May 23

Your Story Beginning

With all the information online about writing, I still get clients who start their stories with backstory, boring introductions, or with a number of characters leaving the reader in the dark as to who the protagonist is.

The beginning of your story, whether a picture book, chapter book, or middle-grade, is to provide the reader with some key information.

  1. The story should start with the protagonist.

You need to quickly establish a connection between the reader and the protagonist.

The reader needs to know at the beginning who’s taking them on the journey, who’s point-of-view they’re being privy to.

  1. Keep the beginning in the present.

Starting the story with something like:

Alicia looked at herself in the mirror as she thought about her life before. She was a hair stylist in a high-end establishment and loved her job. That is until her boss took on a partner. Things went downhill from there. Having to quit, it took her six-months to find another job. And that job was in a low-end place she swore she’d never work at.

The opening paragraph above is considered information dump. It’s there solely to let the reader know the protagonist’s past.

While some of the information may be important to the story, it shouldn’t be dumped in the beginning.

Instead, you might start it like:

“Hey, Alicia,” called Juan. “Your 3 o’clock is here. I’m sending her back.”

Alicia looked at herself in the mirror. How did this happen? What am I doing in this dead-end job?

This brings us to number three.

  1. Start your story with action.

The latter scene in number two is action related, but it doesn’t have to start with dialogue.

You might have the protagonist angry with his best friend.

Josh stood with his arms folded and his eyes narrowed as he watched Branden talking to Mia. What’s he doing talking to her? He knows I like her.

OR …

Josh stood with his arms folded and his eyes narrowed. “I saw you talking to Mia. You know I like her.”

Branden shrugged. “It’s no big deal.”

Josh got even more angry.

OR …

Max looked at the rock-climbing wall. Man, it’s high. His body tensed as he put his foot on the first rock that jutted out. He looked at the crowd that gathered in the gym to watch him. Why’d I accept this stupid challenge?

OR …

Wang tied the last bundle of wheat and hurled it into the cart. He wiped the back of his neck then pulled the cart up the hill. Looking back at his father, who leaned on his shovel, hunched over, Wang mumbled, “This is not the life for me.”

The action doesn’t have to be life or death, but it needs to let the reader get an idea of know who the protagonist is. It should give the reader something to latch onto.

Editor Mary Kole of Good Story Company said, “the underpinning of action is conflict.”

In the first and second scenarios, Josh is having a problem with his friend.

In the third scenario, Max is afraid. Maybe he’s afraid of failing, or afraid of being made fun of if he can’t climb the wall.

In the fourth scenario, Wang doesn’t want a fate like his father’s. He doesn’t want the back-breaking work and sweat of tending the wheat fields.

These are just one paragraph examples, but they should give you an idea of how to create effective beginnings for your stories.

Just remember that your story beginning should make the reader want to know what’s going on. It should motivate him turn the page.

NEED HELP WITH YOUR STORY?

Whether you need help with ghostwriting, rewriting, or coaching, let me take a look at 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 and marketable story today!

Or, if you’d rather give it a shot and do-it-yourself, check out my book, HOW TO WRITE A CHILDREN’S FICTION BOOK.

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Oct 20

Your Story Should Be Like a Roller Coaster

Writing and a Roller Coaster

I’ve noticed that people who want to write a story, but are new to the arena, don’t understand what makes a good story.

I’ve seen lots of drafts that are cute, but they have no story arc. They’re a series of related events or incidents … they’re not a full story.

Another thing, sometimes along with these story ideas that don’t have a story arc, a lot of new authors don’t want to make their characters real, especially the protagonist.

A story and its characters should be like a roller coaster, not a carousel.

First let’s touch on what makes a full story arc.

The very first thing is your protagonist needs a big problem. Something he needs to overcome.

Here are a couple of examples of a problem that needs to be overcome:

  • Maybe Rafael is being bullied at school.
  • Maybe Sophia just got a new bike and was told not to leave it alone anywhere. She leaves it unattended at the park and it’s stolen.
  • Maybe Rick is the kid who no one chooses for their team and he’s getting very upset about it.

After the problem has been established, the main character (MC) needs to try to figure out how to overcome the problem.

But the problem can’t be overcome in one attempt. The protagonist needs to struggle to reach the goal. He needs to try a couple of things before he finally comes up with a plan that leads to success.

Along with the MC succeeding, there must be some kind of growth.

  • Maybe, he learns he’s not the person he thought he was, like with Wang in Walking Through Walls.
  • Maybe she learns compassion.
  • Maybe he learns that winning isn’t everything.

