"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart." ~ William Wordsworth

The Writing Life Too

And if you're reading this, it means you're not writing.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The sky is the color of pewter and the forecast calls for more rain. While the blooms continue, yesterday I was running an errand in a small town at about 500 feet and it was snowing. In January when I was visiting Mexico I was struck by how easy it was to be in country not ruled by fear. Now, I’m no Pollyanna, and I don’t think that Mexico is without problems, corruption, or poverty, especially in the border region. I think our government policy toward Mexico shouldn’t involve building walls, but rather figure out how both countries can build more jobs.

But back to fear. Saturday I mailed the final draft of my manuscript for my upcoming book to my editor at Writer’s Digest. It will be published in July and is called Bullies, Bastards & Bitches, How to Write the Bad Guys in Fiction. I wrote an introduction that describes the physiological wiring involved in fear and why we capitalize on readers’ fears as writers. It’s something I also talked about in Between the Lines, particularly in chapters on suspense and tension: "Fiction isn’t written to make readers happy. Its purpose is to jangle their nerves, make their hearts race, give them goose bumps, and disturb their sleep. A happy reader is a complacent reader, and a complacent reader is one who nods off instead of turning the pages until dawn. The urge to keep reading comes from many factors, but mostly from suspense. And suspense is a technique that requires sleight of hand and is tied to our reader’s primal instincts and fears. Your job is to unsettle your reader even if you’re uncomfortable being sneaky or sly or if such traits come naturally."

Here is an early version of the opening that describes why we capitalize on a reader’s fears and physiology: "The world is a dangerous place. Or at least that’s what we’re taught as children when we were warned about stepping into oncoming traffic, playing with matches, accepting candy from a stranger, and running with a pointed stick or scissors. But children know that bigger dangers loom because monsters, witches, ghosts, and villains all have more fright power than sticks or on-coming traffic. These creatures invaded our nightmares, were depicted in movies and Marvel Comics, heard in fairy tales and myths, and told around campfires with the flames crackling and licking and a chorus of night sounds adding an extra shiver to the ghostly tale.

In childhood we also first meet real-life bad guys and learn that cruelty is an inescapable reality. These harsh lessons come in the form of the neighborhood or classroom bully, a sadistic cousin, a teacher who seemed to have it in for you, and creepy strangers at the mall. So at an early age we learn distrust and unease because life holds dangers and we realize that it takes resilience and courage to navigate through our days.

This particular legacy of childhood lingers into adulthood and fiction writers can capitalize on this fact, remembering fear’s potent hold on us as children and how difficult it was to feel vulnerable. In fact, it’s a fiction writer’s job to remember childhood’s hard lessons about vulnerability and dangers and stir up those memories and fears in readers. You see, readers are consciously or unconsciously drawn to vulnerable characters in precarious circumstances that are the heart of fiction. We enjoy reading about menace threatening a character in fiction since it’s safely removed from us, yet we can still enjoy the thrill ride because we’re well acquainted with fear and feelings of vulnerability. So in essence, readers tell authors bring on the baddest of the bad guys, the scariest monster, the freakiest sociopath, the most depraved killer—and we’ll flip through the pages, attention focused on the carnage."

While I was working on my chapter on horror fiction and monsters, I came across a terrific interview with Peter Straub at www.darkecho.com that you might want to read because his remarks about fear and how to create horror are fascinating. Straub remarks: “I had a connoisseur's...appreciation of fear. Fear and I were old buddies, despite my best efforts to the contrary. I knew his whole family, his older brothers Terror and Panic, his little sister, Nightmare, their charming parents, Chaos and Destruction, and all their cousins, Rage, Depression, Denial, Guilt, Shame, and the rest of the brood. I had first made my acquaintance with these enlightening folks in my seventh year, about twenty seconds before being struck by a car and at the moment I noticed the proximity of the vehicle to myself and understood that an unhappy collision was in the cards."

In fact, I researched extensively while writing this book, especially when it came to writing about horror and sociopaths. I particularly enjoyed Martha Stout’s book The Sociopath Next Door as a resource along with the research of Robert Hare. Stout, who until recently taught at the Harvard Medical School has written a practical examination of what terror and fear politics have done to our minds and to the very biology of our brains. In this timely book, The Paranoia Switch: How Terror Rewires Our Brains and Reshapes Our Behavior and How We Can Reclaim Our Courage. Stout explains "how terror rewires our brains and reshapes our behavior--and how we can reclaim our courage." It’s exciting to find professionals who can draw the line around fear—who realize that it works in fiction and drama, but should not be the means that politicians use to control a populace.

