<h1>Write to Touch Your Readers’ Hearts and Minds</h1>

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Kate White, editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine and the best-selling author of the Bailey Weggins mystery series, said she frequently reminds herself to write big and bold—to find the best way of expressing exactly what it is she wants to say to knock her readers' socks off.

"I have a tendency to hold back with my writing," she wrote, "be a little tentative about going big and bold." She added that she doubted she was the only one.

I think that's true and I think it relates to trying to please all the people all the time. Can't be done, of course, but that doesn't stop many of us from trying.

The idea of writing big and bold appeals to me in every way. I like the words themselves—big and bold—and I like the image those words conjure up for me. If I write big and bold, it's possible that my words will impact people, will make them think, encourage them to do their best, or inspire them to take courageous action.

But it's far easier said than done because what speaks to one reader's heart and mind doesn't necessarily touch another at all. You know that old adage, One man's meat is another man's poison. Certainly that's true in mysteries. To paraphrase, One reader's "big and bold" isn't another reader's "big and bold." The trick, I think, is knowing what's big and bold to your target readers.

Julia Spencer-Fleming, who won the 2007 Nero Award, told me that in her new novel, I Shall Not Want (coming in May 2008 from St. Martin's Minotaur), she has an ungrammatical line that the copy editor tried to "clean up." The line is: "In the church."

Think about that! When readers of her Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne mysteries read one of the series, they know what they're getting. Julia describes them as "novels of faith and murder for readers of literary suspense." Big and bold in this context is: "In the church."

I'm currently writing the fourth entry in my traditional mystery series featuring antiques appraiser, Josie Prescott. As I'm writing, I ask myself what's big and what's bold to my readers. I know that big and bold is evocative and meaningful. And I know that big and bold statements relate to the themes that reoccur in the books, and that seem to resonate with my readers.

Those themes include Josie's emotional strength; her romantic and tender relationship with Ty Alverez; her Portsmouth-based company's growth; the ever-presence of the ocean tides and the enduring beauty of Rocky Point's dunes and sandy beach; Josie's efforts to establish a community and fit in; and antiques lore.

Here are some big and bold statements that will occur in Josie #4, Killer Keepsakes:

  • Prescott's: Antiques and Auctions was featured as the top small antiques auction house, and I was proud as punch.
  • "Cope first, fall apart later. Your friend needs you, Josie," my father told me. "Cope first, fall apart later."
  • I'd felt sucker-punched, as if I'd fallen into a black hole I couldn't climb out of, a dark downward spiral filled with jarring misery.
  • After I got settled, I pressed my forehead against the bay window and cupped my hands over my eyes, trying to see the lighthouse on the far bank. I knew it was there, but in the darkness and rain, I couldn't make it out. Its light shone through, however, a wide sweep of gold arcing rhythmically side-to-side, over and over again, alerting ships that they were approaching land. It was hypnotic.

What about it? Do any of those words speak to you? Do they touch your heart or mind? I hope so, and of course, as always, I welcome your comments.

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