Tag Archives: Lee Gimenez

The Craft of Creating Compelling Characters – Tips from 12-time Novelist Lee Gimenez

mm-cover-8Today, The Writing Well talks with Atlanta mystery-thriller writer Lee Gimenez on his techniques for character development tied to the release of his twelfth novel, The Media Murders.

The story opens with a prominent New York Times reporter dying under suspicious circumstances right before breaking an explosive story. Then a well-known TV reporter commits suicide. Suspecting foul play, the FBI’s John Ryan and Erin Welch investigate. As they probe the mysterious deaths, they uncover a shocking truth: Reporters are being murdered to suppress the news. More shocking is who they suspect is responsible for the killings.

As a writer who regularly reports on technology trends, I found the premise compelling. And, having read earlier books by Lee, featuring Ryan and Welch, I knew I would be in for a treat.  Lee has a knack for creating believable characters and suspenseful storylines. The Media Murders didn’t disappoint on both counts. Below, Lee shares his process for creating well-rounded, imperfect heroes and antiheroes who readers can identify with – a component that any good story must have.

Q. Your newest thriller, The Media Murders, takes readers into the world of ethics and journalism, and the growing corruption of the field by outside interests, in this case, political forces. How true-to-life is this trend, and how did it inform your writing?

Lee: Like all of my previous eleven novels, The Media Murders, is primarily an action/mystery thriller. It’s ideal for someone who enjoys a past-paced, plot-driven novel, witty and engaging characters, and a strong sense of mystery and suspense. But it’s also more than that, as it tackles a serious issue that faces society today. As you mentioned, the plot revolves around the news media and journalism, and the key element is the murder of several reporters. Although the murder aspect of the reporters is fictional in the U.S. (at least as far as I could discover), it has happened in Europe and Russia in order to suppress the news.

The background of The Media Murders is based on research I did prior to writing the book. From this research I learned that the news industry in the U.S. has changed dramatically over the last 20 years. The news industry now reports news that is intended to not offend advertisers or government institutions. This trend has accelerated to the point that much news ‘reporting’ now is actually editorials from one side of the political spectrum or another. The ‘free press’ and the First Amendment to the Constitution are under assault in the U.S., something much of the public doesn’t seem to be aware of. I hope that by talking about this topic in my book, more people will become aware of this alarming trend.

Q. The Media Murders features several favorite characters, including Erin Welch, J.T. Ryan and Rachel West. In fact, you actually grace this book cover with a male character, J.T. Ryan, a first for you. Your characters are always well-defined and multi-dimensional. How do you create memorable characters that people can identify with and want to root for?

 

Lee: I’ve found several effective methods of creating memorable characters. One such method is to realize that characters cannot be perfect. This is especially true in your main characters, both the protagonists and the antagonists. For example, your protagonist cannot just have good qualities. He or she has to have flaws, either physical or emotional, and better yet, a little bit of each. Remember that perfect people don’t exist. We all have flaws. In order to make your hero/heroine believable, you have to include things about the person that are not necessarily positive. For example, one of the main characters in The Media Murders is John (J.T.) Ryan, who works for the FBI. He is one of the heroes in the book, and he has many good qualities in his personality. But he’s also impulsive and hot-headed at times, which puts him and the people around him in some dangerous situations.

Another way to create multi-dimensional characters is to give them an engaging backstory and to include humor and wit in the dialogue. My novels all have serious, life-and-death action thriller plots, but I always try to lighten the mood by bringing in humorous and witty dialogue. It makes the novel more readable, entertaining and believable.

Characters also have to have conflict in their lives, whether it relates to their love life, their family, their jobs, etc. Without conflict there’s no tension, and you have a boring novel. I try to include tension, suspense, and mystery, on every page.

Q. How much effort do you put into creating equally interesting villains? What kind of balance do writers need to strike when it comes to crafting characters on both sides of the good-bad spectrum?

