Kick-Ass Heroes – No! Make that Kick-Ass Heroines

I have two new addictions to add to my telly watching: Missing and Unforgettable. These two shows have been added into my favourites:

  • Alias
  • Nikita
  • Missing
  • Unforgettable
  • Rizzoli & Isles
  • Women’s Murder Club
  • Cold Case
  • Bones
  • Castle

What do all these shows have in common? Crime, Murders, Mysteries, Adventure and Intrigue – Yes! But they all have one important factor. All of them are headlined by powerful Kick-ass Heroes Heroines. What a change to see how far the world has come that top crime shows are no longer just headlined by men but that the shows headlined by women are becoming more and more common.

As a woman this makes me excited and as a writer it makes me doubly excited. I love writing about strong, independent women in a man’s world. I love reading about strong, independent women in a man’s world. What I also love about these shows is that every single one of these kick-ass heroines have not sacrificed their femininity to portray these roles. I love that a woman can still be a woman and do a “man’s job” as well as the man. I love that women are no longer held back by their gender and instead are empowered by their sheer femininity and their differences from men are what set them apart.

What a different world we live in and how things have changed, gender stereotypes most of all. I remember when I grew up, my favourite shows were Magnum P.I., MacGyver, AirWolf, The A Team, Rip Tide. These shows also had the common elements of crime, murders, mysteries, adventure and intrigue but they had a major difference in that they were headlined by men. Admittedly there was Murder She Wrote which was headlined by a woman but as much as I love Angela Lansbury, she was hardly going to be chasing down any criminals in an alleyway.

I shared with you, in a blog post last week, that I would have loved to have been an FBI agent. I guess this is one of the reasons I watch the television shows I do. I also love reading these types of stories. Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli & Isles series, Kathy Reichs’s Temperance Brennan series and James Patterson’s Murder Women’s Club are all favourites of mine. The women in these stories and in these television shows are feminine, intelligent, strong, independent, tough, take-no-nonsense kind of gals.

Kick-ass heroines are also a reason why I do not read romances or watch romances or write romances. I have nothing against romance but I have a big problem with the so-called “heroines” of the traditional romance. In my opinion there is hardly anything about them that can be called heroic. These women are characters who traditionally need a man to fix all their problems, to give them happiness and to show them the way. As a woman I am really annoyed by this completely false and outdated view of women. But this post is not about romances and the romance genre and again each to their own. Those genres have their fans but I am not among them.

Back to my favourite kick-ass heroines…

Not only are these headline characters strong women but the shows have great plot-lines. In particular, Missing is a show full of twists and turns, cliffhangers, lies and secrets: after all what else would a show about the CIA be other than this. But the real winning element of this show for me is the main character played by Ashley Judd. Her emotion and her adrenaline keep me on tenterhooks each week. For those who are unfamiliar with the show, it follows the story of a mother (Ashley Judd), who just happens to be a retired CIA agent, who is looking for her son who has gone missing. Each episode opens up a little more of her back story while also giving the viewer more questions. Each episode also takes us to a new destination in Europe as she is on the run both being helped (at times) by the CIA and more often than not being hindered by them. But nothing will stop her looking for her son and finding him. You know she will not rest until she has found him. What more womanly trait could you find then a mother who will not give up searching for her son and making sure he is safe? But this mother is no housewife. She is a tough, no-holds-barred, trained government agent who ends up getting in more skirmishes than the average mom would be.

As a woman first and a writer second it is so refreshing to watch, read and then to write about stories where the heroine is the one fixing her own world, solving crimes and mysteries and still having to navigate being a woman in a “man’s world”. These women are not given any special privileges because of their gender and if anything have to work harder, be tougher, and prove themselves more to be respected in their roles. They still fall in love, are still emotional and feminine and still feel conflicted about having to walk the tight rope between being a woman and being a woman in a “man’s world”. This is what draws me to their stories. I find they are more complicated, face more challenges and are more conflicted then men in those same roles are. They bring an emotional angle to stories that traditionally shy away from emotion. The best thing is that there will be even more stories to watch, to read and to write about Kick-ass heroines and that makes my day.

This keeps me inspired to write the stories I do. As a woman I want adventure, thrills, chills and spicy romance. Now we aren’t just the swooning young girl or the calculating older woman, we are the kick-ass heroines fixing our own problems and standing on our own feet. No longer are we the Bond girls. We are now Bond! No more Superman needed because we can be Lara Croft.

(Aside: I am also thrilled that for the first time ever, this year’s Olympics was a triumph for women when every single country that took part had at least one woman athlete competing for her place in Olympic history.)

Tell me… Who is your favourite kick-ass heroine?

What do you enjoy about series (television and/or literature) with women lead characters?

Coffin Hop | Something comes howling in the wind…

the gory details:

1) HAVE A SPOOKY FUN TIME!2) INVITE YOUR FRIENDS AND SPREAD THE WORD!3) THIS TOUR STARTS: Monday, October 24, 2011 at Midnight (PST)
THIS TOUR ENDS: Monday, October 31, 2011 at Midnight (PST)
Winners will be drawn and posted November 1, 20114) MEET AND MINGLE WITH THE AUTHORS! EXPERIENCE A NEW DESTINATION AT EVERY STOP! PARTICIPATE IN EVERY SITE’S CONTEST AND BE ENTERED FOR CHANCES TO WIN MULTIPLE PRIZES! EVERY BLOG VISITED IS ANOTHER OPPORTUNITY TO WIN!

5) PARTICIPATION AT ALL SITES IS RECOMMENDED, BUT NOT REQUIRED. THE MORE SITES YOU HOP, THE BETTER YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING PRIZES.

