Monday, July 25, 2011

Combining Fantasy & Reality

I welcome author, Jeff Bennington, to Magic of the Muses, just as today he welcomes me to his blog--The Writing Bomb: Thriller of the Week

In my novella SCHRÖDINGER'S CAT, I stick a bit of SciFi into a very realistic setting--thereby creating in my readers the uneasy feeling that such events could just possibly also happen to them.

Likewise, in REUNION Jeff  sprinkles a bit of the supernatural into his research on school shootings--enticing his readers to abandoned the confines of reality and participate in a thrilling journey.

How the heck do novelists come up with such bizarre ideas?  Here's how Jeff says he came by his...

Plotting a Supernatural Thriller.
By Jeff Bennington

I’d like to provide a little insight into the mind of a writer by telling you how I plotted a novel that is not only a supernatural thriller, but one that covers two very sensitive subjects: school shootings and bullying.

To begin with, I was inspired to write Reunion by the many unanswered questions I had about the victims of school shootings and what their futures hold. I also discuss this in detail in the book’s forward so I won’t go into that here. I will tell you, however, that my brain does funny things. My memory is short, but the right side of my brain, the creative side is very, very busy. I always have a song in my head to which I’m drumming and there is always a creative thought, lyric, or story taking place. I don’t fully understand it, but that’s just the way it is with me.

Now, back to the plotting. 

My point is, I can’t help that I created a book about the survivors of a school shooting. That’s how my brain works. Give me some facts and figures and my brain goes to mush. Give me an idea or a melody and my electrical pulses light up like Washington D.C. on the fourth of July! So when I started to wonder about the victims, the families, the survivors and the community who suffer from these tragic events, my mind’s call to action was to jot down the first thing that came to mind…what will these poor kids lives look like in twenty years?
Nobody was asking that question. People were angry about the rash of school violence. Some were confused. Many demanded justice and answers, looking for the cracks in the system that could be to blame. But in all the news reports, I never heard anyone ask, “How will this affect these kids and their families in the long term. No one mentioned post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). No one mentioned flashbacks. Were there vigils? Yes, and rightly so. But I thought someone should offer a vigil that fast-forwards twenty years to honor the survivors and all the victims including the parents of these children.
"I then created their pasts and their futures..."
The challenge of Reunion was to pull together all potential responses and fit them into a story. I had to create a pool of characters that manifested the dark side of PTSD as well as the quick healing personalities of those who choose to use their experience in a positive way. I then created their pasts and their futures. There were many questions. Who would stay in the town where the shooting occurred?  Who would go far away as soon as possible?

Not only did I imagine these characters becoming something very different from who they were as teenagers, I imagined how they would interact. Some will marry their high-school sweethearts and some will return twenty years later with a huge hole in their heart. The past in itself is a force that they all must face head on. 

Reunion brims over with not only internal conflicts but interesting group dynamics as well. After creating a character sketch for each member of the cast, I began to weave them into a plot outline that was nothing more than vague ideas about the morning of the massacre and about children coming and going. The characters began bringing that skeletal plot alive—started it moving and performing with student interactions and relational colors that I hadn’t anticipated when I first considered the concept. 

Author, Jeff Bennington
I can’t tell you how excited I felt knowing that after three chapters, I had a glowing cast of characters that would make an incredibly colorful group of adults. I knew that ironically, once that tragic moment changed them, their personalities would come alive. 

The hard part was to make them realistic, fit them into a supernatural concept, and maintain my integrity as an author. And that’s where the research into post-traumatic stress disorder and school shootings came into play. Of course I knew I could be body slammed as an author if I didn’t get it right because this is holy ground, a very sensitive topic. From the very beginning I worried that the story could be hurtful. So I took extra care in showing respect for everyone who may have been impacted by such an event. So far the reviewers think I did a good job, and that means a lot to me. 
"It has everything you want in a book..."

I hope you get a chance to read Reunion. It has everything you want in a book: suspense, action, romance, tragedy and hope. It’s all in there. 

In the words of bestselling author and Bram Stoker nominee, Scott Nicholson, “Bennington takes what could easily be an exploitable and prurient subject—school violence—and instead turns it into a poignant lesson. Good crisp writing and believable characters get you into the heart of the story and explores how different people respond to tragedy…”

That is what I had hoped to do from the moment I began to scribble in my black book of ideas. From a short paragraph, to chapter outlines, to complete character profiles, it all came together, somehow, magically transporting the reader into the lives of six survivors of one of the most unimaginable moments of our time.

Jeff Bennington
Author of Reunion and the blog, The Writing Bomb

To purchase or sample REUNION:Amazon

Eileen Schuh, Author THE TRAZ; Schrödinger's Cat

Sample/purchase THE TRAZ: Smashwords or Amazon
Web site: