Changing Ordinary People into Heroes!

In last week’s blog, I discussed fiction novel character development techniques. I ended the blog by stating, “Make your characters real and believable by first making them real to you.”

An evolving fiction plot is not very interesting unless there is conflict and some sort of change in your protagonist by the end of the story. It could be the resolution of a world-changing event in a thriller, finding the killer in a murder mystery, or some major change in your main character’s world or their specific world view that makes the story interesting.

The problem arises when an author attempts to make a character believable by making an ordinary character do extraordinary (heroic) things. How does the writer make such fiction believable?

The main character in my most recent novel is simply a guy with a troubled past trying to do the right thing. The problem is the bad guys keep getting in the way of my protagonist’s normal life. My protagonist has two choices: ignore a world-changing event and hide his head in the sand, or step up to right the wrongs.

My task as a writer is to take this character who craves a normal existence and place him in situations that challenge his entire idea of what a normal life should be and force him to make choices he’d rather not make. My protagonist is a successful pharmacist who owns a very specialized pharmacy practice; and, in the last two novels, he’s turned his back on his everyday world to fight villains and avert sinister events that could have global consequences.

How does a writer make that monumental leap, and successfully take the reader along, in a journey to evolve this everyday guy into a hero, and still make it believable?

The answer lies in how the first act of the novel is handled—how one builds a character’s world in the first 25% of the novel by drizzling in enough history about a protagonist’s life so that an advanced or second level of background on this character is achieved. This is how a normal character’s heroics come off as believable.

In last week’s blog, I stated that I develop characters by using a 3P Model: building on the physical aspects of a character, and including some important psychological aspects and specific philosophies of the character.

Regarding advanced character development, the writer must focus on specific traits and skills that the character might possess, but that aren’t often visible, to meet the challenges that the writer presents for that character.

These traits and skills might include:

  • Specific past traumas (both physical and psychological) that create specialized motivations to act out of the ordinary in certain situations. For instance, an adult abused as a child will react differently to seeing a child being yanked roughly by the arm than a person who grew up in a loving, caring family.
  • If your character has hidden skills developed in a previous job or an earlier environment, those skills are never forgotten or lost and can re-emerge as necessary when the character is confronted with a life-threatening event.
  • Hidden secrets can fester over time and force a character to react differently to tragic events. Creating an abnormal past for your protagonist allows secrets that should remain hidden to evolve into heroic actions when a character is confronted with saving his or her own life, or the life of a loved one.
  • Specific, deep-seated feelings can often explain why an outwardly normal person might act in an extraordinary way regarding a tragic event.

I delight in writing fiction and in creating situations for my protagonist that goes beyond the limits of his everyday world and forces him to act in extraordinary ways. To do that in a believable fashion, I must first load the character’s background with secret histories, hidden skills and past experiences that the everyday person has never been exposed to.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

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Fictional Character Development 101

As many of you know, I’ve recently published my third novel. Click HERE to Review or Buy! While deep in the process of promoting that book, I can’t help but look to the future and begin another one.

In last week’s blog, I spoke about what to do after publishing a book and how to fill that void. My best answer was to start another book—and I have. As I pulled out my storyboard (yes, an old school dry erase board – Lol), the first thing I did was construct the main characters for this next novel. To do that, I reread a couple of my old blogs that addressed character development.

One of those blogs particularly gave me focus and direction to create what I think will be a totally different, unique character never seen before in my writing. I found this blog so useful that I decided to share it with you today.

The following is a repost of that blog from more than two years ago. I hope it provides some insight into creating a character or two for one of your future stories.

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While it’s true that I often base a character on real people, transforming a mental image of someone into a fictional character is an intricate process. It’s comparable to applying multiple layers of varnish onto raw wood. You apply, buff, reapply, rebuff and continue the process until the wood develops depth and beauty.

Character development, in similar ways, layers all the components of a person in order to build a multi-dimensional being that the reader can connect with in the two-dimensional world of literature.

In the process of developing a character, I follow something called a 3P Model. I structure a character physiologically, psychologically and philosophically.

The Physical Aspects of a Character: You should have a good idea what your character looks like before conveying that to a reader. Physical appearance should first be locked down in your own mind. Even if you never specifically describe that character’s anatomical features in your writing, you should visualize a definite image.

