Research your setting well

Research your setting well

If you do not want to set your story on the city you live in, then get ready to do some research. It is important that you visit the place you are going to write about. Some writers do it with characters too. If they are writing about a murderer, they will go and interview one to know his psychology. For your setting too, you need to know the psychology of the city, town or village in which your characters live.

Below is a broad guideline on what all to include in your research:

City– Small town, city, countryside, country, village

Geographical aspects– Mountains, rivers, beaches, desert, forest, ocean, hills, plains, vegetation, animals

Culture– Clothes, shops, streets, people, religion, language (dialect)

Climate– Hot, cold, moderate, desert, tropical

There can be more than one setting in your book. For shorter works of fiction, having one setting is best, but for longer works, you can have more settings than one. In Life of Pie by Yann Martel, there were three settings, the zoo in India, the ocean and Mexico (the last one was only a glimpse). He dealt with all the settings brilliantly. That is because he had visited India many times and knew it well. Of course, the writer cannot experience everything he wants to write about. Yann Martel never experienced a shipwreck, still he wrote about it. That is what research does. In one of his interviews he said that he researched about animal behavior for months on end on the Internet after he decided that the story would involve lots of animals.

Designing a Compelling Synopsis

Designing a Compelling Synopsis

The following outline was a handout at a class by author DeWanna Pace, who was an amazing teacher. Not only can this be used to write a synopsis, but I’ve found it helpful to provide a big picture view of your story and plot line. This will keep you on track and help you reach the end with your main characters goals and motivation still in mind. It’s so easy to lose the overall structure of a story sometimes and get lost in words that are going nowhere. The story has to keep moving onward with every scene and every section of dialogue pushing the reader to the end.

The opening hook/logline:

Who is the main character:

Ordinary world for the main character:

Trigger event/inciting incident:





Genre consideration:

What she learns:



Motivation for her:


DeWanna provided these additional tips for romance writers: beginning/jolt into action; complication/conflict; work place/historical setting; kiss; fight; realization of being in love; love scene; self-knowledge/changes in character; and HAPPY ENDING.
If you are writing romance use basic fiction matrix and overlay the romance/love story plotline.

The Grail


The Grail

By Nandy Ekle



I found it on line, filled out the order form and typed in my payment information. Then I sat back and waited. I didn’t have to wait long. It came in the mail this week; I was so excited and couldn’t wait to get home from work and open my package. And I was not disappointed.

Of course, it’s nothing more than a plain, simple coffee cup. It has the name of my favorite author printed around the cup and a print of his signature. That’s all it is. But to me, it might as well be the Holy Grail. It looks really cool in my hands, the coffee tastes better, and suddenly my words flow much better.

There is an old story about a child who wants to learn to do something, but they have no self-confidence. They are given some little trinket and told that it has magic powers and they are immediately able to do the thing they want to do and believe it’s because of the magical object they hold. Then, in the middle of a very intense moment, they lose their magical possession, but are able to continue what they’re doing.

The intelligent side of my brain knows this story and laughs at the creative side for believing it. But I guarantee that since receiving my new cup in the mail, I have been able to write again.

Sometimes we just have to do whatever it takes to get the words on the paper.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.


Flash Fiction

Flash Fiction

by Adam Huddleston


Have you ever read a story so short you could finish it while standing in line at Wendy’s? Believe it or not, there is a format of story-telling so quick you could potentially read several of them in that period of time. Of all the existing designs of fiction writing, the one I have the most experience with is flash fiction.

What is flash fiction? In its simplest sense, it is an extremely short work that still contains character and plot. Word count can range from just a few words to around one-thousand (beyond that, you are walking in the land of the short story).

With such space restrictions, each word must be chosen carefully to maximize its impact in the story. There is little to no room for exposition so any backstory or explanations should be inferred or easily deduced by the reader.

The story should possess a discernible plot, even if it leans toward the simple or basic. A hallmark of flash fiction is the twist ending. Having a plot with a surprising climax makes up for the scarcity of words and lends itself to a more enjoyable experience for the reader.