6) DID I MENTION TO HAVE A SPOOKY FUN TIME?

***Authors have full discretion to choose an alternate winner in the event any winner fails to claim their prize(s) within 72 hours of their name being posted or after notification of win, whichever comes first. Anyone who participates in this tour is subject to these rules***

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My Contest – Prize Time

My next WIP is a psychological thriller and it involves psychological twists and a cold-blooded killer. This killer curdles my blood. Already the killer haunts my dreams. But the worst thing about this character is that I am struggling to name him. He does have a moniker that he will be known by in the story but he does need a name.

Let me tell you a little bit about him. He is a psychopath. He is exceptionally cruel and sadistic. He is also a perfectionist who never leaves any trace of himself at the crime scene. He is fastidiously clean, almost surgically I would say. He preys on people that he feels are “fallen”. He is incredibly alluring and seductive. He is hard to say “no” to. By the time his victims realise he is the final person they will see, it is too late and they are taken by surprise. This man could be anyone. He might be your friend, your brother, your father, your lover, your husband or your colleague. He stalks you like a silent lioness. Do you know his name?

So…this is where you blog-hoppers come in. I need you to put your creative hats on and spin me a first name and surname for my sadistic killer.

The best name will win three ebooks by three phenomenal authors. (I will be announcing the names of the authors and their books closer to Halloween but believe me you will want these ebooks.) 

The best name will also become the name of my sadistic killer.

You need to be subscribed to this blog to enter (so join up if you are not already) as well as leave your best answer (along with your email address for winner notification) in the comments on any of this week’s posts on this blog. You also need to have visited and commented on at least 5 of the CoffinHop bloggers.

The winner will be announced on this blog on 5th November. 

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Tuesday = Theme Music

 

Have you ever tried watching a horror or thriller without the sound on? I guarantee you that you will not have a problem turning off the lights and going to bed. It is the creaks and the strange sounds, the eery music and whistling wind that truly send the shivers down our spines even before the villain has come onto the scene ready to kill. The core element for horror and thriller is the theme music and the background noises.

How do we convey this horror element and scare factor into writing? How do we create shivers down spines with ink on a white page?

We must write out a theme music. How do we do this? We write using all of our senses. We bring all of the character’s senses into the story. We bring in a deep POV (Point of View) where by writing from the character in the scene, we effectively put the reader into the scene. Their heart beats as quick as the characters. All of a sudden they are not sitting there reading a harmless book…they have been transported into a situation of being hunted and not knowing what was hunting them. Our characters senses and emotions are the writer’s theme music for the story.

Here is an excerpt of one of my own stories to demonstrate. Tell me if your heart beats quickened.

“The night is dark. Not even a full moon lights up the gloom. A twig breaks. Someone is out there. Fear raises all the tiny hairs on my arms. I shiver with the adrenalin. Halting foot-steps are the only sound. I pray that my hiding place, in the hollow of the old tree stump, is not betrayed. My lungs are bursting with the trapped air. My heart beats are pounding enough to drown all hearing. The world has gone silent except for my pounding heart. Another twig snaps. I see a faint outline of a darkening just past the stump. A shadow? Fear takes over and every limb in my body fights my stillness. I want to run. I have become prey. The darkened shape moves. It grows. My heart threatens to leave my twitching body and fly into the darkness of escape. The darkened form takes shape. It becomes a large hand encased in black leather. The fingers are long and hypnotize me. I push myself as far back into the hollow as the dead wood will allow me. My eyes are locked on the hand. It moves forward, seeking, towards my throat…My breath now held tightly, the edges of my vision start blurring. The hand creeps closer and closer. Searching. Just as I can almost feel the long fingers close around my throat; my vision fades. The last thing I know is the cold smooth leather touching my throat. I pass out…” © Kim Koning

Did your heart skip a beat? Were you there with the character? Now I didn’t tell you who the character is or where exactly they may be. I just wanted you to feel this character’s fear and desperation, her mind stretching for an escape but knowing it is too late.

Now character’s emotions and senses are not the only way you can set your story’s theme music. What happens if you want to set the scene when the horror has already passed? What happens if your key character in the scene cannot move, feel or even speak? What tools does the writer have then? You have the setting. This is when you use your setting. This is the time when you put a hard focus on the body lying broken. The horror will edge across your spine like a crescendo of violins. 

Here is an excerpt of another of my stories to demonstrate…

  “She lay on the ground, a confusion of twisted limbs and red sand.

The sun was slowly starting to break over the ocean’s rim. Already the seagulls were flying overhead, their harsh cries echoing in the noise of dawn. The girl lay very still and quiet, limp like a rag doll. Slowly she cracked open her eyes, seeing only red sand. Closing her eyes again, she moved her tongue around her mouth feeling for broken teeth. The sand beneath her cheek grated painfully into her bruises. Her left hand, held in a fist, was bent over her back. Carefully she uncurled her fingers. A whimper escaped as sharp pains shot up her shoulder and into her neck. Trying not to move her arm, she lifted her hand slightly off the cool sand. With a sharp gasp, she dropped her head back onto the ground. The sun started to punish her bare legs with its rays. She opened her eyes again and watched as a tear fell from the tip of her nose into the sand. Suddenly tired, her eyes blurred. The light faded and she fell into a black hole.

   That was how they found her: a confusion of twisted limbs and red sand. 

She lay face down on the beach with her limbs contorted into uncomfortable angles. The bright yellow shift that she wore was twisted up around her waist. Her left arm was twisted around her back. Her other arm lay in the sand above her head, her hand curled tightly into a fist. Her right leg was bent at a right angle slightly above her hip. Her left leg was stretched to the side. She looked as if someone had tried to pull her body apart starting at her legs.” © Kim Koning

This scene unlike the first does not have the action element but the theme music is still loud and clear. Something horrific has happened and the heart of a reader is tugged. 