Appearances often influence how others act. Hints of physical attributes give the reader much needed information to arrive at an accurate mental image. These images allow your readers to feel comfortable about how your characters act and how they interact with others in your story.

But a seasoned writer rarely goes into detail describing a character. Instead of saying, “She’s five foot eleven, has red hair and weighs 110-lbs,” you might say, “Her legs went on forever, her waistline the envy of most women, her flaming hair a perfect complement to her peaches and cream complexion,” or some other subtle, more pictorial description. Be creative, not biological, when describing characters.

The Psychology of the Character: Characters’ mental states—their feelings and their perceptions of the world around them—drive their actions. This is where background development becomes so important. Create a virtual life for your main characters, a pedigree that makes them who they are and which determines their actions. For example, a person raised in a loving family with close siblings would react differently in a given situation than a person who grew up in foster care or reform school.

It’s said that we are the product of our life experiences. For readers to be able to connect with the characters we create, we must construct full lives for our characters. That means we should know where and how they were raised, educated and what sacrifices they endured to reach their present state in life. Most of what you envision (preferably in a brief outline) will never actually be stated in your book unless it’s important for the story’s progress, but it provides valuable information to direct your character and further the story.

Knowing how a character would feel in a scene provides important visual clues that you can use to indicate what a character is thinking and feeling without wasting dialogue. For instance, a character fidgeting indicates nervousness and putting a hand over the mouth could express disbelief.

The reader should be satisfied that a character acts appropriately in any given scene. Your job as a writer is not only to write the scene but also to direct your characters to act accordingly. A reader should never say, “Hmm, he would never have done that!” It takes the reader out of the story and you lose the reader’s emotional connection to the character.

The Character’s Philosophy: Each of us has opinions and beliefs about most any given subject. Our characters should also be definitive, and those distinct beliefs and philosophies are what drive the story one way or another. An indifferent character doesn’t make for good storytelling.

A character can be indecisive initially and that can create important dramatic tension, but at some point their inner principles must take over. Without a character with strong viewpoints, there’s no reason for the character to take action—and that translates to NO STORY! Action moves a story forward and motivates our protagonists and antagonists to do what they should do to entertain the reader.

Characters can be good or bad, but rarely should they be neutral. Definitive characters create and drive your story. A villain’s selfishness and greed make good fiction as well as the altruistic concerns of a hero, but neutral characters lose the reader’s interest.

Finally, success is in the details. A well-conceived character has likes, dislikes, and specific needs—just as real people do. Everyone has merits, flaws and quirks. Your dialogue and narrative should be peppered with those of your main characters. The more these individual traits are exposed, the more emotional connection the reader has with a character. Make your characters real and believable by first making them real to you.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

Posted in A Jon Masters Novel, A New Novel By James J. Murray, A Thriller Novel, About James J. Murray, About Writing, Accuracy in Writing, All About Writing, Better Fiction Writing, Better Fictional Character Development, Blog Writers, Blogging, Character development, Character Development Techniques, Characteristics of a Fictional Character, Counterfeit Drugs and the Internet, Creating Interesting Fiction Characters, Creating Unique and Interesting Character Flaws, Developing Better Writing Skills, Developing Effective and Compelling Fictional Heroes, Developing Story Plots, Developing Storyline Ideas, Developing Writing Skills, Fiction Writing - A Believable Lie, Fictional Character Development, Growing As A Writer, Ideas for Creating Permanent Change, Imperfect Murder The Novel, James J. Murray Blog, James J. Murray's IMPERFECT MURDER Novel, Learning the Art of Writing, Murder Mayhem and Medicine, New Blog, New Thriller, New Thriller To Download, Pharmacists as Protagonists, Proper Use of the Written Word, Protagonist Development, Published Novel by James J Murray, Publishing A Novel, Steps to Developing Great Fictional Characters, The Art of Storytelling, The Art of Writing, The Writings of James J. Murray, Writing Skills, Writing Techniques | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

So, You’ve Published a Novel! Now What?

