Blogger Backgrounds

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Synopsis worksheet available

Don't have a synopsis written? You can purchase and download my Synopsis writing worksheet, which will guide you through writing your synopsis.

The worksheet exercises will ensure that your synopsis has all the vital elements, including character external goal, internal/spiritual arc, obstacles/conflict, climax, resolution. This is the same information that I teach in my Synopsis writing class.

10/2014: Update: I am in the process of updating and formatting these worksheets to have them available on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and iBooks! If you bought them before and would like the updated versions, please email me at storysensei@gmail.com with the email address you used when you bought the worksheet (so I can find your order) and I will be happy to email you an .epub or .mobi file of the updated worksheet(s) you bought when they're available. If you would like to be notified when my worksheets will be available as ebook versions, just subscribe to my Story Sensei blog using the Feedblitz form on the right side.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Your own limitations may influence your writing

I’m listening to a workshop given by Christopher Vogler and Michael Hague, and an interesting thing Christopher Vogler mentioned is that often, a writer’s own psychological and social limitations will come out in their writing.

If a writer personally doesn’t like women, he can’t write believable women characters in his fiction. If a writer doesn’t have good conversation skills, their dialogue ends up being stilted and unnatural. If a writer tends to be a people-pleaser and only wants everyone to get along, their characters will have very little interpersonal conflict.

This is a difficult thing for writers to work on, because there’s often deep-seated psychological or social roots that form the basis of their own limitations, and let’s face it, no one wants to dredge up their own personal pain.

However, if you’ve begun to see trends of what your critique partners or contest judges or editors say about your writing, take a long look at yourself. Is there perhaps something within yourself that is limiting your writing in some way?

I am a Christian, so what I do is pray and ask God to speak to me about things I need to work on, and for strength to help me face things that are painful. Right now, I’m dealing with forgiveness issues and noticing my characters are a bit bitter and unlikable. Go figure. LOL

Seriously, this might be something significant for you. Look at your own limitations and see if they might be impacting your writing.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Article by Shirley Jump on Show/Tell

Shirley Jump guest blogged on Seekerville Wednesday with some terrific examples of showing versus telling. Go check it out!

Shirley Jump at Seekerville

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Show versus Tell, example thirteen

(Don't forget to comment on my online class idea.)

From contest entries and critiques that I’ve done, I’ve noticed that often people don’t quite understand what exactly is “showing” and what exactly is “telling.” So, I’m doing this series to give numerous examples so that you can see for yourself the various kinds of “telling” that can occur in your own manuscript, and suggestions for fixing it.

Adelaide found the housekeeper, Mrs. Long, in the kitchen. Adelaide was able to relax around her because Mrs. Long knew she was the mistress’s niece, and she had assured Adelaide she wouldn’t tell a soul.


The boldface is all telling.

There are two types of telling here:

(1) When you write the deep point of view of a character, she wouldn’t think to herself, “I’ll go find the housekeeper, Mrs. Long.” She’d either look for “the housekeeper” or look for “Mrs. Long.” The additional modifiers are purely for the reader’s info, which is telling.

This is an easy fix. Use “the housekeeper” and “Mrs. Long” in the same paragraph, to make it obvious to the reader that the housekeeper is Mrs. Long. Your reader can figure out things better than you think. You don’t need extra modifiers to make sure the reader knows some piece of information.

(2) The second sentence in boldface is telling the reader information about Adelaide and Mrs. Long. It’s also recapping an event that happened earlier.

The essential aspects of the information can be more dynamically shown in dialogue instead:

Adelaide found the housekeeper in the kitchen. “Do you need help, Mrs. Long?”

The woman jumped, and a fountain of peas erupted from the colander. “Mercy, you scared me, Miss Adelaide.”

“Just Adelaide. No one else knows.” She playfully nudged Mrs. Long aside, picked up a pea pod, and began to shuck.

Mrs. Long turned back to grumble at her peas, “’Tain’t right for you to help me.”

“Maids are supposed to help the housekeeper.”

“Maids aren’t supposed to be nieces to the mistress.”


This dialogue is just more fun to read than a paragraph of narrative. It also shows the relationship between the two women with more color and vibrancy.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Dialogue punctuation

Remember that you can say a line of dialogue, but you can’t chuckle, walk, laugh, look, or caress a line of dialogue. You can only speak it.

For example:

“You look wonderful,” he caressed her shoulder. (wrong)

“You look wonderful.He caressed her shoulder. (right)

Note the period instead of the comma after “wonderful” and the capitalized H in He in the correct version.

“You look wonderful,” he chuckled. (wrong)
“You look wonderful.He chuckled. (right)

You cannot chuckle and speak at the same time.

However, you can:

“You look wonderful,” he said. (right)
“You look wonderful,” he moaned. (right)
“You look wonderful,” he wheezed. (right)
“You look wonderful,” he spat. (right)

“You look wonderful,” he walked across the room to her. (wrong)
“You look wonderful,” he said as he walked across the room to her. (right)
“You look wonderful.He walked across the room to her. (right)

You cannot “walk” a line of dialogue.

“You look wonderful,” he looked in her eyes. (wrong)
“You look wonderful,” he said as he looked in her eyes. (right)
“You look wonderful.He looked in her eyes. (right)
His eyes said, “You look wonderful,” while his mouth said, “You’re ugly.” (right)
He gave her a look that told her she looked wonderful. (right)

You cannot “look” a line of dialogue, although you can “look” to convey an idea or emotion.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Repeated words and phrases

(Don't forget to comment on my online class idea.)

