There are as many ways to tell a story as there are stories in existence. That means not all writing advice will be a good fit with the story we’re trying to tell.
An important step in knowing which advice to heed and which to ignore is being aware of the type of story we’re writing, specifically how we focus on the plot arc versus the character arc. So let’s talk about how we can discover our storytelling focus and what it means for our writing.
Instructors and other professionals always tell us to read the best books and the best writers to learn from their examples. We need to find out how stories and articles are constructed by those who write them well.
Not so fast. We can learn from failures, too.
Bad writing is a bore. It takes the reader out of the story and makes them cringe. Yet, if you are writing yourself, those bad stories can be a training tool to keep your work from sharing the same fate. When you read bad writing you will see:
In older times, in the ‘old countries’, mainly in Austria and Southern Germany, Bavaria, where several generations were living in one house, the bedrooms of young ladies were often on the second floor, to protect their virtue. Young men and ladies had only opportunity to meet each other on the dance floor at ‘village celebrations’, or at church. Of course, Sundays were family days, and the fathers protected their daughters like dragons and they often were not allowed to talk after mass.
Well, between farm and shepherd work they sometimes had the chance to briefly meet, but were strictly watched by chaperones, or, occasionally, older siblings.
Of course, the families did not tolerate fornication under their roof and didn’t accept visitors. (Fornication was illegal, by the procuration law §180 a. F. StGB).
This means, if a boy fell for a girl and wanted to secretly talk to her, he grabbed a ladder, at nighttime, and walked to her parent’s house. There he climbed up to her window and knocked – and if the girl liked him too, she opened. And then, they were talking – and kissing… and sometimes, maybe doing a few other secret things, veiled by the darkness of the night.
That tradition is, of course, not called ‘windowing’. (I used that word, because I think it gets closest to the original words). The tradition is called ‘Fensterln’ (Austrian dialect) or ‘Fenstaln’ (Bavarian dialect) and means nothing else than visiting their sweetheart by climbing into the window. That tradition was a partially accepted living out of proscribed prenuptial sexual activities.
After the sexual laxity and female emancipation, the tradition was rendered unnecessary.
Nowadays it’s only practiced for the fun of it.
When I was around 16 and vacationing with my family in my aunt and uncle’s house, I had fallen for a really cute boy, and he promised to visit me one night. Of course, he didn’t. I could imagine he didn’t want to fall down and break his neck in the darkness, He told me later, he couldn’t find a ladder that was long enough to reach the window… but I still suspect he was just scared to death from my Dad. And by thinking about it, it’s only natural. My Dad was a protector. Also, climbing into the room was out of the question, since I shared it with my younger sister. The boy probably thought, just for a couple kisses it wasn’t worth the effort. And I’m not that old… we could kiss during the day. *chuckle*
Why am I telling you about this tradition today? While writing a sub-story to my ‘The Council Of Twelve’ series, I picked historic locations in Middle Europe, toward’s the end of the ‘Danube Monarchy’. During my research, I discovered an article about ‘Fensterln’ and started smiling, when I remembered it. Maybe, one day, you will have the chance to use it in one of your stories.
I already wrote one book with three side stories to ‘The Council Of Twelve’ series. After completing book 9 in the series and an additional book that doesn’t belong to ‘The Council of Twelve,’ I felt the need of writing another story, making one of ‘The Council of Twelve’ side characters the protagonist.
The story takes place in middle Europe in the 13th century during the peak of the ‘Danubian Monarchy’ when parts of the extended grounds and population started rebelling and founded their own country.
Now, I needed names that were popular during that time. I know one or two of those first names that survived until our current times, but, of course, that story doesn’t only have two characters.
So, what did I do? I do what many of us do at first: we Google!
What I found out was quite interesting. There are a few websites with middle-European names, but:
They start delivering from 14th – 15th century. I was a bit confused at first, but then it dawned on me… The rebellion started end of the 13th century. It took several hundred years until the country in question was founded entirely. Therefore, it is evident that there was no source from that early state.
I permitted myself to use first names from the 14th century since I considered that the first names didn’t change that much.
Writing that story had been a lot of fun so far. However, it needed some getting used to, juggling with these very antiquated names, like:
There are other examples, of course. But to my surprise, a few first names survived until this current time and even have crossed the ocean.