This is the question that many authors ask themselves each time one of their masterpieces goes to market. The writing, the editing, the cover art, the re-editing, the intensity to detail and all the other tasks of getting a manuscript to the point of taking that last irreversible step to say, “PUBLISH IT” can be daunting.

The end of all that frenzy, however, can be just as overwhelming with the emotional void that’s left behind and the lingering question, “What now?” Maybe it’s a sort of “writer’s empty nest syndrome” thing!

Certainly, there are continued marketing tasks, book signings, book readings and social media splashes, and the like to deal with. However, the question of what to do next, of what to create next, still lingers. An author is a creative soul first and foremost, someone who lives to craft something out of thin air. Uncertainty about future publishing can fester like a splinter left unattended under one’s skin.

There is a wonderful focus that takes over a writer’s psyche when writing, editing and polishing a manuscript. Although writing a new book creates its own challenges, a writer usually relishes that time away from the everyday world of chaos to create a work of “word art”—whether that art be fiction, non-fiction, essay, poetry, or the like.

From the many authors I have interacted with, the act of creating is what they identify with and gravitate to as artists. The marketing efforts are certainly a means to an end, whether that be for fame or fortune, but the general term of “marketing a book” involves tasks that are often uncomfortable, and even foreign, to a writer.

Since publishing my third novel Imperfect Murder last week (Click here to Review or Buy), I anticipated such a psychological void in my professional life. After all, this is my third novel and I did experience a sort of letdown after publishing each of my first two books.

This time, however, I anticipated the emotional roller coaster of the “high” of publishing and the “low” feeling of questioning what comes next. There was no “low” or void for me this time! I’m already in the process of creating a few short stories, some of which I may share in future blogs. AND, I’ve gotten out my storyboard to flesh out the plot for my next novel. It will be the second book of my detective murder mystery series that I published last year.  

This fourth novel that I’m starting, presently titled The Serial Chemist, is about a serial killer with deep psychological issues and a storyline that involves a very big surprise at the end.

So, I’ve gotten “back on the horse”, so to speak, and delved right into the creative process of fiction writing.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

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LETHAL MEDICINE (Click Here to Review or Buy)

~ 77% 5-Star Reviews ~

 

 

The author has created a very complex and enthralling thriller which quickly brings the reader in.”

“This book was a never-ending roller coaster ride full of never ending twists and turns. Put this book on your must read list.”

ALMOST DEAD (Click Here to Review or Buy)

~ 82% 5-Star Reviews ~

 

 

Another winner from James Murray. Enjoyed the twists and unexpected turns!”

“Fast-paced & entertaining!”

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IMPERFECT MURDER Paperback Available Today!

IMPERFECT MURDER

A New Jon Masters Adventure

~Available Here~

               

       E-Book                           or                       Paperback

Jon Masters learns that trusted friend and mentor, Dan Whitmore, has died. Although the police have ruled the death a suicide, Dan’s wife, Sheila, believes her husband was murdered and pleads with Jon to help her prove it.

Despite conflicting evidence and an uncooperative police detective, the case is reopened as a murder investigation. Retracing the last hours of Dan’s life, Jon uncovers information to indicate his friend was not only murdered but possibly implicated in distributing pharmaceuticals which could put millions of lives at risk.

Was Dan a willing accomplice or an innocent victim? The answer surprises even Jon. As he races to identify Dan’s killer, a two-fold conspiracy to undermine the world’s drug delivery system as well as to destabilize international politics unfolds.

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Haven’t read the first Jon Masters novel yet?

No Problem!

Order Imperfect Murder as an eBook or Paperback by June 10th, 2017, attach/scan the receipt to an email and send to lethalmedicine.coupon@gmail.com. You will receive a return email with a coupon for a FREE eBook download of Lethal Medicine within 15 days.

 

Posted in A Jon Masters Novel, A New Novel By James J. Murray, A Thriller Novel, About James J. Murray, About Medications/Pharmacy, About Murder, All About Murder, All About Writing, Blog Writers, Blogging, Bloodless Death Scene Writing, Ideas for Murder Scenes, Imperfect Murder The Novel, James J. Murray Blog, Lethal Medicine-The Novel, murder by strangulation, New Blog, New Book Is Published, New Book Release, New Free E-Book, New Novel Published, New Novel Release, New Thriller, New Thriller To Download | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

SUMMER SERIES SPECIAL – NEW BOOK RELEASE

My New International Thriller

Available for Pre-Order (Click Here)

Official Release Date – May 31, 2017

IMPERFECT MURDER

(A Jon Masters Novel – Book 2)

Jon Masters learns that trusted friend and mentor, Dan Whitmore, has died. Although the police have ruled the death a suicide, Dan’s wife, Sheila, believes her husband was murdered and pleads with Jon to help her prove it.

