12 October 2014

Guest Post by Author Russ Hall ~ What Fuels the Story!

Retired sheriff's detective Al Quinn hasn't spoken to his brother, Maury, in twenty years but when Maury lands in the hospital under suspicious circumstances, Al reluctantly has to investigate. Al learns the hard way who he can trust - and who's willing to do whatever it takes to succeed.
With everything he loves on the line, Al will find out just how far he'll go
to protect his own.

Available on Amazon US and Amazon UK

People coming early to writing often ask, “Where will I get my ideas? What will motivate me as I write?” Slightly more experienced writers (and even they are always learning, if they’re good) may say that there is an easy answer, but it can tend to sound magical or mystic at first. I’m talking about the “creative experience.”

No matter what you write, whether story, novel, song, or poem, you’re going to eventually leave some of yourself on the page. It doesn’t matter how you start out, if you stay at your writing you will start putting things that you think about and that matter to you on the page. You’ll go back later and see that it is often the good stuff in the story, because you felt it and imbued it with emotion.

Now I like to start a story with a point of tension, one that lets characters have an arena to show the reader something about themselves. I have read about Mexican cartel violence in the news, getting more brutal and closer to where I live, and I worry about how a local drought may lead to heightened chances of huge wildfires, again happening closer to where I live. I feel emotional about these things, so I use them. They pop into the book because I’m thinking about them. They interest me, and they should interest readers.

Then I need to think about characters in this setting. I recently retired and really enjoy my solitary times alone. I’ve lived by myself for quite a while and am used to it, and uncomfortable out of it. So I ask myself, “How would I feel if that got disturbed? If someone, or even more than one person, were thrust into that space?” I feel an emotion about that, so I use it.

In To Hell and Gone in Texas, I got to draw on a setting I like, which is peaceful but could be threatened. I got to draw on personal characteristics. I do feed the deer that crowd around my front office window each morning, I do fish, and I play chess by myself (sad to admit that last one).

We all of us like to feel comfortable and protected, which is why there is nothing cozier than reading an action-filled book full of danger while sitting in a favorite chair at home. When something threatens us, when we are yanked out of our comfort zones, and when we are suddenly pulled into danger where we are way over our heads, we can feel strong emotions.

I try to use that in every way possible, the way I feel presented in a way with which the reader can resonate. As you enter the process of writing your story, or poem for that matter, you may start with one sense of what you’re writing and find, as you draw more and more upon your experiences, values, interests, ambitions that you are weaving together characters who matter, a setting the helps drive your story, and raising issues about which you feel strongly.

In the process of writing, you will also know more and more about your characters and their dilemmas, and that will help the story stay engaging as you create complex people and situations. I’m a believer that to some extent I have to become at least part of each character, understand how everything feels from his or her perspective. In my case, it’s easier to understand some of the issues and aspects of male characters. But stretching hard to understand how I would feel from the female point of view is invaluable in making dialogue that matters in every line.

This where the “trust me” part comes in. Go ahead and leap into that story with whatever germ it takes to get you going—something you heard in the media or at the hair salon. Then let your inner self loose as you write. Ride the creative experience by letting pieces of yourself happen on the page. Once you get used to it, the process won’t seem mysterious at all. It’s just how writing often works.

Russ Hall 
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About the Author

A writer of mysteries, thrillers, westerns, poetry, and nonfiction books, Russ Hall has had more than twenty books published. He has been an editor for major publishing companies, ranging from Harper & Row (now HarperCollins), Simon & Schuster, to Pearson. He lives in Lago Vista, TX, where he hikes, fishes, and tends a herd of deer that visit daily to peep in the office window and help with the writing. In 2011 he was awarded Sage Award, by The Barbara Burnett Smith Mentoring Authors Foundation--an award for the mentoring author who demonstrates an outstanding spirit of service in mentoring, sharing and leading others in the mystery writing community. In 1996 he won the Nancy Pickard Mystery Fiction Award for short fiction. In 2014 he won First Place in the Austin International Poetry Festival. Find out more at his website www.russhall.com/

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