Scribd’s new e-book store: A sea change in publishing?

I was still recovering from Sunday’s 4.7 earthquake in LA when I heard the news that must have sent a shiver of apprehension through the publishing industry: scrbd, the publishing web site that gets around 60 million hits a day, began selling books online. Authors who upload their books will get an 80/20 split of the revenue from books sold on the site. That’s 80 per cent to us, folks.

NPR’s Marketplace pointed out that the two-year-old scribd has an advantage over other e-book publishers because its e-books can be read over many different types of reading devices, including laptops and “smart” phones. By contrast, Amazon’s e-books can be read only on a pricey Kindle.


We’ve been talking quite a bit on this blog about e-books, and debating their merits. I think that scribd’s move into selling books online, in a range of formats, at a price split that dramatically favors the author, has the potential to upend the publishing totem pole. The scribd platform could finally provide the grassroots publishing momentum that puts more revenue and power into the content creator’s hands, rather than the distributor’s.

In her farewell Newsweek column this week, Anna Quindlen described how, in the journalism field, young people have “created online outlets from the ground up…they are quite properly part of the action, not because we made room for them, but because they made room for themselves.”

Most novelists aren’t all that young, but scribd’s publishing model could provide the way for them to “make room” for themselves in the publishing paradigm. We’ll now be able to publish our own ebooks on a site that reaches sixty million potential readers. Sixty million!

But perhaps not all authors would consider taking hold of the reins of their publishing. I can imagine that even established authors might hesitate before taking the plunge into publishing on scribd. Would there still be a publishing contract, for example? Would uploaded works suffer from a stima from being “self-published”?

What do you think? Do you think the scribd book store has potential to change the publishing business paradigm?

Have you browsed through the new book store? Do you think it will become a morass of self-published drek as it develops, or is it going to become a juggernaut to be reckoned with?

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Coming up on our Kill Zone Guest Sundays, watch for blogs from Sandra Brown, Steve Berry, Robert Liparulo, Alexandra Sokoloff, Thomas B. Sawyer, Paul Kemprecos, Linda Fairstein, and more.

Folding newspapers: An ill omen for book publishing?

I was gobsmacked when I read that the Boston Globe might be shut down by the New York Times. I spent a lot of my growing-up years in Boston, and the idea of the 137-year-old Globe going under seems…unthinkable. (An update about that story here.)

The Globe is the newspaper of record for the entire Boston metropolitan area. Following on the heels of that news was the doom-and-gloom pronouncement by Warren Buffet that he would never invest in any newspaper, ever. The newspaper in my own hometown, the Los Angeles Times, is evidently in financial distress too. Columnists have been writing fretful stories about the economic woes of the paper, and I recently spotted a box-advertisement on the front page, which in my mind is the sort of thing they do only in throw-away weeklies. If major newspapers are going under for the third time, what will be next…major book publishers?

I graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 1979 (Yikes. I grow old, I shall wear my trousers rolled). Back then, newspaper reporters were still considered to be the “real” deal. Even though I was enrolled in the broadcasting program, I knew that TV reporters were viewed with disdain (The term “media type” hadn’t even been invented yet).. Inspired by the example of Woodward and Bernstein, members of my class believed that writing, that ideas, that journalists, could make a difference.

Fast forward 30 years, and Oh. My. God. Where are we now? Today’s journalists seem reduced to Twittering, red-and-blue-state cable talking heads. I keep thinking of one particular “news” host on cable who announces every night, “It’s Twitter time!” Newspapers are going away, and the Fourth Estate is going to the twitter heads.

As a fiction author, I have another concern: when I see newspapers collapsing left and right, I worry that the book-publishing business model might be just as fragile as newspapers. Leap forward another five years, and we might be talking about the collapse of major publishing houses.

What do you think? Are newspapers the “canaries in the mine” for publishing? Are they simply the first to bite the dust?

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Coming up on our Kill Zone Guest Sundays, watch for blogs from Sandra Brown, Steve Berry, Robert Liparulo, Paul Kemprecos, Linda Fairstein, Oline Cogdill, James Scott Bell, and more.

How to write a bestseller

By Kathryn Lilley

“There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

– W. Somerset Maugham
Bestseller. That’s why we’re all in the blogosphere, isn’t it? We all want to write (or read) a bestseller, we writer-reader-bloggers.

This blog is gifted with multiple bestselling (and modest) authors. Clare, for example, recently hit the IMBA Bestseller list with two of her books at the same time.

