Quick Skills: Olympic Sized Dedication

I am absolutely inspired by the Olympic Athletes. Their dedication to their sport, the sacrifices they make, the drive inside, their ability to envision victory that propels them forward.

I’m loving both the team and the individual events. Like rowing! And the synchronized diving? Amazing. My favorite, however, is swimming. For a brief time, I swam competitively (I wasn’t very good), and watching the events brings back the feeling of adrenaline, the competitive burn, the sense of cutting through the cool water.

It brings me back to those school and AAU meets, the smell of chlorine, crowding around the results lists to find my name. Sometimes I wish I’d had the courage, the drive….the vision to continue.

I am loving the Olympic commercials, but this one with Ryan Lochte has really hit me.

Luck doesn´t get you to the Olympic Games
You can´t wish yourself onto the podium
You can´t buy it or hope for it
Is not enough to dream about it
Luck didn’t get me to London
I swam here

Anything worth achieving – like an Olympic medal, or publication is not about luck. You can’t sit on the sidelines and wish it to happen. You can’t dream your way to the best-seller list.

Writing takes hard work. It takes study and teach-ability and coaching and rewriting…and more rewriting…and more rewriting. You only get published if you don’t quit.

Dive in. Keep Writing. Stay True to the Journey. And don’t stop Believing.

This has been a message from your My Book Therapy coach.  🙂

Ooops, I have to go. Men’s water polo is on.

Have a great writing week!

Susie May

P.P.S Would you like to get FREE one-time 24 hour access pass to the MBT Advanced Team Member Locker Room and discover what all the buzz is about? Click here, and we’ll also invite you to Thursday Night’s Open House!

What is the difference between Showing and Telling?

The rain pelleted the parking lot and I glimpsed Sally jumping out of her truck, holding her plastic folder over her head.  She dashed into the coffee shop, stood at the door for a moment, shaking of the rain at the door, stamping her feet.  She made a face as she shook out her hair and wiped her folder on her jacket, then walked over to the counter.

Kathy greeted her, and Sally ordered, then she pulled out her smartphone, scrolling down the screen. She frowned, shook her head then slipped the phone into her pocket.

She went over to the condiment table, and pried off her top to doctor it, and the coffee spilled on her hand.  She stifled a word, grabbed napkins and mopped off the table.  She added her sugar, then close the top, wadded the napkins into a ball and threw them in to the garbage.

Then she flopped down on the leather chair in the corner, opposite me, and sighed.

“Something eating you?”

Her lips made a tight, pinched line on her face, her shoulders rose, fell fast.  “I couldn’t find my writing bag, and my sitter was late and I got absolutely no writing done this week…how did you know?”

“Really?  Over the next few weeks we’re going to talk about one of the most important elements of writing – emotional layering. We’ll get to the different layers of emotions next week.  But today, I want to lay down a definition for Showing, not Telling.”

“There are a lot of confusing conversations about Showing versus Telling.  However, I think many of the conversations center around the wrong topic.  Showing is NOT about describing everything that happens. Showing is about helping the reader experience the emotions and motivations of the character.  It’s about the reader getting into the character’s head to enjoy the journey.”

“Let’s take a common issue: conveying emotions. If you say:  She felt grief, or even eg; (and this is more common), ‘Grief overtook her’ you are pinpointing one emotion your reader must feel with the character.  Instead, show us how despair makes her feel – physically, or act, or think, or even see the word.  Let us into their heads:

“Here’s an example: She stood at the edge of the closet and stared at his polished shoes, at his pressed wool suits,  at his crisp silky red ties.  A tidy man.  Not the kind to wrap his car around a tree.  But there, in the back…she pushed aside the shirts and  pulled out his letter jacket, the one he’d wrapped around her the night they’d met.  She inhaled.  Thirty years, and still his scent lingered.  Please, let it linger.  Please let her rewind, go back to the fight, erase her words.  Erase his anger.  Without a word, she stepped inside the closet, closed the door behind her, pulled the jacket over her, and wept.

“Never once do I say that she is grieving – but (hopefully) you get it.  The point of not telling, and showing isn’t to dumb down the reading, but rather to connect us more to the POV character.”

“Here’s the part that people confuse.  Tell actions that are common to all of us.   She tied her shoe, she made coffee, she answered the phone.  Show actions that you want to make impact. If you want the answering the phone to have impact, then have her reach for the phone, check the caller id, maybe hover her thumb over the receive button.  Then push it before her courage fails (or whatever).

