Writing In The Tension Into Your Story Interview with Author Mark Del Franco

I talked to Mark Del Franco about how he builds tension and suspense.  According to his website, “Mark Del Franco spent several years in the publishing field in editorial and administrative roles and in the institutional finance field as a proposal writer. He currently is pursuing a freelance career in both these fields.”

SONY DSC

“Mark Del Franco lives with his partner, Jack, in Boston, Massachusetts, where the orchids tremble in fear since he killed Jack’s palm plants.”

What his website bio doesn’t say is that Mark is an amazing guy and masterful at first-person suspense.

So, Mark, what do you do to build tension in a scene?

I find tension one of the harder aspects of writing because I know what’s going to happen.  Sometimes the execution surprises me—the  scene I envision does not always result in the scene that gets written—but the bottom-line is that it’s not tense for me in the same way it is for a reader.  So what do I do?  I try and be a reader as I write.  The crucial point of tension is something has to be at stake that the reader cares about or at least believes the characters care about.  For me, that means setting a scene first–the visuals and why it’s important.  Then I layer in the idea of the success or failure being equally important—it’s not tension if the result is not in doubt.  Last, the pay-off has to work credibly–if something resolves successfully, the reader must feel that I haven’t cheated to get there (for example, “Poof! she waved her magic scepter”) and if something resolves tragically, the reader must not feel I stacked the odds to an impossible height to make a plot point (for example, “everyone died,  but now he had a reason for revenge”).  These three things overlap, but they do happen for me in roughly this order.

Is it a “big bang shock” sort of technique for you or you more fond of the “take the reader down the dark and sinister hallway” approach?

I like both!  Both techniques have their uses and achieve different goals.  I think the big bang is an after-effect technique.  The Bad Thing happens, and the tension derives from how characters have to deal with it.  The dark hallway is more front-loaded—we know something is coming, so the goal is to face it and the tension derives from whether
the characters can prevent the Bad Thing.  Both techniques, I think, are a test of character (in both senses of the word) that should make a reader care about what happens.

Do you think that it\’s easier to build tension in first or third person? And either way, as a reader (not as a writer) which do you prefer?

As a writer, I’ve been focusing on first person to date so I’m more comfortable with first (though a new novel I’m working on is in third). With first person, I have an easier time slipping behind my protagonists eyes and trying to imagine what would make things tense for me, then translating that to the page.  I think this gives the reader a certain
immediacy to the tension, too.  Third person is a broader kind of tension in that I’m trying to make things tense for the reader and the character in slightly different ways while telling one narrative.  Right now, as I learn my way through third person writing (and every novel is a new learning experience), I’m feeling that third person makes a higher
demand for ensuring the setting tension is strong because the viewpoint is broader.  As a reader, I respond more to first person tension.  With third person tension, for some reason I tend to notice more the way scenes are crafted to create tension, but that may be due to the fact that third person has not been my main writing point of view so far.

If you think of suspense coming in different sizes (small, medium, super-ultra large) do you think it\’s best to alternate these or are you into the steady diet of massive (or tiny) suspenses in your book.

In a way, this is a broader issue of pacing and making decisions as a writer as to the type of book you want to write.  My Connor Grey series tends to medium hits of tension that grow larger over the course of the novel until I hit the big one.  That’s the pay off for myself and the reader—laying out a series of events that become more and more
perilous until Connor must make the big decision on how to act.  With my new novel set in the Convergent World, I’m looking to create a faster pace–I want my main character, Laura, to be put through her paces and prove she’s as good as everyone thinks she is.  So, I end up throwing a lot at her.  That increases the pacing and the way to do that is those
steady hits of tension.

When you write do you think the nature of  your suspense comes from your characters or from the plot?

As an urban fantasy writer that has focused on mystery, I hope the tension is in the plot!  At the same time, I think (and hope) that there’s a level of character tension too since my main character learned he has feet of clay and is struggling to overcome that.  How he becomes a better person–making mistakes along the way.


NEW BOOK ALERT!

My little novella (It’s spare. It’s sad) is coming out October 1 and if you pre-order it now, you can get the Ebook for .99 before the price goes up to $2,99. It is a book of my heart and I am so worried about it, honestly.

There’s a bit more about it here.


Want To Learn About Me, My Writing Coach Business, Editing or Just Hook Up on Social Media?

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER? JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN.

Carrie Jones Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

TIPS ON SURVIVING BANNED BOOKS WEEK

posted this back in 2006 when maybe fifteen people were reading my blog and I knew them all in person, I think. But I thought it might be good for this week, too.

The official Banned Books Week is Coming Up! Are you ready?

