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May 15, 2017 by in category The Write Life by Rebecca Forster, Writing tagged as , ,

Sew up a Book | Rebecca Forster | A Slice of Orange

Years ago, I worked in corporate America and my client was married to Danielle Steel. When I found out who she was, I uttered seven ridiculous words: “I bet I could write a book.”

One of my colleagues called me on that boast and that’s how I became a writer – on a crazy dare. Having never written before, I tackled this challenge in the same way I tackled a marketing plan: by asking questions about how I would go about becoming a published author. In the old days, all I had to do was write a pitch and hope someone paid attention; these days all I have to know is how to upload to Amazon. But the business of publishing begged the question that was most important: how do I learn to actually write a book?

I decided I would learn the same way I learned to sew; I would follow a pattern.

With one of Danielle Steel’s books in hand, I spent three nights with that book, a glass of wine and a yellow marker. As I read, I highlighted the ‘seams’ of her work. My pattern consisted of noting:

  •  When the main characters were introduced
  •  Where the plot points happened
  •  Where the emotional reveals came in
  •  How many pages of expository were in her book
  •   How long were the dialogue passages
  •   How many total pages were in the book

I wrote for months and when I was done I had exactly the right number of pages, all the characters came in on cue, and the plot was revealed appropriately. What a yawn.

My book was the equivalent of making a shift dress out of burlap. It was technically correct but plain and unexciting. My book had nothing to make it memorable to a reader. I didn’t want to just go to the published-author party; I wanted readers’ heads to turn.   I needed to learn what sets an artist apart from a painter,  a fashion designer from a seamstress and a writer from an author. Bottom line: I needed some buttons and bows, some satin and lace. I needed some style.

I am writing my thirty-fifth book and I have learned a great deal, but I still follow the pattern I created years ago. I have grown as an author, found my voice, honed my observations and come to understand my personal style. I hope that someday a writer will take a yellow marker to one of my books and make a pattern of her own from my work. Then I hope she will be inspired to kick it all up a notch with her buttons and bows.




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May 15, 2013 by in category Archives tagged as , , , , ,

I have written over 25 novels. Each one starts with voices in my head. By the time a book is done, I know every inflection, tonal change and speech pattern of every character. So, when I had the opportunity to create the audio versions of Hostile Witness and Silent Witness, I was excited. This, I thought, was going to be a breeze.

I thought that just before I became terrified.
I was excited because next to having your book made into a movie, audio is about as cool as you can get. I was terrified because suddenly there were decisions to make that I had never considered when writing these books. How had I really imagined my characters’ voices? Did I want an actor or an actress to read my books? How did I produce and publish an audio product? Did I want separate voices for each character or not? Did I want to read my books myself?
The only question I could answer was the last one. No fiction author should ever read their work if I am an example. My one attempt to do so left me ROFL. Thankfully, I was alone in the house when I tried it. Some people are actors; I am not.
Once that decision was made there were still others to tackle. This is my list of the five things I did   to bring my books from print to awesome audio.
1)   Listen to popular audio books in your genre. I listened to both male and female thriller authors. I found it disconcerting to hear a man read primary female parts but had no trouble accepting a female reader tackling male characters. It is a personal decision but I was lead by what seems to be accepted wisdom of the best selling authors and that is use the voice of the predominant character. I chose Tara Platt, an award winning voice over artist (www.taraplatt.com). I also chose to have each character voice distinctive and that meant the voiceover had to seamlessly move between character and gender, expository and dialogue.
2)    Choose a neutral voice unless your book has a cultural basis for a different choice. I listened to audio versions of books written by English authors and read by English actors. As much as I love an English accent, I realized choosing a voiceover with a discernible accent was distracting for an American thriller.
3)   If possible, seek professional assistance. I was lucky to know a producer who understood what goes into a successful voiceover. He coached me in what I should be listening for when I received my file for approval, not the least of which was breathing patterns. Like a singer, a voiceover artist should be able to read seamlessly without gasps or gaps in the production as well as communicate the appropriate cadence and genre of your novel.
4)   Provide your talent a ‘cheat sheet’ that includes a short description of the plot, descriptions of all recurring characters, unique setting points, and where the major plot points are. Also provide the talent with a copy of the book.
5)   Speak up and ask questions. There is someone to listen at established, professional sites. I worked with ACX for Audible.com, the most recognizable of all audio sites. They were responsive to all my questions and offered production options from talent buyout to royalty sharing and independent production.

It didn’t take me long to realize that as much time goes into reading a book for audio distribution as writing it for print or digital consumption. I also realized after I heard the first few chapters of my book that I was as lost in listening to the story in the same way I had been lost in writing it. I may have known the ending, but I didn’t know the sound of it would leave me breathless when I heard it.

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What A Dog!

May 15, 2012 by in category Archives tagged as , , , , , , , ,
My grand dog Tucker

Today a lady wrote to tell me she loved my book Hostile Witness* because I hadn’t killed Max. I’ve been traveling a lot in the last three weeks and it took me a minute to figure out who Max was and why it was so important to her that he was alive. Max, of course, is Josie Bates’ dog; Josie is the heroine of the witness series. I was touched by the reader’s concern for the fictional canine.

As an author and a reader I had to ask myself: Why is a book that includes animals richer, more entertaining, and more engaging than one without? The answer was simple: Animals bring out the best and the worst in a human character. This makes for great drama and provides an emotional touch point that is critical for an exciting read.

Max-the-Dog (his legal name) was originally created as a reflection of Josie, his mistress. Both had been abandoned, both had to fight for their lives, both were protective of others. But Max became so much more than Josie’s mirror as the series unfolded.

Here are four ways Max made a difference in the witness series:

HE ENHANCED HUMAN CHARACTERIZATION: Those who attack him were inherently more evil than a bad guy who ignored him. Those who love Max were more admirable because they cared for and protect him.

HE WAS AN ANIMATED SOUNDING BOARD: Internal dialogue can be tedious. Allow a character to speculate to an animal and the rhetorical questions or monologues sound natural.

HIS PRESENCE SET A TONE: A scene tone can be set by the way a human character speaks to or interacts with an animal counterpart. A whispered warning creates a much different tone than a screaming command; a languid pet conjures up different visions than a playful ruffling of fur.

HE HELPED MOVE THE PLOT FORWARD: An animal’s needs can put a human in a place they might not have been in. For instance, in Privileged Witness, Josie took Max out for his evening constitutional and ran into her fugitive client who was hiding outside. Without Max, Josie would have no reason to go outside and never would have discovered her client. An animal’s heightened senses can also assist a human to warn of danger or alert a human to a change in their surroundings.

From The Hound of the Baskervilles to Lassie and Blue Dog, My Friend Flicka and The Black Stallion, The Cheshire Cat and Puss-in-Boots, animals have frolicked as humans, served to reflect human frailties and strengths, and just plain worked their way into reader’s hearts because of who they are.

So, to the kind lady who was concerned about Max, have no fear. He will never come to a violent end. No matter what happens to him, his presence or lack thereof, will be a decision motivated by story and plot and, of course, love, because Max is as real to me as if he sat at my feet while I wrote my stories.

*Hostile Witness is free for all e-readers and is also available in print.

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