Here is an excerpt Stouts book posted on the Huffington Post: “When the president of the United States behaves in ways that redouble the population's fears, his behavior is a psychological issue. When the White House uses advertising specialists to instill in our minds terrifying visual images of mushroom clouds above American cities, American psychologists should be concerned, to say the least. When our chief executive dwells yet again on "death and destruction" in a speech he makes as we observe the sixth anniversary of our national trauma--and tells us that if we hinder his war policy, our enemies will "come here to kill us"--it's time for professionals who know about the effects of psychological trauma to speak up. As such a professional, I invite any person of reasonably sound mental health to engage in this brief and illuminating fantasy:

Imagine for a moment that somehow the American presidency falls to you, instead of to George Bush, and that, for reasons known only to you and your conscience, you accept the position. Not long after you move into the Oval Office, the United States is hit by a disastrous terrorist attack. Counterterrorism measures that should have been attended to long ago must now be designed at emergency speed--protective systems for the skies, the ports, the nation's nuclear facilities, its food supplies--but you can see that, just now, your stricken countrymen are scarcely able to think at all. Their physical and psychological landscapes have been disfigured by inscrutable "others" from a distant part of the world, and they are deeply traumatized and subclinically paranoid. The resonance of their fear is almost palpable. In this uniquely vulnerable state of mind, three hundred million people turn to you en masse, and, prepared to trust your answer implicitly--to cling to it, even--they ask you the following question: What should we do now?

I believe that, as you looked out on millions of your countrymen lost in fear and grief, you would experience an overwhelming desire to help them. You would earnestly want to bring them some comfort and peace, so they could protect themselves, heal, and rebuild. And--exiting this little fantasy exercise and returning to the reality of the last six years--perhaps, like me, you've been repeatedly saddened to witness that not everyone in such a rare and influential position experiences a desire to assist his own nation in recovery and real self-protection.

That some of our leaders didn't display this sort of heartfelt reaction has been understandably difficult for Americans to acknowledge out loud.”

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Sky is a pale blue gray and today is supposed to be rain free. I returned home last night in time to make dinner, chat on the phone and watch Bill Moyer’s Journal on public television. Last night it was about a documentary film made by Phil Donohue and Ellen Spiro, Body of War about the true cost of war. The story tracks Tomas Young and his family in the aftermath of the paralyzing injuries he received while serving in Iraq. Donahue met Young when he was visiting at Walter Reed hospital. Donahue says, “My inspiration for this film was the naked child running from the napalm. Remember that Vietnam picture? I mean, terrified, this little girl is totally naked... See the pain. Don't sanitize the war. If you're gonna send young men and women to fight for this nation, tell the truth. That's one of the biggest reasons for the First Amendment, and we haven't been. And so I thought 'I will tell the story,' the real story of the harm in harm's way.”

I don’t know about you, but I miss Phil Donahue in our public life and discourse.

Not only does the documentary expose the difficulties of Young’s life now that he’s in a wheelchair and mostly paralyzed, it also is juxtaposed with clips of the Senate and House hearings that were held three weeks before the November 2002 election. You can see how so many Senators and Congressmen and women voted for the rush to war, how they were reading from their notes dictated by the Administration, except for those few votes of dissent. You can see once again Robert Byrd’s heroic pleas to the Senate and the American people to stop the madness. And you can wonder how these supposed leaders can sleep at night. The film will be released April 2 and the web site that lists where it will be shown is http://www.bodyofwar.com. The story is at http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal

Meanwhile, Young has turned his energy into producing a CD. He writes: Being an antiwar activist in this day and age is frustrating. You fight and fight and nothing gets done and, when you add the daily struggles I endure just to get out of bed and try to have a normal day, life can be a tiring experience both physically and mentally. Music has helped me find the motivation to not only get up and fight another day but to do it with determination no matter how the frustration may stack up against me. Whether it be a song that is written from the perspective of a soldier confused at being in a position he doesn’t want to be in but has no say in the matter (“Hero’s Song” by Brendan James or “Day After Tomorrow” by Tom Waits), or a song written to inspire a vitriolic anger at the state of the union and inspire the listener to action (“B.Y.O.B. by System of a Down or “The 4th Branch” by Immortal Technique), music like the songs I chose for the BODY OF WAR CD compilation inspired a particular emotion in me that made me want to act towards the goals of ending the war and bringing light to the need for better veterans’ health care. These things are bigger than all of us and need to be paid attention to, so I can only hope that music of any kind helps and inspires you as much as it has helped me.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I’ve woken to a bullet-colored sky with a promise of rain. It’s probably not big news to most people that tomorrow is the fifth anniversary of our invasion of Iraq. I could spend many words on the waste and the horrors and the deaths. But please don’t forget about all the Iraqis who have died and about how they still live in a country plagued by violence, shortages and intermittent electricity. Please don’t forget that so many of them are refuges, scattered all around the world. I think it also might be a good time that we focus on the media coverage of these events and perhaps we can ask how our media can do a better job covering the truth. For example check out the story at www.editorandpublisher.com about how five years ago major newspapers opposed the invasion. "The road to imminent war has been a bumpy one, clumsily traveled by the Bush administration," The Buffalo (N.Y.) News wrote. "The global coalition against terror forged after the atrocities of 9/11 is virtually shattered. The explanation as to why Iraq presents an imminent threat requiring immediate action has not been clear and compelling."

Many papers expressed hopes that a better world could prevail. "So the United States apparently will go to war with few allies and in the face of great international opposition," the L.A. Times said. "This is an uncharted path ... to an uncertain destination. We desperately hope to be wrong in our trepidation about the consequences here and abroad."

One thing for sure is that the Bush administration has been good for the publishing industry and I doubt that will never be such a flowering of dissent and truth-telling in the light of such ineptitude and corruption. The latest offering about our ill-fated plunder is So Wrong for so Long by Greg Mitchell. It features a foreword by Joe Galloway and a preface by Bruce Springsteen. Bill Moyers comments: "Every aspiring journalist, every veteran, every pundit—and every citizen who cares about the difference between illusion and reality, propaganda and the truth, and looks to the press to help keep them separate—should read this book. Twice."

You might also want to read The Three Trillion Dollar War, by Harvard's Linda Bilmes and Joe Stiglitz a Nobel laureate in economics. He was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under Clinton and chief economist and senior vice president at the World Bank. They estimate the economic cost of the war to the United States at $3 trillion, and the costs to the rest of the world to be an additional $3 trillion - far higher than the estimates the Bush administration gave before the war.

And speaking of the media, perhaps it’s time that we demand that the media stops the hate mongering (ala Bill O’Reilly) about 1/3 of the world’s population, Muslims. Yesterday in anti-hate speech mode, there was Barack Obama’s talk about race relations in our country. Imagine that a politician thinks that we can absorb thoughtful discourse instead of sound bites and name calling. Here is an excerpt:

“We have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle—as we did in the OJ trial—or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina—or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words.

"We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

"We can do that.

"But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

"That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, "Not this time." This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can't learn; that those kids who don't look like us are somebody else's problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

"This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don't have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

"This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn't look like you might take your job; it's that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

"This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should've been authorized and never should've been waged, and we want to talk about how we'll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

"I would not be running for President if I didn't believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation—the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.

"There is one story in particularly that I'd like to leave you with today—a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King's birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.

"There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

"And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that's when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

"She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

"She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

"Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother's problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn't. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

"Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they're supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who's been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he's there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, "I am here because of Ashley."

""I'm here because of Ashley." By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

"But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins."

You can watch or read the whole speech here: http://www.moveon.org/r?r=3511

Friday, March 14, 2008

The morning sky is the color of soot and the wind is lashing the trees. Our spring temperatures disappeared yesterday and it felt more like winter was back. I console myself that the blooms will last longer if the temperatures are cool.

I have the author’s proof of Bullies, Bastards and Bitches, How to Write the Bad Guys in Fiction sitting here in my office. When I look at that thick stack of pages I understand that it was no wonder I was weary when I finished. So it’s one last bath for my baby. Meanwhile, I’ve been working on editing projects for clients, getting ready to teach a workshop tomorrow in Portland, and I’ve started working on my new book that’s going to be published by Tarcher Penguin in 2009.

This book is based on working with writers for many years, especially my work as a developmental editor and noticing the same mistakes in their manuscripts over and over. It’s also based on my feelings of deep sorrow for these writers that they have often spent many months or years working on a novel or memoir without first knowing about the craft of writing, the three-act structure, or that scenes are built from conflict. So I’m hoping to address the problems I see most often, because frankly, these writers break my heart.

