Tag Archives: story

Short Story: Darius Figgaro, Legends of the Shoemaker

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I wanted to share a short story out of my book Shirley’s Short’s and Flashes. It is a fantasy/mystery story. It’s not long and I hope you enjoy it.   Shirley

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“I swear it’s true, every single word.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Giorgio, I’m unable to accept your statement. What made you think a story so far-fetched, would be believed?”

“Why would I lie about something that could cost me my life, Detective Johnson? That man died just as I said he did. I’m an honest man, and I do not lie.”

Detective Johnson got up from the table and walked from one corner of the room to the other. He couldn’t get his brain around the story that Mr. Giorgio was telling. “Do you care if I smoke, Mr. Giorgio?”

“No, I don’t care, Detective.”

“Thank you. Now let’s stop the formality. I’ve known you all of my life. You call me Peter, and I’ll call you, um, um. I don’t know your first name. I’ve never called you anything but Mr. Giorgio.”

Mr. Giorgio smiled as he listened to Peter. “Peter, my first name is Tony. Actually, it’s Antonio, but everyone calls me Tony. I guess it’s easier to remember.”

“May I call you, Tony? I’m sure I will fall back into old habits and call you Mr. Giorgio, but I’ll do my best to call you by your name. Ok, let’s start from the beginning, once again. Don’t leave anything out.”

“I haven’t left out anything, yet. Peter, there is more to this world than what’s here in Summerton. Things people have no idea is happening in this world. Have you ever heard of Darius Figgaro?”

“No, I can’t say I have. Is that the guy’s name we found in your shop?”

“No, I don’t know who that man was. Darius was from the third century BC and a shoemaker as I am. He lived in a small village, in Armenia. He was known everywhere for his excellent shoes. In fact, he was so talented he was chosen to make shoes for the God’s as an offering, when the festival happened, in a few months. Aramazd, and his attendant, Grogh were made boots. For Aramzd’s son, Mehr, he made the softest, kid, leather shoes, and finally for the Goddess Anahit, he made slippers from a new shiny material from China created by worms. Nothing was finer in the entire world.”

“If anything was going to bring the town prosperity, it would be Darius Figgaro’s shoes. The God’s would certainly think of Artashavian as their favorite place. The village leaders were so confident in their plan, they already had a sign made for outside of town. In large red letters, it read: Artasavian, home of the God’s shoes.”

“You’re kidding, towns back in the third century BC didn’t put up signs.”

“How do you know, Peter? Were you there? People are remarkably resourceful, no matter when or where they lived. Think about the pyramids in Egypt, or the great lighthouse in Alexandria. All through the ages, people have accomplished exciting and beautiful things. Now back to my story. Are you going to interrupt me anymore?”

“I’m not planning to,” remarked Peter.

“The time for the great festival of the gods arrived in Artashavian. You could palpate the excitement in the air. Everyone was happier and looking forward to the three days of fun and homage to their gods. Darius’s excitement ended abruptly when he went to gather his offering and found the shoe cupboard empty. I know I put those shoes in this cupboard. What am I going to do now? Darius sat on his cobbler’s bench and prayed to the gods to help him find his offering. A loud booming voice sounded in Darius’s head.

“Darius sweep the floor using your new broomstick.”

Darius stood as he thought a moment where his new broom was located. Once he thought of the location, he walked to his back porch and grabbed the broom. “Ok, god, I have the broom, and I am obeying you even though I don’t know what good sweeping the floor will do.”

Sweeping the dirt floor was not an easy thing to do. You had to sweep but not stir up the dust and yet sweep aggressively enough to remove the debris on the floor. Sometimes Darius would place a course woven material down on the floor is he could buy the yardage at a cheap enough price. It’s been awhile since he purchased any, so his floor was bare.

He swept the center out of the floor but then decided he’d best do the corners. There’s a box here. I don’t remember this. When Darius looked inside the box, he yelled aloud, “Thank You, thank you.” There were all of the god’s boots and shoes. Tomorrow I will present them as my offering to the gods.

Before sunrise, the next morning, Darius gathered his box of shoes and headed to the temple. He felt fantastic and had extra energy. It was a glorious day. There were other people gathered at the temple also. Sunrise was the appointed time for giving of gifts. If your gift was accepted by the gods, you received a special blessing. Darius was hoping they would give him continued good health so he could continue to make his shoes.

Just as the sun was coming over the horizon, Darius placed his offering on the altar. The ground shook and lightning streaked the sky. Woman were screaming and running away, but Darius stood his ground. He looked at the altar, and his offering was gone. Everyone else’s was still there. What does this mean? Have I displeased them with my offering?”

