Nov 03

Writing Inspiration – Get a Club

There are authors and writers who feel the need to wait for writing inspiration to come knocking at their door in order to produce creative work.

Unfortunately, you may have a very long wait.

Writers who write all the time know that as Jack London put it, “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”

Juggling multiple children’s ghostwriting clients all the time, I don’t have the luxury of waiting until some kind of inspiration takes hold of me to get the creative juices flowing. I have to create sound fiction stories that are engaging and publishable.

To get things done, I sit with my laptop and write.

To be creative, to be inspired, you need to get the words down. You need to WRITE.

You need to allow the process to unfold as you’re writing whether you’re an outliner or a pantser.

Another aspect of writing, if you’re not a skilled writer or don’t have the time, is to at least get your story ideas down.

Once you have your idea down, try to write an outline.

Where do you want the story to go? How do you picture your characters, especially your main character? How do you want your story to end?

It doesn’t have to be elaborate or even ‘good’ writing. It’s about getting your ideas out there.

So, instead of waiting for inspiration, just WRITE!

And if you have an idea, an outline, or a simple draft and don’t know how or where to go from there, you can email me or give me a call. I can help.

Children's ghostwriter

Whether you need editing, rewriting, or ghostwriting, let me take a look a your children’s story. Just send me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com. Please put “Children’s Writing” in the Subject box. Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700

Let’s get your idea off the launch pad or your outline into a publishable story today!

Or, if you’d rather give it a shot and do-it-yourself, check out my book, FICTION WRITING FOR CHILDREN.

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Sep 08

Writing and Mountain Climbing

How is writing like mountain climbing?

“Because the creation of a novel is akin to a mad scramble up a mountainside layered with loose pebbles, any handhold or solid ground you can find will be a blessing.”
~ Walter Mosley

The article where I got this quote from (link below) deals with Mosley’s writing style which doesn’t include character sheets or any other form of mapping out your character’s ‘life’ prior to writing your novel.

I love the quote above. As Mosley explained, as you’re writing, your character develops before your eyes. There will be situations or events in the story that you didn’t plan on in the beginning and your character will need to deal with it. If it’s a new experience, how can you tell how he’ll react?

We’d all like to believe (or write) that our protagonist will act nobly in every new situation, but that doesn’t always happen. It’s the same with people in real life.

You or your character will not know how you’ll react in a situation you never experienced before.

It’s kind of the same with your story itself.

Pantsing Your Way

As you’re writing, the story often takes on a life of itself as do the characters. It’s kind of amazing when this happens.

This type of writing is by-the-seat-of-your-pants and usually called pantsing.

The quote above was referencing this type of writing and why creating structured, highly detailed character sheets isn’t worth it. Stories change as you write them. And, if it doesn’t, it will definitely in edits and rewrites. You may take your characters and storyline in an entirely different direction.

Characters Create Themselves

Letting the characters develop as you write gives you much more freedom over who and what they are or can become.

I’m a pantser because I find it easier to have the story start itself, but if I’m writing a picture book series or a children’s chapter book or a middle grade, I do keep character sheets. This is especially important with all series.

I would find myself often looking up the quirks and characteristics I created for a particular character in earlier books in a series I was writing. Then inspiration or necessity or desperation kicked in and I created character sheets for each character as I went along. It does save time in the long run.

Simple Outlines Work

I also do sometimes create an outline for chapter, middle grade and young adult books as I’m going along in a story to give me a guideline. I usually don’t start out with one because I let the story develop the beginning for me.

You might call it the muse kicking in or the story taking charge, but whichever it is, it’s appreciated.

But, once I pause along the way (it could be in chapter 4, 5, or 6) and wonder what happens next, I do work on where I want the story to go from that point.

I don’t add much detail to the outline, just a general direction.

This works for me.

What about you? How do you write?

Source for quote:
(Literary Hub article) https://lithub.com/walter-mosley-on-discovering-who-your-books-characters-really-are/
Children's ghostwriter

Being a writer, like being any kind of artist who creates something from nothing, is an amazing ability. It’s almost like magic. And, you are in control. You decide what to create. The only limit you have is the cap on your imagination.