Of course, sometimes they really piss me off. I taught at a conference recently and about a month later a writer sent me several query letters and asked me to think like a publishing exec and let him know if his stories intrigued me. Problem was, the queries were dreadful—riddled with errors, lacking in specifics, but instead full of boasts about how everyone was going to love the story. They screamed “amateur” –I wish it wasn’t true, but alas it was. When I sent him email and explained (and I wasn’t unkind although he deserved to be ripped to shreds) the problems in his queries, he sent me back a nasty, nasty email claiming that I had called him names, insulted him, etc. Which I hadn’t. Although he deserved to be insulted and I’m afraid needed a big wake up call about his skill level.So I'm writing the book for people who want to break into publishing, but might not be able to see the problems with their approach.

If you want to play the game you gotta know the rules and abide by them. You gotta write stuff that is so hauntingly beautiful or clever or potent that I cannot not read it. You’ve got to write something that is going to start buzz about you. The rules for writers who have never been published are different than for those who have. You have lots more to prove, so up your game baby, up your game.

Monday, March 10, 2008

After spending four days in Prince George, B.C. it’s with great pleasure that I’m watching spring unfold here. I flew in late yesterday afternoon and when I stepped off the plane into 64 degree sunshine, felt almost reborn. When I had climbed into the plane in Prince George a bitter wind was blowing snow sideways out of a bullet-colored sky. As we drove to a dinner party Saturday night I felt like I’d slipped back into my childhood because snow plows had piled up snow 10 or 15 feet high and houses were all diminished at the back of the mounds of white. I had threatened the people at the dinner party that I’d write about our dinner conversation in my blog, but I won’t. Except I’ll report that being the only American at the table is always interesting when they demand to know how the hell George Bush won two elections. And I don’t know if they believe me when I tell them he hasn’t won a damn thing in his life, but I do know that Canadians are mad as hell at our government.

I rarely have the stomach for reading apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic fiction because frankly ever since George Bush stole his first election in 2000 and the horrors he’s unleashed on the world, I’ve been expecting the worst from humankind. Or at least the humans running our government. So although several people have recommended Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, I had resisted reading it. After all, McCarthy’s dark visions aren’t for wimps. But while visiting my friend who teaches English to high school kids in Prince George, he drove me to a bookstore in town and bought me the book. We’d hiked up a hillside through snow, sometimes sinking as we trudged along and then looked down at the valley where two rivers met and the city spread below, all winter barren, the sky nearly turquoise.

Driving along we’d talked about what wakes us scared in the middle of the night and one of my big fears is that this country will never right itself, that the sweet promise of democracy has been played out, and we’re spinning into madness fueled by greed. My friend wakes with worries too, but not about his country or his future like I do. There are about six copies of The Road at his school that kids are constantly borrowing and as we drove to the airport, the windshield wipers brushing off the snow, he told me that a senior in his class “a sweet girl” had read the book over a weekend, weeping throughout.

And I finished reading The Road by the time I landed in Portland yesterday. As usual, every one of McCarthy’s words is carefully chosen as if chiseled into stone. It’s dedicated to his son who was about five when he wrote it. And it’s so haunting and profound that this book will always live within me. Part poetry, part horror story, you can scarcely bear to turn each page, but you cannot also not stop reading.

You see, some unnamed horror has changed the world to ash when "A long shear of light and then a series of low concussions" happened ten years before the story begins. Almost no one is left on earth, but those that remain are "Creedless shells of men tottering down the causeways like migrants in a feverland. The frailty of everything revealed at last. Old and troubling issues resolved into nothingness and night.”

The story follows a father and his son slogging southward trying to avoid danger, hoping for warmth and life near the ocean in the midst of a nuclear winter. The father is weakened and coughing blood and you’ll never read anything so bleak or tender. The sun and moon and stars are gone and I cannot bear to imagine a world without our skyward companions. "The nights now only slightly less black," he writes. "By day the banished sun circles the earth like a grieving mother with a lamp."

The boy’s most frequent comment is about how scared he is. Little wonder: "The land was gullied and eroded and barren. The bones of dead creatures sprawled in the washes. Middens of anonymous trash. Farmhouses in the fields scoured of their paint and the clapboards spooned and sprung from the wallstuds. All of it shadowless and without feature. The road descended through a jungle of dead kudzu. A marsh where the dead reeds lay over the water. Beyond the edge of the fields the sullen haze hung over the earth and sky alike. By late afternoon it had begun to snow and they went on with the tarp over them and the wet snow hissing on the plastic."

