Monthly Archives: March 2011

Guest Post by author Kat Duncan: The Root of all Emotions: Fear

The Root of All Emotions: Fear
Dwight Swain and Jack Bickham both wrote that authors need to give the reader “something to worry about”. People read for feeling and that doesn’t mean it needs to be sappy, but it does need to hit an emotional nerve. You can hit an emotional nerve with tension or suspense. And I don’t necessarily mean the kind of suspense in a thriller-type novel.
My personal definition of suspense is: expecting something (usually bad) to happen and it doesn’t happen or something else (equally bad or worse) happens instead. My personal definition of tension is wanting something (usually good) to happen, but it won’t and you have to wait or work harder to get it to happen. Do you need both in a story? No. One or the other will do. Both are nice too.

Swain says, “So what’s behind suspense? Fear.” I think the same goes for tension. What’s behind tension is fear. Fear that you won’t find that “special someone” or that you aren’t good-looking enough or thin enough or your teeth aren’t white enough for this person to like you. The worst kind of fear of that type is being rejected. Swain also says “fear is subjective”. My fears are not your fears. Things that would drive you crazy don’t bother me one bit. Situations you’d sail through give me the creeps or make me shake my head and say “I could never do that.” If I think about it, I might even suggest that fear is at the root of all emotions. So how can we use this information?

Would it make sense to match up characters whose fears overlap, dovetail or squash one another? For example: two people want the same thing. They both can’t have it, and it can’t be shared or divided.
So far, so good, but I’m not feeling the tension. Ok, one of these people is afraid of having his estranged wife run away with their children. If he can get the thing, his estranged wife will accept a divorce and let him have the kids because she doesn’t want them anyway and he does.
Getting more interesting? Ok, the other person who wants this thing is a woman who just got divorced from her husband after finding out he made some bad investments and lost all their savings, then ran up their credit cards to the max to cover his tracks. She was so eager to divorce the guy that she signed the divorce papers without realizing that most of the debt is hers because she got the house. If she doesn’t get the thing right away, she’s going to lose the house and her two kids will be homeless.

Better? Do you think this problem is solvable? You shouldn’t. Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to tell me how you are going to decide which person gets the thing. These two people are each afraid of losing their kids. Fear is a powerful motivator. Look for the underlying fear in your character and you’ll have good insight into why they behave the way they do.

By the way, this technique is known as The McGuffin. The McGuffin is the “thing” that the characters want and will do anything to have. It was popularized by Alfred Hitchcock, no less. So, what do you think? Do you have a McGuffin in your story? Do you think it matters what the McGuffin is or is it just about the characters themselves? Can you find the fear in your characters’ actions?

Thanks for stopping by. Share your comments here today and check out my year-long novel writing course that begins in May at Savvy Authors. You can also find me on the web at

Words Matter Week 2011 challenge: day 5

Words, like moths, are captured by writers who pin them to the page in various forms. What writer’s work most deftly captivates you? Why?

O’Henry. I started reading O’Henry as a young teen. I thought I had a pretty good vocabulary, but he sent me to the dictionary every couple of sentences to look up new words. I fell in love with words, and the love affair continues to this day.

Another favorite writer I read as a teen was Damon Runyon. He wrote about New York, about Broadway, and as a native New Yorker, born and raised in Manhattan, I enjoyed reading about my city. He’s another writer who sent me to the dictionary, or to my father when the dictionary proved inadequate.

Words matter week 2011 challenge: day 4

Thursday, March 10

Words can be mangled, misused, or misunderstood. What is your funniest example of mangling, misuse, or misunderstanding?

Due to not enough coffee, I can’t think of anything …

But, if you want to mangle, here is a neat site:

You can paste in any text and it will mangle it but still, it claims, leave it readable.

Thuardsy, Macrh 10

Wdros can be magelnd, meussid, or modroetnuissd. Waht is yuor fseiunnt explmae of mglnniag, msiuse, or mrsniantiddeunsg?

Due to not enoguh cofefe, I cna’t thnik of annyhitg …

But, if you wnat to mlgnae, hree is a naet stie:
a hef=rtth”p://>

You can ptsae in any txet and it wlil mnlgae it but slitl, it camils, levae it rleaabde.

Words Matter Week 2011: day 3

Today’s topic: What is your favorite quote about words? Why?

Here’s one:

Substitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very;” your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain

And here’s my fave:
The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. ~Mark Twain

Because it’s so, so true. The thesaurus is your friend. Visit it often.

Words matter 2011 challenge -day 2

Words can change history. What speech or document do you believe to be most important. Why?

Note: I speak only for myself, as an American. No judgement implied on important speeches and documents of other cultures. But while I can’t say for sure that any particular speech or document had the most/greatest/whatever impact on the world, I can and do (see below) pick my own “greatest”:

My favorite document: The Bible, King James Version.
I can’t read the original, and yes, I realize that this is an interpretation as much as a translation, but I grew up with this version, and I’m moved by the poetry of the language. It’s beautiful.

Personal favorite speech:
Martin Luther King’s “I had a dream” speech, not only for the sentiment expressed, but for the power of the words themselves. Interestingly, some of my favorite parts of the speech were improvised.

Check out the Wikipedia article for more information about the speech.
I had a dream

Words Matter 2011 challenge — day 1

Is there a word that has changed, or could change your life? What is it, and what difference would it make?

When i thought about this, somehow I focused on finding a word, or learning about a word, that changed my life. Why this and not the event behind the word: “We’ve accepted your manuscript,” “It’s a boy,” “We’e getting married,” ‘You’re laid off,” or whatever?

