Category Archives: Creative Writing

7 Story Structures

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I took a writing class under Dean Koontz and this writing was for the class. I may have shared it sometime ago but it’s always worth rereading. Have a blessed day. Shirley

1. Dean Koontz’s Classic Story Structure

This is the structure that changed the path of my career as a writer.

It catapulted me from a mid-list genre novelist to a 21-Time New York Times bestselling author.

I’m a Pantser, not an Outliner, but even I need some basic structure to know where I’m going, I love that Koontz’s structure is so simple. It consists only of these four steps:

1. Plunge your main character into terrible trouble as soon as possible. Naturally that trouble depends on your genre, but in short, it’s the worst possible dilemma you can think of for your main character. For a thriller, it might be a life or death situation. In a romance novel, it could mean a young woman must decide between two equally qualified suitors—and then her choice is revealed a disaster.

And again, this trouble must bear stakes dire high enough to carry the entire novel.

One caveat: whatever the dilemma, it will mean little to readers if they don’t first find reasons to care about your character.

2. Everything your character does to get out of the terrible trouble makes things only worse.  Avoid the temptation to make life easy for your protagonist. Every complication must proceed logically from the one before it, and things must grow progressively worse until….

3. The situation appears hopeless. Novelist Angela Hunt refers to this as The Bleakest Moment. Even you should wonder how you’re ever going to write your character out of this.

Your predicament is so hopeless that your lead must use every new muscle and technique gained from facing a book full of obstacles to become heroic and prove that things only appeared beyond repair.

4. Finally, your hero succeeds (or fails*) against all odds. Reward readers with the payoff they expected by keeping your hero on stage, taking action.

*Occasionally sad endings resonate with readers.

2. In Medias Res

This is Latin for “in the midst of things,” in other words, start with something happening. It doesn’t have to be slam-bang action, unless that fits your genre. The important thing is that the reader gets the sense he’s in the middle of something.

That means not wasting two or three pages on backstory or setting or description. These can all be layered in as the story progresses. Beginning a novel In Medias Res means cutting the fluff and jumping straight into the story.

Toni Morrison’s 1997 novel Paradise begins “They shoot the white girl first.”—the epitome of starting in medias res.

What makes In Medias Res work?

It’s all in the hook.

In Medias Res should invest your reader in your story from the get-go, virtually forcing him to keep reading.

The rest of the In Media Res structure consists of:

Rising Action

Explanation (backstory)

Climax

Falling Action

Resolution

3. The Hero’s Journey

Made famous by educator and widely published author Joseph Campbell, it’s often used to structure fantasy, science fiction, and horror novels.

J.R.R. Tolkien used The Hero’s Journey structure for The Hobbit.

Step 1: Bilbo Baggins leaves his ordinary world

Baggins is happy with his life in the Shire and initially refuses a call to adventure, preferring to stay home.

The wizard Gandalf (soon to be his mentor) pushes him to accept the call.

Baggins leaves the comfort of his Hobbit life and embarks on a perilous quest across Middle Earth, getting into all kinds of trouble along the way.

Step 2: Baggins experiences various trials and challenges

Bilbo builds a team, pairing with dwarves and elves to defeat enemies like dragons and orcs.

Along the way he faces a series of tests that push his courage and abilities beyond what he thought possible.

Eventually, against all odds, Bilbo reaches the inmost cave, the lair of the fearsome dragon, Smaug where the ultimate goal of his quest is located. Bilbo needs to steal the dwarves’ treasure back from Smaug.

Bilbo soon finds he needs to push past his greatest fear to survive.

Step 3: Bilbo tries to returns to his life in The Shire

Smaug may have been defeated, but the dwarves face another battle against others and an orc army.

Near the end of the novel, Bilbo is hit on the head during the final battle and presumed dead.

But he lives and gets to return to the Shire, no longer the same Hobbit who hated adventure.

4. The 7-Point Story Structure

Advocates of this approach advise starting with your resolution and working backwards.

This ensures a dramatic character arc for your hero.

J.K. Rowling used the 7-Point Structure for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

The Seven Points

Hook: your protagonist’s starting point

In Philosopher’s Stone, this is when we meet Harry living under the stairs.

Plot turn 1: introduces the conflict that moves the story to its midpoint.

Harry finds out he is a wizard.

Pinch point 1: applies pressure to your protagonist in the process of achieving his goal, usually facing an antagonist.

When the troll’s attacks, Harry and his friends realize they are the only ones who can save the day.

Midpoint: your character responds to conflict with action.

Harry and his friends learn of the Philosopher’s Stone and determine to find it before Voldemort does.

Pinch point 2: More pressure makes it harder for your character to achieve his goal.

Harry has to face the villain alone after losing Ron and Hermione during their quest to find the stone.

