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Newsletter Dated: 8/31/2010 7:45:30 PM
Subject: Andrea Campbell*s Soup*s On
*** Greetings! ***
This newsletter is being sent to you because you are a writer, professional friend of Andrea*s, or a fan and reader of her books. If you are new to the list, welcome. There are a ton of newsletters and e-zines out there to read, thanks for requesting and reading mine.
In this issue:
ē From the Author*s Desk
ē Eat, Pray, Write by Larry Brooks
ē Interview with Kathryn Casey
*** From The Author*s Desk ***
Yeah, itís been hotter than Hades. But, seriously New Yorkers, take that 103-degree temperature and add the Arkansas humidity that makes straight hair go sproing, and youíve got our three seasons. Youíre not so tough.
This issue is a good one, albeit shorter than usual because, well, weíre all busy. You should learn something about story construction and lots of good information about those pesky but popular true crime writers and Iíve got one of the best on board here, my friend and Womenincrimeink colleague, Kathryn Casey.
*** Eat, Pray, Write ***
You canít escape it. You canít ignore it. That book, Eat, Pray, Love is everywhere and you could probably live your life in luxury just on the merchandizing that will follow. Argh. Are you jealous? Do you hate her? (Elizabeth Gilbert, as if you didnít know).
But then the Storyfixer came into my mailbox. Okay, I have already teased him about the moniker but you have to admit, itís good branding. Anyway, Larry Brooks is here to add his two cents about what you can learn from you-know-what.
Eat, Pray, Write
Sure, the four-part structure works in genre fiction, the more plot-driven the story, the more obvious it is.
But what about something more literary? Something completely character-driven? A story thatís more about theme and heart than anything else?
Along comes a book and a movie that shows this to be true.
If youíre a writer who lives near a television, a bookstore or an internet connection, then youíve heard about it. Chances are high that youíve actually read it, and if you went out of the house this weekend, maybe you even saw the highly anticipated film.
Itís called Eat Pray Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert. And guess whatÖ itís not even a novel. Itís a memoir, published in 2006.
Which happily addresses the oft-asked question as to whether the principles apply to memoirs as much as they do fiction.
Yes, if you want your memoir to find a publisher and a whole bunch of readers. The author wasnít famous Ė usually the primary factor in the publication of a memoir Ė but she is now.
Precisely because of how she wrote her book.
Iím not here today to review the book or the movie. You donít need me to add to that resounding chorus of approval.
No, Iím here today to point something out about Eat Pray Love. A story as character-driven, plot-vague and literary as they get.
Itís a model of four-part storytelling.
If youíre still looking for clarity about the four parts of a story and the milestones that separate them, read this book. Or see the movie, which is one of those rare films that makes even the most cynical of readers admit that nothing was lost in the adaptation.
Three of the four parts are in the title. After a set-up (Part 1), the segments are Eat (Part 2), Pray (Part 3) and love.
The milestones? The heroine moves from her home (the set-up) after realizing she is unhappy and unfulfilled and moves to Italy to eat (Part 2), then to India to pray (Part 3) and then to Bali to find love (Part 4).
Every time she packs her suitcase you are looking a plot point and/or a mid-point straight in the eyes.
Someone recently asked me how we know what our first plot point should be.
Eat Pray Love illustrates the most basic essence of the answer to that question. It is this: the writer needs to understand, at the most fundamental level, what the story is about in terms of story exposition, even in character-driven, theme-intensive stories like Eat Pray Love. The FPP comes from that. (fundamental plot point)
Eat Pray Love is about a woman who chucks her unfulfilling life and moves to some romantic place to search for herself. Whatís the FPP? When she chucks her unfulfilling life and begins to search for herself.
Whatís the conflict (because you know that the FPP needs to show both conflict and stakes)? Sheís not sure sheís over the love affair she left behind. Or the marriage she walked away from to enter into it. She knows she canít move forward until she knows. Sheís a mess, and she knows it. She has to understand why before she can move forward with her life. She has to find herself while escaping herself.
