Archive for the ‘Award-Winning Fiction’ Category

Do You Know the Most Important Thing About Storytelling?

November 25, 2019

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As I get ready to go full tilt into the holiday season with my family, I thought I’d mention one more time, to every wanna be writer out there, the most important thing I’ve learned about being an author.

It’s important to understand there is a difference between a good writer and a good storyteller.

A good writer is focused on the literal qualities of writing, but a good storyteller is someone who tries to see and appreciate the story in everything. As you can imagine, when you have a more open mind towards what is a story, your skills associated with storytelling improve, because you’re challenging yourself.

Write Often
The truth is, you cannot become a good storyteller unless you practice writing and telling stories often. How often you should write is up to you, but it should almost always be more often than you think you’ll be comfortable with.

For instance, I write a little almost every day. If writing every day feels like a challenge to you, please keep in mind one of the key benefits in writing often … whatever that might mean for you … is making a conscious effort to think about your stories. One of the biggest benefits I saw in my writing life came from writing daily.

Fairly quickly, I realized I didn’t write daily because I had inspiration, or always knew what was happening next … but because I was forcing myself to think about my stories. This, in turn, led to me thinking about my work and finding solutions in my subconscious. So, first and foremost, I suggest you ask yourself if you’re writing often enough.

Read a Lot
No matter what type of writing you do, you absolutely need to be reading. I’ve said this before, too, and it’s not an option. In studying the prose of others, you can learn how to craft a beautiful sentence, to pace a story, and create abstract meanings with personification, paradoxes, and other literary devices.

Finally, good prose teaches storytellers how to break all conventional rules and structures, and still tell a believable story, which is why you should always be reading regularly.

Look for the Story in Everything
As a writer, you should look for the story in everything. In doing so, you’ll often find solutions for your characters that didn’t seem to be available at all. You will discover they really are out there, waiting for you to find them.

Take some time to people-watch. Listen to the way they talk. Not only will it help you craft believable dialogue, I’m convinced you’ll find, within a few minutes, you can create an entire scene just from two people together.

Once you learn to pay attention and discover these everywhere stories, you’ll never be short of ideas, and your readers will find it hard to put your stories down.

Keep writing, and have a safe and happy holiday season.

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I will be joining other local authors signing books from 10:00am-4:00pm at the Rochester Hills Public Library Author Fair on Saturday, November 30, 2019.

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Gentle Readers, my books have all garnered some terrific reviews. You can see all of them by using the Amazon link below. Check them out. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now;

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You’re invited to visit my author’s website, BROKEN GLASS to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” on The Authors Show, or see my three local television interviews. You can also like my Book of Face page, find me on Goodreads, or follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

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Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

What is a Writer’s Ego?

October 11, 2019


Even when I was little, I dreamed of being an author. In 1965, the year I turned seventeen, I submitted my first short story, and I imagined myself being the next Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451).

By the time I entered my twenties, I wanted to make people think of me as some sort of “great” writer, like the one making headlines at the time, Michael Crichton (Andromeda Strain).

While this fantasy faded with age (or maybe it was just reality closing in), for a long time I still held onto a specific image of myself, imagining my work would someday be studied in college classes, while young people wondered how anyone could write something so good.

Talk about an ego.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not bad to want those who read your work to enjoy it. Nor is it bad to hope that someday your work is good enough to be associated with the greats you’ve always admired.

But that only comes through dedicated effort, and if you obsess about people’s admiration, winning awards, and your persona as a writer, that thing called a writer’s ego will take over your life.

It happens when you become more focused on yourself than on the stories you tell. It’s not a bad thing, just a regrettably human instinct.

You become afraid to step out of your comfort zone.

However, if you want your stories to be read forever, you need to challenge your writing in new ways.

If you started writing thinking it was for the money, perhaps you’ve already discovered the fact you picked the wrong career. Wanting to live off your writing isn’t a bad thing, but only a relative few ever succeed that way (just ask my wife).

Besides, as writers, we produce better work when our goals are rooted in self-fulfillment and not money or awards.

I’ve won several awards and received a lot of positive reviews for my work. I won’t lie to you. It’s hard not to get caught up in such things.

But ask yourself this – if your story was one day incredibly well-loved and highly regarded, would you care whether or not your name was on the project?

Even now, I’m not sure I could pass that test.

Many stories are remembered before their authors because readers become lost in them, and that makes those stories special. If someone likes you as a writer, they like the stories you’re turning out.

Think about that a moment. They like the stories.

It has little to do with you as a person. It’s part of the odd relationship between an author and their reader.

Good stories reflect real emotions and paint realistic narratives about life’s events.

So, the better you get at banishing your writer’s ego, the better you’ll be able to serve those readers and create stories that thrill them.

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I will be attending the Rochester Writers’ Conference at Oakland University on Saturday, October 19.

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I will also be joining other local authors signing books from 11:00am-5:00pm at the Leon & Lulu Books and Authors Event in Clawson on October 20, 2019.

**********

Gentle Readers, my books have all garnered some terrific reviews. You can see all of them by using the Amazon link below. Check them out. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now;

**********

You’re invited to visit my author’s website, BROKEN GLASS to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” on The Authors Show, or see my three local television interviews. You can also like my Book of Face page, find me on Goodreads, or follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

**********

Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

Do You Enjoy Settings?

