Tag Archives: resource

Fleshing Out a Story

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              Good day everyone, I want to share an article that I found that explains fleshing out your story in great detail.  I have always had problems due to the fact I am a bare bones writer.     I’ve never had the ability to sit down and write a story without an editor or another knowledgeable person telling me it needs to be fleshed out.  I wasn’t even sure what that meant.  I write like “The cat climbed the tree.” Fleshing out, to my understanding would be like “The white cat climbed the tree with the purpose of catching a bird.”

I had a English teacher by the name of Mr. Collier. He walked into class one day and set a coke bottle up on the chalk ledge of the chalk board.  He then proceeded to tell the class to write three pages on describing that coke bottle.  How can anyone use three pages to describe a Coke bottle. You know, some students got an A on that assignment.   Needless to say I wan’t one of them. The best I can recall, I failed.

I hope this article helps you as much as it did me.  Have a blessed day.   Shirley

                                                       How To Flesh Out a Story Without Padding

by Marg McAlister

You’ve finally finished the first draft – celebration time!

Or is it?

When you read it through, you realise with a sinking feeling that it seems a bit… well, skimpy. And maybe it’s a tad short.

There’s no getting around it. You have to concede that your story needs a bit more flesh on its bones. But how can you make sure that you add substance, rather than just padding? How DO you flesh out a story?

Some Signs of Padding

If a story is padded, it is packed with inconsequential detail that makes the story longer, but doesn’t enhance it in any way. Here are some signs of padding: 

  • Dialogue that meanders and doesn’t move the story forward.
  • Too much description (flowery or technical).
  • Too much interior monologue. (The viewpoint character ponders too much and for too long.)
  • Extra ‘walk on’ characters who just bloat the cast without adding value to the plot.
  • Grandstanding. (The author is obviously using the story as a soapbox to espouse a pet cause or to express feelings about an issue.)
  • Inconsequential ‘problems’ for the characters to solve. (The hurdles put in the characters’ way are perceived by the reader to be annoying side-tracks rather than genuine sources of conflict.)
  • Inefficient transitions. (The author takes unnecessary pages to move the characters from one place or time to another.)
  • A delayed ending / unnecessary explanations. (The story should have been over in Chapter 29, but the author has added another five chapters to ‘make it the right length’. Sometimes this is in the form of tedious explanations about why characters did things and how they outsmarted people. This should have been obvious from the action in the story.)

How to Flesh Out a Story

If the above list shows you signs of a story that’s padded, rather than well-rounded, then what can you do to fix it? What are some good ways of adding depth and texture?

First, you have to decide what your specific problem is. Some writers have problems with their stories because they are ‘bare bones’ writers: they have difficulty adding emotional punch, exploring their characters’ thoughts, and bringing people and places to life with carefully chosen descriptive phrases. Their stories are all action.

Other writers can handle all of these things, but always seem to end up with a story that’s too short. They know it needs expanding, but how? (Sometimes their story is novella length – say, 30,000 words. Too long to be a short story; too short to be a novel.)

Let’s look at each of these in turn.

1. If your story is too short…

(a) Add a new plot twist. (This brings with it more problems and a new level of complexity to the main story).

(b) Add a new sub-plot. (This should be a secondary issue that CAN be removed from the main story without affecting its flow or the outcome of the story. However, it must add depth to at least one of your story people. It might explain a character flaw, or distract the main character from seeing something obvious, or generally make his/her life more complicated in some way.)

(c) Add a new character (A SIGNIFICANT character, whose life is interwoven with the main character’s life – not just a caricature whose job is simply to take up a few more pages and add extra lines of dialogue!)

(c) Add a new dimension to your main character – a secret in his/her past; a secret hobby or interest that for some reason needs to be hidden from others. This may or may not be related to a new plot twist or sub-plot.

2. If your story is too bare-bones…

(a) Identify what you are NOT doing that you SHOULD be doing. Explore this by reading the work of other authors. Identify writing that seems (to you) to work well, or to be something you’d aspire to. Then write out several pages of the published book by hand, or type it into the computer. Get a ‘feel’ for the way sentences flow and the way words are used. Then take an excerpt from your own work and try to replicate the technique.

(b) Look at the way you describe people, events, and places. You’re quite likely to find that you are too economical with words, and that you haven’t chosen words or phrases that evoke what you want. Rather, you settle for something that easily comes to mind, then move on with the action of the story.

Take the colour RED.

What is the red of embarrassment?
What is the red of sunset?
What is the red of a fire?
What is the red of plush velvet curtains?
What is the red of a fine wine?
What is the red of blood?
What is the red of a stop sign?

Find pictures of all of these things, if you can (do a search via Google images). Now look at the range of tones in ‘red’. What are all these shades actually called? Can you think of a creative colour name that will help readers to see exactly what you can see?

In my copy of ‘Words That Sell’, I can find these:

rose, burgundy, ruby, crimson, scarlet, vermilion, russet, auburn, copper.

