Ten Common Author Mistakes. #9

Forgetting to weave in the story elements and symbolism.

Definition: If you want to use a metaphor, like a world event or a family trait or tradition to show a contrast in the hero or heroine’s life, you must layer it in.


If the heroine’s life if falling a part, coming down around her like 9-11, don’t tell the reader, “her life was just like the twin towers…coming down around her.”


Weave it.


The scene opens. It’s 9-11, the heroine is preparing breakfast. She calls her husband down to breakfast but he doesn’t show up. When she goes to see what’s taking him so long, she finds him collapsed on the bathroom floor, dead.


As she’s calling 911, her best friend buzzes in. The twin towers were just attacked. They’re on fire and crumbling.


The reader gets and sees the symbolism. If they don’t, the story still works. Not every reader will get symbolism.


In the book Softly and Tenderly, I show Jade’s life crumbling by a truck crashing through her downtown shop. Just when she thought everything was going well, her business, her marriage, secrets surface and change everything. Instead of saying it, I ended up showing it by the shop disaster.
I read a historical once that used a war metaphor to show the division in the heroine’s family. “People were choosing sides,” the author wrote, “just like the states were choosing sides.” I appreciated the drawn analogy, but the story lost some punch of me when I was told, “look, the heroine’s life is mirroring society.”


What are ways to show a symbol?


The heroine is a unorganized, distracted artist but she drives a Ford Focus.
The hero can’t remember any of his family members but carries around a pocket watch of his grandfathers. It’s about “time.”
The heroine feels her life is stuck, she can’t move on in life, and she ponders this while waiting at a cross walk.
The heroine feels her family is falling apart as war breaks out in the nation. SHOW this!
Rule: Weave the symbol in as part of the story. Layer it into the scene.
Workshop it: Is there a symbol you can weave into your scene? What’s going on in the world around your protagonist that you can layer in as a reflection of the protag’s inner journey?


Rachel Hauck is an award winning,best selling
author who’s made plenty of  “author mistakes”
and lived to tell about it.


But I’m not a hero, am I? Helping your hero discover his heroic side!

A great story has a great hero – someone who discovers they are hero along that way. 

Acts of Heroism are those character-change actions that take your character from an everyday Joe to a Hero.

It’s not the grand gestures, the great sacrifices…Acts of Heroism are the everyday acts of our character that push him beyond himself. Ideally in a story, every choice your character makes and every step beyond his comfort zone that he or she takes, is going to push your character farther and farther from the person he starts as, until finally he becomes a full- fledged hero.

Let’s go back to two of my favorite movies – Eagle Eye and Cellular

Eagle Eye is the story of an everyday guy faced with the accusation that he’s a terrorist. He has to figure out how to stay alive – with someone else controlling his life, and of course, prove his innocence. It’s a breathtaking movie. Jerry Shaw is not very heroic at the beginning. He’s actually kind of a shyster, which we see when he cons his friend out of cash at a poker game. However, he turns into a full-out hero by the end of the book. Actually being willing to sacrifice his life for his country.

In Cellular, another thriller, an everyday young man with issues of laziness and irresponsibility is pulled into a kidnapping/hostage situation when he receives a random call on his cell phone from a woman being held captive. Step by step he’s pulled into danger, as he tries to rescue this woman, each choice causing him to be more heroic until finally he puts his life on the line to save someone he doesn’t even know.

How do these two everyday Joes turn into heroes?

Acts of Heroism.

And not just any heroic acts, but the type that move your character from Primal Instincts to Noble Sacrifice

What are Primal Instincts?

Power, love, survival – These are the basic instincts, the primal instincts, of nearly everyone.

Less primal are things like revenge, greed, and comfort.

Most characters begin their journeys fueled by primal instincts. We all act out of a basic emotion – however, some are more noble than the next. As your hero moves along the spectrum, he’ll have opportunities to choose increasingly more noble options, and each option will make him more heroic.

For example, Consider Jerry Shaw in Eagle Eye. The first heroic thing he does is to stay with the woman instead of leaving her in Chicago, even though he wants to. He doesn’t do it for her son, but rather his own survival. Then, his next choice, he has to rob a bank. He doesn’t want to – but this time, he does it to save the woman. And, after that, his subsequent choices are made to save the woman’s son – and ultimately his country. As his primal instinct choices become more noble, his heroism becomes more clear.

As your hero proceeds on his journey, make each choice he makes more noble, and he will become more heroic until finally he must make a Noble Sacrifice to save the day.

And who doesn’t love a character who makes a Noble Sacrifice?

Next week we’ll talk about that sacrifice and how it makes a powerful story.

Thanks for reading!

Susie May