How To Write a Memorable Scene

The Scene

It’s this element of structure for the story. We all write them, but sometimes it seems like this overlooked aspect of our stories. I’m not sure why this is. It’s not as elemental as the word or punctuation. It’s not as long and sexy as a chapter. It’s not as easily diagramed as a sentence, right?

But it’s so important.

There’s an old book by Raymond Obstfeld called Crafting Scenes and in its first pages he has a chapter called “What a Scene Is and Isn’t.” In it, he quotes the actress Rosalind Russell who was asked what made a movie great.

She answered, “Moments.”

And Obstfeld compared that thought about movies to our thoughts about scenes. He writes, “The more ‘moments’ a work has, the more powerful it is. Think of each memorable scene as an inner tube designed to keep the larger work afloat.”

And then there is the corollary, “The fewer memorable scenes there are, the quicker that work sinks to the depths of mediocrity.”

So What’s A Scene and How Do You Make It Memorable?

That’s the obvious question, right? A scene is usually action that happens in one setting. But it’s not always. It’s about focus. It can be ten pages or one.

Obstfeld says that a scene does the following:

            Gives reader plot-forwarding information

            Reveals character conflict

            Highlights a character by showing action or a trait

            Creates suspense.

And a memorable scene? What is that?

It’s unexpected.

What does a scene have to have?

A beginning, a middle, and an end.

And the beginning? It’s like a blind date, he says. You have to tell the reader what’s going on and not just expect her to know. It has to hook the reader in, pulling her into its clutches so she wants to keep reading.


LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN.

FREE BOOK? YES! I AM SERIOUS.

Click here to subscribe to my weekly newsletter and get a free pdf of my book!

Carrie Jones Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

Wednesday Writing Wisdom & Being a Woman Who is Not Ditzy

I’ve told this story before and I think it’s time to tell it again because of some things I’ve been seeing online, so I hope you’ll stay with me.


A few years ago, I attended the Poinsettia Ball, which was THE main social event in our community. I helped set up the Friday before the event, during which time I learned how to make sure all the flatware is aligned EXACTLY the right way.

It was actually kind of fun… the setting up part.

But, then, at the actual ball, this man comes up to me, and he’s vaguely familiar, but I can’t remember who he is. He’s got a red tie on. He’s a bit stooped over. But I smile anyway when he grabs my hand. I usually get hugged upon greeting instead of a handshake, so I figure it’s okay that I don’t know who he is right away. A handshake means we aren’t on hugging terms.

And he goes to me, “Hi, Carrie. Are you still –zy?”

I lean forward, although trying not to lean too far forward because of the whole breasts-in-gown thing, and I say, “Am I still busy? Yeah, I guess so.”

“No. Are you still –zy?”

He’s shaking his head at me.

I back up, he’s still clutching my hand so I can’t get free. People swarm around us, getting drinks, admiring each other. They are all loud talkers and it’s not easy to hear.

“Busy?” I ask.

“NO!” he yells. “Ditzy!”

Ditzy? Am I still ditzy?”

I have finally evacuated my hand. What do I say? I have no idea.

And because I just want to get away, I blurt, “Um. I guess so?”

I am immediately angry at myself for this answer, for being so shocked and surprised that I just let this random red-tie-wearing man define me.

Things like this always shock me. I had NO IDEA anyone perceived me as ditzy. Can newspaper editors (which is what I am at the time) be ditzy? Can former city councilors?

It’s amazing how many different perceptions people can have of you and how many different perceptions you can have of yourself.

Really.

So, after running away from HE WHO CALLS ME DITZY, I bump into a past teacher of the year, marathon runner, and tell him the story.

He actually gets angry on my behalf, which is SOOOO nice and says, “Carrie, do you want me to take him outside?”

“No,” I tell him. “I just want to know if I’m ditzy.”

“You are not ditzy,” he tells me.

“You swear?”

“Swear.”

Thank God for teachers of the year.

But there are two things that make me come back to this story as both a writer and a woman.

  1. As writers, we need to remember that not everyone always sees our character the same way – defines them the same way.

And some people who define them are terribly wrong.  

But that’s a good thing to remember when trying to give our characters depth and layers.

2. As a woman, I keep thinking to myself, “WTF?”  

Did I seriously let some random guy tell me I’m ditzy and agree? And then the immediate person I talked to was another man?

Yes, second man was awesome.

But why was I even so worried about how they defined me? What they thought of me? Why didn’t I go ask a woman instead? But more importantly, why did I ask anyone at all?

The only person who should get to define you is you.  I say that to people all the time. Why couldn’t I have said that to me? Why didn’t I think, the only person who gets to define me is me?  


FREE BOOK? YES! I AM SERIOUS.

Click here to subscribe to my weekly newsletter and get a free pdf of my book!


LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN.


HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON

My Patreon site I read and print chapters of unpublished YA novels. THE LAST GODS and SAINT and now ALMOST DEAD.

I also share some writing tips that are also going to be on Teachable as the WRITING CLASS OF AWESOME and send people art.

It’s a super fun place to hang out, learn, read, and see my weirdness in its true form.

And I’m starting up a brand new, adult paranormal set at a Maine campground. You can read the first chapter here.

Carrie Jones Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

How To Invest In The Most Important Thing In Your Writing Career

How To Invest In The Most Important Thing In Your Writing Career

 
Play/Pause Episode
00:00 / 00:21:13
Rewind 30 Seconds
1X

Here’s the spoiler:

The Most Important Thing You Have In Your Writing Career Is You

We know! We know! You were probably hoping for a cool app, or the perfect book about plot beats, but nope. It’s you.

You can’t write if you don’t exist. You write best when you’re doing pretty fine.

So here are the ways to actually invest in yourself.

Stay healthy for your brain

It’s pretty hard to write when you feel like crap because when your brain is all broken. As Harvard Healthbeat says, “First it is important to remember that you need a healthy body to have a healthy brain.”

How do you do that? According to Harvard:

Step 1: Eat a plant-based diet

Step 2: Exercise regularly

Step 3: Get enough sleep

Step 4: Manage your stress

Step 5: Nurture social contacts

Step 6: Continue to challenge your brain

Stay happy or at least okay. Relationships matter.

Your relationships with other people are really important. They help you evolve. There’s a thing called the dependency paradox.

As Kyle Benson writes,

“Our partners powerfully affect our ability to thrive in life. They influence how we feel about ourselves, what we believe we are capable of, and they ultimately impact our attempts to achieve our dreams.

“Even Mr. Self-Actualization (Abraham Maslow) himself argued that without bonds of love and affection with others, we cannot go on to achieve our full potential as human beings.

“Once we choose a partner, there is no question about whether dependency exists or not. It always does. 

“Countless studies show that once we become intimately attached to another human being, the two of us form one physiological being.

“Our partner regulates our blood pressure, our heart rate, our breathing, and the level of hormones in our blood. The emphasis of independence in adult relationships does not hold water from a biological perspective.”

Kyle Benson

There’s a link to Kyle’s post in our notes and it’s just so good, but the part that really rings true for writers and other creatives is this:

“When a partner is supportive, we are more willing to explore and our self-esteem and confidence gets a boost, which allows us to go after our deepest desires. This not only improves the quality of our lives, but it also deepens and enhances our satisfaction within the relationship and our physical health.

“But as many of us know, sometimes our exploration leads to failure, rejection, and painful experiences. When these bad events happen, our biological programming creates anxiety that leads us to seek proximity (physically and/or psychologically) with the person we love.

“If they are supportive during this stage, our stress will go down and we cope with our problems faster, which ultimately leads us to overcome the problem and continue to go after our deepest desires.”

Kyle Benson again

So find those supportive partners and get rid of the rest!

Get some skills!

