Spend a Year with a Hero!

Take the week off, fellow writers! But be sure to stop by on January 1st, when we start our new Year Long event – A Year with a Hero!

We’ll be studying The Hero’s Journey, step by painful, exciting, epic step, from premise to characterization, to plotting, to the not-so-saggy middle, the black moment, epiphany and much, much more! We’ll dissect scenes and even help you with your own exhilarating WIP!

Take advantage of our weekly exercises, post your excerpts and get feedback to take your novel from everyday to Epic! Look for weekly chats on problem spots and even an occasional podcast!

Spend a year with Hero…(After all, who doesn’t need a good man in their life?)

See you in the New Year!

Happy Holidays from Rachel and Susie, the Book Therapy team!

Picks: Brad Whittington’s Welcome to Fred

I’ve known Brad, at a distance, for a few years. He’s a fun, albeit quirky guy, the good kind of quirky, with a sparkle in his eye, capturing the oddities of life. I’ve had his book, Welcome to Fred, for awhile and finally settled down to read it.

It’s a first person account of Mark, a PK (preacher’s kid) and his adolescent journey. After living in Ohio for four years, his father takes a church in Fred, Texas. Mark is definitely out of step with his long hair, bell bottoms and beads in this farming, cowboy, jeans-wearing town.

While feeling like a misfit throughout most of the book, Mark adapts, makes friends and discovers life. Whittington has a great voice. A true first person storyteller with lovely writing and the right amount of humor.

If you want to write first person, read Whittington. Coming of age stories are always best from the protags “I’s.”

Whittington also uses metaphors and similies with skill, doling them out in a timely way so the reader doesn’t feel overwhelmed.

Quirky secondary characters such as his father, and sisters, as well as his friends and a homeless woman in a box make this a great read.

Some unique tie-ups to some of the story threads reminds us that Whittington is writing fiction, not an autobio. Although, you know what they say, truth is stranger than fiction.

Whittington won the Christy for “Fred” and it is well deserved.

If you want to “read up,” Book Therapy Picks Brad Whittington.

Prescriptions: Hooking your Reader wk 5

Welcome back to our HOOKS discussion! We’ve been talking about the elements of a great HOOK – using the acrynom SHARP:
S= Stakes (Public or Private)
H = Hero Identification (or Sympathy)

A stand for ANCHORING! Or, using the journalist inside to create place!

I can’t stress how important it is to anchor your reader into the scene. So many books I’ve read recently start out with dialogue or action, and they leave out the where, and when, and even to some extent, the who. You want your reader to know where they stand in a book, what the world is, who the players are, and to some extent, why they’re there. Here’s the novelist’s twist, however: you want to use these elements to anchor your reader in a way that captures the mood and framework of the book. This is where your journalism training comes in. By the end of the first paragraph, and for sure the first scene, you should have anchored your character into the scene by using the five W’s. Who, What, Where, When and Why?

Here’s a sample scene from my book Flee the Night. This is the first few paragraphs:

The past couldn’t have picked a worse time to find her.
Trapped in seat 15A on an Amtrak Texas Eagle chugging through the Ozarks at 4:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning, Lacey . . . Galloway . . . Montgomery—what was her current last name?—tightened her leg lock around the computer bag at her feet.

We know where she is, when it is (4am Sunday morning), Who – Lacey, who has fictitious last names, which raises the element of mystery. We can also suppose that a person who has this ailment might be on the run, What – is guarding her computer bag for some reason.

These are 4 of the 5 w’s.

(the scene continues…)

She dug her fingers through the cotton knit of her daughter’s sweater as she watched the newest passenger to their compartment find his seat. Lanky, with olive skin and dark eyes framed in wire-rimmed glasses, it had to be Syrian assassin Ishmael Shavik, who sat down, fidgeted with his leather jacket, then impaled her with a dark glance.


The 5th W – Why, is addressed here – she’s afraid because she sees an assassin who knows her.
Note the words I use to create fear:

Trapped. Chugging (can you smell smoke?), Locked, dug, impaled. These words give a sense of doom and set the mood of the paragraph.

