Using Props in Fiction: AuthorToolBox

It’s time again for my contribution to this month’s #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop where dozens of writers share their writing experiences.  You can check out their thoughts by clicking on the icon at the end of my post.  This month I discuss the use of props in my soon-to-be-released murder mystery.

At the River's Edge Vehicles

What do a 1950 Ford pickup and a ragtop Jeep have to do with writing?

Just as movies and plays use props to provide dramatic interest and depth to characters and scenes, so do novels. A prop is anything movable or portable on a stage or set, distinct from the actors, scenery, and costumes. I use a Ford pickup and a Jeep as props in my upcoming murder mystery, At the River’s Edge.

James Wolsey is a 26-year-old college graduate who returns to his hometown of Sunset Peak, North Carolina to help his single mother run the family hardware business. After mysteriously killing off the historic town’s mayor in chapter one, I introduce James. Most of what you learn about the dark-haired, former high school quarterback is from dialogue and interaction with his mom, friends, and newfound love interest, Emily Edwards.

Readers discover James had planned a career in corporate America, but couldn’t turn down his mother’s request for assistance.  He’s trying to make the best of the situation when he meets Emily, the granddaughter of a moonshiner. The spirited, green-eyed blonde is haunted by rumors of moonshine money, allegedly buried by her late grandfather in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Misguided fortune hunters are obsessed with Emily and what she might know.

It’s at this point where James is revealed as the proud owner of his grandfather’s restored, jet black, 1950 Ford pickup, and I place Emily in a red ragtop Jeep. Why bother describing the vehicles James and Emily drive?

The vehicles allow readers to form their own opinions about the characters who own them. Without putting it into words, driving a vintage pickup strengthens James’ image as a rugged fisherman and outdoorsman.  It paints him as a man’s man not swayed by fancy cars.  You learn that James is proud of the craftsmanship and hard work his late grandfather put into the pickup. It’s his most prized possession, not because of its value, but because of the family history the truck represents.

Emily may be a petite, attractive blonde, but driving an open-air Jeep portrays her as unafraid to travel across rough terrain with the wind in her face. The vehicle fits her spunky, mountain girl demeanor and warns others that she can, and will, take care of herself.

Other props are used throughout the novel to help readers paint their own pictures of the characters and the scenes.  What better way to show and not tell.

To enjoy other great blogs in the monthly #AuthorToolboxBlogHop or to join, click HERE.  Happy blog hopping!Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2

You can learn more about AT THE RIVER’S EDGE by going HERE:

At the River's Edge Vehicles


19 thoughts on “Using Props in Fiction: AuthorToolBox

  1. Victoria Marie Lees

    This is great, D.R.! What an intriguing way to distinguish your characters, by their vehicles. The points you make are logical and well thought out. The best bit of advice you offer writers is that the reader learns about your characters “from dialogue and interaction.”

    I always learn something new when I read your posts. Thanks for sharing this with your Author Toolbox followers. All the luck with your forthcoming release.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Of course I’m familiar with what props are, but I’d never made this association before, that I was giving characters in my novels props. I’ve been doing it for the right reasons, to develop their character through displaying their choices, but I like how you explain it. Props! Of course!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree. Props are incredibly important and I love your careful attention to their vehicles. I think cars in general, are very important to people too and the reader will definitely notice the attention you’ve given to your characters 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m setting my next one in 1943. The protagonist is from our time and is suddenly transported back in time. I need to do some heavy research of life in that time showing his confusion and clumsiness of learning how to live and survive in that moment.

    Good stuff. Thanks!


  5. I completely agree! Your use of props in the two vehicles is a great way to show more about your characters, instead of merely telling via peripheral P.O.V.s. This is a good reminder that we as writers have many different tools in our toolbox. Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It often strikes me that authors miss an easy opportunity to deepen characterisation when they forget the props. Like you say, it’s not just a car. It’s an insight into their personality, whether it’s a ragtop Jeep or a late-model Mercedes.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love this! I always think about the props associated with characters when reading. I’ve often wondered how often the author consciously chooses the props to tell the readers something about the characters or if was an unconscious but accurate choice. Also, you book sounds intriguing – I’ll have to check it out. 🙂


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