How Misdirection Makes Your Novel Interesting

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I never know where I’m going and neither should your reader!  Okay, never is an exaggeration, but I have what I like to call directional dyslexia. I know they haven’t created this term yet (that I know of) and I’m not belittling dyslexic people (many of my students are dyslexic) but I literally get directions turned around in my head. If I make five turns, then reverse order, I often want to go the opposite way! I don’t know why! If I think it through, I can get it, but it is tough for me!

Why am I sharing this embarrassing detail? Well, I feel like books need to do this to us on occasion. I don’t mean never let your reader know where your story is going, but certainly don’t give them a perfect map with precise directions. Give them MIS-direction.

I have to be honest here, if I read a book and I know within the first few chapters where the story is going, I feel cheated! Why should I give up my precious time to something so predictable? I’ve read lots of books, watched my share of movies, I have an idea how these things work. It doesn’t mean that I need the tables turned 100% every time, but give me something interesting. Don’t just replicate a story that’s already been told! UGH!

How do we do that? There are lots of strategies to achieve this. The one we’re focused on today is misdirection. Misdirection means exactly what you’d think…point your reader in one direction while going the other. This can be subtle or a big part of the story. Use your judgement for what is best for your book.

There are many ways to accomplish this. The options are limitless. Want grand examples? Think of Snape in Harry Potter. What did you think of him in the first few books as opposed to the end? Remember the movie Sixth Sense? The whole movie rests upon masterful misdirection. I’ve added some links below if you want to further explore this technique.

Just make them wonder. Respect your audience. They don’t want to be spoon fed a story. They want to be enthralled with one. Misdirection is one of the things we can do to help accomplish this.

http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/how-to-create-tension-through-misdirection

https://www.writing.ie/resources/the-unreliable-narrator-the-art-of-misdirection/

https://www.writingclasses.com/toolbox/articles/the-art-of-misdirection

Happy Writing,

Madelyn

 

Something to Muse about…

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The Muse Crew

Do you like books? Do you write books? Are you a person, with a pulse? Well, you’ve got to check out my newest project.  The Muse Crew 

These ladies and I have shared so much through the years…thought provoking discussions, tear-inducing laughter, and the tremendous growth of our writing skills (which both tears at the ego and then rebuilds it).

Now, we’re ready to share the wonders of our group with the WORLD! Yes, I’m thinking big here…world! So, if you like to read books, then take a look, because we’re working to find the best of the bestbooks. Writers, we’ve got your back because we’re willing to review your high quality books.

Please, come and join us, you’re sure to find something to make the visit worth your time at The Muse Crew.

Happy Reading,

Madelyn March

 

Unbound

 

I am bound by my maladies–

fears, pain, insecurity, perception,

they keep me from seeking,

they keep me from being,

all that I could be–

my dreams, possibilities, potential,

left like limping question marks.

They shall claim my life no longer.

Freedom is not free,

but I am ready, willing, able

to stake claim and break these chains,

no longer shall fear shackle and bind me,

it will not control me.

I will chart my route, take the steps,

not without fear, but in the face of it.

 

Madelyn March

 

Inspiration in the Woods

 

This summer I had the privilege of visiting Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. For those who haven’t been there, it is a rugged sort of beauty, one in which outdoor lovers are in their element.

Now, I’ve spent lots of time there in the past, but it’s been awhile.  Yet, I’ve been there, in my mind. The Upper Peninsula is almost like a character in my book, The Nature of Denial. It was part of what inspired the story.

I remember working through the entire book in my mind over hiking and camping trips. I snuggled in my sleeping bag, listened to the snores of others, and imagined how the rugged nature of the U.P. could help heal a person so badly in need of healing.

Anna (my main character) is not taken from my life or any  other person’s life, but the scenery is very much what (for the most part) I’ve seen on my own. And it has, in many ways, healed me, again and again.

