Posts Tagged ‘storytelling’

Holiday Writing During the 2020 Pandemic

November 24, 2020


What? It’s Almost December?
When time becomes hazy and slippery, as it has for many of us during our almost year-long quarantine, it can stop being the primary force by which we organize our lives. Think about it.

Beginnings and endings, of just about everything, become harder to pinpoint, and our internal narrative structure changes. For instance, I sometimes have trouble remembering what day it is. Plus, I don’t sleep well enough to dream anymore.

I’ve noticed, however, that around here we suddenly seem to have a lot more dirty dishes.

So, when most everything is getting so muddled, what happens to writers, who depend on their imaginations?

Well, I started making lists just to have something to do. If you’re an author, and anything like me, you may also have started writing in short bursts and fragments, looking for different ways to tell a story. Hoping the muse would awaken.

Unfortunately, during many of these long weeks of quarantine, I didn’t write at all. I admit I’ve been very anxious about the larger situation, and watching news about it constantly.

I’ve mentioned before, I was working on three different novels before the pandemic hit. But, suddenly, nothing I was writing down was holding my attention. Worse, when I got stuck, I had no idea what direction to take to fix the problem.

Since I began writing in earnest, I’ve never had to deal with writer’s block quite like this before.

Good Advice
I’ve had one of my novels in my head for years. But the idea is still a big sprawling mess, made up of interconnecting parts that may, or may not, make any sense together someday.

My focus is scattered. My emotions are all mixed up. I’m cheerful, anxious, irritable, giddy, desperate, and optimistic, often in the same afternoon. My equilibrium gets thrown off by how everyone else in the house is feeling. And I’m tired, even on days when I’ve done almost literally nothing.

The best piece of advice I received was: “When you come to the end of it, what would you like to be able to say you’ve done?”

It made me realize doing something is better than doing nothing, so I forced myself back into the habit of writing every day.

I’ve always said, as a writer, when you have an impulse, follow it. But, it’s hard when your severely restricted physical space collides with overburdened mental space.

Now, with the holidays upon us, but sadly separated from family, that mental space seems even more crowded.

However, I went back to the novel-in-progress that was the most finished and looked over what I’d already written. Then, I started to read my research notes again.

I realized I’m happy with my book idea. It closes out a series. I’m not sure it’s going to work the way I hope, or be done at the end of the year, but there’s no way to know if I don’t try. So, bit by bit, I began to write again.

Don’t get me wrong. The dishes are still very much an issue.

But writing is more important than ever.

Keep going. We need you.

Have a safe holiday.

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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;

**********

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.

Fiction in the Pandemic

November 4, 2020

Literary arts have long served as humanity’s means of processing reality. But as we reel from continued global crises, what stories are going to emerge from these odd and troubled times?

As our own reality changes, what happens to the world a writer imagines? With so many of the arts hobbled by the pandemic, fiction should be thriving. Unlike any of the performing arts, writing is a solitary profession, one that does not require the physical presence of an audience.

Even more than pursuits like painting and photography, which can require some collaboration, writing is best done in isolation. We have the ultimate “work-from-home” profession. But even as it is, by nature, removed from the world, much of fiction relies on realism, or some semblance of it. We call it “world building”…creating credibility for our characters and their lives.

But what kind of world do we build now?

This is only one issue facing writers in this difficult time. In addition to the common necessities of wrangling everything from child care and schooling to health care and shopping, not to mention worrying about a Presidential election, many of us have had difficulty concentrating.

The subconscious, where so much plotting and character-building happens, has been taken over for many by a silent, screaming panic.

I’m sure the current pandemic is spurring some writers. In two years, I expect a bumper crop of dystopian fantasy (as if we want to live this year over again). However, no matter what our genre, we face a choice. Do we depict a world in which people interact as we did so blithely only eight months ago? Or, do we try to set our stories in a world of Zoom conferences and masked, distanced meetups?

No matter what our conscious choices, reality is bound to seep in. One author I know has posted on social media about his latest manuscript. Drafted largely before the pandemic, he talked about revising it, and removing handshakes and embraces, at least between non-family members. He said these scenes now make him uncomfortable.

For me, the choice has been somewhat predetermined. When the shutdown came, I was already deep into the drafts of several new stories. Not only did it feel wrong to change the settings, even as our reality was changing, it felt antithetical to the purpose of my tales.

I also had a practical concern. One work of mine is the fifth (and probably last) in a series. I have another, darker book that’s a sequel to one of my well-received horror stories. I tell myself it’s neither wise nor fair to my readers to change too much at this point, even though their real worlds have changed as much as mine.

