Last Thursday I caught the premiere of the new Shondaland smash “How to Get Away with Murder.” I had heard of the show but knew zero about the premise before watching it, so I had no expectations whatsoever. Then it blew my mind.

 

Ignoring the fact that Viola Davis is a goddess sent from awesome actress heaven, this show electro-shocked my writer brain by doing all the things that a good story should do.  So if this were a book, what did they do right? (relatively spoiler free)

 

Title: How fantastic is “How to Get Away with Murder”? Provocative, indicative of the story and a little double entendre. Well played. Although not all book titles scream at the reader, a solid title like this one could at least get people to pick it up.

 

Open with Your Main Characters: There were many places that this show could have started. It could have followed some of the students around to get to know them. It could have followed the professor. It could have even started with the flash forwards. But did it? Nope. There was no prologue, no slow start, the opening threw all the main characters in a room and tossed conflict at them. Bam!

This type of opening achieves many goals. It introduces our characters and ensures that we want to root for them, plus it tells us the main conflict. On top of that, the dialogue is sharp and the scene is active, engaging the audience to want to know more.

 

Show Don’t Tell: Further to the introduction of the characters, this show did a great job of showing and not telling us about them. They don’t load the reader down with backstory, nor do they explain who people are, they just let them be and leave the audience to figure it out.

One particular exchange comes to mind in the opening scene. Wes is put on the spot for not having the assignment completed. He notes that he didn’t receive the email because he was waitlisted. Another student, Michaela provides the answer and is met with the professor’s scolding to “never take away a learning opportunity from another student.” Thirty seconds of dialogue, maybe less, and we already know that a.) Wes is likely not the smartest kid in the class and has a lot to prove; b.) Micheala is a know-it-all who is very competitive, and c.) Professor Keating isn’t just a hardnosed attorney, she actually does want to teach people and may not be who we thought she was.

There are other ways we could have got this information, but from this one exchange with characters we haven’t met yet we know what we’ve got. They continue this throughout the entire episode, only giving the audience what they need and in interesting ways. That, my friends, is showing.

 

Breadcrumbs: Anyone else notice the set up for next week’s episode? Of course, it’s obvious what this Thursday’s case is going to be considering it was spelled out in the last five minutes of the show, but did anyone notice that the characters in that story made cameos all throughout this episode? As a reader, we are already interested in book two before book one even ends. Now that’s a way to sell a series.

 

I’m excited to see where they take this show, or if the great storytelling of week one fizzles out by Christmas time, but I do know where I’m going to be this Thursday -- on my couch. Are you? 

Post CommentComments: 0Read Full Story

On September 24th I'm going to be included on the website swirlandspark.com as part of their Critique Corner feature. Three hundred of my words will appear on this website and anyone is welcome to leave their opinion. My project is called SLEEPLESS and is a YA horror/fantasy if you are interested in chiming in.

Post CommentComments: 0Read Full Story

Vampires are dead. At least that’s what the market says, and depending on who you talk to so are dystopians, angels, werewolves, fairies, paranormals, and sick lit. Oh, and apparently sci-fi is on life support.

 But now, just in time for Halloween, they announce that Anne Rice will be releasing PRINCE LESTAT – a continuation in the epic Vampire Chronicles. Granted Ms. Rice’s new story could be about Lestat in the Hunger Games with a bunch of wizards and I would probably still read it. However, it’s a vampire novel. Doesn’t the world not want vampires anymore? 

Personally, I’ve loved vampires since I was about twelve years old.  Scary ones, sexy ones, sparkly ones, I’ve read them all and loved each of their reincarnations. Even my first attempt at novel writing was about a vampire and I still have a vampire novel on my to-do list that I think is pretty original (it probably isn’t).  The point is there has always been a market for vampire loving readers and I think there always will be, the availability of good books just changes based on whether blood suckers are on trend or not.  

 So what does the release of PRINCE LESTAT mean for the future of vampires? Will the release of this new book have publishers begging for those manuscripts they passed on in the post-Twilight era? Or will it be a one hit blip that passes unnoticed except for the die-hard Rice fans? Fact is, no one really knows.

 My advice: Write what you love. Read what you love. Support the authors who produce the kinds of things you want to see, popular or not.

 What do you think about a new vampire book on the market? Are dead genres a real thing or is it just marketing hype?

 

 

Post CommentComments: 1Read Full Story

I've been working on this book called "Mercury Rises" and it's been tough. Why? Because it is very different from anything I've ever written. First off all my characters are human and -- SPOILER ALERT -- stay human for the entire book. There are no paranormals, no monsters, no ghosts, not even a well placed zombie. I can't even write myself out of a corner by dropping a hell beast into a scene and having my characters fight their way out. I guess I could, it just wouldn't be the same story anymore.

Words are coming slower than I would like and I really need to push to get the same punch that I get in my fantasy writing. There is no magic. Literally.

So why am I submitting to this torture? Because I love it! I love the story and the characters and all their insane humanness. And I can see all these wonderful things I've learned through this project that I can bring back to my other writing once I'm finished. Things like:

1.) Different tropes/rules : Obviously no one wants to a formulaic story, but some genres have certain tropes and expectations. Pacing, descriptions, character arcs or virtually any other aspect can be vastly different from one genre to the next. Learning to navigate different rules and how to bend them can provide new insights on old work and your other experience can breath life into a new genre.

2.) Strong characters make all the difference: We all want well-written, well-rounded protagonists but nothing reinforces this point then venturing into the unknown. A strong character can be a flashlight in your dark hours helping you navigate through unfamiliar territory. A strong character has depth and can work across genres, not just be pigeon holed or type cast in a specific story. I've seen some great authors take their characters from one world/situation and place them in something completely different and the characters still stay their fabulous quirky selves. 

3.) You might like it: Maybe you're high fantasy with elves kind of writer. Maybe it’s romance, or sci-fi, or whatever. And maybe you are really good at it. But what if you are really good at something else too? Being able to write in multiple genres can open doors. You may never do it professionally, but at least you know you can, and could if you wanted to.

No matter what genre you write, you can always benefit from dabbling in a project outside of your comfort zone. You might not want to bite off an entire novel lilke me, but give a short story a try. It'll be worth the experiment.

Anyone else jumped genres? What did you get out of it?

Post CommentComments: 3Read Full Story

Welcome everyone to my new website www.ScarlettKol.com.  I am very excited to be able to reach readers and writers on a new platform, and look forward to making the site better and better over time.

 I will note that I am not a huge blogger, but will definitely include information here when I have news or maybe when I just have something to say.

 So people, what do you think of my new digs? Any suggestions?

Post CommentComments: 0Read Full Story