Write a children's book

Check out my 200+ page ebook (or paperback) that gives you all the basics of HOW TO WRITE A CHILDREN’S FICTION BOOK. It’s newly revised and includes information on finding a publisher or agent and marketing your books.

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Jan 06

5 Basic Functions of Dialogue

Tips on writing dialogue.In an article over at Writer’s Digest, the author explained that ‘real’ dialogue doesn’t spell everything out.

So, what does this mean?

Well, people communicate with more than just words and often there’s a lot left unsaid in a conversation. Narration or the protagonist’s thoughts can fill in the blanks.

Here’s an example from “Crispin – The Cross of Lead” (honored with the John Newberry Medal for the Most Distinguished Contribution To American Literature For Children):

“Where’s Bear?” she asked when we entered the back room.

“Asleep.”

“You mustn’t be seen,” she said. “He should have told you.”

I made no reply, assuming Bear had told her of the attack on me, and that she felt a need to protect me. If Bear trusted her, I told myself, so should I.

Perfect blend of dialogue and narration.

With this in mind, let’s go over five of the basic functions of dialogue with the help of narration.

1. Dialogue helps reveals the character’s traits.

“Hey, Pete. Looks like you’re having some trouble with that tire. Need a hand?”

Pete leaned on the tire iron, giving it all he had. Struggling to get the lug nut off the wheel, he moaned, “I-I got it.”

So, here with a bit of dialogue and narration, it shows that Pete may have a chip on his shoulder. Maybe because he’s not as strong as the other character. He’d rather struggle than accept help. It also shows that the first character is willing ad ready to lend a hand.

Here’s another example:

“The car’s stuck in the mud. There’s no way we’re getting it out of there. It won’t budge,” said Desmond.

Brain shoved his baseball cap back on his head and walked around the car. “All we have to do is get the truck. We’ll hook on a tow line and pull her out.”

In this scene, through dialogue we learn that Desmond sees the cup half empty – he can’t see how something can be accomplished. Brian on the other hand sees the cup half full. He knows he can get the job done. Shoving his cap back and walking around the car shows he’s a guy of action. He’ll look for a solution.

Here’s another example:

“I’ll have turkey on rye with the mayo, lettuce, and tomato on the side. And, I’d like the bread lightly toasted. Please be sure it’s just lightly toasted. And, I’d like water, no ice, with two lemon slices on the side.”

The scene doesn’t have narration, but just from a simple lunch order, we know that the character is extremely picky. She knows what she wants and expects to get it.

While it’s not the same as in the movie, I got this scenario from “When Harry Meet Sally” with Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal. It’s an amazing scene.

2. Dialogue can show what a character does for a living.

Christine looked over the documents, her face growing serious. “Who’s responsible for these prints? They’re all wrong. The bathroom should be on the second floor and the living area should be an open concept. Somebody’s head is going to roll.”

In this scene, Christine obviously deals with blueprints. Maybe she’s an architect reviewing a subordinate’s plans. We also know she’s in charge and doesn’t take mistakes lightly.

Here’s another simple example:

“Give her oxygen and get her into the OR stat.”

Again, there isn’t any narration, but from this little bit of dialogue, we can assume the person talking is a doctor and she’s working in an emergency room.

Here’s another one:

Rachel tapped the pencil on the desk. She looked around the room. Everyone in class was busy writing. “Man, I should have studied,” she whispered.

In this scenario we can assume Rachel is a student and a bit nervous (tapping the pencil). Her class is taking a test, and she didn’t prepare for it.

3. Dialogue can show relationships.

Lucas shoved his gear into his bag and headed for the door.

“Mom said you have to clean the garage before going to practice,” said Frank with a smile.

“Geez,” said Lucas. “You never have to clean the darn garage.”

From this conversation, we know the two involved are siblings. It doesn’t, though, convey why the one brother doesn’t have to clean. Possibly the older brother has to clean the garage and has more chores. He’s also annoyed about that fact.

