Through the Fire
Ronie Kendig

Ronie has been married since 1990 to a man who can easily be defined in classic terms as a hero. She has four beautiful children. Her eldest daughter is 16 this year, her second daughter will be 13, and her twin boys are 10. After having four children, she finally finished her degree in December 2006. She now has a B.S. in Psychology through Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. Getting her degree is a huge triumph for both her and her family--they survived!! This degree has also given her a fabulous perspective on her characters and how to not only make them deeper, stronger, but to make them realistic and know how they'll respond to each situation. Her debut novel, Dead Reckoning released March 2010 from Abingdon Press. And her Discarded Heroes series begins in July from Barbour with the first book entitled Nightshade. Visit her at

Maybe It’s My “Other” Self?

Wuss. Chicken. Coward. Yellow-bellied . . .

Well, you get the idea. I’m an eternal peacemaker who will walk a mile around conflict to avoid it if I can. I’ll do anything (okay, that’s a smidge exaggerated) so people will like me or to help someone. Case in point: fourth grade. Cafeteria lady is collecting milk cartons for some points system thing going on at the time. So there’s this little girl who sees cartons on the twenty-foot row of tables she’s assigned to that the cafeteria lady can’t take because there’s still milk in them. Being the good, peacemaking, wanna-help-everyone girl that she is, she snatches up several and gulps down the last of the contents.

Did you gag reading that? Yeah, me too. Never crossed my mind what could be in there.

So how does a person like me, who avoids conflict and wears her peacemaker badge prominently and without shame, write a fast-paced, high-action thriller? Maybe it’s my “other” self . . . maybe it’s me living vicariously through fake people. Okay, that sounds like I need therapy.

Let’s move on and peek at some very common aspects to writing thrillers and action:

Spa Treatment

Pampering characters is a sure-fire way to kill the tension in your book. In just about every self-help book I’ve read, the common key is high stakes. Are you going easy on your characters? Then stop—and throw everything at them. Is your character a sniper in the middle of an integral mission? Then blind him. No, I’m not kidding—and I just did that to one of my characters in Digitalis (January 2011, Barbour).

We humans do not learn or reach our potential when we are pampered and allowed to skip through life without experiencing pain. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been through the gamut of painful experiences. Life wasn’t easy on me, so why should I be easy on my characters? Seriously, you do yourself a disservice when you protect your characters.

If your character doesn’t need therapy—or a serious dose of God—by the dénouement, then maybe you haven’t hit them hard enough. There should be tension/conflict on every page!

Don’t Interrupt

You’ve painted that high-action scene, you have bullets flying, motorcycles eating up the cement . . . and the author comes on with Public Service Announcement about a painful point in the hero’s past.

Um, that’s worse than the guy sitting next to you in the theater using his iPhone, whose glaring white display practically blinds you.

Don’t get me wrong. Those points need to be made, but inserting them in the middle of an intense, life-or-death scene kills the impact.

Cry, Baby, Cry

Make the reader sigh. We’re in an adrenaline-exploding scene and suddenly the character stops to ruminate about her love life. It wasn’t until I took a physiology class and understood the fight-or-flight reactions in the body that I realized how unrealistic this. In a life-or-death situation, the character is going to be focused on one thing: surviving. It’s the human condition.

Let the adrenaline crash and the character tank after the immediate threat is over—or at least, when the character thinks the threat is over.

Domestic Abuse

Okay, step off the ledge. I’m not talking about wife beaters. I’m talking about the abuse of domestic scenes in a novel. I read

years ago (forgive me, I can’t remember the author or book) that an easy crutch for many authors is to set scenes in the kitchen. Something in me sparked and I vowed right then to avoid kitchen scenes.

In writing Digitalis, my skin began to crawl when I realized there were several domestic scenes, so I sent Cowboy off on a mission. I get hives when characters spend too much time in the home.


You know what I’m talking about: The Matrix. In this hit movie, the Wachowski brothers introduced their amazing technique called Bullet-time, where the speed/trajectory of a bullet is slowed until the audience can see the disruption of the air around the bullet as it proceeds toward its target.

So . . . what does this mean for writers? Pacing. If your stories have the same pacing, you’ll lose your reader; they’ll get bored. So, when do you slow it down and create that bullet-time effect? Often for the point in the story that will irrevocably alter the life of a character(s), aka: the black moment. In Dead Reckoning, I slowed down the story during an attack when the paths of the hero and heroine come together in an explosive collision—this scene is one of the black moments for Shiloh.

But just like in The Matrix, know when to speed things back up. Dragging out the story by giving a blow-by-blow in a scene that has no point other than blood, guts, and gore is not a good use of words or time for you or your audience.

6.) Dig ’Er Deeper

You slammed your character with a cheating girlfriend. So? Do you really think that’s enough for the hero to want to abandon God and life? No, it’s not. Unless . . . unless you can pile on the crud. Maybe the hero’s mother cheated on his father . . . and that’s what led to his father’s killing her . . . and maybe your hero has an anger problem. Now he’s afraid he’ll do something bad. Real bad. Oh, and I did mention he’s a minister? Or a cop?

See? Go deeper. Make it worse. High stakes. Remember?

Writing a thriller should be a thrill—a fully engaged adrenaline system. Grab the reader by the throat and DO NOT LET GO! Remember, tension on every page. High stakes—make it worse, dig deeper!


Dead Reckoning