The Loser


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

The Loser

By Nandy Ekle

Your character has a goal. This goal is something they really want. They think about it constantly. It is the theme of every decision they make, every thought they have, every moment of every day. They dream about it and this goal becomes the loftiest ambition they will ever have. And they want it so much they would give up everything in the world, including their own body, to get this thing they want.

So that’s where the adventure begins. It begins with a need that goes deeper than the ocean. The character begins to search for ways to get it.

As they search, their vows of “whatever it takes” begin to come true. They must begin to lose things they care about in order to get the one big thing they want. First they lose the small inconsequential things, like toys, grades, respect, or small change money. These are things the reader can identify with losing, but not be scarred too deeply.

But still they keep after their goal.

So then they must start losing higher stakes. The loss of more important things, like pets, jobs, good friends, vehicles, homes, loved ones, or fortunes—these things will dig deeper in the reader’s heart. They can understand the pain the character goes through, but they can still understand why he goes through it. The goal is just too great to worry about losing the things they have lost.

So then, we must be extremely cruel and take it all away. Our character should become totally alone, broken hearted, and starved. This is the point where the character will begin to wonder if their goal is really worth all the loss they have endured. Were they better off in the beginning of the story, or will they actually be better off if they reach their goal? “Happily ever after,” or “sadder but wiser”?

This is also the point where the reader’s heart is as broken as the character’s heart. The reader wanted to see the character reach his goal. They know how important this need is to him, but they also feel the pain he endures to get to the goal. The reader has become a either a cheerleader because the goal is very grand, or they want to discourage the character because the goal is not worth the losses.

So whatever the case, your main character must become a loser to become a winner.

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

Story Exploded


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

Story Exploded

By Nandy Ekle

It happened again. I woke up listening to a voice telling me an adventure. As the words scrolled across the great movie screen in my head, I realized that would make an amazing story. Probably ten or fifteen pages, a nice juicy short story at best.

As a “pantser” (one who writes “by the seat of their pants”), trying not to do so much planning that all the fun turns into a fill-in-the blank, essay-ish type of work, I took out my trusty computer, opened the word processor and let my fingers transcribe the scenes playing out in my head.

And then I came to a decision-making moment. Sometimes this is where I get locked down, waiting for the characters to tell me what comes next. Most of the time I can see the scenes clearly, but the transitions between the scenes is the muddy white noise part of the brain-feed movie going on. So I have to think for a minute. This is usually not wise if I want a short story because a lot can happen in a decision-making moment.

In this story I began to see twists and turns multiply to look like a roller coaster gone haywire. The hidden truths I will build to are good ones. In fact, I broke out in goosebumps and giggled like an insane madwoman every time a new twist popped up.

Research. I needed to research a couple of things I knew nothing about. And I had to research some things I knew a little about, and one or two things I completely understood, but wanted to find a way to connect to the new things I would be learning. And all the while a new secret would wink at me and I would giggle a little more.

So now I look at my “short story” and realize it’s a good tale, but it exploded into an outright novel. Only, I absolutely don’t want to say it out loud because the muse will pack up and leave me holding a paper cutout of my character in one hand and an dry ink pen in the other.

So, for the moment, we will continue to call this a short story.

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

Yes, I’m Going There


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

Yes, I’m Going There

By Nandy Ekle

 

Of course there are always at least two sides to everything. One rule I’ve heard is to branch out and try new things, to research and learn, let the imagination run. The other side of that rule is to write what you know.

I’ve thought about that for a while. I love to pretend I’m someone else and go through their adventures, even the most painful kind. I love to learn new facts and see how things work, what other places look and smell like. In short, I’m a person who enjoys new experiences.

But one day the thought occurred to me, who better to write about arachnophobia than a bona fide anrachnophobe? Who can describe the terror better than someone who breaks out in the proverbial cold sweat, someone whose muscles clench up and freeze when an eight-legged monster creeps across the floor? No one who has never suddenly realized their arms and legs have crawled back into their body will ever be able to accurately describe the way the air leaves the room and their eyes glue themselves to the creature as it runs to hide in a corner until you’re not looking so it can jump on your head and tangle in your hair, laying egg sacs in your skin . . .

Yes, well—now you see how writing what you know can be a definite advantage.

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

Yes, I’m Going There


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

Yes, I’m Going There

By Nandy Ekle

 

Of course there are always at least two sides to everything. One rule I’ve heard is to branch out and try new things, to research and learn, let the imagination run. The other side of that rule is to write what you know.

I’ve thought about that for a while. I love to pretend I’m someone else and go through their adventures, even the most painful kind. I love to learn new facts and see how things work, what other places look and smell like. In short, I’m a person who enjoys new experiences.

But one day the thought occurred to me, who better to write about arachnophobia than a bona fide anrachnophobe? Who can describe the terror better than someone who breaks out in the proverbial cold sweat, someone whose muscles clench up and freeze when an eight-legged monster creeps across the floor? No one who has never suddenly realized their arms and legs have crawled back into their body will ever be able to accurately describe the way the air leaves the room and their eyes glue themselves to the creature as it runs to hide in a corner until you’re not looking so it can jump on your head and tangle in your hair, laying egg sacs in your skin . . .

Yes, well—now you see how writing what you know can be a definite advantage.

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

 

A Thrilling Suspense


 

A Thrilling Suspense

By Rory C. Keel

Whatever happened to action/adventure stories? Today they’re called thrillers or suspense stories.

This genre defines itself with stories that evoke an emotional thrill by placing the reader in the middle of situations such as a conspiracy or an eco-thriller.

