The Desert Sleuths Write Now! 2010 Conference was much too long to summarize on a blog. However, I can summarize, in short vignettes, the presentations by all of the fiction writers. So, today, Sheila Lowe.
Lowe is a court-qualified handwriting expert, with over thirty-five years experience. She is the author of the Forensic Handwriting mystery series, including the latest, Last Writes. Lowe is also the author of Handwriting of the Famous & Infamous, and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Handwriting Analysis.
Sheila Lowe began her talk by saying she didn't know if she should thank the event chair, Chantelle Osman for putting her first on the schedule by putting her in her next book, or making her a victim. (I overheard Chantelle reply "Victim.") Lowe went on to talk about characters. She said they're motivated by something. Then, she mentioned a number of memorable characters, such as Scarlett O'Hara, Hannibel Lector. We remember characters because there is something we can identify with in them. Even Hitler loved dogs. He was a monster, but he had something we could identify with. But, what motivates characters?
Lowe went on to discuss handwriting and motivation. She said what a handwriting analyst does is not voodoo or fortunetelling. They often work in secure hospitals and prisons. Handwriting changes by mood. You can't tell age or gender by handwriting. However, it can indicate your social skills. Handwriting shows your social side; your thinking side. It also reveals ego strength. Everything you've experienced is stored in your brain. When you write, all your experiences are reflected. The incline of your writing on the paper even indicates your experiences.
People are motivated by love, money, security, and power. Sheila Lowe then showed us samples of handwriting, asking which we thought were influenced by the various motivations. The sample she showed us of someone motivated by love (Princess Diana) had rounded letters. Then, she told us her own daughter had been murdered by her boyfriend ten years earlier. He had asked Lowe to analyze his handwriting, and there were a number of red flags. His handwriting also showed he had a head injury. She went on to show us samples of bold handwriting, indicating a power motivation. Handwriting that shows emotional needs is motivated by security. Handwriting can indicate a need to create, or a need for material things.
Lowe's sleuth in her novels, Claudia Rose, does the same sort of analysis. Lowe also does handwriting authentication for forgery cases. The most recent book in the Forensic Handwriting series, Last Writes, involves an old stuffed bunny, and a religious cult. When a three-year-old disappeared, she left her bunny behind. Sheila admitted she wasn't happy with the title or the cover art of this book. The art was sent with a note, "Here's your cover art. We hope you love it as much as we do." But, Lowe doesn't love it. Her books are not cozies. They're psychological suspense. But, cozy readers who pick it up might be disappointed. And, readers of psychological suspense won't pick it up because it looks like a cozy.
She wanted the title "Unholy Writ" for this mystery about a religious cult, but her new editor didn't like it. She said Lowe's readers wouldn't understand the title. Lowe's response was, you're underestimating my readers.
Sheila Lowe's portion of the Write Now! conference ended with a raffle for stuffed bunnies, since the child's stuffed bunny is important to Last Writes.