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Writing the Book Blurb - Part 2

 

Writing the Book Blurb - Part 2

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. Back in January I posted about writing book blurbs (you can read that post HERE) and promised you a Part 2. So today I'm delivering on that promise.

First a caveat - this is just my thoughts on what makes up a good blurb. There are likely other methods that are as effective if not more so.

 

First let’s talk about what goes into a blurb.
I consider that these the four components are the minimum of what you need.to create an effective blurb. 

  • The Tag Line
  • The Characters:
  • The Conflict:
  • The Close:

 

For the purposes of this series of posts, I’m going to use the blurb from the first book I had to craft a blurb for all on my own. We’ll look at what I did right, what I did wrong, and what I might do differently today. It’s for my book The Unexpected Bride, an April 2019 release. It reads as follows: 

 

Writing the Book Blurb - Part 2
Fleeing an arranged marriage, socialite Elthia Sinclare accepts a governess position halfway across the country. But when she arrives in Texas she finds more than she bargained for - more children, more work and more demands. Because Caleb Tanner wants a bride, not a governess. But marrying this unrefined stranger is better than what awaits her back home, so Elthia strikes a deal for a temporary marriage. She says I do and goes to work—botching the housework, butting heads with her new spouse, loving the children.

Caleb isn’t sure what to make of this woman who isn’t at all what he contracted for—she’s spoiled, unskilled and lavishes her affection on a lap dog that seems to be little more than a useless ball of fluff.  But to his surprise she gets along well with the children, works hard to acquire domestic skills and is able to hold her own with the town matriarchs.

Could the mistake that landed him with this unexpected bride be the best thing that ever happened to him?

 

 

So today I want to dig into the first component.

The Tagline.

Technically, the tagline is optional, but I think having one adds a little extra punch to your blurb. The Tagline, also called a log line, is a very short teaser, designed to hook the reader and introduce the tone of the book. There are several different ways to approach this.


  1. You can do the A meets B format. Here’s an example
    Jane Austen meets Sherlock Holmes in this new Regency mystery series
    (from Erica Vetsch’s Jan 2022 release The Debutante’s Code)

    Another version of this format is to simply reference to the genre/tropes you’re mashing together – i.e. A regency era female turns detective in this new mystery series. (My apology to Erica if I didn’t properly capture the tone of her book)

  2. You can pose a question, as in this one
    As her plans unravel, can she give her children what they truly need?
    (from Mindy Obenhaus’s Nov 2021 release Their Yuletide Healing)

  3. Then there’s the contrast method.
  4. She mixed danger, desperation, and deception together. Love was not the expected outcome.
    (from Mary Connealy’s March 2022 release The Element of Love)

  5.  And lastly, you can simply showcase the heart of the story as was done in the blurb for my upcoming May 2022 release Her Amish Springtime Miracle.
    In this delightful and heartwarming novel, an orphaned baby brings together an unlikely couple who learn the true meaning of family.


Unfortunately, I didn’t include a tagline for The Unexpected Bride (shame on me!). So if I were to try to craft one today, how would I go about it? Well, let’s see how it might look using each of the four methods above.

Using method one:  A runaway heiress must serve as housekeeper and nanny in this accidental Mail Order Bride story

Using the second method:   Can a klutzy socialite who ends up far from home provide the care and love six orphaned children and their determined uncle so desperately need?

Using the third method:   She ran away from home to escape an unwanted engagement. So how did she end up agreeing to marry a disagreeable stranger?

And using the last method:   In this heartwarming story, an inept runaway socialite must build a loving home for six orphaned children and their much too serious uncle.

So which one would I actually use? The test would be which one I thought provides the best hook while remaining true to the story.  Right now I'm thinking it would be the third one.

A couple of tips:

  • Just because the tagline appears at the top of your blurb doesn’t mean it needs to be created first. If you’re having problems figuring it out, craft the rest of your blurb first and then come back to it. Hopefully the key tone and story essence you want to convey will pop out to you then
  • To figure out what part of your book would make the best hook, ask yourself what is most unique or interesting about your story. 

 

Writing the Book Blurb - Part 2
 

There you have it, my notes on how to craft your book blurb’s tagline. Next time we'll look at the second component, the characters.

So do you have any questions? Do you agree with this approach? Would you have chosen (or crafted) a different tagline for TUB than the one I chose? 

Leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for a book from my backlist

And if you're interested in learning more about The Unexpected Bride or ordering a copy, click HERE

 

 

 

 

 


Writing The Book Blurb - Part 1

Writing The Book Blurb - Part 1

 

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. 