To give it more clarity, if it’s warranted for the story, Lucas’ dialogue can be tweaked, as long as what’s conveyed isn’t information dump:

“Geez. How come you don’t have to clean the darn garage? Just because you’re two years younger than me you get away with everything.”

4. Dialogue can show how educated a character is through choice of words.

“You need to ascertain whether you and he are compatible.”

“You need to figure out if you two are a good match.”

Simple examples, but you get the point.

5. Dialogue can show tension between characters.

Sammy dropped his books and stood with his fists clenched. “Do that one more time and you’ll never do it again.”

Dylan shook his hands. “Ooohhh. I’m scared. Do you mean don’t do this again?”

This scene clearly shows tension between Sammy and Dylan. And, it shows that Dylan is the instigator of the tension.

Here’s another example:

Sara stormed up to Alicia’s desk and slammed a folder down. “You stole my idea. Mr. Peter is doing a full campaign based on it. Tell him it’s my idea or I’ll tell him.”

Without looking up or hesitating, Alicia said, “That’s not happening. If you weren’t careless enough to leave your notes on your desk, I wouldn’t have seen them.” She pulled a lipstick and mirror out of her draw and touched up her lips. “If you go to the boss, he won’t know who to believe. He might think you’re lying to get ahead. Want to risk it?”

Again, this is a tension packed scene – that Alicia is a stinker.

There are also other functions of dialogue like conveying underlying emotions, creating atmosphere, and driving the plot forward. Using dialogue and narration allows you to paint vivid pictures. Your choice of words will give your characters and your story life.

Source:
Writing a Scene with Good Dialogue and Narration

Children's ghostwriterLet me take a look at your notes, outline, or draft. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and coach. I can turn your story into a book that you’ll be proud to be author of.

Just send me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com (please put Children’s Ghostwriter in the Subject line). Or, you can give me a call at 834—347—6700

Let’s get your story in publishable shape today!

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Jul 08

Writing a Book – Bait and Switch Editing

Bait and Switch Editing

Contributed by Melinda Brasher

Bait and switch tactics don’t usually work well in writing. Of course, surprises and twists are good, but if you write a romance and market it as a psychological thriller, you’ll disappoint readers.

If you start a novel as a realistic, contemporary mystery, and near the end reveal that the real culprit was a vampire, you’ll alienate the contemporary mystery audience.

If you title an article, “Seven Ways to Avoid Ironing” and then talk only about the history of ironing, you have failed.

I’ve been reading a lot of self-published novels the last few years, and a different sort of bait and switch pattern has emerged in an unfortunate number of them. This is a bait and switch of editing.

The book starts well, with few typos and other errors. Then it begins to deteriorate. Sometimes this is so dramatic that I have to believe the author hired a professional editor but only wanted to pay for the first few chapters.

These authors must believe that once the reader is invested enough in the character or story line, they won’t care about the editing and will keep reading to see what happens.

This works—in part—on me. I want to see what happens in the end. But I do care about the editing too, and I get increasingly annoyed with the author. I feel almost betrayed, like he didn’t have enough respect for his readers to properly edit the whole thing, and decided instead to purposely trick us.

I’m probably extreme in this, but even people who aren’t as sensitive to errors as I am will often feel disappointed, and many will decide against reading more by the author. And you always want to leave the reader wanting more.

If you’re a regular to this site, with all the editing tips and resources included here, you probably wouldn’t dream of intentionally baiting and switching like this. But sometimes it happens even if you don’t mean it. We’ve probably all edited the first one to three chapters of our novels more heavily than any other part, because that’s what agents want to see. The first chapter is what will hook or let go of a reader.

But do not neglect all the other chapters. Use the hints and tips on Writers on the Move to make sure you don’t fall into this pattern.

Melinda Brasher’s newest story sale went to NOUS magazine. It’s a tale of a corporate unhappiness and a “take that” scheme that doesn’t go as planned. Check out the magazine here: NOUS. Other travel articles and short fiction appear in Go Nomad, International Living, Electric Spec, Intergalactic Medicine Show, and others. For an e-book collection of some of her favorite published pieces, check out Leaving Home. For something a little more medieval, read her YA fantasy novel, Far-Knowing. Visit her online at http://www.melindabrasher.com.

