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The Second Stage Of Writing A Book

Updated on March 27, 2014

Hopefully You Were Paying Attention Earlier

To put it bluntly, I seem to have a whole superstructure with no foundation. But I'm working on the foundation.

Marilyn Monroe

Well, were you?

Earlier this week I posted an article titled “The First Steps In Writing A Book.” In it we discussed choosing a working title, choosing genre, choosing a point-of-view, writing a concise summary, deciding upon sparks and settling on the length of the book. Those steps we call, collectively, the foundation.

Now it is time to start framing this structure of yours, which will eventually be a finished book.

If your foundation was poured correctly it will easily support the frame, so please go back and make sure you followed my earlier suggestions. If you are satisfied that you did then we can begin our second stage.

Who are the main characters in your book?
Who are the main characters in your book? | Source

IDENTIFY THE MAIN CHARACTER(S)

Each man should frame life so that at some future hour fact and his dreaming meet.

Victor Hugo

Most books are character-driven, so think long and hard about your main characters. They will have to carry the load in this book of yours, so let’s make them special.

A book of normal length usually has three main characters: a hero, a heroine, and a villain. That is, of course, a statement concerning averages. It is entirely up to you, but let me caution you against having too many MAIN characters. I have read some spy novels that have ten main characters and I have to tell you it is very hard to keep track of the action with so many people asking for my attention.

INTRODUCING OTHER CHARACTERS

There will, of course, be secondary characters. Action does not happen in a void in real life and the same should be true in your novel. Your book will need a cast of secondary characters, but remember that they each must serve a purpose. Introducing a character just for the sake of adding another warm body is confusing, distraction and annoying.

In this step give your secondary characters a name and jot down why they are in the book. You might give them some skills early on, skills that will have a bearing on the story as it unfolds.

Give depth to your characters
Give depth to your characters | Source

CHARACTER DESCRIPTIONS GIVEN BY OTHER CHARACTERS

This section, and the one following it, have to do with the fleshing out of characters…giving them personality and depth. I believe it is best accomplished by describing a character through the eyes of another character (or through the third person point-of-view) and having each character describe themselves.

CHARACTER DESCRIPTIONS GIVEN BY THE CHARACTERS THEMSELVES

Doing both…having a character description given by the characters and given by others about the characters, gives considerable depth to each. Think of it in these terms: few people describe themselves the way others would describe them. Use that when you are constructing your characters.

CHARACTER OCCUPATIONS

Layers upon layers upon layers….what do your characters do for a living? What are their hobbies? What are their interests?

We are not, however, just randomly listing mundane stats about our characters. Every aspect that we mention about our characters should connect in some way to the plot and conflicts of your story. In a well-written novel, nothing is done without a reason, and the reason is cohesiveness and flow.

ENHANCEMENTS OF YOUR CHARACTERS

Okay, you have fleshed out your main characters and given them some depth. Now we are going to make them slightly larger than life for our readers. We do this by delving into their motivations and their personal conflicts. In other words, we make them very human.

What is there about your main characters that make them fascinating? What makes them unique?

And if you really want to make those characters interesting, make them flawed. Nobody likes perfect. Perfect is dull. Nobody likes a character they can’t relate to. When we read we want to see conflict within each main character. We want to know that the beautiful trophy wife has inner turmoil. We want to know that the successful investment banker struggles with something. We want to know that the perfect teenage child secretly harbors dark thoughts.

I call it the “misery loves company” syndrome, and an author would be wise to remember it.

What is the setting for your novel?
What is the setting for your novel? | Source

SETTING DESCRIPTIONS

The setting, of course, allows the reader to see what the main characters see. In creating settings the writer is acting as the eyes of the reader.

There really are two types of settings; the physical description of each scene, and then the description of the overall scene. One is a very literal description; the other a bit more ethereal. Allow me to explain.

Let’s use my all-time favorite novel, “To Kill A Mockingbird,” to explain the two types of setting.