Today I want to speak to you about writing a book blurb, sometimes called back cover copy, for your book. I never paid a lot of attention to what went into one until I dipped my toes in the self-publishing pool and had to write the blurb myself. The first thing I discovered was that it was hard! At least for me. So ever since then I’ve been studying them and reading articles and tips on how to write them and I thought I’d share a little of what I’ve learned. To do the subject justice, I’m going to do this in two posts. Today we’ll cover what it is, why it’s important and some DOs and DON’Ts

Writing The Book Blurb - Part 1


What Is A Book Blurb

Just so everyone is on the same page, let me explain what I mean by a book blurb. For the purposes of this post, the book blurb is the short book description you find on the back cover or inside jacket of books you purchase. For an e-book it’s the book description you find front and center on the book’s main page on seller websites.

Why Should You Care

The purpose of a book blurb is to function as a marketing tool or sales pitch. They’re used to attract and entice the reader into purchasing the book. In most cases, the blurb is second only to the cover in what a potential reader uses to make a buy/don’t buy decision. As such, it needs to really be engaging.


So how do you accomplish all of that in such a small word count?

 

Writing The Book Blurb - Part 1

Here are some DOs and DON’Ts. (And keep in mind – THIS IS ONLY MY OPINION. Feel free to disagree if you have found something else that works better for you)

·         Don’t confuse your blurb with a synopsis. You don’t want to focus on the plot or try to summarize your entire story. Instead you want to focus on the characters and the emotional resonance of your story. Provide just enough information to intrigue potential readers.

·         Don’t give up too much of your blurb space to review quotes and accolades. Those can be placed elsewhere. The blurb is a place to let the reader know what THIS BOOK is about.

·         Don’t give away any spoilers. The reasons for that should be obvious, but it can be tempting to show how clever you are with the twists and turns you take with your story – resist! Find other ways to hook your reader enough to want to buy the book and let them enjoy those surprises when they encounter them in the story.

·         Don’t forget to highlight the main conflict, the thread that will carry your story. But do leave out the resolution of that conflict – again, no spoilers.

·         Do keep it tight and punchy – a good rule of thumb is to shoot for 100-200 words and to make use of both power words and words that evoke emotion.

·         Don’t ignore the genre and tone of your book. Whether you are writing a thriller, a fantasy, a romance, a women’s fiction, a cozy or anything else, the genre should be clear from the word choices you use. Is it action packed, suspenseful, humorous, spooky or dark? Reflect that in the tone of your blurb.

·         Do make sure you understand the selling points of your story and then highlight them.

·         Do show what makes your book stand out from the crowd. How is your Marriage of Convenience, Secret Baby, Second Chance Romance, etc. book different from all the other books out there with the same trope? Find those aspects of your story that are unique—be it the conflict, the character occupations, the setting or something else—and highlight it.

·         Do end with a strong hook—leave your reader with an irresistible urge to scoop up your book to learn more

 

Writing The Book Blurb - Part 1

That wraps up Part I. Next time we’ll do a deep dive into the components of a blurb and look at some examples.

So do you have anything to add to my list of DOs and DON'Ts?  Do you pay attention to a book's blurb when making a buy decision?

Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for a book from my backlist.

 

The Van Gogh Immersive Experience

 Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.

Last weekend one of my daughters and I made the four hour trip to Dallas to see the Van Gogh Immersive Experience museum exhibit.  First of all I really enjoyed the road trip itself. It’s always fun to spend one-on-one time with one of my kids. The drive time flew by as it always does when you’re with good company and having fun.

The exhibit itself was amazing. Of course, being a big fan of Van Gogh's work I was predisposed to like it going in. And scattered throughout, along with copies of his paintings, were quotes credited to him. Some were on the practical, even prosaic side, some were thought provoking. And most could be applied to the writer's life as well as the painter's. So I captured a few of my favorites and was inspired to look up a few others when I got home.

We were allowed to take pictures and both me and my daughter took tons. So today I thought I’d share a few photos with you, interspersed with some of those quotes.  

And as for the applicability to writing, many of the quotes could apply to writers as well as painters. And viewing these images, whether you like them or not, can help refill that well of creativity and help you look at ordinary things in a new way.

The Van Gogh Immersive Experience

The Van Gogh Immersive Experience



The Van Gogh Immersive Experience
Me inside a painting :) 

The Van Gogh Immersive Experience



The Van Gogh Immersive Experience


The Van Gogh Immersive Experience



The Van Gogh Immersive Experience

The Van Gogh Immersive Experience



The Van Gogh Immersive Experience
The Immersion Room


And here are some other great quotes from Van Gogh:

  • There is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.
     
  • I would rather die of passion than of boredom.

  • If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.
     
  • Normality is a paved road: It’s comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow on it.

  •  What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?
     
  • The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.
     
  • I am seeking, I am striving, I am in it with all my heart.
     
  • Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.
     
  • I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it.
     
  • I want to touch people with my art. I want them to say 'he feels deeply, he feels tenderly'.
     
  • If I am worth anything later, I am worth something now. For wheat is wheat, even if people think it is a grass in the beginning.
     
