Book: Silent in the Sanctuary

Title: Silent in the Sanctuary
Author: Deanna Raybourn
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Length: 552 pgs

Summary: Lady Julia Grey is back from her Italian getaway, where she recovered from the loss of her husband, the shock of discovering who killed her husband, the confusing emotions toward the detective hunting her husband’s murderer, and the smoke inhalation from the night all these factors came together in a literal blaze of fury. Home for Christmas in Sussex, Lady Julia is shocked to see among the guests Brisbane, the aforementioned detective, who is newly engaged to one of the silliest women she has ever laid eyes on. When murder happens in the abbey, it is up to Lady Julia and Brisbane to solve the crime despite their tumultuous history.

pg 158 – She proceeded to comment on everything we passed–the symmetry of the maze, the magnificence of the bell tower, the cleverness of the carp ponds.

And then she saw the gates. She went into raptures about the iron hares that topped them, the darling little gatehouse, the pretty shrubbery by the road. Another twenty minutes was spent on the straightness of the linden allee, and by the time we reached the village of Blessingstoke, my ears had gone numb with the effort of listening to her.

“So many words,” he murmured. “I did not think one person could know so many words.”

pg 482 – “That’s the trouble with women,” she said wonderingly. “We know what we oughtn’t do, but when a man comes along, we only hear his voice, and not our own.”

pg 497 – I finally ran him to ground in the library, gamely working his way through Pride and Prejudice. He sprang to his feet when I entered, smiling broadly.

I nodded to the book. “How are you enjoying Jane Austen?”

He waggled his hand from side to side. “She is a little silly, I think.”

Now I was more certain than ever in my decision. I could not love a man who did not love Jane Austen.

Why should you read this book?
Contrary to many of the reviews that I read on, I really liked this book precisely because the continued love-hate relationship from the previous book, Silent in the Grave, was in no way resolved, and in a way that was true to the characters. That’s genius, if you ask me, because it keeps the true fans of the series panting for more. This book is funny, charming, and portrays High Victorian Society oh so well. The setting is well-written without overtaking the plot, the characters are snappy, and my favorite device is used: giving tertiary characters their own subplots that affect the whole.

Read this book for a sophomore attempt that was as good (if not better) than the first, for a lesson in creating characters that don’t fit in their own society and yet seem genuine to the reader, a true puzzle of a crime, a charming and funny narrator, a passionate romance with no real sense of a happy ending (must continue to read the series!), and the only series in a long time that has an alpha romance lead that doesn’t make me want to shoot him.

Five Tips on Character Building through Adversity

We don’t remember Scarlett O’Hara for her beauty, we remember her because she survived countless marriages, a war, childbirth, poverty, sickness, the end of the world as she knew it, and heartbreak on a monumental scale. And she’s flawed, boy, is she flawed. And a brilliant character. You either love her, or hate her. So how do you make your own Scarlett?

It should be cliche at this point: Know your character. Sometimes you will only know your character after you’ve thrown a couple of bad situations at them. I really do suggest sitting somewhere with a journal, and ask yourself, “What if…?” What would she do? Who does she turn to? Inward for self-reflection, or outward for comfort?Don’t know what to throw at her? That’s okay, I’ve also provided you with a list of bad things that you can use as a starting point…

  1. Physical adversity. Death, dismemberment, sickness. Everyone will go through at least two of these in their life, so your character better have some experience with at least one of them.

    Sometimes this is the worst thing that can happen to your character. But what if it isn’t? Don’t be afraid to pile on the adversity. The worse the situation is, and the more empathetic your character is, the more you hook your reader.

  2. Unfulfilled desire. No one ever gets things the way they want all the time, every time. What if your character is used to getting her way, and one day doesn’t? What if this moment completely alters her understanding of herself and the world around her? What does she do? Does her desire destroy her, does she rise above it? Does she ruin the lives of those around her in her quest to satisfy her desire?

    Note this desire doesn’t have to be romantic in nature. In fact, if it isn’t, and you’re writing a romance, what a great twist to your story! Suddenly you’ve added a new dimension to your romance, making it all the more believable. No one in the real world has time to only worry about their romantic life, so why should your characters?

  3. Haunting past. Regrets about things you didn’t do. Regrets about things you did. Each of us is interesting because we have personal histories. For instance, many think I savor my food, or that I just eat slowly. I do this now, but it started because my baby brother choked many times as a child, and one time I panicked instead of remaining calm. My father had to perform the Heimlich even though I’d been trained by the Red Cross. From that moment, I realized how easily it is to be careless and put your life in danger.

    See how much you learned about me just by hearing how I eat? The moral of the story is: Don’t discount the little things. They are the collection of moments that create our personalities and fill the prologues of our lives.

  4. Use the time period to your advantage, and against your character’s. The women of today are strong-willed and ready to shout it from the rooftops. The women of yesterday were just as strong-willed, but required the mastery of subtlety or they might suffer the rule of thumb. If your character wants to do something that she just wouldn’t have done in your chosen time period, don’t give it up for the sake of the time period.

    Use the frustration to build your character, showing the reader just what sort of a person she is.

  5. Go with it. Sometimes you’ll surprise yourself with the scenarios you create. Actually, I hope you surprise yourself. In fact, you better surprise yourself. If your scenarios don’t surprise you, you won’t surprise your reader, and that’s bad.

    What’s really great is when a character surprises herself. But again, you need to know your character well enough to know when she can surprise herself. As a hint, use your research to spark your imagination. Read old newspapers and be amused and shocked by what happened back then. Truth really is stranger than fiction.

I’m using all of these techniques against my character, and while it pains me to write scenes where my character suffers, I’m also ridiculously proud of her stamina against adversity.

So tell me, what is the worst situation you’ve thrown at your characters? And how did you feel while writing those scenes: timid, worried, daring, jubilant?

Tension Tips

Fear Factor
Get inspiration from your own fears and phobias – if it scares you, the chances are it will scare a good proportion of your readership. Primal fears go to the very route of who we are and can be particularly effective if they’re magnified or exaggerated for the purposes of your story.

Short and Sweet
Use short sentences to keep your prose tight and efficient. This will help create tension, whereas longer, description-heavy passages will slow down the pace. And if you’re writing a novel, keep your chapters short. Not only will this crank up the stress, readers will be encouraged to read more of your book!

Shock Treatment
Keep readers guessing by leaving each chapter or scene on a cliffhanger of some sort. It doesn’t have to be one of your characters in a life-threatening situation each time, but you should aim to have your readers wanting to know what happens next.

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Horror Fiction

Think you’re just a simple fiction writer? That your romance doesn’t have anything to do with horror? I find that the best fiction has elements of multiple genres, or at least tricks from multiple genres. You want to add tension, or make your antagonist creepy and scary? Try applying some of these horror fiction hints to bring out that creep factor. Even if in the end you decide it’s not for you, it will make for a great writing exercise!

Horror Fiction Unearthed
by Shaun Hutson

Getting a Reaction
Can you hear scratching at your door while you’re reading this? Nothing too insistent. It might just be a sound you haven’t heard before, a banging in the radiator pipes possibly. A creaky floorboard? That’s the way a lot of horror stories start. Something small and apparently insignificant grows gradually until all Hell is let loose, sometimes quite literally.

Writing horror for me started with a similarly small and apparently insignificant event. Quite simply, I read a horror book that was so badly written that I thought I must be able to do better myself. The only problem is that when people say they’ve read something of mine and felt inspired to start writing I now wonder if it’s for the same reason I started…

Let’s hope your desire to start writing horror comes from what I now see as a vocation in life. That is to say, scaring the living daylights out of people. But also the realization that you can work in a genre like no other from a writer’s point of view. You can do everything within a piece of horror fiction that you can do in any other genre, and much more. The only thing that limits you is the extent of your imagination.

I’m in the business of scaring people. The by-products of my work might be nightmares (which are the ultimate accolade in this genre), they might be vomiting (I would say I’m only kidding but someone wrote to tell me a scene one of my books inspired this rather more than usually visceral reaction), or they might be outrage at some supposedly taboo subject that I’ve dared to write about but, whatever the case, the main thing is to get a reaction. Make them love you or make them hate you but don’t allow them to be undecided. To my mind, the worst thing a writer can be confronted with is indifference.

So, how the hell, if you’ll excuse the pun, do we go about getting that reaction?

Continue reading

Hurting Our Characters

Well, it’s Finals Week™, so we all know what that means: I get to start writing again! At the end of every quarter as assignments trickle to a halt and I’m left with more free time, all those little nuggets of inspiration that came to me earlier (but I couldn’t encourage because I had to be in school-mode) are now free to take over. What does this mean, Worderella? What are you trying to tell us?

It means that I’ve written another couple of thousand words over the last few days, which is a cause for celebration. Assuming I keep my overall goal of approximately 85 000 words (the range for a full-length novel is anywhere from 80 000 to 100 000+), then I can safely say I am 39.5% complete with this draft.

But I’ve hit a slight roadblock. Attempting to be a diligent creator of characters and plot, I have just re-introduced a man from my main character’s past who hurt her, and is about to do it again. For the first time in my writing life, I don’t want to hurt my main character anymore. I kind of feel like she’s gone through a lot as is, and I like her. Why would I continue to want to hurt her?

Well, because that’s what you’re supposed to do in order to make the character grow and change. And because if you didn’t throw everything and the bath tub at her, your story is going to be boring and you’ll get tired of writing it. And because it will help you, as a writer, and perhaps even a person, to learn that conflict is a necessary evil.

This is often a topic of discussion between and me. I’m usually on the side of “Throw more at them! Make them squirm!”, because I love to see how a character can change. And now I find myself completely understanding ‘s dilemma. I suppose I’ve never had a character that I liked this much, so it hurts to hurt her. Maybe it’s because the situation I’m about to put her in is exceedingly uncomfortable, and forces me to deal with my own feelings on the same thing that happened to me. Perhaps I relate to the main character too much, so, rather than experiencing it through her perspective, I’m reliving the experience myself. Logical theories, all.

The fact of the matter is that I have to hurt my main character. I have to hurt all my characters, in some form or another, but most especially the main one. I have to bring her so low that she feels like she can’t go on, that there is nothing she can do to improve her situation…and then, because she is at the very bottom, have her realize that she can only go up from there. It’s the only way. I’m sure I’ll get past this, and will eventually shatter her (but oh! she’s already fragmented to begin with!).

Have you ever been in this situation where you feel like you have to do something awful to your character, but you can’t bring yourself to do it? What do you do about it? How does one get past this?