This article was first published at: http://www.writersonthemove.com/2016/09/bait-and-switch-editing.html

Be a children's writerBeing a writer, like being any kind of artist who creates something from nothing, is an amazing ability. It’s almost like magic. And, you are in control. You decide what to create. The only limit you have is the cap on your imagination.

Check out my 250 page ebook (or paperback) that explains HOW TO WRITE A CHILDREN’S FICTION BOOK. It’s newly revised and includes information on finding a publisher or agent and marketing your books.

 

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Apr 15

Grab the Reader’s Attention

Write a grabbing beginning

Contributed by Team Member Suzanne Lieurance

You can be a best-selling author!

Is that true?

Maybe. Maybe not.

But I’ll bet I got your attention with that statement.

And that’s exactly what you want to do if you hope to write novels and short stories (even nonfiction articles) that sell – grab your reader’s attention in the very first sentence.

Yet all too often beginning writers think they must set the scene for their story with extensive details, when all they really need to do is grab the reader’s attention.

Do you recognize any of these opening lines:

Call me Ishmael. ~ Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851)

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.
~ Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)

I am an invisible man. ~ Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952)

They shoot the white girl first. ~ Toni Morrison, Paradise (1998)

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
~ George Orwell, 1984 (1949)

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. ~ Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina (1877; trans. Constance Garnett)

Notice how each of these openings pulls you in.

You don’t know who or what the author is talking about, but you can’t wait to find out.

Try this kind of thing in your own stories.

Here’s how:

1. Introduce a main character right away.

Something about this character needs to be intriguing, even if it’s only his name (as in “Call me Ishmael”).

But if you have an invisible man or a giant woman or a talking cow, let this character open your story and readers will be hooked and want to find out more.

2. Drop readers “into the middle of things” rather than give a lot of background narrative to set the scene.

If you read, “They shoot the white girl first”, you have no idea what’s going, or who the white girl is, but you can’t wait to find out.

This simple line implies so much!

3. Start with something that’s just a bit off the mark.

As in “the clocks were striking thirteen.”

What does that mean?

Does the author mean 1:00?

If so, why does he say thirteen?

Is this a military term?

Again, you’ve been pulled right into the story.

You know something about the setting of this tale is a bit out of the ordinary.

4. Compare and contrast something and do it in a pleasing and rhythmic way.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” makes the reader wonder how it can be both the best and worst at once.

Plus, the rhythm of the sentence is pleasing to the ear and pulls in the reader.

These are just a few techniques that famous authors have used successfully.

These techniques will work for you, too.

And if you manage to grab the reader’s attention with the first sentence of your own novels and short stories, you just might become a best-selling author after all.

Try it!

Suzanne Lieurance is a freelance writer, the author of 30 published books and the Working Writer’s Coach. For daily writing tips and helpful resources, get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge at www.morningnudge.com.

Children's ghostwriterWhether you need rewriting or ghostwriting, let me take a look at your story. Just send me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com. Please put “Children’s Writing” in the Subject box.

Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700

Let’s get your book in publishable shape today!

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Apr 08

Writing Fiction – What is Foreshadowing?

Fiction and Foreshadowing

Foreshadowing is a literary device used to make the reader wonder. It gives the story a sense of mystery or anticipation. It can also create tension.

According to Literary Devices (1), using this device, “a writer gives an advance hint of what is to come later in the story.”

Foreshadowing is a great device to keep the reader involved in the story and the characters.

There are a number of foreshadowing strategies. Below are four of them.

An Approaching Event

An example of this type of foreshadowing is in “Walking Through Walls.” Wang (the protagonist) listens as his friend, Chen, tell how neighboring warriors kidnapped his sister.

The reader surmises or anticipates that there will be an upcoming battle to rescue Chen’s sister.

The Pre-Scene

A pre-scene hints at something on the horizon.

An example of this might be a new student entering a classroom and another student eyes him up and down. Nothing else happens in that particular scene.