How do you compose the theme music of your story? How do you make ink on a page send shivers up the reader’s spine? How do you crawl into the head space and imagination and pull out horror in your reader? What are your best tools? Look at your own writing and listen to it instead of reading it. You will hear the music. You will hear the creaks in the floor. You will hear the soft tread of the killer. 

Now I will leave you with the creepiest theme music I know. As you listen, remember how important the music of a scene – both visual and written – can be to converting the true horror. Here is Angelo Badalamenti’s “Dark Water” Suite. Enjoy the chills…

Hunting for the Truth | Interview with Reid | Patti Larsen

We Are Hunted

Kids are going missing. We see the posters everywhere. The kids from happy families are the ones with posters up and rewards are offered. But what about all those faceless kids lost in the system. The street kids, foster kids and orphans. Who misses them? Who notices that they have gone missing too? Where are these missing kids? Why aren’t we asking more questions? Enough is Enough. One brave woman asked too many questions and she went searching for answers. Her name is Patti Larsen. She was one of the people who started asking questions about the faceless kids, the ones nobody had wanted in the first place. She got in contact with one of these missing kids. Through covert meetings and phone calls he told her his incredible story. When I first read the four accounts of the horrors that are happening to kids, my heart jerked in terror. I also wanted to meet this faceless kid, an orphan, who had such a harrowing story to tell. Patti thought it would be a good idea for the kids to tell their side of the story. It is time for us to put faces and names to these lost children. It might be late for some but it might just be in the nick of time for other lost children.
Patti:
Yeah, he’d rather stay in the dark anyway…
Wants to know if you’re a reporter…
Trying to tell him this is about his story but he’s a little freaked.
Kim:
No….I am sort of a investigator…a seeker of truth.
Too many kids have been going missing and I am asking questions.
Reid:
Yeah, I know all about that.
Kim:
I am on the kids’ side.
Reid:
What do you want to know?
Kim:
Hi Reid…can I call you Reid?
My name is Kim.
Reid:
That’s my name.
Hi.
Kim:
So Reid….I have been really concerned…and I am not the only adult who is….some kids are going missing…it seems without a trace.
Patti told me I should get in touch with you.
Reid:
I’m trusting you. But only so far. Okay? You have to understand what we’ve been through.
Kim:
Can you tell me…firstly…are you with some of these kids? How long have you been missing for?
I cannot even imagine what you have been through.
Reid:
We’re in a safe place now. I can’t tell you where. And don’t bother tracking the IP address.
Yes, I’m with some survivors.
Kim:
Ok…good…so there are survivors….but then…that means there are some who didn’t survive? Is that correct?
Reid:
Yes.
A lot…
Who didn’t make it…
Kim:
Oh No! That was my worst fear!
Reid…do you know who is behind this?
Reid:
I’m not supposed to talk about it. But… damn it, people need to know. And understand.
It was a government program…
Kim:
Well let me help you get your story out there…
Reid:
Through the military…
Kim:
I am all ears…
Reid:
This crazy scientist. Dr. Kirstin Lund. She was doing experiments on animals, creating super creatures or something, decided to start testing on humans.
I guess she figured orphans–foster kids–were the most disposable.
Kim:
Like you?
Reid:
Hired this guy, Syracuse, to round up kids.
Yeah. Like me.
The cops, they figure we just ran away, you know?
Kim:
Reid….do you mind if I take notes? Should have asked you before?
Reid:
Yeah, go ahead
Drew told me you’re not tracking this.
Sorry to check up on you but we can’t be too careful.
Kim:
No I am not.
Please go ahead…I have nothing to hide…you can trust me….and I know that is difficult for you right now.
Reid:
It’s not so bad anymore. We’re okay. Trying to forget. But, it’s hard.
Kim:
Well…I have been investigating this for a couple of weeks now….the officials have been telling us that all you kids were runaways and since you were troubled kids…you probably ran away to join a gang or something.
Reid:
That is crap.
They really don’t give a shit about us, Kim.
They never did.
Kim:
I am beginning to see this Reid.
Reid:
And it’s not like this program wasn’t sanctioned.
They had a military base.
Kim:
Reid…can you tell me how many survivors there are now?
Reid:
One of the guys–Marcus–his Dad was the commander.
Kim:
Oh that is terrible!
Reid:
Eight and Minnie – she’s my lab
Kim:
Eight including you?
Reid:
Yes.
Kim:
Are you all roughly the same age?
Reid:
Well, the youngest is thirteen–hang on, let me ask.
Kim:
Ok.
Reid:
Yeah, Cole is thirteen and Marcus is eighteen so that’s the range.
They’re all here you know.
They want to know what this is about.
Kim:
Can you give me the names of the survivors? It is better for me to be able to make people realise you are just kids and knowing your names will help…you are not faceless then.
Reid:
Let me ask…
Kim:
Ok
Reid:
Milo’s pissed because I counted wrong and he thinks I missed him on purpose. LOL
Kim:
You can tell them all I am here to get the truth out…your truth? Enough is enough!
Reid:
So nine: Me, Leila, Drew, Kieran, Nishka, Sarah, Milo, Cole, Marcus and Minnie.
Kim:
Ok and where are you all from?
Reid:
I’m from Arizona.
Drew’s from NY state.
Leila’s from Cali.
Marcus says he’s from nowhere–army brat.
Kieran is from Ohio.
Nishka from Maine.
Milo’s from South Philly he says.
Cole is from Seattle.
Kim:
Ok…so all from the US?
Reid:
Yeah…
Sarah’s from New York too.
Kim:
Reid…I think this is bigger than just the US though….
Reid:
Why?
Kim:
Kids have been going missing from Mexico and lower Canada.
Reid:
There wasn’t really a whole lot of time to ask where people were from, you know?
Kim:
Which is why I am here asking questions….it has been making international news.
Yeah I get that.
Reid:
Barely had time to ask names…
Kim:
How long have you been hiding? on the run?
Reid:
Since June.
Kim:
What is the last thing you remember that was normal?
Reid:
My mom and dad alive. Nothing was normal after that
Foster homes for a year.
Kim:
But you have a sister…I have spoken to her…
Reid:
We made a new normal.
WHEN???????????????????