Plot turn 2: Moves the story from the midpoint to the resolution. Your protagonist has everything he needs to achieve the goal.

When the mirror reveals Harry Potter’s intentions are pure, he is given the Philosopher’s Stone.

Resolution: The climax. Everything in your story leads to this moment, a direct contrast to how your character began his journey.

Harry defeats Voldemort.

5. Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method

If you like outlining your story, you’ll love The Snowflake Method.

But if you’re a Panster like me (someone who prefers to write by process of discovery), a story structure like Dean Koontz’s Classic Story Structure or In Medias Res might feel more natural.

The 10-step Snowflake Method

Start with one central idea and systematically add more ideas to create your plot.

Write a one-sentence summary of your novel (1 hour)

Expand this into a full paragraph summary, detailing major events (1 hour)

Write a one-page summary for each character (1 hour each)

Expand each sentence in #2 into a paragraph summary (several hours)

Write a one-page account of the story from the perspective of each major character (1-2 days)

Expand each paragraph you wrote for #4 into a full-page synopsis (1 week)

Expand your character descriptions into full character charts (1 week)

Using the summary from #6, list every scene you’ll need to finish the novel

Write a multi-paragraph description for each scene

Write your first draft

6. The Three-Act Structure

This formula was used by ancient Greeks, and it’s one of Hollywood’s favorite ways to tell a story.

It’s about as simple as you can get.

Act I: The Set-Up

Introduce your main characters and establish the setting.

Brandon Sanderson, a popular fantasy writer, calls this the “inciting incident”—  a problem that yanks the protagonist out of his comfort zone and establishes the direction of the story.

Act II: The Confrontation

Create a problem that appears small on the surface but becomes more complex. The more your protagonist tries to get what he wants, the more impossible it seems to solve the problem.

Act III: The Resolution

A good ending has:

High stakes: your reader must feel that one more mistake will result in disaster for the protagonist.

Challenges and growth: By the end, the protagonist needs to have grown as a person by overcoming myriad obstacles.

A solution: All the trials and lessons your character has endured help him solve the problem.

Suzanne Collins’s bestselling young adult trilogy, The Hunger Games, uses the three-act structure.

7. James Scott Bell’s A Disturbance and Two Doorways

In his popular book Plot and Structure, Bell introduces this concept.

A Disturbance early in the story upsets the status quo—anything that threatens the protagonist’s ordinary life.

Doorway 1 propels your character to the middle of the story. Once he goes through this door, there’s no turning back.

Doorway 2 leads to the final battle. It’s another door of no return but usually leads to disaster.

The Umbrella Academy by Gerard Way uses this story structure.

Upon hearing that their adoptive father has passed away (the disturbance), six siblings return to their childhood home.

Here they learn the world will end in a few days (Doorway 1). While the siblings try everything in their power to stop the potential global apocalypse, they unwittingly create another threat amongst themselves.

This leads to a final battle (Doorway 2).

5 Facts About Princess Adele’s Dragon You Don't Know!

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The imaginary country in which Princess Adele lived in was called Valdoria. I came up with that name watching “Dancing with The Stars.” There is a professional dancer (very cute) who just happens to have the name of Val. He and his partner were dancing when Valdoria popped into my head. So that is where I came up with the name.

As you see from the title I’m writing five interesting things about my book, “Princess Adele’s Dragon.” What creates interest for one may not for the next one, but I will do the best I can.

1. My book is a Young Adult Fantasy eBook based in Medieval times when Dragons, Knights, Witches and Christianity and war were prevalent. I enjoyed doing the research about this time period. I created a blog earlier on the History of Dragons. You know those big scaly things that legends are made of. The big, green dragon in my book has been given the name, Draiocht (DREE-oct). This name means Magic, enchantment, from lore and arts of the Druids of pre-Christian Ireland and Celtic society. This character will surprise you.

2. The second fact is I have two protagonists and two antagonists. Princess Adele and Prince Anthony are the protagonists and Lord Ashmore, and Mickael are the Protagonist. I didn’t plan the story that way, but my muse decided it needed to play out with the four interacting in their particular roles.

3. Christianity has a small role in my story. During the medieval period the church began the change from the Druid way to one of Christianity. I got the name of one of the primary countries mentioned in my book.. It must have been a very intense and interesting time.

4. I’ve always heard you write what you like to read, and I guess it was true for me. The book was fun to write, and I like to read fantasy. do anything with your imagination. This book has everything from mild violence to love. To read it, follow the link. http://amzn.to/25lUOYM  It is free for the reader who is a member of Amazon Direct.

5. It’s easy reading, even with Draiocht having his secrets.

I mentioned I had written a blog earlier about the history of dragons. If you would like to check that out it is at this link.  http://bit.ly/1V1F0HM

As I close, I want to thank  you readers who stopped by to visit. You are what makes this blog fun for me.  Have a blessed day.  

