THREE BIG PIECES TO BUILDING BETTER STORY VIA SCENE AND SEQUEL

Write Better Now
Write Better Now
THREE BIG PIECES TO BUILDING BETTER STORY VIA SCENE AND SEQUEL
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Hi, welcome to Write Better Now, a podcast of quick, weekly writing tips meant to help you become a better writer. We’re your hosts with NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones and copyeditor extraordinaire Shaun Farrar. Thank you for joining us.


Story is basically a sequence of events, right? And to create a story you have to put that sequence of events together in a way that’s going to jive to the reader or for the reader.

To do that you need scenes, which make up that sequence of events.

A scene is the basic unit of a story, and there are two main types of scenes:

  • The scene
  • The sequel

Dwight Swain wrote a book called the Techniques of a Selling Story, and he basically defined them this way,

“A scene is a unit of conflict lived through by the character and reader.”

There are three big pieces there:

  • A conflict
  • Lived through
  • Character and reader

In a scene there needs to be conflict, immersion so your reader can relate to what’s happening to the character and LIVE THROUGH that character.

To have a conflict, you need to have a goal for your character so that something can obstruct it and your reader can worry.

It all makes sense, right?

Swain goes on to say that a scene must:

  • Be interesting
  • Move that story forward

He then writes that in order for a scene to make the story progress,

“it changes your character’s situation; and while change doesn’t always constitute progress, progress always involves change.”

And in each scene you need to have:

  1. Goal- what the character wants (to own something, to be free of something, revenge)
  2. Conflict (something keeping your character from that goal)
  3. Disaster (Swain calls this the “logical yet unanticipated development that throws your focal character for a loss.”

Cool, right?

The sequel is what happens after that scene. It connects one scene to the next, Swain says. It’s a transition.

And its goals are to (in his words):

Translate the disaster into goal

Telescope reality

Control the tempo

It’s here that decisions are made. It’s here that the protagonist reorients themselves. It’s here where the protagonist has to find answers and possibilities and deal with what just happens and turn it into a new goal. And it often involves a bit of summary or exposition.

And these sequel/transitional places control the tempo of a story because they give the reader a tiny bit of a pause, slowing down the pacing. I’ll have more about scenes in my substack. The link is below and also here.


Hey, thanks for listening to Write Better Now.

These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in us, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

For exclusive paid content, check out Carrie’s substack, LIVING HAPPY and WRITE BETTER NOW. It’s basically like a blog, but better. There’s a free option too without the bonus content but all the regular stuff is there.

Let’s Get Fighting BECAUSE Conflict in Stories Is Good

Hey, everyone! We’re having a wee bit of drama in our lives, so we’re taking this week off in the podcasts. Gasp! I know! We never do that.

But it means that we’re going to bring back one of our podcasts for a lovely redo.

It’s great! Here you go! And we hope you’re all doing well!

In our random thoughts, we talk about:

  1. Killer trees in Maine
  2. FBI agents looking for gold
  3. Chainsaws being a hot stolen item.

One of the big things that pretty much every traditional story in Western culture needs is conflict.

CHARACTER + WANT + OBSTACLE = CONFLICT

In your story or your life, you have wants? Sometimes there are obstacles in the way. They keep you from getting your want. Therein lies the conflict. The story becomes interesting because of how you or your character deals with that obstacle.

A lot of writers wait a long time to get that conflict into their stories.

Don’t do this. It is usually boring when you do this.

Nobody wants to be boring. There are two overall types of conflict – internal (inside the character) and external (outside the character), but they can be broken down even more.

AND THERE ARE TONS OF DIFFERENT TYPES OF CONFLICTS. CHOOSE ONE. MAKE THAT LITTLE JERK YOUR FRIEND.

First off, there are all sorts of lists about the types of conflict in novels. Sometimes you’ll see four. Sometimes you’ll see three. Whatever. Nothing is ever set in stone.

Character vs. character -Podcaster Carrie is trying desperately to not get an explicit rating, but her co-podcaster, Shaun, likes being explicit. How will Carrie make $5 a year off her podcast if it is banned?

Character vs. society – Podcaster Shaun must fight against an overly oppressive society that doesn’t like his explicit nature. How can Shaun survive in a society that crushes his inherent Shaunie-ness?

Character vs. nature – Nature or an aspect of it is about to kick your ass. Think Jaws. Think tidal waves. Think the moon messing up the Earth’s axis. How will there be a podcast if you are fighting off a Sharknado?

Character vs. technology – Your submarine breaks and you have only hours to fix the tech and live. Your mechanical love doll decides to kill you. Your downloads keep buffering. HOW WILL YOU PODCAST?

Character vs. supernatural – The ghosts have invaded the podcast studio and keep whispering, “WHO YOU GONNA CALL” over the audio. HOW WILL YOU PODCAST?

Character vs. self – The Reedsy blog states

Internal strife will stem from a debate that occurs within a character. It might originate from any combination of the character’s expectations, desire, duties, and fears.

Reedsy

Carrie has massive social anxiety, but also a hammy tendency. Every time she has to do a podcast, she panics and paces the house. Will she get it together enough to podcast? Can she get over her reluctance to speak aloud because her s’s are sloshy in order to finally have a voice?

Character vs. fate – Think Greek tragedy or boy wizards and prophecies. You are fated to die at the hands of a monster, in battle, via evil male wizards. You are stuck throwing an evil ring into a volcano. You are stuck becoming a podcaster in a prescribed fate sent from God. How do you deal with this once you know? How do you fight your fate?

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

Put lots of conflict in your story. Put it in early. You can use more than one kind.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Don’t create drama in your life when you’re bored or for attention. We all know people who try to create grievance and controversy out of random events. We all know people who go trolling on Facebook or Twitter or try to create drama and get that negative attention in their own post or life.

Spoiler: Negative attention isn’t the best kind of attention. Go for the positive.

RESOURCES

Articles mentioned in random thoughts are all linked here. And here.

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 are transitioning to a new writer podcast called WRITE BETTER NOW! You’ll be able to check it out here starting in 2022!

We have a 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.

Carrie is reading one of her poems every week on CARRIE DOES POEMS. And there you go! Whew! That’s a lot!

Here’s the link.

What is Theme?

Write Better Now
Write Better Now
What is Theme?
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Hey, thanks for listening to Write Better Now.

These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in us, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

For exclusive paid content, check out Carrie’s substack, LIVING HAPPY and WRITE BETTER NOW. It’s basically like a blog, but better. There’s a free option too without the bonus content but all the regular stuff is there.


What is theme?

This is the first in our three-week series about what theme is and how to find this abstract bugger and even develop it in your own stories. And to start things off, we have to define theme. Turns out there are a lot of different takes on this bad boy, but for today we’re going with LitCharts.

According to LitCharts,

A theme is a universal idea, lesson, or message explored throughout a work of literature. One key characteristic of literary themes is their universality, which is to say that themes are ideas that not only apply to the specific characters and events of a book or play, but also express broader truths about human experience that readers can apply to their own lives. For instance, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath (about a family of tenant farmers who are displaced from their land in Oklahoma) is a book whose themes might be said to include the inhumanity of capitalism, as well as the vitality and necessity of family and friendship.

And you can have more than one theme in your story, but we’re just going to be focusing in on one right now.

The theme is something you have to develop in your story and it has a significant impact on your main character.

Your book will have a plot – the things that happen in the story.

Your book will have character development – how your character evolves or doesn’t in a story.

Your book will have a theme – the more abstract concepts that your story involves.

Themes can be broken into concepts and statements.

A concept would be:

Love

Grief

A statement would be:

Human love is imperfect.

Living with grief is permanent.

And your work as the author is to embody those themes in your character as they navigate the plot and world of the story.

Sara Letourneau is a poet who also writes for diyMFA and coaches. She has a great piece about developing themes in stories and a worksheet on her website. 

She advocates when developing a theme for your character’s story, you can do so in their big choice in act one of the story.

A pause for a refresher. Act One is the beginning of your book where you establish the character, setting, story problem, character goal’s, etc. And it is also the place where the character’s world begins to change. This usually happens in the inciting incident.

Because of the inciting incident, the character that you’ve developed has to make a big-time decision. Will they keep on with the same old, same old or will they make a change that gets them involved with the story, a choice that makes it so their life isn’t going to be the same old, same old at all?

When they make this choice, the story usually enters ACT TWO, the place where everything is different for the main character, a point of no return.

So, what is this choice?

According to Leternous, it has the following elements:

  • “It typically occurs around the 25% mark, and signals the end of Act I and the beginning of Act II.
  • It shows the protagonist becoming fully engaged in the external conflict.
  • It further establishes the protagonist’s story goal.
  • It raises the stakes and underscores why the story goal matters to the protagonist.”

She writes (and I love this),

“It’s easy to confuse the inciting incident and the Act I choice, since they occur so close together. However, while the inciting incident invites the protagonist into the main conflict, the Act I choice is her RSVP. It shows the protagonist committing to her involvement and taking the first step out of her comfort zone. In other words, it’s her internal response to an external change in her status quo. And like with the inciting incident, it has the ability to reflect a story’s themes.”

So, what does theme have to do with this?

The inciting incident is where your character’s desires are triggered or maybe it’s her fears. It pushes her towards the choice that becomes her story goal.

She uses the Hobbit as an example:

“J. R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit:
Bilbo Baggins, the titular Hobbit, meets the wizard Gandalf, who invites him on an upcoming quest. Bilbo initially refuses, claiming he’s not the adventurous type.”

But then things change a lot because there is that choice. And your main character has to pick the option that makes the story happen. They have to want it more than they want to stay in their safe, same-old, same-old life.

The theme comes into play because your character’s goals and desires, and fears are all involved in this choice. What thematic/abstract ideas relate to your character’s choice? That’s a big hunk of your theme.

For Bilbo that choice has to do with courage. He chooses adventure and exploring.

She has a GREAT worksheet if you want to check it out and the link is in our podcast notes at carriejonesbooks.blog.

https://www.litcharts.com/literary-devices-and-terms/theme

Hey, thanks for listening to Write Better Now.

These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in us, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

For exclusive paid content, check out Carrie’s substack, LIVING HAPPY and WRITE BETTER NOW. It’s basically like a blog, but better. There’s a free option too without the bonus content but all the regular stuff is there.

How To Make Your Writing More Intense

Write Better Now
Write Better Now
How To Make Your Writing More Intense
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It’s Writing Tip Time and we’re going to give you three fast and dirty writing tips today that’s going to make your writing more intense. Ready?

Think about your tense

What’s that mean? It means don’t be writing like things are happening now and then shift over to writing like things were happening in the past. If you want the most immediate writing experience, write in the present tense.

Here’s a quick example:

I lost feeling on my entire left side of my body during our long run on Friday. I thought I might be having a stroke.

That’s in the past tense, right? We read this, notice it’s in the first person and figure that the narrator has survived because she’s telling us about this after-the-fact.

Try it out in the present tense:

I lose feeling on my entire left side of my body during our long run. I think I might be having a stroke.

It’s more intense, right?

Let’s make it more intense.

Take out the distancing words.

In first person especially, it’s really hard to get away from a lot of looking and knowing and words that pull us out of the moment and the immediacy of the character’s experience.

Distancing language tends to be the words like ‘seem,’ and ‘look,’ and ‘heard,’ and ‘know.’ When I revise, I think of these words as placeholders for where I can go back and dig in more deeply in certain places.

So, let’s take that sentence again and make it more immediate.

I lose feeling on my entire left side of my body during our long run. I think I might be having a stroke.

Change that up and it looks like:

My entire left side of my body starts going numb during our long run. My left foot numbs first. Then my left hand and arm. When the left side of my mouth starts going numb, I gasp. I might be having a stroke.

You’re in there a bit more with that character now right. Is she having a stroke? What the heck is she running for? SHE IS BROKEN!

Try not to use the same word too many times too closely together.

In the example above I deliberately use the word ‘numb’ and ‘my left’ over and over again. I’m cool with the repetition of ‘my left,’ but not so much with the numb. There are better, cooler words to mix in there and grab the reader’s attention. Let’s try.

My entire left side of my body starts going numb during our long run. My left foot disappears first. Then my left hand and arm. When the left side of my mouth starts to tingle, I gasp. I might be having a stroke.

There you go!

We’ve learned three fast tips to making your writing more intense.

Writing Tip of the Pod:

Be in the present (tense). Don’t be distant. Mix up your words, man.

Hey, thanks for listening to Write Better Now.

These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in us, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

For exclusive paid content, check out Carrie’s substack, LIVING HAPPY and WRITE BETTER NOW. It’s basically like a blog, but better. There’s a free option too without the bonus content but all the regular stuff is there.

Atomic Wedgies, Power, Noogies and Does Your Character Need to Be In Your Novel

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Atomic Wedgies, Power, Noogies and Does Your Character Need to Be In Your Novel
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Yesterday on Carrie’s blog she talked about a writer worry that happens a lot, which is figuring out when your novel has too many characters.

You should check that out at carriejonesbooks.blog if it’s one of your worries, but here’s a bit more information about making that deadly decision (deadly for your character, not you).

ANOTHER WAY TO DETERMINE IF THE CHARACTER NEEDS TO BE THERE IS TO THINK ABOUT YOUR CHARACTERS’ ROLES IN THE STORY.

Protagonist – The main character. It’s the character that the reader likes, loves, roots for, worries about, the character that moves the plot forward and has emotional development.

Antagonist – The naughty one who keeps our protagonist from quickly achieving their goals.

Sidekick – The bestie. The support system for the protagonist.

Orbital – They tend to get the protagonist in trouble even if that’s not their intent. Think Hermione in Harry Potter. She’s the coolest, but her insistence on doing the right thing and being heroic sometimes pulls Harry into a path of uh-oh. The orbital is basically an instigator.

Love Interest – I don’t have to explain this one, right?

Confidante – This is the person the protagonist tells their secrets to. It can be a trusted friend, a mentor.

Foil – They aren’t the villain, but they are the protagonist’s opposite. Think Draco Malfoy in Harry Potter.

Red Shirts – These are the extras. They are hanging out in the background and encountered, but not super important. The Patils in Harry Potter

If you have a ton of one type of character, you can probably delete or combine one.

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

Diversify your characters’ roles and consolidate. Don’t have too many characters doing the same thing/serving the same role.



DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Keep your crew tight. Don’t think the red shirts are the sidekicks.

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.

WE HAVE EXTRA CONTENT ALL ABOUT LIVING HAPPY OVER HERE! It’s pretty awesome.

AND we have a writing tips podcast called WRITE BETTER NOW!

We have a podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and YouTube on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook. But she also has extra cool content focused on writing tips here.

Carrie is reading one of her poems every week on CARRIE DOES POEMS. And there you go! Whew! That’s a lot!

Here’s the link.

best writing podcast WRITE BETTER NOW
Write Better Now – Writing Tips podcast for authors and writers
best podcast ever
loving the strange the podcast about embracing the weird
best poetry podcast by poet
Carrie Does Poems

LINKS WE MENTION

https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/142716/where-does-noogie-come-from

https://www.gotoquiz.com/what_killier_wedgie_do_you_deserve_girls_only

Dude, what’s a dynamic character?

Sadly, being quirky doesn’t equal dynamic.

Recently, Shaun and I realized that we were a little much for our community. Some of our friends assured us that this was okay. That Maine was full of characters.

“You’re dynamic,” they said.

This made Shaun happy because the word has sort of a superhero aspect to it. DYNAMIC MAN has a pretty cool ring to it.

But since I’m a writer and editor and writing coach, I thought, “Whoa… So I’m evolving? Cool.”

This, of course, confused poor Shaun also known as Dynamic Man, so I had to explain it a bit too him. And then I figured I might as well make a blog post about it because I’ve probably talked a bit too much about Hot Customs Guy and butt shapes lately.

What’s a dynamic character?

It’s a character that changes in the course of your story.

They grow. They evolve or devolve. They learn something about their world and that learning impacts who they are.

Sadly, being quirky doesn’t equal dynamic. To be dynamic your character has to change somehow.

The change in the character can be HUGE or it can be SMALL, but for a character to exist there has to be some change.

Important thing to remember: Not all characters are dynamic even if they are your lead character, but (especially in kidlit) dynamic characters are pretty much the thing.

A place where you tend not to see a dynamic character is in multiple installments of a series. Think James Patterson novels following one guy or woman. Think Sherlock Holmes’s character.

But almost always the main character will change in a story because of the things that happen in your story. Sometimes that change shifts their world view or gives them new positive characteristics, but sometimes that change is just a strengthening of the awesome that’s already there.

And sometimes that change is someone heading to the dark side like poor Anakin or that guy in Breaking Bad whose name I can never remember. Walter? Walden?

But for a character to be dynamic, there needs to be change. I’ll be talking about static characters this week, too! So hang on.


NEW BOOK OUT!

It’s super fun. An adult paranormal/mystery/romance/horror blend. Think Charlaine Harris but without all the vampires. Instead there are shifters and dragon grandmothers and evil police chiefs and potential necromancers and the occasional zombie and a sexy skunk.

It’s out November 1, which means you can buy it now, and I seriously love it. So, it would be cool if you bought it so I can be all motivated to write the next book.

Oh, and it’s quirky.

This is because most of my books are quirky.

Be ready to resurrect your love of the paranormal in the first novel in the Alisa Thea series—the books that give new meaning to quirky paranormal.

Alisa Thea is barely scraping by as a landscaper in small-town Bar Harbor. She can’t touch people with her bare skin without seeing their deaths and passing out, which limits her job and friendship opportunities. It also doesn’t give much of a possibility for a love life, nor does her overbearing stepfather, the town’s sheriff. Then along comes an opportunity at a local campground where she thinks her need for a home and job are finally solved . . .

But the campground and its quirky residents have secrets of their own: the upper level is full of paranormals. And when some horrifying murders hit the campground—along with a potential boyfriend from her past who may be involved—Alisa starts to wonder if living in a campground of paranormals will end up in her own death.

Join New York Times and internationally best[selling author Carrie Jones in the first book of the Alisa Thea Series as it combines the excitement of a thriller with the first-hand immediacy and quirky heroines that Jones is known for.

It’s fun. It’s weird. It’s kind of like Charlaine Harris, but a little bit more achy and weird.

best maine paranormal carrie jones
Almost Dead Series – Meet Alissa Thea, a sexy skunk, a haunted campground and a lot of quirky



BE SEXY IN THE BEGINNING

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
BE SEXY IN THE BEGINNING
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You’re writing a book. And that book has to start somewhere. Where it starts? That’s called the opening scene and this little baby has a lot of work that it has to do.

It’s like the first moments of a blind date, but instead of a blind date between two people, it’s a blind date between the book and the reader.

Will they like each other?

Will they want to spend time together?

Are they meant for each other?

Only … it’s really will the reader like the book. Nobody cares if the book likes the reader. The reader has all the power.

According to Les Edgerton, who wrote the craft book, HOOKED, that opener has ten important components to grab that reader’s attention and make them want to chill on the couch with your book.

Those are:

The Inciting Incident – Les believes that this needs to happen in the first scene. Other people do not agree with this.

The Story-Worthy Problem – That incident makes a problem that is going to propel the plot of the whole damn book.

The Initial Shallow Problem – This problem happens because of the inciting incident and makes the protagonist do something (take action), but it’s not the real problem of the story.

The Set-Up – Kind of makes the reader know what’s going to happen next and also helps the reader know what the heck is going on.

Backstory – You do not want a lot of this, which is the events that have happened before the story starts.

Opening Lines – Because duh. The story has to start, but you want them to be snazzy and make an impression.

Language – Because again, duh. Books are made of words. The words you choose and how you group them together make an impression.

Setting – Because the story has to take place somewhere. Let the reader have a sense of the physical space, the time, the culture.

Foreshadowing – This is the magic, my friends, because this is part of the hook that keeps the reader with you—the knowledge and hint that something is coming up next.

And that opening scene? It has goals:

  1. You have to hook the reader.
  2. You have to have a story-worthy problem.
  3. You have to let the reader know what kind of story this is.
  4. And tease that ending out a tiny bit.

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

That beginning of your story is super important. Spend some time on it.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Set the scene. Establish your goals. Show them your character and do it right away.

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.

WE HAVE EXTRA CONTENT ALL ABOUT LIVING HAPPY OVER HERE! It’s pretty awesome.

AND we have a writing tips podcast called WRITE BETTER NOW!

We have a podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and YouTube on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook. But she also has extra cool content focused on writing tips here.

Carrie is reading one of her poems every week on CARRIE DOES POEMS. And there you go! Whew! That’s a lot!

Here’s the link.

best writing podcast WRITE BETTER NOW
Write Better Now – Writing Tips podcast for authors and writers
best podcast ever
loving the strange the podcast about embracing the weird
best poetry podcast by poet
Carrie Does Poems

LINKS

https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/why-couples-are-having-less-sex-during-pandemic-214715201.html

Writers, Don’t be basic. Run-on sentences are a turn-off just like your parents throwing away your porn

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Writers, Don’t be basic. Run-on sentences are a turn-off just like your parents throwing away your porn
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We’ve all met them. The human at a party, in a line, or god-forbid sitting next to you in an airplane and they talk and talk and talk and don’t pause to breathe.

Do you enjoy those people?

Not usually.

Do you want them to shut the heck up for a half second?

Usually.

Well, writers, we hate to tell you all this, but we are guilty of doing this to our reader. Yes, you, writer, might be the annoying person on the plane talking about Aunt Sally’s hemorrhoids and all the fish you saw in Roatan during your five-day-long scuba adventure.

Don’t be those people. Periods are your friend. We can’t convince our thirteen year old this, but maybe we can convince you.

Periods are the enemy of your enemy: the run-on sentence.

What’s a run-on sentence?

It’s basically a sentence that connects two independent clauses without any punctuation or a nice sexy conjunction.

What’s an independent clause?

It’s basically this … an independent clause is so strong, so mighty, so full of awesome that it can be a sentence all by itself. It doesn’t need any help.

What’s a conjunction?

It’s basically the cruise director of your sentence connecting clauses or words or phrases and getting them all to chill out and hang together.

And then we have a comma splice.

The comma splice is a run on sentence with a comma stuck in there between those two independent clauses.

You want an example. Here you go.

Oh my god, I went to Starbucks, I got a pumpkin spice latte, they put the wrong name on my cup, they were calling out “Rachel,” I had no idea, right, I just stood there and stood there and stood there, I was the only one left, the guy at the counter looks at me and says, “Rachel?” I said I am “Raquel,” it was totally cold.

So how do you fix this?

  1. Make those clauses into separate sentences.

Oh my god, I went to Starbucks. I got a pumpkin spice latte. They put the wrong name on my cup. They were calling out “Rachel.” I had no idea, right? I just stood there and stood there and stood there. I was the only one left. The guy at the counter looks at me and says, “Rachel?” I said I am “Raquel.” It was totally cold.

  • Use the magical semicolon sometimes instead of a comma.

Oh my god, I went to Starbucks; I got a pumpkin spice latte. They put the wrong name on my cup. They were calling out “Rachel;” I had no idea, right? I just stood there and stood there and stood there. I was the only one left. The guy at the counter looks at me and says, “Rachel?” I said I am “Raquel.” It was totally cold.

  • Use a sexy conjunction. We call these beautiful mistresses coordinating conjunctions or FANBOYS (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so).

Oh my god, I went to Starbucks and I got a pumpkin spice latte. They put the wrong name on my cup so they were calling out “Rachel.”

  • Use another kind of sexy conjunction called the subordinating conjunction. These show a little-cause-and-effect or relationships.

Oh my god, I went to Starbucks where I got a pumpkin spice latte. They put the wrong name on my cup because they were calling out “Rachel.”

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

Don’t run-on, don’t splice.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Don’t run-in bark. The humans yell at you.

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.

WE HAVE EXTRA CONTENT ALL ABOUT LIVING HAPPY OVER HERE! It’s pretty awesome.

AND we have a writing tips podcast called WRITE BETTER NOW!

We have a podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and YouTube on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook. But she also has extra cool content focused on writing tips here.

Carrie is reading one of her poems every week on CARRIE DOES POEMS. And there you go! Whew! That’s a lot!