The reader automatically anticipates there will be trouble between the boys down the road.

In an article at Novel Writing Help, “a pre-scene is simply a smaller version of a larger scene to come. They are not significant by themselves, but they imply that there is something more spectacular waiting to happen right around the corner.” (2)

The Loaded Gun

This strategy is attributed to Russian author and playwright Anton Chekhov.

He said, “If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on a wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.” (3)

This type of foreshadowing doesn’t have to use a gun; it could be any object.

For example, suppose a boy is cleaning out the attic of a hundred-year-old home for a neighbor. He finds an old corroded coin. He absent-mindedly shoves it in his pocket.

The reader knows that coin is significant and expects something to happen pertaining to it in the story. If the writer is smart, she will fulfill the reader’s expectation.

The Prophecy

With this type of foreshadowing, a glimpse of misfortune to come from something that happens is given to the reader.

As an example, the albatross is a sign of good luck if seen by sailors. With the reader being privy to this knowledge, a sailor sees one fly over his ship at the midway point on every voyage he’s on. But, on this particular voyage, there is no albatross to be seen.

The implication to the reader is that there is going to be trouble for this sailor and this voyage.

Don’t Overdo It

While adding foreshadowing to your fiction story is an effective writing device, you don’t want to overdo it.

In an article at NY Book Editors, it explains that “to balance your story, there needs to be revelations and circumstances that catch the reader off-guard. If your reader is in a constant state of analysis [over foreshadowing], your pacing will suffer. To strike the perfect balance, introduce hints but then jolt your reader with something unexpected.” (4)

If you’d like to read more about foreshadowing and your fiction writing, check out the references below.

References:

(1) https://literarydevices.net/foreshadowing/
(2) https://www.novel-writing-help.com/examples-of-foreshadowing.html
(3) https://www.writingclasses.com/toolbox/ask-writer/whats-this-business-about-chekhovs-gun
(4) https://nybookeditors.com/2018/03/how-to-foreshadow-like-a-pro/

Children's ghostwriterWhether you need rewriting or ghostwriting, let me take a look at your story. Just send me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com. Please put “Children’s Writing” in the Subject box.

Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700

Let’s get your book in publishable shape today!

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Jan 28

Fiction Writing – Do It Right

Writing TipsI’m reading a book on writing fiction. It’s “Writing Fiction – The Practical Guide From New York’s Acclaimed Creative Writing School.”

It’s written by the Gotham Writers’ Workshop faculty and Alexander Steele is the author of Chapter One, Fiction: The What, How and Why of It.

Steele explains, “Promising ideas + hard work = good fiction. Well, not quite. Something is still missing.”

So, what’s that something?

You need to invest time, effort, and yes possibly some money to learn at least the basics of the writing craft.

I’ve written about the importance of learning the craft of writing in number of articles. It’s so important to learn how to write if you want to be an author of fiction stories (and nonfiction stories).

There are things like:

– Knowing how to write dialogue
– Knowing how to use showing rather than telling
– Knowing the elements of fiction writing
– Knowing how to use quotes in nonfiction writing
– Knowing how properly format a manuscript

Learning all this and the many other rules of writing shows you took the time to do it right. It shows you care about your writing . . . and you care about your audience.

Think of it as playing an instrument, say the guitar. You figure out the very basic chords, but that’s it. You might be able to strum those chords, but would you call yourself a good guitar player. Do you think anyone would pay to hear you play? Would anyone want to listen to you for free?

Stelle equates it to building a chair. You might be able to put one together, but will it support the weight of a person? Will it look good? Will someone want to buy it?

I think you get the idea.

While anyone can type away and create a story or article, will it be professional. Will it be a quality story? Will it be marketable? Will you be proud to be the author of it?

Self-publishing has opened the door to fulfilling dreams of becoming an author. It’s true that anyone can now publish a book, but how much better will your book be if you learn at least the basic rules of fiction writing.

