Picking the Writer Wedgie and Transitions

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Picking the Writer Wedgie and Transitions
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In life and in story, you have these things called transitions. Places were things change.

You go from one place to another, one scene to another, one chapter to another, one husband to another, one president to another.

A really good transition is really just a bridge that helps the reader go logically from one section, scene, chapter to another without it being awkward like a bad date or making their brain hitch where they say things like “We were just in space and now we’re at Wal-Mart? What the heck?”

Some people are amazing at transitions.

Some people have awkward transitions.

Some refuse to acknowledge there even is a transition.

But in the writing world, you want them to be smooth and there are a bunch of transitional phrases and words that authors fall back on to help them do that like:

  • A week later (or whenever)
  • At the same time
  • Afterwards
  • For two weeks/days/minutes
  • Meanwhile
  • At night
  • The next day
  • The next night
  • For a month, I cried into the phone
  • In the morning
  • When the sun rose
  • When the sun set
  • The following Monday/night/morning
  • Months passed
  • Weeks passed
  • When we got back to the office
  • When they got back home
  • As the neared the date site

Then there are the phrases that show us a change in location:

  • They boarded the train
  • Down the street
  • Up on the third floor of the office
  • Over by the water cooler
  • Back in my living room
  • The motorcycle was situated
  • She ran fast through the dark alley
  • In the hall of the hospital
  • Outside on my front lawn

And so on. There are a lot more examples of both of these, but we just wanted to give you a quick look at them.

Sometimes though, us writers tell our readers TOO much and it ends up sounding like script or stage directions. Those are things that slow the narrative down and just read a bit awkward or stilted.

It would be a sentence like:

When I arrived at the elevator to go up to the office on the fourth floor, I pushed the button to close the door and rode it to the floor.

Or

            They drove to the restaurant and waited in line for their table and she hummed a little bit.

Instead you just want the transition to get us there into the juicy part of the scene:

Twenty minutes later, they were sitting at their table, playing footsie under the fancy white linen tablecloth when the giant hedgehog with a man bun stormed through the wooden doors.

Places like the bad examples are not really needed because:

  1. It doesn’t really add to the story.
  2. It doesn’t really add to the character.
  3. It’s unnecessary information.

You really only want things in your story that:

  1. Show your character’s inner state/characterization/choices
  2. Move the plot forward.
  3. Set the reader in the moment.

Story is all about characters making choices, being proactive and moving things forward and showing us who they are by those choices and their dialogue. So, you want to focus on getting the reader to those scenes where people interact and the character has to make a choice that either goes towards or against their main wants. Effective transitions help get us there but also ground the reader in the moment and time of the story in a logical, cool way.


DOG TIP FOR LIFE

If you never, get off the couch, you never have a chance for treats from the pantry. If you snap every single time someone strartles you awake, you get less love. Embrace the transitions. They are opportunities for growth, to evolve, to learn new stuff, and potentially get some veggie bacon.


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.

And we have a new podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook.

Here’s the link. This week’s podcast is all about loving places and feeling called to them when you have never been there before.


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 and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.

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 256,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

LET’S HANG OUT!

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

And to hear our podcast latest episode for DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE about cats on Tinder and other bad advice click here.

Our first episode of LOVING THE STRANGE is here. It’s about loving places for no logical reasons.

The visuals for our podcasts are all on Carrie’s YouTube channel. You can like and subscribe there, too!

Finding Strength in Words: How to Write Strong Sentences

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Finding Strength in Words: How to Write Strong Sentences
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As we do this podcast, the United States is full of protests and pain, Covid-19 is still happening, people are being hurt, people are dying. So, it’s a lot to take in and a lot to process and worry about so for this podcast we’re going to focus on a simple writing tip. 

Ready?

Story is made up of sentences. You want your sentences to be strong. Strong sentences stem from their beginnings. When the beginning sucks, the whole foundation can suck. 

It sounds like a metaphor for a government, doesn’t it? 

Anyways, in English, you want the strongest words on the left-hand side of the sentence. 

Strength comes from the beginning of the sentences and the rest of the words branch out from there. So what are the strongest words you want to put on the left side? 

