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Those Wascally Weasel Words


Those Wascally Weasel Words

 by Jan Drexler


Weasel words are the worst, aren’t they? The hardest part about them is that they sneak into our writing, and we don’t even see them when we read!

One culprit I struggle with in my writing are “thought” verbs. You know, “knew,” “wondered,” “realized,” “remembered,” “felt,” etc.

In preparing to write this post, I did a search for some of those verbs on my most recent book, The Sign of the Calico Quartz. I found a LOT of them!

Those Wascally Weasel Words

 
The word “knew” was in that manuscript thirty-four times. Some of those occurrences were in dialogue and I accept no responsibility for those – blame the characters! But the others? They could be changed to something stronger.


Let’s look at these sentences: 
By morning I was beginning to feel normal again and ready for a cup of Wil’s coffee. But as soon as I started down the stairs, I knew I was out of luck. No delicious rich coffee smell wafted from the kitchen.

How can I change that to get rid of those weasel words, “feel” and “knew?”

First, I need to change my mindset. I recently read in an essay that “Thinking is abstract. Knowing and believing are intangible. Your story will always be stronger if you just show the physical actions and details of your characters and allow your reader to do the thinking and knowing.” (Nuts and Bolts: “Thought” Verbs by Chuck Palahniuk)

Did you catch that? “…allow your reader…” When I use a verb like “knew,” I’m spoon-feeding my reader. And when I do that, what happens to that person’s experience? Where is the give and take between the reader and the author when the writing fails to demand that the reader take part in the conversation?

Those Wascally Weasel Words


Let’s take those sentences apart and rework them.

“By morning I was beginning to feel normal again and ready for a cup of Wil’s coffee.”

Emma is heading down the stairs on her way to the kitchen. She craves a cup of coffee. Not just any coffee, but the dark, rich, slightly bitter brew the chef makes every morning. Can I capture those thoughts of Emma’s and paint a picture for my readers?

I caught a glance of myself in the mirror as I left the room. My hair: combed. My clothes: not wrinkled or backwards. My smile: bright and chipper. As normal as could be. Except for one thing. Coffee.

Okay, I’m happy with that. I exchanged the word “feel” for narrative that invites the reader to use their imagination. What about the rest of the paragraph?

“But as soon as I started down the stairs, I knew I was out of luck. No delicious rich coffee smell wafted from the kitchen.”

On the top step I took a deep breath, anticipating the sweet aroma of Wil’s coffee. By the third step I could taste the rich notes of the slightly bitter brew. I pushed open the kitchen door, licking my lips as the dark liquid spilled into my cup, releasing its fragrance. I took a deep breath. And stopped. The kitchen was in shadows. No Wil. No breakfast cooking. I flicked my gaze to coffee maker in the corner. Unplugged. Cold. Empty.

Changing my writing in this way isn’t easy. In fact, it probably took me ten times as long to rewrite these sentences as it did to write them in the first place.

Because of that, this exercise isn’t for the first draft. This is the kind of rewriting to tackle during revisions. The first draft is to get the story down. The revision process is where you make your story sing.


Are you up for a challenge? Find a sentence in your own writing that needs to be revised. Then examine it word by word. Rewrite it as if you’re seeing it for the first time. Rewrite it as if you’re in your character’s head. Rewrite the action step by step. Then put it together in a way that induces your readers to see the actions or thoughts of your characters as if they’re experiencing it themselves.

That is the ultimate “show, don’t tell.”


Share your challenge with us! Did you rewrite a sentence from your own story? Post the before and after in the comments to be entered in the drawing for an e-book copy of The Sign of the Calico Quartz!

Those Wascally Weasel Words

Emma Blackwood’s favorite pastime is solving literary murder mysteries…until the body in her living room makes everything a little too real.
When Emma comes to the Black Hills to work at her Aunt Rose’s B&B, the Sweetbrier Inn, she is hoping for a quiet break from the corporate treadmill. But she hadn’t expected murder and intrigue to mar this peaceful setting.
As she wades through too many clues to identify the murderer, she soon finds that the culprit isn’t stopping at only one homicide and may even have placed Emma herself on the list of targets. With the help of her friend Becky, and a deputy sheriff who grudgingly lets them join in on the investigation, Emma tracks down the killer. But will it be in time to save the next victim?

Checklist for Entering Contests

 

Checklist for Entering Contests

Hey kids! Do you know what time it is?

It's contest time!

One thing almost all published authors have in common is that we got our feet wet in the publishing industry by entering contests. 

What does that mean? I believe that learning to navigate the writing contest world is great training for becoming a successful author!
Opportunities abound for entering contests! One reason for the timing of this post is because the deadline for ACFW's First Impressions Contest is THIS FRIDAY! OCTOBER 15th!

So this post is your head's up!

This is a rewrite of a post Pam Hillman did *way too many* years ago – but contest time is here again, so I thought it was time to bring Pam’s fabulous post out of the archives, dust it off, update it, and bring it out again!

So with Pam’s permission, here’s her updated post:

Checklist for Entering Contests
by Pam Hillman/Jan Drexler

My former boss always said that my attention to detail was what made me good at my job. And just for the record, I quit my former job a few years ago to write, work in the Christian publishing world, and manage the books on the family farm. It wasn't like I was fired from that day job! Just sayin' :)

So, this slightly OCD trait also comes in handy when preparing manuscripts to send out, whether to contests, agents, or editors. But if you’re not detail-oriented, not to worry. Here are some tips to help keep you on track.

Checklist for Entering Contests


Keep in mind that some of the tips below do not apply to all contests. This list of tips is to help you get in the habit of doing all the steps every time you enter a contest, so that you can whip out an entry in a matter of hours. If something doesn't apply, you just mark it off your list.

Once you’ve got the content of your manuscript and your synopsis polished to a shine and the deadline is approaching, then:

1) Review the big picture rules

a. Does your manuscript fit neatly into one of the categories?
 
b. Do you know who the finalist judges are?

c. Have you looked at a sample score sheet if available?

d. When is the deadline?

2) Review the rules specific to your manuscript and your synopsis

a. Check the margins

b. Check font and font size

c. Check to see if there is a title page. A lot of online contests have moved away from title pages, but it never hurts to check the rules, just in case.

d. Check header. What exactly does the contest require in the header? What does the contest forbid in the header (like your name or pseudonym)?

e. Double-check the contest's formatting rules. Do they have a formatting example? Check it out!  


3) There are few contests, agents, or editors that require you to mail in your entry but keep these things in mind in case you hit one of those.

a. Did you include enough books or copies of your manuscript? If books for a published contest, did you sign them?

b. Did you double-TRIPLE-check the mailing address?

c. Pay a bit extra for Delivery Confirmation. You'll be glad you did. 

d. And especially if you are mailing in your entry, you might want to print out the mailing address for one last check when you get to the post office. In your excitement, it’s much too easy to get to the post office and seal that sucker up, forgetting all about the return postage and/or your check.