Well used, the 5 w’s can evoke emotions, and give us a feeling of happiness, or tension, even doom in the scene.

Try this:
1. What is the one emotion you’d like to establish in this first sentence, paragraph, scene?
2. Using the five 5’s, what words can you find for each category that conveys this sense of emotion? Use these in the crafting of your first paragraph.

Anchor your reader in the scene…and they won’t be able to put the book down!

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5 Secrets to a Best-Selling Novel

Frustrated? Confused? …Dreaming of the day when an editor calls and says, “I MUST publish your book?” Don’t laugh – it could happen! It does happen – all the time – and you could be next! What’s holding you back? Flat characters? A Saggy plot? Lackluster writing? Let the Book Therapists help. We believe that deep inside every troubled story lies a deep-seated problem. But it’s not beyond hope… Your book simply needs therapy. Stop by MY BOOK THERAPY and…get published!

Self Therapy – Taming Rafe and the colors of grief

Love. Anger. Happiness. These are broad, blanket emotions that can take on many actions and facets. Many “colors.” Yesterday we talked about brainstorming the different hues in your basic emotions, and drawing those hues out to illuminate a character’s emotions. I want to give you a glimpse of how I did this in my upcoming book “Taming Rafe.”

Rafe’s a tough guy…a bull-rider. And he’s hurt deeply by the actions of the woman he loves. He’s been through a lot, and he’s broken. At his darkest moment, I didn’t want him to punch things, or go on a drinking binge…I wanted the reader to enter into his despair. As I looked at the emotion of GRIEF, I saw: Regret and Hopelessness. I picked those emotions to work with to illuminate the depth of his grief.

Here’s a glimpse:

Rafe slammed his way upstairs, banged open his bedroom door. The entire house shook. Crossing the room, he ripped his Bobby Russell and Lane Frost posters off the wall and grabbed the box of videotapes he’d dug out for Kitty. He took his trophies, his ribbons, his two championship buckles, and the scrapbook he’d kept for himself over the years and shoved them into his PBR duffel bag. Then he threw them all over his shoulder and stormed back downstairs.

Piper, Stefanie, and Nick stood in the kitchen, holding a powwow of concern.

He ignored them, marched back out to Piper’s truck, threw the bag in the back, and roared out.

He took the back roads to the burial mound, driving as fast as he could without dropping one of the axles. He stopped at the bottom of the hill, lugged out the bag, and muscled himself up the hill.

He threw sticks and twigs together, and taking a lighter he’d found in Piper’s glove compartment, he knelt and lit a blaze.

The flame crackled as it devoured the sticks, then the kindling, and finally the larger pieces of wood he added for fuel. The flame showed no distinction between the fragile and the hearty, biting into the wood with tongues of orange, red, and yellow.

Rafe opened the duffel. Instead of dumping the entire thing on the flames, he pulled the items out one by one. His posters. They burned in a second, curling into tight balls. The ribbons, which sent out an acrid odor. The scrapbook. The fire started on the edges, burning away the accomplishments, the defeats. Then the tapes. The smell of plastic burning made his eyes water and sent black smoke into the now bruised sky. The trophies would take hours to fully burn, but their plastic mounts deformed and caved in on themselves immediately. Finally, the buckles. He dropped both of them into the flames, feeling his throat thicken.

He closed his eyes, smelling a bull’s hide, dirty and sweaty, feeling the adrenaline spike through his body, the jarring as every muscle, every bone screamed in pain. He felt the rush of relief as he let go and rolled off the back hip of the bull, found his feet, and ran to safety. He heard the crowd roar.

The flames crackled, spitting and popping as they devoured his life. The bull rider. The man Kitty claimed she believed in.

Rafe drew up his good knee, crossed his arms atop it, buried his head in them, and for the first time since his mother died—even during Manuel’s funeral, even in the dark months that followed—Rafe let himself cry.

I don’t name the emotions – regret, hopelessness, grief…but hopefully you can feel them. To read more, look for Taming Rafe to hit the stands next month! (and if you want a glimpse of chapter one and for a chance to win a free book, stop by WhosRafe!)

Stop by tomorrow — we’ll be continuing our chat on HOOKING the reader!