Nouns and verbs. They are our friends, our battle weapons. Nouns and verbs ignite the fires of imagination. 

Here’s an example of a sentence that’s pretty long, but strong because it begins with solid words: 

Reporters collapsed after cops in riot gear shot rubber pellets directly at their cameraman and on-scene correspondent last night in Louisville, making them understand a little bit more the systemic violence and dehumanization that can happen when power is in the hands of few elements of society. White people weren’t used to that especially not reporters used to watching as others lose their rights, are crushed beneath knees and vehicle wheels and arrested without cause. 

Random nonpolitical sentence.

Sentences don’t always have to branch. Sentences pack powerful punches even when shortened if they begin with a subject-verb one-two punch.

When we put a lot of distance between the subject and verb, we can confuse the reader. 

When we hide the subject underneath layers of clauses? We show the reader how unimportant the subject is to us. The subject of the sentence is important and should matter. 

I feel like that’s a not too heavily cloaked way of saying people matter. Rage happens when injustices never stop. Rage happens when the punishments don’t fit the crime and when nobody hears your voice. 

We hope your voice is heard. We hope you get to be the subject of a lot of sentences and not buried under purple prose and wordage. Make your sentences strong, but make other people’s sentences strong too.   

Writing Tip of the Pod

Look at your writing. Where are your verbs? Where are your nouns/subjects? Are they in powerful places together? Put them there, damn it. 

Dog Tip for Life

Remember the structures that make your life, your community, your family. Are your subjects next to the verbs? How can you make them stronger?


WHERE TO FIND OUR PODCAST, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

The podcast link if you don’t see it above. Plus, it’s everywhere like Apple Music, iTunesStitcherSpotify, and more. Just google, “DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE” then like and subscribe.

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Last week’s episode.


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 “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.

Dog Poop and Shame

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dog Poop and Shame
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When people look at our dog Gabby, they almost always say, “Oh, she’s so beautiful.”

Gabby, however, isn’t beautiful by breed standards. She’s actually a mess. Her muzzle isn’t boxy enough. Her back sloops. Her hips splay. She’s about twenty pounds too skinny.

And that’s mostly all because she was abused and starved her first year of life, tied by a chain to a tree in the Alabama fields. 

But Gabby isn’t about shame. Gabby is about being – being joyous, loving, and keeping her flock of kittens and people and one other dog safe. Gabby doesn’t have shame about her imperfections. 

“She’s the prettiest puppy ever,” people coo to her when we take walks. 

“Who’s the beautiful baby?” 

Or sometimes it’s just a simple, “Oh, what a beautiful dog.” 

Gabby has no shame about her broken body that doesn’t meet AKC standards. She has joy even when she’s broken, hurt, limping along or having a bad fur day. We can learn a lot from Gabby.

On the entry “shame v. guilt” on her blog, Dr. Bréne Brown writes,

“I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection. I  don’t believe shame is helpful or productive. In fact, I think shame is much more likely to be the source of destructive, hurtful behavior than the solution or cure. I think the fear of disconnection can make us dangerous.”

Dr. Bréne Brown

For many women and men, shame has a lot to do with not looking pretty enough, perfect enough, sexy enough, good enough. We stare at our eyes and worry about their shape, our lack of lips, our lack of butt, our lack of symmetry. Lacks. It’s always about lacks. 

Gabby has no shame about how she looks because she’s a dog. People have no judgement about her lacks because they aren’t constantly fed how she’s supposed to look as a Great Pyr. They just see her dog soul shining through, her kind eyes and her fluffy, white fur. 

We can’t quickly erase all the beauty programming that the media, our relatives, and even our friends and lovers have fed us, but we can know what triggers our shame and call it out. 

Shaun says things like, “You are so beautiful.”

And I cringe. 

I cringe and ask, “What about the scar on my stomach?”

And he’ll say, “Still beautiful.”

And I’ll keep cringing and say, “I think I’m losing my lips.”

“Still beautiful.”

“I have no eyebrows.” 

“Still beautiful.” 

What Shaun has is a great ability to pull me out of my shame spiral, but also empathy. It’s why he was a fantastic cop when he was a cop.