But I think everyone wants to learn the secret for vaulting onto the New York Times or USA Today bestseller’s list, and then stick there like Krazy Glue.

So today I set off on a hunt for the magic formula for writing a best seller. Is there one? What exactly does it take to write a breakout novel?

In his excellent book, Writing the Breakout Novel, agent Donald Maass says to write a “breakout” book, you have to open up your story. Make it bigger. Give it higher stakes, a larger theme, one that impacts many more people than you’d find in, say, the population of Cabot Cove. So, I’m assuming that with a few exceptions, most cozy mysteries are not going to be bestsellers. If you do have a “small,” domestic family drama in your story, Maass says, you must find a way to amp up the stakes. Think Grapes of Wrath. It’s a family drama, but man, talk about major stakes.

I ran across an interesting article about how not to write a best seller in the New York Sun, which stated that positive reviews in major review outlets don’t guarantee best sellerdom. The author said that catchy titles do seem to be a plus, however.

Interestingly, I found one reviewer in a British newspaper, The Guardian, who advised would-be best seller writers to avoid putting too much originality and sex into their work. That doesn’t sound right to me, but I don’t know. Is that a British thing? Here’s the article.

As I continued my web browsing, I found an article by Cliff Pickover called How to create an instant bestselling novel. It’s worth reading for the “Bestseller Plan” (You have to scroll down to see it). Pickover’s Bestseller plan refers to a NYT article called How to Manufacture a Best Seller by Michael Maxen. I couldn’t find Maxen’s original article at the NYT site (although I did find some crabby Letters to the Editor from authors who resented the article. Maxen must have skewered their books.). I did follow the link that claims to summarize the major points of Maxen’s article. That article offers up an actual 10-step formula for how to write a best-seller, by God. Generally, it seems to involve creating a hero-expert, a villain-expert, and a team of experts. When the action flags, you’re supposed to kill someone. See what you think.

I also read “Lester Dent’s magical recipe for writing a best seller.” It’s sort of interesting. It seems oriented more toward selling than best selling, though, and calls writers “pulpateers.” I loved his tip about how to fake local color and fool editors about murder weapons, though. That’s the kind of thing that most writers will never confess they do.

So I wish I could tell you I found the absolute formula for writing a best seller. Actually I’d like to hear from you. What do you think makes a book leap to the top of the NYT list? Is there a formula, or a secret? Do you think that to become a best seller, you simply write an excellent story, and accept the rest as a crapshoot? Or do you think that it is all a big fix–that publishers mostly decide who will become the Next Big Thing, by promoting certain books?


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Coming up on our Kill Zone Guest Sundays, watch for blogs from Sandra Brown, Steve Berry, Robert Liparulo, Paul Kemprecos, Linda Fairstein, Oline Cogdill, James Scott Bell, and more.

Developing a theme through characters

Before there was story structure–before there were even novels—there was theme. A story’s theme is the fundamental and universal idea behind its plot. In King Lear, for example, one of its themes is authority versus chaos.

But to me, a novel’s theme is not merely the abstract principle behind the plot; I believe that you have to bring a story’s theme to life through its characters. Ideally, several of the major characters should portray a variation on the underlying ideas that inform the story. Those characters will reflect the light and depths of your theme, the way the facets of a diamond show off its hidden fire.

In A Killer Workout, the second installment in the Fat City Mysteries, I created a “Mean Girls” theme. I wrote several different characters to illustrate that underlying idea. One character had been victimized by bullies in her youth–another was herself a bully. Still another character had grown up to become a protector of abused young women. Through each of these women’s stories and backgrounds, I explored the ideas of bullying, emotional abuse, and “mean girls” in various ways.

I use my characters to do a “360” exploration of the theme of each of my novels. The secondary characters’ experiences in terms of the theme are usually more intense and extreme than my protagonist’s. They act as “theme foils,” and they also propel her journey through the plot.

What about you? How do you develop the theme for your stories? Do you create your theme at the beginning of your writing, or does it emerge slowly as you write? And how do you illustrate your theme?
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Coming up on our Kill Zone Guest Sundays, watch for blogs from Tim Maleeny, Oline Cogdill, James Scott Bell, Steve Berry, and more.

How to write an evil character

My subject today is how to write a really, really evil character.

When I say evil, I’m talking about nature, not about motive. Evil goes beyond the normal catalysts that drive human beings to commit murder and mayhem–those catalysts can include jealousy, anger, rage, fear, even a distorted kind of love.

