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Posts Tagged ‘stories’

Tell Again Tuesday

A blog series where we shamelessly share posts from others that we have enjoyed.

 


 

WHY SOME STORIES WILL NEVER MAKE IT OUT OF YOUR NOTEBOOK

By Lucy Mitchell

It has taken me a long time to accept this. When you start out as a writer, your ego assures you that ALL your stories will, at some point, turn into bestselling novels. You happily fill up an array of notebooks with stories, quietly confident, they will all feature somewhere in your future writing career.

I mean why would you doubt your ego?

It is only after writing seriously for several years, you come to realise that . . .

For the rest of the blog go to:

Lucy Mitchell’s blog

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Krohn Conservatory in the Trains,
Trestles and Traditons Exhibit

This Christmas season our family visited Krohn Conservatory Trains ,Trestles and Traditions  holiday display. It’s amazing what a dedicated group of crafters can do with a bit of glue, flowers, and materials like twigs, moss, and bark that most people would haul to the compost pile.  Using these natural materials, crafters created vignettes of Cincinnati landmarks Mt. Adams Incline, Union Terminal, the Conservatory, and international landmarks representing the Eiffel Tower, a European castle, and a Chinese pagoda, all ringed with tracks carrying trains and streetcars through the displays. It took patience and skill to create a little world that that made our family spend half of their visit to the Conservatory in the exhibit taking scads of photos, creating Kodak moments that would take us back to the enchanting display whenever we wanted. We were so captivated that we didn’t want to leave the area.

 Reading a good book is a lot like our experience at Krohn Conservatory. When we find a story that transports us, we don’t want the story to end, and we want to revisit that world time and time again. Pearl S. Buck, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are a few of the writers who provided classic Kodak story moments for us.  Debbie Macomber’s town of Cedar Cove has enchanted her readers. Readers love Jan Karon’s character Father Tim from the town of Mitford. And who can forget the world of Harry Potter? J.K Rowling’s stories and characters spurred young readers to devour her books, waiting anxiously for each new book to appear.

 As writers we strive to create characters readers will love and locations that readers want to revisit long after the book is closed. Why? Because our job is to write and write well, and because stories that remain in the hearts and memories of our readers are the books that become bestsellers and classics. Who doesn’t want that?

 So how can you create stories that will leave your readers wanting more and retuning to your books time and time again? Here are some things we think are key to writing stories readers will love.

  • Get your readers to use their senses. What sounds more interesting?  Susan bent toward the rose and inhaled its sweet scent, or Susan bent toward the rose. The peppery scent, with a hint of musk, tickled her nose.  If you say the vase of flowers is “lovely” do you know what it looks like? Or does the phrase, Yellow roses, fading to peach at the tips, spilled from the cut-crystal vase, give you a clearer picture?
  • Show don’t tell. A good sentence shows the reader what is happening, revealing emotions and actions without telling the reader what is happening. Jane was angry is telling. A vein pulsed in Jane’s temple and her mouth straightened into a thin, drawn line shows what the anger is doing to Jane. The reader instinctively knows Jane is angry because you have shown her emotions, not told them.
  • Write in active, not passive, voice. The words was, to be, had and words ending in ing are all tip offs to passive writing. Johnny was walking down the street can easily be changed to Johnny walked down the street.  Change Shelia had been dusting the hall before breakfast to Sheila dusted the hall before breakfast.  Scour your work for passive verbs and eliminate them whenever possible.
  • Avoid stereotypical characters. Show more than one side of your characters. Heroes and heroines have flaws, fatal flaws that can get in the way of their goals, get them deeper in trouble,  and keep them from being goody-two-shoes. After all, no human is perfect. Even villains love someone and could be self sacrificing for that special person. If you have a stereotypical character, try turning him or her around in some way to make them less of a stereotype.  Pirates are criminals you wouldn’t want to meet on the high seas, but in spite of his criminal background, you just can’t help rooting for Captain Jack Sparrow. Why do viewers love him? Because he’s a bit of a bumbler and so darned cute. A stereotype turned on its ear.
  • Pay attention to setting.  The best writers know their worlds inside out and convey them flawlessly to the reader. Pearl S Buck brought the foreign world of China to life for a Midwestern teenager. Romance author Jean Johnson created a magical world in her Sons of Destiny series that caused us to collect her entire series. Children (and adults) love the world of Harry Potter because it is magical and different.  Popular Amish romances bring the intriguing world of a reclusive religious sect to life for readers. Setting can also be important enough in some stories to be considered a character, so pay attention to the rules of your worlds. There is always a reader who will notice if you break then and they will be disappointed because you didn’t pay attention to details.

Take a look at the books you have on your “Keep” shelves. How do these five elements play out in them? Now take a look at your own writing. Are you weak in any of these areas? If so, get out the editing pen and start correcting. With a little work you, too, can create Kodak stories readers will love.  

Happy Writing,

C.D. Hersh

photos by C.D. Hersh (c) 2011

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