Checklist for Entering Contests


Entering unpublished contests have changed a lot over the years as the bulk of them have gone online. On one hand, the process is much, much easier and cheaper, especially since you don't have to print or mail anything. Isn't that a blessing? Contests with 3-5 print copies of a 20-25 page manuscript added a chunk of change to someone's contest budget. Also, for you young whippersnappers, us oldies had to pay for printing, postage to mail our entries, and a SASE envelope with enough postage for the contest to return all our judged entries. I like online much better.

But online contests don't come without problems. Slow internet, incompatible software, corrupted files, and failure to confirm your entry or payment can knock you out of a contest.

Checklist for Entering Contests


A year or so before I sold, I found out about a contest that was low on inspirational entries, so with hours before the deadline, I entered two manuscripts. One went through fine, but for some reason the other one kept converting from 35 pages on my computer to 39 on the coordinator's computer. Same two computers and the same coordinator as the other manuscript, minutes apart. It was the weirdest thing I'd ever seen and neither of us could fix it. The coordinator bent over backwards to help, but in the end, I had to make a decision. In desperation, I chopped 5 pages off the end, and sent it in with 2 minutes to spare. The manuscript was within the page count at that point and wasn't disqualified. (It finaled and actually won the contest. Go figure...)

Once a contest lost my digital entry. Just literally lost it. I can't remember if they gave me a refund or if they had someone read for me. In the course of writing this post, I found another one that I'm still not sure I ever got the results on. Let it go! Let it go! It never bothered me anyway....

Always, always, always make sure you use an email address that you check regularly and especially check your email after the fact if you end up entering a contest with mere hours to spare. Contest coordinators are amazing at bending over backwards to let people fix issues, but in fairness to other entrants, once the deadline has passed, there's nothing they can do. Stay on top of your entry and don't be disqualified for something that could be prevented just by being aware of your email trail.

Generally when you enter a contest, you will receive at least two emails. Possibly more.

1) Payment confirmation. Most of the time, this email will come from PayPal as that's the go-to for most online payments these days. PayPal allows non-users to pay with a debit or credit card, but the email will still come from PayPal.
2) Entry confirmation receipt. This receipt will be from group/chapter hosting the contest OR the contest coordinator's private email, depending on the software the contest is using. It confirms that the contest coordinator received your entry. Again, generally speaking, #1 and #2 go hand in hand and are automated responses when you complete your entry. This email will usually let you know if you need to look for additional emails.
3) Additional emails might land in your inbox once contest coordinators have laid eyes on your manuscript pages and made sure they meet the guidelines.

By checking your email, you ensure that you've completed the process, sent in your manuscript and received payment. The best laid plans can go awry even after you do everything perfectly, hit submit, but then go off to celebrate your achievement... only to find out that there was a glitch with your PayPal account. 99% of the time, you will receive an email confirmation immediately from PayPal. If you have time to wait 24 hours, do so. If the deadline is looming, it wouldn't hurt to check on the status of your entry.

It never hurts to check and double check everything. You’ll feel better, your package will be neat and tidy, and the coordinator will be forever grateful.

Jan here – I’ll add one more thing to Pam’s great advice at this point. Don’t…please, just don’t…make sending in your contest submission the last item on your to-do list before you head out on a week-long break from the internet! If the contest coordinator needs to get in contact with you, you need to be reachable. (You wouldn’t believe how often that happens!)

Then you sit back and wait for the results...or...

better yet, write another book!!!

Checklist for Entering Contests



Jan here again - I mentioned the First Impressions contest above. You can find out all the details of that contest for newbie, pre-published authors HERE! And that deadline is THIS FRIDAY! 

Another ACFW contest for unpublished/pre-published authors is the Genesis. You have a little while to get ready for this contest, but you MUST have a completed manuscript to enter. The contest opens in early January 2022, and the deadline will be in March. Details for the 2021 contest are here.

And if you're itching to learn about more contests, be sure to sign up for Tina Radcliffe's newsletter. She scours the interwebs to bring us the details! Here's all the info you need: Inside Edition

So, let's talk contests!

Any contest war wounds? Lost submissions? You sent in your fee, but forgot to send in the manuscript/books? You sent in everything except your fee? You entered your manuscript in the least likely category that it could ever possibly final in? 'fess up! :)

Or are you brand new to contests? Would you...could you...take the plunge into the contest waters?

Just remember - contests are how many of the original Seekers sailed off Unpubbed Island!

   

Getting From Here To There: Transitions

 

Getting From Here To There:  Transitions

Hello Everyone, Winnie Griggs. I'm deep in the midst of working through copyedits so I hope you'll excuse me if I reprise a post I did here back in 2009. It was the first post I did for Seekerville, waaaay back before I became a regular blogger here.

Getting From Here To There:  Transitions


When writing your story, you don’t want to include a detailed account of every action taken by every character in your story, nor do you always want to unfold the story linearly.  Instead, a good writer will carefully select those scenes that are not only of interest but that also progress the plot in some way.  Which means, by necessity, gaps will occur: gaps in time, in movement from one location to another, in point of view, in scene focus. 

Transitions are those small but oh-so-important words or phrases that help guide your readers across these story gaps smoothly, while keeping them grounded in your story.  There are several techniques or devices you can utilize to do this effectively. 

Getting From Here To There:  Transitions

 

The Direct Method or ‘Clean Break’- Simply tell the reader what change has taken place:

Early the following Monday, ...  (Time change) 

Once he reached the parking garage....  (Location change)

 

Mood -  Use feelings, emotions, atmosphere to help convey the change:

As Stan pulled out of the company garage onto the congested highway, his hands clutched the wheel in a death grip and the cords in his neck tightened.  It would take forever to get out of this tangle of traffic...

Once the city was behind him, however, the tension drained away and he breezed down the open road that led to his summer cabin.    (Time and Location change)


The Five Senses - Use sound, sight, touch, taste and/or smell to bridge a story gap:

Getting From Here To There:  Transitions


Margie hummed as she applied an extra spray of her favorite cologne, enjoying the light floral scent. 

Andy’s nose started to twitch before Margie even entered the room.  Why did she insist on using that nasty flowery perfume that always made him sneeze? (POV change)

 

Cassie heard a distant grumble of thunder off to the east as she closed her book.  Maybe Allan was finally getting some of that rain he’d been hoping for.