  • Exaggerate the essential, leave the obvious vague.
     
  • I am still far from being what I want to be, but with God's help I shall succeed.
     
  • So often, a visit to a bookshop has cheered me, and reminded me that there are good things in the world.
     
  • Don't lose heart if it's very difficult at times, everything will come out all right and nobody can in the beginning do as he wishes
     
  • One must work and dare if one really wants to live
     
  • What is done in love is done well.
     
  • As we advance in life it becomes more and more difficult, but in fighting the difficulties the inmost strength of the heart is developed.
     
  • Seek only light and freedom and do not immerse yourself too deeply in the worldly mire.
     
  • Success is sometimes the outcome of a whole string of failures.
     
  • Do not quench your inspiration and your imagination; do not become the slave of your model.
     
  • I long so much to make beautiful things. But beautiful things require effort and disappointment and perseverance.

And just for fun, here is a link to 'Vincent', one of my favorite songs

The Van Gogh Immersive Experience

I hope you enjoyed this quick look at my little weekend adventure, even if the pictures don't really do the exhibit justice. Are you familiar with Van Gogh's work, beyond Starry Night? Did any of the quotes resonate with you?

Leave a comment to be entered in the drawing for your choice of any book in my backlist.


Applying Disney's 12 Principes of Animation to Writing

 

Applying Disney's 12 Principes of Animation to Writing

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. Recently I came across an article that described Disney's 12 principles of animation and as I was reading over the list I was making mental comparisons to how they might apply to writing as well. So today I thought I’d document those thoughts and share them with you.

 

These principles of animation were first introduced by animators Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas in their 1981 book The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation. Through examining the work of leading Disney animators from the 1930s onwards, this book shows how Johnston and Thomas boil their approach down to 12 basic principles of animation.

So here they are, along with my writer takeaways.

1. Squash and stretch

This principle states that an object’s mass remains constant no matter how much pressure or tension is applied. So when you stretch something it gets thinner and when you squash it, it gets wider.

My writer takeaway: You need to really understand who your character is at their core, regardless of what image they project.  



2. Anticipation

This principle applies to the fact that you should prepare the audience for action. If you’re going to have a character leap you should show that character bending his knees first.

My writer takeaway: Foreshadowing is important. This goes to that old adage that states if you’re going to shoot somebody in scene 7 make sure you show the gun in scene 3. Foreshadowing is an important device to build tension and suspense, it makes your reader keep turning the pages to see what is going to happen next.

Applying Disney's 12 Principes of Animation to Writing

 

3. Staging

The purpose behind this principle is to direct the viewer’s attention to what is of greatest importance. This can be done by placement in frame, by the use of light and shadow and/or by the angle and position of the camera.

My writer takeaway: Not only is description important, but which elements you chose to describe and the emphasis you place on them is key as well.  When using description it is important to identify what you want to describe, why, and what response you want to evoke from the reader

 

4. Straight-Ahead Action and Pose-to-Pose

This principle states that the artist has two ways to handle drawing animation. The first involves drawing start to finish frame-by-frame resulting in fluid, realistic movements. The second method has the artist draw the beginning frame, the ending frame and then the frames for some of the key motions in between the two. This allows for a little more control in building the dramatic effect in the movement of the character or object

My writer takeaway: There is no one right way to approach writing your scenes. Whether you write linearly, hit the high spots first or approach them in some other fashion, as long as you have command of your process you can pull your reader in and keep them turning the pages then you’re on the right track.

 

Applying Disney's 12 Principes of Animation to Writing

5. Follow through and overlapping action

This has to do with following the laws of physics. Not everything on an object or body will move at the same rate, nor will they stop at the same rate. For instance when a runner stops, their hair or clothing may continue moving.

My writer takeaway: It was a little more difficult for me to find a writer takeaway from this one, but what I finally decided was to liken this to the fact that not every character’s arc will follow the same trajectory or have similar timing. And your character arcs will contribute to but not necessarily follow at the same speed or path as your story arc.

 

6. Slow in and slow out

This refers to the principles of acceleration and deceleration. Most objects need time to accelerate and decelerate to and from a stop. In the world of animation this is depicted by having more drawings near the beginning and ending of a particular action.

My writer takeaway: The set-up portion of a story will require more focus and detail than the rising and falling action of the middle. And to a lesser extent, this may also be true of your wrap-up at the end.

 

7. Arc

Most objects follow a specific path or arc when they are in motion. Deviating from this projection without a valid reason makes the movement seem erratic rather than fluid.

My writer takeaway: The events and action from one scene to the next should follow a logical path. This doesn’t necessarily mean expected or predictable (that would be boring!) but when something unexpected does happen, the reader can see how it logically followed from what came before.

