The Wound: How Pain Can Deepen Our Fiction – Written By Kristen Lamb

The wound is critical for creating dimensional characters and, thus layered stories. Ah, the masks we wear. We all have them because it’s impossible to be fully human and devoid of cracks.

We all have a wound. In fact if you make it past childhood you’re probably carrying around more than carry-on baggage (more than ONE wound). Yet, therein lies the conundrum for those who long to become writers. We’re all cracked, damaged, dinged yet simultaneously bombarded by countless conflicting messages.

It’s okay to cry, darling. Just next time wear the waterproof mascara. You’re a mess.

Many of us are the walking wounded, encouraged to embrace our flaws, experience all our emotions…but then cover them up because no one wants to see that. Jeez!

This ‘logic’ is absurd enough in life, but for authors we must choose the painful path if we hope to write the great stories, the ones that change people and endure. Perfect, flawless, normal and well-adjusted spell death for fiction. Superb stories provide a safe place for readers to ‘feel and heal’ and our job is to deliver that.

Yet, this comes at a price. I know! Always a catch.

CONTINUE READING HERE

Drama: Three Simple Ways to HOOK Audiences & Johari Window – Written By Kristen Lamb

Drama is the lifeblood of all good storytelling. In our modern world, where audiences have billions of choices regarding how to spend their time? Drama needs to be in everything we create if we hope to get so much as a passing glance.

I don’t care if it’s a novel, a podcast, a documentary, or a food vlog on YouTube. We must differentiate our content, and drama is the best human bait there is. It will hook hard, and hook DEEP.

Period.

Drama can make ANYTHING more interesting (providing we have the option of being mere observers). Seriously, a giant brawl breaks out at a HAM Radio event, and we just happened to be walking by?

Whoa!

I don’t care if it is a class on how to use Excel, itemize your taxes, or ways to rebuild dot-matrix printers.

Should the ‘you-know-what’ hit the proverbial fan?

We’ll go from bee-bopping on autopilot to SUDDENLY? We’re at FULL attention.

Drama engages us one way or another. At the very least, drama gets our attention, but drama could also…get us involved.

***Put a pin in that word ‘involved.’

And YES, humans are weird.

Most of us hate drama at home, in life, at work and find it exhausting. Why? Because we don’t have a choice in the matter. Drama works the exact opposite in life.

CONTINUE READING HERE


Johari Window: Harnessing Character Blind Spots

The Johari Window can be one of many powerful tools for crafting dimensional characters. It can also help creators develop layered stories (plots) that will resonate long after the audience reaches ‘The End.’ Why? Because great fiction is even better therapy.

Too many believe fiction to be a fluff, an escape, a fantasy getaway. Some fiction does this for sure. Yet, the stories that hit the market and continue to ripple for decades, centuries, or even for millennia share a common denominator.

They offer the audience deeper insights into themselves, their beliefs, and the world around them. Also, their messages are timeless. It’s why we can take a Shakespearian play and set it in modern times and the story and message are just as powerful.

The characters might wear modern clothing, fight with machine guns instead of swords, but we identify with their hopes, dreams, hurts, struggles and weaknesses just as much as the audiences from centuries ago.

CONTINUE READING HERE

How Horror Can Improve Our Writing in ANY Genre – Written By Kristen Lamb

Horror is in the HOUSE today…and over the weekend for many since, um, HALLOWEEN! So, today I’d like to talk about horror as a genre.

Horror gets a bad rap. Most people automatically default to brainless, low-budget slasher movies. People somehow forget that we can thank horror for some of the greatest works of literature from Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein to Bram Stoker’s Dracula to Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House.

***For the record. Horror as a genre is still very much alive. It’s just that, after all the 70s slasher movies, these books have been re-shelved as speculative fiction. Books once listed as ‘horror’ we can now find under mystery, thriller, suspense, science fiction, paranormal fantasy, etc.

Horror has always pushed boundaries while shining a light on what we as a culture fear the most. If we can forget the chainsaws and college coeds who trip a lot, horror can teach us all how to be better authors…no matter which genre we write.

This genre fascinates me simply because (as I mentioned earlier), I believe it is the most difficult genre to write. Sure it was probably easier back in the days that movie audiences ran screaming from the man in a really bad plastic ant outfit. But these days? As desensitized as we have become? Unsettling people is no simple task.

That’s why I’d like to talk about it today because no matter which type of fiction we write, we can learn a lot from what horror authors do well.

Horror Evokes Reflection

Powerful fiction mines the darkest, deepest, grittiest areas of the soul. GREAT fiction holds a mirror to man and society and offers messages that go beyond the plot. A really great story should, ultimately lead to some form of self-reflection.

CONTINUE READING HERE

Writer’s Block: Is It Laziness or a Critical Part of Being a Longtime Author? – Written By Kristen Lamb

Writer’s block is a very controversial subject in the publishing world. Everyone has an opinion and everyone is right. Okay, maybe not everyone. I am right…and also NUMBER ONE AT HUMBLE!