Then I typed ‘Words to Describe Red’ in to a search engine. On WikiAnswers.com I found these:

Scarlet, vermilion, crimson, ruby, cherry, cerise, cardinal, carmine, wine, blood-red, coral, cochineal, rose; brick-red, maroon, reddish, rusty, cinnamon, damask, vermeil, sanguine.

No doubt a thesaurus would turn up even more.

But… don’t just think of colour names. When you look at a ‘red’ object, start using your other senses.

What is the smell of red wine?
What is the sound of a fire (or fire engine?)
What is the texture of red velvet curtains?
What is the taste of blood?

Already, you can see how your bare-bones writing might start to develop depth and texture. (If you do nothing else, start thinking in terms of the five senses. That alone will give your story more emotional punch and help the reader to picture the scene.) Your special challenge is to use this sensory detail in a well-turned phrase that will help the reader to experience your character’s life. The trap you can fall into is to write too much boring description.

Closely tied to using the five senses – for obvious reasons – is the task of getting viewpoint right. A lot of writers produce bare-bones narrative because they can’t get into the mind of the main character in the scene. They ‘tell’ the reader everything, moving along at a rapid clip, instead of playing out the scene and letting the reader become part of it.

In the end, being able to flesh out a story means that you need to develop more mastery of your craft. It will involve either adding more pages (working on plot and characters) or adding more depth (working on viewpoint and emotional punch). You should be constantly building your skills and adding to your writer’s toolkit.

Writers who work at their craft are the ones who ultimately succeed.

Tips For General Blogging

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Day 10:

1) Try to respond to any comments made on your blog, even if it is just a thank you.

2) Blog regularly; I intend to blog daily, others blog weekly.  The trick is to be consistent with your blogging.  Kristin Lamb says, ” Do quality over quantity.”

3) Blogging is considered author training.  It makes you write good content, so you have to pace yourself.  You do not want to write and write until you are sick of it.  I believe that is called burn out.

4) Use Status Updates, participating in conversations is essential to having people recognize you are around.  It is a powerful tool, and you will use it to connect with, befriend, and mobilize your influencers.

5) Give people slices of your life, in your blog.  It makes the blogger appear more human to their reader.

6) When you connect with someone, conversation is the most powerful tool you have.

7) Make sure that content you post is entertaining or informative.  It will be noticed if you are putting out good current information or just fluff and junk.

8) Be good to all those who are good to you.  If you see someone reposting your content and they are trying to build a following, then help them.  Networks are hard to build and we all need as much help as possible.

9)Always be positive, and I know sometimes that is hard to do. Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar said, “you can get everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”  You want the people who read your blog to associate you with being positive.

I hope this information from Kristine Lambs book, “We Are Not Alone, The Writers Guide to Social Media is as helpful to you as it is to me.  I believe the more information we can share with each other, the better writers we will become.  That’s my two cents for today.

Branding, Part 2 What not to do

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Kristine Lamb wrote in her book “We Are Not Alone”, she has made all the mistakes when it comes to social networking.  I had to laugh when I read some of her great ideas turned into “tar babies”.  Those tar babies is what prompted her to write her book.  She lists several mistakes that writers make when they start branding.  I will list them here.

1) Brand yourself, not the title of your book:  That makes sense because if you brand your book then you would be doing a rebrand every time you published.  Also unless you self-publish you have no control over the title of the book.

2) Branding  your content:  This works just like branding the title.  You have to have a brand that can be used with everything, or you will be repeating the branding.

3) Branding Names of Characters:  Build your platform using your name that way you do not have to keep rebranding

4)Branding Multiple Identities:  Even if you do a number of different genres, you don’t need multiple identities.  The example Kristine uses was “Proctor and Gamble”.  They have hundreds of products, but you recognize the name, “Proctor and Gamble”.

“I can put all of my products under one umbrella of Kristen Lam to make things easy and simple for my fans.  Through this brand I can then direct traffic.”

If you are a new author like myself we will tend to lean heavily on networking with others authors.  We need to learn more about our craft and the world of publishing.  Once the publishing is done then you can network with people who can show you how to boost book sales.

Ways To Find Ideas for Your Blog

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This is actually a review of a great little book by Steven Aitchison called “100 Ways To Find Ideas For Your Blog Posts.”  In the introduction of the book Steven writes, “There are times when blogging can be tough and it feels like we have just run out of ideas for our blog posts or as a freelance we dometimes think there’s nothing else to write about.  Where does the muse go when we are feeling like this, and how can we get it back?

He goes into great detail of his 100 ways to find ideas.  It is interesting to read and the ideas are fantastic.  I found the book on Amazon and I am glad I did.  As a newbie to blogging, I am trying to learn all I can and this book was very helpful.  A few of the ways he has discussed within the book for blog ideas are:

1.Talk to children

2. Visit TED.com

3.  Do something you normally would not do.

4. Write a controversial post

5.  Open up your encyclopedia

I have found that his ideas make a lot of sense and are easy to do.  If you would like to know  more of his ideas just let me know and have a look at the book on Amazon.com  I happen to think this little book is great to have on hand as a resource guide.  That’s my two cents for the day.