Do You Enjoy Revision?

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It’s now the new year and this is the first blog I’ve written. Shame on me, but I am full of very good excuses. Happy New Year, my friends. I have just the cliche also, “Better Late than Never,” The nice thing is my well wishes comes straight from the heart.

Now on to the main point of this blog. You were asked if you enjoyed the revision of the books that you wrote or are writing. I can’t say I enjoy it much. I would never make a good editor in my mind. When I’m writing I depend heavily on my writing group at FanStory.com. I can read over a page and I do not see any of the mistakes they find for me. My mind put it down on the paper and it doesn’t let me see everything it should.

There is a article in this months The Writer magazine on Revision. The author, Bernard Malamud believes “Revision is one of the exquisite pleasures of writing”. He also pointed out specific steps to take to help you get through the revision process. Here are his tips, but if you get the chance do read the entire article. It gives you lots of information.

  1. Wait until the first draft is complete before you edit. If you try to edit as you go it could cause problems with your imagination, momentum or maybe your creativity. This is controversial as other writers feel you aren’t writing if you don’t edit as you go. I split it I guess. I revise my chapters as I finish them. It seems to me there are always changes that can be made at anytime. You have to be careful not to get in a long long editing cycle. For some it is hard to be satisfied with their work.
  2. Revise all at once or element by element. That is a decision the writer must make. The way I revise I tend to do element by element. I have to admit that sometimes it can feel as if the job is to big to handle. At those times I get me a cup of tea and sit back from the computer. I have to admit I talk to myself in my head, (Isn’t it called thinking?) about anything other than my book. I might even get up and play with my dogs for a few minutes. Anything to get my mind away from the book.
  3. Revise the whole novel, or section by section. I know this sounds a lot like #2 but in this one he is considering sections as chapter by chapter or dividing the novel into sections. If you edit by this method you have a big opportunity to make a mistake in my view. What if you change an outcome in Chapter 2 that affects the character throughout the book. If the changes aren’t make in every section then confusion can rule.
  4. Fine-tuning versus revising. “Revision is generally distinguished from fine tuning with revision dealing with fiction elements such as character, plot and structure, and even style, and fine tuning dealing with rather minor mechanical issues.
  5. Each of us have our little rules to follow that sometimes can cause problems. When I went to school over 50 years ago we were taught very specific rules on how to write, sentence structure, correct word placement, and on and on. That can lead to rounds and rounds of revision. This is where you need that writing group or a brutally honest friend who can read your work and tell you what you need to do to make it better.

I think Bernard wrapped it up very nicely. “Put simply you write with your heart, and you edit with your head.” Happy editing. Shirley

Dobyns Chronicles Review

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I wrote and published Dobyns Chronicles a few years ago but it is always nice to receive good reviews.  I thought today I would share one of those reviews for me. Nothing like feeling good about work you did when it is expressed by someone else in comparison to those reviews that always seem to break your heart a little bit.

I hope everyone had a safe and happy Thanksgiving and now Christmas season is upon us. All of you who celebrate the birth of our Savior, have a blessed Christmas.

The Finest Generation – A review of the novel ‘Dobyns Chronicles’

“It is so much simpler to bury reality than it is to dispose of dreams” – Don DeLillo

Author Shirley McLain’s latest novel ‘Dobyns Chronicles’ is a historical fiction loosely based on the life and times of her grandfather Charles Kenly Dobyns. Charles or Charley to those close to him was the eldest son of Kennerly, an American cowboy and Eliza, a Cherokee Indian and was raised in a farm in Red River in Bonham near Northeast Texas. The book chronicles his life story from the late 1800s when he was a young boy in a Texan farm to the mid-1950s when he became a great grandfather in McAlester, Oklahoma. The book paints a moving real-life story about a young man’s resolve dealing with the various tragedies life threw at him while also caring for his two siblings, younger brother David and sister Viola. This novel presents a fascinating look at vintage Americana and will fill your mind with nostalgia about a simpler life led in much simpler times.

Right off the bat, the first thing that you are going to notice and that too barely a couple of pages into the book is the wonderful use of the English language. It has become almost a rarity in mainstream literature to come across such beautiful phrases and prose that make you stop and read a line twice just for the sheer literary pleasure it gives you. The next best thing about this book is the pitch-perfect way in which the author has been able to portray the laid back and lazy times with the back-breaking, difficult and adventure-filled day in an old western town. It is so descriptive that the character’s spirituality, the numerous odd jobs done around the house, cattle drive and horse breaking somehow become second nature to you by the time you are done with the book. And for people of this century where everything is available to them at the touch of a button, this book will be a throwback to our older and harsher times when day to day living meant a constant battle with the various elements of nature.

