Matt Rees's Blog

June 28, 2014

The Woodstock Revival Nightmare featuring Matt Rees on "deaf bass"

keep-calm-and-rock-n-roll-271A few years ago I played a Woodstock Revival gig. It didn't go well. In fact, I wrote an entire article about the various live-show nightmares involved. And why you shouldn't care, because it's rock'n'roll. I think it applies to writing too. Just do it. Clean it up later if you like, but while you're doing it just enjoy it and screw what it sounds/reads like. Hemingway said "first drafts are shit." Let's call this a first draft of a Credence song:

http://youtu.be/KLIr4PQ1Gsk

freeebookforwebpages
 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on June 28, 2014 22:50 • 18 views • Tags: alan-bennett, crime-fiction, elmore-leonard, how-to-write, humor, keith-thomson, marcus-aurelius, rock-n-roll, thrillers, write-a-thriller, writing-tips

May 30, 2014

Comedy is a great way to draw readers to a character


Thriller writers need to make their characters—particularly the hero—appealing to readers. That’s not always easy, because even the hero of a thriller might have to do some unappealing, nasty things to escape the bad guys and save the day. One important tool in the writer’s box is humor.

Keith Thomson's humor
We like funny guys. Even when their humor is dark. Take Elmore Leonard’s Chili Palmer in “Get Shorty.” An old friend inquires about a mutual acquaintance in Florida:



“How is Momo these days?”
“Dead.”




Reptition of lines can build a character too. In “Get Shorty,” Chili instructs Harry, a movie producer, about how to take control of a conversation with a mobster. “Look at me,” he says. What the mobster is supposed to see is the toughness underlying Chili’s cheerful exterior. The humor comes when Harry uses the line on Ray Barboni, a Miami gangster who believes he’s owed money. Barboni sees Harry's weakness and superficiality--and no toughness. “Look at this,” Ray says to Harry, as he smashes a telephone across his nose.

Elmore Leonard recognized the importance of humor when building his “style” early on. He wrote of Hemingway that “He was my first big influence because he made writing look easy. Then I realized that Hemingway didn’t have much of a sense of humor.”

So Elmore took the apparent simplicity of Hemingway’s style and added what he called “attitude.” That’s where the humor often comes in. Elmore gives his character an “attitude,” which is typically built on speech tics and repeated tropes.

Language that might be considered “stupid cool” is one of Elmore’s techniques for creating attitude. Quentin Tarantino bastardized it, but Elmore never abused it. When one of his characters calls Barboni’s choice of weapon “the fucking Fiat of guns,” it’s funny. But it’s funnier because Barboni immediately shoots the guy dead with the Fiat of guns.



Now that Elmore’s dead, the best place to look for humor in a thriller—particularly humor that adds depth to character—is in the books of Keith Thomson. Thomson’s the new Elmore Leonard.

In “Once a Spy,” the main character, Charlie, is in debt to a loan shark. He needs a favor from a fairly dumb pal. Here’s a bit of their dialogue:



“I’m short by north of fifteen. If I don’t have it by tomorrow night, Grudzev’s going to fill a cup with sand.”
“And make you drink it?”
“Why would I care if he’s just filling a cup with sand?”




That’s funny. But what makes it even better is to read it with the next line:



“I’m short by north of fifteen. If I don’t have it by tomorrow night, Grudzev’s going to fill a cup with sand.”
“And make you drink it?”
“Why would I care if he’s just filling a cup with sand?”
“That could kill you, couldn’t it?”




Like Elmore Leonard, what Thomson does here is leave the laughing to the reader. The characters are into their discussion on a serious level. They aren’t wisecracking. They aren’t trying to be funny. They ARE funny, because their character is being revealed. But they don’t know it. That’s the trick.

 


freeebookbannerGet a FREE ebook of my crime stories.
 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on May 30, 2014 00:46 • 6 views • Tags: alan-bennett, crime-fiction, elmore-leonard, how-to-write, humor, keith-thomson, marcus-aurelius, thrillers, write-a-thriller, writing-tips

May 15, 2014

Dead Every Day PODCAST thumbThe seventeenth installment of a FREE thriller in serial form. Matt reads his psychological thriller DEAD EVERY DAY. In this installment In this installment Callan confronts Garrity over his sister's death in Iraq. Get Matt's FREE ebook too.

Get the Podcast: Download the MP3
Subscribe on iTunes Listen on Stitcher.

 


freeebookbannerGet a FREE ebook of my crime stories.