Suspense might include an aviation story set in the past, or even a future time, and may include a familiar theme such as legal or medical thrillers. In thrillers that have espionage, exploration or treasure hunters, the protagonist’s life goes beyond the ordinary.

Thrillers are usually full of fast action and the hero always wins and leaves the reader wanting more.

roryckeel.com

A Thrilling Suspense


 

A Thrilling Suspense

By Rory C. Keel

Whatever happened to action/adventure stories? Today they’re called thrillers or suspense stories.

This genre defines itself with stories that evoke an emotional thrill by placing the reader in the middle of situations such as a conspiracy or an eco-thriller.

Suspense might include an aviation story set in the past, or even a future time, and may include a familiar theme such as legal or medical thrillers. In thrillers that have espionage, exploration or treasure hunters, the protagonist’s life goes beyond the ordinary.

Thrillers are usually full of fast action and the hero always wins and leaves the reader wanting more.

roryckeel.com

The Interview


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

The Interview

By Nandy Ekle

“First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him!

Ray Bradbury

  

Cast:    Interviewer

Main Character (Claire)

Setting:  A concrete room, similar to an interrogation room in a cops-type TV show. The walls are gray, the light is gray, the floor is gray, and the ceiling is out of the picture. There is a large mirror on one wall right next to the door.

Interviewer walks in carrying a laptop computer. She sits in one of the chairs and opens her computer.

The door opens and Main Character walks in shyly, head down, eyes peeking out from under her hair.

Interviewer:    Come in and have a seat.

Main Character walks a little further into the room.

Interviewer:    What is your name?

Main Character (sits in chair timidly)   I’m Claire.

Interviewer:    Hello, Claire. What have you come to tell me?

Claire:    Well, I’m going to tell you how I came to be where I am.

Interviewer:     I’m not sure I understand.

Claire:    Well, I’ve had a little . . . adventure. I stood in line out there (motions with head toward the door) waiting my turn, and now it’s here. So I get to tell you my story.

Interviewer:     Okay. (She clicks ink pen and holds it over the paper) You may begi

Claire:   It all started when I woke up one morning and realized I was out of coffee. That’s all I wanted, just some coffee. But that’s the one thing that, when I want it, I want it NOW. (Claire’s face darkens) I. NEEDED. MY. COFFEE. (She pauses and then her face morphs back to its original demure expression)

Interviewer:     I know exactly what you mean. I’m the same way about coffee.

Claire:   (Smiles softly) Then you’ll understand my story.

Interviewer:     (Returns smile) Of course I will.

Claire:   It happened like this . . .

I simply take dictation while my characters talk. After all, they’re the ones telling the story.

Your assignment: What came next? Post in the comments below. And, by all means, have fun.

The End


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

The End

By Nandy Ekle

 I need to end my story. I brought the character through the adventure, but at the critical point, she just froze in mid air. Now, a year later, I need to bring the whole thing together to end it.

I know a character has to want something. The whole point of a story is to illustrate a character pursuing a desire. They might want a relationship with a lover. They might want a new career. They might want safety, health, recognition, or even invisibility. And so they strike out on an adventure to get what they want.

The next element of a good story is something blocking their way. This problem could be in the form of a natural disaster, such as a tornado or hurricane. It could be another person, such as a wicked witch or an evil step-mother. Or the problem could be within the character herself. She might want the thing, but be afraid to get it or have a feeling of unworthiness.

Another element is the theme of the story. This is the general reason for the whole tale. The character goes through the adventure to learn a life lesson. This is the glue that holds the whole story together. Why does the character want to save her stale marriage? Maybe she tells herself she doesn’t want to lose the comfort of routine and join the ranks of single mothers. But maybe deep down inside she really loves her husband and wants his attention back on her.

So how does the story end? Your character will learn the lesson and either live happily ever after or be sadder but wiser.

And don’t forget the twist. In order to twist the end, you have to know a secret about your character and keep that secret until the very end. Our lady character above loves her husband and misses his attention. So her imagination goes on a rant and builds suspicion, convincing her his attentions are on another woman. He’s distracted, works long hours, smells like cigarettes when he gets home and goes directly to sleep. What she doesn’t know, and my readers don’t know (until the last page) is that her husband has developed superhero powers and spends his evenings fighting crime with a sidekick. Her marriage is saved, their love is renewed and the reader gets a fun little surprise as a reward for sticking with the character through her whole adventure.

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

Atrayou and the Child Like Empress


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

Atrayou and the Child Like Empress

By Nandy Ekle

“You must contact an earthling child,” the child-like empress says.

“An earthling child? Where do I find one?” Atrayou asks.

“You can only find an earthling child beyond the boundaries of Fantasia.”

This is one of the themes of the movie, The Neverending Story, one of my favorite children’s storiess. The theme simply means that your character must reach out to the reader. And so, how do we do that? How does a character reach beyond the boundaries of the page?

One of the first things to consider is who is the earthling child you are trying to reach? If you write romance, your audience is probably female. So your main character should be female. If you write for children, your character should be a child. Your character should be identifiable with your readers. They should have a lot of things in common.

When you connect with your reader, they will follow your character through the whole story. This is the object of your writing, to get the earthling child to go on the adventure with the character.

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

A thrilling Suspense


Whatever happened to action/adventure stories? Today they’re called thrillers or suspense stories.

This genre defines itself with stories that evoke an emotional thrill by placing the reader in the middle of situations such as a conspiracy or an eco-thriller.

Suspense might include an aviation story set in the past, or even a future time, and may include a familiar theme such as legal or medical thrillers. In thrillers that have espionage, exploration or treasure hunters, the protagonist’s life goes beyond the ordinary.

Thrillers are usually full of fast action and the hero always wins and leaves the reader wanting more.

Rory C. Keel