Each chapter takes place in a particular setting. One chapter might be in the Finch kitchen. One might be the streets of the town, while another might be inside the courtroom. In each scene Harper Lee describes what the main characters see….the buildings, the trees, maybe the weather or whatever else she deems important.

The other setting, the ethereal if you will, is the overall impression of the overall setting. The town is tired. The town has been beaten down by economics. There is an underlying ripple of racial tension in the town. There is hatred and there is love; there is compassion and there is bigotry; all are part of the overall setting that must be described in order for Harper Lee to perfectly enhance the story.

The good writers….dare I say the great writers….always have a purpose in writing something. They do not randomly describe features in a scene but rather only describe things in the scene that are important to the flow of the story.

Has this article helped you in writing your own book?

See results

And Now You Are Almost Done with the Framing

We only have a few more nails to pound in and we’ll be all done framing the novel, but for now let’s put away the hammer and nails and concentrate on this second phase of novel-writing. Remember to take your time. A novel is a marathon, and those trained for sprint races need to learn the process before moving forward. There is a world of difference between writing short stories of 10,000 words and writing a novel of 100,000 words. I am simply trying to give you a blueprint for success that you can follow on your own personal journey.

Don’t be in a hurry! Spend weeks and even months on this planning and preparation stage before you ever start writing your book. I promise it will pay dividends and I speak from experience. The first novel I wrote, “The 12/59 Shuttle From Yesterday To Today,” was written on the fly. I did very little in the way of planning. In fact, the book started as a writing exercise to see just how weird an introduction I could write. It grew from there and it is in no way a cohesive work.

My second novel, “Resurrecting Tobias,” was written by using these guidelines, and it is much more cohesive and has infinitely more depth.

It turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks.

2014 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

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    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 3 years ago from New York, New York

      Love that last line that you teach an old dog tricks. Seriously, though huge thank you once again and honestly can't say how much appreciate your take and advice on this. Thanks again Bill and Happy Friday now!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Janine, the pleasure is all mine, and thank you for always being here. Now I want you to have a great weekend and I'll see you on Monday.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      I like that you've delved into the complexities here. The characters definitely should have different, even conflicting perspectives, else it'd be a pretty boring read. Conflict and different layers are what make them interesting -- they mirror real people.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Exactly, Flourish, and if they mirror real people then the writer has done their job well. Nice summary; couldn't have said it better myself. :) Thank you!

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 3 years ago

      You've inspired me, Billy. I am printing out your hubs and hope they move me to start writing my book. Thank you... Voted up, useful, interesting and totally awesome!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Well breakfastpop, I am one happy writer if I inspired someone. Thank you for making my day. Have a great weekend.

    • Radcliff profile image

      Liz Davis 3 years ago from Hudson, FL

      Do you think you'll ever rewrite your first book?

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Arrgh...that's why writing a book is such a tedious process! But it's what we're here for and what we enjoy.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Wow! Lizzy, that was freaky. Bev has been asking me the same question this week...just out of the blue like you just did. What's up with that weirdness?

      The quick answer...yes!

      Why did you ask that?

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Michelle, it can for sure be tedious, and maddening.....and a blast! :) Thank you for sharing this and enjoy your weekend.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 3 years ago from Central Florida

      I love what you have to say here, Bill and will take the information to heart. I need to do more to add conflict to my "Faith" characters. Between you and John Yeoman (my writing coach) the completed novel should be worthy of print.

      I had to chuckle at John when he sent me his critique for last week's assignment. He addressed the email to Faith. When I called him on it (all in fun, of course) he admitted he'd gotten immersed into my story. Can you see the huge grin on my glowing face?

      BTW, what's your favorite cake?

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      LOL...you have to work on your segues, Sha! From writing coach to my favorite cake? I got whiplash trying to follow that, but yes, I can see the huge grin on your glowing face.