When I think of evil-doers (and I have to credit the former Prez for that phrase), I’m talking about psycho-killers. Cold-ass weirdos. As writers, sometimes we need to create those kind of unabashed, dead-at-the-seams, evil characters. We especially need to create this type of character when we are writing a big, breakout book.

Back in August, we had a week of posts on this blog about our favorite villains. But now I’m wondering, how do you write that evil? For example, who could forget the moment when Jack Torrance’s nonsensical pages of writing were finally revealed to his wife in The Shining? That one moment showed both his insanity and his being overtaken by the evil of the Overlook Hotel.

Just because it’s true, doesn’t mean it works on the page

One of my greatest frustrations in writing group is when someone defends their not-so-convincing work by saying, “But it’s true. It really happened this way.” So the f’n what? If it doesn’t work on the page, it doesn’t work, period. Writing what is true is not always convincing.

Here’s a true story that would be hard to convey in fiction: A successful, apparently-happily married scientist, the mother of an adorable toddler, one day decides to poison her husband with a massive dose of arsenic. She’d been building up with “test” doses for months, giving him flu-like symptoms. No one could believe she’d done it. Even the man’s parents didn’t believe she’d killed him. She was visiting them in their house when she was arrested by the police. Even when the husband was dying of the last dose of poison she’d injected into him while he was in his hospital bed, he still thought that they were a happily married couple.

It turned out that this woman was a true psychopath. She didn’t want the shame and perceived social failure of a divorce, so she decided to off her hubbie and start over as a “grieving” widow. There’s evidently no stigma to being a widow in a psychopath’s mind.

How do you write that in a convincing way?

Right now I’m struggling to write such an evil character, one of those people who on the surface seems to be a caring, warm pillar of the community. And even though this is one cold, unsympathetic creature, I am trying to wiggle inside her head through the writing. Right now I’m researching the type of emotional disorders that might have given rise to her pathology. And (as Joe points out in the comments section), a well-written villain-psycho needs strong motivation beyond mere pathology. Even Hannibal Lechter had that going for him. So I am also going to give her a powerful motivation to kill for what she wants, in addition to her psychosis.

And I’d love to know, what are some techniques you use to convey a character’s evilness?

Stay tuned for upcoming guest appearances at the Kill Zone:

April 5 P.D. Martin

April 12 Eric Stone

How “green” is your book?

Today we’re pleased to host Sunday guest Killer Liz Jasper, an award-winning mystery author and avid eBook reader. Liz is blogging this month for All Romance eBooks’ Go Green/Read e Campaign.

How green is your book, Dracula?

Earlier this week Michelle Gagnon blogged about Internet promotion for authors. The fact that I’m guest blogging here today is a good illustration of another common type of internet promo: authors popping in on one another’s blogs to “meet” new readers. The fact that I’m mentioning this supports another of her very good points: that it’s a small world in the author community. I know two of the bloggers here at The Kill Zone–Kathryn Lilley invited me here today. (Nonetheless, I’m using Michelle’s name at the top of my blog because I’ve seen her shoot a Glock. Okay, it was at a gun range for a Sisters In Crime event, but still. Girl’s got aim.)

I am spending my promotional time guest blogging rather than Twittering (not that an author can’t do that simultaneously) or updating my MySpace and Facebook pages because I hate doing those things. Hold on did I type that out loud? Ahem. What I meant to write is that I’m a Go Green/Read-E (book) ambassador. Which means I’m blogging to help promote ebooks as an eco-conscious alternative to the traditional paper book format.

Being green is important. Especially if, like me, you live in the sort of city where if you forget to bring your own, reusable, organic ink, fair trade, recycled material grocery bags to the supermarket, the collective laser beam of guilt focused on you is so awful you find yourself buying a fresh new set of reusable bags. To add to the pile you have at home big enough to form into a meditation yurt in the backyard.

However, as I researched things like how many trees a reader would save if he/she read 20 books and two newspapers electronically (one tree a year, which adds up to a lot of forests given all the readers in the world) I ran across a study that had already done this. (If you’d like to run across it, too, head for: http://tinyurl.com/cwj86y
Fortunately, my native eco-sensitivity awarded me plenty of time to ponder what else I could blog about. I thought long and hard during my eighteen trips back and forth from car to kitchen to unload groceries. (“You’re out of reusable grocery bags? Someone’s been buying them all up? Who would do that? Of course I don’t want plastic ones. Just load everything back to the cart.”) And what I realized, during a break on trip ten to protect the Chunky Monkey by carefully siphoning off the melty bits with a soup spoon, what I really should be assessing is my own contribution to global warming. Forget the paper versus electronic publishing format debate. What about the book itself?