“You have not displeased us, Darius. You have used your talents to make a personal offering to us. Because you have pleased us so much, we are going to bless you for each pair of shoes you made. Kneel Darius facing the sun.”

Darius was on his knees with the sun shining brightly on his face. He heard a female voice call his name. “Darius, my slippers are magnificent and feel glorious on my feet. For this, you shall have eternal life. You will continue to share your shoes with all you meet. Everyone will want a pair of your shoes. My child’s feet are protected with the soft leather of his shoes. Because you have given him protection, I shall keep you safe.”

“Thank you, Goddess, for your blessing. I could not ask anything more. I will continue to work and make my shoes”, Darius said.

“You shall prosper through your work,” Grogh commanded. “You shall never go without food or beautiful housing.”

Aramazd asked Darius if there was anything else he desired. Darius declined. “Then go, Darius, knowing you will be protected, have a long life and will be sharing your shoes with the world for all time.”

Darius bowed his head as the bright light was removed from his face. He stood, not quite believing what occurred. “I’ve been blessed. What more could I want in this world.”

When Tony finished his story, he looked at Peter and asked, “Do you understand now?”

“Understand what? You told me a fairy tale that has nothing to do with the man’s body in your shop.”

“You are no different than the thousands of other people I have told my story to. You go through this life thinking you know everything, and you actually don’t know anything at all. I can’t explain it any further than what I already have. You have to open your mind, and actually listen to what I said.”

“I don’t have enough evidence to hold you for the man’s murder. I’m going to let you return home but do not try to leave town.”

“I’m not going anywhere, Peter. I will be at my shop working on some shoes. I have a particular order from the Pope. He likes his kid, soft leather shoes.” Tony left the room, heading back to his shop.

Peter kept running Tony’s story around in his mind. Maybe when I hear from the Coroner’s office everything will fall into place. Returning to his office, Peter pulled out the evidence folder on the dead man. It was empty, not one thing to go on so far.

“Peter, the Coroner’s Office is on line 1.”

“Thanks, Sam. Hello, Doc, what do you have for me? You are kidding me, not one thing. What was the cause of death? Heart failure, so it’s natural causes. Sure, I’ll let the prosecutor know about the findings. Thanks, Doc, for the info.” Shaking his head, Peter couldn’t believe it all meant nothing. He knew he wanted to talk to Tony again about the Legend of the shoemaker and to tell him about the findings.

When Peter opened the door to go into the shop, he couldn’t believe his eyes. The room was empty. Not one shoe or even a sign anyone had been in the building. Cobwebs hung from the ceiling corners, with thick dust on the windowsill. A desk sat up against the wall. It was polished to a brilliant shine and had a paper lying on top. When Peter walked over to the desk and looked down at the paper, it made him take in a deep breath, before reaching down to pick it up. His name was printed on the folded paper. He opened the document, and he knew his world would never be the same. It read I am Darius.

 

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.

Leaving The Joy Out of Writing

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dog coutureWriting is not always fun.  There are times when it’s downright taxing.  Various authors have compared the process to cutting veins and bleeding onto the page.  Certainly everyone has had the feeling of being discouraged, of thinking that the words are flappy, the sentiments trite, the whole thing a complete waste of time.  Many writers get so stuck in the morass that they can’t get our, and so they write word after every begrudging word with any joy at all.

Often this happens when a writer gets stuck on one particular story.  I have often seen it happen that a writer will carry around a story for a decade.  He will work on nothing else.  He is going to finish it if it kills him.  He submits the same story over and over and over again to be critiqued.  Although I suggest politely that he move on and write something else he can’t.  He has to tell this story. But now he hates it, and quite honestly, I hate it.  I’ve critiqued the character, the plot, and the dialogue.

I suspect this is even more likely to happen to novelists than to short-story writers, because we’re more likely to put big chunks of time into a novel.  Certainly it’s harder to walk away from something you’ve spent four years working on.  That was how long I worked on my novel, Courting Disaster.  It was the story of a woman who gets engaged 17 times and then falls in love with a man named Chuck Jones.  My novel was a finalist for a number of prestigious literary awards, got a lot of agent and editorial attention, but after four years of writing, rewriting and submitting, no one wanted it.  I was depressed, to put it mildly I was also discouraged at the prospect of having to write a whole new book.

But I did.  I wrote a book about a woman who teaches a fiction class, and I began to feel something I hadn’t felt n a while: excitement.  At one point, as I was trying to figure out who the students were in the writing class, I realized that my old friend Chuck Jones, would be perfect.  I had been obsessed by this character, and I was delighted to move him over to my new novel.  The Fiction Class was, in fact, published by Plume, a division of Penguin.  Often when I’m at book clubs, people will come up to me and tell me how much they like Chuck jones, and I always feel like that’s a tribute to the beleaguered part of me that struggled so hard to get a foothold in this business.

Don’t be afraid to start something new, if this is what you need to keep going.  Start a new story.  Take what you’ve learned and apply it somewhere else. But don’t give up the joy that brought you into this insane profession in the first place.

<div style=”font-size: 8px;”>Original by Susan Breen</div>

Not Wanting To Make Things Up

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wordsAlmost all of us draw on autobiographical material when writing. This leads to a lot of powerful prose, and probably saves a ton of money in psychiatric bills. But it can also cause major problems with fiction writing, because it can make it hard for the writer to make stuff up. And if you’re not making something up, you’re not making something up, you’re writing a journal entry, which can be beautiful, but it is not a story.

Say you are inspired by your Uncle Louis, a real one of a kind sort of guy who was one of the most colorful figures you ever knew. You always thought you wanted to write about him. He applied for a patent on a copying machine, and he got it. You write up the story, give it to me, and I say, “That’s great that Uncle Louis got the patent, but the story would have more tension if he didn’t get it.”

“But he did get it,” you say.

“Yes,” I say, “but the story would be better if he didn’t.”

“But he did get it. Patent number 3333.”

“Well,” I say, “what if a woman steals his patent then?”

“But he was married to Aunt Irene for 50 years.”

You see where I’m going with this? Keeping the story too tied to Uncle Louis makes it difficult for the writer to use his imagination. It’s locking him into someone else’s story. It’s taking away the author’s power.

What to do? First, think of why Uncle Louis appeals to you. Why do you want to write his story? Is it because you admire his fighting spirit? Can you create a character who has the same fighting spirit but is different than Uncle Louis? Maybe, instead of making your character a little old man, you could make him a young man with red hair. Or, make him into a woman. The key thing is to take ownership of him. He’s no longer your uncle. He’s your character. You can do with him what you want.

We All Get There

Leaving Out the Plot

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Have you ever run up to a friend and said, “I have the most amazing story to tell you.  Nothing just happened!” Probably not and yet there are stories all the time in which nothing happens. A mother sits at home with her kids and thinks about how difficult her life is.  A man goes to work and things his job is boring. A kid thinks about how much homework he has. I’m sure we’ve all read variations of these stories countless times.  These are all potentially great stories, but they need to be jumpstarted.  They need to have a plot.  Something has to happen.

Let’s go back to that harassed mother at home with her kids.  Her name is Carrie.  What could happen that would set a story in motion for her?  What if Carrie gets an email from a friend inviting her to meet for tea? Carrie would love to meet her. In fact, she’s desperate to get our of the house and have a normal conversation. But her toddlers are going through a difficult stage, and the babysitter just quit, and her mother has an important business meeting and can’t cancel it to help out Carrie.

Now we’ve got Carrie in motion.  We’ve made her want something.  To get out of the house.  We’ve given her an obstacle.  Motherhood.  She’s going to have to figure out a way to get a babysitter, or bundle those toddlers out of the house, or keep them quiet.  The story could be funny, tragic or somewhere in between.  But something’s going to happen.

Notice, Carrie’s story is about a small thing: meeting for tea.  There’s no tornado coming or asteroid about to hit. There’s plenty of drama in everyday life.  Just make sure you ask your character what she wants, and then make sure she has to work to get it.

There are eight basic elements to a plot and each of them are explained below.

1. Story Goal 2K+ The first element to include in your plot outline is the Story Goal, which we covered in detail in the previous article, The Key to a Solid Plot: Choosing a Story Goal. To summarize, the plot of any story is a sequence of events that revolve around an attempt to solve a problem or attain a goal. The Story Goal is, generally speaking, what your protagonist wants to achieve or the problem he/she wants to resolve. It is also the goal/problem that involves or affects most, if not all the other characters in the story. It is “what the story is all about. “For instance, let’s say we want to write a story about a 38-year-old female executive who has always put off having a family for the sake of her career and now finds herself lonely and regretting her choices. In this case, we might choose to make the Story Goal for her to find true love before it’s too late. There are many ways we could involve other characters in this goal. For instance, we could give our protagonist …… a mother who wants her to be happier. … friends and colleagues at her company who are also unmarried and lonely (so that her success might inspire them). … a jealous ex-boyfriend who tries to sabotage her love life. … an elderly, lonely spinster of an aunt who doesn’t want the protagonist to make the same mistake she did. … a happy young family who give her an example of what she has missed…. a friend who married and divorced, and is now down on marriage. (Forcing the protagonist to work out whether her friend’s experience really applies to her – or whether it was just a case of choosing the wrong partner, or bad luck.) We could even make the company where the protagonist works in danger of failing because it doesn’t appreciate the importance of family. It could be losing good employees to other companies that do. In other words, after we have chosen a Story Goal, we will build a world around our protagonist that includes many perspectives on the problem and makes the goal important to everyone in that world. That’s why choosing the Story Goal is the most important first step in building a plot outline. If you haven’t chosen a goal for your novel yet, do so now. Make a list of potential goals that fits the idea you are working on. Then choose one goal to base your plot outline on.

