Thank you so much, Kristen Lamb, for another educational blog post on how to write stories properly and keep the reader interested. We all appreciate your hard work!
Change is one of those concepts that gets a mixed reaction. Depending on personality and/or age group, change could be welcomed…or greeted with a metaphorical shotgun at the metaphorical door. While change is necessary for all living things to grow and thrive, plants have proven far more open to this notion than people.
I’m betting it’s because plants don’t overthink everything…unless they’re orchids which are high-maintenance and die while writing bad haiku (if they had hands and pen and paper).
Existential plants have a far tougher time, unlike weeds. Weeds just roll with anything that comes their way, and that’s why we can pour concrete over them and it’s no big deal. They simply mumble to the nearby crabgrass, “Hold my beer and watch this!”
*makes crack in new driveway* I’M BAAAAAACK!
All kidding aside, many writers miss the point of a story. Stories are about change, and the more the protagonist (and, to be blunt, all members of the cast) change for good or bad, the better.
Change & Plot
I know what it’s like to have writer brain. We see the world VERY differently than ‘normal’ people. Some see a roll of old carpet at the curb? I’m counting if all family members are present. Just yesterday, I had some fun over on Facebook with this…
The writer of ‘The Reluctant Cat Owner’s Journal,’ Cary Vaughn, has published a blog post I could not deprive you of enjoying. The author is, of course, a cat daddy and also an unbelievably gifted writer. No matter what the situation with the cats is, Cary masters it, writers about it, and makes his devoted fans (like me) laugh. Thanks so much for this wonderful post, Cary. And speedy recovery to the kitty!
As I’ve mentioned before, Predator Face has a habit of sneezing phlegm onto our walls and floor since the day of his adoption. In my opinion, this has made housekeeping more laborious than necessary.
As I’ve also mentioned before, Predator Face recently lost the ability to breath through his nose, making him sound like a snotty, mouth-breathing toddler with the flu. Not, stertorous. More slurpy, like breathing through a mouthful of gelatin.
At first, his condition was pathetic and sad. But it didn’t take long before the slurpy mouth breathing became a nuisance. For example, I no longer woke in the middle of the night to the adorable rumbling of his purr as he nudged me for attention.
Kristen Lamb provides us with a blog post about creating a story-worthy problem that will captivate an audience. She writes this post in her incomparable unique witty way and still educates us. Thank you, Kristen!
The story-worthy problem is the beating heart of all superlative fiction.
Unfortunately, creating this central core can often be overlooked. This is particularly true for writers relying on school training.
English teachers didn’t mind we used twenty-five metaphors on one page because their goal was to teach us how to properly use a metaphor…not how to write successful commercial fiction.
Creating the core problem and then—possibly (depending on genre)—the many overlapping layers and misdirections, is tough mental work.
Story as Structure
Like any structure, a story demands a strong foundation and sturdy frame. Without structure, it’s easy for author (and audience) to become lost.
Without those elements? The story caves in. But, foundations and framing aren’t nearly as fun as picking out paint, furniture, or drapes.
Face it, for most of us, decorating a house is much more fun than building one. This can be the same for stories. Crafting the perfect sentence, poring over descriptions, tinkering with dialogue is fun.
Today I discovered a free short story on Nicholas Rossi’s blog. I was fascinated and loved it enormously. I, therefore, hope he’ll permit me to show you a very small part of it – and link you to his page. Enjoy the read.
Waters of Oblivion
While I wait for you, I take in the beach. This is my home. The deep, calm sea—too dark to make out anything but the soothing waves that lap my feet. Dark silhouettes surround me. They would crowd the beach, were it not for its immensity. Old and young, men and women, take slow, dazed steps into the abysmal waters. Guides like me help them in. Not that you need us for this. Ancient, forgotten instincts would drive you forward even if we weren’t there. But we pride ourselves in that special, personal touch.
Smaller, translucent silhouettes come out of the sea, too, like baby turtles going the wrong way. Other guides are there to take them to their new homes. You will be following them in no time.
And now you’re finally here. When I left you at your bedroom after you had swallowed all those pills, I was wondering how long it would take you to join me. Not that time matters. Not here, anyway.
You shudder after the unpleasant experience of going through the death portal. “What… what happened?” you ask.
“You got what you wanted,” I say. “Congratulations. You’re dead.”
Thank you for an amazing blog post on how to choose the right antagonist. This is an interesting and very educational post.
Here’s how to choose the right antagonist for your story. You know “If I Didn’t Have You”—that song John Goodman and Billy Crystal belt out at the end of Monsters, Inc.? It’s this total bromance duet about the undying friendship of our two favorite monsters. But pretty much every lyric in there could also be crooned in gratitude by any good protagonist to any good antagonist:
I wouldn’t be nothing
If I didn’t have you
I wouldn’t know where to go
Wouldn’t know what to do
The antagonist may not be the big-money reason readers pick up a book or audiences flock to a theater. But he is ultimately the reason the protagonist either a) has a reason to stop wasting her life eating potato chips on the couch or b) doesn’t just coast through every obstacle with boring ease.
So we gotta give our antagonists some love.
Jack Eason posted an excerpt of a possible novel or novella on his blog. He would like feedback on his writing and would like to hear if we want him to continue with this. Check it out, please – you won’t be disappointed. Then leave your comment! Thank you!
Because of the hubbub in the stadium no one saw or heard the thumb of an insignificant elderly man’s left hand snap against his left forefinger, before sweeping both of his hands in front of him in an imperceptible way, close to his body. But, everyone there that day experienced the carnage that transpired.
As far as he was concerned the time to rid the nation of everyone who didn’t deserve to live had arrived! He sat at the back of the crowd in the stadium listening to Miserere mei, Deus (Agnus Dei) on his headphones, oblivious to the chaotic scene unfolding before him. Whenever circumstances appeared to be getting beyond his control, Allegri’s beautiful choral work always restored his inner peace. With his right hand he once more waved it from left to right in an almost dismissive gesture. Instantly peace returned to the stadium. Apart…
Janice Hardy published an interesting blog post about plot and story not being alined in our book. Thanks a lot for that article, Janice.
The plot illustrates the story, but sometimes, it has a mind of its own and takes your novel in the wrong direction.
It’s a common enough tale. You’re writing away, listening to your characters and letting them run the show. They’re diverting a little from your outline, but that’s okay because where they’re going is good stuff. Or maybe you’re the kind of writer who doesn’t have an outline, and you’re enjoying this unexpected path your characters have taken.
And they keep doing it.
And doing it.
And doing it.
You follow because the plot is moving and it seems like a good idea, and the words are coming fast and furious. You’re getting a huge amount of writing done. You’re feeling so productive!
I’m currently drafting book 7 in ‘The Council Of Twelve’ series. It is quite some work. By a list of blog post ideas, I felt challenged to publish a mood board of my work in progress, using 9 pictures. It took me forever to decide what the most important parts of the plot are and how to express them. Then I had to pick the images and, of course, spend another few hours to choose the ones I think express best the feelings of the story.
This is the mood board of book 7.
I hope I could give you an impression of how the emotions will be within this book, caused by the story and the plot.
This is the first mood board I ever created. I’m curious to read in the comments what you think about it.
It’s been a long, very long time I’ve been kissed the last time. I already started feeling like an old withered shed on the edge of the woods.
But last month, exactly April 18, at about 1 pm, after lunch, I experienced the sweetest, cutest kiss in about ‘a century.’ It wasn’t an ‘intimate’ French kiss, as some would suspect. It wasn’t a long, lustful, greedy ‘smooching,’ nor was it just a peck.
It was a gentle, soft touch of lips, filled with affection and attraction, tender and delicate.
Someone else might think: “Where’s the point? What’s the big fuss about it?”
That kiss, however, didn’t go out of my head. In silent moments I remember it and catch myself wistfully smiling at the memory.
Currently, I’m writing book seven in ‘The Council Of Twelve’ series and yesterday the story turned into a situation where a kiss like that would be just the perfect thing to happen.
But for some reason, I cannot describe what I felt when I got that kiss. I’m at a lack of words for my emotions.
Now I’m lost. I’m writing paranormal romance. In the six books, I wrote for ‘The Council Of Twelve’ series, I described several scenes with wonderful loving and tender kisses – and each one of them is good the way it is.
But in this case, I don’t know how to describe my own experience and wake the feeling I had when I got that particular kiss a month ago.
What am I doing wrong?
Does anyone have a hint or tip for me how to do that? Did anyone try to interlace their own experiences into their stories, and how did you do that? Let me know in the comments. I need your help. Thank you.
P. S. I was asked about the man who kissed me that day – I hope you’ll understand I won’t mention any names here. That’s my secret.
Last year, sometime in October, I published a hilarious story, written by Merlin Fraser. I named it “On a different note” and the ones who read it had a good laugh with Merlin’s humor.
With this guest post, Merlin shows us that he’s not ‘only’ a great writer, and has his well known, a bit rough humor; but he is also a talented author of great sensitivity and treasures his memories with a warm heart and a trace of sadness many of us would not have expected.
I wanted to share this side of Merlin with you and I’m sure you will read his guest post and find it as valuable and admirable as I do.
“And now for something completely different,” to coin a phrase, I pinched it from Monty Python’s Flying Circus, in case you were wondering where you heard the expression before.
I’m sure you tire of my exploits with trees so a change of tack is required as I explore some of the many characters I have met during my country upbringing.
Journeying back to the 1950’s I think this character reflects a slightly cruel streak in our past due to a complete lack of understanding as to the causes of what is now considered a mental illness.
Bernie was a gentle soul never known to harm anything or anyone but to all he was cruelly known as the village idiot and to my everlasting shame I have to confess that as a kid I was no better than the rest.
To this day I have no idea what the problem was within Bernie’s brain, as I remember he was looked after an old lady at the far end of the village but as to their relationship, I have no idea. To her great credit, Bernie was always clean well fed and fairly well dressed in hand-me-downs’, presumably donated from other villagers.