Blending the fiction seamlessly with the many historical and factual events of the late 18th century and early 19th century, Shirley has made good use of various events like the yellow fever epidemic, the great depression and the absurd tax laws to good effect and has used them strategically at various points in the novel to underline the emotions of her characters in that setting beautifully. The changes happening over time and the various developments too have been captured nicely; case in point is Charley staying at a hotel for the very first time. Shirley also seems to have a knack in getting children’s behavior and their conversations right, the change in tone and content when the conversation moves from a child to an adult is always bang on target.

The entire book will tug at your heartstrings and make you think about your own family, it will also make you reminisce about your childhood as you read about the childhood of the Dobyn kids. And even though your childhood may have been vastly different from theirs, you will still feel a connection to the various commonalities that affect us humans across time and different nationalities. The epilogue and the photographs at the end really get to you and even though a life that you have been witness to from a young age has come to an end, you are in a strange way left with so many memories of this man. And this is because of the way the author has captured these scenes and emotions, by taking you right into the lives and homes of these people instead of merely narrating a story.

Great authors have often talked about the secrets that make a book appeal to audiences everywhere. They stress upon having a standout first chapter to make the readers commit to the book, a good first page that will blow them away and a great first line that will stay etched in their memory forever. If they are right then Shirley’s book has scored a definite ace on all three fronts and has emerged a clear winner.

Product Details

Print Length: 260 pages

Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1499024096

Publisher: Xlibris US (May 23, 2014)

ASIN: B00KNMM46S

Buy Fromhttp://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KNMM46S/ref=rdr_kindle_ext_tmb

7 Tips To Make You Write Better & Faster

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Hello, I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving or day if you don’t celebrate the holiday. Now we are officially working on the Christmas season. It will be here before we know it.

Below is an article was written by Alicia Prince. It’s always a timely article to help improve our writing. I hope you find within it, the information you can use.


No matter how hard you try, it can sometimes be a battle to finish a piece of writing. Whether you’re writing a paper, article, novel or email, it can be a struggle to express your ideas quickly and clearly. Just like anything else, however, a little practice goes a long way towards fast, quality writing. With seven simple techniques, you can greatly minimize the time you waste not writing, and increase the speed you do write. Plus, the more you do them, the easier these great writing habits get.

You Could Write Your Introduction Last

“My advice is to finish the book, then scrap the first chapter altogether and write it again without looking at the original.” — Dr. Kim Wilkins

One way to write quicker is to write your introduction or first paragraph after writing everything else. If you have the majority of your writing planned out, it’s often faster to jump right in with what you’re planning on saying. This way, you won’t need to agonize over your content fitting the tone of the introduction. And writing the introduction last means you know what you need to summarize, as it’s already on the page. Finally, writing your introduction last lets you avoid staring at a blank page, wondering where to begin. Once you have things down, it can be much easier to put together an intro, saving you time.

You Could Be Flexible On Wording

Another way to waste time when you’re trying to write is to agonize over every word. Like staring at a blank page, searching endless thesaurus definitions will knock you off track and interrupt your flow. Especially on the first draft, don’t worry if your wording isn’t right. Go through your document after finishing your draft, looking specifically for words you could improve. Better yet, highlight or change the text color of words you know you want to come back to. This way, you can keep your train of thought moving without your work suffering.

You Could Do All Your Research First

Nothing is a bigger distraction than needing to do research in your writing. Research can be time-consuming, plus it will likely make you forget the point you are trying to make. Do as much research as you can before you write. This lets you focus all your energy on writing, without interrupting your thoughts.

You Could Outlaw Distractions

“It’s doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.” — Jonathan Franzen

Especially when you’re writing on a computer or device, it’s easy to get distracted. To save time, treat every trip away from your writing document as dangerous. The best way to avoid getting distracted is to leave your document little. Try keeping all your research and sources in the top portion of a document, then do your writing in the bottom portion of the document. Keep it organized with a slash or image between the two halves. This way, you won’t risk getting caught in surfing the web or answering emails every time you need to check your information.

You Could Relax On Your First Draft

“The first draft of everything is sh**.” ― Ernest Hemingway

Similar to rewording sentences as you write, nitpicking too much the first time around will slow you down. Most experts agree that your first draft will always need work. This means that no matter how long you take to make everything perfect, you will still need revisions. It’s much faster to keep your momentum going than it is to get back on track several times a paragraph. Save yourself time as you write by powering through your first draft, then doing all your revisions at once.

You Could Set A Writing Timer

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” ― Jack London

Another way to increase how fast you write is to set a time, then force yourself to keep writing until it goes off. Not only will this force you away from distractions, if you’re struggling to come up with material, but free flow writing can also help you come up with ideas. Setting a timer and writing free form is also useful as a warm-up exercise to get you in the zone.

You Could Easily Outthink Cliches

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” – Anton Chekhov

When your struggling to find writing that grabs a reader, a quick way to burst through cliches is to be specific. Overgeneralizing descriptions can be too vague to garnish attention. For example, rather than having a character exclaim they’re freezing, have them say that the threads of their mittens are freezing to their fingers. By taking vague descriptions or phrases and being highly specific, you can quickly revise your writing, while improving your writing’s impact.

 

Short and Flashy2 with Bonus Short Story

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Short and Flashy may be the new in thing with writing and I’m so glad to hear it because I love writing short stories and flash fiction.  I found that out about myself when I was writing my first book, The Tower.  When I needed to have a brain change because I couldn’t find the words I needed to say for the book, I would write a piece of flash fiction or a short story so I could think about something else besides the book I was writing. It helped reset my brain.  It made it easier for me to come up with what I needed for my book.

Over the fast few years, people have read more of my short stories and flash fiction. I am assuming it is due to lack of perceived time to read.

Do you know what flash fiction is? In case you don’t, I will try to explain.  Flash Fiction is a complete story (has all the components of a story) in a limited number of words. They can be challenging to complete.

Think about how our reading world has changed since the computer came along.  The time was we had no choice but to go to the book store or the library to get our reading material.  Now we have small portable screens that let us have a book zipped to us over the airwaves.  We can get anything we want to read from Amazon including short stories which we might read while we’re sitting under the hairdryer or waiting in a doctor’s office.

According to Anne R. Allen, one of the authors of How to be a Writer in the E-age: A self-Help Guide, short stories make money and hold their value.  Kindle Singles often sell for the same as a novel-length book.  Ellery Queen and Woman’s World still pay top dollar for genre stories.

Short stories are great for practice.  Learning to write short stores can keep your writing from getting sloppy.  Having short stories in your portfolio might give you another book to publish or an opportunity to publish in a magazine.

I put the majority of my short stories in an eBook called Shirley’s Shorts and Flashes. The book was published on Amazon.  Publishing my work of short stories was something I didn’t want to pass up.  You may also have an opportunity to see what you can do.

Below you will find one of my short stories called Angie’s Secret.  Please comment with a critique and let me know the good and the bad.

Amazon link to Shirley’s Shorts and Flashes:  http://amzn.to/15HB87j


 

Angie’s Secret

 

“Are you going to tell him?” Mattie asked.

“Heavens no, this is my secret. I told you because you’re my best friend, and I know I can trust you.” Angie sat at the table with her cup of tea. She was pale around the eyes and mouth. “I am doing this on my own. I’m thirty-four years old, and I know this is the right thing for me.”

“It may be right for you, but girl you look like crap. Do you want another cup of tea?”

“Sure.”

Mattie went to the stove and brought the teapot back to the table. She asked Angie if she’s eating enough.

Mockingly Angie replied, “Yes, mother, I am. I can take care of myself. Stop worrying about me.”

“How do you think you’re going to pull this off when he barely lets you out of his sight?”

Angie thought of the days ahead as she sipped her tea. Her excitement showed.

Mattie looked at her, seeing the smile, said, “Ok, girlfriend, spill the beans. I want to know what’s making you smile.”

“I have to go home.”

“Angie, remember, no matter what, I’m your friend.” Mattie grabbed Angie, hugged her tightly.

“I’ll be in touch, and don’t worry,” Angie said as they broke apart. She walked back to her house. Her bedroom light was on. Crap, he must know I’m not in my room. I’ll walk through the front door as the grown woman I am.

After she entered the house, she almost made it to the stairs before she heard her father’s harsh voice.

“Angie, is that you?”

“Yes, father, it’s me.”

“Come here immediately,” her father, bellowed.

Angie walked into the library, ready for battle. Her father kicked back in the recliner, with a drink in his hand, asked, “Where have you been?”

“I went to Arlene’s for tea. I left your dinner on the table.”

“It was cold. You are one lousy cook.”

“Yes, father. I’m going upstairs to my room, goodnight, father.”

***

The clock advanced slowly, but 2 a.m. arrived. She pulled her suitcase from beneath her bed, took one last look at her room and left. Her father appeared to be asleep when she opened the front door. As she stepped out into the night air, she took her first deep breath of freedom.

She whispered, “John, are you here?”

“No, he’s not here,” her father said laughingly.

Character Change Vs. Character Growth

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Hello everyone, I do hope you are having a great day.  To catch you up on my activities since my last blog write. I’ve sent Thomas Gomel Learns About Bullying to the publisher for approval.  I also did an upgrade on Princess Adele’s Dragon and had it republished in ebook form. I’ve kept myself busy writing and entering contests on Fanstory. After the article below I will be posting a short story called The Lake. I do hope you enjoy this week’s blog.  Until next time have a blessed week.    Shirley

PS. By the way, you can possibly win a copy of Princess Adele’s Dragon by following the link, especially if you like medieval dragons, kings, queens, and knights.

