There are just some people in this world that make you smile. Richard Mabry and his wife Kay are two such individuals. Meeting them last fall was a true gift. I am excited to introduce them here on my blog. Dr. Mabry has graciously offered to send a signed copy of Stress Test to someone who comments below.
Dr. Richard Mabry is a retired physician, past Vice-President of the American Christian Fiction Writers, and the author of four published novels of medical suspense. His books have been finalists in competitions including ACFW’s Carol Award and Romantic Times’ Inspirational Book of the Year. His last novel, Lethal Remedy, won a 2012 Selah Award from the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference. His most recent medical thriller, Stress Test (Thomas Nelson), was released in April, and will be followed by Heart Failure in October.
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DON’T JUST PAINT BY NUMBERS
My wife, Kay, is a talented painter. I admire her work, but can’t begin to reproduce it. The closest I’ve come is completing one of those “paint by numbers” kits…and the end result wasn’t something you’d hang on your walls. Good painters don’t paint by the numbers, and good authors don’t write “by the numbers,” either. I’d suggest that in our writing we’d do well to follow the painter’s example.
First, lay out the colors in your palette. For a writer, this means populating the story—not necessarily every character, but certainly the major ones. Just as some colors predominate in a painting, some characters take center stage in a book. For Stress Test, I chose to go with a male doctor as protagonist, but paired him with a strong second lead, a female attorney.
Second, sketch in the rough outlines of the painting. Since I write “by the seat of my pants,” I don’t have a detailed outline of the story flow. However, I always know going in how it will open, the general story arc, the mid-point surprise, and the ending. Everything else is subject to change.
Third, fill in the painting, making changes as you go. For a painter, this might
involve putting in a tree, moving a cloud, or otherwise altering the rough outline from which they started. In the case of a writer, sometimes the characters make us go in a different direction. I’ve even been known to kill off a character, one I had no intention of harming, in order to get the effect I needed. Painters and authors have to be willing to change to improve the final product.
Fourth, apply the finishing touches. The painter will add shadows, touch up one area, insert highlights in another. The author goes through the entire story, often more than once, deepening emotions, involving the senses, and sometimes even changing a character’s actions or motivation until the whole thing holds together.
Fifth, add the proper frame. The frame can set the tone for the reception a painting gets. For a book, what the potential reader sees first is the cover, both the image and title. Publishers have control over both these areas, but the author can have a voice. It’s wise to be prepared to give input in these critical areas.