May 10, 2019

Character. Plot. Setting.
Of those three, which do you enjoy writing the most?

For myself (and many writers I know), character usually takes the top spot. Humans connect with other humans, after all, so it’s often easier to invest oneself in characters and their conflicts.

A place, though important, is a bit more difficult and, if you’re one of those writers who struggle with setting (I know I am), I’d like to share an approach that might help.

Treat Your Setting Like a Character
I’ve talked about this before. Memorable fictional characters always have strong characteristics. You need to explore how to assign equally vivid characteristics to your settings, and suggest those characteristics to your readers.

Let’s review some of the questions I’ve suggested you ask yourself when creating characters:

1. What does this character look like?
2. What is this character’s backstory?
3. What does this character want?
4. What secrets does this character hold?
5. What is this character’s conflict?

Now that we’ve reviewed the questions, let’s answer them … only this time not for the characters … for the setting.

1. Appearance
Most writers begin describing setting with question one, using a few sentences to set the scene. It’s the most basic aspect of setting and likely the most obvious. Consider this, from my award-winning novel, Reichold Street:

The day started as a humid, hurt-your-lungs-on-a-deep-breath morning. A blistering sun was rising over the railroad switching yard at the far end of the street. Its red-orange glare filtered through exhausted-looking trees, while sinuous heat ribbons shimmered over motionless freight cars, their rusty shapes defined like so many slumbering beasts.

2. Backstory
Like many great characters, the best settings have detailed histories such as this, again from Reichold Street:

He was looking at the old Cantwell Place. It was funny how no one back then thought of that old house as anything else. Cecil Cantwell, the only son of one of Brickdale’s founders, had built it. He had lived in it with his wife for more than seventy years. The house was there even before the railroad tracks were laid.

“Meet you by Cantwell’s.” Everyone in Brickdale, and in several other communities around it, knew that meant the east end of Reichold Street. People used it as a landmark.

Cecil had died the previous fall, about the time leaves started to turn. The maple in front of Mrs. Murphy’s house was a beautiful golden color the day I heard about his passing. I never knew exactly why he died. He was ninety-seven and I presumed he just wore out. His wife, a frail old stick, followed him a few days before Christmas.

The house had been empty since then. Someone came by and mowed the lawn each week, but no one tended the flowers, pulled weeds, or repainted the shutters from the old can of Leaf Green #502 on the shelf in the garage. Then the Toothpick Man showed up.

3. Motive
How can a setting have a motive? How can it want anything? You might be wondering, why should I care? Well, if you treat the setting as a character and consider what it wants, you add depth.

4. Secrets
This one may or may not apply to your setting but it’s a potent addition when it works. A setting with a secret is just as compelling as any secretive character. For example, take Stephen King’s spooky novel, The Shining. At the beginning of the novel, the Overlook seems to be an ordinary (although creepy) hotel. As the story progresses, we discover that the hotel has its own agenda and its own secrets.

5. Conflict
Great characters have conflicts, and so do great settings. listen to the implications of this excerpt from my novel, Blood Lake:

“Why did Luther call this Blood Lake?” I said. “I always thought this was the Watts Barr.”

“It is Watts Barr Lake,” Harold said. “You’d have known about the family name for it, if your father had done what he was supposed to.”

“Oh…” was all I could think of to say.

Harold pointed out into the lake from where we sat. “The stockade where Tsali was shot used to sit on the banks of the Tennessee River,” he said. “The natural flow of the river was right over there. At least it was until the TVA built the dam.”

“That doesn’t explain…” I started to say, still unable to complete my thought.

“There’s a lot of Burnett blood already in that water,” Harold said. “A lot of Cherokee blood, too.”

He went silent after that.

Suggesting a Setting’s Characteristics
I know you’ve heard me talk about show, don’t tell. It’s a fine rule of thumb. The same goes for describing a setting.

Show your setting’s traits through action. Cormac McCarthy didn’t just tell us the world was dangerous in The Road. He showed it by populating that world with marauders and cannibals. If your setting is trying to kill your protagonists, it’ll feel more like a character.

Developing the Arc of Your Setting
Characters have arcs. So, like characters, great settings often have arcs as well. This might sound like an odd concept at first, but it really can make a difference in your writing.

To build your setting’s arc, consider what your setting is like at the beginning of the story, what it becomes by the end, and what happens in the middle to make it so.

Maybe you start with an idyllic, pastoral country which ends up ravaged by war. Or your post-apocalyptic wasteland might be restored to beauty by the heroics of your protagonist. Or perhaps your setting stays just the way it always was despite what happened in the middle.

Whatever arc you choose, just knowing about it as you write should improve your setting.

Use these tips to make your settings feel like characters. You’ll be amazed by the results!

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I’ll be at Lev Raphael’s Master Class at Oakland University tomorrow. Then I’ll be joining other authors signing books at Detroit Festival of Books at Eastern Market on July 21 and at SterlingFest in Sterling Heights, Michigan on July 27.

**********

Gentle Readers, my books have all garnered some terrific reviews. You can see all of them by using the Amazon link below. Check them out. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now;

**********

You’re invited to visit my author’s website, BROKEN GLASS to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” on The Authors Show. You can also like my Book of Face page, find me on Goodreads, or follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

**********

Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.


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