2. Consequence Once you have decided on a Story Goal, your next step is to ask yourself, “What disaster will happen if the goal is not achieved? What is my protagonist afraid will happen if he/she doesn’t achieve the goal or solve the problem?”The answer to these questions is the Consequence of the story. The Consequence is the negative situation or event that will result if the Goal is not achieved. Avoiding the Consequence justifies the effort required in pursuing the Story Goal, both to the characters in your novel and the reader, and that makes it an important part of your plot outline. The combination of goal and consequence creates the main dramatic tension in your plot. It’s a carrot and stick approach that makes the plot meaningful. In some stories, the protagonist may begin by deciding to resolve a problem or pursue a goal. Later, that goal becomes more meaningful when he discovers that a terrible consequence will occur if he fails. Other times, the protagonist may start off threatened by a terrible event, which thus motivates him/her to find way to avoid it.As Melanie Anne Phillips points out, in some stories the consequence seems to be in effect when the story opens. Perhaps the evil despot is already on the throne and the Story Goal is to depose him. In that case, the consequence, if the protagonist fails, is that things will stay the way they are.In our novel plot about the female executive, we’ve already come up with one possible Consequence – that she could end up like her spinster aunt. We could make the Consequence worse (perhaps the aunt dies of starvation because she is feeble and has no immediate family looking after her). Or we could create a different Consequence. Her employer may go bankrupt unless it becomes more family-friendly. Write a list of possible Consequences you could have in your plot outline. Then choose one to be the counterpoint to your chosen Story Goal. All We Need

3. Requirements The third element of your plot outline, Requirements, describes what must be accomplished in order to achieve the goal. You can think of this as a checklist of one or more events. As the Requirements are met in the course of the novel, the reader will feel the characters are getting closer to the attainment of the goal. Requirements create a state of excited anticipation in the reader’s mind, as he looks forward to the protagonist’s success. What could the Requirements be in our executive story? Well, if the goal is for our protagonist to find true love, perhaps she will need to join a singles club or dating service so she can meet single men. Perhaps she will need to take a holiday or leave of absence from her job. Ask yourself what event(s) might need to happen for the goal in your novel to be achieved. List as many possibilities as you can think of. To keep things simple for the moment, just choose one requirement for now to include in your plot outline.

4. Forewarnings are the counterpart to requirements. While requirements show that the story is progressing towards the achievement of the goal, forewarnings are events that show the consequence is getting closer. Forewarnings make the reader anxious that the consequence will occur before the protagonist can succeed.In the plot outline for our story, events that could constitute Forewarnings might be…the company loses one of its key employees to another firm that was more family-friendly.the protagonist has a series of bad dates that make it seem like she will never find the right guy.the protagonist meets a woman at a singles club who tells her that at their age all the good men are already married.one of the protagonist’s friends goes through a messy divorce, showing that marriage may not be the source of happiness it’s purported to be.While the Story Goal and Consequences create dramatic tension, Requirements and Forewarnings take the reader through an emotional roller coaster that oscillates between hope and fear. There will be places in the plot where it seems the protagonist is making progress, and others where it seems that everything is going wrong. Structure these well, and you will keep your reader turning pages non-stop. For example, here’s how our plot outline might look so far …”A female executive in her late 30s has been married to her job. But she has a wake-up call when her elderly, spinster aunt dies alone and neglected (consequence). The executive decides that she needs to have a family before she suffers the same fate (goal). In order to do this, she hires a dating service and arranges to go on several dates (requirements). But each date ends in disaster (forewarnings).” As you can see, using just these four elements, a story plot is starting to emerge that will take the reader on a series of emotional twists and turns. And we’re only halfway through our 8 plot elements! (Of course, we started with the four most important ones.) Notice too that these elements come in pairs that balance each other. This is an important secret for creating tension and momentum in your plot.Before moving on to the remaining elements, list some possible events that could serve as Forewarnings in your story. For now, just choose one. See if you can create a brief plot outline like the example above using just the first four elements.

5. Costs Generally speaking, good plots are about problems that mean a lot to the characters. If a problem is trivial, then neither the protagonist nor the reader has a reason to get worked up about it. You want your readers to get worked up about your novel. So you must give your protagonist a goal that matters.One sign that a problem or goal matters to the protagonist is that he/she is willing to make sacrifices or suffer pain in order to achieve it. Such sacrifices are called Costs. Classic examples of Costs include the hard-boiled detective who gets beaten up at some point in his investigation, or the heroic tales in which the hero must suffer pain or injury or give up a cherished possession to reach his goal. However, Costs can come in many other ways. Protagonists can be asked to give up their pride, self-respect, money, security, an attitude, an idealized memory, the life of a friend, or anything else they hold dear. If you make the costs steep and illustrate how hard the sacrifice is for the protagonist, the reader will feel that the protagonist deserves to achieve the goal. In the case of our female executive, perhaps she must give up a promotion she has worked hard for because it would require her to travel so much that she would have no chance of settling down and raising a family.Make a list of possible Costs your protagonist might be forced to endure in order to achieve the Story Goal. Again, just choose one idea to include in your plot outline for now.

6. Dividends The element that balances Costs in your plot outline is Dividends. Dividends are rewards that characters receive along the journey towards the Story Goal. Unlike Requirements, Dividends are not necessary for the goal to be achieved. They may be unrelated to the goal entirely. But they are something that would never have occurred if the characters hadn’t made the effort to achieve the goal.In the case of our executive, perhaps her efforts to meet men give her an idea for creating a business of her own – a kind of executive dating service, for instance, that will lead her to a happier career. Or perhaps the quest for love and family forces her to become more compassionate towards her co-workers when their family responsibilities interfere with work. List possible ways to reward your characters and choose one that feels appropriate for your plot outline. Then move on to our final pair of elements.

7. Prerequisites Prerequisites are events that must happen in order for the Requirements to happen. They are an added layer of challenges to your plot outline. Like Requirements, as Prerequisites are met, the reader feels progress is being made towards the goal. For instance, in order to free the Princess, the hero must recovery the key from its hiding place, but first (Prerequisite) he must defeat the dragon guarding it. In order to win the maiden’s hand, the gallant suitor must show he would not risk losing her for anything. But before he has a chance to do that, he must show he is willing to risk everything to win her (Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice).If the Requirement for our novel about the executive is that she must go out on several dates, perhaps the Prerequisite is that she must sign up at a dating service, buy a new wardrobe, or get a make-over. Take a look at your chosen Requirement and make a list of possible Prerequisites that must be accomplished before the requirement can be met. Choose one.

8. Preconditions The last element to balance your plot outline, Preconditions, is a junior version of Forewarnings. Preconditions are small impediments in the plot. They are stipulations laid down by certain characters that make it more difficult for the Story Goal to be achieved.A classic example is Pride and Prejudice in which Elizabeth’s quest for happiness is made more difficult by the terms of her grandfather’s will, which state that the family property can only be inherited by males. This means that, upon her father’s death, Elizabeth and her sisters will be penniless unless they find good husbands first.However there are many other ways characters can impose conditions that impede the attainment of the Story Goal. They can make their help conditional on favours, insist on arduous rules, or negotiate tough terms.For instance, perhaps the company where our female executive works has a rule that executives must attend meetings very early in the day – say 6AM on Saturdays. This rule makes it very hard for her to go on Friday night dates and be alert in the meetings. Or perhaps the singles club she joins has some seemingly unfair rules that cause her problems.You know what to do by now. List possible Preconditions your characters might encounter, and choose one you like. Once you have chosen your eight elements, the next step is to arrange them into a brief plot summary. It doesn’t matter what order you put them in, so long as all eight are included. In fact, most of the elements can be repeated or included in more than one way. For example, here’s how we might put together all eight elements for our executive story together into a one-paragraph plot outline…“A female executive in her late 30s has been married to her job. But she has a wake-up call when her elderly, spinster aunt dies alone and neglected (consequence). The executive decides that she needs to have a family before she suffers the same fate (goal). So she buys a new wardrobe and signs on with a dating service (prerequisites). Her boss offers her a promotion that would involve a lot of travel, but she turns it down, so that she will have time to meet some men (cost). She goes on several dates (requirements). But each one ends in disaster (forewarnings). On top of that, because the agency arranges all her dates for Friday nights, she ends up arriving tired and late for the company’s mandatory 6AM Saturday morning meetings (preconditions). Along the way, however, she starts to realize how the company’s policies are very unfair to people with families or social lives outside work, and she begins to develop compassion for some of her co-workers that leads to improved relationships in the office.