I just found this great resource called AutoCrit. It analyzes your writing to catch words and phrases repeated and overused in your manuscript.

From the contest judging and freelance editing jobs I have done, I know that other writers as well as myself have a tendency to repeat words and/or phrases, not just our “hot words.”

For example, “pop” is not a word I use often, but I might write something like:

I went to the local mom and pop grocery to grab a soda pop, and then I popped out of town.

The free version is very limited and will only catch overused words, repeated phrases, and sentence variation. You can also only submit 800 words 5 times in one day.

The paid versions offer more, included repeated words (which would catch the “pop” above), dialogue tags, first words, and names and pronouns.

The free version itself is amazing. The cost for the lowest level of membership isn’t bad, just $20 for one year, and it analyzes the things that I have the most problems with—pronouns, repeated words, and first words.

Check it out for yourself. Even just using the free version once a day will help you with your writing.

(disclaimer: I don't get any cutbacks or kudos from Autocrit, I just think it's a great resource.)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

New fiction line at Abingdon Press

Brandilyn Collins posted about the opening of a new fiction line at Abingdon Press. I've met the Senior Acquisitions Editor, Barbara Scott, and she's both talented and personable. She has a terrific reputation and I would jump at a chance to work with her.

New Fiction Line

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Susan Meier and the 10-minute solution

I read Susan Meier's 10-Minute Solution several years ago and was struck with how logical and effective it was. Susan was at Seekerville on Monday talking about her 10-minute solution. This is a MUST for any busy writer to check out!

Monday, July 14, 2008

An organizational tool: batch processing

(Don't forget to comment on my online class idea.)

I really liked this blog post by ProBlogger about how he uses a techy “batch processing” concept to organize his day and be more efficient. I think this can really apply to writers because we deal with similar things—writing our manuscripts, checking emails, keeping up with email loops, blogging (some of us), reading writing books and/or articles (something each writer should be doing on a regular basis), listening to writing MP3 workshops (if you can afford it). Check out the article and let me know what you think:

How Batch Processing Made Me 10 Times More Productive

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

A Seekerville post on backstory

I posted on Seekerville a few weeks ago on backstory (spotting it and how to fix it), but didn't post it at the time because I didn't want to interrupt my Show/Tell example series. So here it is:

Backstory

Monday, July 07, 2008

Show versus Tell--when to tell, example four

One reason that people give for “telling” is one that I don’t like, although some of you might not agree with me. Some people use “telling” because they say they don’t have the word count for “showing.”

For example, many category books are shorter, and some authors say they have to tell in order to make the book hit their lower word count.

I don’t agree (but some of you might not feel the same way). While it’s true that showing often has a larger word count, there are more creative ways to show that will match the word count of a section of telling.

Also, a lot of times, the story doesn’t need that section of telling at all. I’ve seen many manuscripts with telling where the information isn’t necessary for the reader to understand and enjoy the story.

Or maybe the information can be snuck with in a phrase or sentence later in the manuscript where it's more pertinent to the current action.

My suggestion is that before you decide to “tell” something, ask yourself or your crit partners if the information imparted is absolutely vital to the story, especially at that moment. You may discover that you don’t absolutely need it. If you don’t need it, cut it. Make your word count with vibrant prose rather than prose with lots of telling.

If an editor later asks you add in more telling, that’s infinitely better than being rejected because your prose is too bland with too much telling.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Show versus Tell--when to tell, example three

Sometimes you want to deliberately distance the reader from the character or action. It might be a decision you make based on pacing or emotional flow or simply word and sentence cadence. In that case, go ahead and tell. But make sure you have a good reason in your own mind for telling.

Why hadn’t he asked her for her phone number? (showing)


versus

She wondered why he hadn’t asked her for her phone number. (telling) No, she didn’t want to think about it. Too painful.


In the first example, the question is very blunt and emotional.

In the second example, I chose to keep the reader distanced from the emotion because the character herself is trying to distance herself from the emotion. The telling achieves the same sort of emotional distance or denial that the character is going through.

So, if you have a reason for telling, go for it. Sometimes it’s more effective.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Show versus Tell--when to tell, example two

Another reason is if the action isn’t emotionally important. The reader doesn’t need to read detail if it’s not important for the story.

For example, the reader doesn’t need to read every step as Joe walks into his bathroom, brushes his teeth, combs his hair, shaves, etc. “Joe got ready for work” is sufficient.

Another example is when a character is telling another character what happened to him. Since we as the reader already know all the events he’s relating, we don’t need to read his dialogue telling his friend.

Jason Bourne related everything to other agent as he tied him up and set the house to blow up.


In the example above, we also didn’t need to follow all of Bourne’s actions as he rigged the house, because it’s not emotionally important.

However, what if the agent has information to impart while Bourne is telling the agent what happened to him? What if the agent can explain why so-and-so shot at Bourne, why such-and-such agency never existed, etc.?

In that case, show the complete dialogue between Bourne and the agent, because the information the agent gives him will cause an emotional reaction in Bourne and influence his decisions about what to do next.

Therefore, if the actions aren’t emotionally significant to the story or plot, telling is preferred. But if there will be emotionally relevant information, then go ahead and show it.
Related Posts with Thumbnails