A friend, bless her heart, recommend NYT Bestselling author Catherine Coulter to me. Ms. Coulter writes romantic suspense, like me. I borrowed one of her later books from my local library. Of the eight titles on the shelf, that one’s blurb intrigued me with its paranormal element. I read that first book in one day, all 414 pages. I was hooked.
I’ve since devoured 2.5 more of her novels, and have four more waiting to be read. Ms. Coulter has a formula that works well. She’s excellent at clues and misdirection and red herrings. But the best and most frustrating part are her villains. I just learned from NYT Bestselling author James Rollins at the RWA National convention that villains need to be a little smarter than the heroes. Why, I wanted to scream. I want my heroes/heroines to be able to solve crimes. The villains need to be smarter because otherwise there is no conflict, and without conflict there is no story. Ms. Coulter’s conflict with the villains takes up 400+ pages. What’s frustrating to me is more like real life—villains lie. They misdirect, they evade, hide the truth, or just plain refuse to implicate themselves. Villains don’t just blurt their secrets and their guilt when the hero and heroine arrive on the scene. Good villains make us root harder for the hero and heroine. Good villains make us tense when we read, because we’re not sure of the truth, and we fear for the safety of our hero/heroine. Good villains make a story better. Good villains make us keep on reading.
Huh. Who’d have thought that? Certainly not me. But that’s what a writer, even one who’s been writing for a dozen years, can learn from the best writers, whether in a workshop at a convention, or from reading a bestselling book. Thanks, Catherine Coulter. Thanks, James Rollins.
Do you learn from the best writers?