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TOES ON THE DASH
The Tow Truck Murder Mysteries Book 1
BY KAREN C. WHALEN
Super-feminine and confirmed shoe-a-holic Delaney Morran receives an unexpected inheritance—the keys to a tow truck from a dad she’s never known. Even though she hasn’t changed a tire, or even driven any kind of a truck, she’s determined to make the rough and dangerous business a success. When she hauls a vehicle with the body of her jerk-of-an ex hidden in the trunk, the small-town cops in Spruce Ridge, Colorado do not believe this a coincidence. They have her in their headlights as the prime suspect. When the news hits, her business stalls. As a woman trying to make a living in a man’s world, she drives her rig in four-inch-heels to set herself apart. But she must toughen up her image and solve the crime or she’ll end up parked in jail.
Creating a Visual Story
The one piece of advice creative writing instructors always seem to give new writers is for them to imagine the scene they are writing as if it were in a movie. How are the characters moving about in the setting? What facial expressions play on their faces? How does the scene take shape? A successful writer creates a visual story in the mind of the reader that takes the reader off the page and into their imagination.
I saw the first Harry Potter movie before I read the book. After seeing the big screen version, I pictured Daniel Radcliffe as Harry, Emma Watson as Hermione, and so on. At some point, I stopped watching the movies and stuck to the books, reading them straight through several times, because as a writer I love the printed word. Recently, I watched the movies straight through, a Harry Potter movie marathon.
Many scenes in the books were omitted from the movies for obvious reasons. The later books are over 700 pages long. There are 120 pages in a two-hour movie script. Left out was the entire plot line involving the Society for the Promotion of Elvish Welfare founded by Hermione who knitted clothes to give to the house elves in order to set them free. House elves are important to the story line because one of the mistakes made by Lord Voldemort was failing to take into consideration the magic of house-elves, who were mere servants but possessed magic even beyond that of a wizard. This poignant theme seemed to fall by the wayside in the movies.
I didn’t discover the omission until I finished my movie marathon. I thought I must have viewed edited copies before I realized those scenes I pictured so clearly didn’t exist. Yet in my mind’s eye I saw Dobby wearing all those hats knitted by Hermione. How is it possible I seemed to remember seeing those scenes? But the reality was I’d only read them, only visualized them in my imagination.
We can all agree J. K. Rowling is a gifted writer, truly hitting the bullseye when writing scenes that play out as movies. This is the goal of every writer. Or it should be.
When I picture my characters in a movie, however, I imagine people in real life who wave their hands around as they talk and frequently nod as they listen. We all do that. It’s realistic, but boring and repetitious for readers. Always nodding, always tossing their hands about. Don’t ask characters to roll their eyes, either. You need to avoid these cliches.
The one piece of advice I can give is to hone in on the specific mannerisms of your character. Do this in advance of writing the book or at least in advance of the first scene in which that character appears.
In Toes on the Dash, my most recent book released April 25, I created a supportive character, a teenager, who has the habit of always bumping shoulders with the protagonist. It’s appropriate for him (not in every scene) and a nice action if it fits what’s happening. Think about age and career appropriate mannerisms. Hobbies are another means to relate character. Taking Hermoine’s cue, some characters might knit all the time. Picture their knitting needles freezing in their hands when the character is listening intently, then going like mad when they are excited. Perhaps athletic people might jog in place and stretch out their quads and calves. If you know your characters well and have their go-to mannerisms down pat, the scenes are easier to write. And more enjoyable to read.
Karen C. Whalen is the author of two mystery series for The Wild Rose Press: the Dinner Club Mysteries featuring Jane Marsh, an empty nester who hosts a gourmet dinner club, and the Tow Truck Mysteries starring Delaney Moran, a super feminine shoe-a-holic who drives a tow truck. Both are cozy mysteries about strong friendships and family ties set in Colorado. The first book in the Dinner Club series tied for First Place in the Suspense Novel category of the 2017 IDA Contest sponsored by Oklahoma Romance Writers of America. Whalen worked for many years as a paralegal at a law firm in Denver, Colorado and was a columnist and regular contributor to The National Paralegal Reporter magazine. Whalen loves to host dinner clubs, entertain friends, ride bicycles, hike in the mountains, and read cozy murder mysteries.
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