Author: Connie Berry

Conflict, Suspense, Terror: When Is Too Much Too Much?

Almost the first thing a budding writer learns is the importance of conflict—internal, external, situational, relational. Conflict is what creates story. As Donald Maass famously says, “The cat sat on the mat” isn’t a story. “The cat sat on the dog’s mat” is a story. Suspense is created when the outcome of conflict is unknown or delayed. This is a gross simplification, of course, but if the tension on the page isn’t felt by the reader, the conflict falls flat. Suspense taken to the extreme creates terror. I read once that out of all the living creatures on earth, human beings are the only ones who like to scare themselves. We pay money to watch horror films and buy books that scare the living daylights out of us. If you need an example, check out Emilya Naymark’s recent blog on påskekrim , Norway’s obsession with reading crime novels at Eastertime. But when is too much too much? Some years ago I discovered a thriller writer who will remain anonymous (well known, very skilled) and began reading her series featuring a female medical examiner. I knew I was reading scary stuff about violent crime and serial killers, but the writing was […]

Read More

Do You Follow Instructions?

Following directions has never been my strength. Cooking, for example. I rarely use a recipe, and when I do, I almost always vary it in some way. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m not a great cook. Changing the recipe is risky business. Ask my family sometime about Thanksgiving Dinner 2012. The same thing goes for a new product purchase. Following those incomprehensible printed instructions is annoying. I already know I should open the box before eating the pizza. And I’m not likely to use my new hairdryer while sleeping.  One place I do follow directions is knitting. Going rogue in knitting is likely to result in a garment no one could wear—or want to. I learned about knitting from my Norwegian aunts who knitted for the arts and crafts store Husfiden (Oslo) as a way to earn income while raising their families. Each year as a child I would receive a new pair of handknitted Selbuvotter, Star Mittens, usually red and white or black and white, in the traditional patterns developed in the 1800s. I marveled at the tiny stitches and imagined that I would learn to knit one day. I did learn—from my mother, who taught me […]

Read More

A Writer’s Retreat of My Own

I’ve always been a bit in awe—and not a little jealous—when I read on social media that an author is heading out for a writer’s retreat. It’s the ultimate luxury in my book—days spent in uninterrupted thinking/plotting/writing. Here are my Top Ten reasons why a writer’s retreat is worth its weight in gold.

Read More

Do You Have A Lover’s Eye?

Do you have a Lover’s Eye? No, I’m not talking about winking and fluttering your lashes. A Lover’s Eye is a tiny portrait of a human eye, often painted on a flake of ivory no bigger than your fingernail.

Read More

Length Matters: How Many Words Does It Take?

How long is a sentence? The answer I got in junior high school was “long enough to finish the thought.” Cheeky.

For years, the longest sentence ever written in English was said to be Molly Bloom’s 3,687-word soliloquy in the James Joyce novel Ulysses (1922). However, one of the finalists for the 2019 Booker Prize was Lucy Ellman, whose 1,000-page Ducks, Newburyport consists mostly of a single sentence that runs to 426,000 words. Beat that if you can.

Read More

It Was A Dark & Stormy Night: Weather in Fiction

“Weather tonight: dark. Turning partly light by morning.”
Who remembers George Carlin, the Hippy Dippy Weatherman? A whole generation of viewers in the 1970s laughed at his weather forecasts, but the silliness struck a chord. People are obsessed with the weather. Even in books.

Read More

Hope, Faith & a Corpse

Midwesterner turned Californian Laura Jensen Walker arrived on the cozy mystery scene in the middle of a pandemic with not one but two new series.

When I began writing my first cozy (A Grave Affair, featuring a recently divorced woman in her forties who moved to a small town to start over), there was a minor woman Episcopal priest character. As I continued writing, that woman priest made it quite clear to me that she was a main character deserving of her own story.

Read More

The Real World Or Fiction?

Should writers incorporate real-world events into the fictional world of their novels? The question isn’t how much your characters actually know about these events but rather why the events matter to them. That takes perspective.

Read More

Search By Tags