As Stelle puts it, “The ‘rules’ of fiction craft weren’t created by any one person in particular. They simply emerged over time as guiding principles that made fiction writing stronger, in much the same way the mortise-and-tenon joint emerged as a good way to join parts of a chair.”

The rules work and once you learn the craft, even if you’re just beginning, it can make your writing easier. The guess work is eliminated and you’ll have a better idea of when and where to break the rules to make your story unique.

So, how do you learn the craft of writing?

You learn to write fiction the same way you would learn anything – by studying it. Take writing courses and/or sign up for a writing program. There are plenty of online and offline places that offer writing.

You can even learn a lot by reading the blogs of ‘quality’ writing sites. And, be sure to join writing groups. Often there are discussions on the craft of writing.

In addition to this, READ!

Reading books from traditional publishers will help train your brain to know what ‘good’ writing is and what marketable writing is. And, unless you’re writing just for you and your family, you will want to create a marketable book.

You should also read books on the craft of writing.

Journalist and author Hunter S. Thompson said, “Anything worth doing, is worth doing right.”

Children's ghostwriterWhether you need rewriting, ghostwriting, or coaching let me take a look at your story. Just send me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com. Please put “Children’s Writing” in the Subject box.

Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700

Let’s get your book in publishable shape today!

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Nov 26

Making a Fiction Story Work – 5 Key Elements

Writing Fiction

Think about the last time you read a story that stayed with you. A story that made you feel. A story that took you on an adventure or had you sitting on the edge of your seat. A story that made you cry or laugh . . . or think.

These types of stories have it. They have the key to making a story work.

So, how do you go about creating a stirring story?

Here are 5 top tips to writing a fiction story that works:

1. It’s got to have conflict.

All writers have heard this and the reason is because it’s true.

Your protagonist MUST be striving for something, and it should be something significant. She needs to have obstacles in her way that she has to overcome in order for the reader to be engaged enough to turn the page.

The reader has to be pulled into the story wondering if, and more so hoping that, the protagonist reaches her goal.

You wouldn’t have much of a story following a couple in an amusement park going from ride to ride, waiting on line for food, and so on. There’s nothing for the reader to get involved with. There’s no emotional element.

Or, what if a great writer puts two children in a story that takes place at the Bronx Zoo. The narrator describes in detail all the exhibits they visit and does it wonderfully. But, what does the reader have to sink her teeth into. Nothing.

One of my all-time favorite movies was Thelma and Louise. The conflict was never-ending. And, it was the conflict that keep you on the edge of your seat.

How would they get out of the mess they were in?!

That’s how you want your readers to feel. There needs to be conflict in order to make the reader feel. It doesn’t have to be ‘seat of your pants’ drama, but it needs to be significant. It can be external or internal, but it has to be something the reader can grab and hang on to. It has to make the reader get involved with the story and care about it.

2. The readers need to be invested in the story.

A good story brings the reader into the protagonist’s shoes. This is what will motivate the reader to like and root for the protagonist.

It’s all about making the reader ‘feel.’ The story has to evoke emotion on the reader’s part. The story has to have substance.

Going back to Thelma and Louise, one wrong decision spiraled out of control into what seemed to them as a live or die situation.

Circumstances and choices took them bounding out-of-control, as if caught up in a tornado. This kind of story creates investment.

It evoked emotion in just about everyone who saw the movie. Everyone was rooting for the protagonists.

In an article, “Make Readers Deeply Connect to Your Characters,” the author calls this key factor, “transportation.” You’re bringing the reader out of their reality and into your story world. You’re transporting them.

Like Alice when she steps into the rabbit hole. Down, down, down she went into another world.

3. The characters have to act ‘real’ and be likeable.

Your characters need to be multifaceted. They need to behave like real people. This means they’ll have good traits, but they’ll also have some bad traits or weaknesses. It may be they’re indecisive. Or, at the beginning of the story they may be frightened of everything.

Your characters should make great decisions, but they should also make poor ones.

Along with this, your protagonist needs to be likeable. He needs to have traits that the reader will admire and connect to. It’s important that the reader likes the protagonist.

Maybe your protagonist will be honest, heroic, responsible, generous, or loyal.

