The tickle of curiosity. The gasp of discovery. Fingers running across the keyboard.

The tickle of curiosity. The gasp of discovery. Fingers running across a keyboard

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Showing posts with label Sue Coletta. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sue Coletta. Show all posts

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Pets in Fiction! with Sue Coletta


This week, I've handed the reins over to the lovely Sue Coletta. Enjoy!
~ Fiona














Ways to Include Pets to Enhance Your Fictional World



I love writing pets into my stories. Not only is a great way to show a killer’s soft side, but they become important family members for the main characters. In my stories, I’ve used a Rottweiler, mastiff, and St. Bernard (MARRED and CLEAVED), a calico, tabby, and
all-black cat (Wings of Mayhem), pet crows (Blessed Mayhem), and a black bear (A Sultry Abyss in SCREAM). I’ve even borrowed a friend’s Bulldog for Black Out (RUN), but I felt so responsible for him, I couldn’t include him like I’d originally planned. God forbid I returned him emotionally scarred from the experience. It’s much safer to use fictional pets.

Need a way to show your character’s quirky side? Include a bearded dragon, snapping turtle, boa, tarantula, or exotic bird.

Is your character adventurous? Give him a pet moose, lion, leopard,
or tiger to love. How ‘bout a pet elephant? When writing about pets let your imagination soar.

Fit the pet to a specific character to cue readers about their personality. By using well-thought-out animals, it can say a lot about who they are, where they live, or even, their state of mind. It’s also fun to juxtapose. Give a tattooed biker a Chihuahua or toy poodle. Readers will love it!

A few things to keep in mind when writing pets into fiction...
If you kill the pet, you better have a damn good reason for it, a reason readers will understand.

For example, Bob and I watched John Wick recently. [SPOILER
ALERT] I fell in love with the Beagle puppy his dead wife sent him. When the bad guys murdered him I almost shut off the movie. If my husband hadn’t begged me to keep watching, that would’ve been it for me. Turns out, this moment kicked off the quest (First Plot Point in story structure). Not only is it an important scene, but if it didn’t happen there’d be no story. See? Understandable reason why he had to die. John Wick would not have gone ballistic over a stolen car. The puppy was the only thing left he cared about. It had to happen.

The safer option is to not harm the pets.
Why Does the Character Have That Specific Pet?

Like I mentioned earlier, you need to know why the character chose that pet. Is he lonely? Does a couple use their pets to fill a maternal/paternal need? Are you using that pet as a way to show the character’s soft side? Does the pet become the only one who'll listen to their fears, sorrow, or hidden secrets? In other words, for an introverted character, pets can assume a larger role in the story so your character isn't talking to him/herself.


As the writer, you need to know why that dog, cat, bird, lizard, or bear is in the story and what role they play in the plot. Does a K9 cop track criminals? Did your criminal character train a horse to be the getaway driver? Does the killer feed his pet hogs or gators human flesh? Why that fictional pet exists is crucial.
What’s the Pet’s Personality?

Animal lovers know each pet has his/her own personality. If you’ve never owned the pets you’re writing about, then I suggest doing a ton of research till you feel like you have. For example, while writing Blessed Mayhem I needed to know how crows communicated and how people could interpret their calls. What separated a crow from a raven, what they felt like, what they smelled like, what foods they enjoyed most. In order to make the characters real I spent countless hours of research into the life of crows. They’re fascinating, by the way. I now want a pet crow of my own. :-)
What Does the Pet Look Like and How Does S/he Act?

First, you’ve got to know the basics…their markings, voice, breed, habitat, diet, etc. Then delve deeper into the expressions they make when they’re happy, content, sleeping, aggravated, and downright pissed off. Every animal has their own unique personality, mannerisms, and traits. Evoke the readers’ five senses. Don’t just concentrate on sight. By tapping into these deeper areas, our fictional pets come alive on the page. It can really add a great deal to a story, too. A scene where the hero or villain cuddles with a pet can add a nice break from the tension, a chance to give the reader a moment to catch their breath before plunging them back into the suspense.

Plus, they’re fun to write.

Does the Basset Hound snore so loudly he keeps the rest of the family awake? Is he now banished to the garage at night? Does the German Shepherd's feet twitch when he's dreaming? Does the Bulldog throw his owner the stink-eye when he can't reach his favorite toy? (Waving at you, Otto!)