Allan squinted through the windshield, looking for a safe place to pull over and wait out the violent storm.  This wasn’t what he’d had in mind when he’d prayed for a ‘bit of rain’.     (POV and location change)

 

An Event - Use an ongoing, recent or anticipated event to unify your scenes:

Hesitating for only a heartbeat, Lynda dropped the letter into the mail slot, determined to make the first move toward reconciliation.  When a week passed without a response, however, she began to wonder if contacting her grandfather had been such a wise move after all.  (Time change)

 

The near-crash triggered a memory, one she’d rather not dwell on.  But there it was, full blown and swooshing in like an avalanche.  That other crash had happened six years ago.  Her mom was driving her and her friends to the airport...  (Time change - flashback)

 

A Character (whether human or otherwise) - Use the mention of a character to guide us through a story shift:

Stacey pulled into her driveway on Friday afternoon, wondering how she’d let her sister talk her into dog-sitting their troublesome mutt for the weekend.  She really wasn’t big into the whole pet scene.  

But by Sunday evening,, Rufus had wormed his shaggy way right into her heart.  (Time change)

 

An Object - Use an object or activity to move from one scene to another without jarring the reader:

Roger halted mid-sentence as a baseball came crashing through the window.  Blast it all, he’d told Jimmy not to play ball in the yard.                 

He picked up the ball and marched to the door . Jimmy was going to pay to fix this, even if it meant he had to mow every yard in town to do it.  (Change in scene focus)

 

The Environment- Use weather, terrain, scenery, seasons to depict change:

Getting From Here To There:  Transitions

The autumn seemed long that year.  Perhaps it was because she was so homesick for the Ozarks, where nature painted the mountainsides with magnificent blazes of color.  Winter was easier, and by spring, the Texas gulf coast was beginning to feel, if not like home, at least less alien to her.  

(Time change - extended period)

 

 These are just a sampling.  There are, of course, other ways to handle transitions.  Just keep in mind - your main goal in using transitions is to keep your reader grounded and oriented in the who, what, where, and when of your story without their having to reread passages to figure it out. 

Any thoughts on this post? Can you think of other ways to smoothly handle transitions?  Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for your choice of any book from my backlist.

 

 

BACK TO BASICS: Editing to Match the Story

BACK TO BASICS: Editing to Match the Story

This is the kind of post we can all use at times.

Few authors pen a masterpiece.

Fewer yet pen a masterpiece with no need of edits.

But when you're a new writer, the questions of what to edit, how to edit and when to edit are totally legitimate. Because you don't know what you don't know.

So let's start with my way (which I stole from Margaret Daley because it made sense to me and she's a prolific author of great stories... and she worked full time for decades while writing, and I like that kind of tenacity.)

1. Start your story. Write a few chapters. Describe your characters, get to know them, figure them out. Get to a grabs-your-attention spot now that you know your hero/heroine/protagonists and/or antagonists...

And begin there. 

Yes, you heard me. Set aside those initial getting-to-know you chapters and drop your reader into the action. I know, it's not how you learned it in grammar school with Miss Brown, but trust me, guys and gals: Miss Brown won't be seeing this and you want that editor hooked, hooked, hooked. (That's if you're aiming for traditional publishing. If you're going indie, it is just as important to hook the reader the same way. If you don't, they can click out of your book in a heartbeat and be reading someone else's story... edits matter. Do not sell readers short... they don't like that and they will let you know it.)

So now you know where your story starts. You've gotten to know your characters. I'm a "Pantser", I do minimal prep for my story because I'd rather see it come alive daily, so I'm going to talk from that perspective, but friends, EDITS ARE EDITS.

They are needed.

Necessary.

And like chocolate ice cream, they are good for you because you need to learn/see/spot your own weaknesses.

2. Do you mess up timelines? 

Do a chart that tells when important things take place for backstory or historical segment for easy reference. Keep it open as you work.

3. Do you overuse body parts? I saw a reader complaining about so many "He sucked a breath through grated teeth" or something like that. 

Oft-used phrases become annoying in genre reading, mostly because they fit and they're easy.

But there is a problem with expression vs. simple expression and it's kind of like a really good dance... change the tempo, change the moves, change the angles, change the rhythm... and end on a good note! 

FINAL DANCE SCENE FROM DIRTY DANCING!!!!!!!!! SWOON! 

Those closing scenes, from black moment on, carried your emotions on a roller coaster ride of why nots and what ifs, and that's what great edits can do: They take your reader on that ride because that's what a great story does... (having just returned from an amusement park and roller coasters, I can attest to this!)

Expression vs. simple expression is often about timing. If you overuse either maneuver it sounds unnatural so I pick and choose where I'm going over-the-top with descriptors. And I often do that in dialogue because old ladies and young children often talk that way. Here's an example:

The sun set.

She didn't move. Didn't sigh. Didn't let one tear fall onto the over-washed farm shirt she'd been wearing all day.

It was over.

She knew it. Understood it. Had expected it, even, but now--

Reality had taken it's shot and struck out like Casey at the bat and she was left to pick up the pieces. Again.

BACK TO BASICS: Editing to Match the Story

Ruthy explanation: The setting of that scene makes the scant description come alive in the reader's mind. The starkness offers the picture without me using too many words. 

Here's a different sunset scene:

Layered brilliance lit the western sky with shocking tones of gold, peach, orange, pink and red bordered by a thin splash of green. So thin she almost didn't see it.

The green hugged the horizon like a summer stole before the brighter tones overtook its subtle grace, shrouding it from view. Or maybe they didn't blanket the green. Maybe the power of their glorious salute to day's end sucked it up like a sponge seeking water. Stone-gray wisps filtered eastward, like sashes on a little girl's dress. 

She didn't live for sunsets, but the woods surrounding her tiny home were thick enough to make them a rarity, so today's fiery show drew her in. She could live here if she made that choice. Here with the beauty, the opulence, the gorgeous home, the stately cliffs reaching down, down, down to the sandy beaches below. Here where her heart resided with his. With him. How she wished it were an option.

It wasn't. She knew that.

He didn't.

But as the warm glows of the sinking sun faded to obscure shadows of what had just been, her hopes sank with them. Not her resolve.

She knew her duty. Knew where she had to be.

Now she had to tell him. Tell Carrick. Make him understand. 

He wouldn't. Couldn't. He believed that love conquered all and what he couldn't conquer with love, he'd conquer with might and he'd proven that, time and again but this time...

She stood and brushed grains of sand from the folds of chiffon.

This time she had to face the demons of the past alone and she'd do it because she'd either succeed--

Or die, trying.

And she was okay with either scenario.

Edits aren't just about changing words, slicing and dicing, and strengthening your story's arc. Sometimes they're about making the scene fit the story, the moment, the emotion. If you mess with the emotion of the moment, the scene or the story by giving the readers too much or not enough, it feels wrong, and that's what your edits need to avoid: You don't want your story to feel "wrong"... 

I liken great storytelling to beats of music. When the music works for me it's because the tune and the lyrics and the harmony all feed the moment, making it come alive.

Zach Williams and Dolly Parton's duet on "There Was Jesus" is a perfect example of that... The fact that you can see their breath in the cold barn only adds to the pathos of the song.