Sparty Dog Inspiration
Sparty Dog Approves These Tips



TIPS ON SURVIVING BANNED BOOKS WEEK


1. Remember, it’s okay to get ridiculously mad that people ban George by Alex Gino or Captain Underpants or Judy Blume’s Forever or Brent Hartinger’s Geography Club or The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas or anything by Carrie Jones (Okay. I added this last one in.)

2. Remember, it’s okay to think that it’s stupid for people to think kids (and adults) are so weak of mind that reading about a boy being a wizard will make them become Satan worshipers or that ready about potty mouths will make them about potty mouth and etc…

3. Wonder if you’ve ever met a satan worshiper. You know you’ve met a potty mouth.

4. Decide to google (YOUR STATE) Satan worshipers. Then decide not to, because it’s too freaky.

5. Go back to being angry about Banned Books.

6. Why do this? So you can be intelligent while you’re angry read: Kathi Appelt’s exceptional essay about the interplay of fear and banned books. If you can’t find it (Okay. I can’t right now), read someone else’s. 

7. Tell your friends about the essays you’ve read.

8. Argue with someone who thinks it’s okay to ban books. Try not to swear at them and to not go all potty mouthed. It may be hard. Try not to lose your temper. That may be harder.

9. Think about how my favorite line from Kathi Appelt’s essay is “Fear, of course, has a twin: hatred.” Then go all fan girl over Kathi Appelt.

10. Go check out the always the important and insightful American Library Association’s banned and challenged book news and information.

11. Read a banned book. Do better than that. Read three. Buy one. That’ll show them. Who is them? The book banners. That’s who.

How Do You Defy Expectations

When my super cool daughter Em, was in sixth or seventh grade she was in the newspaper for doing this logrolling day with Timber Tina at the Great Maine Lumberjack Show.

This place is where she studied logrolling all summer and is where she battled seven boys, trying to knock them off logs by fancy footwork and all that. Timber Tina (she was on Survivor for one show and then went back for a reunion show, too and is amaze-balls)is a professional world-class lumber jill. The log rolling day was in honor of her son Charlie, this absolutely amazing guy who died that same summer. He was really young, still in his teens.

The picture was hilarious because of the boys in the background staring after she’s knocked off one of their own.

That night the issue came out, Em plopped on her bed, nuzzled under the covers and said, “I can’t believe I’m in the paper.”

I smiled. “It’s great. You should be proud.”

She hugged her stuffed kitty (appropriately named Kitty Kitty) to her chest. “I bet I’m the only cheerleading logroller.”

“At least in Ellsworth, Maine,” I added. “And don’t forget you’re also a stunt girl.”

She as named Stunt Girl at a Stunt Camp in California. It’s this big stunt camp honor. The stunt camp was all about jumping off buildings and stuff. All of this mattered because when people looked at Em, they didn’t think Brave Girl or Logrolling Girl or Stunt Girl. They tended to think Smart Girl, Brilliant Girl, Very Polite Girl, Artistic Girl, Pretty Girl.

“Aren’t you going to tell me I defy stereotypes?” she asked that night, holding out her arms for a hug.

I hugged her back. “You already know.”

Why This Matters And Isn’t Just A Braggy Mom Post

And as I remember all this, thanks to some pretty good written records, I’m sort of struck by how brave Em has always been to defy the expectations of what people think small, brainy, artistic girls are going to be doing. She was a cheerleader and a log roller. She jumped off buildings. She got into Harvard and Dartmouth all on her own. No mommys and daddys buying buildings here folks. She was a field artillery officer in the Army. She studied Krav Maga in Israel, volunteered in Costa Rica, studied film for a tiny bit in high school in New York all by herself. All these random things. How cool is that?

It’s pretty damn cool.

Somehow Em usually never lets other people’s expectations define her.

I wish that we could all be that brave, that we could have the opportunity and empowerment to be that brave, that we could all become who we want to become, define ourselves instead of others or society defining us. How shiny the world would be then, wouldn’t it?

A LOT OF IT COMES FROM YOUR FAMILY

In my family, my sister was the good one. Another sibling was the handsome, successful one. I was the quirky smart one. Another sibling was the angry one.

Those labels are who we were expected to be.

But the thing is that my sister? She’s smart. She’s successful.

That angry sibling? He did some amazing things before he died. Things that make him stunningly successful in my eyes.

And I’m quirky, but I’m pretty sure I’m not the smartest of us.

But those are the expectations, the roles, the labels and those scripts our family’s right for us (both good and bad) can really stick.

How Do You Defy Expectations

Think of who you want to be.

Think of what you want to try.

Think of why you haven’t yet.

If it isn’t about money and resources and you can, give whatever it is a try. Do the thing that people don’t expect you to do (Try not to go to jail though. Legal things are usually a better choice.) and see how it feels. See how you feel.

