-bang story, and of course there is a thread of romance. There is a perpetrator of a murder, but after over 75K words, I just figured out who killed someone. So now I have an antagonist, but he's been mostly faceless and way under the radar until just a few words ago. So what will I do with him. What kind of villain is he? Will he be trapped?
The "good" guys have been written, and they're certainly not perfect. But I think they're the kind of characters you root for as a reader. "Good" characters. I've enjoyed creating them more than I will enjoy fleshing out this bad guy. I can't tell you why.
Which do you prefer to read about and write about?
Father, help me to nail down the characters. Let them seem plausible and real. Please. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
That seemingly never ending battle between good and evil rages on in life and literature. Yesterday in my review of Thin Line by L. T. Ryan, I mentioned the concept of even within the "good" people the potential for horrible evil resides.
Christians know human beings are not "good" as some would have us all believe. Yes, they are capable of doing good things, thinking good thoughts, and performing good deeds. However, in God's eyes all of man's supposed "good" is as filthy rags to Him. Why? Because man is born into sin. What that makes man is a self-serving, flesh-driven vehicle who is capable of doing most things for his own fulfillment - or in other words whatever makes him feel the best. His motivations are questionable, although some things he does because of God's inspiration which he neither credits nor recognizes.
Many unbelievers think man is basically "good". Why, I have no idea. The world is going crazy all around us with hideous terrorism, fraudulent scandals and schemes within our own government, the lusts for power, sex, and perversions are being heralded as admirable and proclaimed with pride. Pits of iniquity belong to demonic strongholds with people suffering from torture and children being sold and used as sex slaves. How can anyone call mankind "good"? If man has existed for thousands or millions of years, how can it be, if he is good, that he is no better than when he first appeared?
In the crime genres we find detestable antagonists who represent evil. It seems we find less and less honorable protagonists to squelch the evil. This serves to demonstrate the "thin line" between right and wrong, good and evil. Vigilante justice, guns-for-hire assassins, and just plain thugs committing murders for the thrill of it, coat the pages of novels. A few of these protagonists have a moral code, lines they absolutely won't cross, but who knows what they will do if the antagonist threatens or carries out the death of the right person? Vengeance motivates those who seek to exact their own brand of justice. Will they or won't they actually do what they plan to the one who deserves the worst?
Jesus is the only One who transforms the evil in mankind. It will not be eliminated while we abide in this fallen world, walking in this flesh and blood, but the ability to feel the tug of the Holy Spirit's conviction when we desire to actually commit an act of evil or do wrong, this is what we achieve when we embrace the God of the universe. Without Him our motivation to refrain from wrong can be threatened at any given time with little reason to resist. "Good" people without the Lord fail to realize He is the inspiration to do right instead of wrong, acknowledged or not.
The war between right and wrong, good and evil will rage on through the pages of novels and in real life. Writers will create atrocities and, sadly, life will continue to offer them up. There is something lost in the pages of books when spiritual truth is eliminated from a story. Oh, yes, the arguments for what is really the truth flare and compete for recognition arguing there can be oh-so-many versions of "truth". Not so. One Truth. One. Otherwise there are just a bunch of variations and copycat theories resulting in anything but Truth.
It matters what you think of right and wrong, good and evil. What you think will eventually determine where you spend eternity. Like right and wrong, good and evil, there will be heaven or hell. And that's not fiction.
Father, Jesus came to save us from our sins. We're desperate for you. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
A popular concept for thriller authors is contemplating the difference between good and evil. Steven James in his Patrick Bowers Series dares to speculate the availability of evil resides in even "good" people - as in the potential to commit an evil act even when they know it's wrong. However, the opposite is rarely true.
In Thin Line by L. T. Ryan, Jack Noble believes that line between doing right and wrong is thin, particularly within he and his partner Bear's clandestine framework. This philosophy makes it even tougher to discern who to trust because it seems they alone have each other's backs - and a few of their contacts.
Jack's former SIS boss Frank Skinner wants to hire Jack to take out a man he says has sold his country out to the highest bidders, namely a certain terrorist Jack should have eliminated years ago when he had the chance. Frank grudgingly accepts Jack's ultimatum: Bear accompanies him on the mission or Jack won't do the job.
As Jack and Bear prepare with full awareness of how professional and sophisticated their target is, they place the only location they have for him under surveillance in New York City. When there's a death Jack and Bear don't expect, a New York City police detective gets involved. Like everyone else in this strange job, she seems to know more than she should about their business. Add an all-world aging gangster to the mix, and the plot thickens as they say.
The cover for who wants this supposed rogue agent dead is deep and suspicious, and Frank refuses to expose its source.
The job takes Jack and Bear to Paris, France, and back to New York City, to New Jersey, and eventually to Pennsylvania before once again winding up in New York. Through all of the confusion and threats, Jack must provide protection for his on-again, off-again, girlfriend Clarissa Abbott, the daughter of his now dead former Commanding Officer. Each new situation becomes more deadly for Jack and Bear, and the information is slow to come and leads to more hidden threats.
Jack and Bear do their best to sort out the confusion, calling in favors from old friends, fearing they're being set up. The all-world gangster keeps popping up in Jack's life asking for his services while making it evident he knows far more about everything that's happening to Jack and Bear than they do.
L. T. Ryan has the ability to write the reader into the corners Jack finds himself in, to feel his adrenaline, to look for some solution when it seems there are none. Right to the end, there is no one trustworthy outside of their tight contacts, and the inevitable dangers of their work, past and present, catch up to them in horrible and spectacular ways. It's heart-thrumming thriller writing right up until the partially resolved cliffhanger ending.
I'm totally immersed in the Jack Noble Novels. Haven't read any like this since Vince Flynn's. Although defintely different from Vince's books, Jack Noble is a unique character who knows there are secrets in his line of work but when those secrets could result in his and his partner's deaths, he will not rest until he figures out the entire picture of what's really transpiring when bodies start dropping or disappearing.
I highly recommend these L. T. Ryan novels to those who love action, intrigue, confusion, and mayhem. A few language warnings and definitely some violence. Thin Line is a complex and true thriller.
Please continue to bless Lee with stories to tell. You are the inspiration and giver of every good and perfect gift. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.