There Was Jesus official video here...

As is her partnership with For King and Country on "God Only Knows" that added a layer of absolute pathos to a song that was already wonderful, lifting it to beyond wonderful status.

God Only Knows video with For King and Country and Dolly Parton here...

The two compilations have inspired a new series in my head, a beautiful series of second chances, rough times, bad choices and absolute deliverance, the kind only God can give because humans are so very narrow. 

When you edit, bleed emotion. Choose words with care, not abandon. And don't be afraid to do it again and again because getting it right isn't just your responsibility... it's your duty to the beauty of story.

BACK TO BASICS: Editing to Match the Story

Somewhat bossy and always opinionated, award-winning and bestselling author Ruth Logan Herne has over 60 novels and novellas in print with over 2,000,000 in sales so she's pretty sure she's smart but equally sure that she doesn't know everything about publishing and/or writing so that's why she loves chatting it up with aspiring authors and industry pros over here in Seekerville. Friend Ruthy on Facebook, visit her website ruthloganherne.com and email her at loganherne@gmail.com (where yes, she actually reads and answers her own email.... happily!) 

The Lingo of Storytelling

The Lingo of Storytelling

When I was a young child, just a few weeks before I entered Kindergarten, our family moved from Ohio to Michigan. Being the pest that I was, I was hanging out at our new neighbor’s house one day watching her work in her garden.

She asked me what foods I liked.

I said, “I like cherries, but I don’t like the seeds.”

“Seeds?” She paused in her digging. “You must be from the South. Here in the North, we call them pits.”

That was my first introduction to dialect and how the vocabulary we use depends on where we are and what we’re doing.

The Lingo of Storytelling


A few weeks ago, Mary Conealy brought us a post about the Lingo of Designed Pages – a brief vocabulary of the series of edits we authors enjoy as our stories travel from our computers to published books. You can read that post here: Designed Pages--the Lingo

Today, I’m bringing you a brief introduction to the vocabulary of writing stories. I’ve gleaned these often-used but seldom-defined words from questions posed by newbie writers. Some of these might be familiar to you, but some might not be.

Just for fun, see if you can come up with a definition before reading mine. Keep track of the times we agree, and then share your score in the comments!

1. Protagonist: As the main character in the story, the protagonist is the person that the story is about. Also called the Hero or the Heroine. A romance will have both.

2. Antagonist: The antagonist in the story is the character who is working against the protagonist. The bad guy. Of course, the antagonist doesn’t have to be a guy (think of Cruella D’Ville in 101 Dalmatians) or even a person. It can be a setting, the weather, or even the fallout from a bad decision the protagonist made in the past. The antagonist doesn’t even have to be “bad,” as long as he or she is working against the protagonist’s goals.

3. Secondary Character: This is any character who adds to the characters’ stories without insisting on telling their own. These are the parents, the neighbors, the sidekicks, the grandmotherly woman at church. Secondary characters round out your cast of characters and give your protagonist someone to talk to or to react to. They can also provide a much needed moment of comic relief in a tense scene.

4. Active Voice: This is a grammar term that means that the subject of the sentence is the one doing the action of the verb. Like this: “Sam ate the grasshopper.” The active voice is preferable for modern popular fiction since it tends to keep the reader involved in the action of the story.

5. Passive Voice: Another grammar term. In the passive voice, the subject of the sentence is the one having the action done to him. Like this: “The grasshopper was eaten by Sam.” Quite often, a passive voice sentence will have an understood agent, as in: “The grasshopper was eaten.” The passive voice is out of favor in popular fiction right now, so learn to identify the passive voice and to turn those sentences into active ones.

By the way, does it help to know that Sam is a dog? He'll eat anything that stays still long enough to go into his mouth!

The Lingo of Storytelling

 
6. In media res: This is a Latin term that used to be taught in composition and writing classes. It means “in the middle of things.” We quite often refer to the concept without using the Latin phrase – we all know to start our stories in the middle of the action, right?

7. Three-Act Structure: This is one way to structure a plot. There are others, but this is the one you see most often. It’s intuitive to both the author and the reader and easy to use. What are the three acts? 
The basics: 1, 2, 3. Beginning, Middle, End. 
Easy Peasy, Lemon Squeezy. 
Until someone adds in a “2A” and a “2B.” Then, if you’re like me, you start thinking in four acts instead of three… 
But the main point is that there is a structure to your writing that readers can follow.

8. Plot Points: This subject is big enough for its own book – and many authors have written books about Plot Points! But we’re only talking about vocabulary today.

Plot points are the more-or-less evenly spaced turning points within the structure of your story. Depending on the writer, you might have three plot points, or as many as sixteen. I work with five major plot points and two or three minor ones. Every author develops their own method and names for plot points, and some of the names you might hear are “inciting incident,” “call to adventure,” “moment of grace,” “black moment,” “final battle,” etc.

9. Synopsis: This is a summary of the completed story that tells potential agents, editors, and publishers what your story is about. The length varies depending on the guidelines of the entity you’re sending it to, but one thing never varies: always tell the complete story, including the surprise ending.

10. Back Cover Copy: This is a different kind of summary of your story. This is what you write to entice readers to open the book and start reading the story. It should have a great hook and never, ever, give away the ending of the story. I've included an example below in the description of today's giveaway!


This was just a beginning of the vocabulary we need to acquire during our steep learning curve of becoming an author. If you think of any that I missed, be sure to mention them in the comments!

And how did you do on our informal quiz? Let me know what your score was in the comment section, and you’ll be in the drawing for my newest audiobook release, Softly Blows the Bugle!

Don't forget to come "virtually" hungry - it's calving time in the Black Hills and the cowboys have been working all night. The virtual buffet has chuckwagon fare today: sourdough biscuits, strong coffee, steak, and eggs.



The Lingo of Storytelling

Welcome back to the Amish community at Weaver's Creek, where the bonds of family and faith bind up the brokenhearted.

When Elizabeth Kaufman received the news of her husband's death at the Battle of Vicksburg in 1863, she felt only relief. She determined that she would never be at the mercy of any man again, even if it meant not having a family of her own. Then along came Aaron Zook . . .

Despite the severity of his injuries, Aaron has resolved to move west and leave the pain of the past behind him. He never imagined that the Amish way of life his grandfather had rejected long ago would be so enticing. That, and a certain widow he can't get out of his mind.

Yet, even in a simple community, life has a way of getting complicated. Aaron soon finds that while he may have left the battlefield behind, there is another fight he must win--the one for the heart of the woman he loves.
  

 

Keep Your Promise


 by Jan Drexler 


We’ve all heard the advice to start your story with a good hook.

What’s a hook? A hook is your opening sentence or paragraph that catches the readers’ attention and makes them want to read to the end of the book.

