Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Monday, June 26, 2006

A Taste for Fear (part 2)

Now I know how to get the responses. Start throwing money around. Or I guess I could expose Rob’s secret (you know, the one having to do with peeled carrots, live chickens, and hair gel.) Sounds like we are in complete agreement that you want to hear about writing/non-writing/publishing/non-publishing issues that are funny but touching and that are mostly written by Kari with Rob’s sense of humor, that refer to Stephanie’s relatives with gift cards from Sariah. Right?

I guess I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing. BTW, the official title and release date for my new Shandra book is, “Dead on Arrival” and October. I’ll be posting the first couple of chapters on my web site shortly, but it’s about a guy who comes to Shandra for help because someone is trying to kill him. The cool thing is that it turns out he actually died twenty years earlier. And he keeps dying over and over, while coming to Shandra for help. No it’s not supernatural—there is a logical explanation. Bobby plays a major role. Should be fun.

So back to my ongoing update on my national supernatural thriller. Had kind of a funny shock today. I was on my agent’s web site and saw that they had added “A Taste for Fear” to their listings. Guess I better hurry up and write. But it’s nice to know they’re excited about the new book.

I finished up my week at just over 6400 words, which puts me about 1600 words down. By I’m on vacation much of this week and should have quite a bit of writing time. One of the things are realized about my story is that I need one or more secondary plot lines. The basic story is this creature scaring people literally to death and the protagonists trying to stop the creature. The problem with having only one plot line though is that you need a series of mini climaxes all the way through the book.

Imagine that our main plot is a graph line. We start out with a big spike to get the readers attention, then we have several gradually increasing spikes building up to the main climax. The problem with that is the reader is going, “Come on get to the good part!” You really can’t solve the main issue until the end of the book. Plus, you have a constant tension level that’s hard to ease back on without the story getting boring.

So how to we keep the excitement up? Well, what if the boy disappears? Kidnapped or seduced by the creature? That will raise the tension from a different direction. But that’s still a part of the primary plot line. How about a little romance? Maybe the school teacher really likes Tasia, the single mom, but he’s afraid of commitment? Better. But let’s really up the ante. Let’s make the school teacher an amateur anthropologist researching the town’s history. Let’s say that something really bad happened when the town was founded. (The ultimate secret.) And he’s about to dig it up, literally. Now we have enough meat to hold the reader. Go back and look at some of your favorite books. Notice that almost all of them have a main story line and several oblique storylines. (A notable example of NOT doing this is my first novel, Cutting Edge.)

Here’s my snippet from this week’s writing. Again, I’m going for a creepy kind of mood.

The Nova’s tires skidded suddenly on the wet pavement, and the empty bottles on the floor clinked together as Carson overcorrected. He glanced down at the speedometer, surprised to see he’d let his speed creep back up to 70. Again he forced his foot to ease off the accelerator.

He should have gone back to Aunt Marge’s. Who cared if her furniture was covered with cat hair and stank of cigar smoke? Who cared if he’d have been forced to endure boring stories told by relatives he hardly knew? He should’ve left the cemetery as soon as the service was over.

Only he couldn’t.

Standing in the bleak morning drizzle, he’d felt the cold and damp worm its way through his new suit coat, past his starched shirt, and into the pores of his skin, where it finally settled in the marrow of his bones like premature death.

He’d endured the generic graveside service performed by a rent-a-preacher the mortuary had suggested. He’d waited as the pitifully small number of mourners hesitantly approached him with words of condolence and left more quickly with odd over-the-shoulder glances. Waited until the cemetery workers slipped into view—smoking cigarettes and throwing obvious glances at their watches.

What was he waiting for? He didn’t know. Or wouldn’t allow himself to. Either way it came to the same thing, didn’t it? Go home, he’d told himself. The show’s over. There’s nothing more to see. He tried to will his feet to move, but they seemed rooted in the soggy grass that sweated little rivulets of mud up the sides of his black wingtips.

Finally he’d eased back into the trees, allowing the men to collect the folding chairs and take down the tent. He’d been fine as the drapes were removed and the casket elevator rolled away. But as the gleaming yellow tractor pulled up, its trailer full of freshly unearthed dirt, he’d found himself drawn forward with no thought or control.

He had to see it. Had to make sure. He knew his father was dead. And yet as he watched the dirt fall into the open pit, a part of him—the part that sometimes woke up thrashing and moaning in the middle of the night—was certain he’d see a wiry arm dart up out of the ground. Big knuckled fingers would reach toward him and—

Carson was jerked into the present by the slim white figure that appeared in the middle of the road with no warning.


At 6/26/2006 4:21 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Love it! I finished "The Husband" over the weekend, but this is better. It's no surprise to me that your agent is so hyped.

At 6/27/2006 11:54 AM, Anonymous Jennie said...

Remind me not to read your book. Anyone who writes that kind of stuff deserves to be made a scoutmaster. About fourteen twelve-year-olds should do it.

Actually, I'll read it. I"ve enjoyed your other books and probably will enjoy this one too. I'm not a horror fan, at least what passes for horror in most books of that genre, but Edgar Allen Poe has always fascinated me.

At 6/28/2006 3:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Crikey! I have got to read this book, just to make sure it has a happy ending. (It has a happy ending, right, Jeff?)


At 6/28/2006 4:25 PM, Blogger Keith Fisher said...

Love it. You needn't worry about being funny. You captivate with your prose and I am enjoying your blow by blow of the creation of book. Just one question though? Is this the scene that you eluded to in the LDS STorymakers conference where the driver hits the figure and then finds out it was a woman?

At 6/29/2006 12:58 PM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...


I agree with your current assessment of horror. What passes for most horror these days is not anything I want to be a part of. A guy running around chopping people up with a chainsaw is not my idea of entertainment.


Yes. This is the one. It has been languishing in my mind while I finished the second Shandra book.


It definitely has a happy ending. Only artistes are allowed to have books with unhappy endings, and--unlike Kari, who paints with words as Rob sculpts with mashed potatoes--I am not an artiste.

At 6/29/2006 9:20 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

I beg to differ, Jeff. You're as good with words as anybody I've ever read. Nobody builds a tighter, faster, better literary climax. About halfway through the story I'm hanging on so tight you couldn't pry your book out of my hands with a crowbar. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Koontz better be checking his rearview mirror or the first he'll see of you is taillights.

Kari who? For our next contest here on the blog we're going to see how many different spellings of my name people can come up with. Most creative spelling wins one of Rob's potato sculptures. (They're much tastier than his one-liners, currently being offered on Stephanie's blog.)

At 6/30/2006 1:56 AM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

I actually wrote Kerry, but Sariah used her admin rights to change it, to make me look bad. Trouble maker!

At 6/30/2006 9:40 AM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

Hey, don't blame your inability to spell names right on me. I was actually reading your blogs and wondering who Kari was. I thought it was another writer you knew or something.

As for an alternate spelling contest, I think I might win that one. You have no idea how many ways Sariah can be butchered.


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