Link: https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/065f308c42ab7cba

 

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Main characters don’t have to change to grow.  They can grow in their resolve.

It is a common misconception among authors that the main character in a story must change in order to grow.  Certainly, that is one kind of story,  as in A Christmas Carol where Scrooge alters his way of looking at the world and his role in it.  But other stories are about characters overcoming pressures put upon them to change their viewpoint and holding on to their beliefs, such as in Field of Dreams where main character Ray Kinsella builds a baseball stadium in his cornfield believing the old time players (and eventually even his father) will come to play.  In the end, he is not dissuaded from what appears to be a quixotic plan of a misguided mind, and his steadfastness results in the achievement of his dreams.

It is essential in any novel or movie for the readers/audience to understand whether or not the main character ultimately changes to adopt a new point of view or holds on to his beliefs.  Only then can the story provide a message that a particular point of view is (in the author’s opinion) the right or wrong way of thinking to achieve success and personal fulfillment.

But not all stories have happy endings.  Sometimes, the main character changes when he should have stuck with his guns in regard to his beliefs and becomes corrupted or diminished or fails to achieve his goals  A good example of this is in the movie The Mist(based on a Stephen King novel) in which the main character finally decides to give up on trying to find safety from monsters and shoots his son and surrogate family to save them from a horrible death only to have rescuers show up a moment later.

Other times, holding onto a belief system leads to tragic endings as well, as in Moby Dickin which the main character, Captain Ahab (Ishmael is the narrator), holds onto his quest for revenge until it leads to the death of himself and the destruction of his ship and the death of all his crew, save Ismael who lived to tell the tale.

Though writing is an organic endeavor, when you make specific decisions such as whether your main character will change or remain steadfast and what outcome that will bring about, you strengthen your message and provide a clear purpose to your storytelling that results in a strong spine in your novel or screenplay.

Melanie Anne Phillips


 

 

The Lake

lake2The last time I saw Charlie, he laughed as we drove into Crystal Springs Lake. I knew we would have hell to pay for sneaking out, but I never imagined how this fun evening would end.

Charlie and I were friends from the first grade. We were neighbors, and as adventurous boys, we spent every second together we could manage. We were as different as two people could be. I’m quiet and shy, and Charlie was the fellow that drew people to him like June bugs to a light. Maybe it was his good looks with his coal black hair and that cleft in his chin. He was muscular, athletic and all the girls flirted with him every chance they got. He didn’t care. The only thing he wanted besides our friendship was the full football scholarship at Harvard.

We had a good time throughout school. As this was our last year at Grady High School there was a lot of pressure on Charlie to perform. He actually did it to himself, but if I tried to talk to him, he wouldn’t listen. “Charlie, you have to lighten up a bit. You can’t go on at the pace you’re going. It’s been weeks since we’ve done anything together. You study and practice football. Take time to relax. Quit worrying about that entrance exam. You have it aced.”

“Sure, I do, but it doesn’t feel like it. I feel like everything inside of me is about to explode. I have to keep pushing myself to keep the pressure down, but I’m ready for something different. I’ll listen to you just because you’re my best friend and I love you like a brother. What do you want to do?” Charlie asked.

I had to think of something we would enjoy together and take the pressure off of him. “I’ve got an idea. Let’s go to the lake after dark and go skinny dipping. We haven’t done that in a long time.”

“Are you crazy?” Charlie asked. “We haven’t been skinny dipping since we were twelve years old.”

“Yeah, I know, and it’ll be fun. Just like old times.  What do you say?”

We were both laughing, and Charlie said “Let’s do it. I want to be twelve again and forget all about school and football. I’ll be at your house at 7:00 and you can drive.”

“Sounds good to me. I don’t mind driving at all, and I’ll even bring us snacks and cold drinks. See you then.”

I left his room and went back to my house. I got everything ready and packed it in my car. Since my mom and dad weren’t home, I left them a note so they wouldn’t worry about me. Charlie was at my door promptly at 7:00.

It was a great drive out to the lake. We had the windows down and the radio up. We were laughing, singing and shouting at the top of our lungs as we drove to our spot. We were trying our best to be twelve-year-olds again.

It was dark when we arrived, but we didn’t care. We unloaded the car and set up our blanket right at the edge of the lake. It wasn’t the first time we had swum in the dark. I brought two flashlights, but we didn’t turn them on. We were happy. We liked this spot because we could dive into the lake. It was easy in and out of the water. We got rid of our clothes quickly and then laughed at each other as we stood there as naked as the day we were born.

