An Example of What I Try to Teach…

I’ve been reading the new Dean Koontz thriller series that started with The Silent Corner. His character, Jane Hawk is great.

Now I study Dean Koontz a great deal because his writing is often invisible, his characters built to be real people, his plots usually twisted. And he is a master at all kinds of techniques, from floating viewpoints to pacing that won’t let you go.

So on looking back through the second book of the series, The Whispering Room, I happened to notice how well Koontz sat the scene with depth every chapter in one way or another.

Now we have a Depth workshop that we suggest everyone take before any other. It shows you how to do basic depth, in other words, hold a reader in a story.

Then we have Advanced Depth, Research, and Plotting with Depth workshops that add to that basic first depth course. But sadly, so often writers who learn depth forget to add it in at the start of every scene, at the start of every chapter, to ground the reader in the setting.

So let me give you a simple paragraph, actually only one sentence, of Dean Koontz doing depth right, with details and a ton of opinion through Jane Hawk about the setting she is in.

This is from the opening of Chapter 27 of the second part. About fifty chapters into the book at least.


The city bus growled through the late morning, seeming to be out of control when it gained any speed at all, lurching to the curb at each of the frequent stops, air brakes sighing as though with exasperation, wallowing back into traffic that didn’t want to admit it, less a motor vehicle than some hoven beast asserting privilege by virtue of its size.


One sentence.

The next paragraph starts…

At her window seat, Jane Hawk kept her head turned…

We got the scene clearly and completely. The entire chapter is only about 400 words, used to show how she escaped something in earlier chapters. A filler chapter, basically for the reader to be clear she is fine.

A lesser writer would have just said she got on a city bus and have her sit and worry about her kid. But I just wanted to show a master at work because I know a lot of you don’t study or read Koontz, even though he might be the second best storyteller working next to King. And a ton easier to study.

So for those of you who think depth is only needed in the opening, nope. Every chapter, every scene opening if you want to hold your readers in your book. And trust me, Koontz will hold you.

And in places in this series, you might not want to be held in the story. (grin)