You get the idea. These are characteristics that most people admire in others. They’re characteristics that will draw the reader in.

I forgot what movie it was and I forgot the exact details, but basically the protagonist was sitting in a diner across from her date. Another woman, elegantly dressed, walked passed with toilet paper stuck to the bottom of her shoe. The toilet paper woman was heading to a table where a man was waiting for her.

The protagonist excused herself for a moment. She got up and removed the paper from the woman’s foot by walking behind her and stepping on the paper. Then she sat back down and returned to her conversation.

The woman that passed by never knew the kindness the protagonist showed her. And, the protagonist didn’t mention what she did to her date.

This one simple act of kindness spoke volumes about the character of the protagonist. She’s the type of person you’d admire and like to be friends with.

4. The protagonist needs to have some heroic qualities.

At some point in the story, the protagonist needs to step up. This can be in several small incidents that she overcomes throughout the story. Or, it can be in one climatic incident that wraps the story up.

In general, and especially in children’s stories, the protagonist needs to take action and reach her goal.

It may be after one or two or three failures, but ultimately, the protagonist must step up. Whether it’s physical or emotional, whether internal or external, she needs to fight through all obstacles that stand in her way.

Readers want a purposeful story. They want and even expect the protagonist to be victorious. Don’t let your readers down.

5. Tie-up all loose ends.

When you’re getting to the end of your story, make sure all loose ends are tied up. Any tidbits of information you put out there must be resolved.

You want the reader to go away satisfied. You don’t want her wondering why something was mentioned somewhere in the story and not resolved.

One example is mentioning that the protagonist’s close friend lost his dog. Then there’s no mention of it. Was the dog found?

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE DOG?

Another example is in a middle-grade manuscript I just read. The author had the friend of the protagonist saying he couldn’t go to the protagonist’s special event because he had something URGENT to do that day.

Afterward there was no mention of the urgent matter.

This is a NO-NO. What was so urgent? Why was it mentioned, if it wasn’t followed up with?

As I read the manuscript I knew that part would either have to be addressed (tied-up) or eliminated.

These loose-ends are things that will gnaw at the reader. They will leave the end feeling like something is missing. Again, this is a NO-NO.

So, there you have it.

While there is more involved in writing good fiction, these five are at the top of the ‘good fiction story’ list.

Sources:
Connect Characters
https://www.cs.indiana.edu/metastuff/wonder/ch1.html (Sorry, this link is no longer working)

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Sep 17

Secondary Characters – Are They Important?

Writing Fiction Before I get into whether secondary characters are important or not, what is a secondary character?

A secondary character is any character in the story aside from the protagonist (main character) and the antagonist (villain or force in opposition to the protagonist).

Just a side note here, an antagonist doesn’t have to be a character. It can be an internal emotional or mental problem. Or, it can be an external force, such as a category 4 hurricane that the protagonist must prepare for or fight to survive.

It’s important to mention also that there are two categories or ‘subclasses’ of secondary characters:

1. The supporting character.

A supporting character is a substantial part of your story. She or he is part of the protagonist’s life and is usually there throughout the story helping move the story forward.

An example of this is Chen from “Walking Through Walls”. Wang is the protagonist and Chen is his best friend. Wang bounces many of his problems off Chen and Chen advises him. Chen is the voice of reason and calm while Wang ‘wants what he wants’ and is impatient.

This friendship is an essential part of the story. It’s part of what makes Wang choose one course of action over another in the end.

Sometimes supporting characters can have their own subplot. Using “Walking Through Walls” again, Chen was chosen by his village to become an Eternal apprentice. His village was invaded by neighboring warriors and his younger sister was abducted.

Supporting characters can be a catalyst for the direction the story takes.

Chen’s backstory also plays a part in the direction Wang takes in his character arc.

Along with this, supporting characters are essential to a book series.

Think of just about any series on TV (old or new): The Big Bang Theory; Superman; NCIS; Castle; The X-Files; even the MythBusters. You expect to see the supporting cast. You’d be disappointed if you didn’t.