*gets cramp patting self on back*

I believe that, when it comes to discussing writer’s block, there is a real danger of oversimplifying a truly complex phenomenon. Many claim there is no such thing as writer’s block. Just sit down and write and stop making excuses for being lazy. While laziness might be an answer (as we’ll explore) this One-Size-Fits-All solution is low-hanging fruit. Sort of like going to the doctor where the standard answer for everything is to “lose weight.”

Me: I’m tired all the time.

Doctor: Lose weight.

Me: My knee really hurts. I think I might have arthritis.

Doctor: Lose weight.

Me: *blood spurting from missing arm* I uh, think I need emergency surgery.

Doctor: Nah. Lose weight.

Now, is it true that many health issues could be remedied if we weren’t carrying around extra poundage? Sure. But, the human body is vastly complex, meaning it’s wise to ditch the myopia and take into consideration other factors.

Same with writer’s block.

Writer’s Block & Laziness

writer's block, laziness, Kristen Lamb, writing tips, publishing

We’ll just deal with probably the most common explanation for writer’s block right now. Why? Because just like sometimes losing weight really IS the answer to a health issue, laziness could be at the root of our inability to put words on the page.

Why?

Because writing is hard work. Let me add a caveat, “Superlative writing is hard work.”

I know this because when I knew NOTHING about my craft, I never ran out of stuff to slap on the page. My first ‘novel’—the 187,000 word monstrosity I keep in the garage because it pees on the carpets—was a JOY to write. My book had IT ALL! There was romance, action, comedy! My novel had everything…except a plot.

CONTINUE READING HERE

Description: The Good the Bad and the Just Please STOP – Written By Kristen Lamb

Ah description. Few things can make a writer’s skin tingle like glorious prose, right? A couple posts ago, I gave y’all some editing tips. In the meantime, I also mistakenly stumbled across an audio book that should be charged with assault, ergo why we are talking about description today.

Can we be really honest about our description? Is it truly remarkable or just filling space? Are we weaving a spell that captures readers or are we boring them into a coma? Are we holding the reader’s brains, afraid if we don’t clarify everything, they might not ‘get’ what we mean?

For those who never use description or very sparse description? Don’t fret. Description (or lack thereof) is a component of an author’s voice and it goes to style.

But obviously all writers will use some kind of description. We have to in order to draw readers into the world we are creating. If we don’t give them anything to sink their teeth into, most will wander off in search of something else.

So whether you are heavy or light on the description, here are some tips on how to do it well…

Description for Dummies Readers

I will never talk badly about a book. Consider it a professional courtesy. This is why I only mention or review books I love. In my POV, writers catch enough crap without me ragging on them, too. I like to take into account that I am not a traditional reader, and I am far more picky because I’ve spent the better part of 20 years as an editor.

CONTINUE READING HERE

What’s a REAL Writer? Spotting Terminological Inexactitude Syndrome – Written By Kristen Lamb

Being a writer is the best job in the world, aside from those fortunate enough to be paid to pet kittens or sample new ice cream flavors. But is writing a REAL job? This question has set fire to the entire psychiatric community. Okay, most of them…the ones in my head *turns off fire alarms*.

Many in our modern culture don’t believe writing qualifies as a legitimate occupation. An unusual percentage of ‘average’ citizens firmly maintain that being a writer is NOT a real job. These same individuals, however, collectively spend billions of dollars and most of their free time enjoying entertainment (created by writers).

Cleaning Teeth= ‘Real’ Job

Writing= Goofing Off

Thus far, those interviewed have yet to note the irony of their assertions (or looked up definition of irony). Since being a writer is not a ‘real job,’ then this leads us to the next most reasonable conclusion. Writing, in truth, may be a mental condition. I have written about the 13 Ways Writers Are Mistaken for Serial Killers.

So there IS that…

Today is Friday, and since we all debated Sean Penn’s book in the comments section on my last post (Was he serious or poking fun at the establishment?), I figured this oldie but goodie was the perfect dash of humor to lead y’all into the weekend…

CONTINUE READING HERE

Why Editing Matters & Simple Ways to Make Your Work SHINE – Written By Kristen Lamb

Editing makes up a HUGE part of the writing process. Oh, if all we writers had to do was sit down and slap glorious words on a page. If only it were so easy. For those new to this profession, here’s a truth bomb. This job is rewarding but it isn’t for the faint of heart. Writing is tough.

Professionals only make it seem easy.

I recently turned in my ghostwriting project. My client has given me permission to share in some of the glory, so to speak. The Trap: Sex, Social Media, and Surveillance Capitalism is now LIVE. Yes, my client worked in the adult industry for twenty years. It’s a book about the pitfalls of adult entertainment (for performers as well as the audience).

Aaand the final ended up at around 91,000 words (though, believe it or not, it’s a super quick read for being such a deep book).

Sure, writing about this topic was tough. Writing with a partner, the research, making sure I held true to the client’s voice, etc. was enough to make me want to go live in a blanket fort with my old Barbies and tubs of frosting. All in all, though, the writing was easy compared to the editing.

For those who are new, who maybe don’t know this next part, feel free to skim down to the tips  .