Visiting some of my old “haunts” was exhilarating for me, like meeting an old, dear friend. I couldn’t help but smile at references in my book that only I would get as I passed an old (not to be named) questionable motel, a dazzling waterfall, or heard the calming whispers of the forest leaves.

So, that was a part of my inspiration for the book. The other parts are too long to get into for this blog (maybe another one?) but they have to do with themes that I seem to revisit in my writing–struggle, hope, friendship, and love.  The world is full of darkness, but there is light around every corner.

Happy Writing,

Madelyn March

 

 

Dreams

“Dreams.  Don’t be afraid of them.  Immerse yourself in yours.  Remember, they exist today, in the here and now, in the what you do in this very moment.  Dream big, break goals down small, and start checking them off the list.  It’s empowering.”

This is part of an email I sent to some of the high school students that I work with.  One of my jobs is to mentor students in an online program.  Many of these teens need to hear that they are capable, that dreams are possible, and other positive affirmations.  I’m sharing this because I think it’s important for all of us to dream, and dream big.

Whatever the goal–being a writer, promoting world peace, making a decent living doing something you love–it is okay, imperative even, that we are dreamers.  Dreamers have created the beautiful parts of humanity and advancements that have altered how we live.  So, go ahead, dream a little, and if you have kids, encourage their dreams too!

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United We Write

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I am a lucky gal.  I’m part of a writing group that challenges me to be a better writer, tells me when my writing rant has gone horribly wrong, and notices my strengths.  I suspect that I might not have finished three novels without their continued support and I’m certain that my stories wouldn’t be as good without the critiques of my writing sisters.

We didn’t set out to be a women’s writing group.  We’ve had men before, they just didn’t stay.  Could it have been that we have some romance writers?  I mean some of their stuff makes my cheeks glow fire red.  Maybe it was too much for them.

I’m not suggesting that you seek out an all male or all female group (so stop writing the hate mail right now).  I am insisting that you find a writing group that feeds your talent. I’ve said it before, you can’t grow as a writer without input from people reading your stuff. You can’t!!!  Or, if you can, it’s at a snail’s pace.  Trust me.

Anyway, I’m thinking about my sisterhood of writers, otherwise known as the Muse Crew, because we’re going to start a writing and reviewing website/blog.  We’ve been working together for years, expanding our writing skills, critiquing the work of others, and exploring countless nuances of the writing process.  Now, we’re going to invite others to share in our discussions and help other authors (many of them will be self published) by reviewing their work.

Did I say that we’re not any ordinary group of writers?  We all come from vastly different life experiences and writing backgrounds.  That’s part of what makes this group so special. (Am I partial? Yes, but you would be too!).  Our group combines expertise in the areas of writing, editing, psychology, teaching, business, and more.  We have writers in different genres of fiction and non-fiction.  Our varied backgrounds give us unique perspectives to what we read and have enriched the way we approach authorship. We are driven by our shared passion for the well-written page.

You can probably tell that I could go on, and on…. and… well, you get it.  It’s a great group of women and I look forward to expanding our writing journey online.  I’m telling you so that you know and if you have suggestions about what you would like in a website and blog like this, please share them in the comments.

Happy writing!

Madelyn

 

 

Let Go of Fear

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If you truly enjoy writing, never give it up. We have this one life, and if writing gives you joy, then keep doing it. I’m not saying give up your day job, live in a box, and write. I am saying—don’t stop. Don’t let that nagging voice in your head defeat you, don’t let that bad review or critique get you down, just keep going. Why?  Because fame is just around the corner and that’s why you should write. Okay, that is total bullshi*, I just wanted to see if you were listening. Writing success may or may not be around the corner, but if you don’t write, you’ll never know.

I don’t think most of us are drawn to the page, compelled to fill it with stories, because we seek riches (although they would be nice). Writing gives us a way to look at the world, make sense of it, and to explore human truths. When we’re tired of the world we live in, we create new ones. Writing is a way to connect to life and imagine the possibilities. Writing is not only an exercise; it’s a way of being.