Carrie resisted the urge to put a z on the end of the word skills in our podcast notes, but here’s the thing: The more you learn, the less you settle. The more you learn, the more capable you become.

Learning and skills come from classes, from reading, and from experience. Mix it up. Learn in different ways.

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

There you go. You write best when your brain works, when you’re happy, when you have skills and are learning about how to make the best stories possible. So invest in yourself, people. Take care of your health, your relationships and learn.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

You can go through your life just barking at thing, but you want to expand your brain and your repertoire and really immerse yourself in what makes you and your body happy.

SHOUT OUT!

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.


FREE BOOK? YES! I AM SERIOUS.

Click here to subscribe to my weekly newsletter and get a free pdf of my book!


Resources


Carrie Jones Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

Cause and Effect Is a Powerful Thing – How to Make Awesome First Lines

I started writing about first lines last week and I promised I’d write a bit more about it.

And here’s the thing: the first line of your novel starts the cause and effect that becomes your book.

That’s a big deal thing.

Look at this first line. You know things are weird. You know that something is about to happen on this bright, cold April day.

Every Step Of Your Story Is Important

In her book, What’s Your Story: A Young Person’s Guide to Writing Fiction, Marion Dane Bauer writes, “Every part of your story should be an essential step along the way to the outcome.” (p.53)

Just like in books, we create the story that is our life. We interact. We make decisions. We decide to do one thing and that thing makes something else happen. 

This Is True In Real Life Too

There’s a girl in my life who doesn’t understand this concept. She does things – often naughty things – and doesn’t think through to the next step, poor kid.

We’re always talking about consequences for behavior. We’re always talking about how you have to think through what you’re doing and go on to the next step.

“When you ran away from the teacher and hid under the stairs, what did you think is going to happen?” we ask.

And the answer is always, “I didn’t really think about it.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson with the quotable quote win here.

Authors Don’t Get to Be Human

As authors creating plot, we don’t have that opportunity. We always have to think through to the next step and the step after that. The cool thing about this is that it builds our understanding of not just the world of our stories, but the whole world around us.

Authors aren’t likely to become politicians talking about pushing nuclear buttons. 

There’s a reason for that. 

It’s because as creators of story, we understand all the possibilities of that story – the good and the bad. We know if we hide from the teacher, there is going to be hell to pay. We  know if we threaten other world leaders on Twitter, things might go down that we can’t control. 

Most humans who aren’t writers understand cause and effect, too.

Like in my house, in the case of Marsie the Cat, her humans know that smoothing back her ears so she looks like an adorable owl means that she is going to hate us for an hour, hop off our lap, and ignore us. 

It’s hard to be Marsie the Cat.

See up there? That’s Marsie about to hate us. Fortunately, we also know that we can win back her love with the illegal drug called catnip.

Back to Cause and Effect and Plots

Sorry! Back to writing and the brilliant Marion Dane Bauer.

“You must always be aware of what your main character is thinking, feeling, wanting. You must also know how the world looks, smells, sounds, tastes and feels to the touch. Good writing uses all the sense, all of them. Good fiction uses them from inside your main character.” (p. 93)

Marion Dane Bauer

When we read, magic happens. We move inside other characters, embody them, become their experience. That’s part of the reason why we need so many stories out there. The more stories, the more experiences, the more magic.

But also, when we write? Magic happens. We move inside other characters, embody them, become them. That’s part of the reason why writers need to be diligent and build their worlds, piece-by-piece, symbol-by-symbol and word-by-word.

That’s especially true when we’re writing for kids and young adults. Kids are smart. They deserve stories built with empathy, precision, and love. But so do the rest of us humans.

Back to First Lines

The first line of your novel, short story, blog, essay? That line sets the tone for the book, hooks the reader in, and begins the cause and effect that starts your story. It’s important. Make it a good one.

Gabby the Dog’s Writing Exercise of Awesome.

Gabby is adorable.

Write a letter to your friend or the president or somebody. The letter is all about what happens in your story. You’ve got this! Go! 