As an eco-conscious paranormal mystery writer, what I need to know is this: Are vampires bad for the environment?

Think about it. Unless they have the bad fortune to collide chest first with a sharp stake or (in my books) step out into a lovely, sunny, existence-ending day, they live forever. Longer than Styrofoam. Or Twinkies. Or broccoli on my niece’s plate (unless I happen to look away, in which case the stalks magically disappear in a puff of air that curiously also makes the light fixtures above the table swing…).

It seems pretty obvious Vampires take up more than their fair share of resources, don’t you think?

Well…

On the plus side, and this is a big plus they don’t eat human food. And if you ever read the statistics about what’s trashing our environment, the resources we use to grow food are a big part. There’s methane from cattle (a discreet way of saying cow farts) polluting our air, fertilizer polluting our streams, etc. etc. Major eco points for Dracula!

Also on the plus side, the undead don’t commute. Not in cars anyways. Granted any vampire worth his sex symbol status will own a nice set of wheels, but it’s not as if he’s stuck in rush-hour traffic every day. No vampire with the least bit of brains would spend an hour or two a day battling road rage on the freeway when he could just turn into a bat and fly where he needs to go. (I assume any technology that would allow him to drive a car during daylight hours could also be used to protect his batty little wings. Excuse me. Very sexy, uber-masculine man-vamp wings.)

This is sounding pretty good for a vampire’s carbon footprint, except for the fact that for most vampires, one person equals one meal. Tsk. Tsk. Really, vampires of the world, do you have any idea how much it takes to get a pretty young maiden to eighteen in this country? In purely financial terms, estimates range from $38,027 to $104,532. Do you know how many McDonald’s Happy Meals the average eighteen year old has eaten? I don’t, but I imagine it’s a lot. Let’s face it, puberty, is one long Fry Emergency. In cow farts alone, the cost of producing one young maiden must be astronomical. No wonder cow methane is such a big pollutant!

Clearly, vampires need to get on board with the eco message of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. I know it will be hard–like telling a writer to lay off the chocolate near a deadline. But it’s important! Everyone must do their part. Including readers, especially, it seems, those who like vampire stories. Why not do your part to help the planet and make you next book an ebook!
You can find out more about the Go Green/Read e Campaign at http://www.gogreenreade.com/. To learn more about Liz Jasper and to read excerpts and reviews of her books, visit her website at http://www.lizjasper.com/.

You can find Liz Jasper’s Underdead mysteries and thousands of other eBooks on-line at www.allromanceebooks.com.

Stay tuned for upcoming guest appearances at the Kill Zone:

April 5 P.D. Martin
April 12 Eric Stone

When it comes to writing, what’s your point of view?

God, how I hate having to deal with point of view. Whenever I’m writing, POV feels like a technical constraint that limits expression. It forces me to make choices, to rein myself in and be disciplined. I really hate that.
And yet it’s critical that you set up POV correctly for your story. When you lose control of POV, you lose control of your story. And that’s when you lose your reader. (For an earlier discussion about POV, see our February Sunday writing blog.)
At one of my writing groups this week, we spent some time debating how to handle point of view in one of our member’s stories.

This particular story jumped in and out of the point of view of two characters within the confines of a two-person scene. On first reading, nothing seemed really wrong with the scene; I had to reread it several times to figure out why it lacked suspense and kept the reader at a distance. I finally decided that the real problem with the scene was its POV. In other words, there was way too much head-jumping going on.

So here’s a general guideline to help you avoid a POV trap:

Use only one POV per chapter or section (Sections separated by asterisks or a space).

The story we were reading in group had a POV that shifted between paragraphs (aka omniscient POV). That constant shifting created a confusing overall effect. I think it may be possible to present POV this way, but it probably takes an extremely skilled writer to pull it off. So why even play with POV fire?

Omniscient

The omniscient POV lets the writer enter each character’s head during a scene, and even lets the narrator provide direct observations. The story in my writing group is an example of a story that used an omniscient POV. It suffered from the same fate that omniscient POV stories usually do–the reader failed to engage with the characters or the story. Suspense was nonexistent.