We have many resources to help us craft a good hook, but today I want to discuss what happens when a hook goes wrong.

My husband and I enjoy watching movies in the evening. Lately we’ve been bingeing on old westerns from the 1950’s, and we’ve discovered some gems. Of course, there have been some duds, too.

For me, one of those duds was a Robert Mitchum film, The Man with the Gun.

Clicking on the picture will take you to the film. Before we go on, please watch the first 40 seconds. That’s right – ONLY the first 40 seconds. 


(If the link doesn't work, go to Youtube to watch it)

First of all, let’s get past the obvious: NEVER kill the dog in your story!

Okay, now on to the problem.

This is the hook. The bad guy, Ed Pinchot, rides into town and the first thing we see him do is to shoot a dog. Where can this character go from here?

I spent the rest of the movie wondering what Pinchot would do next. Would he rampage through town with his gang shooting up the place? Would he have a showdown with the good guy? Would he try to steal the good guy’s girl?

After all, the opening scene showed his cruelty. A bad guy’s story arc is a negative one, so his first scene should show his negative traits, and we can expect that things will only get worse from here.

But in this story, it doesn’t.

Yes, Pinchot shows up again, but he is consistently the weaker character in every scene he’s in. He doesn’t confront the good guy, we never see him rallying his troops, we never see him take any action at all.

I kept thinking – “But he’ll show up at the end. There will be a big shoot-out like the OK Corral. He’ll almost win, but in the end, Robert Mitchum's character will come out on top.”

I kept expecting it.

And it didn’t happen.

What did happen? Go back to the movie and fast forward to the 1:20 point and you’ll see.

Pinchot rides into town with his boss. The entire movie has been leading to this point. THIS is the big moment. Good vs. Evil. Bad guys vs. good guys.

In fact, we haven’t even seen Pinchot's boss, Dade Holman, until this point. He’s been a faceless threat through the whole story.

But when you watch the clip, you can see that this scene only lasts 90 seconds.

The film attempts to increase the tension throughout the movie, raising the stakes with the shadowy threat of Dade Holman always lurking in the shadows.

But when the final battle comes, it falls flat. No discussion between the characters, no flash of tension. Not even any real conflict.

Yes, I’m pretty sure I muttered bad things at the television through the whole movie. I really didn’t like it.

Why?

Because the storytellers (the writers and director) didn’t live up to the promise they had made to the viewers at the beginning of the movie.

That opening scene said, “This guy here? Watch him. He’s the bad guy, and he’s scary bad.”

The rest of the movie pretty much ignored him.



How does this relate to our writing? 



First of all, don’t promise something that you can't deliver.

That’s what happened in The Man with the Gun. The writers made a promise, but the rest of the story made it impossible to deliver on that promise. It would have been better if the bad guy didn’t shoot the dog, but only threatened to. Then his other appearances in the movie could build on that threat instead of falling short of the promise. 



Second, make your promise fit your character.

The bad guy, Ed Pinchot, was threatening, but he was like a dog barking at the end of a chain. Dade Holman controlled him, and he only went as far as his boss allowed him to.

In that opening scene, he acted on his own…but it was the only time in the movie that he did. 



Third, follow through on your promise.

In The Man with the Gun, the story fell flat because that beginning promise was never resolved.

What could have been done differently? Like I said earlier, the writers could have changed the promise to make it a threat rather than an action. Or they could have made his character’s actions escalate in violence until he finally killed someone. 




Anton Chekov once wrote, “If there is a gun hanging on the wall in the first act, it must fire in the last.”

That means that every element in a story must be necessary, and elements should not make “false promises” by never coming into play.

If you make a promise, follow through. 
-If Ebenezer Scrooge refuses to let Bob Cratchit put one more piece of coal on the fire in the first scene, he had better send Bob out to buy more coal at the end of the story. 
-If Will Turner shows himself to be a talented swordsman early on in the film, we had better see him using that blade in stunning ways by the end of the story. 
-If we see George Bailey risking his life to save his brother when they were children, you know we will witness his heroic actions to save his family, his business, and his town.




Another great example of  writers following through with their promise is the classic children’s book, The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack and Kurt Weise. In the first few pages we see Ping witnessing what happens to the last duck that marches across the wooden bridge to the boat in the evening. After a series of events, what happens at the end? Ping is the last duck. “SPANK came the spank on Ping’s back!”

When I read this story to preschoolers, it never fails to happen. Every child’s eyes widen when they realize that Ping is going to be the last duck to go over the little bridge. They understand the necessary ending because the author set up the situation – promised the ending – in such a clear way. 



Have you thought about the promise you’re making to your reader in your opening scene? Do you follow through with it?

And readers – think about some of the best books you’ve read. Go back and read the opening hook. Did the author follow through with their promises?




Jan Drexler has always been a "book girl" who still loves to spend time within the pages of her favorite books. She lives in the Black Hills of South Dakota with her dear husband of many years and their active, crazy dogs, Jack and Sam. You can learn more about Jan and her books on her website, www.JanDrexler.com.

 

 

 

 



Finding Your Voice

 

Finding Your Voice

There are several aspects of writing for publication that can be unbelievably frustrating. The waiting. The search for the right agent. The submission process. 

And then there's the nebulous feedback you get on your writing. 

Show don't tell. Resist the urge to explain. Your pacing is off. 

One of the most frustrating bits of feedback I received was "You need to find your voice." 

My voice? How do I find my voice when I thought I was using my voice to write all along?

What is 'voice' anyway? VOICE is your unique way of writing. It's your vocabulary, your sentence length, your style choices, your way of creating that are solely yours. Voice is how you tell the difference between Mary Connealy and Ruth Logan Herne's blog posts. It's how you tell the difference between Arthur Conan Doyle and Charlotte Bronte, between A. A. Milne and Stephen King.

You might be thinking, "That's ridiculous. No one would mistake the author of Winnie-the-Pooh and the author Cujo for one another."

You're right, because those authors developed their unique voices to be different from any other author out there.

Did you know that when most people begin to write fiction, especially if they begin writing in earnest as an adult, they often write in a style of the authors who have influenced them. It's a sort of homage to those writers.

For me, the first time I submitted a proposal to an editor, I received the feedback that my writing sounded like Violet Winspear. 

Violet Winspear was a British novelist who wrote for Mills & Boon during the 60s, 70s, and 80s. 

That editor wasn't far off, since one of my favorite authors of all time is Essie Summers, a New Zealand novelist who wrote for Mills & Boon during the 60s, 70s, 80s, and into the 90s. 

When I re-read my first efforts as a novelist, I see the similarities. I was writing in the style of a beloved author, not in my own writing voice.

So how does a writer move from copying an author who influenced them and begin writing their own voice?