Once you’ve got it done, give yourself a treat. Gabby’s favorite reward-snack is Milk-Bones. She’s a traditionalist. 

And now go back. Look at that first line. Did it hook the reader in?


FIRST LINE ADVICE

Make your first line surprising like Orwell’s or mysterious

“First the colors.
Then the humans. 
That’s usually how I see things.
Or at least, how I try.”

The Book Thief, Markus Zusak


Make it shocking or funny.


You Can Make It About Character, But Give It a Twist

“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C. S. Lewis 

Humor, shock, drama, emotional high stakes, mysteries? These are the elements that almost always keep the readers make it to the end of that first line and then the first paragraph. But the key is that it also has to fit with the rest of the story.


LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN.

NEW BOOK ALERT!

My little novella (It’s spare. It’s sad) is out and it’s just $1,99. It is a book of my heart and I am so worried about it, honestly.

There’s a bit more about it here.


Carrie Jones Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

Making Powerful First Lines

Everyone talks about first lines and how important they are for establishing voice, setting the tone, hooking your reader and never letting go.

It’s intriguing to see how first lines change or don’t. I checked out some of my first and last lines from my books and they are below and we’ll be talking about first lines for a few posts. This is just the first one.

But before we do, let me ask:

Do you have any favorites from books?

What was it that grabbed you?

Do you do that in your own books?

How Do You Make A Powerful First Line? What are the Traits?

  • You make it mysterious.
  • You make it have a strong voice.
  • You make it surprising.
  • You make it goofy or funny.
  • You make it understandable.
  • You make it authentic.

Here are Some Examples From My Books

Mostly they show how my first lines changed or didn’t. And how they met those above qualities or didn’t. Just like all of you, I’ve learned and evolved or devolved during these years.

Tips on Having a Gay (ex) Boyfriend

Original:
He wants to know why it happens.

Final:
He wants to know why it happens.


Love (and other uses for duct tape)

Original:

You think you know people and then it turns out you don’t.

Final:

You think you know people and then it turns out you don’t.


Girl, Hero

Original:
Dear, Mr. Wayne, My mother’s got a man coming to see her.

Final:
Dear, Mr. Wayne, My mother’s got a man coming to see her.

Need (2009):

Original: My parents drove me to the airport with the air conditioner on full blast.

Current: Everybody has fears, right?

TIME STOPPERS

Original: The dog raced through the Maine woods, keeping up with the little car speeding down the rural road.

Revision For a Long Time: “Remember, you’re not special, Annie,” Mrs. Betsey said.

Final: “Remember , you’re not special, Annie,” Mrs. Betsey told the small girl next to her as they stood on the rickety wooden step of the trailer.



Weird (not published yet, YA paranormal)


Original: Blake and I lie naked on the grass in my backyard, looking up at the sky and we’re all lazy feeling, because, yes, we had sex, and no, having sex is not a big deal.

Current: Blake and I lie naked on the grass in my backyard, looking up at the sky and we’re all lazy feeling, because, yes, we had sex, and no, having sex is not a big deal.

Flying:


Original: I wake up scared.
Current: I wake up scared

The Fae (not published yet, MG fantasy)

Original: The first cat shuddered and stalked through the yard to sit under the biggest maple tree. 


Current: Somebody had locked him in.


How about you? Have you ever gone back and looked at your first lines then and now. It’s kind of scary. Seriously. Do you want to share?


Sharing is good.


LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN.


NEW BOOK ALERT!

My little novella (It’s spare. It’s sad) is out and it’s just $1,99. It is a book of my heart and I am so worried about it, honestly.

There’s a bit more about it here.

CARRIE’S TEACHABLE CLASS!

I have a quick, pre-recorded Teachable class designed to make you a killer scene writer in just one day. It’s fun. It’s fast. And you get to become a better writer for just $25, which is an amazing deal.

Carrie Jones Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

Show Us Don’t Tell Us, Baby.

Show Us Don’t Tell Us, Baby.