Do people expect you to be quiet? To be loud? Do they expect you to be an activist? A peace-maker? Think of how you can be the opposite of expectations if you feel like those expectations are holding you back. The first step is to imagine being what it is that YOU want to be, not what your teachers, family, friends, coworkers, employees, bosses want you to be. YOU.

Is there something you always wanted to do, to be, and people scoffed. Show them how wrong they are. Blow their minds. Blow your own mind, too.

Continue reading “How Do You Defy Expectations”

Creators, Dirty Feet, and Archetypes

Creators, Dirty Feet, and Archetypes

 
Play/Pause Episode
00:00 / 00:26:54
Rewind 30 Seconds
1X

For the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about writing archetypes for our characters and how they also apply to the real life humans we used to meet and interact with before Covid-19.

There are lists out there all over the place about this. Most have slight variations on the number of archetypes or the names of the archetypes. 

Oh! If you haven’t heard in our past episodes, an archetype is according to MasterClass:  

An archetype is an emotion, character type, or event that is notably recurrent across the human experience. In the arts, an archetype creates an immediate sense of familiarity, allowing an audience member to relate to an event or character without having to necessarily ponder why they relate. Thanks to our instincts and life experiences, we’re able to recognize archetypes without any need for explanation.

MasterClass People

Last week we talked about the seducers, the week before we talked about the misfits and mavericks. This week, we’re going easy on you with the creator. 

According to MasterClass, the creator is, “A motivated visionary who creates art or structures during the narrative.”

They make things! Like writers! They usually have willpower. They are sometimes self-involved. Or they suck at practical things. 

Over on ArielHudnel.com, it says (all bold their emphasis), 

“Also known as the artist, innovator, inventor, architect, musician, and dreamer, the Creator is solely focused on examining the boundaries or our reality and perception. As a character, they often take the position of the well-meaning scientist, or savant artist.

The Creator carries an inexhaustible imagination, often excelling at their chosen vocation. When presenting as a mortal character in a reality-based world, he is often portrayed as a man ahead of his time. There are often better examples of this archetype in the real world (Galileo, Einstein, Mozart, Steve Jobs) than in fiction!

Mediocrity is the Creator’s worst fear. Whether this result comes from concept or execution doesn’t matter. The creator wishes to be an authentic voice in a world of white noise. They gain rivals easily, answering those challenges with innovation in their work, and their personal outlook.”

ArielHudnel

Zeus. Dr. Frankenstein. Iron Man. All creators. 

Phoebe in Friends. Jo in Little Women. Creators. 

The Issue

All of these characters are white. When researching this, we were overwhelmed by the lack of examples of BIPOC. It’s another glaring example of a lack of diversity in books and movies. And it’s super frustrating. 

Over on the Character Therapist, they list the creator’s goals and fears:

LIKELY GOALS

To create things of enduring value
To see a vision realized 
To hone artistic control and skill
To create culture through self-expression  

LIKELY FEARS

To have a mediocre vision 
To only execute a vision half-way
To believe all is an illusion
To remain unchanged/unmoved by beauty 

Writing Tip of the Pod

We need all types of stories. When you create, think about who your archetypes are. If you are creating and expressing yourself, are you doing so in a way that is beautiful, clear, and fair to the rest of the world? 

Dog Tip for Life

Single minded obsession is never good unless it’s about making bacon. 

SHOUT OUT

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.

DOG INSPIRATION

Every weekday, our dogs have inspirational or motivating tweets on Carrie’s Twitter. Go check it out and be her Twitter friend.

The kittens felt left out.

WHERE TO FIND OUR PODCAST, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

The podcast link if you don’t see it above. Plus, it’s everywhere like Apple Music, iTunesStitcherSpotify, and more. Just google, “DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE” then like and subscribe.

Join the 239,000 people who have downloaded episodes and marveled at our raw weirdness. You can subscribe pretty much anywhere.


Another episode about archetypes and if your sex life was a hashtag. Cough.

Last week’s episode about archetypes and falling out of cars. 

A bonus episode with Vivian Garcia Rodriguez about cosplay, book boyfriends, and being brave enough to get rid of people who hurt you. 

A bonus episode about being a cop’s daughter in Maine and a dance mom in Pennsylvania with Alyson Pelletier Seegmueller.

And this week’s episode link if you’re reading this via email.


COME WRITE WITH ME! 

I coach, have a class, and edit things. Find out more here. 


NEW BOOK OF AWESOME- THE PLACES WE HIDE

I have a new book out!!!!!! It’s an adult mystery set in the town where we live, which is Bar Harbor, Maine. You can order it here. And you totally should. 

And if you click through to this link, you can read the first chapter! 

And click here to learn about the book’s inspiration and what I learned about myself when I was writing it.