Brown writes this in the Semantic Scholar

Wiseman identifies four defining attributes of empathy: (a) to be able to see the world as others see it; (b) to be nonjudgmental; (c) to understand another person’s feelings; and (d) to communicate your understanding of that person’s feelings (1996). Empathy is almost an opposite to shame.

Brown again

Empathy allows Shaun to be kind and patient when I’m being a dork about how I look when he’s giving me a compliment.

This is true about self publishing. I was teaching a workshop about publishing on Friday and some of the students were like, “There is such a stigma to self publishing still.”

And another guy was like, “That’s because some of those books suck.”

And that’s true, but some are brilliant. I said that.

I also said, “There are some traditionally published books that suck, too.”

We have to figure out to not worry about other people determining the worth of our work. Taste is subjective. Some people love Drake. Some people can’t stand him. That doesn’t devalue Drake. Same thing for Adele or Stephen King or Jayson Reynolds. 

Yes, some self published books haven’t been copy edited or might not be structurally sound, but those books don’t determine the worth of your book.

Your book is yours. Its value isn’t about all the other self published books in the world. Its value is determined by your ability to communicate your story. Its value is determined by the joy and sense of accomplishment that it gave you when you wrote it. 

Writing Tip of the Pod

Don’t go into the shame spiral. Be proud of who you are and what you’ve created.

Dog Tip for Life

Poop is nothing to be ashamed about. 

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 “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.

LAST WEEK’S PODCAST LINK!

Resources

Wiseman, T. (1996). A concept analysis of empathy. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 23, 1162–1167. 

Looking for help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for theSAMHSA National Helpline.

Looking for help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

WRITING NEWS

LEARN WITH ME AT THE WRITING BARN!

The Write. Submit. Support. format is designed to embrace all aspects of the literary life. This six-month course will offer structure and support not only to our writing lives but also to the roller coaster ride of submissions: whether that be submitting to agents or, if agented, weathering the submissions to editors. We will discuss passes that come in, submissions requests, feedback we aren’t sure about, where we are feeling directed to go in our writing lives, and more. Learn more here! 

“Carrie’s feedback is specific, insightful and extremely helpful. She is truly invested in helping each of us move forward to make our manuscripts the best they can be.”

“Carrie just happens to be one of those rare cases of extreme talent and excellent coaching.”

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, ORDER NOW!

My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!

Gasp!

It’s with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed!

Order this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

In the Woods
In the Woods


ART NEWS

Buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site. 

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PATREON OF AWESOME

Get exclusive content, early podcasts, videos, art and listen (or read) never-to-be-officially published writings of Carrie on her Patreon. Levels go from $1 to $100 (That one includes writing coaching and editing for you wealthy peeps). 

Check it out here. 

WHAT IS PATREON? 

A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. 

LAST WEEK’S PODCAST LINK!

This week’s podcast link if you can’t see it below!

Yo! We’re High Concept.

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Yo! We're High Concept.
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So there’s a quick and easy way to figure out who you are and who you want to be, but also figure out what your book is and what it wants to be. 

It’s called the high concept. It’s the dramatic question. It’s the way you describe in a quick captivating phrase all the energy inside your novel. 

You can also do this for your life: 

Like mine would be: Latchkey kid overwhelmed by family secrets sets out to find out who she is in a world that really couldn’t give a crap. 

Sorry! Sorry! That’s so negative. 

How about: Stuck in small-town New Hampshire, a weird psychic kid manages to survive thanks to her intellect until a rapist gives her a disease that attacks her brain. She survives anyways. 

There are sort of standard questions for every genre of story and movies. Will they fall in love? Will the killer be caught? Will our hero survive the zombie gerbils? Will the events of our youth make us into fractured adults? 

Don’t be shy about what your story is about. Will ET make it home? Will the Skywalkers go to the dark side – all of them? Will the Avengers defeat Thanos? Will Hugh Grant fall in love with someone in a fulfilling way? Even ghost ‘reality’ shows on tv have a dramatic question – Will they catch evidence – real evidence of the ghosts? Will they get possessed? Will they survive the night in the haunted castle? 

