PLOT TWISTS


PLOT TWISTS

Natalie Bright

 

We are blogging about plot twists all month long. So glad you have joined us at Wordsmith Six!

Plot Twists are defined as something is going on or is about to happen that we, the readers/viewers/players, don’t see coming; if we had known about it. When that story element is revealed to us, we are surprised, shocked, and delighted.

Common themes, or plot tropes, can be found in every genre. For example, in mysteries common tropes include absence of evidence, everyone is a suspect, hidden in plain sight, or you meddling kids.

In the romance genre, popular tropes include transformation from ugly duckling to princess, friends to lovers, reunited lovers, love triangle, or forbidden love. How many times have you recognized the Romeo and Juliet trope?

How about taking a romance trope and applying it to your science fiction, changling novel? How about using a popular mystery trope in your next historical fiction? You’ve the old saying, you have to know the rules in order to break them.

MAKING IT YOURS

Twist those old, tired cliché tropes into something new. Add the YOU into your story, make it unique, make it original. Now go write…

 

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THE BIG WHY


THE BIG WHY

Natalie Bright

 

First off, stop asking yourself why. The best piece of advice I’ve ever received, first heard from David Morrell at the Oklahoma Writers Federation conference in Oklahoma City.

Believe me, you’ll never find the reason or make sense as to why the stories in your head are in your head. I’ve wasted too much time pondering that question. The ideas come from so many parts of you: your childhood memories, those kids that made fun of you, the people you know who made an impact good or bad, the places you’ve lived, your life today. It’s all there in your stories.

When I added fiction writing to my job related and freelance work about 15 years ago, I had envisioned becoming a romance writer. My goals were to sign with an agent and attend the Romance Writers of America conference every year. I’m a huge fan of romances, and most of my author friends write romance. It stands to reason that I’d be cranking those stories out on a regular basis.

Wrong.

The stories in my head were not romance.

The characters that interrupted my dreams were young people, most often from the past. More specifically in the old West. I remember being fascinated with history, the Oregon Trail, and the old West from an early age, but I never imagined I’d be crafting novels set in that time period.

WWA is the West

I attended the Western Writers of America convention in Lubbock, Texas several years ago. This is a diverse group, with songwriters, poets, historians, museum archivists, writers of nonfiction and fiction, editors, agents, musicians, and newbies and veteran authors.

As a first-time attendee and new member, I didn’t expect to make many connections. I listened to a panel of New York City authors share facts about The Alamo that I’d never heard before. Songwriters and talented musicians shared their gift of music every night in the Roundup Room. A panel on writing about the Comanche Nation included great-grandsons of the great chief Quanah Parker! I met the lady who would become my editor, and now she is my co-author.

Here’s what I learned during this amazing week: these people don’t worry about the WHY.

They endlessly research the subjects they love. They write about the people and the places that burn a hole in their gut.  A writer writes. So now I’m writing a book about chuckwagons and a new Christian fiction series set on a Texas ranch. Neither are romance novels, but I stopped questioning the why years ago.

FIND YOUR PEEPS

Whatever you feel driven to write, I encourage you to seek out like-minded people. Join a writer’s group, read your work aloud and listen to the input. Attend a conference, preferably relating to your genre. Introduce yourself and ask someone, “what do you write?” More than likely they will return the question.

Feed your knowledge about this business. Attend workshops or take online classes about characterization, writing a killer query letter, publishing your book on IngramSpark – these are all goals you can achieve.

Stop questioning the why.

Nataliebright.com

THE JOURNEY


THE JOURNEY

By Natalie Bright

This month we’re blogging about genre: what do you write and why? Some days it’s all uphill, chasing this writing fever.

My youngest son graduated high school this year and as we complete the paperwork process for college, I realized he may take his life in a whole new direction than what I had planned. He is a talented artist, since a very early age with a gift for color and design. I made him go to summer art camp as a pre-teen and he says I ruined the joy of drawing for him. He is a gamer, so I tried to steer him towards graphic design,  and he could build a resume by redesigning my website and helping me with social media memes and promo videos. That’s not happening.

Our oldest is also very smart with a talent for business and math. He loves to read, particularly history, and has asked me several times about book premise ideas; “Have you ever read a book where this happens? …” I told him to write it, and that he would find tons of fans with that idea. I had visions of him going to writing conferences with me, and maybe I’d be standing in line at his book signing event one day. But his passion lies in an entirely different area than anything I’d ever considered. It’s not going to be the family business or writing, and that makes me sad.

I remember hurrying home to tell my father about the English and poetry classes I had taken in college, and about my poetry journal. I wrote a book when I was in high school. His reply, “You should take some business classes.” I followed his advice and didn’t get back to writing until twenty years later. Dad had a different idea for my journey, just like I had envisioned our kids’ path.

Light bulb moment: we each have our own path to find. My journey in writing and publishing is MY journey, and MINE alone. No one is going to make me sit down at the computer and hold my hand. I have so many ideas and projects in my head. So many opportunities. The only problem I have is time.