Despite conflicting evidence and an uncooperative police detective, the case is reopened as a murder investigation. Retracing the last hours of Dan’s life, Jon uncovers information to indicate his friend was not only murdered but possibly implicated in distributing pharmaceuticals which could put millions of lives at risk.

Was Dan a willing accomplice or an innocent victim? The answer surprises even Jon. As he races to identify Dan’s killer, a two-fold conspiracy to undermine the world’s drug delivery system as well as to destabilize international politics unfolds.

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~ SUMMER SERIES SPECIAL SALE ~

 Imperfect Murder is Book 2 in the Jon Masters Series.

Lethal Medicine (Book 1) was released in 2016 and is available FREE with any pre-order purchase of Book 2.

 1) Pre-Order Imperfect Murder as an eBook by May 31st

2) Email the receipt to: lethalmedicine.coupon@gmail.com

3) Receive a FREE coupon for the Lethal Medicine eBook

**Specifics** Order Imperfect Murder as an eBook on or before May 31, 2017 and attach/scan the receipt to an email and send to lethalmedicine.coupon@gmail.com. You will receive a return email with a coupon code for a FREE eBook download of Lethal Medicine (Book 1 of the Jon Masters Series) within 15 days.

**NOTE:** Lethal Medicine is the prequel to Imperfect Murder and it might be best to read them in order (but it’s not entirely necessary).

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PAPERBACK VERSION of Imperfect Murder

Available on Amazon  –>  STARTING May 31, 2017

Posted in A Jon Masters Novel, A New Novel By James J. Murray, A Thriller Novel, About James J. Murray, About Medications/Pharmacy, About Murder, Blog Writers, Blogging, Ideas for Murder Scenes, Imperfect Murder The Novel, James J. Murray Blog, New Blog, New Book Is Published, New Book Release, New Thriller | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Malaria Vaccine Breakthrough!

It has been estimated that half of the modern world’s population is at risk for malaria—either by infection in one’s homeland or through travel to areas prominent with the mosquito-borne disease. In 2015, there were 212 million cases. Of those, over half a million deaths resulted, and seventy percent involved children less than five years old.

Although malaria is a dreaded disease of the present-day world, it has been around and recognized since ancient times. References to it date back to Mesopotamia. In 270 BC, the Chinese Medical Book (called New Chin) addressed the disease.

Through worldwide educational efforts, advances in preventative medications and improvements in mosquito control, there has been a sixty percent decrease in malaria deaths worldwide over this and the last century—and an almost thirty percent decrease in mortality since 2010.

Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that one of several malaria vaccines in development has made it through the crucial phases of testing and is now ready for advanced field testing in humans. Past Phase 3 trials in Sub-Saharan Africa decreased the mortality rate by fifty percent in 11,000 vaccinated children.

Starting in 2018, this specific malaria vaccine will be administered to over 120,000 children between the ages of five and seventeen months living in three African nations: Kenya, Ghana and Malawi.

Although the goal of the World Health Organization is to eliminate malaria by 2040 and this vaccine brings that potential achievement one step closer to fruition, there are still challenges to be addressed if this disease is to be fully eliminated in the coming decades. These include adequate access to the vaccine in many parts of the world where clean water and travel to clinics remain the primary barriers, particularly since the vaccine requires multiple doses (boosters) to effectively prevent the disease onset.

Much work still needs to be done to eliminate this disease that affects so many of the world’s population, especially children, but there is renewed hope for a vaccine to eradicate the world of malaria.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

Posted in About James J. Murray, Blog Writers, Blogging, Children and Deadly Malaria, Developing Vaccines, James J. Murray Blog, Malaria is a Parasitic Infection, Malaria Vaccine Saves Lives, New Blog, New Developments in Vaccine Therapy, New Drug Discoveries, New Drug Manufacturing Methods, New Drug Research, New Malaria Vaccine, New Vaccine Discoveries, Pharmacy/Pharmaceuticals, Prescription For Murder Blog | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

DEA Lowers the BOOM on Kratom!

