Please take a moment from the Super Bowl to check out Rick Reed’s essay. Rick is the author of true crime plus the Jack Murphy series. Leave a comment to enter a drawing for a free copy of FINAL JUSTICE.
Lump of Clay
I’ve been asked this question many times. “Do you write from an outline? How do you get your ideas and keep them straight while writing a full length novel?”
The answer I gave in the past is, “I don’t start with an outline. I start with a title (an idea) and then let the characters develop the story.”
But today I realized that’s only partially true.
Imagine a book as a lump of clay. (And please don’t think I’m comparing myself to an artist.) The definition of sculpting is to create by removing material in order for the shape that is hidden inside to be revealed.
With that in mind, imagine a title such as “Murder in Mind.” What images does that create? What feelings does it bring out? For every one of you it’s different, but will have subtle similarities. For one of you the story would be about a serial killer that fantasizes his murders and tries to make them fit the fantasy. For another of you it might be a nightmare, or the unconscious world of a coma patient.
Probably most of you work the other way around. You have an idea in mind, and then come up with a title. Either way, the title almost always changes to fit the story.
My books, The Cruelest Cut, The Coldest Fear, and Final Justice, all started with a title that stuck in my mind. It was my lump of clay. And like any sculptor or potter will tell you, eventually, the clay begins to take over, and the artist is merely the hands and chisel (or laptop) that tells the story. Inside my lump, I saw a number of possible directions for the story, and each one would lead to the characters. Then the characters would take over.
Each character has a different idea how they talk, what they will or won’t do, how a scene turns out, who they interact with. I never know the end until the end because it “ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings.” There is no better feeling in the world for an author than writing those two words…THE END.
Like any writer or artist or athlete, etc., each book is a different experience and you learn from all of them. I’d like to think that I’ve grown as a writer and I can look back at my old books and see where I would have done them differently. But the difference is the beauty of a book. Not everyone will like what you’ve written. Not everyone appreciates a painting or sculpture or song or music, but that doesn’t make it bad. (Like I used to tell my college students, “Not everyone likes asparagus.”)
So I say, “Go forth. Find your lump of clay. Create. Believe.”
Sergeant Rick Reed (Ret.) was a member of the Evansville Police Department and Vanderburgh County Sheriff Department in Indiana for 30 years. During that time he served in almost all areas of law enforcement, as a hostage negotiator, handwriting expert, Bunco-Fraud, juvenile, crimes against persons, and homicide.
In his law enforcement career he was lead investigator on numerous homicides, rapes, home invasion and battery cases. But it was during his stint in Bunco-Fraud (white collar crime) that he tracked and captured serial killer Joseph Weldon Brown. Reed’s acclaimed book, Blood Trail, is the true account of that investigation, which subsequently unearthed a serial killer claiming the lives of fourteen victims. While serving a life-without-parole sentence for these murders, Brown strangled his cellmate, made coffee, and called for the guard to move the body.
After the success of Blood Trail Rick signed a two-book contract with Kensington Books to write serial killer thrillers. His first book, The Cruelest Cut, released in 2010, introduces detective Jack Murphy and his partner, Liddell Blanchard, as they chase a pair of revenge-driven serial killers through the streets of Evansville. In The Coldest Fear the detectives attempt to follow the reasoning of an unfathomable serial killer who is wielding a bone axe. The Coldest Fear was released in September 2011. Both of these works have been translated into German and Polish.
Rick’s third detective Jack Murphy thriller, Final Justice, addresses the corruption and failings within the criminal justice system. Final Justice was released September 2013 and re-released in January 2014.Rick is currently at work on his next Jack Murphy thriller, Murphy’s Law, to be released in mid 2014.
Rick also belongs to BOOKCLUBREADING.COM, an innovative group that pairs authors with book clubs, libraries, universities, domestic violence groups, and writer’s groups. The Internet makes the author available to speak at your event via Skype or iChat, or in person.
To learn more, visit Rick at:
Or contact via email: email@example.com