Let's talk dogs. They do more than bark. Use their full range of grunts, moans, groans, happy chirps, and playful growls when your character plays tug-of-war. For cats, nothing is more soothing than a purr rattling in their throat as your character drifts asleep. Soft claws can massage their back after a brutal day.

Years ago, I had a pet turkey who used to love to slide his beak down each strand of my hair. This was one of the ways Lou showed affection. I'd sit in a lounge chair with a second lounge chair behind me, and Lou would work his magic till I became putty in his beak. He knew it too. After all that hard work, I couldn't deny him his favorite treats.

Read Sue Coletta's ThrillWriting interview where she tells us what it's like to hang out in a barrell, hiding from the bad guy. HERE

Go to her Amazon page HERE

Her web page is HERE

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Oh, the Places We Will Go! Info for Writers with Sue Coletta

English: Wine barrels at the storage room at T...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Our guest is Sue Coletta - I love keeping up with Sue on Facebook because she's a writer after my own heart - unless you experience it, it's hard to write it right. 

The other day on Facebook, I read one of Sue's posts to my husband because he could so identify with Sue's hubby. Can you tell the story about the chair for us ThrillWriters?

Sue - 
My husband and I had just watched a movie. He got up to brush his teeth and came back into the living room to find me curled in a ball on the seat of the recliner. He asked, "What are you doing?" I said, "Do you think I could fit inside a suitcase?" His response was, "Dead or alive?" Which cracked me up. 

What went through my head was, earlier in the night we'd watched a true crime show. I'm addicted to Discovery ID. And this killer stashed a girl in the suitcase and wheeled her out the lobby of a hotel. I loved the idea.
I was thinking of using it in a story. But before I did I wanted to make sure it was plausible. Hence, why I curled up.

Fiona - 
Only a writer's husband would come back with "dead or alive?"

Once I was at a conference where they were supposed to have a setup that included the bugs and smell of a dead body. My car broke down in the rain. I was on the phone with Hubby at 6 am sobbing that I was going to miss it. "I'm so upset, I so wanted to smell the dead body," I hiccoughed into the phone. "I know you did, baby, and I want that for you too." It takes a special someone to love a writer.

Sue -
Hahahaha! Sounds like something we'd say to each other.

Fiona - 
Let's take a step back. Tell us about you and your writing life. How does your education/past employment feed your prose. What genre do you you write?

Sue - 
I write psychological thrillers mainly, though some of my books are also mysteries. Past experience always plays a hand at what we write, don't you think? During my lifetime I've walked with notorious biker gangs, lawyers, cops, and the average Joe. All of which help me with create believable characters. My past work as a salon owner doesn't play a role, but my work as a paralegal has definitely helped with my research.

Fiona - 
Now I'd disagree with the salon part - you get to sit with different people and get to know them in a way few of us do - when they are feeling vulnerable about their appearance.

You have another story - you were trying out barrels. Can you tell us the story of why? And give us  feedback so we don't have to try it ourselves?

Sue -
I'd just gotten the edits back for CLEAVED, the sequel to MARRED, and when I re-read the opening chapter, I noticed something was missing. The opening starts with a character trapped inside an oil drum. On further inspection, I realized I had no real life situation I could pull from, which made the writing matter-of-fact rather than emotional. When this happens, I need to experience what the character is going through in order to write her, so I asked my husband if we had any oil drums. 

We had a 30 gallon drum, our neighbor had a 55 gallon, like in the chapter. Excitement built in my chest, and I said, "Is it empty? I need to get in there." Fifteen minutes later, I was climbing inside the 30 gallon drum. Which caused a problem right off. You can't just step in and squat. It's too narrow. I needed to tuck and squat, if that makes sense. 

Picture it like this. My hands are on the outside rim. I hike my knees to my chest, then slide in already curled up. That was a tight fit, too! The first thing that struck me was the enormous pressure on my lungs. Pain shot to my ankles, knees, and neck from the odd angles of being stuffed inside. The darkness got to me too. It's pitch black. I couldn't see a thing, which made my heart race even more. My mind swirled with things like, "How much oxygen do I have? What if I can't escape?" Even though I knew my husband was outside the barrel. It doesn't matter. When you're in that situation your body reacts no matter how you try to reason with yourself. 

I stayed for a while in there, too, to see if I could regulate my breathing, but I wasn't able to fully recover natural breathing. In fact, the longer I stayed, the more pressure there was on my lungs. I was able to move my arms, but nothing else. 