      German chocolate. :)

      Have a great weekend dear friend.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 3 years ago from Central Florida

      Favorite cake comes from your poll, silly! I was hoping you'd say German chocolate. It's one of my specialties!

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

      Morning Bill,

      I am trying to figure out how to get that German chocolate cake sent out there to you now : )

      I will tell you the truth, and that is I have run into some pretty complex "characters" in my real life, and so I try to sum up their varied personalities sometimes into one character or several. Doing this, certainly makes a character interesting indeed!

      Enjoy your day and weekend,

      Faith Reaper

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      LOL....great minds think alike, Sha!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Faith, it is always nice sharing breakfast with you. Thanks for stopping by.

      I love that you combine character traits into one character. I've been known to do that as well and I think it is a good approach.

      Carry on my friend. You don't need my suggestions. :)

      Have a great weekend and blessings always

      bill

    • Rafiq23 profile image

      Muhammad Rafiq 3 years ago from Pakistan

      Negative Capability is the most important thing for a writer to present his characters before the audience. The writer is required to efface his personality and merge himself with the personality of the character. That is why; John Keats was of the view that Shakespeare had this trait of Negative Capability, which distinguished him from other playwrights. Thanks Bill for the advice! It will certainly help naive writers.

    • Curiad profile image

      Mark G Weller 3 years ago from Lake Charles, LA.

      Excellent information Bill, I am sure there are many of us that can benefit from this series.

      Mark

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Rafiq, an excellent example and observation. Thank you for that.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Mark. Just trying to break down the mystic of writing a novel and make it as simple as possible.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 3 years ago from SW England

      Glad there's a part two, bill; I'd be floundering otherwise. That's two print-offs to do! I try to craft characters around those I know (without making it too obvious). It's a difficult process. My usual difficulty is that I get bogged down in too much detail. How does one get a balance between plausibility and overkill?

      When one is comfortable with things like articles and the occasional short story, I find it a challenge to write something longer which requires such planning.

      I must take the plunge and conquer my fears!

      Reading your '12/59' but not finished yet. Have a great evening, bill! Ann

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Sorry bro, but this will not work. You need three days of marathon movie and show watching. Then a fancy office with a hot 25 year old who can take dictation whilst sitting on your lap. Now you can write a book. But still it would be better if you jetted off to Morocco and gambled for two days and robbed a bank first. And do not forget that you have to also marry a woman with more money than God who has a fetish for Chinese acupuncture done by eunuchs in Tibet. And one last thing. Even though you have that horrible gunshot wound from saving the US president you still won the triathlon last weekend.

    • BNadyn profile image

      Bernadyn 3 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida

      Character-driven stories are what really hooks me into a book and I'm sure that can be said for many. I can see how taking the time to plan it out for even many months can be worth it. If I ever finish writing a book, I'll be sending you a cake! Pinning this as reference, too. Have a nice weekend. :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Ann, to answer your question, character description and development can happen throughout the book. The only time it becomes overkill is when a writer tries to do it all early on in one chapter.

      I didn't know you had my book. I was just talking to Bev about rewriting it. I hope you enjoy the first version and thank you for buying it.

      Have a wonderful weekend! Sending a smile from soggy Olympia.

      bill

    • profile image

      sheilamyers 3 years ago

      Yet another hub full of great advice for writers. The line that popped out at me was "The good writers….dare I say the great writers….always have a purpose in writing something". I've read some novels by the most well-known and popular authors in which I considered some of the dialog or setting descriptions as "filler material". It's almost as if their agent told them the book has to be "x" number of words or pages long and they added stuff to reach that number.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      LOL....Eric, there's my belly laugh for the day. Thank you for that...now I have to go train for the triathlon.

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      BNadyn, I'll be waiting anxiously for that cake. Yes, it can take months to plan for a book, but once you do it then it is easier the next time. Good luck with your future book...German Chocolate is my favorite. :)

      Thank you!

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan Robert Lancaster 3 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      What's this, the readership falling away? Not so far to scroll down this time.