Applying Disney's 12 Principes of Animation to Writing

 

8. Secondary action

This principle states that by adding secondary actions to the main action (e.g. adding swinging arms or whistling when a character is walking) helps to add more realism and dimension to the primary action. However, the secondary action should never diminish the primary one.

My writer takeaway: Secondary characters and subplots are wonderful ways to add context, dimension and color to your story, but they should always remain just that – secondary.

 

9. Timing

This principle refers to the number of frames dedicated to a specific action sequence which affects the visual speed of that action on film and how realistic that action appears. In animation, timing helps to establish mood, reaction and personality.

My writer takeaway: It’s important to have your protagonist(s) front and center for the majority of your story (a high number of ‘frames’) so that they remain the stars of your story and are not usurped by the secondary cast.


10. Exaggeration

This principle refers to the fact that a perfect imitation of reality can make an animation look static and dull. Adding in just a bit of exaggeration in form or motion adds interest  and makes the piece more dynamic.

My writer takeaway: As writer’s we don’t want to depict a perfect imitation of reality either – no trite everyday dialog or depictions of the kind of coincidence that often occurs. By paring things down, focusing on your core story and characters you can provide your reader with the best experience

Applying Disney's 12 Principes of Animation to Writing

11. Solid drawing

This principle states that before you can succeed in animation, you need to know the basics of drawing, including three dimensional shapes and forms, light and shadow, anatomy in motion and the proper use of symmetry and asymmetry. Consistency in the design of the world being depicted is also important.

My writer takeaway: This one should be obvious – know your craft, the basics of good storytelling. It’s okay to break the rules but only if you understand them first and are subverting them for a reason.

 

12. Appeal

This principle states that the animated character have something that appeals to the reader, a power to captivate or draw them in. That doesn’t necessarily mean they are sympathetic, villains can also have a strong drawing power.

My writer takeaway: Make certain your story’s characters have the power to engage your readers. Cardboard characters that are one-dimensional, whether all good or all evil, or characters that are too passive or too bland give your reader nothing to engage with, no one to root for or against.


And there you have it! My writer takeaways from Disney’s 12 essential principles of animation. What do you think? Have you heard of these principles before? Do you agree with my takeaways or would you have interpreted any of them differently?

Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for any book on my backlist.

 

Opinions Please - The Heart's Song

 

Opinions Please - The Heart's Song

Hi everyone, Winnie Griggs here. Today I’m coming to you with a question.

 

I recently acquired the rights back to the one and only contemporary novel I wrote during the nine years I was with Love Inspired. The book is called The Heart’s Song and this one really holds a near and dear place in my heart. For one thing, it’s  the only book I’ve written that’s set in my home state of Louisiana. It also features a handbell choir which is something I’ve always enjoyed listening to. But my favorite thing about this book is that the story line allowed me to explore the various ways Christians react to the loss of a loved one. Reeny lost her husband in an auto accident. Graham lost his wife and newborn daughter due to complications from her pregnancy. These characters both come from strong Christian backgrounds but the way they faced their losses was very different.

 

Anyway, as I said above, I now have the rights back to this book and plan to reissue it on my own at some point, but first I need to update it – after all this originally came out in 2010, eleven years ago. But as I was thinking about tackling the revisions, I had an idea that I wasn’t sure was inspired or just plain crazy.  Since the majority of my books are nineteenth century Americana historical, what if I reimagined this book in that genre? 

On the plus side I think I could make it an even stronger story and it would be more along the lines of what my readers normally look for from me. And it would be a fun exercise, I could even see how it would be easier to spin off additional stories in that world if it were historical rather than contemporary.

On the other hand, it would take a lot longer to get it revised, would require a stronger edit and at the end of the day it would still be the same story at its core.

What do you think? Would such a reimagining be worth the effort required? Or would I be just as well served to do some minor tweaks and get it back out there?

 I have several author copies of this book still in my book closet so leave your thoughts in the comments below to be entered in a drawing to receive a signed copy.

Opinions Please - The Heart's Song

THE HEART'S SONG

Opinions Please - The Heart's Song


Widower Graham Lockwood hasn't stepped foot in church since he lost his family. So he can't possibly say yes to his new neighbor's request that he lead the handbell choir. But widowed mother Reeny Landry is so hopeful—and her fatherless children so in need—that Graham agrees to help. 

Suddenly, the man who closed himself off is coming out of his shell. And he finds himself acting the father figure to Reeny's sweet mute daughter and loner son. 

But going from neighbor to husband is another matter altogether. Until a loving family teaches Graham to hear the heart's song.

 



Story Arcs

 

Story Arcs

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. Back in June I wrote a post about Character Arcs (you can find it HERE). At the time I mentioned that I’d also do a post on Story Arcs ‘soon’. Well ‘soon’ has arrived 😊

 In literature, a story Arc, sometimes called a Narrative Arc or Dramatic Arc, refers to the path your story will take. It’s called an arc because that path, which travels from the beginning to the end of your story, will normally take the form of rising, cresting and falling action.