Now that I’ve dissed the omniscient POV, however, I will admit that I’m considering using an omniscient narrative opening for my WIP thriller. In this case, the omniscient POV will function as a garnish, like the paprika sprinkled on top of the baked chicken to draw in the eye and make the dish look tasty.

First Person

Favorite of detective novel series (to the point of being cliche), the first person POV has decided pluses and minuses. It’s a very intimate POV (you know everything going on in the character’s head), but you can only know and see what that character learns and sees throughout the entire story.

It’s tempting to use first-person POV, but trust it from a writer of first-person POV mysteries, it’s incredibly awkward to try write your character into every single scene.
It’s also awkward to make sure that your character doesn’t “know” anything in the story that he or she hasn’t seen, read, or been told.

Limited Third Person

Similar to the first person POV, only it uses he/she instead of “I”. My sense is that this POV is getting less popular, but it may just be me.

Multiple Third Person

Lets the writer switch from character to character. This is probably the best choice for most thrillers. This POV lets you roam free on the range with the buffalo.

Mixed

This is a mixture of first person with multiple points of view. For example, some thrillers use a first-person POV for the bad guy while everyone else is presented in third person. This approach can help build suspense.
Second
This POV is so rare I forgot about it until Joe Moore reminded me about it in the comments just now, so I’m adding it back in. Second person POV is where the writer talks directly to the reader. No wonder it’s an unusual POV–I find it completely annoying.
To wit:
You’re walking along and then you realize someone is following you. You spin around and then…Blam-o!
Bleah.
So I’m wondering how you make your POV choices for your novels, and are there any POVs that you love? Loathe?

Lost in outer-writer space


Speaking of Writer Hell, as Michael Haskins was in our Sunday funny, I had one of those days in Hell yesterday. It was so bad that I completely forgot to write my blog. I have no excuse except that I’m in the final throes of Draft Two of Makeovers Can Be Murder, the third installment of the Fat City Mysteries. This is the time when my brain becomes a bowl of guacamole, littered with random creative-chip debris. I am literally walking into walls. People who encounter me on the street probably think I need to be committed, or at least routed into some kind of 12-step recovery program for the fuzzy-brained.

But no, it’s just me during the last-gasp phase of the creative process. It’s final deadline.

I’m working my way through my editor’s notes right now. How do like your editor’s notes? I love my editor, but I always wait for her notes with nervous anticipation. I feel like I did when I was sixteen years old and waiting for the college acceptance letters. When it does arrive and I read through it, I usually do a little dance because it’s inevitably far kinder than I could have reasonably anticipated. Then I settle down and address the notes one by one. They’re always right on.

What kinds of experiences have you had with editors in your career? And hey, if your an editor, what kind of experience do you have with writers? Are we a bunch of whiners? You can post as Anonymous and tell us the real scoop.

Can we dish?

Male or female author? You vote!


Okay, so Clare’s post about male versus female writing inspired me to put it to a vote–contest time! You vote whether the the authors of some writing snippets are male or female. You have to post a comment to win. The prize will be my favorite Indie Bookstore tee shirt:


If it’s a tie, the tee shirt goes to the first person to guess the most correctly. Everyone who posts will get a Kill Zone bookmark, if you send me your address! I’ll announce the winners next Tuesday. (Please–No spoilers if you know the author!)
#1
A warm Friday night in April, the air still and perfumed by lilacs.
Emily had to pee. I fingered her leash as she circled and sniffed the ground for whatever peculiar scent would tell her she had found the right spot.
Peter was on his way out the lane. He slowed his old Volvo and thrust his left arm through the open window in greeting. “Hi, Em,” he called.
I returned his wave and watched the wagon’s lights trail away. Emily cocked her ears as she squatted in the dust.
She would have preferred that we continue on for a walk but I was eager to get back inside, where my wife waited for me with chilled pepper vodka, a video-cassette, and a cozy spot on the couch.

#2
Captain Frank Bentille leaned against the door jamb and stared at them. Gray and black tweed pants and a gray shirt hung loosely on his gangly frame, making him look like a greyhound long retired from the track. The striped tie had a red spot from some recent meal. His close-set eyes were dwarfed by the dense brows that nearly met each other over his nose.