When I traded the 30 gallon for a 55 gallon it felt like Club Med. LOL But soon, my body responded in the same way...pain in the ankles, knees, and neck, tightness (to put it mildly) in my chest. I even asked for husband to duct tape the top closed to see how hard I'd have to push to escape. Turns out, it was fairly easy, because the duct tape didn't stick to steel that well, but at least I could experience how she'd try to escape...by using her hands and the back or side of her face. Basically, if she tried to straighten she'd put enough pressure on the lid for it to pop loose. Unless of course the killer clasped the metal bung. Then she'd be screwed. Something to keep in mind.

Fiona - 
Okay just reading those last sentences, my body freaked out. 

Duct tape is often in movies and books - but writers, it doesn't do the job read about it here in Duct Tape 101 and Duct tape 102.

Sue, how were you when you got back out? How long before you, for example, could run or fight? Were your limbs asleep?

Sue - 
They weren't fully asleep, but definitely tingly, on their way to falling asleep. Also, I scraped my back sliding into the first barrel. Forgot to mention that. Once I was out, my breathing did not return to normal. It took a while to recover, actually. I'd say a good ten to fifteen minutes for the pressure to release from my lungs. The pain in my neck lasted all day, sort of like when you wake with a stiff neck from sleeping wrong. My ankles and knees weren't too bad after ten minutes or so, but if I had to run for my life afterward, I'd definitely have a hard time.

Fiona - 
Now I'm wondering about your psychological well being. How did the experience affect your decision making? How long did it take for you to feel relief from the stress? And did you have nightmares about small spaces that night?

Sue - 
LOL I'm fine, truly. I do these type of things all the time. Decision making while inside the drum gets skewed. I'm guessing it's a combination of things...oxygen deprivation combined with panic. I felt relieved immediately upon escape, but that pressure on my lungs still played with my head. No nightmares, thankfully. 

I did, however, write a much better scene. Score!

Fiona - 
Here on ThrillWriting, we always ask about the story behind your favorite scar 

Sue - 
Hmm...interesting question. I have a few scars to choose from, but I'll go with my eyelid scars because I almost died in that accident. It was a brutally hot and humid summer evening, around 8 p.m. At the time I had a 2 hour and 10 min. commute each way to work. The air conditioner died. I hadn't been sleeping well due to a bad break up. I'd worked 10 hours and was only 5 miles from my house when I drifted off, totaled 4 cars, and woke with my face in the windshield. 

Someone had rushed from their house (the guy whose new porsche I totaled) and removed me, laid me back with towels wrapped around my face. I didn't know it then, but when he pulled my face out of the glass my eyebrow and lashes stayed behind. The doctors told me I'd never regrow either the brow or the lashes. They did plastic surgery to repair the eyelid and side of my nose, and they picked out as much glass as they could from my eyes, but I picked out more glass for weeks afterward. 

Anyway, little by little I noticed tiny hairs growing. The doctors couldn't believe. After a couple months, I had a full eyebrow and lashes. I'm now in medical journals.

Fiona - 
Holy smokes!

Well, I have to say today we talked about things that set my nerves on end. 

Can you tell us a bit about one of your books?

Sue - 
In honor of publisher's b'day bash, MARRED is on sale for 99c (Kindle version). 


When a serial killer breaks into the home of bestselling author, Sage Quintano, she barely escapes with her life. Her husband, Niko, a homicide detective, insists they move to rural New Hampshire, where he accepts a position as Grafton County Sheriff. Sage buries secrets from that night—secrets she swears to take to her deathbed.

Three years of anguish and painful memories pass, and a grisly murder case lands on Niko’s desk. A strange caller torments Sage—she can’t outrun the past.

When Sage’s twin sister suddenly goes missing, Sage searches Niko’s case files and discovers similarities to the Boston killer. A sadistic psychopath is preying on innocent women, marring their bodies in unspeakable ways. And now, he has her sister.

Cryptic clues. Hidden messages. Is the killer hinting at his identity? Or is he trying to lure Sage into a deadly trap to end his reign of terror with a matching set of corpses?

Fiona
Thank you!

If you all want to keep in touch with Sue, here are some links.

website: http://www.suecoletta.com/
Twitter: www.twitter.com/SueColetta1
Facebook: www.facebook.com/SueColetta1