It’s the actual shape of your story. A strongly crafted and executed arc is absolutely key if you want to pen a story that will have your reader eager to turn the pages from start to finish.

 

The arc is composed of the sequence of events that take place in your story. That being said, don’t confuse the story arc with the plot.  A plot is the actual events that take place in your story. The arc is the way those events are sequenced, emphasized and deemphasized to provide the shape of your story, the rising and falling action and emotion. It allows the reader to see the cause an effect between those story events which give them meaning and structure.  

 

Story Arcs

So if it’s vital that your story have a compelling arc, just how do you make that happen? Here are a few steps

 

Decide on the TYPE of narrative arc you will be using in your story.
The most popularly agreed upon standards are these six.

Rags To Riches.  This type of story has but one movement – a steady rise, a continuous upward climb.

Examples would include Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw and Holes by Louis Sinclair

Riches to Rags. The opposite of Rags to Riches, this story arc is a steady, ongoing fall in the emotional and/or moral value or experience.

Examples would include Animal Farm by George Orwell and Romeo and Julietby Shakespeare.

Man In a Hole. The shape of this story shows two movements, a fall and then a rise.

Examples of this type include the movie Finding Nemo, and The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Icarus. This arc is the inverse of the Man In a Hole – it’s characterized by a rise and then fall.

Examples would include the namesake mythological fable of Icarus and Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

Cinderella. The shape of this arc is a rise-fall-rise.

In addition to Cinderella itself, examples would include Disney’s Frozen and Disney’s Alladin. (In fact you could expand this list to include just about every Disney animated movie!)

Oedipus. The inverse of the Cinderella arc, this has a fall-rise-fall shape.

This would include stories such as Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell and Moby Dick by Herman Melville.

 

Know The 5 Classic Elements of Your Story Arc.   
Just about every story arc has these elements in this order.

Exposition or Set-Up. This is the opening scenes of your story, where your characters and story world are introduced  This is also where we introduce e the story question which we will spend the rest of the story exploring. Note I said introduce, as in lay out the groundwork-we don’t need to know every element of her life and backstory at the outset, just enough to give us a feel of who these characters are whose journeys we’ll be sharing for the length of your story, a way to help your reader settle in to your story before the meat of the action really picks up.

Rising Action.  This happens once your set-up is complete and the inciting incident has set the plot in motion, and is usually characterized by conflict, complications, challenges and reversals. In other words, this is everything that follows the inciting incident leading up to the story climax.

Climax.  This is where all of that rising action comes to a head, where it reaches critical mass. It should be where tensions are highest and should also be the most exciting moment in your book. It’s here that your protagonist has to make a crucial decision that will drive the story on through the falling action and to its final resolution.

Falling Action. Now that the Climax is behind you, this is where you show the fallout, either positive or negative, where the tension begins to lessen as we ease toward the conclusion of our story.

Resolution.This is the actual end of the story, where all the loose ends are tied up and where we get a sense of the lasting impact of the story events on your characters and their world. The story question has been answered and your story’s message has been imparted to the reader.

 

Story Arcs

Play Twist and Shout.

Once you have a good handle on The various types of Story Arcs, the Elements of the Story Arcs and Genre conventions, then you can play with twisting and reshaping them to put new twists on them.  

Whatever genre you choose to write in, make certain you are very familiar with tropes, conventions and reader expectations (read, read, READ). For instance, if you’re doing a take on an Aladdin story, perhaps your genie is a toddler rather than a fearsome presence. Or in your romance, instead of a meet cute you have a train wreck of a first meeting. Or you have a shapeshifter story where your protagonist can only shift into something innocuous or silly like a sloth. 

Just keep in mind, if you do play with twisting reader expectations do so with a story purpose, not just for shock value.

 

Deliver On Your Story Promise and Reader Satisfaction

Always keep in mind, reader engagement and satisfaction is key. Even when you bend the rules or genre expectations you need to deliver a satisfying story. That shapeshifter story with the sloth as the protagonist would likely work well in a comedic story, but for a serious paranormal maybe not so much. If a an action thriller type story had a weak villain or one who just gave up at the end your reader would likely toss the book against the wall.


The real world often seems confusing, unfair, chaotic – in other words, meaningless. And as people we crave meaning.  By creating the arc in your story, and making that arc your own, you can give your readers that meaning they're craving.

And a compelling, satisfying story is about change, whether that change is for good or ill. Proper use of a narrative arc is the way to show that change.

So create your story with all its twists and turns, its quirks and unexpected re-imaginings, and then keep your promise to the reader by providing a satisfying, absolutely compelling pay off in the end.