As we were descending over Portland, Mt. St. Helen’s white, scooped-out top filled the airplane window and I was so grateful for the sight of the mountain, for the sense that nature can survive, for a world not covered in ash. After I got home I walked to a neighborhood restaurant for carry-out Mexican food. I passed a bed of jonquils and buds appearing everywhere and spotted a tree that had opened into soft pink blooms and I’ve never seen anything more lovely. So I’ve been thinking a lot about old Cormac and his bloody visions of humankind and how this book is a love letter to his son. In one of his rare interviews when he talks about spending a life writing and the sacrifices it requires he said, "You're just here once, life is brief, and to have to spend every day of it doing what somebody else wants you to do is not the way to live it."

Hundreds of people have written accolades about this prize-winning book already. So I’ll leave you with McCarthy’s comment on what the book means, “Just simply care about things and people and be more appreciative. Life is pretty damn good, even when it looks bad, and we should appreciate it more. We should be grateful. I don't know who to be grateful to, but you should be thankful for what you have.”

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Well, a friend just sent me this link. Another memoir has turned out to be a hoax. We live in an age of lies and distortion and craziness. Sometimes I'm so dizzy and sad by all the lies we're being fed daily that I can scarcely stand to listen or read on. Perhaps it's time that writers step up with truth and dignity. Perhaps it's time that publishers investigate a memoir writer's allegations about his or her past. Read it and wonder how so many people were taken in.....

| March 4, 2008
Gang Memoir, Turning Page, Is Pure Fiction
Margaret Seltzer admitted that the personal story she tells in “Love and Consequences” was entirely fabricated.

Monday, March 03, 2008

The morning sky is the color of smoke and life has been too hectic lately to visit the blogosphere. Yesterday was especially lovely here—sun so bright it would break your heart and buds popping out with wild profusion. As I mentioned, I missed so many movies lately I’m trying to catch them while they’re still showing on the big screen. So I saw Michael Clayton with a friend on Friday night and loved the frame story structure and the tension so thick you felt wound tight as you watched the story unfold.

After the movie we stopped at a wine bar and were talking about this phase of our lives. She mentioned that she believed that most of life was simply fate, that on any day we get to choose the clothes we wear, but pretty much else is preordained. I’ve been mulling this over since—and can’t agree. But then again we hear stories about how fate taps someone on the shoulder and summons them for ruin or greatness. In fact, Oprah has a new reality show the Big Give that is about intervening in fate. I like that this show reminds us that giving needs to happen every day, but why is every part of life turning into a reality show? Isn’t reality better?

But I want to get back to the essentials of writing compelling fiction. Here are some more tips:

Truths about our shared humanity lie at the core of fiction. We read fiction to be distracted from the dailiness of our lives, to be entertained, to walk among a different time and place; but mostly to further our understanding of what it means to be human.

So fiction is one of our best teachers, our easily-loved companion, and it resonates so deeply with the reader since we’ve all heard stories since we were small. And since we were small, stories brought meaning to our lives.

Stories begin at a moment of change or just before the moment of change and the change threatens the protagonist’s well being and sets the story in motion.

All the major players have an agenda.

All the major moments and the ending are foreshadowed.

Characters are developed through action and dialogue.

The situation of the story world is inescapable.

Excursions into the past via recollections and flashbacks exist only to illuminate the front story.

The story is anchored via the theme and premise.

It is written for all the senses and weather, lighting, shadows, seasonal details create a world that breathes.

Know how far your protagonist and antagonist will go to achieve their goals. Also know their emotional range.

Uses emotional moments for impact to reveal truths, realizations, epiphanies, and the like without resorting to melodrama. This is best achieved by slowly escalating tensions and conflict.

The writer pays attention to language to maximize the drama, create moods, and enhance tension while invoking a subtle, lingering resonance.

Scenes are based on a goal or mission meeting an obstacle, but are also embedded with tension. This is often done by finding small ways to make the protagonist uncomfortable or at odds with his environment.

The middle of a novel comprises more than half its length. At about the midpoint of most novels, a dramatic reversal occurs. The hunter becomes the hunted; a second murder occurs proving the detective has been wrong in his suspicions; a former lover arrives in town to complicate a budding romance. This reversal keeps the middle from bogging down and becoming predictable and also breathes new life and often a new direction into the story.