<div style=”font-size: 8px;”>Original by Breen and Strathy</div>

Read To Yourself Aloud

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Reading your written words aloud can spark a deeper approach to editing and developing your story. Read to yourself or to anyone who will listen. A lonely neighbor, your dog just read aloud.  If possible, read for 30 minutes at a time, but any amount of time will help.

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As you read, not sections that cause you to hesitate or stumble.  Those spots need editing.  Notice where you need to speak loudly or alter your inflection to make your point.  Remember that your reader will not have your voice to help.  Those spots may need editing.  Pay close attention, and you may also catch typos and gaps in logic in the story.

After you revise, read the new section aloud again, Read your entire book aloud again.  This is the kind of time it takes to write a truly good book.  If you are very lucky, other people may read your words to you.  The hero of my second novel was loosely based on my boyfriend Howard who had the gifts of an actor. He read the novel to me and often my parents, a chapter at a time.  When he died tragically some years later, I                                                                              re-read the novel and could still hear his voice.

Words are not just their meanings they are sounds.  There is poetry in all effective language, even if it is not organized on the page to look like a poem.  As sounds, words can have the emotional power of music.  I believe that neuroscience will one day explain what poets know, that words arranged with full use of their musical qualities allow us to think and feel simultaneously in a unique way.

By: Temma Ehrenfeld

TASTES LIKE CHICKEN

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bigstock-Rattlesnake-8162788Today I’m going to tell you a story about my dad. It came to my mind when someone a couple of days ago blogged about thier mother not cooking wild meat.

My mother and father lived about four miles north of highway 270 west of McAlester, Oklahoma on land where my great grandparents lived. There is a quarter mile drive off the main road to their house. When mama was a little girl her and her grandfather planted a pine tree at the corner of the main road and the drive. That pine tree remains alive and well to this day.

Back in the 1980’s my dad worked at the Navy Ammunition Plant at Haywood as a truck driver and forklift operator. He drove on and off the mountain at least five days a week. Mom would pack a lunch for him every day, which he would put in the refrigerator at the work office.

Everyday someone would get into the lunches in the refrigerator and eat things out of people’s lunch sacks. They thought they knew who the fellow was, but they couldn’t prove it. Everyone was frustrated with this guy.

Tastes Like ChickenOne evening when dad was coming home, he got to the pine tree and thought there was a big limb in the road. He opened the truck door and that big limb coiled. Having a pistol under the seat he proceeded to shoot and kill a seven and a half foot diamond back rattler. He brought it to the house and skinned it out. Mom took the back bone meat and cut it into chunks and fried it. That’s what they ate for dinner that night. My sister said it was good eating and tasted a lot like chicken.

My dad decided he would take some to work the next day for his lunch. He never told a soul about killing the snake or what he had for lunch. He put it in the refrigerator as he always did and went out to the docks to unload a truck.  Noon rolled around and all the guys were sitting at the table eating.  Daddy’s lunch had been gotten into and about half of the meat had been eaten.

Dad began talking and telling the guys about the big rattlesnake he had killed the night before  and how mom had cooked it up for him. He even brought some for his lunch.  Dad said the man accross from him, who happened to be the man who they thought was getting into the lunches, choked on his food. His color turned pasty white and then he turned green and had to leave the room.  They could hear him retching outside and all knew he was throwing his toenails up.

Everyone had a great laugh and guess what else. No one’s lunch was ever robbed again. The man got cured.

Daddy had that snake skin mounted and it hung over their television set for over twenty years. He would still laugh when he told that story about his big snake.

Sally’s Warning Chapter 3

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Background
Sally is a senior in high school, dealing with an alcoholic father and a young man who once was married to her best friend. The story takes place in the late 1960’s.

 

It was 7:00 p.m. and Sally’s father still wasn’t home. She knows what it means and so does Mona. “Sally, put the dishes on the table. Your father can eat when he gets home.”

“Mama, when I get done eating, I’m going to take my shower and go to bed. I’m reading a really good book. It’s called, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.”

“I’ve heard of that book. Aren’t they making a movie from it, or something?”

“Yeah, I think so. Oh, speaking of movies, that reminds me. Linda and me want to go to the show Saturday afternoon. Is that all right? There’s a good movie on with Bette Davis.”

“Yes, you can go, but you have to get your ironing done first.”