Do you have a particular type of story arc you prefer, either as a reader or writer? Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for your selection of any book in my backlist

 

 


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.

 

 

Character Arcs

 

Character Arcs


Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. Today I'd like to talk about Character Arcs. Let's start off with a few comments about what a  Character Arc is so we're all on the same page.

I like to think of a character arc as the evolution of a story character from the person they are at the beginning of the story to who they become by the end of the story. It involves an internal journey that forces them to face obstacles, learn, change and evolve/devolve along the way. This journey can lead to a positive change, a negative change or it can even be, under specific circumstances,  a flat line indicating little to no change. And these changes have to do with the internal core of a character rather than his physical make-up.

Character Arcs

There are several Types of Character Arcs. Here are four of them. 

The Positive Arc: 

As the name implies, this is an arc where the hero moves from a state of negative outlook to one where they develop a more positive worldview, where they bought into some BIG LIE based on something in their backstory to a state where they can recognize the Lie for what it is and move past it.

For example, Think of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. At the beginning of the movie Dorothy is unhappy and wishes to be somewhere else. She believes that if she could find a new place to live (over the rainbow) that her problems would all go away- in other words she is looking for an external solution to an internal problem.  Throughout the movie she faces a number of trials and challenges, each making her stronger by small increments and by the end of the movie she has grown to the point that she realizes the secret to happiness was inside her all the time and that she can find happiness wherever she is. And of course she also realizes “there’s no place like home”.  Another classic example would be Ebenezer Scrooge who moves from being a parsimonious, uncaring grouch to a man full of good will and charitableness.  

 

The Transformative Arc: 

This is a special version of the positive Arc. It’s usually much more dramatic for one thing. Where in a normal positive arc the character grows and overcomes something that has been holding them back, they aren't completely changed – they are, in effect, a better version of themselves.  On the other hand, in a transformative arc, the character starts out as an average person, or even an underdog or wallflower of some type, and ends with them as a bigger-than-life hero or savior. This type of arc can most often be found in fantasy or adventure

Examples of this would be Harry Potter, Bilbo Baggins, Luke Skywalker and Mulan

 

The Negative Arc: 

This is, of course, the opposite of the Positive Arc. This would be where the character’s story journey moves them from their current state into something less – morally, mentally, or in some other manner.

A classic example of this is the character of Michael Corleone from The Godfather. At the beginning of the story, Michael is an idealistic young man, an army veteran who married for love. He wants absolutely nothing to do with the “family business”. But the choices he makes over the course of his story move him slowly but surely down a dark path until by the end he is the power-hungry, bloodthirsty head of a crime family.

 

The Static Arc: 

This is in effect no arc at all for your character. He is fundamentally the same at the end of the story as he was at the opening. This character usually has a deep sense of who he is, both strengths and flaws, and has strongly held personal values and beliefs. The actions and conflicts of the story don’t impinge on those . While he will face and need to overcome many external obstacles  he won't undergo an internal change. In effect, rather than the character himself changing, he is the instrument of change to the world around him. This works in stories that are more about the plot than the character such as some classic whodunnits, and action/thrillers. Examples would be Sherlock Holmes (the original), Miss Marple and Jack Sparrow.

 

Character Arcs

So now that we know what a character arc is and some of the most common types, let’s discuss some tips for creating character arcs that keep the readers engaged. 

  • With few exceptions a character should never change all at once. Your change should be the result of numerous small changes over the course of your story.
  • These small changes shouldn’t go smoothly in one direction. Sprinkle in a few setbacks and hiccups along the way for a better sense of realism.
  • Don’t tell your reader that the character is changing. It will resonate more deeply if you show the sometimes subtle, sometimes obvious ways the character is changing in reaction to what’s happening to and around them.
  • Establish clearly at the outset of your story what lie, the false belief, your character is holding tightly to. And then gradually over the course of your story challenge that lie. For example, in Romancing The Stone, Joan Wilder believes she is not as daring and desirable as the heroines she writes about. We don’t have to be told this, within the first ten minutes we see it in a dozen little ways – in the way she dresses, talks, lives and carries herself. But she immediately has to face obstacles-physical, emotional, romantic, moral - that challenge this belief, and these obstacles only escalate throughout the story. By the end of the story we fully buy that she has grown into someone who let go of that lie and emerged as a woman who can face whatever life throws at her.
  • Your character shouldn’t just grow to the point where she can recognize her flaws and weaknesses. She should also be able to overcome them because of what she has learned over the course of the story. And she can only learn these kind of lessons if she played an active part in overcoming the obstacles put in her way, not because she simply realizes she has to change..

 

Character Arcs

In the end, keep in mind that a person doesn’t change without a good reason. To make the character arc believable you must put your character through the wringer, make her face her biggest fears, have her bump up against meaningful, painful problems that she can’t avoid or work around. Do this and you’ll have a story that your reader will remember for a long time to come.