Everything prior to the FPP is her realizing this. The moment she actually embarks on the journey is the First Plot Point.
Is your story about a plane crash? Then the FPP is when the plane goes down.
Is your story about a broken heart? Then your FPP is when one lover dumps the other.
If your story a whodunnit? Then your FPP is the first big clue.
What is your story about?
Eight times out of ten, your FPP is the beginning of that journey. Everything prior to that moment is a set-up for it.
In one out of ten stories the journey begins earlier (either the hook or a mid-set-up inciting incident), and the FPP then becomes an unexpected complication to it.
Either way, the FPP is driven by plot exposition, which is almost always the vehicle for character and theme. In Eat Pray Love, the vehicle was her search Ė not merely a random sequence of episodic events Ė and the theme was what she found along the way.
I encourage you to review the many posts on Storyfix that introduce, define and expound on these structural principles, and then test them Ė or better put, see them in action Ė in Eat Pray Love.
Not only is it a clinic in theory and structure, itís a call to write stories from the heart. Stories that speak a universal language reflect the collective human experience. Thrillers and romances come and go. But stories like Eat Pray Love become iconic and timeless. Not only is it a triumph of the human spirit, it is a triumph of storytelling as something worth pursuing.
Larry Brooks at storyfix.com
*** Interview with Kathryn Casey***
Kathryn is my dear friend and colleague on the blog Womenincrimeink at blogspot. I am thrilled to have her as our guest author.
Q.: Kathryn, for Soupís On readers who donít know you, can you tell us a little about your background?
KC: I began as a magazine writer in the mid-eighties, and wrote for a lot of the national magazines, Readerís Digest, TV Guide, Ladies Home Journal, MORE, Seventeen, and Rolling Stone. As a reporter, I profiled celebrities, wrote about all kinds of subjects, including lifestyles and health. But from the beginning, I had a knack for investigating and writing about criminal cases. In the mid-nineties, I began writing true crime books, and Iíve done that ever since, adding crime fiction two years ago with the debut of Singularity, the first in my Sarah Armstrong mystery series.
Q.: Today, we are talking about your book, Shattered. Can you give us the set-up or a brief synopsis please?
KC: The murder took place in 1999. David Temple was a former Texas football star, high school and college, working as a teacher and coach, in a Houston suburb. He and his wife, Belinda Lucas Temple, were college sweethearts. She was bright, beautiful, and a beloved teacher, and they had one child, a toddler named Evan. To those on the outside, they appeared the perfect, happy family. But behind the scenes, that was far from reality. Belinda was eight-months pregnant with a baby girl, Erin, on that January morning David called 911, claiming heíd discovered her shot through the head in the master bedroom closet. From the beginning, the investigators suspected David was the killer. There were too many signs at the home that the scene had been staged. Then, they focused even more tightly on him, after discovering that he was carrying on an affair with a beautiful young English teacher. But this was a complicated and frustrating case. In the end, it would take nine years to bring David Temple into a courtroom.
Q.: Kind of a two-part question here: How do you choose your projects and what elements do you look for? Also, have you had book starts fall through for some reason?
KC: When it comes to true crime, I look for cases with lots of twists and turns, ones that will resonate with my readers. I spend a year on each book, often conducting a hundred or more interviews, so itís a long road. With that in mind, I look for a case that will hold my interest, one I care about, and one, I hope, that will explore something about our society or the human condition. I strive to see the big picture through the lens of the case Iím studying. The Temple case, for instance, sheds a light on intimate partner homicide, particularly involving pregnant women. This is a horrendous problem, one virtually ignored until this past decade, with the sensational Scott Peterson trial. I canít say that Iíve had a book fall through. I guess Iíve been pretty lucky.
Q.: What type of background work do you do to begin and how do you find your interview subjects?
