Tag Archives: story

Your Story Matters (Or… What a Reader Wants You to Know)

Hi, dear Villagers! *waves*

Let me take a brief moment to introduce myself. I’m Carrie, aka MeezCarrie, of ReadingIsMySuperPower. And I LOVE STORY!! I love short stories. I love epic stories. I love in between sized stories. I love contemporary stories. Historical stories. Mystery stories. Amish stories. Even some speculative and YA stories.

But most of all? I love THE Story. The one that starts with the ultimate ‘once upon a time’ – “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1) – and ends with the best ‘happily ever after’ ever (Revelation 21:4)

Because we are all part of that Story.

Yes, we all have a story in progress that is our own life. But everyone we meet does, too. And all those stories-in-progress are part of the Big Story that God is telling. Let me tell you – that is SO exciting to me!

I’m one of the new Seekerville bloggers, but I’m not seeking publication. I’m content to read other people’s stories and talk (incessantly) about them. But that up there? What I just said about being part of God’s Story?

That means I’m sorta like all the rest of y’all.

In a small way.

Ok.. not at all the same.

BUT… I am part of the greatest Story in the world. And so are you. That’s pretty stinkin’ incredible. The Author and Finisher of my Faith is telling a Story about me and about you. And He has promised to keep writing it until it’s completed – not when I die or when you die, but until the day Jesus returns. (Philippians 1:6)

Back in November, I had the pinch-me privilege of speaking with Cynthia Ruchti at the Art of Writing Conference just ahead of the 2017 Christy Awards gala. We talked about the darts of author discouragement and how to dodge them. After our session, a woman came up to me in tears. She whispered, “I didn’t know anybody else knew how I feel.” And then we both were in tears lol!

Author friends – can I encourage you a moment? You’re not alone. Writing may be a solitary career but the discouragements are consistent. Fear of rejection. The reality of rejection. Fear of the  possibility of a bad review. The depths of despair over an actual bad review. Your family doesn’t take you seriously. Your friends don’t take you seriously. It doesn’t pay the bills. It barely pays for coffee.

Oh… wait… I was supposed to be encouraging you. LOL.

I really was headed here, I promise.

You’re not alone. And you’re not left defenseless.

God has given you each other, and He has given you His Word. Community and grace wrapped up in a safe place like Seekerville.

You want to know another secret? YOUR STORY MATTERS.

Yep. I went there: all caps.

Because it’s so incredibly true and so incredibly important to understand.

The story you’re writing matters.

That story you’ve agonized over. The one that’s kept you up all hours of the night. The one that may or may not currently be taunting you with a blinking cursor of ‘I got nothing’. It matters. Even if no one else ever reads it. Even if no agent or publishing house wants it. Even if your beta readers and editors send it back with more tracked changes than you had words to start with.

Your story matters. Believe it. And believe in it.

But you know what? The story that God is writing in you and through you matters most of all. He is making you more like Jesus every day. He knew you before He formed you in your mother’s womb, and He had already had plans for your life. (Psalm 139, Jeremiah 1) He created you as a writer before you even had fully developed hands to hold a pen or tap away on a keyboard. Even better – He knew your role in His Story before you ever made your grand arrival on planet Earth. And that story matters on a scale we can’t even begin to imagine.

Maybe you’re like me and the only thing you write is a blog post… or a grocery list. Your story matters too. God placed you in His Story at just the right time and in just the right place so that you would come to know Him (Acts 17). He pursued you with an everlasting love and has engraved you on the palm of His hand. (Jeremiah 31, Isaiah 49). Think about that for a second – you matter so much to the God of the Universe that those nail-scarred Hands have your name on them.

Your story matters. Believe it. And believe in it.

I know good stories. I’m surrounded by them, à la the Dr. Seuss method of decorating. All the crannies, all the nooks, etc. This Big Story that God is telling is a good story. It’s the best story. It’s the standard by which all other stories are measured (whether they realize it or not). It’s also a true story. This fairy-tale to beat all fairy-tales – a prince on a white horse come to vanquish the enemy and rescue his bride – that’s OUR story (Revelation 19).

So when you’re tempted to throw in the towel and give up on your story – the one you’re writing or the one you’re living – remember this:

Your story matters. Believe it. And believe in it.

