Story Structure

I attended a weekend writing retreat a few years ago in which the presenter, Barbara Kyle, author, story consultant, story editor, and speaker, emphasized the importance of story structure. Most of us roll our eyes and turn down the volume when anyone talks about laying out a story in advance of writing it. Half the time we don’t know what we’ll be writing or even how the story will play out until we get there. Our characters have their our ownRead more

Surprise! Surprise!

In the old days of Saturday afternoon Western movies, the Cavalry would often arrive at the last moment to save the day. de·us ex ma·chi·na (dāəs eks ˈmäkənə,ˌdāəs eks ˈmakənə/); noun an unexpected power or event saving a seemingly hopeless situation, especially as a contrived plot device in a play or novel. (“We” don’t do that in our writing, do we?) There’s nothing as wonderful as a surprise ending whether it’s in a movie, a story, a book or aRead more

Not Enough Novel for a Novel?

Writing too many words as discussed in my most recent Post can have its benefits. But what if we need a specific length and don’t have enough words to fill that requirement? Develop a story or two to weave in. Make them form a “rope” or a “braid” toward the end. Trim off the “ends” (literally!) until only the Protagonist is left then have him/her ride off into the sunset. ta-da The End How Am I Going to Do That?Read more

Using Backstory without Using It

The importance of backstory cannot be overemphasized. It’s a real joy when we create a character that comes alive and starts going her own way, thinking on her own, and making decisions. When it happens, we can pat ourselves on the back. What is backstory? It’s everything we (author) know about our character that never makes it into the final product. Because? It has nothing to do with the current story. Why bother with it then? The more backstory weRead more

No Loose Threads

Bread crumbs. Loose threads. = Food? Clothing? Food, water, shelter, clothing, “love”: the necessities of life. These necessities keep our story characters alive, too. Not only must we weave threads of stories and substories throughout our works (generally, only one story per short story though), but we must clothe our characters as well with those threads of story and substory. (I’ll cover more about clothing characters in my next post: “An Opinion for EVERY Character”.) Threads are important. (But notRead more

Leaving Bread Crumbs

The other day, while working on Refuge in l’Acadie (the second book in my Kesk8a series), my Muse suggested an interesting twist. I said to myself (I think I even said it out loud!): “Ooh yes! Like. Like.” This meant I had to go back into the story and tuck a bread crumb in early and I did this with great delight. (I thank the Goddess of Cyberspace for inspiring the computer. It makes it so much easier to addRead more

Author Intrusion & Other Writing Crimes

Author Intrusion, to put it bluntly, is showing off one’s own personal knowledge instead of the character’s about what’s going on in the scene. I used to breed and train show dogs [Rottweilers; and I owned and showed a Coton de Tuléar (a small, white, long-haired, sweet-natured, and funny dog)] so I have to really watch myself if I’m writing about a dog in a scene. I’m not this bad, at least I hope not — no! I’m not! —Read more

Go Ahead — Manipulate Your Readers

The Best Authors Are the Best Manipulators It’s all about what we put into people’s heads without having them notice that we’re doing it. We have to make them trust us so they’ll follow us into whatever world we want to lead them. Why would an author want to manipulate his readers? Let me put it another way: Why would an author want his readers unable to stop themselves from turning the pages? Unable to control their fear, their pleasure,Read more

The TV Brain = Talking Heads

TV shows are talk-talk-talk. Movies are walk-walk-walk. Books are neither. Books are both. Books have the ability to get the reader right into the life of the character, “transplant” the reader’s head into the mind, heart and soul of the protagonist* but sadly, fewer and fewer books are accomplishing this. In order to have our readers experience the guts of the character, we as writers must be inside the head of that character, too, when we are writing. We can’tRead more

Dialogue Maketh the Character

Excerpt from Really Stupid Writing Mistakes: How to Avoid Them: Are these examples true? “Sufferin’ succotash!” she mumbled. “I don’t give a damn,” he hissed. You can hiss “sufferin’ succotash”, but you can’t mumble it and you can mumble “I don’t give a damn”, but you can’t hiss it. The sentence has no sibilants. If we are going to use attributives (she mumbled/he hissed, she said/he said) then we must ensure they match the dialogue. But if the dialogue itselfRead more