#3
The sound came at us like a prizefighter’s punch—a thundering, out-of-nowhere explosion tha shook the earth and nearly deafened us.
I stood frozen, unable to comprehend what had happened. A cloud of dust and debris suddenly billowed over the meadow as the echoes of the explosion continued to rattle and roar through the mountains, until soon the sound seemed to come from every side. There were other sounds too—screams and the quick crack of shots fired.

#4


Mabel wanted to follow the sleepy kiss—even cupped Em’s tiny, pert breasts with the rosehip nipples—but she had business to take care of. Baby Emma was twenty but easily passed for ten or eleven. The girl-child seemed built of warm and creamy vanilla scoops, and the blond ringlets curling in a tangle around her face looked like thick caramel drippings. Mable touched her lips again, softly, not wanting to wake the young woman too quickly.
#5

The hair! It was fair, sun-bleached brown with shades of red, still showing a distinct ripply wave. Six swaths had been gathered at the crime scene and brought to the his laboratory. Kyle placed them on a windowsill, where, when he glanced up from his exceedingly close work with tweezers and bits of bone, he could see them clearly. The longest swath was seven inches. The victim had worn her hair long, to her shoulders. From time to time, Kyle reached out to touch it.

#6

Gerald Kelley was as Irish as one could be and still live in Boston and not Dublin. His hair was reddish blond and thick and curly despite the fact that he was fifty-four years old. His face had a ruddy hue, almost as if he wore theatrical makeup, especially over the crests of his cheekbones.
Kelley’s most notable feature and by far the dominant aspect of his profile was his enormous paunch. Every night three bottles of stout contributed to its awe-inspiring dimensions. For the last few years it had been pointed out that when Kelley was vertical, his belt buckle was horizontal.
#7
So once I figured out I was in the trunk of a car, I remembered the blue Civic and from there it was a swift re-connect the dots to Jesse and Sam and the girl with the briefcase.
I also remembered that I had been shot, or thought I had. It obviously hadn’t been by a very good shot, since I was still around to worry about it, but it did seem fairly pressing that get some sort of medical attention. I felt like someone was digging a fork around my right side just below the arm pit and it hurt like hell if I took a deep breath.
Examine your own writing for male vs. female “traits”
While I was looking for excerpts to try to trip you all up, I found a site where you can enter your writing and find out whether your writing is more “male” or “female.” The site runs your writing through an algorithm of some sort to determine your score:
I ran a section of my own writing through it, and my score was slightly more “male” than “female.” Who’d a thunk it? Try running your writing through it and let us know the results!

Ripped from the headlines

Nurse Kills Patient Over Grudge
That headline grabbed my attention a couple of years ago when it appeared in newspapers. Here’s the story behind it: a nurse in a plastic surgery office was accused of killing a patient following a plastic surgery procedure. It turned out that the victim had stolen the nurse’s boyfriend 30 years earlier, when both women were in high school. So this was the nurse’s way of getting some long-overdue payback.

Talk about revenge being a dish that is best served cold.

That passing headline spawned an idea that stayed with me and eventually emerged as a subplot in one of my Fat City Mysteries (I won’t tell you which one, although you probably won’t recognize it in its fictionalized version). Here’s a link to the original article.

I was particularly struck because the story underscored how powerful our emotions can be, especially when we’re young. Who would have thought that a jilted girlfriend would actually murder the “other woman” who happened to turn up in her medical care, thirty years later? In addition to fueling a subplot for my story, the article also made me start reflecting on what was to become one of the themes in my book: jealousy and revenge. To write the story, I had to cast back on my own life experience to flesh out the character of the young person who would turn into a murderer.

I’m one of those people who was utterly miserable during middle school and early high school years. I was withdrawn, and had trouble making friends. There was a group of “mean girls” who made my life a living hell, especially in gym class. I think I can remember every joke they made at my expense, and every slight that was directed my way. Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I met any of those girls today. Probably nothing. But during the writing of this particular story, I made a conscious effort to dredge up those old feelings of rage and humiliation. The process helped me be able to see my fictional murder from the killer’s point of view. That was important, because I feel that in most murderers’ minds, their acts of homicide are justified. The victim has wronged him or her, and deserves to die.

I always try to get into my killer’s head, sometimes to the extent that I wind up empathizing with him. The killer may have used the wrong solution, but the homicide must seem justified, at least from that character’s point of view.

So I’m wondering to what extent other writers identify with the killers in their story? Do you have to tap into certain strong and scary feelings to portray the role authentically, the way an actor does? Do you want the reader to identify with the killer in any way, or at least find him sympathetic in some strange way?

Do tell.