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Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Two humble pieces of advice for aspiring authors.

Advice from a Rebel-Maker
Debra Chapoton

I have two humble bits of advice for aspiring authors. First, give your characters free rein. Let them change the story on you. Life is an adventure; we don’t know what tomorrow will bring and a novel should be just as surprising for the author as for the reader.

I started EDGE OF ESCAPE with a particular ending in mind. In fact, I wrote the penultimate scenes immediately after writing the beginning scenes. Rebecca, the victim, would be rescued, I thought. I wrote a scene of her recovering in the hospital with a young male character standing vigil. I didn’t name him so I could keep the reader guessing. Kidnapper , boyfriend, brother? I thought I knew who it was when I wrote the scene, but it turned out that I was wrong. I can control the circumstances and events as they unfold, but by giving the characters free will, I give the book its own world.

I don’t write a lengthy outline like some authors, but I do have a plan, just like in life. But, just like in life, things don’t go the way I plan; there are twists, turns, surprises and problems. I guess you could say that my characters rebel against me, their creator, just like we humans have been rebelling against our Creator since Adam and Eve.

When I first started writing many years ago I got into the habit of following a writing routine. First I like to proofread the previous day’s pages then go for a walk. With the last scenes fresh in my mind I create new action, dialogue and dilemmas as I get my exercise. Forty-five minutes later I sit back down to type. The characters obediently follow my plot ideas for a few paragraphs and then . . . bam! They rebel. I don’t mind because what they decide to say and do keeps me interested and entertained.

My second piece of advice is to love your characters, even the evil ones. Care for them. Give them hopes, dreams, habits, idiosyncrasies, goals, fears and flaws. Make sure your protagonist has some defect and your antagonist has some merit; nobody is all good or all bad.

Everybody has a book inside. If a colleague hadn’t challenged me with that statement I never would have written my first book, let alone several. You have a book inside – go write it!
Debra Chapoton

EDGE OF ESCAPE reveals the fractured heart of Eddie, an emotionally impaired 18-year-old who has spent most of his school years in special education classes. Placed there by an over protective mother who also blames her son for his unintentional part in his father's death, Eddie is kept separated from normal student interactions.

Eddie's guilt and his place among the unaccepted serve to keep him invisible to the rest of the students, especially the popular ones. His uncontainable obsession for the popular Rebecca compels him to devise a plan to pull her into his world and win her over.

What should have been appropriate advances become, for Rebecca, the terror of stalking and abduction. She wakes up trapped, she escapes, and then she makes a wrong choice and is trapped again. Throughout her ordeal as she escapes again and again, there are flashbacks into both Rebecca's and Eddie's lives and how those lives have been intersecting all through their school years. If she falls for the fragile spirit who stalks her, does love erase evil intent? If she fails to see the innocent infatuation for what it is, will she be responsible for the inevitable tragedy that foreshadows their tangled fate? 

Excerpt from Edge of Escape

Chapter 1

Mmm. Sleep. She took an involuntary sniff through her nose and made an audible sigh out her mouth, loud enough to pull her almost all the way up from the strangest dream. It was a soft nightmare, not scary but very unpleasant. Weird, the way dreams sometimes are. She rolled to her right and jerked herself completely awake. The room was pitch black but her eyes were wide and searching. Her left wrist seemed tethered to the side of the bed. She reached with her right hand and felt blindly from her wrist to a cold metal pole. She was handcuffed. Panicking, she rattled the pole and started to scream. The screams turned to grunts and groans as she struggled with the shackles. She paused to listen, holding her breath. Nothing. Still pitch black. There were faint sounds from somewhere. Far away expressway noises, a breeze through tall trees, closer crickets. But no house sounds, no refrigerator hum, no creaks, no ticking clock. She let out her breath and tried to calm herself. She was fully clothed but shoeless. Her watch was gone. She pulled her legs up under herself for leverage and started to stand, intending to rip her wrist restraint free of the metal. She placed the chain links in her left hand and grabbed the wrist metal with her right. She braced herself, tilted her head upwards, gritted her teeth and straightened her legs fast. Her head met an unexpectedly low ceiling hard enough to knock her back into the soft nightmare.

* * *

“Is she awake?” the nurse asked. A handsome man was hovering over the young woman’s bandaged body, continually checking the monitors and lightly kissing her cheeks, her right hand, and her forehead.

“She’s been moaning and her eyes fluttered once. I’ve been squeezing her hand but there’s no response.” He touched her face again, “Come on, Becca, wake up.”

The nurse scanned the chart again. Rebecca MacPherson, 18, unmarried. And what a hunk of man at her bedside. The nurse admired his devotion. He had not left her side in the 36 or so hours that the unconscious girl had lain there. Her injuries did not appear severe though her left wrist was bandaged. There was a lump on her forehead, which must have hurt, but the patient was unaware of pain and oblivious to her surroundings. The nurse checked the monitors and frowned. Rebecca should have awakened by now. She didn’t want the guy to worry any more than he already was so she smiled at him and gave him an encouraging thumbs up sign. “She’ll awake soon. Everything looks fine.”

She headed for the door and glanced back. Such a handsome young man, she thought. No matter the age, the good ones are always taken. 

* * *

Rebecca was unconscious for only a few minutes but she had no way of knowing that. It was still pitch black in the low ceilinged room. This time she was more cautious. She felt around first with her feet and then with her free arm, stretching and twisting in order to get as clear an idea of her position as possible. All the way to the right she could feel the side of the bed. She could dangle her feet over the side and outwards three feet but could not feel anything solid. The top of the bed had a crib-like railing instead of a headboard and when she stuck her right arm through the slats there was no wall immediately behind it. She clicked her fingers in an effort to sense the space as if she had sonar abilities. She even squeezed her eyes tightly shut to concentrate on her hearing. She guessed that the wall was near, maybe a couple of feet away. She reached up and felt again the low ceiling. Rebecca was only 5 feet two inches tall and identifying ceiling textures was not on the list of things a short girl like her would do, but this felt like concrete, more like a basement floor than a ceiling. No wonder I knocked myself out, she thought, raising her fingers to her forehead. Whoa. She had a huge knot above her eyebrow, tender to the touch. 

She continued her blind search, first feeling with her feet down the left side of the bed beneath the metal pole. There was a horizontal pole along the bottom of the mattress, then nothing. She couldn’t feel the floor. She placed both hands on the pole and lowered herself. Still no floor. She was dangling like a kid on a trapeze. She pressed one bare foot against the pole and made a 180-degree arc with the other. Her big toe grazed something hard and smooth. Glass, she thought, a window. She changed position and used her other foot, stretching harder and scraping with her toenail. A sliver of gray night bled through the blackened window. She continued to stretch and scrape until her muscles ached and her cuffed wrist bled.

Exhausted, she pulled her body back onto the mattress. She tilted her head toward the window and tried to think. The last thing she remembered was shopping with her friend, Sarah, and feeling a little nauseated from an ice cream drink. She was walking alone down a corridor to the restrooms when … what? Obviously I’ve been abducted, she thought. She had been suppressing this thought since the moment she awakened. Rebecca was stronger than her small frame indicated, physically and mentally. She was an iron-willed person, always wanting to be in control, and always the center of attention. 

Her stomach growled and she realized she needed to go to the bathroom as well. She refused to acknowledge the chilling fear that was creeping up her spine and instead stared at the window, at the gray strips of light that were appearing to brighten. She worked the handcuffs along the pole and reached further but still nothing. She twisted until she could get her head over the bedside and then she vomited. Time to cry. The frustration and fear, the handcuffs and the darkness were overwhelming. Rebecca wept. 

Debra Chapoton has taught kids of all ages in her main career as a teacher. She has a BA in Spanish and a Master of Arts degree in Teaching English. She started writing in 2002 and was surprised to find out that the characters quickly take over the action and dialogue in the stories.

Her first YA novel is Edge of Escape. The main character, Eddie, is brilliant yet emotionally impaired. He fixates on pretty and popular Rebecca. He abducts her then tries to be her rescuer as she escapes his traps. His fragile devotion reveals a delicate spirit that Rebecca can either accept or reject. Stalking and obsession get a sympathetic twist in this story of physical and psychological survival.

Chapoton has also written the Big Pine Lodge series for kids ages 8 – 12. These books follow the adventures of Missy and Kevin as they explore the lodge, the cemetery, the old ruins and especially the labyrinth of caves which run beneath the lake and mountain near Big Pine Lodge. They solve mysteries, confront danger and face off with teenage bullies or wild animals in The Secret in the Hidden Cave, Mystery’s Grave and Bullies and Bears.

Other chapter books she has authored are A Tick in Time, a fantasy adventure into a parallel universe, and Bigfoot Day, Ninja Night, a pair of spooky stories that kids love. She has recently published a non-fiction work, Crossing the Scriptures, which explores the amazing connections between the 66 books of the Bible as they align with the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. This Bible study reveals the intricate weaving of words and themes in books that are spaced at equal intervals.

Debra Chapoton's contacts:


Title: Edge of Escape
Purchase Links: Available in Paperback and Digital

1 comment:

  1. Good advice about characters, thanks for sharing it!

    If you get a chance, check out a fellow writer's zombie story and help me make him wear an embarrassing shirt next year! Details are here: