Writing Tip Wednesday: Finding Your Big Wonder

The Big Wonder

So, stories tend to need that internal motivator/quest/motivation to keep their plot chugging forward and to keep the reader engaged. As you know, I talk about desire lines way too much, which are all about the emotional through-line for the characters in our stories, but another way to think about the internal motivation is to think of it as the Big Wonder or Big Question. 

Tom French calls this the engine of the story. And it’s these questions that make the readers keep reading.

In a mystery, it’s obvious: Who did it?

In a thriller, it’s usually: Will they survive?

In a romance, it’s often: Will they bang and will they bang forever?

Or it can be a how question. How will Captain America stop Hydra because you know he will.

How will the people in those 50 Shades books hook up now because you know they will. 

Those essential plot questions keep us reading and going because humans like answers. We like winners and losers and to know things in definite ways. That’s why sports are so popular. Almost always, one team loses or one person wins. 

But back to stories. 

When you are writing, not only do you have the big plot, you oftten have subplots and their questions, which are like the baby engines that keep the story edging forward. They are like back-up generators, I guess. I’m not the best with mechanical allusions, honestly. Sorry! 

In each subplot, there has to be something important at stake. If you have a book, divided by two narrators of equal importance, they each need to have a question that happens in their story and a stake. 

So, a good thing to do is to look at your story that you’re working on and ask yourself: 

Is there a big question going on right here? 

Is the answer super obvious? 

If the answer is super obvious, will the how of what happens be a wee bit less super obvious? 

If you have subplots, do those have questions, too? 

Good luck writing, writers! 

And if you think about your life, does it have those big wonders? Are you moving towards the things that motivate you? Do you already hold them in your hands? Do they shine through everything you do? You’re the hero of your own story so make sure that you’re going towards those big wonders, too.


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Last week’s episode.

Last week’s bonus episode with Anne Marie Pace, author of Vampirina Ballerina.


I coach, have a class, and edit things. 


I have a new book out!!!!!! It’s an adult mystery set in the town where we live, which is Bar Harbor, Maine. You can order it here. And you totally should. 

And if you click through to this link, you can read the first chapter! 

And click here to learn about the book’s inspiration and what I learned about myself when I was writing it.

Writing Your Darn Story, The Easiest Plot Structure Ever

Are you ready? Because I’m writing this while I have a fever, which means it might be a weird, wild ride.

A lot of the writers I teach get really freaked out about structure. They go on multiple craft book journeys trying to find the structure that resonates with them, the one that gives them that beautiful a-ha moment.

Who can blame them?

Don’t we all want that beautiful a-ha moment?

Here is the simplest structure choice. Ready?

You have a character.

Your character has a problem.

How will she solve it?

Make her try to solve it.

Make her fail.

Make her try to solve it again.

Make her fail again.

Do this until near the end (¾’s in) and make everything seem absolutely hopeless.

Let her solve the damn problem.

Let her rejoice.

How many times should she try?

In our Western culture, we like the number three for some reason. I’m personally more of a fan of the number four. But we authors tend to give the main character three big attempts to solve her issue before we let her succeed. We’re mean like that.

Make it tougher

We call this the rising action, but basically it means that each time she tries to fix things, it should be harder, there should be more at risk, she should be more desperate and emotionally invested.

When the attempt fails, the tension gets a bit mellower until it rises again even higher for the second and third attempts. It becomes a pattern.

That’s It – The Simplest Plot Structure Ever

Really. It’s a pretty simple plot structure but it works. No, I didn’t mention inciting incidents and midpoints and other things, because this is the simple plot structure.

But, don’t forget that even with the simplest of plot structures, the point of the story is to have it make sense. When your character does something, let there be consequences that logically move us to the next part of the story. Remember cause and effect? That’s important to us writers.

This post was brought to you by Carrie’s fevered brain.

Writing News

From April 23-27 NEED and TIME STOPPERS ebooks are on sale on Nook. Please go buy one. They’re only $1.99 and $.99, which is so cheap that even I can afford them.

Time Stoppers Middle Grade Fantasy Series by Carrie Jones
Time Stoppers Front and Back Covers – US versions


My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July 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 preorder 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?

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On February first, I launched my Patreon site where I’m reading chapters (in order) of a never-published teen fantasy novel, releasing deleted scenes and art from some of my more popular books. And so much more. Come hang out with me! Get cool things! 

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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. 

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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!


You can buy some of my art. I paint to help inform my stories and some of the prints are available now. There will be more soon. You can check it out here. 

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