1. Read Widely. Rather than focus on just your favorite authors, read widely. Don't bathe your mind in one style or genre, instead sample lots of styles and authors. It's fairly easy to find yourself copying one writer's style, but it's impossible to copy EVERY writer's style.

2. Write. Write Write Write Write Write. I cannot stress this enough. You learn and discover your own writing voice by using it! Write narrative, write dialogue, write description, write action, write, write, write!  As you write, you will flex those voice muscles, letting go of old habits and bents and establishing your particular way of writing. 

3. Edit your writing. Re-read your work. As you read, you'll think "Oh, I should put a line of dialogue about __________ in here." and in a couple of lines, you'll see that you did. Or "I need to drop a hint here as to what the heroine is thinking." and less than half a page later, you read that you have already done that. You will know your own voice as you read.

4. Set a test. Send a critique partner half a dozen writing samples they've never seen before (only one of them yours) and see if they can pick out the one that you wrote.  If they can, you have found your voice! 


Voice is both complicated and simple. But truthfully, you WILL discover your unique voice through writing, reading widely, and editing your work. You won't have found it, and then one day, you will. 

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Have you found your writing voice?

BONUS QUESTION OF THE DAY: What's the most FRUSTRATING piece of writing advice you've gotten? 

The Gentleman Spy has released! 
Finding Your Voice

He only wanted a duchess for a day--but she’s determined to make it a marriage for life

When his father and older brother suddenly pass away, the new Duke of Haverly is saddled with a title he never expected to bear. To thwart the plans of his scheming family, the duke impulsively marries a wallflower. After all, she’s meek and mild; it should be easy to sequester her in the country and get on with his life--as a secret agent for the Crown.

But his bride has other ideas. She’s determined to take her place not only as his duchess but as his wife. As a duchess, she can use her position to help the lowest of society--the women forced into prostitution because they have no skills or hope. Her endeavors are not met favorably in society, nor by her husband who wishes she’d remain in the background as he ordered.

Can the duke succeed in relegating her to the sidelines of his life? When his secrets are threatened with exposure, will his new wife be an asset or a liability?


You can get your copy of The Gentleman Spy HERE!


Finding Your Voice

Best-selling, award-winning author Erica Vetsch loves Jesus, history, romance, and sports. She’s a transplanted Kansan now living in Minnesota, and she is married to her total opposite and soul mate! When she’s not writing fiction, she’s planning her next trip to a history museum and cheering on her Kansas Jayhawks and New Zealand All Blacks.

You can connect with her at her website, www.ericavetsch.com where you can read about her books and sign up for her newsletter, and you can find her at online  https://www.facebook.com/EricaVetschAuthor/ 
where she spends way too much time!


Show vs. Tell: Clearing Up the Mystery

 by Jan Drexler


Show vs. Tell: Clearing Up the Mystery


Show, don’t tell.

You’ve heard that advice before, right? If there are rules for writing, this one has to top the list.

But while contest judges and critiquers (and other experienced authors) are fond of tossing this bit of advice our way, we rarely know exactly what it is that they’re talking about. It’s like the advice to “develop your voice.” Why is it so hard to pinpoint what it means?

In my opinion, it’s because “show, don’t tell” is a subjective technique of writing. Grammar, spelling, punctuation, paragraph structure…all of those are objective. I can tell you “A. B. C.” and you understand.

However, some writing techniques are more art than science. More right brain than left.

So, when someone writes on our darling manuscripts, “show, don’t tell,” what do they mean? And how can we fix it? 

Show vs. Tell: Clearing Up the Mystery


Let me give you an example. This excerpt is from my work in progress before I revised it:

I turned my rental car into the driveway of Rose’s Sweetbriar Inn and parked on the cement pad in front of the double garage doors. I got out and inhaled the tangy aroma of pine. Lovely. It reminded me of the time I had spent working in Norway three years ago.

But the Sweetbriar Inn was nothing like the hotel north of Oslo. That one had been made of steel and glass. Very modern. The Sweetbriar was a huge log structure that had been built against the base of the pine-covered hill that rose behind it. Rustic and secluded.


In case you’re wondering, this excerpt is ALL TELLING!

How do I know?

Look at the first sentence: I turned my rental car into the driveway of Rose’s Sweetbriar Inn and parked on the cement pad in front of the double garage doors.

It tells what happens. Emma (the main character) drives her rental car to the Sweetbriar Inn and parks in the driveway.

It’s very simple. Short and sweet. It conveys the action, but no more.

Now look at the rest of the excerpt. Same thing. There is some description, a hint of Emma’s backstory, and I’ve used, let’s see, two of the five senses. Not bad. 

But it could be So. Much. Better.

How? By “showing” instead of “telling.”

Here’s my most recent draft of those two paragraphs:

As soon as I opened the door of my rented sedan, a familiar aroma tugged at my memories. Norway. Spring. Three years ago.

But the inn rising in front of me was nothing like the executive resort north of Oslo. Built into the side of a picturesque fjord, that building had been a steel and glass intrusion among the pines of the pristine Nordic wilderness. Sweetbrier Inn tucked its comfortable log structure into the embrace of the pine covered mountain deep in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Private. Secluded. Safe.

As we compare the two excerpts, we can pick out certain words that scream “telling.” I’ll highlight them:
I turned my rental car into the driveway of Rose’s Sweetbriar Inn and parked on the cement pad in front of the double garage doors. I got out and inhaled the tangy aroma of pine. Lovely. It reminded me of the time I had spent working in Norway three years ago.

But the Sweetbriar Inn was nothing like the hotel north of Oslo. That one had been made of steel and glass. Very modern. The Sweetbriar was a huge log structure that had been built against the base of the pine-covered hill that rose behind it. Rustic and secluded.

Every word I highlighted is a verb. Do you see that? Turned. Parked. Got out. Inhaled. Reminded. Was. Was. Had been built (passive voice – very “telling!”)

I’m not saying we shouldn’t use verbs, but the WAY we use them are key to whether our writing is strong “showing,” or weak “telling.” 


Show vs. Tell: Clearing Up the Mystery


The secret? Trade in your tired, weak verbs for strong and robust ones.

Look at the verbs I used in the second example: Opened. Tugged. Rising. Pasted. Tucked.

Not every verb is a strong one, but we’re not writing purple prose here. We want to use strong verbs, but we want to use them sparingly. We want to make them count. 


Let’s try another excerpt. This one is from "The Roll of the Drums," my October 2019 release from Revell.

Here’s the pre-revisions and edits version:
The hungry horses fought for the grain, Delilah finally shoving Samson aside with bared teeth and thrusting her nose into the bucket.
Before you go on to read the final draft of the sentences, read the first version again. What would you change to make this into a “showing” sentence instead of a “telling” one?

Remember – look for the verbs. How can you make them stronger?

Here’s another hint: When I’m editing sentences like this, I try to picture the scene in my mind. Where are my characters? What is the light like? The odors? What is my character’s state of mind and his focus? 