Bernie would do odd jobs, take letters to the post box, that sort of thing and could always be relied on to hold one end of a long skipping rope for the girls or go in goal for a friendly football kick about. Although I suspect today’s parents would have a different view of a Bernie in the midst of their offspring and would probably demand his removal from the community, however, as I said Bernie was absolutely harmless.
For a while, he did the daily village paper rounds, until one dark stormy winter’s day all the daily papers were found thrown inside the door of the village church. With hindsight, I think that in that thunderstorm Bernie just got scared, panicked and ran home. Nevertheless, it is safe to say that was the end of the only paying job he ever had.
After that, the paper delivering job fell upon us kids, and we took it in turns to bugger it up as best we could but in a crafty way so as not to raise too much suspicion or acquire a thick ear. Whether this was a childish attempt to get Bernie his job back or just a piece of rebellion I cannot say, but in my case probably the latter. However, whichever kid had the duty Bernie was always a constant companion chattering away and pointing at anything and everything that caught his eye. Except on Sundays, his guardian always insisted Bernie went with her to church.
Not very far away from our village there was a large agricultural college and quite a few of the students had their own transport, mainly vintage motorbikes but there was the odd Ex Army Land Rover that could, somehow or another, manage to hold about ten students, more depending up the season or how drunk they were.
Back then, any such college was way beyond the means of the average family and the agricultural college more so and it seemed to be populated by the children of the landed gentry or well to do Farmers. In other words, ‘Privileged OIKS,’ who because of their often-rowdy behaviour would get banned from more and more pubs and have to travel further and further afield to get a drink. They used to invade our village pub on a regular basis. Now our pub landlord was a genial host, far more tolerant than many and more than happy to take their money, and it is the subject of money that brings me back to Bernie.
Most days, thanks to his never-failing routine depending on the time of day you could always find Bernie. If there were cows or horses in the fields close by that’s where he would be feeding them handfuls of grass stroking and talking to them.
As kids it took us ages to win the confidence of big animals, Bernie, on the other hand, was always surrounded by them. Even little birds would take food from his hands. While if it were me the little sods would sit on the ground about twenty feet away with their head cocked at that jaunty angle and that look in their beady eye that said, “you have got to be joking!”
On sunny summer evenings Bernie had a favourite seat on a wall across from the pub, he never went in unless he had found or was given an empty bottle and then he could reclaim the three pence deposit. From his perch, Bernie had a grandstand view of the pub and as he sat there in his own little world, he would sit swinging his legs and waving at all who came and went.
On the occasions when the invading hoards came from the college, some would try to engage Bernie in conversation, which was impossible. If he wanted something he would ask or more often just point, he talked, more often than not any response to your reply was never connected. Therefore, we learnt to simply listen and smile in understanding.
However, one Sunday evening there was much hilarity outside the pub close to Bernie’s wall and Bernie seemed to be in the centre of the action. To Alan, my best pal, and me it looked like the college students were picking on or making fun of him and we went to investigate. What exactly we intended to do was unclear since there was about twenty of them and only two of us and at that time there was a considerable age and size difference. Thankfully, it never came to that because as we got closer, we discovered that there was some sort of game going on and by the happy look on Bernie’s face, he was winning.
To explain the game, I have to take you back to pre-decimal British coinage, I won’t bore you with the confusing facts as to why there was 240 pennies in a pound or 12 pence in a shilling but the size of the coins of the day played a significant part in the game.
Therefore, a sixpenny piece was half the size of a shilling piece. A shilling was half the size of a two-shilling piece and there was another coin, which was called half a crown that was slightly bigger than a two-shilling piece and worth six pence more.
I’m already confused, and I grew up with this crazy system, but fear not it’s not critical because the game here is based upon size and as you can see from the above description size relates to value, all very logical, however, I doubt Bernie had any notion of logic.
The students seemed to be taking it in turns to challenge Bernie by showing him two coins of different sizes and demanding he chose one. Bernie always took the smaller coin and therefore the one of lesser value, this was the cause of the hilarity and so the game went on until the students tired of the game, they sweetly called ‘idiot baiting’ and returned to the pub to throw beer and darts at one another.
Allan and I tried as best we could to explain to Bernie the error of his decisions, even showing him the difference in size from the collection of coins he had won by playing the same game between Allan and me, Bernie just frowned and shook his head.
We gave up, well I did, Allan had one more question, “Bernie why can’t you understand?”
Bernie emptied his pockets and at a rough guess he had at least two pounds in loose change, by kids standards a King’s ransom in those days, he looked at us and said, ”If Bernie take big coin they don’t play with Bernie no more !”
I learnt a valuable lesson that day and I suspect Allan did too.
What happened to Bernie?
Sad to say I have no idea after I joined the Navy in the early ’60s my family moved away from the village. When I eventually went back for a visit a few years later he was gone. The old woman who looked after him had died and I suspect the local authorities moved in and sent him off to an institution somewhere.
Nowadays in the mad rush and tear of modern living, I often think of those far off days, it was a far gentler time, the pace of life was far slower, and I can’t help thinking the world is a sadder place without the Bernie’s and the gentle humanity of a close community.