Lee: Just as important as your main good guys/gals, the villains are, I’ve found, equally important. I don’t want to give away the plot of The Media Murders, so I won’t discuss the villains in this book, except to say they are extremely dangerous and deadly. So I’ll use one of my previous thrillers, The Washington Ultimatum, to illustrate. The main villain in this book, Angel Stone (she’s the beautiful woman featured on the book’s cover) is the world’s deadliest terrorist. The key to making this book successful was portraying her as evil as you would expect, but also to show that she had a human side that at times made her compassionate. Another good example of how this can be successfully done is shown in the Godfather movies, where the mobsters were killers, but they were also family men that went to church, and occasionally did good deeds.

Q. Engaging the audience through social media channels like Twitter is important for any author. How have you done this using your characters? What has been the feedback?

Lee: I find that engaging your reader audience is very important to the success of your book. I currently have over 50,000 followers on Twitter, and I’ve found this social media site a good way to get my message out and engage readers of my books. I’m also on Facebook, LinkedIn, Goodreads, and Pinterest. The key to social media, I found, is to realize that it’s a great way to have a conversation with your readers. And what makes social media unique is that you can have a conversation with people not just in this country, but also with people around the world.

Q. What is coming up next for you in terms of book projects? Do you plan to continue with some of the character themes you introduced in The Media Murders? Will there be more interaction between J.T. and Rachel, for example?

Lee: I really enjoy writing about the main characters I’ve created in the last several novels. They include the FBI’s John (J.T.) Ryan and Erin Welch, and my other series character, Rachel West, who is a CIA operative. Four of my novels, including The Media Murders, Skyflash, Killing West, and The Washington Ultimatum, are based on these characters. In my next novel I plan on including them as well. I’m currently working on the main plot for my next book, which I estimate would be published in the later part of 2017. Stay tuned for more details!

About the Author

LeeGimenezLee Gimenez is the award-winning author of 12 novels, including his highly-acclaimed J.T. Ryan series. His latest thriller is THE MEDIA MURDERS. Several of his books were Featured Novels of the International Thriller Writers Association, among them SKYFLASH, KILLING WEST, and THE WASHINGTON ULTIMATUM. Lee was nominated for the Georgia Author of the Year Award and was a Finalist in the prestigious Terry Kay Prize for Fiction.

Lee’s books are available at Amazon and many other bookstores in the U.S. and Internationally. For more information, please visit his website at: www.LeeGimenez.com. Lee lives with his wife in the Atlanta, Georgia area.

Crime Thriller Writer Shares his Process in Time for July 15 Writing Workshop

  

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The inspiration for Lee Gimenez’s first novel, Azul 7, was a SciFi short story that he first got published in Nature magazine.

“I was writing sequels to my short stories,” recalls Lee, a retired technology marketing executive and military veteran. Lee says he always wanted to write books and began pursuing his craft in earnest back in 2006. He has published 11 novels over the last decade — the first five were Sci-Fi-based and the more recent ones fall under the genre of present-day mystery thrillers.

“I got to the point where I like writing about things happening now – real places,” says Lee, who strives to publish one book a year.

His 2014 novel, Killing West, is about a CIA operative named Rachel West. “It was the first time I had a woman in the lead,” he says.  “The reason I wrote it is that a lot of my readers are women – in fact, 75% of all fiction books are bought by women.”

Common elements to all his books, which have a following in the US and internationally, are “a nice cover, snappy title and compelling characters.”

One of his more popular characters is J.T. Ryan, an Atlanta PI, who does contract work for the FBI.

“I always begin with a ‘What if’ [scenario],” he says.  With Killing West, the ‘what-if’ question is: “What if a person controlled the internet?”

