Writing A Character Series.

Check out this excellent Guardian newspaper article interviewing a host of essential authors writing in the detective genre.

Lee Child, Ian Rankin, Michael Connelly, Val McDermaid, Ann Cleeves, and others talk about how they came to write their series and the impact of doing so.

www.theguardian.com/books/2020/jun/27/me-and-my-detective-by-lee-child-attica-locke-sara-paretsky-jo-nesb-and-more

A Tale of Two Writers – Michael Connelly and John Grisham

To begin at the beginning, this is not an exhaustive comparison of Connelly and Grisham. There will be plenty of writers/journalists out there who have already done this better than I can.

These are my thoughts and notes from a great interview with the two authors by the bookseller Waterstones, earlier this evening.

Connelly and Grisham have been writing for a similar length of time, around the thirty year mark. Both are bestseller authors.

Connelly writes novels with a number of repeating characters. Detective Harry Bosch is his mainstay, but then there is the Lincoln Lawyer Mickey Haller, journalist James McAvoy, and his latest detective Renee Ballard.

The majority of Grisham’s novels are stand alone, with only the recent ‘Camino’ stories being based on the same protagonist.

So, should you write serial characters as a new writer, or have a constantly refreshed cast? The success of both authors would seem to suggest its a tie on that score.

Connelly and Grisham both have work schedules which begin on January 1st.

They are both full-time writers and their writing habits reflect this.

Newer writers may have to work their writing in around other jobs, but there is a key point which is be disciplined. Whether you have all the time to write or practically no time, you have to sit down and write.

Connelly and Grisham both write in areas that they are very familiar with.

Connelly’s stories are very much based in Los Angeles and his previous career as a journalist covering crime clearly still has an influence on his work.

Grisham was a lawyer and most of his books are legal thrillers, with his latest ‘Camino’ books straying from that to a roguish bookseller.

I’m not a fan of the old adage ‘write what you know’, but both authors very much are of the opinion that you should write in areas which you are knowledgable.

What you know the best might not be your current career area. Your interest in sports or politics, cars or mental health, may be what you know best?

Whatever your key area of interest, make sure you keep up to date, read and watch everything you can find and look out for those story ideas.

Ploter or Pantser?

Connelly and Grisham both know what the end scenes are before they begin writing the first scene.

Grisham tends to be more heavily plotted than Connelly.

For you as a writer, plot or pants, but make sure you know where the end is before you start at the beginning.

Connelly and Grisham generally stay within their ‘genre’. Success probably has a part to play here, but they know the lay of the land and they find plenty of stories there.

Grisham has written non-fiction and sport-based stories.

As a writer you can jump around the genres but you will probably find more success in those areas of your knowledge and expertise.

Connelly and Grisham are both fans of Ian Rankin.

Connelly has had his Bosch stories made into a very successful Amazon TV series and a movie made of The Lincoln Lawyer.

Grisham has had a number of his books made into big movies, such as The Pelican Brief, A Time to Kill, and The Firm.

Both writers still see themselves as novelists and TV/Film are interesting side-tracks.

Writers write!

So what’s keeping you – get writing!

Connelly and Grisham could do with some competition!

A Writing Lesson From Michael Connelly.

Crime writer Michael Connelly’s character Harry Bosch has quickly become one of my favourite characters in fiction.

I will be honest and say that I hadn’t read any of Connelly’s novels until I saw the first episode of Amazon’s Bosch, staring Titus Welliver. First episode down and I was into the books, wondering how I hadn’t crossed paths with the jazz loving detective previously.

Through his Twitter feed @connellybooks Connelly posted a link to an unreleased prologue to his novel The Last Coyote.

It is a great read but what was more important to me was the writing lesson which accompanied it, by way of Connelly’s explanation of why it wasn’t included in the final draft of the book.

He explains,

 . . . pieces of this scene were mentioned or thought about by Harry in later sections of the book and it was thought that removing the prologue got the reader into the present day story more quickly and smoothly . . .

Sometimes you have to sacrifice a good piece of writing for the overall story to work more effectively.

No matter how good your description or dialogue, the structure of your novel needs to work to the advantage of drawing your reader in and keeping their eyes wide open and hands clenched around those pages.

 

Ballard, Bosch, Reacher.

News on my three favourite characters in fiction came out yesterday.

Michael Connelly revealed that his next book will see his new heroine Renée Ballard team up with his most famous hero Harry Bosch. I guarantee fans of Connelly are trying to find ways to shorten the months so October gets here quicker. News broke of the book’s title Dark Sacred Night and a brief synopsis on his website:

Dark Sacred Night

On the same day, Lee Child revealed the title of the 23rd Jack Reacher novel via his Facebook feed. The novel, out in November, will be called Past Tense and will set Reacher searching the past and his father.

Past Tense

Ballard, Bosch, Reacher. Dark Sacred Night. Past Tense.

I don’t think the year is going to fictionally get better than this.

 

Five Friends Continued.

In my last post, Five Friends, I put a spin on the old saying that you are a reflection of your five closest friends.

I asked you to consider who your five closest writers were.

I thought it only fair to invite you into the circle of my five closest authors.

  1. Ray Bradbury – My first introduction to Mr. Bradbury was through a copy of Something Wicked This Way Comes, borrowed from my father’s bookcase. I must have read it over a hundred times before I was out of my teens. Then came the short story collections and Fahrenheit 451. I love the fact that he really does let his imagination take over and you are often presented with something which seems like the world you are familiar with but then he adds the twist.
  2. Lee Child – The first Lee Child book I read was Without Fail, which was bought for me by my youngest son from a school fair when he was only six or seven years old. It is still my favourite Jack Reacher book. Anyone who reads a Reacher story, immediately wants to be Reacher. It is because of Lee Child that I completed my first novel, after reading Reacher Said Nothing: Lee Child and the Making of Make Me by Andy Martin. Martin basically peered over the shoulder of Lee Child whilst he was writing the novel Make Me and asked him lots of questions. Learning that it was okay to write not quite knowing where you would end up really helped me complete a story or even begin it to start with. Following normal writers’ advice and plotting in detail left with a sense that the story was completed and my brain had already moved onto the next idea before writing any sentences of the first idea.
  3. Haruki Murakami – I picked up Norwegian Wood, in its replica form of the Japanese original in the two-part red and green books. This was quickly followed by Sputnik Sweetheart, and South of the Border, West of the Sun. I have all of his books, including a signed first edition of Kafka on the Shore, which my wife bought for me. Murakami’s style of blending coming of age stories with a sense of the mysterious, is very much in the Ray Bradbury way of story telling. He also owned a jazz bar and likes coffee – why wouldn’t I include him?!
  4. Michael Connelly – I will confess that I had not read any of Connelly’s work until after I had seen the first season of Bosch, starring Titus Welliver. Now I am hooked on both the tv series and the novels of Harry Bosch. His new character of Renée Ballard in The Late Show is an instant hit as well. I love the way Connelly’s novels are so detailed in procedure and description of place; even though these are the two biggest weaknesses in my own writing. Bosch’s need to right wrongs, no matter what the cost, is very compelling.
  5. P.G. Wodehouse – My wife takes the credit for this one! Wodehouse is her favourite author, especially Jeeves and Wooster, and Lord Emsworth at Blandings Castle. I can’t tell you the number of hours in which these characters have rattled around my head via audiobooks. What has remained is the flow of the conversations between the characters and the simple but effective plotting. If you haven’t encountered Wodehouse then what are you waiting for?

So, there you go. My famous five. Along with a few simple reasons why.

I look forward to hearing about your five.