By Chester Campbell
People who advise us on the craft of writing fiction are fond of saying make every word count. If it doesn't help define character or move the plot, it doesn't belong in the story. Okay, they allow us a little leeway in painting the setting, so maybe that's the crutch on which we can hang our little peccadillos.
I got a new review by Gloria Feit, who with her husband is probably the most prolific reviewer on the DorothyL mystery listserve. She posts her reviews on nearly a dozen other sites, including Spinetingler and Crimespree magazines and Midwest Book Review. At the end of her review, she commented that I gave a "tip of the hat from the author to Tim Hallinan and his Bangkok mystery novels, and to Lee Child and his Jack Reacher books."
I like to stick in little plugs for authors I know and like. In one scene I had my secondary protag, Jaz LeMieux, reading a Tim Hallinan mystery to take her mind of her troubles. I don't recall how I brought in Jack Reacher. In other books I had used well known authors as well as lesser known but equally great writers like Beth Anderson, an old pal from Chicago.
I've just finished revising an early manuscript of a thriller I plan to put up as an ebook. Much of it takes place in South Korea, and I included a lot of Korean food and Korean customs to give a better feel for the setting. My first visit to Seoul took place in 1952-53 during the little fracas between North and South. My wife and I journeyed there in 1987 with our son and Korean daughter-in-law. During a visit to her parents' home in Inchon, I got a good look at how non-Westernized people lived.
One interesting little tidbit I used in the book was that you should make noises while eating to show the cook that you enjoyed her meal. When my son was married over there while on duty with the Army, it was with a civil ceremony. I Pun, my daughter-in-law (her maiden name was Han I Pun), wanted a real wedding, so they had a formal ceremony at a wedding house. The preacher spoke in both Korean and English. Afterward, we ate at a Korean restaurant and joined several of her girlfriends for a tour of the town. We visited a Korean War museum and the Port of Inchon, where they let my son open a lock to let a boat in. The book, titled The Poksu Conspiracy, winds up with a Korean wedding.
Some of these little snippets probably advance the plot, others may add to character, but they all help give the reader a feeling of being there. And that's what I like to create.
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