Character Arcs

Tell me about a character arc that you think was particularly well done - whether it's from a book, movie or television show - and why you found it so memorable. I'm going to give at least one commenter their choice of any book from my backlist.




Story Tracking With A Calendar

 

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here again. Today I'm in revising and polishing mode and was checking and updating the story calendar and thought that might be a good topic for my current post.

Story Tracking With A Calendar


One of the first things I do when I start a new story is to set up a calendar to help me track story events. First, whether it's an historical or a contemporary, I pull up an actual calendar for the year in question. For purposes of this post, I'm going to use one of my older works, The Christmas Journey, which was set in 1892.

Story Tracking With A Calendar
From  www.timeanddate.com

As you can see, this gives me a lot of very useful information. It tells me when holidays occurred, when there was a full moon or dark of the moon if that becomes important to my story.

Once I have this information I start populating my story calendar. I add in any fixed events that happen over the course of my story- things like holidays, town events (festivals, civic/club meetings, classes, etc.) A new wrinkle for my Amish stories is they have church service every other Sunday so I note which Sundays are church Sundays and which are "Between Sundays".

If I know the start and end dates for my story I'll mark them. For instance I knew I wanted this story to end on Christmas Day so I plugged that in. I didn't know an actual start date but I estimated based on how many weeks I expected the story to take place over. FYI, my notation legend - Events that are fixed I list in blue text, events I've estimated the date for or am placing on the calendar before I actually write the scene are noted in red text. 

So I started out with the calendar below:

Story Tracking With A Calendar

As I write the story I begin filling in the story events. If I transition over any of the days, I shade the applicable cells in gray. But if something happened during the transition period that I refer back to, I also make note of it. That way I can see what happens on page and off.

Story Tracking With A Calendar



Here is a look at my final calendar for The Christmas Journey with some of the notations deleted to remove most of the key spoilers :)

Story Tracking With A Calendar


Using this method allows me to keep up with my story. It keeps me from having a week that lasts nine days or having two Tuesdays in a row or various other timeline issues that I've actually had in the past. I've also started turning it in with my manuscript and my editor has said it's a big help when she's looking at continuity issues during her editing process.

One other thing I've found that this helps - when I'm writing a series of books set in the same town/world, it helps me keep things straight from book to book.  The way this works is that any repetitive events I've noted on the calendar from Book 1 gets copied over to my calendar for Book 2. That insures I don't have timeline issues between the two.  For instance, if I set up a town council meeting that happens on the second Tuesday of the month in Book 1, I immediately copy that onto my calendar when I start Book 2 as a fixed event. Or if one of my key characters in Book 1 is pregnant when it closes, I track her pregnancy/delivery in the calendar for Book 2.

There you have it, my story tracking method. Let's discuss - does this speak to you? Or do you have a different method that you've developed that works for you?

And since I still have a number of copies of The Christmas Journey, leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for a copy.

Story Tracking With A Calendar

Story Tracking With A Calendar

Philadelphia lawyer Ryland Lassiter is everything Josephine Wylie wants - for a brother-in-law!  As the sole supporter of her family, Josie's plans for herself have always had to wait.  But Ryland will be ideal as the new head of the Wylie clan...once he finally realizes how perfect he is for her sister.

Ry knows its time to settle down.  The newly appointed guardian to a friend's daughter, he's ready for a home and family.  All he needs is a bride...and Josie's sister is not the Wylie who has caught his eye.  If only Josie would see the truth - that the only Christmas present he needs is her love.








Writing Subplots

.

Writing Subplots

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. Today I wanted to talk a little bit about subplots.

First, let’s define what a subplot is.

According to the Cambridge dictionary a subplot is “a part of the story of a book or play that develops separately from the main story” Some call it the B Story, the minor story or the secondary story line. But whatever you call them, they are minor story and/or character arcs that support and enhance your main story line by adding texture, context, complexity and richness to it.

 

So why use subplots?

Subplots, when done effectively, add additional depth, texture, richness and dimension to your story. They do this by adding conflict, romance, tragedy, mystery, tension, additional worldbuilding and other elements. In some cases they can add critical information your protagonists in the main story thread may be unaware of.

Some of the ways subplots do this:

  • They add another layer of verisimilitude to your story. After all, people don’t live in a vacuum, they have more than one thing going on in their lives and more than one person/team of people tugging at their attention.  Sub plots can help show that interaction for your protagonists.
  • They help add page count without your story feeling padded or episodic.
  • They can help illustrate or up the stakes.
  • They can improve characterization by allowing the reader to see your protagonist through another set of eyes
  • If you’re writing a series, they can help bring in beloved characters from previous books, or introduce characters that will appear in future books.
  • For mysteries or stories from other genres with a touch of mystery, they can introduce red herrings or obfuscate clues.
  • They can help fine tune the pace of your story, inserting lighter moments into a tense main plot or vice versa, providing your reader with a breather between high octane scenes or add a reminder of the stakes in quieter moments
  • They can serve to temporarily detour, delay or change your protagonists' goals

There are others but we’ll leave it there for now.  By the way, if you can make one subplot perform two or more of these functions it will make your subplot's reason for existence even stronger.