Kim:
About a month ago.
Reid:
Oh.
Kim:
I interviewed her, as one of the family members…
Reid:
Well… What did she say?
Kim:
She said that you were troubled since your parents died…..
She thinks you ran away.
Reid:
Maybe if she wasn’t sleeping with the guy who got me into this–
Whatever…She had no idea if I was troubled or not.
Kim:
Reid…something did not gel with me when she told me her story…
Reid:
She never even tried to contact me the whole year after Mom and Dad died until the day she got me out of foster care.
Kim:
She just did not seem that worried….I mean I have a younger brother and if he went missing I would go after him.
Reid:
It was her fault…She told her boss/boyfriend about me…I didnt’ know at the time.
Kim:
This guy…she is together with…is this Syracuse?
Reid:
WAS Syracuse…Guess she didn’t tell you she killed him.
Kim:
Was? No!
Reid:
Almost got away with it…
Kim:
Reid … what is Marcus’ dad’s name?
Reid:
Colonel Brackett.
Kim:
Right…so the suspects are: Dr Kirsten Lund, Colonel Brackett and this Syracuse fellow – who is now dead…as well as your sister Lucy?
Reid:
Yes. She was part of it for sure.
Brackett worked for Lund. So did Syracuse. One was her collector the other her bully but she was the core of the whole thing: She made the stuff that turned kids into monsters.
Kim:
What sort of monsters?
Reid:
The hunters.
Kim:
Hunters? Men with guns?
Reid:
Not exactly….
Okay, so we’re getting to the stuff that you’re going to judge us for.
Kim:
Only tell me what you think is necessary Reid.
Reid:
Dr. Lund was running this secret program to create super soldiers…
She developed this stuff that turned normal kids into these hybrid creatures
silver eyes, shark teeth, claws — you get the picture?
Thing is… The stuff made us into monsters…bloodthirsty. So when under the influence so to speak, the kids became bloodthirsty…hunted other kids…
Kim:
So that would make it appear that you are the guilty ones….cunning evil plan by this Dr Lund.
Reid:
Yeah.
Yeah totally…like we were the bad guys.
Kim:
Are you still under the influence of this experiment?
Reid:
um… I don’t know how to answer that
I mean, we’re all changed.
But we don’t take dust anymore. Unless there’s a mission…
Kim:
Ok…so the changes are permanent? They don’t wear off?
Reid:
Our senses are different, like hyper…
Eventually they don’t…if you take enough and Dr. Lund changed the formula
she said we were immortal but we’ll see… I don’t really believe her…
But we’re not bloodthirsty or anything, not dangerous.
Kim:
This Dr Lund? Is she still alive? Where is she?
Reid:
Unless you’re our enemy…
She’s dead.
Kim:
And Colonel Brackett?
Reid:
Dead.
Kim:
But there will still be people who know about this…their soldiers and helpers?
Reid:
No, not really–well sorta.
There was a general who came to clean up the mess but everyone who was responsible is no longer able to stand trial, you know?
(Trying to be subtle.)
Kim:
Yes I understand…but Reid if you kids are all changed, it also means it is not safe for you to come forward.
Reid:
No.
Kim:
Is that the sum of it?
Reid:
That’s why I was (we were Drew made me type) worried about this.
But people need to know!
‘Cause if it gets out, they’ll think we’re monsters…and we’re not…not anymore.
Kim:
OK…Could you tell me this? Do you think this is still going on? Maybe that we don’t know about?
Reid:
I… we never thought about that…
Lund is dead so we figured…
Drew wants me to ask you why you’re asking?
Kim:
Reid….kids are still going missing…
Reid:
I…from here?
Kim:
Yes
Reid:
The US?
Kim:
Yes and other places.
Reid:
I’ll ask–I have someone I can check with…but I don’t know how it could be… not with Lund dead.
We’d have to do something about that!
Kim:
That’s why I am talking to you.
I am going to do something about it…and I have people I trust who are going to help me.
Reid:
If there is more going on, this is your only warning:
Stay out of our way!
Kim:
Reid…you need to promise me that you kids will stay in hiding? Don’t tell me or anyone where you are…
Reid:
We’ll do what we have to if this is still going on!
Kim:
But I will give you an email address that you can contact me on.
Reid:
We ALL agree!
Okay.
Kim:
Reid…is there anything you kids need … anything at all?
Reid:
No. We have everything we need.
Thanks for asking and for telling me about the other kids.
Kim:
OK…..then the last question is: is there anything any of you want to say to the world? Tell me now and I will be your mouthpiece.
Reid:
I’m not so great with words… hang on, Leila wants to answer this…
Leila:
Hi, Kim. We just want everyone to know that we’re real. We exist. We’re not evil or monsters, that we may be foster kids but we’re not disposable. And we’re not dangerous. We just want to live our lives and not hurt anyone ever again. That’s all. Thank you for your kindness. Leila..
Reid:
Okay, she’s done.
Kim:
Ok…Leila, Reid and everyone else I will get the truth out there….
Trust me.
Reid:
Just be careful…if you’re poking around there’re going to be consequences.
Kim:
I will…I don’t trust just anyone….I have been trained to take care of myself…
Reid:
Listen, if a guy named Aberdeen knocks on your door? Go with him – don’t hesitate, it means you’re in danger…
Okay?
Kim:
Ok…Aberdeen…I will remember that.
Reid…I have got to go now..in case anyone else is trying to track this…I have it pretty heavily encrypted but you never know…
Reid:
Okay. Um…Thanks.
Kim:
Contact me if you need to…anytime…any day ok.
Reid:
I will.
We will.
Kim:
And thank you for trusting me…and telling me the true story behind all your kids’ stories….
Please take care of one another. Be safe.
Reid:
Just get it right!
Bye.
Kim:
I will.
Bye.
Ok…..Patti…done
Patti:
WHEW!
That was intense!
Kim:
Not so bad…
That was intense.
Patti:
The kids were right here with me.
Kim:
Its’s going to be a good story…
Well the kids were brilliant…I thought it would be a good idea to get their story…in their words…
It is time for the truth to be told.
All four books are now available on Amazon. If you want to read more of Reid, Drew and the others’ story get your copies now. It is a story that needs to be read and shared. The order of this harrowing series are:
Patti Larsen | In the Spotlight | Run or Hide (dragonflyscrolls.wordpress.com)
Run | Patti Larsen | This year’s Next YA Amazon Hit (dragonflyscrolls.wordpress.com)
Night Terrors in Patti Larsen’s Mind (kimkoning.wordpress.com)