And just in case you’re wondering, I purposely chose to write the Germanic version of the names since, as I mentioned, the story takes place in Europe.
I do admit; I am fascinated by some older and old-fashioned names. I think it’s a bit sad that some of them have almost ‘disappeared.’ Well, some of the names I understand are not used anymore, but some others I love:
Maude and Wilbur don’t belong to my favorites, but that’s only a detail. At this time, I wanted to complete that side-story with characters playing in the 13th century and not being named ‘Jessica’ and ‘Heather.’
It’s always a good idea to create unique characters, and why not name them equally impressive?
What names do you like? How do you name your characters? Do the names of your characters have meanings, or are they ultimately picked out of your fantasy? Let us know in the comments.
Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware®I first heard about editor and author coach Christina Kaye (aka Christina Broaddus) last year, via a writer who later posted this public complaint on Facebook. The allegations: misrepresentation of services (editing by a trainee rather than Christina herself), inadequate performance (the complainant paid for content editing, and got something more like copy editing), and refusal by Christina to either re-do the edit or provide a refund.
In addition to the allegations, the complainant provided supporting documentation…including Christina’s furious emails and lawsuit threats when the complainant refused to back off.
Other entrepreneurial ventures include Bon Chance Press, which started up in early 2017 and contracted several books before closing that same year; a registered business called Book Boss Boutique, LLC; and an Etsy storefront that sells writing-related planners and gifts. Christina also has a substantial presence on various social media platforms, hosts her own podcast, and has amassed a large following on TikTok.
The WYBB website displays testimonials from satisfied clients (of which there are apparently 300, or maybe it’s 150?). And a single bad review, even one as convincingly documented as the Facebook complaint, doesn’t necessarily indicate a problem business. Anyone can fly off the handle and say unwise things in response to pressure. Maybe this was an isolated incident? Maybe there was something else that explained Christina’s over-the-top response?
Over the past year, however, several writers who’ve used Christina’s services have contacted me to report similar experiences: editing that didn’t fulfill what they were led to expect or the terms of the contracts they signed (such as copy editing presented as content editing, or editing by a trainee); hostile, threatening, insulting, and generally unprofessional responses by Christina to concerns and complaints (not just in email or texts but on social media); and refusal of refund requests, including in one case where services weren’t just unsatisfactory, but mostly weren’t delivered.
The new Copyright Claims Board makes it more important than ever to officially register your copyright.
In December 2021, the U.S. Copyright Office will formally open its Copyright Claims Board, which will allow individual authors and small publishers an alternative to federal court for trying copyright infringement claims. In light of this, the IBPA Advocacy Committee thought it would be helpful to remind IBPA members of five reasons why they should formally register their works with the U.S. Copyright Office:
Writers worry about using real people’s names in fiction. Even memoirists and nonfiction writers identify people by name and worry about the ramifications. Can writers model characters after real people and name names without getting sued?
Yes, they can, with some common sense limitations.
Over the next three posts I will talk about the legal risks of using real people in your writing; namely defamation, invasion of privacy, and misappropriation of the right of publicity. A thorough discussion of these issues would fill a bookcase, so don’t read these posts as the definitive word. My goal is to help you spot issues so you know when your need to learn more or seek expert advice.
At every writer’s conference, I see fledgling authors roll up their sleeves when told well-established truths on writing:
Writing is important.
Make it a priority.
Schedule time for writing every day, or as regularly as possible.
But when they’re exhorted to market their books?
While a small group of enthusiasts may swap tips between sessions, the attitude of far too many—especially authors who fancy themselves literary—is that the promo piece is unsavory. They’re too important, and drumming up their own book buzz feels beneath them. (“Isn’t that someone else’s job?”)
Or they’re too introverted. Too icked-out by the idea of becoming a self-promoter.
The problem? Their books join the other million-plus published annually that don’t find their forever home in the hands of the right readers.
Pick up the nearest book. Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, it’s almost certainly split into chapters.
As readers, we take that for granted. Chapters give us an easy way to discuss where we’ve got to in a new book (“I’m on Chapter 10 now…”) – and provide handy stopping points in the text where we can put the book down.
As writers, though, chapters can be surprisingly tricky.
How many should you have? How long should they be? Do you even need chapters at all?