Charlie slapped me on the back. “Are you ready? I am.” He backed up three steps and ran and dove into the lake. I jumped in feet first, as always. The water was cold and sent a shiver over my body. I didn’t hear Charlie laughing, so I looked around.  I didn’t see him. The lake was smooth as glass. I called his name. He never answered, so I climbed out of the lake slipped on my pants and got the lights. My hands shook so hard I had trouble turning on the lights. I shined the beams over the water, and I still couldn’t see him. I knew something was wrong.  I got my cell phone and called 911. I had a terrible time as I tried to get the words out to report Charlie missing.

I tried to sit but couldn’t stay still. I walked back towards the main road thinking I would meet the authorities. That was silly, it wouldn’t make them arrive any faster. I turned back towards the lake moving the beam of one of the flashlights around. What was that? I brought the light back to what looked like a sign. When the beam of light hit it, I got sick to my stomach. The sign read: No swimming until further notice. Alligator sighting today.

I’ve Finished, (sort of)

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One part of me is going hurray and celebrating but then another part is going, gosh, now I go publisher shopping and setting up more advertising. There is always something more to do with a book that is yet to be published.

Right now I am wanting Beta readers to read the book and give me an opinion on whether they would purchase the book or not. One part of my mind is going why wouldn’t anyone like a book that could teach them how to react and/or treat a bully at school.

I hear rave things about the book from my writing group, but then the devil on my shoulder starts talking and tells me it’s not true. They just say that so they can earn credit or because you said something nice about their writing. For me it’s a constant Dr. Jeckell and Mr. Hyde, depending on the time that you speak with me. I will persevere and this book will be published.

If you would like to read this book in word or PDF and give me an honest opinion, I would be happy to send it to you.  Just email me at shirley_mclain@yahoo.com and let me know.

Thomas Gomel FRONT

 

Here is a short story for you called “No Pain, Just Memories”

It’s rough being a girl, going through the teen years. Not a child but not an adult either. One minute you are silly with giggles. The next minute you are miserable with your heart feeling as if it’s broken in half. You’re not old enough to drink but you know that’s what a lot of people do when they have a broken heart.

My day started out so well due to the fact Mike called and wanted to see me. My heart was racing because I knew he was going to ask me to go steady. I could see the high school ring on my finger with tape wrapped around the shank to make it fit.

“Mom, can I go to town for a couple of hours? I want to go to Walmart to pick up some writing paper for school.”

“Have you got your ironing done? You can’t go anywhere until those clothes are taken care of,” Mom says in her I mean what I say voice.

“I’ve got two pieces left and they will be done before I go. Is it OK, can I go?”

“Alright, but you be home before you dad gets in from work.”

“Thanks, Mom,” I tried to keep the absolute joy out of my voice when I answered her. I get to see Mike today.

I hurried to finish the ironing so I could get ready for my anticipated visual idolization of Mike’s handsome face. He was such a dream. That blonde hair which fell into his eyes, oh those wonderful eyes with the longest lashes I’d seen in my life. They were so clear and such a bright color of blue. Even if I hadn’t loved all of him, I would love him for his eyes alone.

I managed to get dressed without changing clothes four times because I was in a hurry. I left the house in my old car that I drove back and forth to school that had a rotten floorboard. Even though the bus stopped at our front door, I was much too old to have to ride that bus with all those screaming, snotty-nosed kids.

I drove straight to the place where Mike was staying while he worked his summer job. I should’ve known something was wrong when he came outside instead of inviting me in as he’d always done before. I didn’t even get the hello kiss that was our custom. I had a fleeting thought something was going on, but I pushed it away.

“Hi, Mike. I got here as soon as I could. Mom made me finish my ironing before I could come to town.”

“Thanks for coming down. We need to talk,” Mike said. He walked me towards my car not saying anything.

When we got back to my car, I asked Mike, “What do we need to talk about?”

He looked down at me from those wonderful blue eyes and said. “I don’t think we should see each other anymore. My summer job is ending soon and I will be returning to school. Besides, there is someone else I want to date. I thought it was only fair that I tell you straight out.”

I kept my cool while he was talking but I could feel the tears begin to burn my eyes. I had the urge to scream, Who is the dirty, rotten, floozy that’s taken, my man? “OK, Mike, if that’s what you want. I understand. Thanks for being honest with me.” I got in my car as gracefully as I could and drove away. I didn’t get far before I was sobbing for my lost love.

As I looked back at that time, I wondered at how silly that young girl was. A girl’s first heartbreak is something she never forgets and an experience most of us have had to go through. I’m an old woman now and it’s as fresh today as it was then. No pain just memories.

