WRITER GET NOTICED
Have you been writing for years, but feel like no one notices? Have you published your stories, only to gain a handful of readers? Do your marketing efforts feel like shouting into a void?
Veteran writer and motivational coach Colleen M. Story helps you break the spell of invisibility to reveal the author platform that will finally draw readers your way.
There are more books out there than ever before, and readers have many other things vying for their attention. A writer can feel like a needle in a haystack, and throwing money at the problem rarely helps. What does work is creating a platform that stands out, but in a sea of a million platforms, how is one to do that?
Writer Get Noticed! takes a new approach, dispelling the notion that fixing your writing flaws and expanding your social media reach will get you the readers you deserve. Instead, discover a myriad of strengths you didn’t know you had, then use them to find your author theme, power up your platform, and create a new author business blueprint, all while gaining insight into what sets you apart as a writer and creative artist.
Book Review: Any Zombie Fans?
One of my favorite things about writing conferences is meeting other writers and being exposed to genres that I never would read otherwise. Case in point, I met Mr. Ray Weeks at the Canadian River Valley Writer’s Workshop several weeks ago. He happened to take a seat across the table from me. Ray had returned to his home town of Canadian to run the movie theatre in town, and he writes stories. More specifically, short stories and stories about zombies. I bought his book EAT ME for my son. It’s autographed, “To David. Eat ‘Till your dead and then some.” My plan was to read the first few pages, but then I couldn’t put it down.
As a zombie fan, you may think that you have read every possible scenario involving zombies. After all we’ve been reading about the fictional undead since 1929, with the book THE MAGIC ISLAND by W. B. Seabrook. Horror, fantasy, science fiction – the genres can be varied but the scenario is basically the same. An undead man-eating creature destroys humanity. I thought I had read enough to last me a lifetime until I picked up this book by Ray Weeks.
EAT ME is a unique, highly inappropriate, often gross and shocking collection of zombie short stories. I love this book! His writing is brilliant.
You will be entertained by original premises from humans living in the tree tops to a zombie animal, which has always been impossible. Animals can’t be zombies. It’s unheard of. Not in the world where Mr. Weeks resides.
Buy this book. You will not regret it. In fact, order some extra copies for your friends. They will love you for it. Here’s the link for Amazon.
Eat Me: A Zombie Story Collection
“Stories are our primary tools of learning and teaching, the repositories of
our lore and legends. They bring order into our confusing world. Think about
how many times a day you use stories to pass along data, insights, memories
or common-sense advice.”
– Edward Miller, founder of Edward Elementary, illustrator and product
SHORT STORY NARRATION
My critique group is busy crafting new short stories for Book 2 of our Route 66 Anthology series. My story is going great. It’s not all on the page yet, but it is in my head. Also, the ending came to me clear as a bell. The main character spoke the last line of the story and I wrote that scene as soon as I could. I have two main characters and I have a theme: regrets. One problem I realized after our discussion is that my story has no antagonist.
Short stories have the same components as full-length novels. Neil Gaiman talks about short stories in his MasterClass (well worth the price at masterclass.com). He learned from a mentor that “a short story is the last chapter of the novel that was never written.” How brilliant is that?
Here are your short story components:
- Strong sense of place, setting.
- The basic story conflicts apply, as we’ve noted in a previous blog: man versus man; man versus nature; man versus himself.
- Plot (sequence of events)
- Theme. Some examples: big idea, universal, underlying meaning such as ‘loneliness’, what lies beneath the surface ‘obsession’, moral of the story ‘love stinks’.
- A protagonist and an antagonist.
Even short stories feature a main character (MC) that changes in some way from beginning to the end, called the character arc. What does your MC want? What are the things that prevent your MC from achieving that goal? Flat characters are boring and does not experience any growth from beginning to end.
Dig deep and make that emotional connection with your reader. Tug at their heart strings. Keep writing, and good luck with your short stories!
Active Story Narration
Defined: a story or account of events, experiences, or the like, whether true or fictitious. The art, technique, or process of narrating, or of telling a story.
Verbs can be a valuable tool in telling a story.
The right verb can evoke emotion, create strong imagery, and set the scene in the mind of your reader. Active verbs can be powerful and put your story in motion. In grade school when my sons worked on their homework using “spicey” words. I love that!
The “B” verbs have got to go: be, being, been, was, were, is. Hands up: who else is a “was” fan. I use it all the time. During my second pass of edits I find and replace as many of them as I possibly can. You probably have some common or overused verbs in your work. They only dull your sentences.
Here are a few examples:
Is fighting TO: attacked.
Was mad TO: flipped out.
Was walking TO: shuffled.
Was running TO: darted.
Don’t be afraid to let your verbs do the heavy lifting in your story narration.
COMMON THEMES FOR STORY NARRATION
My work in progress involves a narrow focus for research, but I’m finding so much great historical information I want the readers to know it all too. For my nonfiction book though, I’m forcing myself to stop chasing every topic that I might stumble across and instead, keep to the theme.
If you have trouble staying on task within your story narration like I sometimes do, you might consider writing under a common theme. Themes can be used for fiction as well. Write the theme in big letters and post it on your bulletin board so that you can be reminded. Your character’s motivation, conflicts, and the way they react to that obstacle can reflect the theme.
Some of the more common ones are listed below, and you might recognize them in your favorite books or movies.
The main character never gives up no matter what obstacles are thrown in his path to achieving his goal. As the writer, you can make his life miserable, throw everything at him you can, and he will persevere.
The main character is a leader who encourages others to work together, and the band of characters cooperate to solve the problem.
The main character discovers his/her own inner strength to overcome fear and finds the courage to take the risk.
The main character accepts their fate, accepts the reality of their world, or accepts others’ differences.
The Hero’s Journey: A Narrative Pattern
“There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.” WILLA CATHER
It’s impossible to cover the topic of narration during this month without touching upon THE HERO’S JOURNEY.
First identified by American scholar Joseph Campbell, it appears in storytelling across generations. Once you understand the basic narrative pattern you will recognize it immediately in myth and legends, more often in Hollywood blockbuster movies. Many filmmakers owe their success to this enduring story pattern.
The main character, the hero, accomplishes amazing feats on behalf of the rest of us. The story focuses on his journey or adventure. The hero is a universal character, crossing time and cultures.
The stages are as follows:
- The Ordinary World
2. The Call of Adventure
3. Refusal of the Call
4. Meeting the Mentor
5. Crossing the First Threshold
6. Tests, Allies, Enemies
7. Approach to the Inmost Cave
8. The Ordeal
9. Reward (Seizing the Sword)
10. The Road Back
12. Return with the Elixir
One of the most obvious movies that uses this pattern of narration is STAR WARS. Luke Skywalker receives the call to adventure but refuses at first. Watch this movie again and take notes as you follow the outline above. I encourage you to find out more about the Hero’s Journey and how it can help you develop your characters and the plot of your book.
Let’s Talk about Endings.
Do you have an idea the ending before you start writing?
Are you a total pantser, allowing the characters to take you on their journey and realize the ending when you get there?
My brain does not work in pantser mode, I’ve discovered, after a workshop with Kathleen Baldwin, who explained the difference. I work with numbers and deadlines at the day job, and for the time I have at the keyboard writing, I like structure. My characters are well defined and I have a general idea of the ending; then I can begin writing.
The final scene is the big yellow ribbon on your plot. It ties up the story in a satisfactory way for your readers and answers all of their questions. Make it big, make it bold, play that last climactic scene for all its worth. This is your ultimate test, proof that the main character is worth their time and worth saving.
In bad fiction the ending may seem forced. The plot and characters have been manipulated. As a reader it is unsatisfying, maybe a bit annoying. In good fiction, plot and characters meld together and the climactic ending seem inevitable.
SCENE AND SEQUEL
At a writer’s conference held on the campus of WTA&M University in Canyon, Texas, award-winning author Dusty Richards talked to us about scene and sequel when plotting. This is the method that he used to write his popular Byrnes Family Ranch series.
Scene structure = goal, conflict, disaster
Every scene starts with:
- the viewpoint character
- what does he want to accomplish in the confrontation that about to happen
- a stepping stone to the big-picture story goal
The story goal in the scene can be stated through dialogue beforehand, internal dialogue through character thought, or stated in the opening line of the scene.
What happens next is the sequel. The pattern of sequel is:
More on scene and sequel next week.
Follow us all month long as we blog about Story Plot. Happy writing!
The Perfect Story
Generations of parents passed down bits of wisdom to their offspring in the form of stories before he could write those stories down. “Tell Me a Story” gave way to “Read Me A Story”; a long-held family tradition.
The story holds our attention because of conflict. At the core of every story are three basic plots for conflict.
Man against Man
Man against Nature
Man against Himself
The story that holds our attention whether it’s a blockbuster movie or bestselling book, contains a form of all three.