This week has been particularly difficult with day job deadlines, the stories tug at me every minute, but that’s okay. I can do this. I can make everybody happy. I took my laptop with me while we were out of town last weekend, only to realize that I can’t write with someone in the same room. I read over what I had worked on in critique this week and it was horrible. The struggle is real.

Time. I wish I would exercise more and plan healthier meals for my family. I wish the day job would go away, but since my husband is the boss that’s not likely.  I wish I could join the five o’clock morning writers’ group, but my brain doesn’t come alive until seven. I wish I could stay awake all night and finish something. Time.

What I can do is give in to the journey and the stories in my head. What I must do is shut the door and write. Wish me luck. But first, I told my husband, “Yes, I’ll watch Season 3 of Stranger Things with you.”  One-half a step forward and three steps back is my journey.

How do you stay true to your writing? How do you carve out time to get things done?

Thanks for following WordsmithSix!

WITH WORDS WE WEAVE


WITH WORDS WE WEAVE

Natalie Bright

The Texas High Plains Writers brings you a new collection of short stories, memoirs, essays, and poetry from our talented members. One of the oldest writer’s groups in the country, we are celebrating our 100th anniversary next year in 2020. It’s amazing to me that a group of women who wanted to support each other in their writing under the name of Panhandle Pen Women, started an organization that has met continuously for 100 years. Our members today represent every genre from inspirational to horror, play writes, music, and everything in between.

Based in Amarillo, an anthology for this group is nothing new, but I am so glad the current Board of Directors made the decision to revive the writing contest and publish members’ works. In this new anthology, thirty-two authors — from New York Time’s bestselling to newly published — spin tales of laughter, love, and loss. A lawman on the western frontier, a go-kart race for the ages, a keening banshee in picturesque Ireland . . .These stories will make you smile, get your adrenaline pumping, and bring a tear to your eye.

Here’s the link on Amazon to buy. Click here.

https://www.amazon.com

For more information about THPW, visit their website here. http://texashighplainswriters.com/

Thank you for supporting our upcoming 100th year celebration through your purchase of this new book and thanks for reading Wordsmith Six!

SHORT STORY NARRATION


SHORT STORY NARRATION

Natalie Bright

 

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:

  1. Strong sense of place, setting.
  2. The basic story conflicts apply, as we’ve noted in a previous blog: man versus man; man versus nature; man versus himself.
  3. Plot (sequence of events)
  4. Theme. Some examples: big idea, universal, underlying meaning such as ‘loneliness’, what lies beneath the surface ‘obsession’, moral of the story ‘love stinks’.
  5. 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!

SCENE AND SEQUEL


SCENE AND SEQUEL

Nattalie Bright

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:

  1. character
  2. the viewpoint character
  3. what does he want to accomplish in the confrontation that about to happen
  4. 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:

  1. emotion
  2. quandary
  3. decision
  4. action

More on scene and sequel next week.

Follow us all month long as we blog about Story Plot. Happy writing!

 

The Perfect Story


The Perfect Story

Natalie Bright

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.

 

 

Cardboard Characters


 

Cardboard Characters

Natalie Bright

One of the most difficult tasks for a writer is to create fictional characters that seem real and believable to the reader. I love books in which characters seem to jump off the page and ones that remain in my head long after the book is closed.

Much Like Cardboard

Are your characters more like cardboard; stiff, emotionless, without personality? They have names and faces, but they are just on the surface of your story and nothing more. The solution: dig deeper into your character’s motivation.

As an author, you must torture your characters. It is impossible to reveal deep character feelings and personalities without applying deep, intense pressure. The ways in which they react to that pressure reveals their temperament and psyche.

Using Character Profiles

Complete character profiles on both your protagonist and your antagonist. There are many great example forms available online.

Don’t stop at the name. Create a birthdate, a history of where they were born, family description, dominant characteristics, weaknesses, and physical limitations. Create historical events for your character that might have happened in their life such as school’s name, college, children’s names, etc.

Write A Letter

Many of my author friends write a letter in first person POV from their character. Don’t think; just free write. Let them reveal their secrets, desires, fears, self-image.

This trick worked great for me on the story I am working on now. My main characters are a young mule-skinner and a Comanche brave. I am alternating chapters between their points of view. I want to show the contrast between how very different their worlds are, yet they are both sixteen-year-old boys. They each wrote me a letter about their different worlds. One holds a great hatred for his father, and the other resents the physical limitations he has to live with. Now I have something to build upon and add the conflict. At this point, writing is more fun than work.

Keep moving forward and thanks for following WordsmithSix!

The People Surrounding You


The People Surrounding You

Rory C. Keel

For a writing exercise, take a few moments and make a list of your closest friends, relatives, your boss, and co-workers.

Choose the person you like the most and the least; the person who has had the most positive and most negative influence on you; the person who has changed the most and the least since you’ve known them; and then write a write a brief paragraph on each of them explaining why you feel this way.

Notice any quirks they may exhibit such as, do they constantly jerk their head back to flip their hair out of their eyes, or do they run their hand throughout their hair?

Do they chew their food quietly, or smack their lips loudly?

These are the kind of details that add life to your story characters.

roryckeel.com

THE WRITING LIFE QUOTES


“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