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Friday, March 29, 2013

A Moderator, Some Speakers, Mary Burton, OH My!

Was I in the Land of Oz?  NO!

I was at the James River Writers "Writing Show".

Could I have been in the Land of Oz? Easily! For me, the night was magical. I met more Virginian writers, some new, some familiar. But being new to the writing scene, (well, not actually new, as I have had a book published) I had the opportunity to meet not one, not two, but four outstanding authors. Bill Blume, who we all know well, (if you're a member of JRW or in need of 911 help) is a fantasy writer. Hermine Pinson is a published poet. Howard Owen, from The Freelance Star, is a crime writer.

But the highlight of my night was meeting the New York Times and USA Today bestselling novlist Mary Burton. That in itself, was worth the price of admission. I recognized her from her picture on some of the books that my wife has read. "I'm Watching You" comes to mind. At the intermission, I approached Mary, introduced myself, and shook her hand. (I'll try to go as long as possible before I wash mine again!) I told her my wife was going to be envyous of me!

But enough of my moment with the stars. This month's Writing Show was titled "Killing Your Darlings: How to Handle Violence in Your Writing". As moderator, Doug Jones, playwright extraordinair, did a fantastic job. He came out with some pretty cool topics for discussion.

In the world we live in today, one would think that writing about violence would come natural, as violence seems to have become commonplace in our society. Nothing could be further from the truth, as I found out. Writing about violence almost has to be nurtured, but not like that of a young child. You most always keep in mind who your audience of readers is going to be. (Don't make it real gory if you're a YA writer) But even with adult writings, the author must get across his or her sence of a violent act to a degree that will make the reader want to keep turning page after page to find out what happens. Take them to the brink, make them feel that they are there, a part of it, captivated. But don't push them over the edge! A writer's worst nightmare is to have their reader cringe with discuss at something to the point that they put the book down...never to be picked up again.

Another important part of writing violence into a writer's story is research. Get your facts straight. Readers, especially avid readers, are not dumb. If they have read dozens and dozens of crime fiction novels, a writer is not going to be able to pull any fast ones.

"With one mighty swipe of his pocketknife, the meager boy cut off his assailant's hand!"

It's called fiction, folks, but keep it real! Unless this meager boy is the son of the Jolly Green Giant with a pocketknife the size of a Samori sword, well...ain't gonna happen! Once a writer pulls their reader out of the story by making a "false" statement, they are going to have to be one hell of a writer to get them back. If you want to get it right the first time, try reading about it in history.

And when is too much killing, too much killing? Sure, in crime fiction, someone has to die. Maybe, two someones. But the writer has to make sure that there is a reason for killing someone. Good guy, bad guy, doesn't matter. No killing willie-nillie. Remember, you have your reader on the edge of their seat, wanting to turn that next page, waiting for that suspense-filled moment when everything comes to a climax. They're on the precipice. Kill one more senselessly...BAM! They're gone! The reader that is!

So, once again (in my opinion), James River Writers has come through for me. I would have paid three times the admission to spent the two hours that I spent at the Children's Museum with these great people. My perspective on writing is changing daily. I'm getting to the point where I can't get enough. And I owe it all the JRW!

And one more thing. You think you have friends on FaceBook. Well, come to a JRW sponsored event and see what making real friends is all about. Recently, while reading the JRW Newsletter, I came across an event with the Young Writers Club at Matthews High School. They were looking for authors to be a part of their fall book festival. I checked out their website and some of the potential authors that were going to be there. I came across a lady with an interesting background. So, I went to her website and saw that she, too, was a member of JRW. And in reading her "About" page, I noticed she had a Great-Reads book list and was accepting titles. She also had this wierd criteria thing, something about her husband and son needing to like your book, before she put it on her list. Well, I wrote to her in spite of the criteria thing, and asked her to give my book, Tip of the Iceberg, a read. And last night, at the JRW Writing Show, there was a lady sitting right in front of me. That lady...... A. B. Westrick. I said "Hello" and she said, "You're the Dave who wrote on my website." and then we laughed.

Now that's friends!
P.S. On a personal note, Katharine Herndon, with violence being the topic at the show, the ambulance at stage right was a great touch!


  1. Sounds a great experience, and what a perfect meet to end it with.

    1. Thx, Sheila. It is a great experience and one that I know is going to only get better.