With his 2015 thriller, Skyflash, Lee poses the question, “What if there was a perfect wonder Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00009]drug that could cure disease, old age — everything that ails humans?” Of course, there are some side effects with it, Lee adds with a chuckle.   “I try to have conflict at the end of each chapter and to cliff hang my readers at the end of each book (to set up the next novel).”
After crafting the what-if question, Lee writes a succinct synopsis of his novel.  “If you can capture your story in one or two paragraphs, you are a third of a way done,” he says.

He’s a big advocate of GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict book by established publisher and author  Debra Dixon, co-founder of BelleBooks/Bell Bridge Books.  Lee says he sets up his story on page 1 – often in the first line.

An MBA grad with a career doing marketing for companies like Verizon, Lee knows how important book marketing and promotion are – he’s savvy and successful at garnering social media fans, recently crossing over the 47,000 threshold of Twitter followers.

“I attribute it to following other writers,” says Lee, who has to limit his time on Twitter to a half hour a day if he wants to meet his writing deadlines. He advises writers to make good use of hashtags such as #books, #bookbloggers, #bookclub, #amwriting to get their tweets found by other authors, readers and book reviewers.  He’s even created hashags for some of his more popular characters (#JTRyan).

“Marketing is one of the most important things you can do as a writer,” he says. Lee is constantly thinking about his readers when considering the cover design and the titles of his books – he opts for shorter titles and one simple, dominant image on his book covers rather than elaborate scenes because people who are perusing books on Amazon will only see a thumbnail image of the book.  “You have to start talking about your book before it’s out but that’s a two-edged sword – pre-promotion to get people excited about your book, but it’s important not to reveal too much or you risk someone stealing your idea.”

He uses his own travels and experiences in technology to bring realism to his stories.  In SkyFlash, several scenes take place in Juneau, Alaska, as well as Colombia, places he’s visited.   In contrast, Killing West takes place in Helsinki.  Lee says he enjoyed walking around the city and talking to lot of people to get ideas for his story – noting that it was easy to do so since a lot of people speak English.  Another city that factored into his writing was St. Petersburg, Russia, which he visited four years ago.   “When I write a scene about a place, I look at street maps and the intersections – I give it a page or a half page of description. It really helps add color and mood to my writing.”

Lee is also a big believer in using all five senses in his novels – and he deftly integrates his characters’ experiences through sight, touch, taste, smell and hearing into every chapter.

His final advice to aspiring writers? “Never give up. Even when things are not going the way you hoped. I had to send 86 query letters before my first book was picked up.”

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About the Author

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Lee Gimenez is the author of 11 novels. His latest thriller, SKYFLASH, was published in 2015 and is a new J.T. Ryan novel. Several of his books became bestsellers, including The WASHINGTON ULTIMATUM and BLACKSNOW ZERO. His thriller KILLING WEST was a featured novel of the International Thriller Writers Association. His books are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the Apple Store, Books-A-Million, Books In Motion, and many other retailers in the U.S. and internationally. Lee is a member of International Thriller Writers (ITW) and the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA).

He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Georgia Tech University and a Masters degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University. After college, he served as an officer in the U.S. Army. During his business management career, he worked for three Fortune 500 companies: Verizon, Tech Data, and M&M Mars. For more information about him, please visit his website at: www.LeeGimenez.com. You can also join him on Twitter (@LeeGimenez), Facebook, and other social media sites. Lee lives with his wife in the Atlanta, Georgia area.

Lee will be at this year’s Decatur Book Festival being held in Atlanta Sept. 4-6, 2015, as a panelist on the Mystery Thrillers Panel.

Atlanta area writers can also sign up for his upcoming writing class, “Ten Steps to Writing a Successful Novel.” The class will be held at the Jera Publishing office in Roswell, Georgia, on July 15th at 6:30 p.m. The cost is $10, and will feature tips and illustrated with writing examples from his own eleven novels and from bestselling authors such as Steve Berry, James Patterson, and David Baldacci.   For more information or to register, visit:  http://www.self-pub.net/blog/event/ten-steps-to-writing-a-successful-novel/.