Here’s the link.

best writing podcast WRITE BETTER NOW
Write Better Now – Writing Tips podcast for authors and writers
best podcast ever
loving the strange the podcast about embracing the weird
best poetry podcast by poet
Carrie Does Poems

LINKS MENTIONED IN RANDOM THOUGHTS SECTION

About the cow at McDonald’s

https://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Spotted-Cow-at-a-McDonald-s-drive-through-in-16417355.php

About dogs in the U.S.

https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2021/08/10/1025596981/how-the-pet-revolution-unleashed-a-new-top-dog-in-america

About parents throwing away your porn

https://www.10tv.com/article/news/nation-world/parents-must-pay-son-for-throwing-away-his-porn-collection/530-36a06067-d27a-48a7-95ec-4646253e072d

https://people.com/human-interest/parents-ordered-to-pay-son-30k-after-getting-rid-of-his-pornography-collection/

Let’s Not Flash Each Other

Flashbacks happen in a novel when your character remembers or relives something that happened in their past.

Flashbacks get a super bad rap in the world of editors and publishing, but sometimes you need them. WARNING: Even when you need them, you don’t want to stay in them too long.

So why would you ever need that dastardly flashback?

It helps the plot move forward.

I know right? How can something that has the word ‘back’ in it, move the plot forward? It can if . . .

The remembering of the past event (flashback) moves the plot forward. The remembering of that flashback needs to trigger the character to act or change their way of thinking.

And the other thing?

It can’t be boring.

That backstory that they are remembering, that flashback needs to be sexy enough for us readers to enjoy being there with the character.


When you have a character flashback to past events, you’re pressing a giant pause button on the forward narrative flow of the story. So the rewards of that need to be HUGE.

What makes a huge reward?

A plot revelation or

A massive energizing moment for character development.

Flashbacks have to:

  1. Give the reader some new juicy bits about the character and/or situation.
  2. Not take away from the current main focus of the plot.
  3. Not ruin the subtext of the story.
  4. Not be right in the beginning of the story.

Let’s talk about point #4 for a second: Your reader has to care enough about the character and relate to them for a bit, become acquainted before they want to hear about their backstory. Treat them right before you throw them into your character’s sundry past.

And now let’s spend a hot second with point #3 because that tends to be the harder one to get because it’s about subtext, that confusing beast. It’s like a unlabeled vegetable (not a carrot) in the produce department and you think it’s a cabbage, but it’s really kohlrabi.

The subtext of a story is according to good ole MasterClass:

“Subtext is the implicit meaning of a text—the underlying message that is not explicitly stated or shown. Subtext gives the reader information about characters, plot, and the story’s context as a whole. Using subtext is a great way to communicate underlying emotion that a character doesn’t directly voice.”

There are all different kinds of it, too.

But for our purposes here, the character’s background is something you the writer should know, and you want to make sure that there is still subtext in that flashback that is sexy and interesting and so sexy and interesting that it doesn’t matter that this flashback is old news. That’s a whole lot of sexy.

And you want to be a sexy writer, right? So use those flashbacks wise and sparingly.

NEW BOOK ALERT!

INCHWORMS, the second book in the DUDE GOODFEATHER series is coming out September 1!

A fascinating must-read suspense from New York Times bestseller Carrie Jones.

A new chance visiting a small Southern college.
A potential love interest for a broken girl obsessed with psychology.
A damaged group of co-eds.
A drowning that’s no accident.
A threat that seems to have no end.

And just like that Jessica Goodfeather aka Dude’s trip away from her claustrophobic life in Maine to try to get an amazing scholarship to her dream school has suddenly turned deadly. Again.

You can buy it here!


NEW BOOK ALERT!

I just want to let everyone know that INCHWORMS (The Dude Series Book 2) is out and having a good time as Dude competes for a full scholarship at a prestigious Southern college and getting into a bit of trouble.

Here’s what it’s about:

A fascinating must-read suspense from New York Times bestseller Carrie Jones.

A new chance visiting a small Southern college.
A potential love interest for a broken girl obsessed with psychology.
A damaged group of co-eds.
A drowning that’s no accident.
A threat that seems to have no end.