“Okay, I’ll iron Saturday morning while it’s cool. I might even do some on Friday night.”

Sally and her mom talk while they eat their supper. Then Sally gets her shower and crawls up on the top bunk to read. Her room is in the middle of the house without any windows. She keeps a box fan blowing on her all the time. That’s the only way she can stand the oppressive heat.

Her dad comes in about 8:00. She can tell by his speech he’s been drinking. Mona finishes the dishes and sits down. She looks at her husband and asks if he wants something to eat.

“No I don’t want anything to eat. I’m not hungry. Besides, you know I don’t eat when I’m drinking. Me and a couple of the guys went to the Hilltop when I got off work.”

“I figured as much.”

“Where’s Sally? It’s too early to go to bed.”

“She’s in bed, reading.”

It isn’t but a couple of minutes after her dad arrives in the house she hears him yell her name.

“Sally, come out here. Sally, come out and see your ol’ dad.”

She jumps down from the bunk and walks into the living room. “Hi, Dad, you wanted to see me.”

“I sure did, do you want to drive my truck tomorrow?”

“Sure, I’d like to.” What’s going on? He never lets me drive his truck. He even has a hard time with mama driving it sometimes.

“If I drive your truck to school tomorrow, what will you drive to work”?

“I didn’t say a damn thing about you driving my truck to school. You won’t set foot in my truck tomorrow.”

“Oh, ok. I thought that’s what you meant, that I can drive it to school.”

“No, I didn’t mean that. You have your own damn car to drive. Get out of here, I don’t want to look at you anymore.” Her dad says in a sarcastic tone. Sally tucks her head and leaves the room. I wonder what that was all about. I can’t win with that man.

Sally climbs up to her bunk and tries to get back into her book wanting to forget about her father. She can hear his voice getting louder and louder as he talks. She turns out her bedroom light so her father will think she is asleep. Maybe he won’t wake her. It’s not going to be easy to go to sleep with his yelling, and it’s so hot in here.

Sally is suddenly woke by her father’s turning the room light on. “What did you just say to me? I told you, you are not driving my truck.”

“Daddy, I’ve not said anything. I was asleep until you woke me.”

“Yeah right. I heard you, so don’t bother lying.”

“Please, Daddy. I won’t drive the truck tomorrow. I want to go back to sleep.”

“You’re damn right you won’t drive the truck. Ungrateful kid.”

He walks away from her door, and Sally has to crawl to the foot of her bunk to turn out the light. She has a difficult time getting back to sleep, but she finally drifts off.

Friday finally arrives. Sally has it all planned to get the ironing done this evening so she can sleep in in the morning. Mona is in the kitchen preparing to start their supper. Some of the family is coming over, so it will be a good dinner. Sally calls out to her mom, “Mama, I’m going out front and sit for a little while and let it cool down more before I start my ironing”.

“Okay,” Mona says as she stands at the sink peeling potatoes.

Sally wasn’t outside ten minutes when Bill pulls up. She groans inwardly and waits for him to walk up to the bench. “Hi, Bill, what are you up to?”

“I stopped by to see if you want to go to the drive-in with me tonight.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. Mama won’t let me. I have to do my ironing.”

“Where is your mom?”

“She’s in the house starting supper. Why?”

Bill didn’t answer her because he was already through the screen door. He’s inside about five minutes. Sally can’t stand the suspense of wondering what he is up to, so she went inside. Bill is standing in the kitchen talking to Mona.

Bill gets a big smile on his face, “Your mom says you can do your ironing in the morning and go to the show with me. Isn’t that great?”

Sally’s eye’s cut to her mama’s and Mona’s head is bobbing up and down. Oh, god, I’m done for. Now what am I going to do? “Oh, that’s wonderful.”

“I’ll pick you up at 7:00. You should’ve eaten by then. The movie called Adam and Eve is on at the drive in. Your mom told me you’d wanted to see it.”

“Yeah, I wanted to see it, but I was going to wait until it was inside at the Okla.”

“Well, now you don’t have to wait. I’ll see you later.” He walks from the kitchen and out of the house.

“Mama, why did you do that?”

“I got tired of him asking me to take you out. So now, he can take you out and leave me alone. Now little girl you either shit or get off the pot”.

“Mama, what a thing to say.”

“You know exactly what I’m saying. You haven’t ever told him no. You keep making excuses. Now you can’t make any more excuses.”

Oh, my life is ruined.

***

Sally’s date shows at straight up 7:00. Her mom answers the door when he knocks. He comes into the living room and waits for Sally to finish getting ready. He and Mona have a nice conversation. Finally, Sally comes out. Bill’s eyes brighten when he sees her. “Wow, you look nice.”