By Carrie Schmidt
Source: seekerville.blogspot.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

Story Ideas: How to Beat Shiny-New-Idea Syndrome and Actually Finish Your Projects

Authors often get asked where they get their story ideas. It’s one of the most common questions my student writers wish they could ask their writing heroes. They think, “If I could just find a way to come up with the next best-selling story idea like [insert famous author], then I’ll make it as a writer!”

But they misunderstand one critical truth: the magic isn’t in the ideas. It’s in the execution.

We need the ideas to get started, but many writers don’t have a system for capturing the ideas around them daily, and they don’t develop ideas consistently in practice.

We all have files full of unfinished projects and story ideas spread across notebooks and online platforms. Why do ideas lose their luster the moment we start writing them?

The Problem with Chasing Story Ideas

I had a student who was a few days away from his deadline for his final fiction project and he came to see me.

“I found a better idea and want to change my project,” he said.

“How much have you written on this new idea?” I asked.

“Well, you see, it’s about this guy …”

I interrupted him. “No, how much have you written on it. How many words?”

He shifted uncomfortably. “None, yet.”

I shook my head. “Write it down in a sentence in your journal, and finish the original project first.”

He sputtered a bit about how great this new story idea was compared to the thousands of words he’d written on his current project.

I had to give him the talk I give many students and myself when we feel stuck and get caught up chasing a new shiny idea instead of getting in the chair and grinding out the work.

“Ideas are nothing until you execute them. Your desire to chase something else is resistance. You are close to finishing the longest piece of fiction you’ve ever written. Finish it.

“The idea will still be there. You’re afraid the current work won’t be as good as it seemed in your head, when it was a shiny new idea like the one you’re courting now.

“But the magic isn’t in the idea. It’s in the way you execute it, which means you need a first draft. Then we’ll revise it into the work you want it to be.”

It wasn’t the answer he wanted to hear, but he ultimately finished the original project.

A System for Managing Story Ideas

A system can minimize shiny-new-idea syndrome, because you will have a plan for what to do when a new idea appears in the midst of your current project.

I always have a notebook with me, but sometimes I capture story ideas online. I used to bookmark interesting articles, until I had so many stored that I never looked at them. Since then, I’ve transitioned online links to Evernote with tags to easily search my ideas.

I know writers who love to use Pinterest to keep character boards, settings, and history research in a visually organized way. Others love spreadsheets. Some keep idea boards in their writing spaces.

Find the method that you are most likely to use, and it will save you time as you collect and use your ideas. Then, when you are in the middle of trying to finish a project, you know exactly where to put that idea that keeps interrupting your work.

Revisiting Notebooks for Idea-Mining

Whether you keep your ideas on paper or online, build time into your writing year to revisit your stash.

I used to dump all my notebooks in a jumble in a big bin when they were finished. Now, I put dates on the bindings and keep them in two boxes in my huge bin. Each summer, I make time to scan through the notebooks in one of the boxes, pulling one or two notebooks that have especially promising ideas to develop. Sometimes I just read through them and put them all back.

Online, I tag story ideas in Evernote by genre or fiction element (character, setting, conflict, interesting problem, etc.). When I’m looking for a fresh story idea, I can open Evernote and scan through a tag’s contents quickly.

The Most Important Step

As I shared with my student who was chasing a new idea, the most important thing to do is simply pick an idea and follow it through to completion, one idea at a time, over and over again. A system can minimize those distractions, because you can tell your inner squirrel that the idea is safely lodged in your notebook and will be revisited when it’s time.

Of course there may be times when abandoning a project is necessary, but don’t let your reason be “Oooo, look at this shiny new idea!”

Where do you like to record your story ideas? Share in the comments.

By Sue Weems
Source: thewritepractice.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

 

Story is Conflict

If a story were a bus, conflict would be the driver.

Conflict steers a story, moves it forward, reverses it, stops it in its tracks, and slows or accelerates the pacing.

More importantly, conflict keeps readers glued to the page. Readers want to see how the characters will deal with conflict. Will they find solutions to their problems? Overcome their challenges? Resolve their issues?

Stories contain conflicts large and small, from an impending threat that would wipe out life on planet Earth to minor scuffles in which characters can’t agree on what to have for dinner. When well crafted and worked deftly into the plot, any kind of conflict can be interesting. 

Conflict is Difficult

Conflict makes life difficult for the characters, providing obstacles for them to overcome and challenges they must face head-on. It’s obvious that conflict is at the heart of any plot: the hero must overcome the antagonist or the central story problem. But the core conflict often looms over the many smaller conflicts that are peppered throughout a story, obscuring them.