 


Award-winning crime novelist Matt Rees reads his podcast psychological novel DEAD EVERY DAY
 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on May 15, 2014 02:21 • 5 views • Tags: crime-fiction, dead-every-day, free-book, free-novel, free-thriller, podcast-novel, podcast-thriller, readings, thrillers, writing

May 10, 2014

Dead Every Day PODCAST thumbThe sixteenth installment of a FREE thriller in serial form. Matt reads his psychological thriller DEAD EVERY DAY. In this installment Callan tails Brady to find out more about the suspicious PTSD drug. He finds a shocking connection to someone he knew in Iraq. Get Matt's FREE ebook too.



Get the Podcast: Download the MP3
Subscribe on iTunes Listen on Stitcher.

 


freeebookbannerGet a FREE ebook of my crime stories.

 


 


Dead Every Day is a psychological thriller by crime novelist Matt Rees exclusively on his podcast
 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on May 10, 2014 09:36 • 3 views • Tags: crime-fiction, dead-every-day, free-book, free-novel, free-thriller, podcast-novel, podcast-thriller, readings, thrillers, writing

May 1, 2014

Dead Every Day PODCAST thumbThe fifteenth installment of a FREE thriller in serial form. Matt reads his psychological thriller DEAD EVERY DAY. In this installment Callan escapes from the police and runs into a man he tangled with back in Iraq. Get Matt's FREE ebook too.



Get the Podcast: Download the MP3
Subscribe on iTunes Listen on Stitcher.

 


freeebookbannerGet a FREE ebook of my crime stories.

 


Dead Every Day, a psychological thriller podcast free by award-winning crime novelist Matt Rees
 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on May 01, 2014 06:12 • 7 views • Tags: crime-fiction, dead-every-day, free-book, free-novel, free-thriller, podcast-novel, podcast-thriller, readings, thrillers, writing

April 26, 2014

Dead Every Day PODCAST thumbThe thirteenth installment of a FREE thriller in serial form. Matt reads his psychological thriller DEAD EVERY DAY. In this installment Callan turns to an unconventional psychiatrist at the Veterans Hospital for help -- and learns something shocking from the police about his sister's death.

Get the Podcast: Download the MP3
Subscribe on iTunes Listen on Stitcher. freeebookbannerGet a FREE ebook of my crime stories.

 


Dead Every Day, the podcast thriller novel by award-winning crime novelist Matt Rees
 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on April 26, 2014 10:28 • 6 views • Tags: crime-fiction, dead-every-day, free-book, free-novel, free-thriller, podcast-novel, podcast-thriller, readings, thrillers, writing

April 12, 2014

The thirteenth installment of a FREE thriller in serial form. Matt reads his psychological thriller DEAD EVERY DAY. In this installment Brady tries to persuade Callan that he should be committed to an asylum, only for a new danger to overtake him and put him on the run. Get Matt's FREE ebook too.

Get the Podcast: Download the MP3
Subscribe on iTunes Listen on Stitcher.

freeebookbannerGet a FREE ebook of my crime stories.

mortuary
 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on April 12, 2014 07:31 • 11 views • Tags: crime-fiction, dead-every-day, free-book, free-novel, free-thriller, podcast-novel, podcast-thriller, readings, thrillers, writing

April 10, 2014

The twelfth installment of a FREE thriller in serial form. Matt reads his psychological thriller DEAD EVERY DAY. In this installment Callan's parents invite a psychiatrist friend to join them at their Long Island home. Callan realizes they think he's crazy. A bad girl, a bad pill, and you’re Dead Every Day. Get Matt’s FREE ebook too.

Get the Podcast: Download the MP3
Subscribe on iTunes Listen on Stitcher.

freeebookbannerGet a FREE ebook of my crime stories. Related articles across the web How to Listen to a Podcast (on your computer or phone)
 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on April 10, 2014 05:44 • 5 views • Tags: crime-fiction, dead-every-day, free-book, free-novel, free-thriller, podcast-novel, podcast-thriller, readings, thrillers, writing

April 9, 2014

The Midpoint is key to the pace of a thriller -- and many other genres

By Matt Rees

When you plot a novel, pay special attention to the plot point called the Midpoint. Write a good Midpoint and you’ll propel your readers into the second half of your book with spectacular impetus.

What is the Midpoint? It falls directly in the center of the story structure (which may not be precisely in the middle of the book by page number, but probably is close.) The Midpoint is a scene that shifts the context and momentum of the story. It could be big or small. It could shift the story 45 degrees or 180. But it absolutely must push the story up a gear or two.

The main result of the Midpoint is a change in the hero. In the first half of Act II, the hero reacts to the situation around him. At the Midpoint, the hero becomes an action figure, powering through the second half of Act II in a more proactive mode.