When thinking of a story arc, think of a triangle.

The story pyramid
  1. At the bottom of the left side is the introduction. The reader learns about the MC.
  2. The trigger. The problem appears. It may be internal or external, but it needs to be addressed.
  3. The quest. The MC struggles to overcome the problem. The action is rising as is the conflict. The MC finds obstacles that must be overcome on her quest to find a solution.
  4. The climax. The MC has made a critical choice and is engaging in his final attempt. He’s chosen his path.

Think of a kid who’s about to steal for the first time. Will his conscience kick in and stop him or will he go through with it?

  1. The reversal. The MC plays out his choice. This is the beginning of change in the MC. The action declines as everything unfolds.
  2. The resolution. This is the reward or consequence of the critical choice and the climax, and it should change the status of the characters – in particular your protagonist.

So, you can see that having a series of related incidents does not lend itself to a true story, to a full story arc.

Next up, you’ve got to create real characters, ones that are believable.

I hear it all the time, my clients, new authors, want a fun, engaging story but doesn’t want their MC to have any bad traits.

In a children’s story, this means the young MC can’t yell. He can’t do anything bad. He doesn’t think bad thoughts.

What kid will be able to relate to a perfect MC.

Your characters need to be realistic, believable. Kids yell, kids can be mean, they can be selfish, they can be liars, and so on. They have good days and bad days.

If your MC isn’t believable, the reader won’t connect with him.

Characters need to have ups and downs, just like the story arc and just like a roller coaster.

Sources:

https://www.writersonthemove.com/2019/10/a-story-is-more-than-good-idea.html

https://www.dailywritingtips.com/how-to-structure-a-story-the-eight-point-arc/

Children's ghostwriter

Whether you need editing, rewriting, or ghostwriting, let me take a look at 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!

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How to Write Better Endings for Your Stories

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And, let’s connect: https://twitter.com/KarenCV
http://www.linkedin.com/in/karencioffiventrice

Feb 21

10 Rules for Writing Children’s Stories

Tips and tricks to children's writingI write for young children and I’ve also written marketing and health articles. Writing in multiple genres, I can tell you that writing for children can be much more challenging.

When writing for children, there are guidelines to keep in mind to help your story avoid the editor’s trash pile.

Here is a list of 10 rules to refer to when writing for young children (these rules pertain to traditional publishing and self-publishing):

1. This is probably the most important item: be sure that your story does not suggest dangerous or inappropriate behavior.

Example: The protagonist (main character) sneaks out of the house while his parents are sleeping.

This is a no-no!

2. Make sure your story has age appropriate words, dialogue, and action.

3. The protagonist should have an age appropriate problem or dilemma to solve at the beginning of the story, in the first paragraph if possible. Let the action/conflict rise. Then have the protagonist, through thought process and problem solving skills, solve it on his/her own. If an adult is involved, keep the input and help at a bare minimal.

Kid’s love action and problem solving!

4. The story should have a single point of view (POV). To write with a single point of view means that if your protagonist can’t see, hear, touch or feel it, it doesn’t exist.

Example: “Mary crossed her eyes behind Joe’s back.” If Joe is the protagonist this can’t happen because Joe wouldn’t be able to see it.

5. Sentence structure: Keep sentences short and as with all writing, keep adjectives and adverbs to a minimum. And, watch your punctuation and grammar.

6. Write your story by showing through action and dialogue rather than telling.

If you can’t seem to get the right words to show a scene, try using dialogue instead; it’s an easy alternative.

7. You also need to keep your writing tight. This means don’t say something with 10 words if you can do it with 5. Get rid of unnecessary words.

8. Watch the time frame for the story. Try to keep it within several hours or one day for very young children. For the older crowd (7-8) keep it short also, but the time frame can extend a week, a month, and depending on the storyline, you can probably get away with a school year. Just follow the current traditional publishing guidelines.

9. Along with the protagonist’s solution to the conflict, he/she should grow in some way as a result.

10. Use a thesaurus and book of similes. Finding just the right word or simile can make the difference between a good story and a great story.

Using these techniques will help you create effective children’s stories. Another important tool to use in your writing tool belt is joining a children’s writing critique group. No matter how long you’ve been writing, you can always use another set of eyes.

It you’re a beginning writer and unpublished, you should join a group that has published and unpublished members. Having published and experienced writers in the group will help you hone your craft.

Children's ghostwriter

Whether 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!

Or, if you’d rather give it a shot and do-it-yourself, check out my book, HOW TO WRITE A CHILDREN’S FICTION BOOK.

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