So, my advice to you on this dreary Michigan day is this: no matter how cheesy it sounds, don’t give up on writing. It has things to teach you if you’re willing to continue with the journey. Who knows where the adventure will take you, but writing will make the journey a more interesting one. And isn’t that worth something?

"Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words." -Mark Twain

Who’s Driving This Story?

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Yes, I’ve had a bit of a blogging break, but I rarely take a break from thinking about writing.  What’s been on my mind this summer is an issue I’ve had with my second novel.  I’ve been revising it and changing the POV and tense.  I’m changing it from third-person past tense to first-person present tense.

I’m not switching tense and POV for fun because it is TOUGH work!   In fact, I dragged my feet in protest, but the story insisted on being told this way.  I think the present tense and first-person narrative will increase the tension, intensify the action, and give the reader more insight into the character.  My goal is to create a mind-bending novel and I think this approach will help. If it were any other novel, I would likely write it in third-person past tense or at least past tense.  It is tough writing this way.  Did I already say that?

(I would give specifics about why it works for this story, but I hate giving the plot away to books that aren’t out!)

As I researched the advantages and disadvantages of this POV, I found that some people are very offended by this type of writing.  I’ve read horror stories from other writers that people have given them bad reviews for this POV without even reading the book!!!  How do you feel about this POV and tense?

Sometimes stories demand certain things from us.  They may scream it from the mountaintops or whisper it in our dreams.  In this case, my story kept pushing to be told from this particular perspective.  What are some demands your stories have made of you?

If you’re facing this dilemma, here are some resources that will help:

https://preciseedit.wordpress.com/2009/02/22/writing-fiction-in-the-present-tense/

http://www.selfpublishingadvice.org/writing-tense/

http://www.selfpublishingadvice.org/writing-tense/

http://booksbywomen.org/writing-advice-past-tense-present-tense/

Another great resource is to read authors who have written good stories from this perspective.

Happy Writing,

Madelyn

Renewal

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Renewal.

In Michigan, spring is like a reawakening. Winter is beautiful, but long, and by the end of it, people around here walk with a dreariness in their eyes for no other reason than a lack of sun for too many days. So, spring here is special. You notice it, you long for it, you welcome it with open arms. When it comes, there is an observable change in people. They walk with an extra bounce in their step, smile at strangers, and there is a significant decrease in road rage.

It makes me think of my characters. How are they renewed? I enjoy putting characters in real-life situations which test their psychological make-up and see how they come out the other side. How are characters changed by going through darkness and difficulty? Do they come out better or bitter?

I think it can be either way, but the transformation of a character or the resistance to change makes interesting fiction (to me anyway). I find people fascinating–hence the writing obsession–and this particular aspect of writing creates rich character.

Have characters ever surprised you in their metamorphosis?  What role does transformation take in your characters? What part of character development do you enjoy the most?

 

It’s Out!!!

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This day took a mountain of other days to reach, but finally, publishing day has arrived!  Am I nervous?  Yes!  But I’m ready to offer Anna’s story to others and hope that they find the experience worthwhile.

Read it for free!  It’s available on Kindle for free starting tomorrow.  Read the blurb below, if it’s not your genre of choice, no problem, but please pass it along if you know of someone who might enjoy it.

Darkness is growing within Anna Montagna and she can’t control it. She’s hurt someone that she loves. She fears that mental illness is descending upon her, like it did her mother, except her mother never hurt anyone.  Scared and alone, Anna flees to small-town Mikamaw in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to save her family from the monster that she has become.

Anna hopes to find anonymity and solitude in Mikamaw, but instead finds a slightly-psychic friend, nosy locals, and the healing nature of the landscape. Despite the hundreds of miles Anna travels to escape her past, it continues to haunt her.  She tries to drown her life’s regrets in alcohol and deep water, but they always resurface. When her husband and best friend find her in Mikamaw, she must decide whether to confront the past or turn and keep running.