Show vs. Tell: Clearing Up the Mystery


When I rewrote this scene, I closed my eyes. I put myself in the barn, in Gideon’s place. What was he experiencing?
Samson whickered deep in his throat and extended his jug head toward the wooden scoop. The horse’s nostrils opened wide as he breathed in the scent of the grain before Delilah shoved him aside and reached for the oats with bared teeth.
And another hint. Read the two examples again. In the first one I used the adjective “hungry.” Do you see it in the second example? No. But do we know that the horses are hungry? Yes.

In the first example, I told the reader that the horses were hungry. In the second example I showed the reader their eagerness for the grain, Delilah’s desperation to get to the food before her mate. 

Show vs. Tell: Clearing Up the Mystery




So, how do we take a passage from “telling” to “showing?”

1) Pay attention to the verbs and how we’re using them.

2) Put ourselves in our point of view character’s mind – what are they seeing and experiencing?

3) Watch for adjectives – how can we eliminate telling our readers the adjective and show them instead?

Show vs. Tell: Clearing Up the Mystery

 I hope my brief foray into Show vs. Tell has helped to clear up some of the mystery!

But there's still one more thing - "Telling" has its place in your story, too. In a paragraph that moves your character from point A to point B is one time to use it. A sentence that shows the passage of time is another appropriate place. It's a good idea to re-read a favorite book and see how that author used "showing" and "telling" to their best advantages. Every author has their own way of using these techniques...and that's what gives an author their "voice."

Let's talk!

Writers: Do you have trouble with show vs. tell in your writing?

Readers: Can you tell the difference when you're reading a story?


And a reminder: I have two books coming out in October!

The first is the third installment in my "Amish of Weaver's Creek" series, Softly Blows the Bugle, and is available for pre-order now!

Show vs. Tell: Clearing Up the Mystery

And my Christmas novella from 2019 is being re-released as an e-book only, single title!

Show vs. Tell: Clearing Up the Mystery

Links to pre-order both books are on my website: www.JanDrexler.com!


Plotting for Pantsers


Plotting for Pantsers
by Mindy Obenhaus

Plotting. Some writers are meticulous about it, while others get heart palpitations at the mere thought. I’m a pantser at heart, however I’ve learned that I’m more productive if I have a good chunk of the story plotted prior to writing my proposal.

Most pantsers think of plotting as rigid and constraining. So the first thing we need to do is change our perception of plotting. Instead of approaching it as a hard-and-fast outline that you cannot deviate from, what if it’s simply a guideline to help keep us on task? That was key to turning this pantser into a plantser.

What does plantsing look like?

You have your story idea with your main characters. Perhaps you know how the story is going to end or you have a few scene ideas. Great! Write those down. I’m a visual person, so I use a very simplistic Word .doc with a chart that is broken down into the number of chapters with two boxes (scenes) per chapter. If I have an idea for the ending, I fill that in. I also add any other scenes I have in mind wherever I think they might occur in the story. Since it’s on the computer, whatever I write is easily moved to another chapter/scene later on.

With those things out of my head and on the page, I ask myself where the story begins. Every story starts with an inciting incident. That event that upends life as your h/h knows it and sets them on their journey. Like when a single mother runs into the father of her child. A child he knows nothing about. Or when a woman offers to help her neighbor who’s been thrust into the role of guardian for his five-year-old niece.

Great, we have an opening. Now what?
Plotting for Pantsers
What’s at stake?

When the story opens, even before the inciting incident, your character has a goal (what they want), a motivation (why they want it) and a conflict (what keeps them from their goal). But what will happen if they don’t achieve their goal? That’s what’s at stake. Example: My heroine who learns her rancher neighbor is now guardian of his niece owns the local hardware store. Her goal is to expand her store before a regional building supply company moves into the area so she can establish her store as the go-to place for home improvement supplies (motivation). But her store is landlocked, so the only way to increase the footprint of her business is to purchase the building next door, but the owner has no interest in selling (conflict).  Her business is what’s at stake. If she can’t expand her store, she’ll lose business to the big box store.

Stakes are important and sometimes overlooked in the pantsing process. But if the stakes aren’t clear, an editor will likely pass on your story. I speak from experience. 😉

What happens next?

That single question is key to my plotting process. From one scene to the next I ask myself, “What happens next?” Then I write down whatever comes to mind. Sometimes it’s dialog, other times it’s just a matter-of-fact statement to prompt me later. However, there are those times when I have no idea what comes next. And the best way I’ve found to overcome that is with another question.
Plotting for Pantsers
What’s the worst thing?

In his book Writing the Breakout Novel, Donald Maass says to think of the worst thing that could happen to your character in that particular moment and then find a way to make it happen. I blew that question off for years. Until I realized that it really works. It creates automatic conflict and ups the stakes. The downside is that it’s not always easy. Sometimes the worst thing takes us down a road we don’t want to travel. Been there, done that. I’ve ignored those nudges God kept giving me. It resulted in multiple rewrites. When I finally relented and gave in to God’s prompting, my editor loved the story.

Working backwards.

If going forward becomes a struggle, try working backwards. If you know how the story is going to end, work backwards from that point. Ask yourself what happened leading up to the ending.

By taking the time to think through my story, I’m able to fill in most of the blanks on my chart with at least some basic information (like scene goals, motivation and conflict and what’s at stake). Then that aids me in writing the synopsis and allows me to write the story faster because I know what’s going to happen.

Of course, the pantser in me cannot be ignored, so I usually write my first three chapters before I start plotting. And, when working on my chart, I always allow myself the freedom to write whatever comes to mind. Sometimes I’ll write entire scenes or big chunks of dialog. Then all I have to do is cut and paste. And yes, sometimes things change as I’m writing and that’s okay. Because plantsers don’t like rigid.

Are you a pantser who would like to be more productive? Consider trying something different. Even one thing that makes you more productive is worth a shot. Plotters, do you have any tips for pantsers that will still allow them the freedom they love so much?

I’m giving away another copy of my July release, A Father’s Promise, to one lucky commenter (U.S. mailing addresses only, please).
Plotting for Pantsers

Is he ready for fatherhood?
He doesn’t think he deserves a family… But now he has a daughter.
Stunned to discover he has a child, Wes Bishop isn’t sure he’s father material. But his adorable daughter needs him, and he can’t help feeling drawn to her mother, Laurel Donovan—a woman he’s finally getting to know. But can this sudden dad overcome a past tragedy that has him convinced he’s not meant to be a husband or a father…and make a promise of forever?