Editing is More Than Proofreading

Many new authors enter into professional publishing believing a few myths, which I shall now debunk. First of all, there are MANY types of editing/editors and the cost will vary. When I wrote my first 187,000 word ‘novel’ I:

  • was an idiot who was too epically stupid to know I was epically stupid
  • believed editors were only there to check for grammar issues, typos, punctuation, etc.
  • thought that I didn’t need to sully my hands hunting down typos because editors would catch all my boo-boos for me

*clutches sides laughing*

CONTINUE READING HERE

The Burning Desire: The Difference Between Magnificent & Maddening – Written By Kristen Lamb

Kristen Lamb once more provided us with an excellent educational post about writing. Thank you so much Kristen. You know we always appreciate your posts and you sharing experience and knowledge!


The burning desire is the beating heart of all great stories. Without the burning desire, the story will fall apart faster than a reality star who’s lost her hair extensions.

We’ve discussed story structure more times than I can count on this blog, and for good reasons. When we understand the fundamental parts of story and how they work, why they work, etc. THEN when something seems ‘off’ we possess the knowledge base and vocabulary to detect WHY the story isn’t working then fix it.

The Burning Desire for the BBT

the burning desire, great fiction, storytelling, fiction, Kristen Lamb, goal conflict motivation

I know it’s been a while, so super quick review. The first crucial ingredient for any story is a core antagonist to create the main problem in need of resolution by the time we reach THE END.

Since the whole ‘antagonist’ concept tied my brain in knots for YEARS, I finally invented my own term—Big Boss Troublemaker (BBT).

Why?

Because every story must have a core antagonist or, by definition, it isn’t a story.

That said, not all antagonists are villains. Villains are only one type of antagonist. Very useful in thrillers, horror, mystery, science fiction, and the like, but not so much in general fiction or literary fiction.

To understand more what I mean about the BBT, feel free to go HERE. If we fail to understand the BBT, then frankly the burning desire is a moot point.

While all stories must have a core antagonist (BBT), that alone isn’t enough. We must also figure out what drives the BBT. What is the burning desire fueling the goal that will eventually come at odds with the protagonist and (eventually) create a hero?

If we look back at some of the most iconic books, movies and series, we will see the writers NAILED the burning desire.

***I’ve detailed this on posts about real ‘flesh and blood’ villains, but also when we have a BBT that might be more everyday or existential.

Again, in the essence of time, I recommend taking a look at the posts I’ve hyperlinked.

CONTINUE READING HERE

The Writer’s Journey: From Total Newbie to the Joy of Mastery – Written By Kristen Lamb

Mastery is peculiar in that spectators see whatever the professional does as ‘easy.’ Masters rarely seem to even break a sweat, whether they’re dancers, authors, or entrepreneurs. What they do seems so natural that it’s easy for us to be fooled into believing we could do the same right off the bat.

Sure.

I recently signed up for a watercolor workshop. Years ago, I dabbled for fun painting in acrylics, but I’ve always heard how watercolor is among the most challenging mediums. With running a business, writing, homeschooling my young son, taking care of my aging mother, etc. I needed a hobby and a time and place to simply chill.

Bwa ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Oh how my Type A personality loves to muck things up. It’s taking everything for me to RELAX, let go and simply give myself permission to be NEW. My teacher has painted thousands of watercolors and is arguably one of the top masters in the country. It takes all I have to not compare my rookie attempt to his version he seems to produce without even having to actually focus.

***A skill earned through many years, countless of hours of practice, and training.

Same with authors. With the pros? Their stories flow, drag readers in like an unseen riptide only to release the exhausted and elated audience at The End. 

Mastery, to the casual observer, appears seamless and effortless.

CONTINUE READING HERE

Characters: The Emotional Touchstone Readers Crave – Written By Kristen Lamb

Characters are critical for stories that resonate. Why? Because characters are the conduit that connects the reader and vests them in the story problem. They’re the emotional touchstone that allows for catharsis, because—when written well—it doesn’t matter if the character is a space alien or a federal agent, we (readers) can relate to them in some way.

We can’t empathize with technology, spaceships, magic, or nuclear submarines. Humans can’t bond emotionally to a place (without the characters as the connection).

For instance, we CARE about Lord of the Rings’ Middle Earth because we care about Frodo, Samwise and Gandalf. And, because Frodo, Samwise and Gandalf care deeply for Middle Earth and the Shire…we do as well.

Story is like the wall socket that’s connected a tremendous power source. But, how useful would those wall sockets be if all the gadgets in everyday life didn’t have plugs? How useful would a bunch of dead gadgets be?

We cannot have story without characters and can’t, conversely, have characters (DIMENSIONAL characters) without story.

Readers read stories, but great stories read the readers.

***I know we’ve talked about all this before, but since I am pathologically honest, I feel the need to tell on myself. I cracked a back tooth and had major dental work last week. With all the drugs? I actually have a completely new post almost finished, but it’s been like pulling teeth…bada bump snare.

*cries*

So please forgive the refresher.

Moving on…

CONTINUE READING HERE