The herb kratom, from the leaves of the tropical tree Mitragyna speciosa which grows in parts of Africa and Southeast Asia, has been used for centuries in folk medicine as a psychoactive drug to improve mood and relieve pain.

Kratom has been in the news as a relatively new street drug and has been linked to hospitalizations and multiple deaths from its use. Therefore, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is rushing to criminalize this substance by attempting to make it a Schedule 1 drug (as is heroin, LSD, cocaine, and other illegal drugs). There are also state agencies addressing the issue.

Kratom supporters—and even some drug policy experts—argue, however, that the DEA is acting too hastily to lump kratom into the opiod epidemic that this and other nations around the world are experiencing. They argue that the reported injuries and deaths from kratom abuse involve only individuals who test positive for multiple abused substances or who suffer from pre-existing medical conditions.

To date, the only significant side effects of consuming too much kratom are nausea and vomiting.

Scientists have provided preliminary evidence that kratom could become a promising prescription drug to treat chronic pain, depression, anxiety and opioid addiction. Certain members of the scientific community are siding with kratom proponents who are petitioning the DEA to allow additional time for further study of this ancient substance before outlawing the drug altogether.

Research has demonstrated that kratom provides both stimulant and sedative effects, depending on the dose given. The tree from which kratom is extracted is in the Rubiaceae family, the same family as Coffea—the genius of flowering plants that produce coffee beans.

These research results indicate that the two main alkaloid substances in kratom (mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitagynine) create a combination of CNS stimulation and depressant effects by binding to monoaminergic and opioid receptors in the brain.

Although most opioids have only pain relieving and sedative effects, low to moderate doses of kratom create a mild stimulant effect, and a larger dose relieves pain without the sedative side effects of opioids.

Current thinking is that when an opioid drug binds to a receptor site in the brain, it triggers a number of different responses in a cell in a sort of protein cascade effect. One response is pain relief, while another triggers the negative side effects of respiratory depression and even comatose sedation—both of which are responsible for many opioid deaths.

Kratom, on the other hand, stimulates the painkilling response, but it doesn’t have much effect on the proteins that cause the sedative and depressant side effects. Thus, this ancient herb has potential as an opioid-like painkiller without the risky side effects. It could even be used to relieve opiate addiction. Unfortunately, it is this same attribute that also makes it a popular street drug.

Ironically, the United States government has mandated (through additional regulations) that doctors prescribe fewer opiates to prevent increased drug abuse, but the DEA is rushing to ban kratom, an herbal alternative that could possibly help in that fight.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

Posted in A How To Blog on Murder Plot Ideas, A New Drug Abuse Threat, A New Street Drug, About Ancient Forgotten Cures, About James J. Murray, About Medications/Pharmacy, Alternatives to Opiate Painkillers, Ancient Curing Potions, Blog About Poisons in Fiction Writing, Blog Writers, Blogging, Bloodless Death Scene Writing, Botanical Murder Weapons, Botanicals That Kill, Current Research on Kratom, Deaths From Kratom, Designer Drug Deaths, Designer Drugs of The Past, Designer Street Drugs, Designing Murder Plots, Dramatic Murder Weapons, Drug Abuse, Drug Poisoning, Euphoric Party Drugs, Herbal Pain Killers, How To Write A BloodLess Murder Scene, Ideas for Murder Scenes, James J. Murray Blog, Kratom Abuse, Kratom and Its History, Kratom to Relieve Pain, Lethal Botanicals, Medical Potential of Kratom, Murder Mayhem and Medicine, Murder With Party Drugs, New Blog, New Drug Research, New Methods To Kill Characters in Your Novel, New Ways to Manufacture Painkillers, Plotting Interesting Murder Scenes, Prescription For Murder Blog, Psychoactive Designer Drugs, Street Drug Abuse Substances, Street Drug Overdosing, Street Drugs From History, Street Drugs of The Past, The Science of Murder | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment