Guest Blogger Tiffany Lawson-Inman: Don’t Let Thrillers Hog the Freezer

Hello Readers! I’m pleased to introduce Tiffany Lawson-Inman to the blog. She’ll be joining us about once a month to talk about all things writing! Welcome, Tiffany!!

Thank you so much to Justine for letting me preach good writing craft today. It is a subject very near and dear to my heart.

As another Thank You to Eight Ladies Writing, I’m going to offer a free online course to one of your lucky readers. If you respond to my question in the comment section, I will put your name in a hat and pull one out for a free online course I am teaching at Lawson Writer’s Academy. See below for more details.

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Friends (c) Warner Brothers Television.

Here’s a strange question for you:

What does The Shining have in common with Little Women?

They are both good enough novels to go in the freezer.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, this is a FRIENDS reference.  Season 3, episode 13, where Joey is so grippingly scared by what is happening in The Shining, that he puts it in the freezer when he’s not reading it.  To somehow stop or “freeze” the events happening in the book. He doesn’t want anything happening while he’s not looking!

Why?

So he can breathe.  

Joey is so emotionally invested in what is happening in The Shining that he literally puts the book in the freezer so that his brain and heart can take a breather. The pages of the book are scrunched from having held on so hard. He’s been turning pages like a mad man all night. He is hungry for what happens next.

Here is a quickie recap:

Rachel finds the book in the freezer and she razes Joey for letting a book get to him. But then Rachel kind of understands the urge to stop fictional time while reading a book that is just soooo good and she gives Joey her well-worn and page scrunched copy of Little Women to read; a book that he didn’t think could match the gripping ability of his much-loved page turner, The Shining. Which he then gives to Rachel to read in the book swap. The last scene of the episode shows a distraught Joey, so emotionally caught up in the character’s lives, that he is then forced to put Little Women in the freezer too.

Hmmm…this leads me to ask another question:

Why is it that we think only of a high intensity thriller when we hear the phrase “Gripping page turner?” Is it the non-stop action, fast pace, a billion plot twists, high stakes, extreme emotions, and exhilaration?

Joey would say, “Um…yeah?”

The stereotype-breakers are the books that I like to read.  Lisa Unger, Tana French, Elliot Perlman, Henning Mankell, Stieg LarssonThese authors PUSH your brain to read complex fiction. The best kind. While reading each of these author’s novels, I am always on the edge of my seat. Sometimes quite literally.

Why? 

I read books based on these three elements:

  1. Writing craft
  2. Character development
  3. Plot

Well, gosh…ALL three of those elements are at the top of my list for reading other genres too.  Hmmmmm….

Precisely.

What am I saying? Strive to make EVERY novel a Thriller. No, not with hype and a million plot twists or you-can’t-turn-away gory details, but with QUALITY WRITING.

Did you happen to notice that WRITING CRAFT is number one on that list?

Darn skippy it is!

Just because you are writing Women’s Lit or a Western Romance, doesn’t mean you scrimp on the high intensity.  It means add it in, in an alternative way. Learn how to tell your story with the best writing craft possible. Don’t write down to you readers.  Find out what works and what doesn’t.

That is what those pesky NYT best sellers are doing.  NYT best sellers have learned how to ramp up the character’s deep emotional detail instead of the gory details of any old thriller. NYT best sellers have learned how to show active environment even when it is simply a scene in a kitchen or coffee shop or a street corner. NYT best sellers have learned how to move story forward through dynamic dialogue runs.

NYT best sellers are NYT best sellers for a reason.

You say your Romance novel isn’t about life or death?

Phooey!

It is.

The stakes can be just as high as life or death because your character’s spirit will die if she doesn’t have her happy ending. Right?

I don’t care what genre you are writing, I want you to be at the top of your game.  And so do your readers.

One genre is not above another genre in terms of writing craft…or it shouldn’t be.  From authors that pump out a book every three months for Harlequin authors that have been working on the same novel for years and make it to Oprah’s Top Ten, if you are striving to be published in ANY capacity, I expect excellence on that page.

Not just because I am an editor, but, because I am a reader.

You DO NOT want your readers passing on your book because they have read the first chapter on their Kindle and they aren’t impressed.  You DO NOT want your readers struggling to finish your novel and in turn, never buying another one of your books.

You DO want your reader to be dazzled and emotionally attached to your characters, plot, and sucked in by writing craft.  How are you going to do this?  By following in the footsteps of the THRILLER. Dig in to a quality thriller and take note of how they:

  1. Show emotion through EVERY aspect of writing craft
  2. Show active description
  3. Show active dramatic moments within the dialogue
  4. Show character description and characterization through body language and dialogue cues

This is what I want to read, every time I crack open a novel, thriller or non-thriller.

So, writers, my last question to you: Is your novel “freezer-worthy?”

Before you go skipping off to slave over your laptops because now you have a renewed passion to slam quality writing into your novel, I’ve found a snippet from a quality thriller, by one of my “freezer-worthy” favorite authors, Lisa Unger.

And I have done a quickie dramatic dissection to show-off how Unger executes the Four Show list above. If your passion wasn’t renewed before, it will be after this.

From Darkness, My Old Friend by Lisa Unger.  

“I’m sorry,” he said. “Have we met?”

“I’m Eloise Montgomery.”

It took a moment. Then he felt the heat rise to his cheeks, a tension creep into his shoulders.

 Pop – visceral reactions as his response.

Christ, he thought. “What can I do for you, Ms. Montgomery?”

Showing us his thought and then the line – immediately gives us an invisible tone to his voice, without saying, “ he said, with an irritated tone.”

She looked nervously around, and Jones followed her eyes, to the falling leaves, the clear blue sky.

What a fabulous way to show setting and a little of what this Eloise lady is all about.  Why would she be looking at these things, unless she didn’t want to look at him directly? Unger is a master of active description and active characterization.

“Is there someplace we can talk?” Her drifting gaze landed on the house

Interesting – she is showing a lot with the way this woman is approaching the situation. She doesn’t want to look at him, she doesn’t want to intrude on his home, and yet there is a look to the house, as if to will him to invite her in, without her asking. Lots of stuff going on here between, under, and above the actual words.

Can’t we talk here?” He crossed his arms around his middle and squared his stance. Maggie would be appalled by his rudeness. But he didn’t care. There was no way he was inviting this woman into his home.

A strong reaction and an internalization – both very informative about his character.  And this raises a lot of questions in my reader brain – why is he behaving like this.  What has this woman done to him? A lot of emotion here for a man who didn’t remember who she was at first.

“This is private,” she said. “And I’m cold.” She started walking toward the house, stopped at the bottom of the three steps that led up to the painted gray porch, and turned around to look at him.

She still has not verbally invited herself in – but her actions say something else entirely.  Her dialogue is short and unapologetic, which raises MORE questions about who/what this woman is in relationship to the man in the scene.

He didn’t like the look of her so near the house, any more than he did those doves.  

On the previous page he mentions having to upend the home of some doves that had taken residence in the light inside his garage. They didn’t belong in his house either. Called them harbingers of death. Is that really what he thinks of this woman?

Birds make messes. 

This is a fabulous tie in to something he doesn’t have to describe again for us – we know he is thinking she is invading his space and is likely to make a mess. Very nice technique.

She was small-boned and skittish, but with a curious mettle. As she climbed the steps without invitation and stood at the door,

Nice slice of character description here. Love her word choice.

He thought about how, with enough time and patience, a blade of grass could push its way through concrete.

Perfect use of active and emotion infused analogy.

He expected her to pull open the screen and walk inside, but she waited. And he followed reluctantly, dropping his gardening gloves beside the rake. The next thing he knew, she was sitting at the dining-room table and he was brewing coffee. ****

Simple compression of time here.  And also an opening for even more reader questions, an opportunity for the reader to lean in and turn more pages. Very smooth writing. I can see every piece. Unger lays out the crumbs and her readers cannot help but to scurry from behind snatching each and every one.

Bravo. ****

My assignment for you, dear writers: Dig through your manuscript and make sure you are executing the Four Shows:

  1. Showing emotion through EVERY aspect of writing craft
  2. Showing active description
  3. Showing active dramatic moments within the dialogue
  4. Showing character description and characterization through body language and dialogue cues

Thank you for reading on Eight Ladies Writing today, now go forth, and WRITE!

P.S. I am on page 285 of Lisa Unger’s Crazy Love You and I have wanted to put it in the freezer about 3 times. AND my Great Fiction Examples file is sizzling from overuse.

I’ll tell you mine, if you tell me yours! The Lovely Bones and The Secret Life Of Bees are two of my freezer dwellers… My body can’t handle those high-impact emotions all at once.  It is the curse of Theatre college and the ability to live through the minds of characters.

Remember my offer from above? You comment and you might win one of my online courses! For the comments section – What books in your past and present have you running for the freezer?  Have you learned anything from them? Do tell!

Wanna learn tools to help you write a freezer-dweller? Triple Threat Behind Scene Writing starts in February.

And in March I will be teaching the course that has had writers begging me via email for over a year to sell them lecture packets or teach them individually; Action and Fighting in Fiction: Writing Authentic Choreography With Precision and Bite.

TiffanyLawsonInmanBioPicTiffany Lawson Inman claimed a higher education at Columbia College Chicago. There, she learned to use body and mind together for action scenes, character emotion, and dramatic story development. Tiffany’s background in theatre provides her with a unique approach to the craft of writing, and her clients and students greatly benefit.

As a freelance editor, she provides deep story critique, content editing, and line editing. Stay tuned to Twitter @NakedEditor for Tiffany’s upcoming guest blogs, classes, contests, and lecture packets.

She teaches Action and Fighting, Madness to Method: high intensity emotion, Triple Threat Scene Writing, Writing Humor For Every Genre, and Short Story Workshops for Lawson Writer’s Academy online. She presents hands-on-action workshops, and will be offering webinars this year.

55 thoughts on “Guest Blogger Tiffany Lawson-Inman: Don’t Let Thrillers Hog the Freezer

  1. I, for one, totally get Joey throwing the book in the freezer. I think that’s why I’m reluctant to read books like “The Lovely Bones” or anything by Stieg Larsson. 🙂 I know it’s going to be an emotional thrill ride (although not necessarily scary) and I hate that tension. Well, hate/love. I hate that I love it. And I hate the not-knowing. Yet when I do read books like that, I sometimes feel like I’ve run a marathon or something. Out of breath from the excitement and anticipation.

    So…freezer-worthy books…I may have to think about that one. Some books that I’d consider “freezer-worthy” weren’t written in this century. Or even late in the previous one! But they kept me on my toes.

    • Justine, I have had a few of Dave Eggars and Jonathan Franzen books in my freezer. Oh and The Memory Keeper’s Daughter (that one went in the freezer because I was mad at the father, lol) Both Eggars and Franzen have books FAR from the Thriller section of the bookstore. But their characters are SO lifelike! I felt way way way too close to their life battles within the books. YES, anticipation is a gripper in itself.

  2. Good Morning, Tiffany. Thank you for this great article, your examples really hit home. And, any blog that includes a Friends reference is tops in my book. Sometimes, I truly miss my Friends.

    I am hoping to join you for Triple Threat Behind Scene Writing, it looks like an amazing class and I would be so excited to WIN : )

    A couple recent entries into my “running for the freezer” category would be:

    “The Search” and “The Witness” both by Nora Roberts

    And (I think, because I am also in a season of grieving), the emotion in “Finding Hope” – Stacy Finz, and “A New Hope” by Robyn Carr

    From those books I learned more about deep POV, and holding your reader there.

    I look forward to following you on the blog : )

    • Ha ha ha ha! Yes, I think there is an entire generation or two that miss their FRIENDS. At the time it was a show like non-other. And I don’t think we have seen the same chemistry in a comedy sitcom cast since that crew.

      I’m sorry to hear you are in the season of grieving.

      I read Finding Alaska and If I Stay at a really vulnerable times in my life and I SHOULD HAVE put them in the freezer. But they were on my kindle…and I could. not. stop. reading. no matter how many tears were flowing down my face. So that is also saying something for the authors ability to keep you turning pages. Some books might cross the line when they are hitting emotional triggers and cause you to put the book down (or in the freezer) but John Green and Gayle Forman are using such good writing craft and the gift of true dramatic writing and yes DEEP POV…I just HAD to keep going tissue after tissue and page after page. 🙂

      I will have to keep Finz and Carr a try.

      Thank you so much for reading today! Your name is in the hat. 🙂

    • Hi acatlinwozniak: I agree with you that The Witness is an absolutely terrific book. I always think Nora Roberts does a solid job, but that one really blew my socks off. I’ll have to try The Search.

      • Kay,

        I’ll have to give Nora Roberts another try. I like her stories but haven’t ever been wowed by her writing craft. BUT it has be years year years since I picked on of her books up to give it a look. I will get samples of The Search and The Witness and If her writing craft can stand next to Unger’s writing craft and not faint. LOL, then I will consider giving Roberts another try.

        I know. I know!

        It is a blessing and curse to always have the editor brain running in the background while I m reading.

        😀

  3. I never watched Friends, so I’d never heard that term. I love it. It’s way to hard to narrow it down to just one or two books… Here is the current list of fun:

    My friends got me to try Longmire this year on t.v., when I found out it was based on real books, by Craig Johnson – off I went. I got his collection of short stories to check out his writing style and was sold from page one. I’ve now voraciously caught up on the entire series in the last 3 months – on top of everything else I have going on, because it is so hard to stop. His characters are so well defined that when you hear a few words of dialog, or a clip of description – you know just who. You’re in Walt’s head, and within a few words – you are there and they are incredibly tough to put down.

    I also love Jim Butcher’s wizard, Harry Dresden, I can’t tell you how embarrassingly fast I go through a new Dresden release – regardless of if the world is on fire. Jordan Dane – she packs a scene with every nuance… I always joke with her, that someday, when I grow up, I’m going to write scenes that are that tight and packed too. Also un-put-downable – Darynda Jones grim reaper/PI Charley Davidson, Angie Fox’s Demonslayer, and Jana Deleon’s Miss Fortune series. I call them candy crack books – you keep craziedly eating them until they run out, and then you go looking for another fix.

    • Oh dear. No FRIENDS? You might have to watch an episode or two 🙂

      Okay so you are the 3rd person to now rave about Longmire in a week, that must mean something, right? But I didn’t know it was based on real REAL books! Scribbling down his name for sure.

      Your list of candy crack books, yes. I have partaken in a”few” of those as well. They have a powerful pull. The pull for those books is more about their fabulous VOICE and stunning STORY than anything else. In those genres if you don’t have a lovable voice, you don’t sell books! And those authors have the BEST VOICEs in the game. You know it’s good when you get to the end of one and if you have a kindle, you just CLICK to get your next fix!! Very dangerous for the back account “Buy now with 1-click”

      Thank you so much for clicking here and reading today.

      I’m heading to Amazon now to look for Craig Johnson. THANKS! LOL 🙂

      • One of the reasons the show is so good and seems so true to the book world is because Craig Johnson is one of their “experts”. He doesn’t write for them, but he has a law enforcement background, he lives in Ucross, WY, he has a ranch, lives in the area with and has based some of his characters like Henry Standing Bear on real friends. Like he said – they’d have to pay to have 4-5 experts to replace him, so it makes it easy on them. He’s very impressed and speaks highly for how good a job they do on the show. They have partially adapted some of the books into the series, but the series has some different choices and takes on things, which as a writer is always interesting to see and explore, and the actors do a great job. As great as the tv show is, yes, the books are still better. 😀

  4. This isn’t for a second entry – but un-put-downable convinced me of the power of outlines. I was taking a James Patterson writing class – he gives you a copy of his outline from Honeymoon. Now his outlines are quite detailed – key points in a scene, how it should feel, some dialog if he has any thoughts for it already – 50 pages worth. (He says he spends his time on the outline which makes the writing quick and the editing minimal). Let me tell you I couldn’t stop reading the darn outline – I keep racing through it as fast as possible to see what was going to happen next. It sold me on the power of outlines- because if your outline can be that unstoppable, your book will be amazing.

    • Hmmm you are the first person I have come in to real contact with that has taken that class. Is it really a class? As in, do you get any feedback on assignments? Are there assignments? Any one on one time with Patterson? Or is it only looking through material on your own?

      Thinking it might be worth it to read that outline alone, sounds like. I always put TOO much detail in outlines, or so I thought. I like the sound of his process.

      Thank you for posting about the un-put-downable power of his outlines. Gives me something to think about. And if you have another second – answer my questions — I wanna know!

      Thanks again. 🙂

      • The class is a series of videos with Patterson (they are about 8-15 min long each), there is a course outline with notes and help and assignments. One of the items given in addition to the course outline was the option to download the course outline with his Honeymoon book outline which is kind of their subject book. There are assignments with the various lessons to work on. You can post comments and such back and forth on the website and on Facebook. Facebook seems to be the more hopping place. It was getting so large that they started to create additional FB pages for each so many people. Most people post up to the FB page for first lines, character exercises and things and everybody can chip in back and forth. The moderators are pretty good, there are always a few of the usual FB buttheads, but for the most part the environment is nice.

        There is a Q&A section on the site, in the course where Patterson has taken posted stuff and gone over the pros and cons of it. Anyone can also submit a video question- he does a few of those every couple of months. They’ve also had things ranging from daily prompts on the FB page to some big group sessions where Patterson is on – he takes a percentage of samples, examples, and questions – to they divide those who want to participate on a topic grouped into smaller groups to work together – over FB. They’ve also done a monthly reading (of a chosen book) and gotten together via FB for discussion.

        Getting tips and tricks and walking through the process with someone who is as prolific as Patterson is pretty neat. The man has done this successfully, regularly, and often – it’s kid and play to him. My biggest eye opener was the outline… I started to work on becoming a reformed pantser at that point and searching out how to best do an outline for myself. It’s mostly a change in brain, a shift if you will, from writing is the creative piece – no developing your story and outline is the creative piece (you just have to convince yourself of this and that it is the fun part). I wasn’t finishing longer “book” length stories because I would pants it, end up with probable structure problems I couldn’t quite determine other than “this just isn’t working”. This may not be a problem for everyone, but I think it was my achilles heel. After seeing that outline I can see where you can just sit down and easily write and the editing will be mostly typos and refining – rather than trying to redefine your entire story (being in the middle of tearing one apart and starting from the ground up right now I can tell you that is looks quite nice and worth changing a mindset for). If I remember correctly – he says it can take 4 wks or so to develop an outline (at this level of detail – which is especially important if you have co-writers). Then he can get the book done and off to editing in a couple of weeks.

        It’s not one-on-one like your courses would be, but they’ve worked to keep it personal. You do get some chances to touch the pencil of the great one, and there is gold in there. The price was low (I don’t know if it has gone up – I was one of the first groups last year) and I feel it was well worth the nuggets and stuffed gleaned. And some days you just go back for a quick pep-talk video and go back to get it done.

        • WOW. Thank you Penny.

          THANK YOU. I think I might have to give it a try. If not just to see the outline process.

          What a gift to be able to almost surgically alter a story without the huge headache of going into fully written chapters and mucking about that way.

          Sounds like a big lecture class with 300 students in an online auditorium to me. Which is good in some ways yes. I do like the one on one time I get to spend with my writer’s work.

          BUT maybe in 20 years when my name is 1/4 as big as his…hahahaha! who am I kidding.

  5. Hi Tiffany,
    Great blog post.
    I read mostly humorous contemporary MG, and some contemporary YA. Freezer-worthy? John Green’s A Fault in the Stars, definitely and Finding Alaska too. I just finished Gary D. Schmidt’s Orbiting Jupiter, pop that one in the freezer.

  6. So good to ‘see’ you here, Tiffany! Pat Conroy always makes it to my freezer! Also, Kimberly Belle!

    I think I do a good job with emotion, and viscerals, but I know my dialog could use work – hope I win!

    • Hey there, Laura! It is great to see you too.

      Thank you so much for popping over here today.

      I might have cracked open a book this weekend with a picture of broken glass on the cover…BUT because I am in the middle of teaching a class I had to put it down and mentally put it on my TBR pile. There wouldn’t happen to be any fight scenes in that book, would there? Any full on action scenes? Characters in peril? Let me know! I am still scouring for class examples 🙂

  7. Fantastic Tiffany. Definitely inspiring. I haven’t been writing on my novel lately and I feel the pull to the lap top to check the Four Shows. And on reading these comments, working on my outline.

    My first thought for a freezer book is Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code. I lost sleep and was rude to my family because I could not stop reading that thing. It was a take-it-to-the-bathroom book for me. When I first read it I borrowed the book, but I recently bought a copy because I figured I should study the craft aspect that kept me pulled in. For the second book, is it too obvious to say Harry Potter?
    Helen

    • Yes, HELEN! GO GET THAT LAPTOP! And if you are feeling apprehensive of how to execute the Four Shows – that happens to be part of what I teach in Triple Threat Behind writing a scene workshop. It’s a get-your-hands-dirty type of class! As in – I make you dig deep into your writing and rewrite it till it works. 🙂 Or some students watch while others get dirty and lurk in the background. But it is SO much more fun when I get to edit and critique a bunch of different work in these classes.

      And, yes, obvious! But so worth it! I even have a few Harry scenes broken down in my lectures because they work so well for teaching.

      Thank you so much for stopping by today Helen. I’m glad you are feeling the pull to write quality fiction.
      ~Tiffany

  8. The Age of Miracles and All the Light You Cannot See. Both would earn freezer space, except i keep pulling them out and studying how the authors presented character and story, how both were structured, why I pull tissues from the box repeatedly while reading. Also, The Road by Cormac McCarthy. How did he write a book entirely without quote marks which I read three times before I even noticed he didn’t use any quote marks? Why didn’t the man stay in the prepper shelter he found? Why didn’t he set up camp in the house hidden from the road? Why was he so intent on getting the boy to the sea? What would have happened if the family who rescued the boy had been bolder and made themselves known sooner?

    I read it and read it and read it and I still ask myself these questions.

    • Mindy,

      Thank you for popping over today.

      Hmmm… now saying that you pull these books out to study, I think that ranks HIGHER than freezer-worthy for sure. And good for you for reading and studying their work. That is part of how we become better writers!

      I’m giggling about The Road. I only read it once. It is not a rereader for me, why? Because I can still see EVERYTHING he wrote. Those images and emotions are still inside of me from the first read. And that is impressive. Okay, that and I don’t have a lot of time so reading a book more than once is hard for me to do when there are NEW and shiny books out there I haven’t read yet.

  9. The Age of Miracles and All the Light You Cannot See. Both would earn freezer space, except i keep pulling them out and studying how the authors presented character and story, how both were structured, why I pull tissues from the box repeatedly while reading. Also, The Road by Cormac McCarthy. How did he write a book entirely without quote marks which I read three times before I even noticed he didn’t use any quote marks? Why didn’t the man stay in the prepper shelter he found? Why didn’t he set up camp in the house hidden from the road? Why was he so intent on getting the boy to the sea? What would have happened if the family who rescued the boy had been bolder and made themselves known sooner?

    I read it and read it and read it and I still ask myself these questions.

    Mindy

  10. Wow! Just Wow! That was an excellent excerpt and your insight really helped me hone in on how it was done. If I’m willing to put a book down, I’m not going to pick it up again. I read romances and when it’s good (freezer worthy) I just have to keep reading and to hell with everything else. I have many books that I’ve started and not finished. So I just skip the freezer and don’t put ’em down!

    I always think the best reviews are “I couldn’t put it down”

    • Ashley – –

      Thank you thank you. I looked at that excerpt and almost didn’t post it because it was so short. BUT sheesh, look at how much thought and power she puts into every single word, line, punctuation mark?!

      Okay…I will stop gushing.

      For now.

      Yes. I agree. Skipping the freezer is where I would like to be with all of those couldn’t-put-it-down books but I can’t afford to lose that much sleep. LOL. I lose enough already with my toddler and teaching!

  11. LOVE this post! Ted Dekker (his older novels) were ones one I could totally place in the freezer and I’m just like Joey…with movies or books – I need that moment where I close the book or pass the tv and take a breath. But then, I do that with any type of intense story – whether it is one where I need to bawl my eyes out like Five Days Left. I want to write like that … I’m itching to write like that!

    • Steena,

      Hi there! Thank you for reading this today.

      Interesting that you mention taking a breath after an intense moment or an intense book is a trigger for you to release your own emotion.

      Hmmm… I am teaching a Madness to Method workshop right now that focuses on using The Method to bring emotion from way down deep inside a writer so they can get it out on to the page. I’m thinking you might benefit from some of my exercises and assignments, seriously! I’m sure you have the ability to write like Julie Lawson Timmer, you just haven’t yet accessed those dark n twisties and plopped them onto the page. I’m teaching it again in a few months…just sayin’ 😀

      Wow. I just read the blurb on Amazon for Five Days Left, “A beautifully drawn study of what is at risk when you lose control of your own life. Unique, gripping, and viscerally moving—this impressive debut novel heralds the arrival of an extremely talented writer.” —Jodi Picoult

      And if Jodi Picoult can say that. YOU KNOW ITS GOOD!

  12. Great post! I’ve read books that have made me laugh, cry, blush with embarrassment, and made me hold my breath while reading. Have you read the memorable RITA nominated Carolyn Crane’s Off the Edge. Wow. You are correct! It all comes down to craft and pushing hard, hard, harder and not compromising.

    Question…do you think if I stick my head in the freezer first it will improve my craft? Just kidding.

    Thanks so much for the blog. I very much appreciate the information.

    • Lyz, I’m cracking up. 🙂 Not sure if a head in the freezer would improve your craft, but would probably tighten your pores.

      Okay, If you can think of titles of those particular books that made you laugh, cry, blush, and hold your breath — pretty please type them up for me. I am always looking for fresh examples of fiction good enough to move the reader’s emotions.

      Now going to Amazon for the 5th time today to look up Carolyn Crane. Thanks!

      And thank you for reading today. I’ll be around on this blog all year thanks to Justine.

      Much more knowledge to come, here, AND in my workshops. 🙂

      See you around!

  13. Hi Tiffany,
    Great post. Freeze worthy book?
    I’d have to say Kevin Hearne for his fast-paced action, snarky dialogue, and compelling characters. I learned that white space and ping-pong dialogue are so very important and to check my own work them.

    Laura Drake for her great use of white space and fantastic character development. I learned that slivers of backstory are hard to do (for me at least) but when I see it done well, I know why it is so important to the reader.

    Kelly Gay for pushing her characters until they break and are forced to rebound and recover. I learned that you have to keep the character not just on their toes but balancing over an open lava pit to push the character to grow, change, choose a different way. Now if only I can get that one down better, I’d feel better about my writing. :0

    Thanks again for the post. Melissa

    • Melissa,

      Thanks for stopping over today. Glad you liked the post.

      I have an attraction to snarky dialogue too, if it is coming from a worthy character of course. 🙂

      I am now going to Amazon for…gosh I have lost count of how many times now after reading the comments from this post. I like good action/fantasy and after looking at the covers of Kevin Hearne’s series and seeing that you think he is freezer-worthy, lets just say I am excited to find a new happy place in this genre. Just sent myself a kindle sample. Woot! Thank you.

      Its pretty interesting how much we try to protect our own characters, even when we are pulling them over jagged rocks we are hesitant to pull as hard as we should or to believe the stakes can go any higher. But you can always pull harder because yes, the stakes can always be higher!

      I’m sure you will get it down. Sometimes it takes a fresh critique or edit on the piece. And practice. 😀

      Thanks again for stopping over!

  14. Well, I cannot really identify with the freezer concept exactly as the books I love, I cannot put down long enough to do anything else—including sleep—until I finish them. I cannot even put them down during the second or third readings. Lois McMaster Bujold does that to me with her Vorkosigan Saga. It doesn’t matter that I can remember basically how the individual book ends and that I know how the character does a dozen years later, I cannot put down the feeling of being there with her characters while they go through the story again.

    It isn’t the suspense, I get enough suspense from real life, that I don’t want it in my fiction so if I am worried (and at some point I am always worried in the books I love), I will read the ending. You would think that I would then be able to put the book down at 2 am. But it is not the suspense that keeps me reading. It is the characters who are so alive while I am reading.

    I picked up Lois’s first book (“Shards of Honor”) the year it came out and finished it at 1 am and started it over again because I couldn’t give up the feeling it gave me. I also did that with “Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers, not the first time I read it for some reason but the second time (which also became that same day/night) the third time.

    After reading your post I will now check out Lisa Unger, Tana French, Elliot Perlman, and Henning Mankell, I have already read Stieg Larsson’s trilogy.

    I would love to win your course on the Triple Threat behind Writing a Scene.

    • Okay now if that isn’t the best compliment you can pay an author, I don’t know what is. To start a book, finish it, and start it again because of the feelings it gave you.
      Wow. wow wow.

      Haha! I get worried for my characters too. And if someone tries to interrupt my reading time in the thick of a good book…not cool!

      Thank you so much for coming to read and share your love for quality writing!

      Yup, your name is in the hat!

      ~Tiffany Lawson Inman

    • Barbara, are there 17 books in that series?!?!? How dare you recommend an amazing book that starts a series this long to a writer, teacher, editor, mom of toddler, and wife that also needs to spend time exercising and getting her house ready to sell?!!?!

      Note the dripping sarcasm here. LOL.

      I was just surprised to see how long this series was. But still excited to experience this super amazing feeling that you wanted to extend into the wee hours of the morning. 😀

      Thanks again for popping over for a visit today.

      • Yes, 17 or so with a new one coming out the first week of February. Some are better than others and you might be able to stop around “Memory” but then there is “Komarr” after that. She changes direction as life takes its turns. The books in the series have accumulated more Hugo wins (reader voted) than any other author except the famous Robert Heinlein. The books are science fiction but that is merely the pigeon hole. Some are also romance, some military, some a mixture, some coming of age all within the lifetime of a woman and her son and all the people along their paths.

        I should apologize for recommending a series. I once got cited by the city for not getting to my weeds when someone recommended the Lymond series by Dorothy Dunnett who made some craft mistakes like using dialect in the first book. But she created a unique character and kept the reader questioning whether he was a hero or anti-hero even after he had proved himself in the previous book(s). The books mostly get better as the series goes along and you learn a lot of history.

        Oh dear, now I have made myself long to relive those stories as I mention them and since I am writing my own novel, I do not have time to reread. If you would like to test the waters of the Bujold books, or if your library doesn’t have the early books (although they usually do at least in e-books (although the originals were in paperback and then later published in hardcover about half way through the series, Baen offers the first four chapters of “Shards of Honor” on its website.

        • Barbara I snorted into my limeade. Unkempt weeds! Instant mini-film running in my head right now involving a crotchety neighbor measuring everyone’s weeds on the street, an unshowered woman reading book after book in her window reading nook only taking her eyes away to eat muffins and barely a glance as a city citation slides under the door. Ha!

          Hilarious.

          Thank you on the deeper look into these series. I will be hunting them down in my library for sure.

  15. I loved The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. Could not put it down. Maybe it was because I was stuck on a plane for 9 hours but I didn’t want to be interrupted by anyone. Second, The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. I loved the voices in that book and the story was very compelling.

    • Sharon that is a hoot.

      I’m sure it was the book and not the inability to go anywhere else or be entertained by anything else. I have heard wonderful things about that book and it is currently in my audiobook app to listen to. I just started listening to a few books if they have better-than-good narrators. Kind of hard to listen to anything else after Jim Dale and Harry Potter series, but I am trying. Ha! And of course once I listen and like it I usually end up buying the book.

      Sue Monk Kidd. Yes. Love her. 🙂

      Thank you so much for popping over and chiming in today!

  16. GREAT post, Tiffany. Great lesson. Really love the way you’ve dissected this snippet from Lisa Unger. Really lays it all out fabulously.

    I have a friend who uses the freezer a lot. And the oven. When she wants to chills someone or some situation, she writes the name or situation on a piece of paper, slips it into a plastic sandwich bag and shoves it into her freezer. Likewise, if she wants a person or situation or relationship to warm, heat up or sizzle, into the oven they go.

    I’ve even done this a few times myself, but never with a novel. 🙂

    Now off to my WIP to use the Four Shows.

    Karen

    • Hello Karen,

      Thank you, I am glad you enjoyed it and even more glad that you are taking the Four Shows with you to your WIP! I can smell the mental machine working from here. 🙂

      Tell your friend she scares me a little. LOL. I would take caution if you were to see any miniature dolls in her house that look oddly similar to you or anyone you know. Kidding! It is actually an interesting way to convince your mind to work a problem a different way. So there is that.

      Thanks again for stopping over to eightladies today. Glad to meet so many new people.

      Hope to see you next time.

  17. Great post, Tiffany. When I’m reading a good book, people try to interrupt me but my head and heart are so thoroughly entranced I hear and see nothing but the story which I cannot put down until I’ve finished it. Freezer books? Oh my gosh, so many I can’t count. My list would include Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, Frank Herbert’s Dune, Orson Scott Card’s Seventh Son, Watchers by Dean R Koontz, and anything by Stephen Hunter or Robert Crais.

  18. Lynette,

    Just by mentioning Watchers I got shivers up my spine. I think that was one of the first thrillers I ever cracked open and it freaked me out! A good freak-out though. I love being sucked into a book.

    I use a scene from Robert Crais in Hostage for one of my lectures. Insanely high tension in some of his scenes. WOWZERS!

    Anyway, you have good taste in good authors 🙂

    Thank you for reading and thank you for commenting.

    ~Tiffany

  19. Thank you all again for stopping by and reading and responding to this blog. I have a blast dissecting good writing and an even bigger blast helping writers strive to write Unger caliber writing when I teach. To see others just as passionate about stellar writing craft, well it makes me happy! Thank you Justine for making it possible for me to blog this week.

    I believe I will see you all back here next month on February 16th to slap down some more love for writing craft. I’m thinking it might have a romantic Post -Valentines theme…but with a punch and kick and a twist. 😀

    Before I forget, I did stick my hand in a hat with scraps of scribbled on scraps. Okay it wasn’t a hat. It was a sauce pan. Nevertheless.
    And the winner is ——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-Melissa “Inking Dreams” ———————–apologies, I couldn’t find a last name attached. Congrats to you, Melissa. In order to claim your prize, please email me at: lawson D O T tiffany A T GM A I L dot C O M Or tweet to me @NakedEditor direct message me, etc.