“Thank you,” Sally says as Bill stands and they walk to the door together. He opens the door for her and she steps through. She walks down the walkway towards his car. He hurries and gets to the car door just as she reaches for it. “Here, I got that.” He opens the door and she slides in. Since this is a date, I guess I shouldn’t hug the door like I did last time. She consciously tries to relax.

Bill walks to his side of the car and gets in. He’s all smiles as he takes them to the drive-in in McAlester. He’s talking the entire time he’s driving. Sally smiles and nods her head a lot. She’ll answer his question if he asks one, but never starts talking.

Once he gets to the Drive-In and parks, he looks at Sally and asks. “Would you like to go to the concession stand and get a Coke and some popcorn?”

“Sure, can we sit on the swings until time for the movie to start.”

“You like to swing, do you?”

“Yes, I do. I like to go up high and let the wind blow my hair. It’s fun.”

“Okay, I haven’t been on a swing in a very long time.”

The two of them sit on the swings and drink their Coke. They decide not to get popcorn until the movie starts. Bill pushes Sally on the swing and she laughs.

“That’s a nice sound to hear. I haven’t heard you laugh since me, you and Jackie were running around together. I’ve missed your laugh.”

“Bill, isn’t it time for the show to start? We’d best get our popcorn and another drink and head for the car.”
Braking herself with her feet, Sally gets off the swing. They walk to the concession stand and then back to his car. He opens the door on his side of the car and Sally slides over. Bill gets in beside her and puts the speaker in the window.
***

Sally wasn’t enjoying the movie at all. “I thought this would be a good movie, but it isn’t. It’s really overrated.”

“Yeah, it’s pretty bad. Do you want to go get something else to drink?”

“No thanks, let’s just go home. I’ve got to get up early in the morning to get my ironing done while it’s cool.”

“Oh, all right, home it is.” Bill removes the speaker and leaves the drive-in.

Pulling up in front of Sally’s home, Bill kills the engine on his car. He turns to Sally and takes hold of her right hand. Looking directly in her eyes, he says, ”Sally, I love you.”

Sally felt as if her lungs lost their air. She sputters “what!”

“I said I love you.”

“No you don’t!” Sally starts scooting to the passenger door and grabs the handle, opens the door and begins to get out of the car.

“Sally, don’t tell me how I feel. I love you and I have for a long time. Just think about it for a few days. You don’t have to say anything now.”

“Goodnight, Bill.”

“Night, Sally. Think about what I said.”

He starts the car and pulls away. Sally is speechless and doesn’t know what to think. This event is a total shock. Now what am I going to do?

200 Word Flash Fiction (The Rent)

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 Hello everyone, today I am publishing a 200 word flash fiction story which I won a contest with. I was given a specific list of words to use in creating the story. The words are in bold print. I do hope you enjoy reading it and please let me know how you would improve it.   Shirley
 
The Rent

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The forecast for the day is cold with a winter storm warning. I don’t want to get out of my nice warm bed, but I know I have to. There are many errands to run, and I have to do them before the storm hits.
 
Why Mrs. Flannigan has me pay my rent in person, I’ll never understand. It would be easier if I put it in the mail with my monthly bills. There isn’t any use crying and whining about it. That’s the way it is.
 
I back my car from the drive for the ten-mile trip to Mrs. Flannigan’s. Myphone is in my purse for an emergency. The sleet and freezing rain are  already falling. The radio announcer tells everyone to stay off the roads. I’m not the smartest person, because I’m driving. I can’t drive fast because of poor visibility.  My hands are gripping the  wheel and my knuckles are white. Relax, Sally, you can do this.
 
The bridge over the lake is icy. What is that idiot doing? He’s going too fast. I’m in the middle of the bridge. I can’t scoot over. No, oh God help me.
 
Paper reads: Trucker and young woman join fatality toll.

A New Contest

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Hello to everyone. Today I’m making a big announcement.  I am sponsoring another writing contest. The topic of this contest is National Pride.  It can be fiction or non-fiction, and no more than 1200 words.  The winner will receive  three ebooks of your choice and posting of your story on this blog.  The runner-up will receive a copy of the Historical Fiction, Dobyns Chronicles when it is published in a few months.

Please send the stories to shirley_mclain.com with your email address and the three ebooks you would like if you win.  All entries must be to me by May 31, 2012.  The winner will be announced June 15, 2012.

Use your creativeness and get out of your comfort zone a little bit. I look forward to receiving some great stories.

Shirley