Telling is when you tell someone how to feel.  It relates to the emotion to the story.   If I had said: She stood in front of the closet and grieved, that would be telling the reader her emotion.

Further from that, but also a bit telling, is: She stood in front of the closet and felt grief course through her. 

Better would be: She stood in front of the closet and wept. 

Best would be to use the action – the example I gave.

 

Truth:  Showing is about bringing us into the mind and heart of the character to understand their emotional journey. 

Dare:  Are you bogging down your story by showing actions that have no emotional connection to the story?  Ask:  How does the emotion impact your character, and how can I show it without telling us what the emotion is?  Show us the emotion, don’t tell us that it exists.


Sally still hadn’t picked up her notebook.  “I still don’t feel like writing.”

I glanced back at Kathy our favorite barista. “I think we’re going to need a refill here.”

Stop back tomorrow, in Quick Skills. I have a little pep talk for Sally!

Susie May

P.S Would you like to get FREE one-time 24 hour access pass to the MBT Advanced Team Member Locker Room and discover what all the buzz is about? Click here, and we’ll also invite you to Thursday Night’s Open House!

 

 

Unlock the Secret to Powerful Stories

This secret will change the way you craft stories. I’m not kidding. What I’m about to tell you will impact your writing all the way to the core and maybe even get you published.

I’ve been judging a contest. I feel like I could cut and paste the same comments in each one.

  • What does the hero/heroine want?
  • What is the story question?
  • What journey are they going on?
  • Author’s inciting incident has nothing to do with the opening scene.
  • What is his/her fears? Desire? Give a hint of these in the opening.
  • What is the dark moment from her past?
  • Show some sort of competence. Meaning, a superpower (what he/she does well.) Good at his/her job.
  • Show confidence in the midst of failings and weaknesses.
  • What is the black moment?
  • What can the hero/heroine do at the end they can’t do in the beginning?

 

But all these things boil down to two big questions:

  • What is the story ABOUT?

  • What is the moral of the story? (What truth does your character learn?)

 

I was recently reading a budding author’s work where the heroine is called upon for a dangerous task. But there was no leading up to how this would impact her own life. Sure, it’s challenging and exciting to be on a dangerous adventure, but at the end of the day, all of that is just busyness if it doesn’t bring about change in the protagonist.

The author’s writing was fine. She knew how to show and not tell. She employed good pacing. An even balance of dialog and prose. I didn’t agree with some of the character’s motivations but the author used motivation to justify the events on the page.

However, even after two chapters, I still didn’t know what the protagonist wanted. There was no HINT at what her epiphany might be at the end of the book.

Thus, I didn’t care about her as much as I could have.

Even for a simple romance, the story must be about something. A life lesson. A moral. A spiritual truth.

Yes, the story on the surface in about falling in love, but really it’s about coming to some life understand. An epiphany.

In the movie, The Proposal, Margaret fell in love with Drew but only after they both fought through their fears, lies and hang ups. That’s what the movie was about. Coming to some truth that changed them.

The same principle applies to suspense or thrillers. The story isn’t about how John McClane stops a bunch of terrorist. It’s about realizing what’s important in life. His wife. His family.

The conflict of the story is how coming to truth through the book’s events, also known as the plot, bring light and life to the protagonists.  This becomes the moral of the story – as seen through the characters.

Answering the questions posed here also deepens your connection with the characters. The dialog becomes about more than conversation to get the characters from point A to point B. It becomes about telling the story. About the little reveals of the characters inner self.

Remember: All stories are about people. Go through your story and see if by the end of the first chapter, there isn’t some hint at what the protagonist wants. A hint of a want or fear.

Note:  I’ve seen books that hint at the want and fear, but alas, it they nothing to do with the story. If the protagonist wants to be a big time lawyer, and gets fired from his job, but the story is about him rescuing his kidnapped kid, then what he wants in the story is to be a good father, not a good lawyer.

Simple questions create powerful stories.  What does your character want? Why? What stands in His/Her way?  What Truth will your character learn? What is the moral of your story?

Keep it simple, that’s the secret.

 

Rachel Hauck, My Book Therapy, The Craft and Coaching Community for NovelistsBest-selling, award-winning author Rachel Hauck loves a great story. She excels in seeing the deeper layers of a story. With a love for teaching and mentoring, Rachel comes alongside writers to help them craft their novel. A worship leader, board member of ACFW and popular writing teacher, Rachel is the author of over 15 novels. She lives in Florida with her husband and her dog, Lola. Contact her at: Rachel@mybooktherapy.com.