 
Play/Pause Episode
00:00 / 00:15:38
Rewind 30 Seconds
1X

So in writing one of the biggest tips that you start hearing starts in around third grade and it’s “SHOW DON’T TELL.”

And it’s sound writing advice, but it’s pretty sound life advice, too.

How many of us have heard the words, “I love you,” but never seen the actions that give proof to the words. You can tell someone you love them incessantly for hours, but if you don’t show them it too, it’s pretty likely that the words aren’t going to rock that person’s world.

Telling is like this:

Shaun was a hotty.

Showing is like this:

Carrying four grocery bags and a kitten, biceps bulging, Shaun walked through the parking lot, approaching a couple of older men. The smaller man gawped at Shaun, staring at his chest, the kitten, the bags, the biceps.

“Wow,” the man said, pivoting as Shaun strode by. “Just wow.”

The man licked his lips. His partner hit him in the back of the head lightly and said, “I am right here.”

What Does This Mean?

Both examples illustrate that Shaun is a hotty, but one states it as fact (telling) and one elucidates with examples (description, reaction, action).

Here’s One More Quick Example

Telling

The lawyer liked to use big words to impress people.

Showing

Carpenter stuck his thumbs into the waist of his pants, lowered his voice and said, “Pontification is one of the more mirthful and blithe aspects of the juridical system.”

IN REAL LIFE IT MATTERS TOO.

In life, you want to show too, not just tell all the time.

You can say, “I love you.”

You can also grab someone’s hand and say, “I love you.”

You can also scoff and turn away and step on an ant and say, “I love you.”


WRITING TIP OF THE POD

The actions matter. Showing matters.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Showing and telling simultaneously in life (not writing) works to get treats.


Shout Out

SHOUT OUT!

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.

HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 253,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!


CARRIE’S TEACHABLE CLASS!

I have a quick, pre-recorded Teachable class designed to make you a killer scene writer in just one day. It’s fun. It’s fast. And you get to become a better writer for just $25, which is an amazing deal.


Let’s Hang!

LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN.

Don’t Look At Yourself Naked After You’ve Had a Burrito: Writer Insecurity Syndrome

Awhile ago, I had this nasty bad cold and when I was almost better, I tried to write and realized that everything I was writing was absolutely horrible and would always be awful and what was the point.

This is called Writer Insecurity Syndrome. It usually happens when you’re sick, when you feel like you’ll never get 50,000 readers, or when someone trolls you on Twitter.

“What am I doing?” I whined to S. who pulled the laptop off my lap and gave me tea.

He smiled at me and shook his head.

“You’re not suppose to look at your work when you’re sick,” he said. “No matter what you do or how good it is, when you’re sick it always looks hopeless and pointless and it seems like you stink.”

I said, quite intelligently like the woman of words that I am, “Oh.”

“It’s like eating a bean burrito,” he said.

“What?”

“You never want to go look at yourself naked in the mirror after you’ve eaten three or four bean burritos,” he said. “It’s like that with doing your job or thinking about your life when you’re sick.”

It makes sense.

Sort of.

“You can eat three or four bean burritos?” I asked.

“Yep,” he said, all proud.

“And you’ve actually looked at yourself naked afterwards?”

He quietly left the room.

When things are bad, it’s easy to spiral down. Try to lift out of it. Most of the time, our feelings and circumstances change. Hang onto that and believe in yourself even after you’ve eaten four bean burritos.

Hey! I hung out over at Dad Without a Dad’s podcast this week. Check it out here.


NEW BOOK ALERT!

My little novella (It’s spare. It’s sad) is out and it’s just $1,99. It is a book of my heart and I am so worried about it, honestly.

There’s a bit more about it here.

LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN.


Carrie Jones Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com


CARRIE’S TEACHABLE CLASS!

I have a quick, pre-recorded Teachable class designed to make you a killer scene writer in just one day. It’s fun. It’s fast. And you get to become a better writer for just $25, which is an amazing deal.

HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 253,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

Realistic Dialogue and Halloween Parties for Fourteen Year Olds

One of my favorite criticisms is when people say to writers, “Your dialogue is not realistic.”

The reason this cracks me up is because have you ever really listened to most people’s realistic dialogue? It’s pretty funny and makes a pretty bizarre book.

I took this verbatim from a Halloween sleep over at my house in pre-COVID-19 times.

Here’s the scene:

There are six 14-year-olds. They are making cheesy ghosts with olive faces. This is the dialogue. It is verbatim.

And this, my friends, is why us writers don’t have perfectly accurate dialogue in our stories. Are you ready?

The Words They Said:

Didn’t H– make show choir?

She didn’t make it. She tried it again in the spring and she emailed Mrs. Wright and asked her what to work on but she used all these big words so then H–  didn’t try out because she was mad.

Oh no… Big words

She told her she needed to work on her voice and stuff.

No offense but she does

(Abby keeps singing.)

Guys do not be mean.

I don’t want to be mean.

Did you hear her solo?

It was good but she got mad after awhile.

She got sick of it after awhile because Ben told her to do something on her solo.

Is Ben the guy who runs the band thing with the saxophones.

No he does the drama.

I’m so mad.

Can we do it?

Guys we would be amazing.

I would do the choreography. I’m so tough.

The three of us. No the four of us.

What about me. You guys hate me!

No… You don’t do musical stuff.

No! All of us can do it.

Oh! I’m so foolish…

I don’t know how to shape the ghost.

You have a hard butt.

Look! It has a belly button.

I got bored so I put more olives on it.

All of my cheese fell-off.Abby keeps singing.

Abby will you shut up!

(Mallory joins Abby in singing.)

Oh my God, you guys. Emily’s ghost looks like a Pac-Man.

It is a Pac-Man.

Oh.

I decided to announce my geekiness to the world.

This is the dialogue, I swear.


 As a former reporter, I know how messy it is listening to people talk.

Realistic dialogue isn’t always the point. The point is that you want the dialogue to make sense, to advance your plot, to show character, to make your story sing. People will always ding writers on dialogue because they’ll expect the dialogue to reflect the people in their own world.

But the thing is that we all don’t talk the same. Donald Trump doesn’t sound like Barack Obama who doesn’t sound like Joe Biden who doesn’t sound like Mike Pence who doesn’t sound like Kamala Harris.

That’s okay. Just try to hear your own characters’ voices, but more than that, listen to the voices that don’t sound like you and don’t think that they don’t sound ‘realistic,’ instead rejoice in that difference. It’s pretty beautiful.


Let’s Hang Out!

LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN.


NEW BOOK ALERT!

My little novella (It’s spare. It’s sad) is out and it’s just $1,99. It is a book of my heart and I am so worried about it, honestly.

There’s a bit more about it here.


Carrie Jones Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com


CARRIE’S TEACHABLE CLASS!

I have a quick, pre-recorded Teachable class designed to make you a killer scene writer in just one day. It’s fun. It’s fast. And you get to become a better writer for just $25, which is an amazing deal.

THE END OF TENSION TALKS! How to Increase the Tension in Your Story

In my earlier posts these past couple of weeks, both Steve Wedel and Mark Del Franco had some interesting things to say about point-of-view and tension.

So, in this final blog, I’m going to talk about that a tiny bit more and then give some quick hints about creating suspenseful stories.

Because like Jeff Deaver said it’s our responsibilities as writers to: Give my readers the most exciting roller coaster ride of a suspense story I can possibly think of.


Although, to be fair I agree with Fawn Brodie’s sentence: Show me a character whose life arouses my curiosity, and my flesh begins crawling with suspense.

Character is really intertwined with point-of-view.

There are two main point of views I’m talking about here, first person and third person.

Every day you live in your own point-of-view. Every day you are the main character of your story living out the suspense of your life. That’s the first person.

If you expand beyond yourself, use empathy and imagination to jump back into other people’s lives as well, creating a web that connects both, that’s more third person.

Or, you might end up in this book turned movie, I’m not sure:

Anyway, there are special problems with both point of views.

Issues with I Stories:

1.      You know the narrator is probably not going to die, so there isn’t that mortal danger worry.

2.      In first-person past tense it’s hard to keep it fresh, because the I of the story already knows what’s going to happen.

Good Things About I Stories:

1.      You can use the ‘peril detector.’

2.      The narrator’s fear moves the scene forward, increasing tension.

Issues with Third-Person Stories:

1.      Sometimes it’s harder to get you to care about the character. There. Sorry. I said it. Haters get at it.

2.      Sometimes, if you don’t do it well, switching around can actually ruin the tension and frustrate the reader.

Good Things about Third-Person Stories:

1.      You can set up what’s going to happen, the crisis, the conflict, the scary by switching back and forth between the good guy and bad guy.

2.      It’s very freeing.

I asked Editor Andrew Karre (currently executive editor at Dutton about first vs. third person.

Andrew said, “I think suspense is often important, but adding it to a manuscript tends to involve removing stuff and rearranging stuff. I think a clear, sequential, third-person story is rarely maximally suspenseful, so if suspense is in order, I think a meandering, unreliable first person is the way to go.”

Okay. Here are some take-away tips about adding suspense to your story.

They are summarized from an article by Vivian Gilbert Zabel, which is sourced below.

1. Make the main character someone you like but someone who can screw up. The reader has to care. If the reader doesn’t care about the character, the reader closes the book. If the character is perfect and can’t screw up? Then there’s no tension.

2. Make the plot a question and then “Make a list of all the possible reasons why the answer could be “no.” Those “no” answers become the focus of problems and obstacles – suspense,” Zabel says.

3. Make the hero have a really good reason for what she wants. Make her need.

4. Do that for the bad guy, too.  Stories like Harry Potter wouldn’t be nearly so fun if there wasn’t the possibility that the evil wizard Voldemort might kick everyone’s butts.

5. Make things harder and harder for the hero. Make it get worse.

6.  Pick the right POV for you and your story.

7.  Try to make the story urgent. Imagine a bomb ticking down before the explosion. Make the story a race against that.

And there you go! I hope all these blog posts on tension help you out a bit instead of making you more tense.

SOURCES:

Luce, Carol. “Writing Suspense That’ll “Kill” Your Readers.” The Complete Book of Novel Writing. Ed 2002. Med Leder and Jack Heffrom. Cincinatti: Writers’ Digest Books, 2002.

Reynolds, William. “Keeping Them In Suspense.” The Complete Book of Novel Writing. Ed 2002. Med Leder and Jack Heffrom. Cincinatti: Writers’ Digest Books, 2002.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Vivian_Gilbert_Zabel 

Personal Interviews with Mark Del Franco, Andrew Karre, and Steven Wedel, Sept. 2008.

Want More of Me?

LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN.


NEW BOOK ALERT!

My little novella (It’s spare. It’s sad) is out and it’s just $1,99. It is a book of my heart and I am so worried about it, honestly.

There’s a bit more about it here.


HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON

My Patreon site I read and print chapters of unpublished YA novels. THE LAST GODS and SAINT and now ALMOST DEAD.

I also share some writing tips that are also going to be on Teachable as the WRITING CLASS OF AWESOME and send people art.

It’s a super fun place to hang out, learn, read, and see my weirdness in its true form.

And I’m starting up a brand new, adult paranormal set at a Maine campground. You can read the first chapter here.


Carrie Jones Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

Writing In The Tension Into Your Story Interview with Author Mark Del Franco

I talked to Mark Del Franco about how he builds tension and suspense.  According to his website, “Mark Del Franco spent several years in the publishing field in editorial and administrative roles and in the institutional finance field as a proposal writer. He currently is pursuing a freelance career in both these fields.”

SONY DSC

“Mark Del Franco lives with his partner, Jack, in Boston, Massachusetts, where the orchids tremble in fear since he killed Jack’s palm plants.”

What his website bio doesn’t say is that Mark is an amazing guy and masterful at first-person suspense.

So, Mark, what do you do to build tension in a scene?

I find tension one of the harder aspects of writing because I know what’s going to happen.  Sometimes the execution surprises me—the  scene I envision does not always result in the scene that gets written—but the bottom-line is that it’s not tense for me in the same way it is for a reader.  So what do I do?  I try and be a reader as I write.  The crucial point of tension is something has to be at stake that the reader cares about or at least believes the characters care about.  For me, that means setting a scene first–the visuals and why it’s important.  Then I layer in the idea of the success or failure being equally important—it’s not tension if the result is not in doubt.  Last, the pay-off has to work credibly–if something resolves successfully, the reader must feel that I haven’t cheated to get there (for example, “Poof! she waved her magic scepter”) and if something resolves tragically, the reader must not feel I stacked the odds to an impossible height to make a plot point (for example, “everyone died,  but now he had a reason for revenge”).  These three things overlap, but they do happen for me in roughly this order.

Is it a “big bang shock” sort of technique for you or you more fond of the “take the reader down the dark and sinister hallway” approach?

I like both!  Both techniques have their uses and achieve different goals.  I think the big bang is an after-effect technique.  The Bad Thing happens, and the tension derives from how characters have to deal with it.  The dark hallway is more front-loaded—we know something is coming, so the goal is to face it and the tension derives from whether
the characters can prevent the Bad Thing.  Both techniques, I think, are a test of character (in both senses of the word) that should make a reader care about what happens.

Do you think that it\’s easier to build tension in first or third person? And either way, as a reader (not as a writer) which do you prefer?

As a writer, I’ve been focusing on first person to date so I’m more comfortable with first (though a new novel I’m working on is in third). With first person, I have an easier time slipping behind my protagonists eyes and trying to imagine what would make things tense for me, then translating that to the page.  I think this gives the reader a certain
immediacy to the tension, too.  Third person is a broader kind of tension in that I’m trying to make things tense for the reader and the character in slightly different ways while telling one narrative.  Right now, as I learn my way through third person writing (and every novel is a new learning experience), I’m feeling that third person makes a higher
demand for ensuring the setting tension is strong because the viewpoint is broader.  As a reader, I respond more to first person tension.  With third person tension, for some reason I tend to notice more the way scenes are crafted to create tension, but that may be due to the fact that third person has not been my main writing point of view so far.

If you think of suspense coming in different sizes (small, medium, super-ultra large) do you think it\’s best to alternate these or are you into the steady diet of massive (or tiny) suspenses in your book.

In a way, this is a broader issue of pacing and making decisions as a writer as to the type of book you want to write.  My Connor Grey series tends to medium hits of tension that grow larger over the course of the novel until I hit the big one.  That’s the pay off for myself and the reader—laying out a series of events that become more and more
perilous until Connor must make the big decision on how to act.  With my new novel set in the Convergent World, I’m looking to create a faster pace–I want my main character, Laura, to be put through her paces and prove she’s as good as everyone thinks she is.  So, I end up throwing a lot at her.  That increases the pacing and the way to do that is those
steady hits of tension.

When you write do you think the nature of  your suspense comes from your characters or from the plot?

As an urban fantasy writer that has focused on mystery, I hope the tension is in the plot!  At the same time, I think (and hope) that there’s a level of character tension too since my main character learned he has feet of clay and is struggling to overcome that.  How he becomes a better person–making mistakes along the way.


NEW BOOK ALERT!

My little novella (It’s spare. It’s sad) is out and it’s just $1,99. It is a book of my heart and I am so worried about it, honestly.

There’s a bit more about it here.


Want To Learn About Me, My Writing Coach Business, Editing or Just Hook Up on Social Media?

LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN.

Carrie Jones Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com