Let’s look at Star Wars: A New Hope as an example (spoiler warning!). The story is set amidst an epic conflict between a rebellion and an authoritarian regime. The story’s hero, Luke Skywalker, finds himself caught up in this conflict as he sets forth on a journey to become a Jedi knight. Conflict abounds in the story: Luke’s uncle won’t let him go to the pilot academy; the new droid runs away and Luke must find it; the sand people attack Luke; his farm is raided by Stormtroopers who kill his aunt and uncle; Luke gets assaulted by strangers in the cantina; he embarks on a friction-riddled relationship with the smuggler Han Solo. And those are just a few examples of conflict from the first act. Conflicts large and small thwart Luke and his companions along every step of their journey all the way through to the end of their story.

Some conflicts are more challenging than others, but this constant onslaught of conflict makes the characters’ path through the story’s events challenging — and interesting. Some conflicts result in failure; others lead to success. Ultimately, the payoff is worth it: Luke begins learning the ways of the Force, rescues the princess, and joins the rebellion to help them destroy the Death Star. Victory is sweet.

Conflict is Everywhere

The conflicts in Star Wars range from interpersonal (friction between Luke and Han Solo) to physical (the scuffle with patrons in the cantina) to internal (Luke faces an internal struggle in which he must choose between joining the rebellion or remaining on his uncle’s farm) and environmental (Luke and his companions get trapped in trash compactor on the Death Star).

When looking for more conflict to bring into our stories, we need look no further than the plot, characters, and setting that we have established.

  • The plot, or events in the story, provide conflict by creating challenging situations for the characters.
  • Characters are perhaps one of the richest sources of conflict. From love triangles to minor arguments to major blowouts, relationships are fraught with friction.
  • The story world, or setting, often provides ample conflict — from major events, such as natural disasters, to minor inconveniences, like a leaky roof, a story’s setting can present plenty of conflict for the characters.

Conflict is Story

Every conflict heightens readers’ engagement, because in large part, we read to see how the characters will resolve the many conflicts that arise throughout a story — the big ones and the little ones.

That doesn’t mean you should stuff your story with conflict just for the sake of doing so. Each conflict should move the story toward its ultimate conclusion. You might find dozens of opportunities within a story where two characters might disagree with each other, and these conflicts could be interesting. But how do they contribute to the characterization, the plot, and the themes — or do they? Conflict is good for story, but it needs to have purpose or meaning. It needs to support the story.

How do you approach conflict in your stories? Do you focus on the central conflict and let other conflicts arise naturally? Do you find yourself going off on tangents based on minor conflicts? Share your experiences with story conflict by leaving a comment, and keep writing.

By Melissa Donovan

Source: writingforward.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

Ask the editor: Breaking the “write what you know” rule

Posted: April 7th, 2014 by Alan Rinzler @

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Q: I have a terrific story to tell, but it didn’t actually happen to me. Is it possible to write with authenticity about something you haven’t experienced firsthand?

A: Many great books are written by authors who seem to have nothing in common with their character’s experiences. Different gender, culture, time in history, geographic location.

Stephen Crane wrote The Red Badge of Courage, an amazing description of a bloody hand-to-hand combat and death during the infamous Civil War battle of Chancellorsville without ever having any experience in the military or violent conflict of any sort. The entire Civil War, in fact, occurred before he was born.

Henry James wrote Portrait of a Lady, though he was certainly nothing at all like Isabelle Archer, the spirited young American girl who inherits a lot of money and has a hard time dealing with the consequences.

Tom Robbins, despite bogus rumors to the contrary, doesn’t have hooves, or smell like a goat and dance about playing pipes in the hills of Greece, as happens in his excellent book Jitterbug Perfume, which features the goat god Pan.

Writing vicariously

Most of all, you need authentic passion for the story. Then, you need to plunge into the homework. Your research must be impeccable, every detail dead-on accurate. If you’re recreating an historical epoch, you should read profusely about it, and interview experts or participants if possible. If your story is from the perspective of someone completely different from you, find models and study them as closely as possible — in person, face-to-face.

You may find that your early drafts take you in unexpected directions. Stay flexible and true to the new world you’re creating.

Four writers on how they did it

I’ve worked with many authors who’ve written about something they haven’t experienced directly. Here are four writers and their responses to questions I sent each of them about how they did it.

Jillian Thomadsen is the author of the novel Infiltrate about an idealistic young Fixed Income Analyst at a major investment bank who tries to shift internal policies towards more altruistic long-term goals but finds herself increasingly drawn into a culture of greed and corruption.

Neville Frankel is the author of Bloodlines, a novel about how the struggle against apartheid nearly destroys a Jewish family in South Africa which engages in violent terrorism during the early years of Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress.

Kimberley Pettinger is the author of The Quantum Affair, a novel about a strong woman’s struggle for freedom and power in a high tech company with a revolutionary new computer.

David Tomlinson is the author of American Prayer, a novel about the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing in the context of race relations, religious faith, and local politics.

What sparked the passion that motivated you to write this book?

Jillian Thomadsen:

I was reading an article about the Occupy movement, and it seemed like an effort in futility.  How was sleeping in a park going to cause change? I started to think that one angry person working inside an investment bank could do more than hundreds of protesters chanting outside.  And from that moment, the idea of a person who infiltrates and takes down a company she despises started to take shape.

I wanted to write about income disparity, the quintessential American Dream, and the current economic climate in the wake of the Great Recession of 2008.  A Wall Street investment bank seemed like a fitting backdrop for telling this story and I knew it was an environment where people pushed ethical boundaries in pursuit of their personal ambitions for money and power.

Neville Frankel:

I had returned for the first time 38 years after my family had fled South Africa before the end of apartheid when a man I’d never met before threw his arms about me and whispered in my ear, “Welcome home, brother.” I was overwhelmed by the unexpected sense of having come home. That was the  moment when I realized I’d never really left my homeland behind, and had unresolved issues that needed to be addressed.

I was so struck by the fact that the young South African people I met in their early twenties really had no historical perspective on what had happened in their country before Nelson Mandela was elected President. This despite the fact that every one of them had been deeply affected by apartheid, whether they were the children of victims or perpetrators. I thought that a novel about their country’s revolution told through the eyes of fictional characters – blacks, whites, Jews – could be a great way to provide that perspective.

Kimberly Pettinger:

I had a hard-earned eight-week sabbatical at the company where I worked. But I’d just had my second child and was sleep deprived most of the time, so there was no way I was going for a vacation to Paris or anywhere else for that matter.  I was frustrated that my life was rather dull and my career had plateaued.

I’ve always been intrigued with females in positions of power. Who were they? How did they get to the top? What struggles did they have?  In the corporate environment, females – especially technical leaders – are rare and exceptional.  I was also interested in playing out the idea of the next generation of computing which would likely accelerate a major shift in society. And I liked the idea of balancing the corporate intrigue with a love story.

David Tomlinson:

Running on the treadmill in my home office, I was looking out the window, listening to music, watching the sunlight hit the street, and had this image of a guy running along the railroad tracks, lit up by this same light. That guy turned out to be one of main characters in a new story, a Choctaw Indian named Dean Goodnight, who works for the Oklahoma County Public Defender.

I wanted to write a literary novel about the Oklahoma City bombing: an ambitious, political, heartfelt book set in the place where I grew up. And I hoped that people could see and understand and wind up caring about complex, difficult, prickly, larger-than-life characters who at first glance can be tough to love.

What kind of homework did you do to write about what you didn’t know firsthand or hadn’t experienced yourself?

Jill Thomadsen:

I kept abreast of news articles and stories about the 2008 financial crisis, the bursting of the US housing bubble caused by collapsing mortgage lending standards. I asked myself if could it happen all over again, but this time with unregulated and fraudulent student loans.  Since this never happened, and it isn’t a disguised memoir or anything I’ve observed or experienced directly, I allowed myself some creative license as well.

Neville Frankel:

I had to read books on history and  politics, South African fiction, the reports on the Truth and Reconciliation hearings. I also made three trips to various parts of South Africa, some remote, to speak with many, many people about their experiences under apartheid and to write accurately about the geography and natural beauty of the country.

Kimberly Pettinger:

My experience working within a large multi-national corporation and the inner workings of that machine allowed me to write about it authentically.  The one component I didn’t have access to was the underworld of computing.  I did some research online and just imagined what it would be like for one of my characters.

