Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Guest Post: Jeff Bennington!!

Hi, Robot readers! Before I begin my guest blog here, I want to give the Rex Robot Team, especially Mona who reviewed Reunion, a big thank you served with a double shot of hydraulic fluid to keep the reading robotics moving on liquid gratitude. Be sure to comment, follow and show your support by visiting often!

Plotting a Super-difficult Supernatural Thriller

As the Rex Robot Guest blogger, I’m to provide a little insight into the mind of a writer by telling you how I plotted and planned my way into a novel that is not only a supernatural thriller, but a fictional novel that covers two very sensitive subjects: school shootings and bullying.

To begin with, I’ve mentioned in other tour stops how Reunion was inspired 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 books forward so I won’t get 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 that I’m tapping to, 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 reuniting. 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. 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.

The challenge of Reunion was to pull all of the potential responses together and make them fit into a story. I had to create a pool of characters that represented the survivor’s reactions from the dark places that are difficult to crawl out of, to the quick healing personality who chooses to use their experience in a positive way. I then needed to create their past and then their future. There were a lot of questions.

Who would stay in the town where the shooting occurred, and who would leave go as far away and 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 would all have to face head on.

If a good book is filled with conflict, I could see that Reunion, would be brimming over with not only internal conflicts but an interesting group dynamic as well. So after creating a character sketch for each one of the cast, I began to weave them into a plot outline that was nothing more than vague ideas of the morning of the massacre and children coming and going. It was at that point that the skeletal plotting that I did with the general premise began to come alive, moving and performing with student interactions and relational colors that I never really anticipated when I first considered a reunion as a concept. 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 once they all changed, in that tragic moment, their personalities would come alive, ironically as a result of the trauma.

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…and even if I did I suppose, 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.

I hope you get a chance to read Reunion. It has everything you want in a book: suspense, action, romance, tragedy, hope, horror, and peace. 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 traumatic moments of our time.

Now it’s up to you. Are you ready for Reunion? I hope so. Check out my reviews at Goodreads and Amazon and go get your own copy, you’ll be glad you did. And be sure to comment and follow Rex Robot Reviews!
Jeff Bennington
Author of Reunion 
and The Writing Bomb


  1. Thanks for stopping by, Jeff! We loved Reunion!

  2. Sounds good. The evolution of characters over a decade or more seems like a daunting task at first glance--let alone a class full of them.

  3. Hi Rabid, Thanks again for stopping! I appreciate you following the tour, and since you bought a copy, I'll definitely look forward to your review. I just hope a five star review like this doesn't mess with your expectations.

  4. I always take reviews and recommendations with a grain of salt. I probably won't get around to reading it until late June--my to-be-read pile is monstrous--but I'm definitely slating some time for Reunion and Scott Nicholson's Liquid Fear as summer reads.



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