“One thing that helps is to give myself permission to write badly. I tell myself that I’m going to do my five or 10 pages no matter what, and that I can always tear them up the following morning if I want. I’ll have lost nothing—writing and tearing up five pages would leave me no further behind than if I took the day off.”
—Lawrence Block, Writer’s Digest

Unwrapping the Story

Outtakes 366

Unwrapping the Story

By Cait Collins


One of the problems with having a big family is trying to find a time for everyone to get together to celebrate the holidays.  At Christmas it’s often eat fast, exchange gifts, and go to the in-laws or rush off to have dinner with the significant other’s family. And sometimes, it’s just seems like crossing one more items off the list.

One of my sisters had a new idea.  She and another sister gathered prizes and over 300 feet of plastic wrap. They wrapped the prizes into two balls of plastic. The younger children were given the smaller ball and a pair of dice. They stood around a table. One child had the ball and the child on the right rolled the dice.  The child with the ball could unwrap the plastic until doubles were rolled. The ball and dice were passed to the right. This continued until all the prizes were found.

Adults and older kids were up next.  The ball was larger and the contestants were handicapped. We had to wear oven mitts when unwrapping the plastic. I assure you it was not an easy task. About the time I found a thread, someone yelled, “Doubles,” and I had to pass the ball. The unraveling took around 45 minutes filled with laughter and teasing. I truly enjoyed myself. The best part was dinner and the games came before the gift exchange. We were together longer.

Sometimes I feel writing my stories is similar to the plastic ball of surprises. I have a story line and characters, but the details are harder to come by. Characters are never introduced fully developed. The layers are revealed by circumstances, developments, triumphs, and disappointments. Each layer revealed shows the characters’ strengths, weaknesses, hopes and dreams. The revelations create likable and relatable heroes and heroines along with despicable villains.

The story also has layers. The events must unfold along a believable time line. And characters must be introduced at the proper time with just the right amount of detail. Like the handicap of wearing oven mitts when unwrapping the plastic ball, the story must have roadblocks and time constraints. The plot cannot be too easy or too predictable.

When a story seems to take a wrong turn or lose focus, instead of giving up, roll the dice, hope for doubles, and receive the ball with the expectation of finding a new part of the story puzzle. Never lose sight of the goal…a story the reader will enjoy and want to read again. Above all, do not forget the fun in finding a new character or story twist. And never let allow the handicaps to defeat you. Grab the ball and shake the bindings until they loosen and the treasures fall out. The tidbits are the gems that make the story.



by Adam Huddlestoon

The literary device this week is: bathos.  It is defined as the use of absurd metaphors, descriptions, or jokes that move a scene from seriousness to silliness.  Typically, an event occurs at the beginning of the scene that is solemn (such as a death), but through the dialogue or actions of the characters, the atmosphere becomes comedic.  An example given on is that of an episode of the “Mary Tyler Moore Show” where a clown is killed by a stampeding elephant.  The characters begin making jokes about it although Mary does not approve.  At the funeral, she begins laughing when she thinks about the jokes, while people around her stare in confusion.  

As a word of caution, if you choose to use bathos in a tense scene, use it sparingly so as not to destroy the mood if your intent was for it to be a somber scene. 

Happy writing!


“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative.”
—Elmore Leonard


Outtakes 365


By Cait Collins


Good service matters.  I think we sometimes forget this.  The business type doesn’t matter as much as how a customer is treated when they walk through the door.  I had an unfortunate encounter with a post.  The thing just stepped out in front of me and broke my bumper.

I called my insurance company and they recommended several body shops.  I was thrilled to learn Drury body shop was on their list.  They repaired my car after a young man rear-ended me.  I was treated like royalty.  I called them and made an appointment.  They checked the damage and told me what parts they would order.  They set a date for me to bring the car in.  When I arrived I was treated like royalty.  They called the rent car company to let them know I was ready for them to come get me and then promised updates on the progress of my repair.

I received an update about two hours later letting me know the repair was in progress.  Around 3:30 I received a text telling me my car would be ready for pick at 5 PM.  I couldn’t believe it.  When we set the appointment they told me four days, but it was all done in one day.  And the final total was about half the original estimate.  When I arrived to pick up the car, it looked like new.  On top of the great repair job, they had detailed both the interior and exterior.  That’s service.  I’d recommend this shop to everyone.

I so appreciated the service I received, it made me wonder if I am as thoughtful of my customers.  I’m not just talking about the people who are my work customers.  I am also considering my readers.  Do I always try to see my plots and characters from their viewpoint? Do I use enough description to bring them into the setting?  Are the characters believable?  Have I done my research?  Do I settle for okay when the story could and should be magnificent?

Will the ending satisfy my readers?  Have I provided the royal treatment for the reader? Will they want to buy the next story? If even one of these questions has a negative response, then I have failed the service test.  I think my readers deserve better than mediocre efforts.

The Writing Life Quotes

The Writing Life Quotes

Natalie Bright


“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.”
—Samuel Johnson



by Adam Huddleston

This week’s literary term is: malapropism.  It is defined as the use of an incorrect word (usually for comedic effect) with a similar sound in place of the correct word.  For example, in William Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing”, a character states “Our watch, sir, have indeed comprehended two auspicious persons” (replacing apprehended and suspicious).  This effect is often used by characters who are either uneducated or wish to appear so.  

I hope this helps in your craft.  Happy writing!