Tag Archives: storytelling

Never Do What They Want

TGIF! Casey here.

This is a continuation of last week’s topic – When in Doubt Throw in a Flying Monkey or Three. I guess I have monkeys on the brain. Or it could be that I’m in the next phase of editing – clean-up!

And it got me thinking of some very excellent writing advice from Orson Scott Card (and I’m paraphrasing here) – never take the reader where they want to go.

At least not until the very end.

What a wicked web we weave.
What a wicked web we weave. . . .

As a writer, I like the way that rolls off the tongue. It makes the Author Goddess inside of me delirious with happiness. It means I have the freedom to do what’s necessary to my characters (like send in the flying monkeys).

And readers love it too. Doing the unexpected is what keeps the reader turning the pages. That’s why many chapters end on hooks or with uncertainty. Just when you think the hero or heroine has found happiness, a sudden wrench in the plot sends them into disarray.

Deliciously evil if you ask me. Wonderful too! So how do you accomplish those twists and turns?

1. Be receptive to wild ideas. I’m a plotter, but, I’m always ready to write something crazy (like the flying monkeys). I have also found this comes with practice. The more stories you finish, the more willing your mind becomes.

2. Trust your characters. They can help you find those twists and turns. Again, even plotters can do this by letting them off the leash once in a while.

3. Be mean to your characters. If they are cruising along, getting what they want all the time, that is a huge red flag. Remember, like the readers, they don’t get to go from point A to point B. They have to get lost. A lot!

4. Never end a chapter at a natural break. Think back to television shows – end with a Yarntwist. The old advice: don’t end a chapter with a character going to sleep is true. The reader might stop and not pick your book back up again.

5. Follow through. Don’t forget to eventually tie up all loose ends. So, it’s fine to dangle the reader from the edge of a cliff or leave them with an intriguing puzzle, but by the story’s end you’d better tie it in a bow. Either solve the mystery, provide that happily ever after or create suspense for the next book (if there is one) or your reader will walk!

These are just a few ideas. What are your favorite ways to ensure the reader keeps turning those pages?


So What’s Your Story? by Katy Lee

You have one, you know. A story. We all do. But so few are willing to share, or if you’re anything like me, maybe you have to learn how to “tell” your story.

I’ll be the first to admit that telling my story can end up sounding like a broken record. I find myself repeating the same sentence to people twice—or more, because I’m not sure of what to say or how to get from Point A to Point B.

Speaking is so much harder than writing for me, where I can take all the time in the world to choose my words carefully and perfect their impact through rewrites. Or in other words, practice. But as my daughter says, not just practice. Perfect practice. (You have to know what you’re doing, so you’re not practicing it wrong. Unlearning something is harder than learning the correct way from the beginning. And it saves you a lot of time.)

So let me give you the formula so you can get started practicing your story the right way the first time. It you’re a writer then it’s really nothing you haven’t heard before. In fact, the formula for telling a story follows the same rules you would follow when writing a story.

•What’s the conflict?

•Who’s the hero?

•Where is the suspense?

•How will the conflict resolve?

•What’s the point?

•Why does it matter to me?

Just think of how people would hang on your every word if you introduced your story in this format instead of stuttering your way through, or as in my case, repeating whole sentences. If it doesn’t look as though you have a point to make because you’ve been droning on for 20 minutes with no point in sight, then you’ve lost your listener.

And that could be bad.

Perhaps you are on a job interview and you’re asked to describe a past experience and how you handled it. If you know your formula for telling a good story, you just might get that job. Especially if you can convey that all seemed lost before you saved the day.

Regardless of who you are speaking with, people want to know how your life experiences have shaped you. They want to know if they can relate to you and are looking for areas to try to connect. Plus, you never know where telling your story can help another person deal with something similar going on in their life. Not getting your story out well could mean a lost opportunity to help another person.

Holding back your story could also mean hindering healing in your own life.

The Unlocked Secret: Telling your story helps you make sense of your life — why certain events happened the way they did. You can examine what has happened to and through you. It will help you make sense of who you are and can lead to a greater confidence and understanding of self.

So take the time to learn your story. Be ready to share for when someone asks you, “So what’s your story?”

Question: Can you tell your story in three sentences or less? Practice it, and feel free to share. I really want to hear it. Really I do.

Amazing Opportunity: Women of Faith holds a writing contest every year. They want to know your story. The winner gets a publishing contract. Check it out here.

And thank you for your TWEETS and Shares!

Reading – A Love Story

I was a reader before I was a writer.

A ravenous reader.

Growing up,  I read on the beach, in the car, on hot, summer nights, in between classes, rainy days, before bed, when I woke up. Basically, anywhere I could.  Of course, I also remember my mother yelling at me to leave the house and go play outside which I steadfastly resisted as long as I had a book to read!

Many of those books are still on my shelves. Old friends that I will not be parted with, be it my first stories (fairy tales, poems by Robert Louis Stevenson), right down to the books I had in college (The Mists of Avalon, anyone?).

I have yet to meet a writer who is not an avid reader. Those of us who create stories love to read them.

At a recent RWA chapter meeting, a spirited debate took place over George R.R, Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice Saga.  One person was afflicted with the fever to read them all –  for days – to the point that if that person didn’t get the books on audio, they may never have left the house.

Before you think, how sad, I say to you – Harry Potter. I sat in the same chair for six hours reading Book Seven. When my family wanted to go out to eat, I argued – “I can’t leave the house. What if I die in an accident? I’ll never know how it ends.” They heartlessly dragged me away, bleary-eyed and petulant.

Ahh . . . good times.

Many years ago, I had a co-worker ask me how she could improve her writing. My answer was an immediate, “Read. A lot.”

Sounds like a no brainer. And it really is. Instinctively, we all know a good story. We’ ve experienced them for years and years.  It’s only when we start actually writing and listening to the English Teacher in our brains do we run into trouble.

One thing us writers need to remember is that reading is a linear experience for the reader. The reader takes the story, starts on page 1 and, hopefully, keeps turning those pages until they hit The End. The average reader decides on how much they like a book based on the experience they had reading it. Did they laugh or cry? Were they scared or sucked into the adventure? My beta readers are not writers for that reason. They give me reader feedback. Like things that pulled them out of the story or left them hanging. The bits they loved.

Unless you’re a book critic, overly critical or a writer (yes, we are the worst critics), the average reader doesn’t think about head hopping, repeated words (unless there’s a flagrant violation) or what you had to go through to get those words on the page.

They want to go on a journey. Experience an adventure. Be enlightened. Have a good or thoughtful time.

Let’s not disappoint them by forgetting that we want others to share our trip. Love reading and good writing will follow.

See, here’s a happy reader!