 

Writing Subplots

Does every story need a subplot?

Of course short stories don’t. As for longer works, while there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to writing, the truth is that even stories that manage to stand alone with one main plotline can benefit from having a subplot or two, for all the reasons listed above.

 

So let’s dig into the various Types of Subplots

  • Romantic Subplots
    If you’re writing a romance, you can add a secondary romance between Secondary characters. This is often seen in Hallmark movies, the heroine’s best friend finds love while the main characters are still dancing around the issue.
    If you’re writing any other genre, adding a love interest for your protagonist as a subplot can add interest and complications to your main plot

  • Mirror Subplots
    These are subplots that are similar to or ‘mirror’ some aspect of the protagonists story arc. This is one way to show the stakes. For instance perhaps you have a protagonist who is standing up to a corrupt land developer as is his neighbor. If his neighbor has his home burned to the ground, that graphically illustrates the kind of stakes the protagonist is facing

  • Contrast Subplots
    The opposite of Mirror Subplots, these show what happens when a secondary character makes different choices than your main character. For instance, your protagonist might have chosen to go into the family business after high school, while his brother chose to head to college across the country. Your subplot could illustrate the consequences, positive and/or negative, of those choices.

  • Complicative Subplots
    Subplots that get in the way of your protagonists achieving their goals are a great way to keep the tension and conflict high and the reader turning the pages.

  • Comedic Subplot
    This is a subplot that is intended to lighten the mood and give the reader a chance to smile or take a breath from whatever is happening in the main storyline. Take care when crafting this type of subplot – the timing, genre and overall tone of the story needs to be carefully considered when deciding if your comedic element is appropriate.

  • Character Revelation
    These subplots reveal additional attributes of your story’s protagonists. They can show
    • Character Flaws
    • Character Strengths
    • Character Backstory

 

Writing Subplots

How to craft your subplot

The number one thing to remember is that the subplot is just that – subordinate to the main plot. Its sole purpose is to enhance some aspect of the main plot. There should never be any confusion as to which is the main plot and you will want to wrap up all of your subplot threads before the main plot. The only exception to this is the subplot that is going to arc over several books in a series.

Craft your subplot as a mini-story in its own right with an arc of its own – it should have a beginning, middle and end of its own.

Make certain you know how your subplot ties into your  main plot. It can run parallel to it, weave in and out of it or be plopped in in one chunk. Any of these methods can work as long as it does its job of enhancing the main story line.

The timing of introducing and ending your subplots are important to the pacing of your story. You want to maintain the momentum and page turning aspect as much as possible. When the main plot line slows or lags, introducing or returning to a subplot can propel your reader forward.

Make sure you understand the purpose of your subplot. How will it relate to and enhance your main plot. What questions will it raise and/or answer for your protagonists and their goals.

Also make certain the subplot is necessary. Does the function it performs require a subplot or could it b handled more effectively in a different way?

 

As for the mechanics, as I was researching tis topic, I discover that some writers plot (at a high level) the main plot and each subplot separately, treating each subplot as a separate, simpler story. Once that’s done then they take each subplot, break it into scenes and then see where those scenes fit within the main story. I’ve never actually approached plotting this way, but I find the idea intriguing and may just try it next time I begin plotting a story.

 

Final Thoughts

There’s a whole lot more than can be said about subplots but I’ll leave it there.

I’ve heard subplots described as connective tissue for your story and  I like that description. If you look up the medical aspects of connective tissue  you’ll find this: The five major functions of connective tissue include: 

  • binding and supporting other tissue in the body, 
  • protecting, 
  • insulating, 
  • storing reserve fuel, and 
  • transporting substances within the body. 

If you replace the word body with the word story you’ll see that subplots can do all of those things.

So when planning your next story, give some careful consideration to what subplots can do if you deliberately and effectively weave them into the fabric of your story (and yes, I know I missed my metaphors)

 

Writing Subplots

So let's hear from you. Do you like having subplots in a story?. Can you think of other functions subplots perform or other tips and tricks for crafting them? Do you have a favorite kind of subplot?

Comment to get your name in the hat for your selection of any book in my backlist.


Writing the Book Blurb - Part 2Writing The Book Blurb - Part 1The Van Gogh Immersive ExperienceApplying Disney's 12 Principes of Animation to WritingOpinions Please - The Heart's SongStory ArcsGetting From Here To There:  TransitionsCharacter ArcsStory Tracking With A CalendarWriting Subplots

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