 

Meeting the Antagonist | Drew Cross

We all know what a hero looks like. We also know what the Bogey Man looks like. But it is an art form to write a Bogey Man that jumps out from the pages of a story and truly scares you. Today I have asked one of my favourite writers to guest post on this topic. Drew is perfect for this topic because not only does he have real life experience in chasing down the bad guys but his antagonists are truly original characters who will definitely haunt you. 
 
When Kim asked me to guest blog about scary antagonists I was well and truly in my element!
I’ve had to invent a number of ‘bad’ characters in my crime and children’s novels to date, and I have something of a formula for what I personally find scary and how as a writer I project that fear onto the reader.
 
Here are my tips:
 
1. Outward normality.
 
I don’t know whether it’s residue from my time in the police force, but I’ve generally stopped thinking about antagonists as hideously ugly and obviously frightening to behold. I think it’s infinitely more terrifying to take the real life psychopath/sociopath as a starting point for your antagonist – outwardly there’s nothing unusual about most of them (I’ve met a few in prisons and on the streets, and they look just like me and you), but if you’re able to peel back the mask of normality then there’s something truly scary underneath. Letting the reader in on the secret thoughts and actions of such beings is always good fun and practically guarantees a shudder or two.
 
2. An obsession.
 
Whether it’s the obsessive urge to murder and mutilate of the serial killer, (Dr Lecter step forward) or the erotomania (obsessive love) of a stalker (think Ian McEwan’s ‘Enduring Love’), a memorable antagonist should have something at the heart of their desires that preoccupies them and drives them to evil acts. That obsession could be for revenge, the desire to possess something or someone, or taking simple sadistic pleasure in the suffering of others; but it’s memorable because we recognise it as being at odds with what it means to be truly human.
 
3. Insanity.
 
Rightly or wrongly we tend to fear the seriously mentally ill; unpredictability and irrationality threaten our love of order and control, so a character who exhibits these behaviours is a frightening prospect for the reader. I studied psychology some time back, and there are a wealth of different personality traits and disorders that translate into useful fodder for the writer: Glenn Close’s character in Fatal Attraction, the archetypal ‘bunny boiler’, exhibits strong characteristics of Borderline Personality Disorder, for example.
 
4. Originality.
 
Finally, and here’s the most difficult part, you need to find something original (or nearly so, since there’s precious little left that hasn’t already been done) about your antagonists. That might not necessarily be the nature of the character’s actions themselves; it could be the setting, or something about their life or motivations that sets them apart (The character Dexter of book and TV fame is a good example), but unless you’re entirely happy with being considered derivative, you need to be able to point out what sets your bad guys apart.
 
I hope you find this interesting and/or useful, but I’d love to hear your thoughts too.
 
Drew X.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                
Drew can be found at: Twitter – @authordrewcross                                                                                      Website – authordrewcross

Thrill me | Chill me | Don’t kill the MC

Thrills / Chills / Kills

The Boogeyman…The ghosts around a campfire…Vampires….Hansel & Gretel’s witch…The evil step-mother…Monsters

Our childhoods are filled with tales that thrill us with adrenaline and chill us with fear. We grow up being told fairy tales of witches, evil killer step-mothers, red shoed witches and monsters of every shape and ilk. Our teen years are filled with ghost stories told around a camp-fire, scaring each other in the dark, continuing the tales of terror, visiting horror shows in fair grounds and roller coaster rides.

What is it about our morbid fascination with all things scary? Why are thrillers and horrors the biggest box-office hits in cinemas world-wide? Why are the scariest rides the most popular at fairgrounds?

When we are faced with things that terrify us we get a giant kick of adrenaline that surges through our bodies and electrifies every single nerve fibre in our body. Adrenaline pushes us to action. Whether we decide to run for the hills or stand our ground and fight the terror, we are forced to act. Our emotions are kicked into hyper-drive and we feel more alive than ever. So there is no great mystery why things that scare us draw us in time and time again. We crave that adrenaline hit. We crave that singing feeling that sends our nerve ends buzzing with an irresistible energy.