KC: Itís a big commitment, but I go to the trials. Sometimes this can translate to six weeks or more living in a hotel room, long days in the courtroom, but for me, itís necessary. I want to be there, with the families and jurors, and the defendant, listening to the evidence. Once the trial is over, I use what Iíve learned as the foundation to begin my own investigation, seeking more evidence from those whoíve taken the stand. These people, connected with the case, often suggest others, and I fan out, talking to everyone willing to talk to me, finding out all I can about those involved and the events that fell into place leading up to and following the murder.
Q.: I know you have done many books. Do you have one agent, publisher or editor and what is your working arrangement? Do you have to submit book proposals for the go-ahead?
KC: My true crime books are published by HarperCollins, and I work with my editor there. I do write short book proposals, principally introducing the cases. If we agree that we both like the case, I begin my research then write. After the manuscript is completed, itís handled first by my editor, then a staff copyeditor and the HC art department, where the cover concepts are drawn up. I have a different publisher for my fiction, St. Martinís Press, but the process is somewhat similar. While I donít write a proposal describing the case, I write a short synopsis of the plot.
Q.: Obviously you are digging into the lives of victims and those accused, their families, and the criminal justice professionals involved. How do you get cooperation? Also, do you let their emotions change your point of view or the way the story is told?
KC: Iíve found over the years that most people involved in such tragedies want to tell their stories. I never assume that someone wonít talk to me. Many will still be trying to figure out why things happened, and talking to me, cooperating so that the book is accurate, is one way to make that possible. The only way I can depict a case fairly and accurately is to talk to everyone involved who is willing to talk to me, and I do that. I try to keep an open mind. People are sometimes falsely accused and even convicted, so itís important not to presuppose that a guilty verdict means the person actually committed the crime.
Itís difficult not to identify with the families whose lives have been torn apart by these tragedies. I often ache for all theyíve been through. I see their suffering as part of the story, and I often include it in the book. Itís important for people to understand how devastating murder is, what it does to all those involved. Itís the most horrendous of acts, the taking of a life, and to treat it without emotion is to become desensitized to the pain. That said, the evidence is the evidence, and the events that lead up to the murder arenít written by me but by those involved. When I write a novel, I construct the plots. But when it comes to true crime, Iím a chronicler, who researches and pulls together the evidence to paint the picture, to explain what happened and why.
Q.: Have you ever done a prison interview?
KC: Many times, for magazines and books. It can be a chilling experience. Itís more than unsettling to sit across from someone who describes in detail how he or she has committed a horrendous crime. Iím often amazed at how skimpy the motives are and how calm and collected the killer can be while describing a victimís final moments. Yet most of those Iíve interviewed, even years after their convictions, maintain their innocence. Do I believe them? As I said before, I do my best to give them the benefit of the doubt. I listen to what they tell me, ask them for anything I can research to bolster their claims, and afterward I follow through, looking for evidence that contradicts the guilty verdict.
Q.: What is on the horizon for Kathryn Casey?
KC: I have a third Sarah Armstrong novel, The Killing Storm, coming out on October 26th. Iím very excited about the book. I love this character. Sarah is a Texas Ranger/profiler, a single mom. Since inventing her, Iíve put that poor woman through hell. In the first book, Singularity, she tracked a serial killer. In the second, Blood Lines, she was charged with saving a teen pop star from a perverse and deadly stalker, and in The Killing Storm, sheíll have to fight her way through a hurricane to save the life of an innocent child.
Q.: Do you have a blog?
KC: I have one associated with my website, where I occasionally write about what Iím doing, a little bit about my personal life and writing. Iím also proud to say that Iím one of the founders of Women in Crime Ink.
Q.: Is there anything else you would like to tell Soupís On readers?
KC: Iíd like to thank everyone who reads my books, especially those who recommend them to others. Word of mouth is truly the best way to spread the word. Thanks all of you! Please keep reading: I really do enjoy the writing!
*** Future Newsletters ***
In upcoming newsletters we will share a new interview or two, talk more about publishing, and provide additional writerís tips. If there is any area you would like to discuss, just send me a note. Thanks for the read. :)
Copyright©2010 Andrea Campbell If you wish to quote from here, fine, just attribute it to me and my web site.