I hope you enjoyed the story as much as I did writing it.  Have a blessed week  Shirley

Obtaining Writing Agent Attention

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agentGood morning, I thought today I would give just a few pointers on how to get a Writing Agents attention.  I know not everyone uses an agent but just in case you want on here on a few tips:

  1. Be authentic, show your true self, be energetic and sincere
  2. Build your platform now. Don’t wait until your book is published to start working to sell your book.
  3. Be knowledgeable and honest enough about yourself to showcase your best skills.
  4. Be Prepared with chapters to show, outline, your ideas for shaping your book.
  5. Be original, open minds, and “capture a fundamental sentiment that we hadn’t been able to articulate on our own” stated agent Rita Rosenkranz.

 

The following is an article posted by Rachelle Gardner in The Writer Magazine on why writers need agents. I hope you enjoy.

Many times I’ve answered the question of why you, a writer (singular), might need an agent (also singular). I addressed it in posts such as 10 Things to Expect from an Agent and Earning Our Keep. Agent Nathan Bransford gave a terrific rundown on what agents do, here and my client Jody Hedlund gave the perspective of a contracted, newly agented author here.

But today I want to answer a slightly different question. Why do authors, collectively, need agents (plural)? How does the existence of agents in this business help all authors?

You, as an individual author, may or may not require the services of an individual agent. But whether or not you realize it, whenever you deal with a publisher, you’re benefitting from the collective work of agents over the years.

For the last few decades, agents have been on the front lines when it comes to advocating for authors in their relationships with publishers. It’s interesting to speculate on the state of publishing contracts if agents had never been involved and authors had to fend for themselves or just take whatever the publisher was offering.

The economics of publishing are tough, and like in any business, publishers are always trying to figure ways to save money – or a least keep their money longer. Naturally, they come up with brilliant money-saving ideas that involve paying authors less. They try to lower royalty rates; they try to bump up the royalty breaks (i.e. raise the number of copies you must sell before bumping to a higher royalty rate); they may want to extend the length of time over which they pay out the author’s advance (a huge bone of contention right now between agents and a couple of the largest publishers); and of course, they sometimes try to pay lower advances.

Those are the simple things. The last couple of years have seen publishers and agents battling it out over e-book royalty rates and numerous other areas related to new digital technologies. And besides the money, there are other contract points that agents constantly work to keep fair for their clients—everything from option clauses to author copies to author buy-back rates and more. It’s complicated and tricky trying to negotiate all these points in such a rapidly changing publishing environment.

But over all the years and all the changes in publishing, agents collectively have had the knowledge and the clout to duke it out with publishers on a contract-by-contract basis, holding as much ground for authors as possible. For example, if you sign a contract on your own with a small independent publisher, and they offer you a 25% royalty on e-book sales, you have agents to thank for that, because at first, many publishers were trying to fold e-book sales into their regular royalty schedule, meaning you’d only be making 10% to 15% royalty. But agents have, for the most part, changed that.

An interesting nod to the importance of agents in the publishing process happened last month when Random House CEO Markus Dohle sent a detailed letter explaining the company’s new policy involving e-rights (which quickly became known as RH’s “retroactive rights grab”). To whom did Mr. Dohle send the letter? Literary agents.

As we continue into the confusing new world of digital publishing, authors are going to need advocates more than ever. You are going to have your hands full, trying to work your full-time job plus write your books plus market them. You won’t have time to become an expert on publishing contracts, too.

Just remember, if you choose to sign with a royalty publisher and stay agent-less, you may be missing out on the latest knowledge and expertise that will protect the value of your intellectual property; but you’ll probably also benefit from the work agents have already done in the last few decades.

Your agent doesn’t just work for you. Each agent is, in their own small way, protecting the rights of all authors. So love ’em or hate ’em, it doesn’t matter because if you’re an author, agents are your friends.

P.S. I imagine some of you will argue that it’s really the other way around—that agents need authors. Well, of course, that’s true. We need authors if we want this job. But if authors didn’t need agents, none of us would have this agenting job in the first place, so it’s kind of a moot point. When authors stop needing agents, agents will cease to play a part in the publishing industry.

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New Book Coming on Bullying

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Here I am again, the lady that disappeared for a while. I did find out I couldn’t stay away from my writing even though I didn’t blog as I should have. I have been working on a new book that is for children above 10 and parents to learn about bullying. It’s called Thomas Gomel Learns About Bullying. What I’m doing is writing a fictional story using a 12-year-oldThomas Gomel FRONT.jpg boy and his family to teach children how to handle bullies as well as the parent dealing with a child that is being bullied. What do you think of my cover? Does it give a message to you when you see it?

Let”s talk about our bullying experiences if you had any. I have actually heard from some who did not have any problems. How wonderful for them.  I wasn’t one of those people. I was a new kid in a small school that moved from California to Oklahoma. I didn’t look right, I didn’t talk right. I just wasn’t right for about six years.  I had two very dear friends that helped me survive School.  I am almost 70 now and that trauma is not forgotten. I forgave and made some friends of those school chums, but the trauma I went through really never left my mind.