Tuesday, January 3, 2023

The Two Secrets to Compelling Fiction: Guest Post by Jeffery Deaver

Jeffery Deaver: 
The Two Secrets to Compelling Fiction
© 2022 Gunner Publications, LLC

I’m sometimes asked what drew me to writing fiction. Part of the answer to that question is that I was a nerd. But I was nerd in the days when the word meant something: Nowadays, a nerd is somebody who lives in Silicon Valley and is a billionaire because they’ve invented an app that puts cat faces on pictures of heads of state. No, I was nerd in the good old days: Pudgy, clumsy, inept, ignored by cheerleaders and pompom girls. I had no talent for sport. Coaches plotted like chess grandmasters to make sure I ended up on the other one’s team. I admit this was understandable--I was terrible. I’d stand in the outfield at softball, ignoring the game and coming up with ideas for stories or poems that might go something like this:
            The score is tied, three boys on base.
            I see the batter’s happy face 
            as he grips the bat and looks my way. 
            All I can do is hope and pray
            That he’ll display an ounce of pity
            And won’t hit the ball to me.
            But we call know how it goes:
            He whacks the ball, and it breaks my nose.
But while I found little comfort in sports, I felt right at home in the library, reading many different genres, especially the short stories of Edgar Allan Poe, Agatha Christie, Conan Doyle, Ray Bradbury and Ian Fleming (yes, there were Bond short stories) and—later--John Cheever, Joyce Carol Oates and John Updike, among many others. 
Books were the center of my universe.
And so it wasn’t surprising that at age eleven or so, I tried my hand at fiction. I considered that first effort a novel, since I divided my opus into chapters (two) and put it in a dust jacket with cover art that I drew myself. But there’s an expression we have down here where I live now, North Carolina: Just because your cat has a litter in the laundry hamper doesn’t mean the kittens are socks.
What I wrote back then, sixty years ago, was a short story, whatever I called it.
In crafting each of the 90 or so stories I’ve written, I stuck to my philosophy of writing: That I’m a manufacturer of a product. (And let’s dump the bogus commerce-versus-art argument. Beethoven, Mozart, Rembrandt and Shakespeare—I could go on and on--were all businesspeople, working on contract for a fee; if that’s not commerce, I don’t know what is.)
Serious producers will always keep their market firmly in mind when creating their goods. Notice any liver-flavored toothpaste on the shelves? I think not. Why? Consumers don’t want it. 
In fiction we need to be as attuned to our market as Procter & Gamble. So, what do readers want? 
They want two things. 
One, fast-paced tales that emotionally engage them on every page. I don’t want to create interesting fiction. I want to create my-God-I’m-on-a-roller-coaster fiction. 
And two, something that’s different from what they’ve read before. 
I kept both of these goals in mind in writing the recent The Broken Dolljust published by Amazon Original Stories. 
I strive for the first goal—of intense emotional engagement—by creating ticking-clock, sweaty-palm deadlines in each story; something terrible will happen if the protagonist (or antagonist—they’re people too) can’t stop it. And, always, a breathtaking twist at the end that turns readers’ expectations upside down. 
What’s different about The Broken Doll? It’s a four-story cycle, in which each tale is independent, with a beginning, middle and surprise ending, but it can also be read as a whole, since the stories share characters and plot points, all viewed from different points of view and on different timelines.
Taking place over a harrowing few days in the Midwest, The Broken Doll is about a sociopath pursuing victims in the rural Midwest, while he himself is being pursued. It is, by turns, a medical thriller, courtroom drama, police procedural and psychological suspense tale.
So, to any nerds out there, I say take heart. Forget puppy and kitten apps and spend your time with books. Who know where they’ll lead you?

Jeffery Deaver is an international number-one bestselling author. His novels have appeared on bestseller lists around the world. His books are sold in 150 countries and translated into over twenty-five languages. He has served two terms as president of Mystery Writers of America, and was recently named a Grand Master of MWA, whose ranks include Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen, Mary Higgins Clark and Walter Mosely.
The author of over forty novels, three collections of short stories and a nonfiction law book, and a lyricist of a country-western album, he’s received or been shortlisted for dozens of awards. His "The Bodies Left Behind" was named Novel of the Year by the International Thriller Writers association, and his Lincoln Rhyme thriller "The Broken Window" and a stand-alone, "Edge," were also nominated for that prize. "The Garden of Beasts" won the Steel Dagger from the Crime Writers Association in England. He’s also been nominated for eight Edgar Awards by the MWA. 
Deaver has been honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention, the Strand Magazine’s Lifetime Achievement Award and the Raymond Chandler Lifetime Achievement Award in Italy.
You can find out more about Jeffery on his website www.jefferydeaver.com, Facebook page facebook.com/JefferyDeaver, and follow him on Twitter @JefferyDeaver.


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