      OK, eyes down. Solid stuff this. Listen to Uncle Bill, he knows his onions!

      I've been told I have too many characters. But then this is the Middle Ages, the era of the Conquest, the end of another age. Lot's of men in contention, a race for the crown or power, 'new faces on the block'.

      In the end there's only a handful of men who leave England for Denmark and the east, Ivar, Saeward, Hereward and Osgod.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Sheila, you may not be far from the truth with that guess. I think there are demands by publishers to kick out a certain number of books per year, and their stable of authors are aware and act accordingly. I think it's a shame but I also know that it is a business and sales keep the ship afloat. Great observation my friend. I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 3 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Yes, Bill, I have a hard time keeping up with a great deal of main characters. Three seems to be a comfortable number, allowing the reader time and clarity in learning their every nuance.

      This series is a keeper. Thanks, my friend. Love, Maria

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      An interesting start to the second stage your ideas are helpful and most informative.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Alan, I may well be losing my readership. LOL An odd day for sure. Who knows what the masses really want?

      As for your books, I would say in that genre it would be necessary to have a full cast of characters. Besides, so many of them die off, you need a fair number to begin with so you have a cast at the end. :)

      Thank you Sir and enjoy your weekend.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Maria! The key is "main characters." There will always be a number of secondary characters, and the number doesn't matter, as long as they serve a purpose.

      Have a wonderful weekend dear lady.

      love,

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you DDE. I appreciate you saying so.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      Though I can tell stories from real life (and use them whenever I can in biz writing), I would have a really difficult time creating characters out of thin air. Kudos to all you fiction pros who can do it! But I'll have to remember some of these tips when writing up my business storytelling.

      I'm also glad to see that, as of this comment, 83% of those polled would bake you a cake. I voted I would, too. But, alas, cooking/baking is also not in my talent portfolio. Will a store bought one do?

    • tlpoague profile image

      Tammy 3 years ago from USA

      Great advice here that I will be sure to try and follow. When I was doing creative writing in school I ran into the issue of too much description. It is still something I see myself running into today. Thanks again for your helpful tips. (Have you ever thought about placing these hubs in to a novel?)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Heidi, I have no pride when it comes to gifts. I'll take any cake no matter how it is made or who makes it. :) Thanks my friend and I hope your weekend is restful.

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 3 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Voted up. Great hub. It's always good to read over writing skill tips. It makes me go back to read again over my draft about the parallel universe....as for the self employed housewife story, i will soon start to edit it chapter for chapter again. I like to do that by printing it out and read it from paper,.that always work best for me. Thanks Billy

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

      Once again my dear friend another wonderful lesson ;I now save each one of your hubs along with my course work and for the first time I am actually enjoying this writing course.

      So keep them coming and wishing you and Bev a wonderful weekend.

      Lots of love from Wales.

      Eddy.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Tipoague, that is one of my next projects. I have to get this new novel published and then I'll turn my attention to the "how to write" book. Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Nadine, I like to print mine out as well, although this latest novel is so long I may run out of paper. LOL Thank you and enjoy your weekend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I love it, Eddy! If I am helping fine writers such as yourself then I am one happy ex-teacher.

      Have a great weekend dear friend.

      billy

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Bill. In reading these two hubs on writing a novel what really strikes me is just how really difficult a task this is. If there is anyone here on HP's who can become a successful author it has to be you. I am duly impressed with your knowledge.

      Stay dry out there. We're getting 3 inches of rain here tonight.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Hi Bill, another must keep, for the billy file. Very useful information, I also like to print them out as hard copies, but it's easy to access them online. If only you could see the length of my bookmarked documents.

      This article provide some great ideas for consideration, but it also reassures me that some of what I'm doing are on the right track. I'll be sending you my first 2000 words for some advice if that's alright with you, and if I decide to go with it. Thank you for all the help, did I ever tell you, you rock? ;)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Bill, it has been raining all weekend. Staying dry is out of the question. LOL And wouldn't you know it, but today we have to move the chicken coop. LOL

      Thank you for your kind words. No doubt about it, writing a novel is difficult.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Jo, thank you, and I would be thrilled to read your first 2000 words. Anytime you are ready then so am I.

      Thank you again. I'll be making an ebook of writing tips in the next few months....as time allows. Sounds like you already have most of it in your files. :)

    • Ann1Az2 profile image

      Ann1Az2 3 years ago from Orange, Texas

      You know, if you keep this up, you must might inspire me to write a novel. Who would have thought? lol

      Seriously, when you mentioned describing scenes, I thought of Louis L'Amour. Although my mother hated reading westerns, she always liked his because of his descriptions of nature. I, on the other hand, still don't like westerns! Although, I do like western movies.

      When you mentioned character development, Tom Clancy came to mind again. Sometimes, when I read something by him, I had to go back a few pages to remember who he was talking about. It was hard to read anything by him a few pages one day and a few the next - it was just easier to sit down and read his books as fast as you could so you could remember everyone. I'm not sure that makes for a good novel, but somehow, he pulled it off. Perhaps that's what distinguishes a good novelist from a great one. If you can't put someone's book down, you know it must be good!

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      dearabbysmom 3 years ago from Indiana

      My son saw the author of Divergent do a presentation after a movie screening, but she would not take questions from the audience. He thought it was because her book series had so many inconsistencies--characters that disappeared over time, or did not follow through with the path originally introduced. He said reading that series has been so different than, say, the Harry Potter series where the author took the time to map out the possibilities of a series from the start. Your point on planning the character development--taking days and months if necessary--is well taken. People do notice! Thank you for these "next steps"

    • vkwok profile image

      Victor W. Kwok 3 years ago from Hawaii

      Thanks for sharing more of your expertise!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Ann, you make some interesting points. The first time I read Clancy I swore I would never read another novel by him....I read in short spurts the first time. Then I decided to give him a second chance, and read longer passages, and I got it! It's interesting how some writers can master that which seems impossible for others.

      Great comment. Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      dearabbysmom, great point about Potter....I have not read the Divergent series but that would drive me nuts if there were inconsistencies. Thank you for mentioning that.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Always a pleasure, vkwok. Thank you!

    • Jo_Goldsmith11 profile image

      Jo_Goldsmith11 3 years ago

      Well see there! You are so brilliant you included the answer I needed in the Part two. :-) How cool is that?! I will be sure to bake you two cakes and be sure you will receive a nod of thanks in this one novel, I am working on...staying with. So awesome..appreciate you. Shared & Up!

      Blessings always..

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Jo! There are so many things to cover about writing a book. I'm glad I got your question answered.

      blessings always

      bill

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 3 years ago from California

      Very cool write Bill! You are such a talented writer!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you so much, Audrey! I still feel I have a long road to go my friend, but thank you!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 3 years ago

      Your hubs are going to produce many great books someday Bill. Interesting and useful for all those aspiring novelists!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Glimmer, wouldn't that be wonderful if they did? I would consider that a great compliment. Thank you!

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 3 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      You are spot on with all these book writing tips. No serious wanna be fiction writer ought to miss reading this useful guide, Bill.

      Voted up and pinned.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Rajan! I hope these help some writers to reach their potential.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      I appreciate your putting things into order, it helps to see what one needs to do in order to write well. Still working on it!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Dianna! We travel at the pace we are most comfortable with...best wishes to you my friend.

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      Deb Hirt 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      I have read MANY books in my lifetime, and the great writers are as good as the Baltimore Oriole at weaving a nest. Every piece of information is used, sometimes in the most minuscule of ways to create a necessity. Then it comes down like a bombshell. You then say to yourself, "I should have seen that!" But it was done so carefully and with such precision,it is enough to beguile the reader into turning elsewhere. What a talent!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Deb, you are right on with that summation. I read a lot of mysteries and the good authors do exactly that.

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