Saturday, June 10, 2017

Guest Blogger Dan Baldwin

Type M is thrilled to welcome guest blogger Dan Baldwin. To say than Dan is a prolific author would be an understatement. He is both traditionally and self-published in non-fiction and in multiple-genre fiction. He is also a paranormal investigator who uses his pendulum dowsing skills to help find missing persons and solve crimes. His non-fiction book on psychic detecting, They Are Not Yet Lost, earned the Winner designation in the Arizona-New Mexico Book Awards.

Write What You Know.

(And You Know More than You Think)

Dan Baldwin

Writers are advised to “write what you know.” That’s great advice, but what if you believe your genre makes it impossible to know? I’ve never looked for the Maltese Falcon, never fought organized crime in the Tombstone of the 1880s, played a game of thrones, fought seven samurai, or, try as I may, warped through space to the Lost Planet of NFL Cheerleaders. How can a writer make unknown worlds real when he or she has no experience in them?

Take heart; you know far more than you think.

Obviously, none of us know the ins and outs of faraway places with strange sounding names. (Have you ever fought a Slugorthian Flame Dancer at the Restaurant at the Edge of the Universe?) So how do we run that literary blockade?

Writing is about people and you know people. You can fill in the blanks through research and imagination when crafting your worlds. I’ve never been a gumshoe investigating a burglary during the 1950s. But if I want to write about crime solving in those years I can turn to my copy of Modern Criminal Investigation by Charles O’Hara for the facts and figures and the ins and outs of that time. Research is the easy (and fun) part.

All that’s great, but the writing will succeed or fail on conflict and character.

Transplant the information you have stored up in your life experience into your scenes. For example, you’ve never been in a dangerous confrontation between ace detectives Samantha Spade and Mildred Pharlowe and their nemesis, Casper Gutman. But you have probably been to a board meeting. You have certainly been to a committee meeting. You’ve experienced conflict in the club’s locker room, the Friday night get together, the break room at work, the golf course, the women’s political action committee, the supermarket and any number of other places. You’ve seen bullying, cowardice, bravery and people looking the other way. All those emotions and more come into play in a good story - and you know those emotions.

Use that experience to fuel the scene in your book, short story, screenplay or Internet post.

For example, if you’re writing a crime novel set in the Wild West, think back to that committee meeting. The pushy chairman with his own agenda becomes the greedy cattle baron determined to take over the town. The yes men on the committee are his hired guns. That quiet guy from accounting becomes the alcoholic doctor trying to find some dignity before cashing in his chips. The attractive woman across the table is the school marm fighting against the odds to civilize an uncivilized town. Or, she could be the soiled dove with the heart of gold. The others members are the defenseless towns folk fearful and in need of a hero. You, well, of course, you’re John Wayne. Or Annie Oakley. Or even Rin Tin Tin.

Take the events and conflict of that meeting or confrontation, transpose them to your work, expand and exaggerate where appropriate. “I call this meeting to order” becomes “All right, cyber-copper, now I’m gonna plug yer memory hole.” You’ll be surprised at how accurate your scene becomes – because it’s real. It’s based on genuine human emotion and interaction. Readers will respond because your words reach them with the common language of emotion regardless of whether it’s spoken in the slang of film noir, cowboy drawl, Scottish brogue or the slimy syntax of a Slugorthian Flame Dancer.

Plug in the details as needed. For example, Casper Gutman’s swarthy assistant no longer carries “a big gun.” He carries a Colt .45 1917 Service Model revolver, “a roscoe like the punk’s mouth - too big and guaranteed to get him into trouble.” Details are important. But you can dig up the details you need in books, online, in interviews, and through personal research.

The key to successful writing, however, is the true human emotion you put into your work.

But you already know that.


Dan Baldwin is the author of the Caldera series of westerns, Trapp Canyon, Bock’s Canyon, and A Stalking Death, also westerns; the mysteries Desecration, Heresy and Vengeance; and the thriller Sparky and the King; two short story collections – Dank Summit and Other Stories and Vampire Bimbos on Spring Break (as Michael Baudoin). Baldwin’s short stories Two to Go and Jimi Strawberry’s Gas Bomb earned a 1st and 2nd place, and Flat Busted earned an Honorable Mention, and his poem "Ol’ Marty He Done What He Should" earned 3rd place in the Society of Southwestern Authors writing competition. He is also the author/photographer of the Wildflower Stew series of photo books on wildflowers of the Southwest. Other non-fiction works include Find Me as told to Dan Baldwin, The Practical Pendulum, The Levine Project-Fighting Terror in Tucson, and Time Served-Investigating History Through the Voices of Those Who Lived It.

Contact Dan at,,\


Arthur Kerns said...

Great advice on writing, as always, from a great writer. Thanks, Dan.

Rick Blechta said...

This was a really fascinating way to look at crafting a believable novel.

Thanks for joining us this weekend, Dan!

Donis Casey said...

I like your mysteries, Dan, but I can't help but be particularly interested in psychic detecting! I've always hoped and believed there is more to reality than meets the eye.

Charlotte Hinger said...

Dan--I couldn't agree more on transporting today's emotions into characters of yesteryear. I read somewhere that we've experienced all the emotions we need to write a book by the time we are four years old.

NaRong said...

This was a really fascinating way to look at crafting a believable novel.
Thanks for joining us this weekend, Dan!
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jariya kamsiri said...

Thank you for sharing valuable information.




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