Get published in Flash Fiction!

Instant gratification reigns supreme in today’s fast-paced society. I could go into a spiel here about Twitter, DVR, multi-tasking, and Big Macs, but we all live it (and, in most cases, love it) every day.

Writing is no different. E-readers are replacing traditional books (some e-books even use short video clips throughout the story), and narrative summary, back-story, and omniscient POV are “four-letter words” in the writing industry now. Why? Because readers want books that read like movies. And it better not take much longer to read than it did to watch, either.

So that’s where we are. Sharp. Hard hitting. To the point. In and out, nobody gets hurt. Enter: Flash Fiction.

First, let’s establish what flash fiction is NOT. It’s not a PART of a bigger story, or a synopsis for a novel, or a short story trimmed down to fit the 1,000-word maximum. It’s doesn’t cause brain-strain with convoluted point-of-views and time shifts. And it absolutely, unequivocally, down right DOES NOT require the reader to go back and read the story again to understand what the heck is going on.

 So what is it? A flash fiction piece is a self-contained story (beginning/middle/end grade school English stuff), 1,000 words or less, that can entertain, intrigue, and satisfy a reader during an F5 tornado. That’s it. No genre restrictions, age requirements, or prior experience needed. Just quick, clean stories.

So how does one craft a fresh, unforgettable story in less than four pages? The same as with every other story, just quicker. Here are some good ideas to get you started:

1) You’d better have one heck of a hook. Splickety’s readers have busy lives and short attention spans, so your first task is to convince them your story is worth their time.

2) Put your characters in conflict with someone or something. You have less than 1,000 words to create a character, to mess with her so she feels totally wrecked, and then to resolve the problem one way or another. Not all conflict has to be resolved for the character’s benefit. In flash fiction you don’t have to have a happy ending, but there needs to be some sort of problem or issue for your character to face, otherwise we’re bored.

3) Satisfy your reader. “To be continued” works for sitcoms and comic books, but not for flash fiction. In and out, remember? Wrap your story up so tight and so fast that your reader can’t help but love you for it.

With that in mind, be creative. Use a Bible verse to form a thoughtful allegory. Write something from a wasp’s viewpoint. Kill your MC in the first line. Have a grandma tell about the time she stubbed her toe, but for your readers’ sakes make it interesting.

*And, of particular interest but no actual importance: I HATE semicolons. Use them at your own peril. On the other hand, if you want a personal challenge, use them profusely (and correctly, of course) in a story so well written that I have no choice but to publish it

Finally, here’s a list of personal pet peeves sure to push you to the back of the line:

1)      Leave me confused even after I’ve re-read the story 3 times.

2)      Bore me to tears even after I’ve re-read the story 3 times (or use clichés like “bore me to tears”).

3)      Use hokey dialect instead of giving a character an actual voice.

4)      Use profanity or inappropriate sexuality (They have their place in literature, but it’s not in Splickety).

5)      Send us your submission without a title or author name.

6)      Fail to provide a plot.

7)      Use incorrect (or un-factual) history in a genre where accuracy matters (like historical fiction).

8)      Use your story as a soapbox.

Here are Seven Steps to Flash Fic Success:

  1. Subscribe to the MBT Flashblog and download a free copy of our latest issue of Splickety to see how it’s done.
  2. Create a compelling character. Highlight only his/her most important features and details.
  3. Pick a setting. Describe only its most unique aspects. Your readers will fill in the rest.
  4. Put your character into conflict with something/someone externally, then identify his/her internal struggle(s). Please note that you need BOTH kinds of conflict, even in such a short story.
  5. Don’t forget your plot: plan your beginning, middle, and end.
  6. Add some more conflict in there. More tension for your character usually makes for a better story.
  7. After you’ve written and edited your story, give it to a test reader or a critique partner. Then submit it for publication.

 

Any questions? If not, then go forth and write on. If so, well, go forth and write on anyway.

Andrew Winch, Senior Editor of Splickety, is a sports physical therapist by day and a speculative fiction writer by night. When not wearing his “professional” hats, Andrew can be found relaxing at his 130-year-old Missouri home with his beautiful wife, Alaina, and their boxer, Luna.