Evolution of a Novel – Part 4 – Symbolism

I hope you’ve been enjoying this series on the development of my newest release, Perilous Waters, as much as I’m enjoying writing it.

Today, I’d like to talk about the heart of why I love writing Christian fiction–the opportunity to share spiritual truths and to show my characters working through troublesome obstacles to their faith.


The use of symbols is a powerful way to touch the heart and mind of a reader at a subconscious level.

As hopefully, you’re immediate internal reaction to the sunset photo above demonstrated.

I always get ridiculously giddy if a particularly appropriate symbol presents itself as I write.

Not every reader registers the deeper meaning of symbols. And that’s okay.

I tend to watch for them in movies, which drives my family a little crazy. For example, in the movie Australia, the big tree in the middle of the desert is used as a symbol for the blossoming relationship. I was sure of it!

So…when the movie appeared to be over after they got the cattle to the ship and my family prepared to call it a night, I said, “It can’t be over. They have to go back to the tree!” 🙁

For those who’ve seen the movie, you’ll remember that I was half-right. I won’t share the significance here, because I don’t want it to be a spoiler, but watch for the tree scenes if you watch the movie. Once you examine such symbols on a conscious level–remember those high school English classes?–you really begin to appreciate their power.

While writing Perilous Waters, “discovering” the particular stolen work of art that the heroine Jennifer Robbins would find in her family’s art gallery, seen depicted below on the FBI’s National Database for Stolen Art, was a total God moment for me. It immediately resonated with me as a powerful symbolic depiction of several elements of the story. 

Screenshot Duel after a masked ball

Screenshot 2014-03-04 09.42.40

It is called Duel After a Masked Ball, and the title alone conveys two elements significant to the story–the idea of a duel, and the masks people wear. So even if the reader can only visualize the piece from my paltry description, I hope they appreciate that the selection wasn’t a random choice.

Throughout the story the heroine finds herself in figurative duels with herself, her sister, her “uncle” and even the hero who she doesn’t realize is secretly investigating her connection to ongoing art thefts involving her gallery. Which…

leads to the second element of masks. Not everyone is whom they seem in the story.

Of course, making people not be what they seem is my favorite pastime to keep my readers guessing. 😉

But the deeper truth comes in shedding the mask that hides us from our true selves.

My heroine Jennifer is a twin sister, a believer, while her sister thumbs her nose at religion. To me, one of the most powerful lines in the story is when her sister says: “I don’t know why you cling so tightly to that Bible. It doesn’t seem to make you any happier.”

It forces the heroine to take a good, hard look at herself, her faith and the perception she conveys to others, however unwittingly, of what being a believer looks like. And what it could look like if she trusted God completely, instead of only trusting him with pieces of her life here and there. 

Your Turn: How have you been impacted personally by a fiction book you’ve read? Or…what’s a favorite symbol you remember from a book or movie?


Thinking about Bad Guys

Since I write romantic suspense, I spend a lot of time thinking about bad guys.

 Not the mustache-twirling, two-dimensional villains of the Dudley Dooright era, but the kind of villains the hero and reader will scarcely suspect. The kind of villain whose actions can be utterly justified in his own mind. A there-but-by-the-grace-of-God-goeth-I kind of villain.

Isn’t that scarier?

Well, okay, a psychopath who will attack a room full of movie-goers with no apparent remorse is scarier, but I don’t write thrillers so stay with me here.

Isn’t it a little disturbing, upon the revelation of the true villain at the end of a mystery, to realize that you scarcely suspected him or her?

Or worse that you empathized with him! 

A well-characterized villain, in my opinion, can totally justify his actions in his own mind. 

We don’t blame the mother who, upon finding her child under attack, brutally attacks the attacker. Right? It’s when she plots ways to make him pay, after the fact, that she begins to turn the corner.

Your Turn: What kind of scenario might spur you to do something unimaginable?

Images courtesy of Victor Habbick and photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Fun Friday – The Plot Thickens

Okay, before I start, let me just say, I’m cheating…
That is, I’m sharing a post I wrote for the Craftie Ladies blog a couple of weeks ago. But if you didn’t see it, it is fun. This is the beginning of a long weekend for us, so that’s my excuse. ~grin~
Once friends find out I write for “Harlequin”, they like to tease my hubby with questions such as: So what’s it like to be married to a romance writer? ~Elbow. Elbow. Wink. Wink.~
Well, let me tell you. It’s not all fun and games. Sure hubby’s happy to help inspire me when I need to experiment with a kiss to get all the details right.
But I’m an inspirational writer so it never gets any further than that, much to my hubby’s disappointment I’m sure.
Besides, I’m not really a romance writer. I’m a romantic suspense writer.
So more often than not, I’m contemplating means of killing people, and more importantly, how to get away with it.
This can be quite uncomfortable for my family. Especially if they happen to notice my book of poisons sitting on the counter as they sit down to dinner.
Did you know that too much…?
Hmm, never mind, I’d better not reveal that. I’m planning to use the tidbit in my next book.
My family has learned to take my quirky ways in stride. My hubby is quick to assure people that it’s not him I’m planning to do away with when after I ask, “How could someone in your profession get away with murder?”
Most of the time, people warm right up to the subject. After all, be honest, how many of you have never contemplated how you might kill someone?
I’ve had a lot of fun with this line of questioning.
One time on the way to the airport following a writer’s conference, I shared a cab with a forensic pathologist. I was working on a mystery in which I killed someone by… hmm, won’t give that one away either.
Let’s just say by an ingenious means.
So I asked him, “If I killed someone by such and such a means, would you be able to detect that?”
The cabbie’s gaze shot to the rearview mirror. After the pathologist said, “No,” and I rubbed my hands in glee, I think the cabbie spent more time eyeing the rearview mirror than the road.
We made it to the airport in record time.
Then in the plane, I sat beside an aviation inspector. This was a divine meeting since I’d written a plane crash story that I wanted to tweak, and I had a two-hour flight to pick this guy’s brain about the myriad of reasons a plane might go down, and how.
Let me tell you, if you knew this stuff, you’d think twice before you got on a plane. I’m pretty sure the woman in front of us clutching her armrests was.
I could go and on with examples of ideas that have blossomed from the most innocuous situations.
Of course, there are drawbacks to having such an active imagination. It makes relaxing difficult.
This past summer while kayaking with the family, I couldn’t help but notice how easy it would be to sneak up on someone’s house from the water. My daughter who is also a writer locked right onto the idea and before you knew it we were spinning a tale of mystery and mayhem, and eyeing suspiciously every person who paddled by.
Of course, while I have a lot of fun writing my heroes and heroines into the worst situations imaginable, in the end, with the love of God and a good woman, the good guys triumph.

Fun Friday – The Lengths we’ll go…

Happy Friday everyone. I’d like to introduce you to my new best friend who spends his days sitting on my virtual desktop.

 Isn’t he cute?

Don’t be fooled. He’s a villainous task master. But he keeps me productive.

Don’t worry. I haven’t lost my mind. The orange is the icon for a Mac ap called Concentrate. When I turn it on, it locks out my internet and email account and anything else I don’t have the self-control to avoid when I get stuck while writing. Or not just stuck. Sometimes while writing I’ll want to search for a better word or research an element, so I’ll log onto thesaurus.com or google the element and before I know it I’ve completely lost my train of thought.

Of course, I could just click the orange then click done, and voila, I’m back in, but I’m resisting the temptation.

In fact, I called the orange my friend, but I like to think of him as my arch nemesis. When you engage the ap, you can set it to silence or any number of sounds for a length of time of your choice. I set it to “tick, tick, tick” for 60 minutes.

I know, I know…I thought it would drive me crazy, but it doesn’t.

It’s like a ticking bomb, spurring me to rescue my heroine from danger before the bad guys get the upper hand. Then every fifteen minutes this male computer voice whispers, “You’re doing great. Keep going!”

It sounds so creepy that it makes me laugh every time. I think of it as the villain goading me, laughing sarcastically.

Highly motivating when writing suspense. Ah the games we writers play!

Your Turn: Do you use any tricks or rewards to keep you on task?

P.S. If you missed my special post yesterday, and want to do some shopping for your Valentine’s reading, scroll down or click older posts.  I’ve included some valuable coupon codes for extra savings.

Fun Friday – Five Top Reasons I Love Writing Romantic Suspense

No matter how wonderful your job is, or how long you’ve dreamed of doing it, sometimes you wonder why you torture yourself day in and day out.

Yes, even writers feel this way. Quite often, actually.

I’ve created this list for just those kind of days.

1) I love writing romantic suspense because my heroine can zing those pithy comebacks at the hero that I never think of quickly enough in real life.

2) If someone bugs me, I can kill them off. Hee, hee, hee.

3) I can make the hero suffer for his idiocy!

4) I can thwart the bad guy’s plan with a flick of my finger.

5) I can knock some sense into the hero and heroine so they’ll find their happily ever after.

Your Turn: Why do you like to read (or write)?