If I revise, like my friend is talking about doing, am I going to remove the hugs and handshakes? I’m not sure yet. But I have noticed another element of reality creep in, because I tend to right the world I create as I write it.

By that, I mean I try to resolve the obstacles my protagonists experience. However, this time around, my characters keep straying from the direction I thought the story should go. The real world has made it tough to keep my concentration as I write.

I’ve always claimed to start with a “what if” and let the characters tell me where they’re going. Now, as I struggle with writer’s block for yet another month, perhaps it’s because I no longer feel my inventions are that much different than reality.

Be that as it may, I voted yesterday, as I hope you did, and I’m waiting (not very patiently) for final results. I won’t get into my political leanings, but I’m sure this whole year would make one hell of a story…except no one would believe it.

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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;

**********

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.

Why Care About Hooking a Reader?

June 30, 2020

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay.

Seems Like an Easy Question
Simply put, if you don’t hook your readers, they won’t get into the story. If readers don’t get into the story, they won’t have a reason to keep reading.

No readers? No book sales. No book sales? Goodbye writing career. So, getting it right is an important part of the writing process.

Suspense is one of the techniques you can use to hook them, but it’s always been true that all suspense comes out of giving the reader information. After all, you can’t expect people to have anxieties, if they don’t have something to be anxious about.

Think about the pandemic and recent country-wide riots, and the fear many people felt, or still do. That’s what it’s like.

In other words, if you tell the reader there’s a bomb in the room, and it’s going to go off in three minutes…that’s suspense…and it’s a highly emotional process, like being on a roller-coaster ride.

Put Characters in Jeopardy
The information you provide for suspense all comes down to creating these four vital factors: empathy, concern, impending danger and escalating tension.

You create reader empathy by giving the character a desire or internal struggle. Something readers can identify with. Once they care about a character, readers will be invested when they see that character struggling to get what he desires.

The more readers empathize, the closer their connection with the story will be.

If readers become engaged in the story, suspense builds as danger approaches. But it doesn’t have to be a physical life-and-death situation. The threat could involve the character’s psychological, emotional or spiritual well-being instead.

However, if tension doesn’t escalate, the suspense you’ve been trying to develop will evaporate. Suspenseful storytelling is like inflating a balloon. You can’t stop blowing or you let the air out. You have to keep blowing more in, tightening the tension until the balloon looks like it’s going to pop any second.

Then blow in even more…until the reader can hardly stand it.

Include Promises
It’s important to remember that suspense happens in the moments between the promise of something dreadful and its arrival. If readers complain “nothing is happening” what they’re really saying is no promises are being made.

Contrary to what you might think, the problem of readers being bored by inaction isn’t solved by adding action. Suspense is anticipation, after all. Action is the payoff. You don’t increase suspense by making things happen, but by promising they will.

Keep Every Promise You Make
In tandem with making promises is the obligation of keeping them. But you’d better deliver. The bigger the promise, the bigger the payoff the reader wants. A huge promise without the fulfillment isn’t suspense…it’s disappointment.

If you spend three paragraphs describing a woman’s multi-colored silk scarf, that scarf had better be vital to the story. If not, you’re telling your readers, “Oh, by the way, I wasted your time. That part really wasn’t important.”

Never disrespect your readers like that.

When stories falter it’s not usually because the writers didn’t make big enough promises. It’s because they they broke those promises by never fulfilling them at all. When readers invest their time, they want that investment to pay off.

Know the Difference Between Suspense and Mystery
A story moves through action to moments of reorientation when the characters process what just happened…and make a decision that leads to the next scene.

We do this in real life as well…we experience something moving or profound, and then decide how to respond. When a story lags, it’s almost always because of missing tension.

Mystery, on the other hand, is an intellectual process…like a riddle.

In a mystery, you don’t need to answer every question. In fact, it’s important to leave some questions unresolved, so the audience will still be thinking about them at the end of the book.

Be One Step Ahead of Your Readers
When I write I’m constantly asking myself what the readers are hoping for, or wondering about, at each point in the story. Our job as writers is to give them more than they ever bargained for.

Make it personal. As you develop your story, appeal to readers’ fears and phobias. Think of things that frighten you most, and use them. You can be sure many of your readers will fear them as well.

No matter what you write, good prose really is all about sharpening the suspense. Follow these hints, and you’ll keep your readers up way past their bedtime.

**********

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.


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