Throughout life we dare ourselves and each other to face our fears. In every culture there is a facing of fear task that needs to be overcome to get to certain stages of maturity. Facing our fears and overcoming them turn us from children into adults.

Whether it is ghosts, the dark, different phobias – we all understand fear and its features. But human beings are the only creature that seeks out the things it fears. Perhaps it is our search for adventure that is an antidote to the mundane and normal. But unlike animals, reptiles and birds; we run after things that scare us.

It is more than just the adrenaline. It is also a need to feel connected and feel raw emotion. Fear is one of the most basic and instinctual of all emotions. But fear is not necessarily always a bad emotion. Fear can help us reach the strongest parts of ourselves and resort to acts of courage that we would ordinarily not find. Fear can push us to act rather than just react. Fear also makes us feel completely alive and gives us a rich appreciation for our own survival. Fear casts a harsh light on the fragility of the human condition but it is also forces us to count every second as precious. 

What makes a story scary? 

The setting can be a huge part of setting your reader / viewer up for fear. It could be a graveyard on a misty night, a darkened alleyway, an abandoned house, an office building at night, a creaking floor and opening door…all of these would immediately put you in the seat of fear.

Characters can be another set up for fear. Creepy old people, a child that seems to look into your soul, a menacing individual or the guy/girl who seems just too good to be true…

But for me the scariest scenes are those that could happen and that might happen. When we read something and watch something and believe that it could happen. When the normal suddenly degenerates into the bizarre and twisted. These are the ideas and stories that really scare me. Monsters don’t scare me but vengeful spirits/ghosts do. Vampires don’t scare me but sharks and snakes do. 

Watching or reading something scary makes me appreciate safety and security. It makes me feel alive and immeasurably grateful to be alive. There is a lot of things and people in this world that are truly scary but to know the light we sometimes need to confront the darkness. Another reason why I love reading and watching thrillers is that the good guys always triumph, it may be by the skin of their teeth, but they do triumph. The bad guys always end up on the worse end of the tale, either being killed, destroyed or caught. 

A great thriller walks a close line between the bizarre and normal. It brings out the flaws and fears in the characters and forces them to new levels of strength, fortitude, courage, survival and the most basic levels of humanity. 

I am often asked why I not only read and watch thrillers but write them too. I am drawn to the ultimate fight between good and evil and in every good thriller – book or movie – good trumps evil. I write dark fiction because it helps me balance emotions. I also love pushing characters into terrible spots that they have to get out of to survive. I love writing that is filled with conflict and tension. There is no way that one can hide from darkness in this world but we can teach ourselves that light can triumph over that darkness. After all, it takes only one small match that when lit can light up a whole room. Darkness flees from light. That is the natural order of things. The night can be long, dark, cold and threatening but eventually the sun rises with dawn and the warmth of a new day brings hope. 

This is why I write dark fiction. I write it to remind myself that there is darkness in the world and there are dangerous things, people and situations. But there is also light and goodness. There is also courage and human compassion. Writing dark fiction allows me to celebrate the triumph of good over evil, light over darkness and courage over fear. Writing a believable antagonist that fills me with fear and foreboding makes me write a believable protagonist that fills me with hope and courage. Writing dark fiction allows me to acknowledge darkness and fear but more importantly it allows me to celebrate light and courage.

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.  ~Ambrose Redmoon

Patti Larsen | In the Spotlight | Run or Hide

 

Patti Larsen is a middle grade, young adult and adult author with a passion for the paranormal who writes a great deal of horror for someone who is afraid of the dark. She lives on the East Coast of Canada with her very patient husband Scott and four enormous cats. (That’s the official bio.)

Kim: Patti, congratulations on the release of both Run and now Hide – the first 2 in a 4 part YA series.

I know Patti as a friend with a wicked sense of mischief, an uncanny ability to cut through the BS, loyal and supportive and a mind as dark as my own is at times. Yesterday I reviewed Run and promised that I would introduce you to the imagination behind the characters. This is one INDIE author to watch because she has plenty more tales in her. When I say that the HUNTED series is the next YA hit – I meant every word. But for those who think that YA is a tad tame for your taste…let me introduce you to Patti and her HUNTED series. I dare the “grown up” kids amongst you to not be terrified, fascinated, shocked and riveted by the HUNTED series. This series is not for the timid. But if you like characters that are in as much inner conflict as outer conflict, you will love each of her characters in this series…both the good guys and the bad guys.

So without further ado I am going to let the lady who is never short of a wry comment tell you about herself and give you some teasers of RUN and HIDE: the first two books in the Riveting HUNT series.