And just like that Jessica Goodfeather aka Dude’s trip away from her claustrophobic life in Maine to try to get an amazing scholarship to her dream school has suddenly turned deadly. Again.


What would you do to make a difference?

After his best friend Norah was almost abducted, Cole Nicholaus has spent most of his childhood homeschooled, lonely and pining for Norah to move from best friend to girl friend status. When birds follow him around or he levitates the dishes, he thinks nothing of it—until a reporter appears and pushes him into making a choice: stay safe at home or help save a kidnapped kid.

Cole and Norah quickly end up trying to not just save a kid, but an entire town from a curse that has devastating roots and implications for how exactly Cole came to be the saint that he is.

Can Cole stop evil from hurting him and Norah again? And maybe even get together? Only the saints know.

From the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of the NEED seriesSaint is a book about dealing with the consequences that make us who we are and being brave enough to admit who we love and what we need.

BUY NOW! 🙂 I made a smiley face there so you don’t feel like I’m too desperate.

The cover. Creepy, right?

You can read an excerpt right here.

Where Does All That Writing Tension Come From?

This week, I’ve been talking about story tension which basically comes down to this question:

Where does all that tension and all that suspense comes from?

That makes it sound like this is a blog post about dealing with rejection and deadlines and cranky editors. It isn’t.

All of us have tension in our lives. We worry about our loved ones, our jobs, our selves, our country. The tension comes from multiple sources.

That’s how it works in writing, too.

Suspense can come from:

  1. Plot
  2. Characters
  3. Place

Suspense from Plot

 In his Essay “Killing Them in Suspense” William Reynolds writes, “The most obvious source of suspense is plot – indeed, in genre fiction especially, it’s nearly impossible to separate the two.”

 He cites the movie North by Northwest (one of editor Andrew Karre’s favorites about ten years ago).

Poor Cary Grant is besieged by nasty guys who are 100 % positive that Dashing Cary is someone they’ve been trying to capture for a long, long time. Dashing Cary Grant dashes around so he doesn’t get caught. We root for him. We worry for him. We want to know what will happen and there’s a real danger that the bad guys will catch him and Dashing Cary will dash no more.

Suspense from Characters

 What your characters do also creates suspense. Their actions, their reactions will increase the tension. This is why your characters have to be flawed. Their flaws up the stakes. In the Harry Potter books, Harry’s stubborn streak makes him vulnerable. When he chooses to dash off — ala Cary Grant —  and save the world alone we worry for him, but that’s his character choice to do that.

 We don’t know if Harry will survive Voldemort, the evil wizard. We don’t know if Harry will even survive his Tri-Wizard Level tests and we care because we care about Harry. We worry about him.           

Suspense from Place

It’s the “unpredictable nature” of certain places, which also create suspense Reynolds believes.  In Buffy the Vampire Slayer universe, Sunnydale is a Hellmouth and all sorts of demons can come on through. The demons play by different rules. The place creates suspense. Lots of science fiction and fantasy novels do this.

In many literary novels the unpredictable weather creates suspense.

Stephen King uses the rural landscape of Maine, the isolation of homes and people to create suspense. Stephenie Meyers does the same thing in her Twilight series.

Reynolds uses his own first line in his novel, Things Invisible, to show how it’s done. What’s the first line?

            “Days like this remind you that you’re going to die.”


LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

Email us at carriejonesbooks@gmail.com


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 263,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

One of our newest LOVING THE STRANGE podcasts is about the strange and adorably weird things people say?

And one of our newest DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE episode is about fear setting and how being swallowed by a whale is bad ass.


And Carrie has new books out! Yay!

You can order now! It’s an adult mystery/thriller that takes place in Bar Harbor, Maine. Read an excerpt here!

best thrillers The People Who Kill
The people who kill

It’s my book! It came out June 1! Boo-yah! Another one comes out July 1.

And that one is called  THOSE WHO SURVIVED, which is the first book in the the DUDE GOODFEATHER series.  I hope you’ll read it, like it, and buy it!

The Dude Goodfeather Series - YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones
The Dude Goodfeather Series – YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones

TO TELL US YOUR BRAVE STORY JUST EMAIL BELOW.


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.

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