Pontificating with Purple Prose


If there’s a passage I’m overly proud of—it usually means I need to cut it. There is a big difference between a well-crafted sentence relevant to the story, and one that sounds impressive but does nothing to move the story forward. This kind of self-indulgence is referred to as purple prose: metaphor after metaphor; meandering musings that take you nowhere; more scenic descriptions than a travel guide. In other words, those parts we skim to get to the good stuff. When I find purple prose in my work, I ask myself what purpose it serves. Am I trying to prove I can be as erudite as the next person or does the prose add needed melody and cadence? Purple prose is like an exotic spice—a little goes a long way—too much and it overpowers the entire dish. Continue reading “Pontificating with Purple Prose” »

Villains – the New Heroes?


I love my bad guys. They are the most fun to write—their evil deeds flow effortlessly from my imagination. They are malicious, devious, merciless, and sadistic. But If I’m not careful, they begin to resemble cardboard cutouts in black hats and handlebar mustaches. While it is tempting to craft a character oozing with evil intentions and only despicable characteristics, there must be at least a kernel of humanity in him or her. Good literary villains must be imbued with their own desires, ordeals, personal demons, and credible motivations for their actions. All villains are the heroes of their own story, and with rare exceptions don’t consider themselves villains at all. Continue reading “Villains – the New Heroes?” »

What Makes Thriller Writers Tick


“What’s the best way to assassinate someone and make it look like an accident?” “How about poisons—which are undetectable in an autopsy?” In most circles, these types of questions would be cause for alarm—and notification of the authorities. Not so at Thrillerfest, the premiere writer’s conference for thriller writers where talk about death, murder, and conspiracies abound. There, I can share my ideas without anyone raising an eyebrow. The running joke is that our Google histories have landed us all on a watch list. Continue reading “What Makes Thriller Writers Tick” »

Writing Advice: Take it or Toss it?

Thrillerfest Panel – Are you a Blue Blood? Portraying Accurate Police Work


Every July, I spend four days in New York with the best of the best in the thriller game. Last year was my fifth Thrillerfest conference, and once again, it was illuminating, informative, and inspirational. The hardest decision to make during those action packed days is what sessions to take when all the options are equally compelling. Continue reading “Writing Advice: Take it or Toss it?” »

Show, Don’t Tell


A familiar axiom of writing is “show, don’t tell”.  We hear it everywhere: from teachers, in articles, in writing workshops. For a long time, I had no idea what it actually meant. What do you mean, don’t tell? Aren’t we storytellers? My natural inclination was to sit down and tell what happened; hovering above my characters like an omniscient narrator explaining exactly how they felt and why they felt it. After all, how would the reader know if I didn’t tell her? Many terrible drafts later, I have come to learn a little bit about point of view, the embodied experience, and how to let the reader feel what is happening along with the character. Continue reading “Show, Don’t Tell” »