Muse du Jour

My name is Marianne Plumridge. I am an artist of mythic fantasy works and fine art images. I also satisfy my creative muse with sewing, cooking, writing and reading. These are my thoughts and adventures with whichever muse drives me each day. You can find more of my art at

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Location: New England, United States

Thursday, October 16, 2008


I attended many panel discussions at Bouchercon, but these few are the ones I kept notes on. It doesn’t mean that the other panels weren’t notable, but I enjoyed listening to them rather than taking notes about subjects I already know a good bit about. It was nice to hear my theories confirmed or a fresh outlook on them. All of the panelists were knowledgeable and the Mediators took their jobs very seriously indeed, giving structure and coherent direction to the topic at hand. I must admit to ducking out of a couple of afternoon panels to fetch much needed coffee to offset the ‘mid-afternoon droopies’. I did take notes of authors’ works though, that I wanted to follow up later – the list is getting rather long. Meanwhile, here are the short notes…

STOP, I’M ALREADY DEAD! – Keeping a Series Interesting
(Friday, 10am Panel)

Perpetrators…er, panelists: Jeff Cohen, Mark de Castrique, Felicia Donovan, Jerry Healy, and Hope McIntyre.

Jerry Healy’s nutshell ideas:
- Include cutting edge/controversial topics that don’t date. Adding a non-fiction element that can lead to greater media promotions: ie, a topic that fills newspaper headlines rather than some tiny item buried in page nine of any given paper. Apparently the controversial and topical nature of one of Jerry’s recent novels was enough to make him an ‘expert’ and put him on the talk show circuit and major newspaper reviews.

- Work a ‘fish out of water’ or ‘stranger in a strange land’ scenario. It gives the reader a greater empathy with the protagonist or character undergoing said scenario.

- Conflicts throughout the plot, complicated protagonist and characters. If it doesn’t’ have conflict or complications, it’s going to be BORING.

Felicia Donovan:
- Remember to inject humour to balance seriousness. Unrelieved seriousness can be wearing on the reader.

- Keep characters REAL. Nothing irks a reader as much as unrealistic characters or characters who have a distinct ‘nature’ then do something completely ‘out of character’ just so the writer can fulfill a difficult plot point.

Mark de Castrique:
- Strong characters and settings will keep your reader riveted.

- Milk real situations, because sometimes reality is stranger than fiction. Collect memories, photos for physical appearance reference, and snip article clippings of newspaper/magazine stories that tweak your interest, or may make good fodder for future stories.

Hope McIntyre:
- Like your characters and know them well. Give them depth. You will be sharing your journey with them for some time.

- For characters, don’t give all details all at once in big gobs. Peel back layers as you would an onion or the petals on a rose – each should be revealing, and reveal something new as the story goes on.

- The passage of time between books varies for various reasons. Aging a character is up to the author, but if you’re planning a long series, age the protagonist only a couple of months at a time perhaps. Mind you, if you’re writing one book per year, time is spinning on for you, but not for your character – timelines would need adjusting in the books, one would think.

- Never kill a cat!!

WHO ARE YOU? – Making Your Characters Believable.
(Friday, 11:30am panel)

Perpetrators…er, panelists: Alison Jannsen, Libby Fischer Hellmann, Victoria Houston, Craig Johnson, Julia Pomeroy.

- Your own memories and perceptions can create great stories.

- Write what you know about – the breadth and depth might surprise you.

- A good character will write his/her own story and directs the plot in doing so.

- Suit the character to the appropriate setting, or the dissonance will jar the reader out of the story.

- Include flaws and idiosyncrasies that give each character depth.

- Make the characters grow with each successive book so that there is growth, maturity, yearning, fulfillment, new horizons, etc.

- Decide how to age or not to age your characters.

HARD NOT TO KILL: No Sidewalks Doesn’t Mean No Action
(Friday, 1:30pm, panel)

Perpetrators…er, panelists: Elsie (L.C.) Hayden, Craig Johnson, Deborah LeBlanc, Jon Talton, Rebecca Tope.

- Figure out your protagonist’s place in the community you are writing about, it will formulate how they behave, what they think, how they think, and their personality.

- Have your protagonist ‘seen’ by other characters, and describe him/her in their own words (voices). It compiles a more complete portrait of the protagonist, and informs the reader about the characters giving the description: ie, their prejudices, likes, dislikes, behaviour, affinities, loyalties, etc.

- If you have a strong protagonist, then you need to portray an equally strong antagonist. Both need to be well rounded to be believable.

- Write the full spectrum of human behaviour. Writing extremes in characters will most likely turf the reader out of the story, while the reader works hard to suspend disbelief.

Interesting, huh?


Anonymous nancy martin said...

Excellent report, Marianne!

11:30 AM  
Blogger Marianne said...

Hi Nancy!

Thanks. :-D Did you read the con review before this one as well?

And thanks for stopping by. I love hanging out with you guys on the Lipstick Chronicles.

I really enjoyed Bouchercon, and am hoping to go to another mystery con soon. :-D


11:37 AM  

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