Voice as Unique as a Fingerprint

My mind spins so many different directions when I’m “stewing and brewing” the next book or chapter. The other day, as browsed the email of free photos from Depositphotos a vector caught my attention. It is in this post. I thought could I use that for anything, and poof! the idea for this post came to mind.

Everyone has a unique to them fingerprint. It is theirs and theirs alone.

The same can be said for a writer’s voice. Not their speaking voice, their style of writing. Some writers use long, elaborate words or sentences. They spin their tales with sinewy prose, weaving the tale in between the actual words on the page. Then there are others who use precise words, short sentences, and graphic descriptions.

No matter what the writer writes there is a telltale “fingerprint” to their writing. Think about some of your favorite authors. Why do you read each one of their books? Is it how the story is worded? The characters? The plotting?

Characters? Plotting? How can that be voice? Again, think about your favorite authors. Do the characters seem similar even if they have different names, backgrounds, and ethnicity? Every author puts a little of themselves into their main and sometimes secondary characters. They can’t help it. Otherwise, how would they be able to describe feelings, emotions, and even the setting around them, if they didn’t allow a bit of themselves to slip into the characters.

And Plotting- You can give five authors the same basic theme for a book and each one would put their own spin on how that theme or plot played out. Again, they would each put their knowledge, feelings, and imagination into that story, making it their own with their unique voice.

I’ve always thought of my writing as simple and engaging- not really having a memorable voice. However, many readers tell me they enjoy the simplicity of my writing. They can see the story as it unfolds and not have to guess what words mean. I take that as a compliment to my style. Especially, when I’ve had several people also say that my books brought them back to reading.

My true voice, I think, is that all my stories are about justice. Not just the bad guy getting what he deserves but also showing the injustices that are in the world. I will throw in a cause here and there in my books to bring it to the attention of my readers. And thankfully, they understand that is what I’m doing. I don’t preach. I reveal the injustice and leave it up to the reader to do more digging if it intrigues them. That is my voice. As unique to me as my fingerprints.

Coming at the end of this month, book 10 in my Gabriel Hawke series, Bear Stalker.

Greed, misdirection, and murder has Hawke rushing to track his sister in the Montana wilderness before she becomes the next victim.

Oregon State Trooper Gabriel Hawke’s sister, Marion, is on a corporate retreat in Montana when she is suspected of murder. Running for her life from the real killer, she contacts Hawke for help. 

Hawke heads to Montana to find his sister and prove she isn’t a murderer. He hasn’t seen Marion in over twenty years but he knows she wouldn’t kill the man she was about to marry.

As they dig into possible embezzlement, two more murders, and find themselves trying to outsmart a wilderness-wise kidnapper, Hawke realizes his sister needs to return home and immerse herself in their heritage. Grief is a journey that must be traveled and knowing her fiancé had wanted Marion to dance again, Hawke believes their culture would help her heal.

You can pre-order it here:

https://books2read.com/u/mdjNzW

WHY KEEP WRITING?

Reasons for me not to write any more:

  1. Reached retirement age long ago.
  2. I’ve never been a best-seller.
  3. If I didn’t write I’d have more time to enjoy life, family and friends.

Despite the three reasons I listed, I still have  a need to write the last Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery. She’s retired now and I want to send her off into a happy future and tie up a few loose ends for her and her husband. I’ve been hanging out with them both for so long, it is hard to say, “goodbye.”

I did manage to end my Rocky Bluff P.D. series (written under the name of F. M. Meredith) with Reversal of Fortune.

In case you might wonder if I have plans for another series, the answer is probably not.

I do want to write another mystery, a young adult set in Los Angeles during World War II. Why, you might ask. Because that’s where and when I grew up. It was a different time in so many ways and I have some great memories of what went on: Air raid drills at home and at school, Block warden meetings where the kids had a great time playing in the dark while the grown up learned to roll bandages and other tasks, victory gardens, food and gas rationing, being free to go wherever I wanted all day as long as I was home in time for dinner, and telling my friends wild stories like what I said was the truth.

Not sure if it will interest anyone, but I plan to write it anyway.

Marilyn

Titles- where do they come from?

Ask any writer and they will each give you a different answer to where they get the title for a story, book, or article. Most will even say they come up with the title differently for each story, book, or article.

So how does that tell you where titles come from…it doesn’t. From talking to other writers and reading the struggles they go through to find titles, I can tell you there is no set way a writer comes up with the words that are on the front of their book or draws a reader to their story or article.

If the writer is published with a traditional publisher, they have no say over the title. The publishing company decides what title will go on the book based on past book sales. Not sales by that author but by all the authors in their house and what titles readers were drawn to.

A self-published author can give their book a title and it will stay with the book. We don’t have the algorithms that the traditional publishing houses have. But we can google the title, see if there are any others like it. Then we can see if the words in the titles are used in top selling books. And so on. If you are a writer who tries to piggyback off the top selling books.

For me, the title either comes as I am “stewing and brewing” the story –this is where I’ve come up with a premise, or the means of murder, or a unique idea I plan to incorporate into the story. If that doesn’t bring about a catchy title that matches other titles in the series, then I start writing. Adn at a point while I’m putting the story down in words, a few will string together and a lightbulb comes on and I realize that is the title of the book. This has happened to me, mostly with the first book of a series. Then after that the rest of the series has to have similar titles.

As for my Shandra Higheagle mystery series, the titles all come from either the way someone was killed or how they came to be killed.

With the Gabriel Hawke series, since he is a Fish and Wildlife officer (game warden) I wanted to have animals in the titles of the books and on the covers.

The Spotted Pony Casino mystery series, I chose to use gambling terms for the titles of the books. I found a dozen terms that I liked and have been slowly incorporating which ever title I pick into the murder mystery that I write. This has actually been the easiest way to come up with a title. I have the list and just have to decide which term works with the premise I come up with for the book.

Currently, I have started book 10 in the Gabriel Hawke series. When I first came up with the idea for the story and formulated the premise of the murder, I had called the book Fleeing Swan. But after researching the area and getting a great photo of a bear while traversing the wilderness where one of the characters will be hiding, I decided I wanted that photo on the cover and have changed the title to Bear Stalker. While the character who I was referring to as swan in the original title swims away from a threat, I decided to give her the Cayuse name of Small Bear (kskɨ́s yáka). Since she is being stalked by the killer- I came up with the title Bear Stalker. And now that I have my title and my story, my fingers are flying across the keyboard telling Small Bear’s story.

I haven’t decided what the next title will be in the Spotted Pony Casino series. I have an inkling of what the story will be about, at least the secondary plot since I left it hanging in the last book, but I want the title to reflect the main plot of murder in the book and not the secondary plot that will be left hanging in the next few books. I don’t want that little time bomb to go off just yet. 😉 But until I get a clear picture of what the next book will be about, I’m not sure what the title will be other than one from my list of gambling terms. 😉

Does a title of a book draw you to discover more about the book or is it the cover image that draws you to the book? Especially if it is an author you have never read before.

To Prologue or Not to Prologue

I’m currently working on the next (#10) Gabriel Hawke Novel. It will be set up in the style of book #2. I have a person who saw a murder in the wilderness and my character Hawke will find them. Just like book #2, I’ll be starting it with a prologue where the character witnesses the killing and then runs in fear for their life.

To me it makes sense to start the book, with a prologue, showing the person watching the act happen and then fleeing, so that will need to be in their point of view. Then as the story progresses, there will be things Hawke (my main character) won’t know or see, but the reader needs to know through the fleeing person’s point of view so I will have the two points of view in the book.

Most of my Gabriel Hawke books are in my main character’s point of view unless there are scenes that the reader needs to see what my character can’t see. That’s when I use a second point of view.

This book, I’m still working on the title, has been brewing and stewing in my head for nearly 6 months. It came to me as I was writing book #9 that released the end of June. That’s how my brain works. While I am working on a current book in a series, my mind is already moving to the next book. It may be the villain creeping around in my brain, or a setting, or a premise. But as I typed the words to the work in progress, the other story is working in the background.

Back to prologues. There has been a book or two I’ve read where the prologue was flat or didn’t feel like it had anything to do with the story that followed. But there have also been books where the prologue drew me into the story, and I couldn’t wait to read more.

As with all writing, it is the execution of the timing, the words, the characters that makes a reader continue or stop. That and a good, as in a mystery book, whodunit. Something to keep the reader turning the pages and reading well past the time they should turn out the lights and sleep.

Unless you can pull them in at the beginning, with a good prologue, first sentence, first paragraph, first page, first chapter, you could possibly lose the reader. And that’s why I ponder the question: To prologue or not to prologue.

What do those of you reading this post think?

Here is info about my newest release: Owl’s Silent Strike

Book 9 in the Gabriel Hawke Novels

Unexpected snowstorm…

Unfortunate accident…

And a body…

What started out as a favor and a leisurely trip into the mountains, soon turns State Trooper Gabriel Hawke’s life upside down. The snowstorm they were trying to beat comes early, a horse accident breaks Dani Singer’s leg, and Hawke finds a body in the barn at Charlie’s Lodge.

Hawke sets Dani’s leg, then follows the bloody trail of a suspect trying to flee the snow-drifted mountains. Hawke is torn between getting the woman he loves medical care and knowing he can’t leave a possible killer on the mountain.

Before the killer is brought to justice, Dani and Hawke will put their relationship to the test and his job on the line.

https://books2read.com/u/bw19DG

It’s All in the Details by Karen Shughart

Even in fiction, it’s important that some details are correct, especially in a murder mystery when describing an investigation and its resolution when the killer is captured. While the plot, setting, and characters can be a complete figment of the imagination, there’s got to be some accuracy when describing the measures taken to solve the crime.

Our communities offer many resources to those of us who write mysteries, among them sheriffs and police personnel, district attorneys, public defenders, prosecutors, and judges. Having access to these experts and being willing to learn from them adds a level of authenticity to our stories, and hopefully results in more reader satisfaction.  I’m fortunate that these professionals have been available to me when I’ve had questions.

Photo by Sora Shimazaki on Pexels.com

There’s wiggle room, of course, but when investigators on TV are trying to solve a crime and get DNA results in an hour, that’s not how it really works. Although technology has evolved, and today it’s possible for a speedier turnaround time- sometimes in as little as six hours-I try and stick as much to the facts as possible.

I’m working on Murder at Freedom Hill right now, the third is the series of Edmund DeCleryk Cozy mysteries.  In the last two books, the crimes were solved without my needing to provide precise details of what followed after the murderer was apprehended. This time around it’s a bit more complicated.

I’ve realized as I’ve been writing this book that my knowledge of some those procedures is a bit rusty, and I wanted to clarify the steps that must occur from arrest to sentencing, the difference between probation and parole, and the circumstances that permit the defense attorney to make a deal. A few weeks ago, I met with our county’s district attorney.  We spent about an hour together, and after, I went home and revised some sections of the book for clarity, although I must admit that I fudged a few of the details to mesh better with the story.

 The women and men who work at various levels of law enforcement and in criminal justice professions are a valuable resource to those of us who write mysteries. They help provide a framework that allows us to create a book that weaves fantasy and reality into a believable plot.