An awesome dramatic question isn’t enough to make something a bestseller, but it’s an important start. Go get one. For your life and your story. 

Next add in the obstacles. What’s making it complicated for ET to get home? For the ghost hunters to find evidence? Add those obstacles up so that we doubt that dramatic question is going to have a good answer. 

Finally, make sure that your hero is someone with some damn strong convictions. ET knows he has to get home, right? Scarlett O’Hara is positive she has to marry that Ashley guy. Harry Potter/Iron Man/Captain America/Black Widow must defeat Voldemort/Thanos/Whatever Big Bad you want to insert. 

That character’s super strong convictions are what makes us root for them. We feel that conviction. The stakes resonate. 

Writing Tip of the Pod:

Make a dramatic question.

Add obstacles.

Make your character have convictions.

Dog Tip For Life

Make a dramatic question.

Realize you have obstacles.

Make yourself have the convictions to bash through those obstacles.

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 “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.

LAST WEEK’S PODCAST LINK!

WRITING NEWS

LEARN WITH ME AT THE WRITING BARN!

The Write. Submit. Support. format is designed to embrace all aspects of the literary life. This six-month course will offer structure and support not only to our writing lives but also to the roller coaster ride of submissions: whether that be submitting to agents or, if agented, weathering the submissions to editors. We will discuss passes that come in, submissions requests, feedback we aren’t sure about, where we are feeling directed to go in our writing lives, and more. Learn more here! 

“Carrie’s feedback is specific, insightful and extremely helpful. She is truly invested in helping each of us move forward to make our manuscripts the best they can be.”

“Carrie just happens to be one of those rare cases of extreme talent and excellent coaching.”

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, ORDER NOW!

My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!

Gasp!

It’s with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed!

Order this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

In the Woods
In the Woods


ART NEWS

Buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is IMG_9486.jpg

PATREON OF AWESOME

Get exclusive content, early podcasts, videos, art and listen (or read) never-to-be-officially published writings of Carrie on her Patreon. Levels go from $1 to $100 (That one includes writing coaching and editing for you wealthy peeps). 

Check it out here. 

WHAT IS PATREON? 

A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. 

THE WEEK BEFORE LAST WEEK’S PODCAST! 

LASt WEEK’S PODCAST LINK!

Let’s Talk About Setting

Setting is where your story happens. It’s the time period. It’s the physical place. You can have more than one setting.

There. That’s the definition. We’re all good, right?

Wrong.

Let’s really talk about setting.

What Setting Does

Setting is the foundation of your story. It is the ModPodge that has an addictive smell (Cough. Not addicted to ModPodge. Look away.) and glues all the story together.

What Happens Without Setting

Your characters float around in nothingness.

Your plot makes no sense. You can’t have hamsters taking over the world if there is no world.

You have no theme. You can’t care about the kindness of strangers if there is no reason for the strangers to need to be kind.

You have no atmosphere. Atmosphere is sexy. It’s the feeling of the story. The ambience.

How Do You Make Setting?

Go in slow. Don’t overwhelm us with details about the Hamster World of Ham-Ham-Ster and its 87 leaders of the Teddy Bear Nation. Establish it. Move on and sprinkle in important details as you go. Be sparing. Only add to overall story.

Figure out what pieces of the setting matter the most. Is it the claustrophobic trees? The swarms of tourists disembarking cruiseships. The smell of blood coming from the old, wooden floorboards? Use those details. Not the kind of coffee your heroine puts in her Keurig.

Make it active. The setting matters as the characters see it, move through it, react to it. Whatever is weird about that place and how your characters interact with it? Focus on that.

Don’t be afraid to go places, to use Google maps, the internet. Do everything you can to get fully into that place.

WRITING NEWS

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, ORDER NOW!

My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!

Gasp! 

It’s with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed! 

You can order this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

In the Woods
In the Woods


ART NEWS

You can buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site. 

PATREON OF AWESOME

You can get exclusive content, early podcasts, videos, art and listen (or read) never-to-be-officially published writings of Carrie on her Patreon. Levels go from $1 to $100 (That one includes writing coaching and editing for you wealthy peeps). 

Check it out here. 

WHAT IS PATREON? 

A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you.