Jane Austen writes a thriller in Pride and PrejudiceJane Austen, thriller novelist

That doesn’t mean this only works for action heroes. That master of the thriller genre Jane Austen writes a classic Midpoint in Pride and Prejudice, when Mister D’Arcy proposes to Lizzie Bennett, only for her to reject him and tell him she hates all he stands for. After that, there’s no more dancing around each other, no coming together just because we like Lizzie and want her to marry a nice, rich guy. They have to act, or they aren’t going to end up as a couple.

Imagine your novel as a ship (at least, a ship contemporary to Miss Austen). The Midpoint is the mainmast, while the first and second plot points are the foremast up front and the mizzen at the back. Sure, there are ships with only two masts. But they don’t move as fast or as powerfully as a ship that’s built around a big, impressive, driving mainmast. Novels without a mainmast won’t move as quickly either, no matter how much wind the author supplies.

Midpoint story structure checklist

Here are a few ways to build a Midpoint that propels the hero into the second half of Act II with major momentum:

Introduce a new character whose presence adds to the danger. In Gorky Park, Martin Cruz Smith gives his detective a new American pal who turns out to have a big impact on the denouement.
Don Winslow and story structure
Change the nature of the threat to the hero. Don Winslow does this in Satori and gives us a 180 degree twist. The reader spends the first half of the book thinking the hero has to carry out a hit for the CIA to buy his freedom from a US military jail. Instead, at the Midpoint, Winslow delivers a plot-point double punch. The hero kills his target — at great risk and with much tension. Only to have the CIA immediately try to kill him. For the rest of the book, he faces entirely unexpected risks as he figures out why he was double-crossed and goes after the men he believes did it.

Introduce new information. Bridget Jones learns her boyfriend Mark is involved with another woman in Bridget Jones’s Diary. Jack Reacher finds reason to suspects the woman he’s involved with might be the killer in The Affair.

Kill someone, to heighten the element of danger and provide a new impetus for the hero’s chase. I admit I like this one. I’ve used it in several of my novels. In Mozart’s Last Aria, the great composer’s sister is about to learn who killed him, only for her informant to be murdered during a performance of “The Magic Flute.” She’s back to square one, but now she’s sure there’s a murderer and that he’s onto her.

The show 24 tends to use the 180-degree Midpoint, too. Ever noticed how Jack Bauer fights one lot of bad guys for the first 12 hours, only to realize halfway through the season that the real bad guy is someone else entirely with a completely different plan?

What does a good Midpoint do?

A good Midpoint moves the plot faster. But best of all the reader experiences the same startling shift in focus as the hero. That creates tension and conflict. Which is a good thing in any plot. It’s also a way of saying to the reader, “Gotcha. Stay tuned, because I have more like that for Act III.”

Always try to make the Midpoint blow your readers away. Devote as much energy and ingenuity to it as you do to the set-up of the novel. Never make it so subtle it passes unnoticed. Think of The Da Vinci Code. The Midpoint of Dan Brown's novel is the discovery of what the Holy Grail really is. That’s pretty earth-shattering, even as Midpoints go.

Got a clock? Find the Midpoint

Bogart in CasablancaScreenwriters tend to be particularly precise about having their Midpoint land exactly 50 percent of the way through the movie. Midpoint-spotting in movies is, therefore, pretty easy (provided you own a clock) and can be very instructive as a plot exercise.

Check out Casablanca. At the exact middle of the movie, Rick harshes out at Ilsa. She runs off. He's left in the bar thinking about what a terrible man he has become. Which propels him to spend the second half of the movie redeeming himself.

Let me know if there's a great Midpoint that I haven't mentioned.

freeebookbanner

Get a FREE ebook of my crime stories.
 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on April 09, 2014 01:09 • 12 views • Tags: casablanca, crime-fiction, historical-fiction, how-to-write, jane-austen, midpoint, story-structure, thrillers, writing-tips

April 5, 2014

Dead Every Day PODCAST thumbThe eleventh installment of a FREE thriller in serial form. Matt reads his psychological thriller DEAD EVERY DAY. Ellis Callan is a history professor stricken by post-traumatic stress disorder from his time as a Marine in Iraq. He’s caught up in a mystery surrounding the murders of three women around him. In this installment Callan takes refuge with his dead sister's boss, a psychiatrist. The shrink suggests Callan might be schizophrenic. Then someone comes to get him...A bad girl, a bad pill, and you’re Dead Every Day. Get Matt’s FREE ebook too.

Get the Podcast: Download the MP3
Subscribe on iTunes Listen on Stitcher.

freeebookbanner

Get a FREE ebook of my crime stories.
 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on April 05, 2014 23:48 • 5 views • Tags: crime-fiction, dead-every-day, free-book, free-novel, free-thriller, podcast-novel, podcast-thriller, readings, thrillers, writing