    Triple Threat Behind Writing a Scene starts February 1st and Action and Fighting in Fiction starts March 7th.

    And for those of you that didn’t win, no, it’s NOT a sign that you shouldn’t register for this writing class. It’s a sign that nothing is easy and you should PUSH yourself to take the class anyway no matter what the Universe had in mind when a name came out of the sauce pan that wasn’t yours. So I hope to see some of your names pop up in my student list in the next few weeks. Go to Lawson Writer’s Academy Courses to create an account and register for class. ( the links are at the end of the blog above. Comments wouldn’t let me add them in here.)

    See you when I see you!

    ~Tiffany Lawson Inman

    • Tiffany,
      Another fantastic class for me? I’m in. I’m still recovering from an Immersion & FAB 30 class with Margie but I’m excited to do another class soon. The writing classes at Lawson Academy are my favorite.

      Thanks again for the class, I’ll be in touch with you.
      Melissa Borg

      • Melissa,

        Well gosh my sauce pan spit out a familiar name and I didn’t know it! Well if you are too busy recovering from FAB 30, then you can pick a class a little further out. I’m now on the schedule to teach Madness to Method again in April. From reading your earlier comments (pushing the character into lava ) I think you could benefit from that one too.

        And I have a few new courses in the works for summer time.

        You know where to find me. Let me know when you want to jump in to one of my classes and get a taste of another Lawson editing brain 🙂

        ~Tiffany Lawson Inman

  20. Hi Tiffany,

    Yes, the Harry Potter series on audio is freezer worthy and has made me late for work on several occasions because I had to find out what happened next. Even after reading all the books and seeing all the movies, JK still has the power to hold me. I also loved the original Hunger Games, very immersive.

    • Pamela,

      YES!!! LOL. I was on a road trip and almost missed the exit because I was so so so so so deep inside the world of Harry Potter.

      Oh and btw if you ever have to go on a 19 hour road trip through the most boring parts of the USA….

      pack yourself some Jim Dale and Harry Potter !

  21. Lovely post, great comments. I thought about my “freezer books” for about ten seconds. “The Memories We Keep” by Walter Zacchius (sp) always comes first. Those characters survive so much and still have hope and love. Alexandra Sokoloff’s Huntress-FBI series would definitely be on the top shelf. Hazel Gaynor would be my next choice. I need a larger freezer.

    • Larger freezer indeed!! I should have thought twice about asking such a loaded question for a comment thread. I now have a TON of books and authors on my plate for digging into for full reads and examples.

      Speaking of reading, I have a new scene in class to read and edit today with YOUR name on it. Better get to it.

      Happy Wednesday!
      Reply

  22. Great post! I love blogs/classes with tangible takeaways and examples. It’s how I learn best. My “freezer” books are those that I buy hardcover/paperback, have on my phone and on my Kindle so I’m never without them (books are my security blanket and I need a ‘traveling’ freezer).

    “Me Before You: by Jojo Moyes tops the list. My original copy of “A Wrinkle in Time” given to me by my father when I was in middle school is another keeper. Darynda Jones is a go-to, and I bide time between her book releases. Right now, I’m currently on a Harlan Coben bender. Why I waited until now to start his books, I’ll never know! He’s been on my TBR list forever, and he’s now hindering my productivity because I can’t stop reading his books once I start (It’s his fault, not mine)

    All of these books reach in and grip my heart. I find myself identifying with the main character in some way–either by seeing them succeed in ways that I have not or by feeling like I’ve been in a sidecar with them as I read their story. At the end, these fictional people either teach me something or reaffirm something I may have known or forgotten.

    • Tracy –

      Thank you! I ALWAYS blog with tangible takeaways. Sometimes I even open up the comment section for mini-scenes and I will do a flash n’ dash edit for a few folks 🙂 so tune in next month for sure!

      Harlan Coben is a favorite of mine too. Emotion – great. Writing craft – great. Dialogue – great. AND — There is an action scene in Six Years that happens inside of a van that is just so so darn cool! His early stuff is fabulous too. Well he just pretty much rocks all around. 😀

      LOL, traveling freezer. Thank you so much for reading! I’m new to eightladieswriting.com and this is a very warm welcome! I can’t wait for February.

  23. Larger freezer indeed!! I should have thought twice about asking such a loaded question for a comment thread. I now have a TON of books and authors on my plate for digging into for full reads and examples.

    Speaking of reading, I have a new scene in class to read and edit today with YOUR name on it. Better get to it.

    Happy Wednesday!

  24. I love the active and emotional analogy Unger uses. It reinforces this woman’s inner resolve and also his inability to stop her with all his bravado. It’s like him giving in, but in a way that packs an emotional punch.

    Love that piece. I’m going go back to my analogies as a way to drive plot between character interactions.

    • Paul.

      Glad you approve. I am constantly impressed by writers like Unger. She works plot and characterization into so much of her writing.
      Nothing is wasted. No fluff.

      Have you read the Prologue to Darkness My Old Friend? It will blow your mind. And you will be running for your WIP to write yourself into a coma.

      Thanks for stopping over today. Hope to see you next month.

      ~Tiffany

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