Patti, Congratulations on the release of Run a couple of weeks ago and Congratulations on Hide’s release which gets released today. I am thrilled to have you on Dragonfly Scrolls.

~~~

Kim: Tell us a little about the writer that penned these incredible novels. 
Patti: I know you don’t want the shiny, polished version, right? (Knowing you P, I would not get it…no, we want the real version.) I’m a writer by choice and passion, a cat lover extraordinaire. I adore summer above all other seasons if only we could get rid of bugs. I’m a blonde and always will be no matter what Mother Nature thinks. I work far too much and love every second of it. (Believe me, this woman is a machine when it comes to getting the words out! Hard working is an understatement.) And I’m addicted to the voices in my head. I joke about wishing they would leave me alone, but I really love having them around.
Kim: What draws you to YA?
Patti: I was always a hard-core sci-fi and high fantasy girl growing up. That’s what I read and was exposed to, thanks to my father. But when my niece introduced me to Harry Potter and, later, Twilight, I realized my inner angsting teenager had been yelling at me for years to let her have a go. And despite the fact I have a few adult works I’d like to get to eventually, the pack of under eighteen’s in my head won’t let me go there just yet.

Kim: Does this series have an Omni-Premise? What is it?
Patti: No one is going to save you. You’re the only one with the power to do that.(A message we all could hear and heed.)

Kim: Reid, your main character, is also your POV throughout these two books. Where did Reid come from?
Tell us how he introduced himself to you.
Patti: I often receive my inspiration as flashes of images, almost like movies playing in my head. In this case, Reid appeared as he ran down a nighttime forest trail. There was just enough moonlight to see the terror in his face when he stopped for a minute. He turned and looked up. I could see his breath just puffing white in the cool of the air. Somewhere in the distance, something howled. Reid instantly panicked and ran on. I can still hear the sound of his sneakers on the hard dirt path and it will always give me goosebumps. (Bbbr…I just had a shiver down my spine.)

Kim: Both of these novels are emotionally intense as the reader is swept into the turmoil of Reid running and hiding.
Tell us about the process for writing such an emotionally intense storyline. How did you release your emotion?
Patti: Writing the series was a wild ride, I have to admit. All four books came out of me over about fifty days, with only a month of actual writing time and another 20 days of edits and breaks. It was like there was no stopping the story from coming out. I actually first thought there were three books, only to find out by the end of book two there were four!

I found I had to take days off in between writing binges to rest my mind from the constant conflict and turmoil. Reid is a tough kid, though, and he got me through it, though I’m not sure I’ll ever write that much that fast again.

Kim: Your antagonists in this series are as strong as Reid’s voice. Where did the inspiration come from for the “bad guys”?
Patti: I have the most over active imagination on the planet. I have trouble sleeping often because I’m afraid of the dark. Yup. Sad. But makes for great monster fodder.

The silver eyes came from a dream. The claws are very velociraptor–Jurassic Park still gives me nightmares.

I also have a pure and panic-laden phobia of sharks. Thus the teeth. But I always think monsters who look more human than creature are the scariest of all, which is why they retain their man-like shape. (That definitely makes them scarier…we don’t want to face a man-like monster..that is just cutting to close to home.)

Kim: If you could give Reid one piece of advice at the beginning of the series, what would it be?
Patti: Don’t panic. You’re going to be okay, I promise. Mostly. Maybe. Okay, just run.

Kim: Can you give us a teaser from Run and from Hide?
Patti:

Run: Alone, Reid gasps in one deep breath, another. It hurts his ribs, his lungs. He manages to roll over on his right side and regrets it. His shoulder screams in protest. Still, he is finally able to wriggle his numb hands loose from what holds him and claws at the cloth around his eyes.

Darkness. But not complete. The moon is up. Trees loom over him, the smell of spruce and fresh air so sharp it almost hurts. He jerks at the plastic ties around his ankles while. his vision swims through a veil of pain-laden tears. He manages somehow to force his screaming hands to work the ties loose and he is free.

Sixteen-year-old Reid thinks life is back to normal. His sister Lucy pulls herself together and cuts him free from a year of foster care. She promises to take care of him, that her new boss and her new life are what they both needed to start again. Until Reid is taken in the middle of the night, dumped in a wild stretch of forest far from home with no idea why he is there. Lost and afraid, he learns to run from the hunters who prowl the darkness, their only pleasure chasing down kids like him. And killing them.

Hide: “There’s no way out,” Milo says like it’s a death sentence. As far as they all know it could be. Everyone falls so silent Reid can hear the buzzing of the light bulb as it flickers its life away.

“You heard him,” Marcus says. “Time to move on. You,” he points at Cole and the boy perks, “keep an eye on that line.” He jerks his thumb at the electric cable. Like it’s going anywhere. 

Laughter bubbles up in Reid’s chest but he manages to hold it back. Somehow he doesn’t think Marcus would appreciate it. And not that Reid really cares but he’s too tired and wrung out to do anything about it if the other guy finally decides to challenge him.

Reid isn’t sure if he’s grateful to be alive. He’s managed to save a small group of kids from the hunters, but only by trapping them all underground without food or water or a way out. If starvation doesn’t kill them, thirst will. Still, they are out of the hunter’s reach and that’s something. Reid refuses to stop trying, even when the kids find out they aren’t alone in the mine after all.
Kim: Where can readers buy Run and Hide?
Patti: Amazon.com is my favorite place to buy and sell books! They are also available on Smashwords in a variety of downloadable formats

Kim: What are the other books in the series and when and where will they be released?
Patti: Fight is book three, coming out September 15th and Hunt, the final book, is scheduled for release on October 1st. (Readers will be waiting with bated breath for the last two to be released.)

Kim: Would you like to give a message to the readers of this series?
Patti: Read them at night alone in the dark. And hang on. Oh, and the nightmares? Sorry about that… (Um..now that you mention it…some of the nightmares I had after reading your books almost sent me to therapy…now I know where to send the therapy bills. 😉 )

Thank you Patti for an insight into your world and into Reid’s world. You are an inspiration in creativity and self-discipline to your friends, fellow writers and readers all over. We wish you all the success possible for many sales and many new readers/fans. Congratulations again!

You can find her at

Her Website: http://www.pattilarsen.com/

Her Writing Blog: http://www.pattilarsen.blogspot.com/

Her Book Blog: http://www.pattilarsenbooks.blogspot.com/

On Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pattilarsenauthor

And On Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/ – !/PattiLarsen

