Thursday, August 22, 2013

A New Old Book!

Twenty-five years ago, a new writer named Kelley Wilde brought out his first novel, a gritty urban fantasy called The Suiting. In its own memorable way, it proved that clothes make the man....

Now Reb MacRath, who wrote back then as Kelley Wilde, is bringing out a 25th anniversary edition of The Suiting. It will be available at beginning this coming Monday.

It's a great read, and as a special added attraction, MacRath is offering discounts on his other books, too. Check 'em out here.

And treat yourself. The language is crisp and imaginative, the people memorable, and the experience a rush. It's a somewhat refurbished new and improved edition, and it's a memorable read.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

"Just one more question...." Columbo used to say. Someone emailed me and asked, "Is it okay if I come up with more than twenty questions to get a handle on my characters?

Sure it is. You can come up with hundreds if you want. It's your book.

Only caution: Don't get so wrapped up in backstory that you forget your main goal - to write a book.

As for other questions, deal with things that lead into problems: What does the character do for a living? What does the character hate about that means of earning money?

If the character were truly desperate, what moral absolute held dear by the character might be bent or broken? How would the character feel afterward?

Stress. It's all down to stress. Jane Yolen, a lovely writer, once said "There is only one plot: Joe gets his ass caught in a bear trap and has to get out."

When you know your character thoroughly, all the background, habits, ways of thinking, philosophy, beliefs, you can really put that person through the wringer. Don't make it easy. Make it hard. And then make it harder.

And you know what? You're going to wind up with a story worth reading. So, yeah, come up with more questions. Knock yourself out. But when you get to the agonizing decision your character might face -

Stop. And start writing the book.

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Boss Is Back

If you like your tough guys really hardboiled, check out Reb MacRath's latest: The Alcatraz Correction.

Look for it in the Kindle store at! 

Twenty Questions for a Mysterious Character

When I first began to write, I soon became aware that my characters were, well, shallow. The plot pushed them around; their attitudes and outlooks changed from moment to moment. From somewhere - I don't remember where - I picked up on the concept of Twenty Questions.

Basically, you create a sketch outline for your character. You begin by asking yourself twenty questions about the person and answering them. They begin with the character's physical appearance, and they progress to the crucial issues in the character's life. By the time you finish thinking of, and writing down, the answers, you know your character much better.

Examples (your mileage may vary because you come up with your own questions)


  1. What is the character's gender?
  2. What is the character's age?
  3. What are the character's eye color, hair color, and complexion?
  4. What are the character's weight and height?
  5. What feature of the character is memorable to those meeting the character for the first time?
  6. What one feature of the character would the character change, and why?
  1. Where was the character born, and under what circumstances?
  2. Who were the character's parents?
  3. What was the character's childhood like?
  4. How did the character do in school?
  5. What kinds of partners is the character attracted to?
  1. Where does the character live?
  2. What work does the character do, if any? If none, why?
  3. What activities make the character happiest?
  4. What activities or circumstances upset or distress the character?
  5. What is the character's voice like when the character is tense, happy, frightened, or angry?
  1. What is the character's greatest secret fear?
  2. What is the character's favorite possession, and why is it a favorite?
  3. What does the character want more than anything but cannot have?
  4. What action or thought is utterly beyond the character's ability?
Having come this far, you may want to elaborate. That's fine. You should. Ask more questions. Find out what the character's great need (recognized or unrecognized) is; discover what the character's trigger points are for rage, for fear, for love.

Then write a biography of the character. Make it at least a thousand words long, longer if you really want to know the character. Zero in on the character's needs, desires, fears, and goals.

You're standing on the brink of a story.