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Cruelty to Innocents: A Mother-Daughter Suspense Writing Team

June 9, 2011

Tags: fiction, novels, suspense writing

What if you were in your car, alone with your small child, and you came upon an emergency scene? Would you stop to help? What if, while you are trying to assist a victim of an accident or mugging, you leave your young child alone in the car, thinking he or she would be safe. What if, instead of help, the call to 911 brought a terrifying, sinister result? Who is the monster that, in the midst of the chaos and confusion of the scene, slips in and steals the innocent children leaving, behind no trace for authorities?

This is the premise of the new suspense novel, Cruelty to Innocents: The 911 Abductions, by CK Webb and DJ Weaver, a mother-daughter writing team. The book is the first in a trilogy. I managed to catch up with the two during their blog tour in promotion of the book, and they were happy to answer the following questions.

Weldon Burge (WB): What inspired you to write Cruelty to Innocents (aside from the obvious wealth and fame)?

CK Webb (CK): LOL!!! Isn't wealth & fame enough? Actually writing has always been a big part of who I am, but I lost sight of that fact for a great many years—took a few, big kicks in the pants to get me straightened out.

DJ Weaver (DJ): CK came to me, told me about this idea she had for a movie, and then gave me the spill. She asked if I wanted to help her write it as a book. Knowing that she is a one-finger pecker, I figured, if I didn't help, she would wear her index finder to a nub. So, I agreed.

WB: Talk about your writing process. Do you discuss a chapter at a time, and then assign one of you to write it? How does this work?

DJ: We sit down together and toss ideas around until we have a good outline.

CK: We always discuss a chapter before diving into it, where it is heading and exactly the outcome we would like to see. Then, I handwrite a few thousand words.

DJ: When she finishes a chapter, she dictates to me while I type. I add things along the way and 'flesh' out the story. We both review the draft until we have a chapter that suits us both.


Mythic Structure & Storytelling

April 20, 2010

Tags: freelance writing, fiction writing, novels, mythic structure, storytelling

During the Writers at the Beach conference last month (and particularly during Khris Baxter's workshop, Screenwriting Techniques for Fiction Writers), I was forced into the realization that the novel I began way back in 1987 was (1) worthy of resurrection, (2) poorly structured, and (3) in need of major rewriting. (See my earlier blog entry, Writers at the Beach, 3/28/10.) In the intervening weeks since the conference, the novel has been flopping around in my brain like a fish on deck. But, the more I contemplate the story, the more frustrated I become. And the problem is clearly structure.

So, I've decided to once again read The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler. I've read Joseph Campbell's work on mythology, most notably the Bill Moyer interview, The Power of Myth, and The Hero with a Thousand Faces. It's dense reading and highly academic, to be sure, but the truths concerning the importance of mythology in our lives (and our writing) are clear and illuminating.

Vogler's book, borrowing heavily not only from Campbell but also from Carl Jung's archetypes, nails down mythic structure for the writer in the most succinct and user-friendly form I've seen. Some may say it takes an approach to writing that is too formulaic. Well, only if you're looking for a lazy, cookie-cutter approach. For the true writer, Vogler's book is a "bible" of sorts, providing a foundation for story structure that does not necessarily stifle the writer's imagination and style. As with any tool, it's all in how you use it. Read the book. Learn it. Absorb it. Most important of all, USE it in your storytelling. And that, my friends, is the lesson that I must now learn—knowing is not the same as DOING.

I'm aware of character archetypes, and I think the characters in my tale are fairly well defined in that regard. But the story structure of my novel does not follow the three-act "hero's journey" in Vogler's book. And I now think it should. I managed to write about 150 pages of the novel, years ago. Most of that will now be scrapped. So, back to the blackboard, so to speak.

The novel, a suspense/thriller tentatively titled Harvester of Sorrow (yes, it's coincidentally a Metallica song), will fit beautifully into the stages of the "journey"—the Ordinary World; Call to Adventure; Refusal of the Call; Meeting with the Mentor; Crossing the First Threshold; Test, Allies, Enemies; Approach to the Inmost Cave; Ordeal; Reward; Road Back; Resurrection; and the Return with the Elixir. Yes, my story will indeed work with these stages—I just haven't structured the novel that way yet.

I have work to do.

And, once the novel structure is determined, I'll be free to let the story grow from that solid foundation. Perhaps the final novel will be far different from the way I currently envision the story. And that would be superb! I'm all for story evolution, particularly if the characters usurp the storytelling.

A few years back, Ed Dee, excellent writer of police procedurals, told me that writing a novel is much like driving a car at night on unfamiliar roads. You may know your destination, may even have a roadmap on the seat next to you or the GPS glowing on the dash, but you can only see as far as the headlights extend on the road in front of you. You have no idea what may be on the road ahead, or what detour you may have to take en route. No matter how detailed you've structured and outlined your novel, be prepared for—indeed, welcome—side trips and detours as your characters and plot mature in the storytelling process.

But, I'm not even in the car yet.

Back to work!

I'll keep you posted ...


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