David Tomlinson:

I read a dozen or so books on basketball, race relations, faith, local politics, and the justice system, taking copious notes, reworking my outline the entire time. I interviewed an old college roommate, a Choctaw Indian, who used to investigate capital cases for the public defender’s office, who gave me insight in Dean Goodnight’s life and day job. You, Alan, suggested that I read Phil Jackson’s “Sacred Hoops”, which is fantastic. And my daughter started playing basketball around this time so I spent some extra time watching the coach interact with his players and soaking up the sounds and textures of the gym.

One of the characters in this story is a physical therapist named Aura, a black woman, who winds up having to care for a paralyzed, bigoted patient named Cecil. My wife is a physician, and so if I had questions about medication, terminology, or complications due to Cecil’s condition, she pointed me in the right direction.

It took four years to complete the novel. I felt myself having so much empathy and understanding for my characters, while living the arc of this story from each particular character’s point of view. So in a way, by the time I was finished, I actually had experienced it all.

_____________

What about you?

Have you written a story about a character with whom you had little in common? We’d love to hear more about it.

What was the original source of your passion to write the story? What kind of homework did you do? What was the most difficult part of writing your book?

We welcome any problems, successes, experience or advice on breaking the rule to write only “what you know”.

First Edition Design eBook Publishing

Visit us: www.firsteditiondesignpublishing.com

Where Should You Begin Your Story? – An Excerpt from Structuring Your Novel

First Edition Design Publishing

Another great writing post by K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

From her Blog “Wordplay: Helping Writers Become Authors”

Just for fun, today I’d thought I’d give you a sneak peek of my upcoming bookStructuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story. The book, available September 1, 2013, x-rays our notion of storycraft to get past the outer aesthetics right on down to the muscular and skeletal systems that make our books work. Once we grasp the mechanics of structure, we’re able to take so much of the guesswork out of crafting a strong story from start to finish.
Today, I’d like to share an excerpt from Chapter 2, which talks about one of the trickiest questions any author is faced with: Where to begin the story?


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Authors are much more likely to begin their stories too soon, rather too late. We feel the pressure of making sure readers are well-informed. They have to understand what’s going on to care about it, right? To some extent, yes, of course they do. But the problem with all this info right at the beginning is that it distracts from what readers find most interesting: the character reacting to his current plight.

What is the first dramatic event?

The question you need to ask yourself is, “What is the first dramatic event in the plot?” Finding this event will help you figure out the first domino in your story’s line of dominoes. In some stories that first domino can take place years before the story proper and therefore will be better told as a part of the backstory. But, nine times out of ten, this will be your best choice for a beginning scene.

What is your first major plot point?

Another thing to keep in mind is the placement of your First Plot Point, which should occur around the 25% mark (we’ll discuss this in more depth in Chapter 6). If you begin your story too soon or too late, you’ll jar the balance of your book and force your major plot points at the 25%, 50%, and 75% marks off schedule.
(We’ll be discussing these plot points and their placements at length later on, but, for now, let me just emphasize that these placements at the quarter marks in the story are general guidelines. Unlike movies, which operate on a much tighter structural timeline, novels have the room to allow long series of scenes to build one into the other to create the plot points as a whole—and thus can occur over long sections, even chapters, rather than smack on the money at the quarter marks.)
Consider your First Plot Point, which will be the first major turning point for your characters and, as a result, often the Inciting or Key Event (which we’ll also discuss in Chapter 6). The setup that occurs prior to these scenes should take no more than a quarter of the book. Anymore than that and you’ll know you’ve begun your story too early and need to do some cutting.

What are the three essentials?

The most important thing to keep in mind is the most obvious: No deadweight. The beginning doesn’t have to be race-’em-chase-’em, particularly since you need to take the time to introduce and set up characters. But it does have to be tight. Otherwise, your readers are gone.
How do you grip readers with can’t-look-away action, while still taking the time to establish character? How do you decide upon the perfect moment to open the scene? How do you balance just the right amount of information to keep from confusing readers, while at same time raising the kind of intriguing questions that make them want to read on? When we come down to it, there are only three integral components necessary to create a successful opening: character, action, and setting.
Barnes and Noble editorial director Liz Scheier offered an anecdote that sums up the necessity of these three elements:

 A professor of mine once posed it to me this way, thumping the podium for emphasis: “It’s not ‘World War II began’! It’s ‘Hitler. Invaded. Poland.’”

Scheier’s professor not only made a sturdy case for the active voice, he also offered a powerful beginning. Let’s take a closer look.