Plotting for Pantsers
Award-winning author Mindy Obenhaus is passionate about touching readers with Biblical truths in an entertaining, and sometimes adventurous, manner. She lives on a ranch in Texas with her husband, two sassy pups, countless cattle, deer and the occasional coyote, mountain lion or snake. When she's not writing, she enjoys spending time with her grandchildren, cooking and watching copious amounts of the Hallmark Channel. Learn more at www.MindyObenhaus.com  


Making A Scene

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. As part of our Back To Basics series, I’m reprising a post I did here on Seekerville over 10 years ago as a guest - the importance and construction of story scenes

.
Making A Scene

The workhorse of a story is not words, or sentences or even paragraphs – rather it’s the scene. It’s in a scene that we see the key element of any good story - namely relevant change.
It is the elements of both relevance and change that makes a scene a scene.

So with that in mind I’d like to discuss eight elements I believe comprise the checklist for an effective scene:



For purposes of this discussion, let’s imagine we’re working on a scene where our heroine, Deanna Deeva, is recently divorced. She’s struggling with what impact the label of divorcée will have on her social standing. She’s been invited to a party hosted by a longtime acquaintance and the scene opens when Deanna arrives and parks her car.

1. In an effective scene - something happens
The ‘something’ doesn’t have to be remarkable - it can be as simple as a single activity or as complex as several dozen story beats rolled together.

For instance, in our scene with Deanna Deeva, if the scene revolves around her fear of going out in public again, the ‘beats’ to this scene might stop with her making the decision to leave her car and walk up to the front door. The party itself may be transitioned over entirely since in this case it was her decision to actually join the party that was important to the story and to showing some aspect of her character.

On the other hand, if the thrust of the scene is to show how she handles being out among her friends, the scene could be composed of a number of beats - arriving at the party, a few awkward conversations, perhaps an overheard catty comment, catching the eye of an intriguing-looking gentleman, and the unexpected arrival of the ‘other woman’.


2. An effective scene should have a focus or goal
In other words, our character(s) will strive to achieve something. Note, the author needs to look at this on two very different levels:
One, is to view it from the character’s perspective - what does the character hope to accomplish during the course of this scene?
The second is the reader perspective. What do you as the author want the reader to come away from this scene with?
In our scene with Deanna Deeva, the character’s goal might be to prove to herself that her social standing was not adversely affected by the divorce. The author’s goal for the reader, however, may be to deepen her understanding of some aspect of Deanna’s character, either a strength or a weakness.


3. An effective scene should elicit a reaction
A well-crafted scene will evoke emotion of some sort, both in the characters on the page and in the reader. Note, these won’t necessarily be the same emotions.
Again, in our previous scene with Deanna Deeva, depending on how the author plays it out, the reaction of our focal character could be one of mortification, determination, depression, irritation, or even victory.
On the other hand, the reaction of the reader might be one of sympathy, amusement or even annoyance. A good writer will choreograph her scene to tease the emotions she wants from both the characters and the readers.


4. An effective scene will have a story purpose
The whole crux of your scene’s reason for being is to move the story forward in some fashion. There are many different kinds of scenes - fight scenes, flashbacks, love scenes, opening scenes, turning points, climactic scenes - but no matter the type, a scene must have some effect on the focal character or overall storyline . Something necessary to the story as a whole must be contained within the scene to warrant its existence, otherwise it should be rewritten or ruthlessly cut. In order to pull its weight effectively your scene should Ideally perform at least two story functions - three or four would be better.


5. An effective scene should have structure
• As in a full-blown story, each scene must have a well-defined beginning, middle and end. It’s a mini-story of sorts - there is an inciting incident, a series of actions or beats, and then a resolution that tells us we’ve extracted everything we can from this particular scene. However, with the exception of the final scenes, the scene resolution does leave some unanswered questions, some loose ends that nudge the reader into the subsequent scenes to try to find the answers.

6. A scene should show logical, believable progression
The scenes should flow one from the other, sculpting and shaping your story in an aesthetically satisfying way that is entertaining and relevant.
Since scenes are the building blocks of your story, they must be carefully placed and arranged with every other scene in order to construct a pleasing, functional whole. Each scene builds on the one that came before and leads to the next - enhancing, changing, or redirecting your through line in some way, either subtly or forcefully - always pushing inexorably forward to the story’s resolution.

CAUTION: Logical doesn’t mean predictable, but given what the reader knows about the characters and the situation, it must be a believable next step.


7. A scene should have a mood or attitude
This is the underlying emotion in your story. Is it comedic, solemn, dark, light? Are there underlying urges or desires that drive your characters? These will play into your scene in subtle or overt ways, coloring the actions and goals, informing the responses of both the characters and the reader. Again, using our scene with Deanna Deeva at the party, even using the same action beats in the scene, they will play out very differently in a romantic comedy than they would in a romantic suspense or women’s fiction work

8. The final element an effective scene must have is the one I’ve mentioned before, the all-important element of change.
The change can be big or small, but you should be able to both identify it and see how it moves your storyline forward. This forward motion can come either through revelation or a relevant honing of character, world or plot. Deanna Deeva, or her situation, must be different at the end of the scene than she/it was at the beginning.

Again, if something doesn’t change, then no matter how lyrical and elegantly crafted, no matter how invested you as a writer are in it, the scene must be ruthlessly deleted.


One final thought - the clearest test of a scene’s effectiveness is to use what Raymond Obstfeld, in his book “Crafting Scenes”, calls the so-what factor. When you finish reading over your scene, ask yourself “so what?” Is this scene necessary? If you remove it will it actually affect the outcome of the story ? Does it fit with the scene before and the one after? Did something change? Was it significant enough for its own scene or could the key points be folded in one of the neighboring scenes? 


If you answer those questions it will become obvious whether or not you've nailed the scene. 


Making A Scene


For a chance to win a copy of any book from my backlist, Including the new 2-in-1 re-release below, please leave a comment.



Making A Scene
Handpicked Husband

Regina Nash must marry one of the men her grandfather has chosen for her or lose custody of her nephew. But Reggie knows marriage is not for her, so she must persuade them—and Adam Barr, her grandfather’s envoy—that she’d make a thoroughly unsuitable wife. Adam is drawn to the free-spirited photographer, but his job was to make sure Regina chose from the men he escorted to Texas—not marry her himself!

The Bride Next Door

Daisy Johnson is ready to settle in Turnabout, Texas, open a restaurant and perhaps find a husband. Of course, she’d envisioned a man who actually likes her, not someone who offers a marriage of convenience to avoid scandal. Newspaper reporter Everett Fulton may find himself suddenly married, but his dreams of leaving haven’t changed. What Daisy wants—home, family, tenderness—he can’t provide…


BOOK LINK
Those Wascally Weasel WordsChecklist for Entering ContestsGetting From Here To There:  TransitionsBACK TO BASICS: Editing to Match the StoryThe Lingo of StorytellingKeep Your PromiseFinding Your VoiceShow vs. Tell: Clearing Up the MysteryPlotting for PantsersMaking A Scene

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