You can find Run HERE (http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/82356) and HERE (http://www.amazon.com/Run-The-Hunted-ebook/dp/B005HZJX9W/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1314734322&sr=8-2)

You can find Hide HERE (http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/85195) and HERE (Amazon is still to be released in a couple of hours so will add the link then..)

Hide is now LIVE!

Get it here….

http://www.amazon.com/Hide-The-Hunted-ebook/dp/B005K0EFZQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1314887009&sr=8-1 

(Aside: On the 1st of October I will have the pleasure of Patti’s virtual company again when the last book of the series is finally released. So mark your calendars to come back on the 1st. Now…go to your nearest Amazon/Smashwords and buy RUN and HIDE.)

Suspense: Rapid. Strained. Tense. Goosebumps.

Fear of the Dark
Image by stuant63 via Flickr

Da dum, Da dum…The drums start rolling in the background. The whine of a lone flute plays out its haunting notes.. All of a sudden the eery music stops and the deafening roar of silence fills your screen.

The night is dark. Not even a full moon lights up the gloom. A twig breaks. Someone is out there. Fear raises all the tiny hairs on my arms. I shiver with the adrenalin. Halting foot-steps are the only sound. I pray that my hiding place, in the hollow of the old tree stump, is not betrayed. My lungs are bursting with the trapped air. My heart beats are pounding enough to drown all hearing. The world has gone silent except for my pounding heart. Another twig snaps. I see a faint outline of a darkening just past the stump. A shadow? Fear takes over and every limb in my body fights my stillness. I want to run. I have become prey. The darkened shape moves. It grows. My heart threatens to leave my twitching body and fly into the darkness of escape. The darkened form takes shape. It becomes a large hand encased in black leather. The fingers are long and hypnotize me. I push myself as far back into the hollow as the dead wood will allow me. My eyes are locked on the hand. It moves forward, seeking, towards my throat…My breath now held tightly, the edges of my vision start blurring. The hand creeps closer and closer. Searching. Just as I can almost feel the long fingers close around my throat; my vision fades. The last thing I know is the cold smooth leather touching my throat. I pass out.

After reading the above, how do you feel? Do you feel tense? Did your heart beat increase? Did your breath become shallow? If you answered yes to any of these questions then the paragraph was a successful foray into suspense. To be fair, you have no idea who the main character is. You do not know their agenda nor do you have any answers as to why they are being hunted. All you know is the little that I have chosen to tell you. It is night. There is no moon. The scene takes place outdoors, where there are trees and fallen twigs on the ground. There are two characters in the scene. A person hiding in the hollow of an old tree stump and someone else following or searching for the hiding person. You do not know if the person that is hiding is a protagonist or an antagonist. All you do know is that you want the “hunter” to miss the hiding place. Then the scene changes and the “hunter” seems to have found the hiding place. A hand reaches into the hiding place. The only identifying marks are that the fingers are long and the “hunter” appears to be wearing a black leather glove. Do you hold your breath as the “hunted” one does? Are you sitting on the edge of your seat? You are left with questions. The “hunted” passes out. Do “they” pass out from strangulation or fainting from fear? Do you want to find out more? Are you filled with questions and frustrated to find out the answers?

This is SUSPENSE. This is what every chapter in your story arc should have. Suspense is the vital element in every story that locks your reader into wanting more. Suspense is not just about “being hunted” but it is about “holding back vital information”. You do not always need to clue a reader in on every part of the story. In fact by only giving them tiny amounts of a story, you are goading them into reading more. You have successfully captured their curiosity by intriguing them, even frustrating them by holding back. Very few readers will be able to resist the temptation to read on from this point. Now, you have their attention!

When developing plot-lines and story arcs, sometimes you can forget that at the heart of the story there has to be a burning reason for the reader to want to go on. This burning reason is the element of suspense. Script-writers and movie directors have the advantage of sound and music to add suspense and set a tense scene. As a writer, you also have tools at your disposal. You have the descriptive powers of words. You can paint a scene in a reader’s mind with words. Suspense is not painting too much of the picture so that the reader does not need to use imagination. As writers we have more power than a scriptwriter or a movie director. We have the power of imagination at our disposal. Not just our own imagination but the imaginations of our reader. Use this tool! Use the reader’s imagination to build suspense into your story arcs.

You can also build suspense into your character arcs by not revealing too much about the character’s backstory or agenda. Mystery is an irresistible temptation to everyone. You can build suspense into your character arc by giving away snippets of information. Hold back the key elements of your character’s agenda and personality until the reader is drawn so far into your story that there is now no chance of them turning back or halting the adventure. Thriller and suspense writers have this talent at building suspense and it seems to come across effortlessly as a tool in their respective genres. But just because you may not be writing a thriller or suspense, it does not mean that you cannot use those same tools to build suspense.

There is a reason that so many top-selling books and authors belong to the suspense and thriller genres. As macabre as it may be, everyone loves being “scared”. This does not mean that crime is thrilling. What exactly do people love about being “scared”? In my view, I think people love the feel of the adrenalin coursing through their bodies. Their senses seem to become keener. Their reflexes seem to become sharper. In short, whether you are scared or excited your body has the same physiological symptoms. That is why people think they love being “scared”. That is also why thriller and suspense novelists and script-writers, the world over, are so popular and so successful as a result of that popularity with the masses.

So, next time, before you start writing your next chapter or delving into your character’s agenda: remember that rush of adrenalin. Remember that mystery is the answer to hooking your reader. Use your reader’s imagination along with your skill with words and you will be building suspense that will enthrall you and your reader. Remember to hold elements back. Temptation is wanting to know more about the mysterious and the forbidden. Imagination is a powerful tool to build suspense: not your imagination but using your reader’s imagination to draw them into your scene.The vital information that every good suspense/thriller writer knows: withhold vital information and only give out tastes of a scene or a character. Your reader will thank you. More importantly, your reader will keep on coming back for more.


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