I’ll conclude with a brief and shameless plug. Over the past several years, I have been a frequent contributor to a flash fiction website which I now moderate ( The site hosts a monthly contest where participants may submit a work of flash fiction, one hundred words or less, that must contain a specific list of words which are updated each month. It is completely free to enter and the two winning stories are posted the next month. I look forward to seeing your work!

Happy writing!

We’re Back

Outtakes 206

We’re Back

by Cait Collins

It’s been a while since our critique group has been together. Work, family obligations, vacations and floods (yes, flooding in the Texas Panhandle) have kept us apart. But as summer comes to a close, it’s time to get back to the business of writing. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been working on some ideas; it means I haven’t been focused.

There’s something about having deadlines and meetings that tend to help me keep on track. Knowing I need to have about ten pages ready to read on Thursday night forces me to put a book away, turn down the TV, and open the lap top. I often do my best work under pressure or time lines.

I’ve been considering how to complete the set-up of my new story. I have names, cities, settings, and now I know how to describe that office. It’s simply a matter of getting the edits on paper. I can’t wait to read the results to the group.

The other thing I have missed is the friendship. Not only do we critique each other’s writing, we’ve developed a camaraderie that helps us work together for the benefit of each member. No one is more important than another. And if one is struggling, we make the time to give the extra support and guidance needed to help him or her over the slump. That’s what makes a good, productive group.

I’m so blessed to be a part of Wordsmith Six. I wish every writer had such dedicated friends and writing partners.



Writing Contests Benefits

It cost money; why should I enter? What benefit will a contest be for my writing and me? I’m not good enough so I’ll never win.

Those who are looking at entering writing contests frequently express these statements and questions. I know, I’ve asked most of them myself.

Having entered my share of writing contests, let me offer some positive benefits from my personal experience.

  1. Training for working with deadlines – Writing contests give a writer the opportunity to work under a deadline. Most contests will have strict dates for submitting an entry. This is good conditioning for working with agents, editors, and publishers who will place deadlines on your writing.
  2. Provides automatic platform – A platform is your audience, those who will read your writing. While your mother and “BFF” will gladly volunteer readership, contest judges can provide you with an unbiased and anonymous audience for your writing. And who knows, the judge may be an agent, editor or publisher.
  3. Gain feedback – One of the most valuable benefits of a writing contest is the critique. To have the judge’s comments noting any mistakes, suggestions for improvement and yes, even praise can help improve your writing.
  4. Build your portfolio – Writing contests are a perfect why to build your portfolio. When seeking an agent or publisher, a few writing clips, accomplishments and certificates may be the edge you need to sell the deal.
  5. Increase your confidence – Entering a contest gives a writer the opportunity to gain confidence in their writing. Have you ever written something only to tear it up or hide it in a drawer? Have you ever said, “I could never write good enough to be published!” A writing contest provides an inexpensive way to test the waters of being an author.
  6. Avoid scam contests – As with most everything, there are people who take advantage of others. Before entering a contest, research the person or organization holding the contest and make sure they are legitimate. There are a few contests that are no more than book selling scams. When your entry wins, it is accepted for publication in an anthology, with all of the other first place winners, then you must pay an outrageous price to obtain a copy. lists a few of these writing contests to avoid. To help find your next contest check out or

Creative Genius or Paranoia?

Creative Genius or Paranoia?

By Natalie Bright

The creative person is both more primitive and more cultivated, more destructive, a lot madder and a lot saner, than the average person. FRANK BARRON, “Think”, Nov-Dec 1962.

People should realize that writers apply their vivid imaginations to every aspect of their lives. It’s an endless list, the things we can worry about, and the writing and submitting process is no exception. I’m not saying I’ve ever had any thoughts on this list (perhaps one—okay, two), but these issues have come up in conversation with creative types:

  • My children, husband, in-laws, co-workers, neighbors, my cat—the entire universe—have conspired to prevent me from finishing this book.
  • Why did I send that stupid and inappropriate email to my agent? I should have never asked that question. She’s never replied because obviously, I’ve been dropped as a client. Can I be any more unprofessional? My career is over.
  • No response. They never got it. It’s been 14 days, 8.5 hours, 22 minutes since my submission. I don’t like the way the new mailman looks at me. He probably never put it in the bin for mailing. The crazy postman sabotaged my writing career.
  • I can’t believe I let this story out into the world. What a piece of crap. No wonder I can’t sell anything. I’m a total joke to every editor in New York City. They probably read my work out loud at happy hour just for a good laugh.
  • My book would have sold by now except for my website. I need a complete redo with a more vivid color scheme, different pictures, new bio. A blog! I need a blog. And a tribe. How much does a tribe cost?
  • I’m done. It’s too hard. I can’t take all of this rejection. Who am I kidding? My dream. Is. Over. *sob* Hey! A great idea for a picture book just came into my head! I’ll sleep later, AFTER I finish the first draft…

…onward my WordsmithSix friends!

The Wisdom of the Masters


The Wisdom of the Masters

By Nandy Ekle

  1. Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space –Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
  1. You sort of start thinking anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve. –J.Rowling, Harry Potter and the Oder of the Phoenix
  1. That we see or seem is but a dream with a dream. –Edgar Allan Poe, Dream Within a Dream
  1. I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, It’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, And that enables you to laugh at life’s realities. –Dr. Seuss
  1. There must be more to life than having everything. –Maurice Sendak
  1. Careful. We don’t want to learn from this. –Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes
  1. Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please. –Mark Twain
  1. The wit makes fun of other person; the satirist makes fun of the world; the humorist makes fun of himself, but in so doing, he identifies himself with people—that is, people everywhere, not for the purpose of taking them apart, but simply revealing their true nature. –James Thurber
  1. The best time to plan a book is while you’re doing the dishes. –Agatha Christie
  1. A man who could build a church, as one may say, by squinting at a sheet of paper. –Charles Dickens

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

Lay vs. Lie

Lay vs. Lie

by Adam Huddleston


Ah yes, the bane of all writers. Well, maybe that’s a bit of an overstatement, but at some point most writers have come across this puzzle. Which form should I use? Does it matter? Actually, it does. Here is a quick refresher for those interested:

Use lay when the subject is setting something down. Ex: I lay the spider in the fireplace.

Use lie when the subject is the one lying. Ex: I lie down in the coffin.

In the past tense, “lay” becomes “laid” (Ex: I laid sod in my yard last week) and “lie” becomes “lay” (Ex: Mary lay in her new bed last night). Confused yet?

One more note, if helping verbs are involved (past participle form), “lie” becomes “lain”. Ex: The dragon had lain on her egg for eternity. However, “laid” is still the past participle form of “lay”. Ex: Susan had laid the gun down on the table.

Listen to Your Characters

Outtakes 205

Listen to Your Characters

by Cait Collins


Some folks think I’m crazy when I tell them that I talk to my characters and they answer me. Truth is I’m quite sane. I get some of my best ideas just carrying on a conversation with a character in my story. It goes something like this.

“So, Chad, you’ve found a new girlfriend. What’s she like? Who are her people? What does she do? What’s her name?”

Chad responds. “Well, she’s cute. Not heart-stopping beautiful, but cute. And she’s funny. She tells the best jokes. Have you heard the one about…?” Okay, you’re not in the mood for jokes. She’s a teacher. High school English. Beth. Her name is Beth. My girl’s a great educator. Beth teaches some of the old stuff like conjugating verbs and diagramming sentences.

‘Her folks died in an auto accident and Beth raised her sister, Amy. The kid graduates in the spring and plans to study law at Harvard. I guess you want to know how Amy can go to Harvard when her guardian is a school teacher. Well, the folks were pretty well off. They set up trust funds for the girls, but Beth is as frugal as her Scots ancestors. Anyway, we’re planning a trip to the Highlands after Amy graduates.”

In a short conversation, I’ve learned the girl friend’s name, she has a good sense of humor, her ancestors are from Scotland, her occupation, and future plans. But I didn’t ask where everyone lived.

“I bet you don’t know how to find the Old North Church. The one of Paul Revere fame. One if by land; two if by sea. After her folks died, the girls moved here, to Denver. It’s got to be real strange to wake up with the mountains instead of the ocean.”

As you can see, my conversations with Chad garnered useful information. And it’s better than talking to myself.