I continue my report on the Killer Nashville writers' conference in August with a panel populated by several stellar mystery authors.
2:00 Saturday August 26 – I’m not the Same Anymore: Character Arcs
Catherine Dilts – moderator; J. A. Jance, Margaret Mizushima, Sharon Marchisello, Karen McCullough, Howard Owen
I was the moderator for this panel of gifted authors, speaking on the topic of how to maintain character arcs over the course of a novel, or a series. Unfortunately, I didn't get a photo of this panel. I opened by giving two definitions.
If you Google character arc, the ever helpful Wikipedia gives you this definition:
A character arc is the transformation or inner journey of a character over the course of a story. If a story has a character arc, the character begins as one sort of person and gradually transforms into a different sort of person in response to changing developments in the story.
On the other hand, the Narrative First website adds this caveat:
Not all growth is transformative. Sometimes a person can grow by maintaining their position, shoring up their resolve against whatever is thrown at them. This is no less meaningful than the kind of growth where someone changes who they are or how they see the world.
I asked how authors keep track of character arc, and whether they are ever surprised by their characters.
Best-selling author of multiple series J. A. Jance said she maintains a file for characters with details including physical descriptions and weapons they use. Even then, details can slip over the course of a series. This is where Jance told the audience GYAB: Give Yourself A Break. Jance does not outline. She said the story is “all a surprise.”
Howard Owen began writing a short story that became a novel series. He pins pictures to a board to keep track of his characters. Sharon Marchisello is a pantser, but does keep a spreadsheet of her characters. Karen McCullough’s Market Center mysteries were planned as a series. She uses One Note to track character arc. Margaret Muzushima outlines her Timber Creek K-9 series. She has been surprised when character arc changed as she wrote the story.
I went from moderating, to being on the next panel.
3:00 Saturday August 26 – It’s Not About Selling Books: Social Media for Writers
Julie Schoerke – moderator; Catherine Dilts, Michelle Kubitz, Jenean McBrearty, Warren Moore, Shari Stauch
I do have a photo of this panel, but by Saturday afternoon some of us were definitely worn out. Instead, check out the photo of the fun elevators in the Embassy Suites Hotel. Some of us encountered Elevator Boy, a young man very serious about pretending to be an elevator operator.
Julie Schoerke guided a lively discussion on this panel covering social media venues like Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and blogging. All agreed that aggressively and relentlessly pushing a buy-my-book message is guaranteed to fail. Establishing a presence on social media consistent with your fiction is a better tactic.
One panelist was still full of energy. Ah, youth! Michelle Kubitz was knowledgeable about all things social media. She was also runner up for the Claymore Award.
I chatted with authors in the book store for a while, then hurried to Room 224 to hear the solution to the staged Crime Scene. I did not get my paperwork in on time to be a contender for the prize, but I had to know whodunnit.
5:40 Saturday August 26 – The Killer Nashville Crime Scene Explained
I won’t give the solution, because it would lack meaning. Solving a conference crime scene is a “you had to be there” kind of deal. I will say that former Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) Assistant Director Dan Royse did a great job of explaining how law enforcement would put together the clues to solve an actual crime. Much time, creativity, and labor went into setting up the mock crime scene, the suspect interviews, and the scenario. This was one of the highlights of the conference.
My husband and I went to the Networking Open Bar, where we chatted with new friends. My husband decided his new purchases of special Jack Daniels whiskey and liquor were preferable to the free drinks offered at the bar. We met up with Sisters in Crime for dinner at Pasta & Cream, a little place in Franklin. Several of the Sisters were attending the awards banquet. I dragged my husband along with the promise that he wouldn’t be the only guy, but the other Mister bailed at the last minute. Somehow, he survived being surrounded by women authors chatting about murder scenarios.
I was exhausted from another full day at Killer Nashville. Next week, I’ll finish blogging about Killer Nashville with Day Three, and closing words of inspiration.
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