I’ve been fascinated with words as far back as I can remember,so it’s hard to pick just one. But I will. it’s “rambunctious,” and I pick it because of my sister and my nephew.

My sister Michele lives in Mahnattan. As my sister tells it. she, a friend of hers and their two kids , both about two, were in a car going someplace. The two adults were in the front seat, the two kids strapped into the back. Both David and the other child were making a ruckus (another good word). My sister turned and glared at them. David stopped, considered for a moment, then said, “Rambunctious.” Where a two year old learned the word I’ll never know.

Here’s another word: “Dammit.” This one is for my son Colin. It was summer, and I was pregnant with my third son. I was pregnant enough that I couldn’t see my feet. Colin was around two (great age for kids words), and I had him on my hip, carrying him up from the beach when I tripped over a root. Colin looked down, considered for a moment, then said, “Dammit.” Unfortunately, I knew exactly where a two year old had learned a word like that

So those are my words for today: Rambunctious, and Dammit.

Meet Author Jennifer Wylie

Jennifer Wylie was born and raised in Ontario, Canada. In a cosmic twist of fate she dislikes the snow and cold.
Before settling down to raise a family, she attained a BA from Queens University and worked in retail and sales.
Thanks to her mother she acquired a love of books at an early age and began writing in public school. She constantly has stories floating around in her head, and finds it amazing most people don’t. Jennifer writes various forms of fantasy, both novels and short stories. Sweet light is her debut novel to be published in 2011.
Jennifer resides in rural Ontario, Canada with her husband, two boys, Australian shepherd a flock of birds and a disagreeable amount of wildlife.

Tell us a little about yourself

I’m a stay at home mom of two darling boys. When I’m not reading or writing (or editing) I putter about with various crafts. Otherwise I try to to be Supermom and keep my chaotic house in some semblance of order. I suppose I should also note I live in Ontario, Canada. Yes we get a lot of snow. I dislike snow. πŸ˜›
When did you start writing?
I started writing in public school, but really got into it in high school. It was just something I wanted to do, needed to do. I have so many stories in my head and they need to come out. I did go to university and got a degree, however things happen, as they tend to do, and I ended up being a Mom rather than finding a career. I wouldn’t change that for the world. I didn’t write for a number of years when the kids were little but once they were a bit older, and my brain started functioning again, the need to write came back. Writing is something I can do from home, so I certainly lucked out there. πŸ™‚

Why did you start writing fantasy and science fiction?
I grew up reading fantasy and science fiction from a very early age. I had barely reached my teens before my mother had me reading Pern books. So far I don’t think I have the technical savvy to write sci-fi, so all of my stories are some type of fantasy.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Plot? That word sounds familiar… πŸ™‚ I don’t write things out, or do story boards. I will imagine scenes in my head, like a movie, until they are perfect, and then write them down. Occasionally near the end of a book I will jot down a sentence or two of notes, mostly to make sure I don’t forget to tie up lose ends.

How did you end up with Echelon Press?
I had read about Echelon Press online and found them interesting. I started following them on Twitter and had some nice tweets with Karen there and also in a comments section on another’s blog. I checked out the publishers website, and also the books they’d published so far and thought they would be a great publisher for me. I have been very pleased with everything!

What are you working on now?
I recently finished a young adult fantasy book which has been submitted to my publishers. I’m currently working on a sequel to it. I’m also puttering at a few other books and short stories. I sometimes almost wish my mind would stop coming up with ideas for a while so I could get caught up. πŸ™‚ My second short story to be published in March is currently in edits, so that has been keeping me busy as well.
What’s the hardest thing about writing fantasy?
The hardest part is stopping. There are so many things which can happen it is easy for a book to go on forever. I often have trouble finding an ending, even when I am planning a sequel. Many of my books have turned into a series, at least in the planning stages.

What kind of research do you do, and how?
If I need to research I do so with the most wonderful Google. I rarely research in advance, but do it as I go. Since my books are all in worlds of my creations there often isn’t very much I actually do have to research.

Any advice for other writers?
Always keep writing. You can always improve, and practice helps this. Not only do you need to know how to write, but to edit. Research editing online, make sure you are using correct grammar and punctuation, be wary of being repetitive in your word use. If you can find readers or editors to go over your work then use them. Fresh eyes are always helpful.
If you are searching for a publisher I definitely recommend you create a web presence. Most either require this or it is an added bonus. Have a website, twitter, facebook, blog. Even if you aren’t published yet you can gain followers over time. It is also an excellent way to meet authors, agents and publishers.

Any favorite writers?
I’ve just always loved reading and writing and it just comes to me. I have too many favorite authors to count, and too many supportive loved ones and friends to mention. πŸ™‚ I’m a lucky girl I guess.

What’s next?
Editing, editing, writing, editing… My next short story, The Forgotten Echo was released March 1, and my fantasy novel Sweet Light in May, both through Echelon Press. I’ve a number of shorts and another book also submitted, and am writing away whenever I have the time on new work. I’m currently looking into getting a clone so I have time to mop the floors.

Jump by Jen Wylie

If you were told to jump off of a bridge would you?

Perhaps it would depend on who was doing the asking. Our heroine has spunk and a sense of humor, however suffers from an extreme case of inappropriate clothing. When things take a turn from dangerous to worse what will she do when fantasy becomes reality? Warning: May include hot leather clad men, singing and demons.
Jump is available at :
Barnes & Noble

You can find Jen at:
Jen’s website:
Jen’s blog: