Monday, September 18, 2017

Writing Tips From James Patterson


James Patterson
I love a good thriller, and one of my absolute favorite thriller writers is James Patterson. I admit, sometimes there's a little too much blood and violence, but he always tells such a great story I can overlook those things and just enjoy a great thrill ride!

Patterson novels are hard to put down because, not only are they exciting, they're extremely fast paced and filled with unexpected twists and turns.  

Today I thought I'd share a few tips from Patterson on writing commercial fiction found in this Publisher's Weekly article by one of his co-authors, Mark Sullivan.

According to Patterson, "We are in the business of entertainment, not edification or enlightenment...We are interested in giving the reader an intelligent thrill ride populated by outsized people we feel for.” Characters, especially heroes and villains, Sullivan explains, have to be thought about carefully. They have to be human, above all, and subjected to terrible ordeals that take them to the brink of their capacities and beyond.

“To do that," Patterson says, "our villains must be worthy opponents...The reader has to believe that the bad guy is fascinating enough, clever enough, and bad enough to defeat our hero.” Research, Sullivan learned, is the basis of great villains. It's also the basis of hero, plot, and believability. Sullivan says that Patterson is extremely well read, and his statements about writing are often peppered with references to specific authors, books, or films. In one villainous discussion, Sullivan said Patterson urged me to read the poetry of Louise Gl├╝ck to get a better feel for a lacerating voice. In another they discussed the novel Perfume.

Mark Sullivan
With Patterson, exposition was severely limited. Sullivan says, "The old adage—show, not tell—was critical, and the element of surprise was paramount. Each chapter in Private Berlin had to deepen a character, advance the plot, or turn the tale on its head. You began every scene with the end in mind; and the end had better blow the reader’s mind or it would be revised or tossed."

Patterson told Sullivan at their first meeting, “What most people who attempt commercial fiction don’t understand is that you have to write the way people talk...You can’t make the prose rigid or dense and expect the normal, busy reader to turn the page, much less stick with you to the very end.”  Sullivan says that Patterson advised him to imagine an entertaining bon vivant in a bar telling our stories in a language that would appeal to every Tom, Dick, and Mary in the place. Humor helped. So did a flare for the dramatic. So did a pared-down style. Sullivan says that Patterson has been criticized for the "short chapters and the ultra-lean prose, but don’t think for a minute that it is without purpose beyond a quick read for a harried reader."

Patterson said to Sullivan, “Most writers will tell you five to 10 things about a character or a setting or an action...Fine for literature. But our approach is to pick the one or two or three that really count and discard the rest. It not only creates pace but it leaves images in the reader’s mind that are concrete and unequivocal.”

In conclusion, Sullivan says, "The sum of this advice was to sacrifice all for the story and the characters. Outlines were trusted navigational charts, yet we were free to sail in other directions as the novel evolved. But if you were going to change something, it had to be a terrific change."

"We’re after terrific, fascinating, and smart,” Patterson said. “We’re after a story that the reader can’t put down and can’t forget when they’re done, the kind people talk about to their friends.”

Don't we all wish we could write something that our readers can't put down? Do you like thrillers? If so, who's your favorite thriller writer?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Originally posted 6/24/13

Monday, September 11, 2017

9/11 Never Forget

My thoughts and prayers go out to the survivors and the families of lost loved ones who perished on 9/11. It's hard to believe that day occurred sixteen years ago today.

Anyone five-years old or older way back on November 22, 1963 can remember the day John Kennedy was assassinated. The same can be said of September 11, 2001. I was in the process of feeding my infant and toddler breakfast because we were getting ready for the infant's four-month check-up. I had Sesame Street on in the kitchen entertaining my two-year when my husband called. He told me to turn on the TV, so I went into another room and did just that.

I will never forget what I saw that morning and how for the first few seconds it seemed surreal, like I was watching a movie.  This couldn't really be happening, I thought. And then reality kicked in at the realization that it was indeed happening and thousands of people died when that plane hit the building. I thought it was a tragic accident, but when the second plane hit, it was clear that what had happened wasn't an accident, but terrorism.  

Such a sad day in our history, and one we will never forget. What are your memories regarding that day?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, September 4, 2017

New Gatsby vs. Old

My youngest son is reading The Great Gatsby for his junior year high school English class and asked me to get the Leonardo Di Caprio and Carey Mulligan version of the movie released back on 2013. Happy to do it, because two years ago my oldest son read it and also wanted to watch that version of the film.

I watched with both kids and thoroughly enjoyed the production. I also read the book in high school and loved it. Glad to report that my kids love the book as well!

Way back in the Dark Ages, 1974 to be exact, I remember the release of another version of The Great Gatsby starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. I was pretty young back then, but I remember all the hype about the movie. I never saw it, although a few years later it was on TV. I think I watched a little of it (less than an hour maybe), but remember being pretty bored by it.

Well, I'm significantly older now and I've read the book. After watching the new version of Gatsby twice, I thought perhaps I'd give the 1974 version a try. But then I read a review. Sounds like it was a bomb and failed at the box office!

Time is valuable, so I decided to forget about watching the older version. However, if you've seen the old and the new version of The Great Gatsby, which did you like best?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!