2. The minor character.

A minor character is someone who may make a brief appearance in the story or is there in the background throughout. They give the story more authenticity and dimension. There will most likely be various minor characters throughout a book.

For example, in “Walking Through Walls” Wang and Chen are in an apprenticeship with other students. These students help create a dimensional world for the story. But, while they exist and are mentioned here and there, they aren’t essential to the story.

A great example of a minor character is the taxi driver, Sylvester, from the 1947 movie, “The Bishop’s Wife”. Sylvester was only in a couple of scenes, but he was memorable while adding nothing more than humor to those particular scenes.

Summing it Up

Getting back to the title question of whether supporting characters are important to stories, they are. They are an essential part of every story.

Sources:
http://iml.jou.ufl.edu/projects/fall10/kane_amanda/character_types.htm
http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/how-to-write-effective-supporting-characters
http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/what-is-a-minor-character-understanding-the-minor-characters-role

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6 Tips to What Makes a Good Story

7 writing elements to writing a good storyContributed by Aaron Shepard

Good writers often break rules—but they know they’re doing it! Here are some good rules to know.

Theme

A theme is something important the story tries to tell us—something that might help us in our own lives. Not every story has a theme, but it’s best if it does.

Don’t get too preachy. Let the theme grow out of the story, so readers feel they’ve learned it for themselves. You shouldn’t have to say what the moral is.

Plot

Plot is most often about a conflict or struggle that the main character goes through. The conflict can be with another character, or with the way things are, or with something inside the character, like needs or feelings.

The main character should win or lose at least partly on their own, and not just be rescued by someone or something else. Most often, the character learns or grows as they try to solve their problem. What the character learns is the theme.

The conflict should get more and more tense or exciting. The tension should reach a high point or “climax” near the end of the story, then ease off.

The basic steps of a plot are: conflict begins, things go right, things go WRONG, final victory (or defeat), and wrap-up. The right-wrong steps can repeat.

A novel can have several conflicts, but a short story should have only one.

Story Structure

At the beginning, jump right into the action. At the end, wind up the story quickly.

Decide about writing the story either in “first person” or in “third person.” Third-person pronouns are “he,” “she,” and “it”—so writing in third person means telling a story as if it’s all about other people. The first-person pronoun is “I”—so writing in first person means telling a story as if it happened to you.

Even if you write in third person, try to tell the story through the eyes of just one character—most likely the main character. Don’t tell anything that the character wouldn’t know. This is called “point of view.” If you must tell something else, create a whole separate section with the point of view of another character.

Decide about writing either in “present tense” or in “past tense.” Writing in past tense means writing as if the story already happened. That is how most stories are written. Writing in present tense means writing as if the story is happening right now. Stick to one tense or the other!

Characters

Before you start writing, know your characters well.

Your main character should be someone readers can feel something in common with, or at least care about.

You don’t have to describe a character completely. It’s enough to say one or two things about how a character looks or moves or speaks.

A main character should have at least one flaw or weakness. Perfect characters are not very interesting. They’re also harder to feel something in common with or care about. And they don’t have anything to learn. In the same way, there should be at least one thing good about a “bad guy.”

Setting

Set your story in a place and time that will be interesting or familiar.

Style and Tone

Use language that feels right for your story.

Wherever you can, use actions and speech to let readers know what’s happening. Show, don’t tell.

Give speech in direct quotes like “Go away!” instead of indirect quotes like “She told him to go away.”

You don’t have to write fancy to write well. It almost never hurts to use simple words and simple sentences. That way, your writing is easy to read and understand.

Always use the best possible word—the one that is closest to your meaning, sounds best, and creates the clearest image. If you can’t think of the right one, use a thesaurus.

Carefully check each word, phrase, sentence, and paragraph. Is it the best you can write? Is it in the right place? Do you need it at all? If not, take it out!

The strongest children’s stories have well-developed themes, engaging plots, suitable structure, memorable characters, well-chosen settings, and attractive style. For best results, build strength in all areas.

Originally published at:
http://www.aaronshep.com/youngauthor/elements.html

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