There Is Nothing Better than a Sexy Setting

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
There Is Nothing Better than a Sexy Setting
/

Lately, Carrie has been talking to a lot of writers that she coaches and edits about settings.

That’s because a lot of writers are blowing them off. So, she’ll read a lot of passages like this:

“Hey,” I sit at my desk, “you coming over later?”

“Yep,” Shaun says.

“Cool.”

“I thought maybe we could have some hanky-panky.”

“Okay?”

So, we know that Shaun wants to have some hanky-panky and the “I” of the story is sitting at their desk. But we don’t know what kind of desk, where that desk is, if there are other people around, or even how she or he or they are reacting to Shaun’s request for hanky-panky, right?

Setting is obviously the place where things happen, but it’s more than that, right?

Setting makes your characters real. It grounds them. It shows the reader what’s going on without saying, “Yo, reader. This is what’s going on.”

What do we mean? Well, here, let’s play with the setting of that excerpt above.

“Hey,” I sit at my desk, flipping through some tentacle porn, “you coming over later?”

The dirt-streaked wall of my cubby gives a bit with the pressure of his hand, holding him up as he leans over my shoulder. “Yep.”

Betty is just on the other side of that cubby wall and beyond her is my boss, the other workers, everyone typing on their computers, pretending to be busy reading emails, analyzing data, reading contract clauses. Liars all. The air smells of old coffee and pot, broken things, broken people.

It doesn’t matter. Nothing matters.

“Cool.” That’s all I say.

Shaun clears his throat, moves lower, closer to me, my hard metal desk, standard issue. His giant elbow brushing against the wall again. His voice is a low whisper. “I thought maybe we could have some hanky-panky.”

Someone coughs. That someone is Betty. I flip the page. A tentacle is exploring places on an elf that should probably not be explored. Shaun doesn’t smell like old coffee. He smells of sandalwood and pine, like man.

“Okay,” I whisper. “Okay.”

Totally different, right?

Now we have a lot more context even if we don’t know all the details of her office, the chair, the desk. The characters aren’t floating in a void.

Here, one more example before we move on. Same dialogue again. But different setting and different feelings.

“Hey.” Holding my phone in my hand, I sit at my broad, metal work desk, give up and stand on it, pushing the papers and books about writing and being a freelance human off with my heel. They flutter to the floor. From up here, I can see everyone. Janice with the pink hair. Bob with the coffee stained shirt and no hair. Countless nameless coworkers. I raise my voice into a yell that echoes across the vast space of the office. “You coming over later?”

Bob stares up at me. His mouth gaping open. I can see his fillings. He puts a finger over his lips. I give him a finger of my own. Lights flicker overhead.

“Yep,” Shaun says.

Janice gives me a thumbs up. Beyond her, other coworkers are watching and/or pretending not to watch. The fans above them, hanging from the drop ceiling, spin around and around. My manager opens the door from his office, starts angry striding towards me.

I say, “Cool.”

Across the office, all the way in a prestigious cubby by the dirt-grimed windows, Shaun stands on his own desk and shouts, “I thought maybe we could have some hanky-panky.”

Someone giggles. The world smells of promise, lemon bleach those cleaners use. The manager stops, his bald head turning from Shaun to me to Shaun.

I hang up the phone and yell across everyone. “Okay?”

Setting can reinforce what we’re doing, add context and even tension, right? It can transform an exchange into a story. You don’t want to blow it off. You really want to make it as sexy as possible.

Tips About Setting

Don’t glob it all down in paragraph after paragraph.

Sprinkle it into the dialogue and action like salt.

Let us reiterate: Don’t overdo it.

Seriously. See that first tip up there. It’s like art in your house. You don’t put all the paintings in one room. Spread it out.

Make sure that the details you add are the ones that are important to the reader.

Use setting to add subtext.

You can say “there is a fan in the office” or you can say, “The fans above them, hanging from the drop ceiling, spin around and around.”

Boom! Now you know that they feel trapped and like they are going in circles. Cool, right?

Be weird. Be quirky. Don’t be normal.

Our readers are aware of what a desk is, right? What an office is? But it’s the weird and different things that make a scene and setting matter. Let them see the escaped gerbil running across the floor. Let them hear the sound of a coworker sucking air through their teeth nonstop. Show them the broken blind, twisted and lopsided on the window.

Show the setting as your main character sees it. The readers shouldn’t see the office until the point-of-view character sees the office. Let the setting be discovered by them simultaneously. 

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

Settings make a book real. They add dimension and character. Layers. Don’t blow them off.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

A sexy setting is so important in your life. Surround yourself with dog toys and cozy blankets, twirl around around before flopping down so that you feel perfect.

NEW BOOK ALERT!

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.

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 strange things people do for luck.

RESOURCES

https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/news/a39179/five-real-life-horror-stories/

https://www.upi.com/Odd_News/2021/07/30/canada-loose-llama-Arkell-Puslinch-Ontario/4701627667041/

Naughty Transitions are A Writer’s Best Friend

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Naughty Transitions are A Writer's Best Friend
/

There are certain traps us writers fall into.

  • We generalize.
  • We are too abstract.
  • We summarize.
  • We fail at transitions.

And a lot of those negative tendencies can quite easily be fixed when you think about them a bit more and learn to recognize them.

Scenes are a bit like connected shots in a movie. I think everyone from Blake Snyder to Robert Olen Butler has said this, but they’re right.

The scene is the basic element of your story. You want to stay in one point of view. Think of it like the camera lens zooming in.

In film, the shot is similar, right? You stay in one uninterrupted image for a shot. Right? Then you hook those shots together. A lot of filmmakers, like novelists, use transitions. They move us from one place to the other.

Butler defines a scene as “unified actions occurring in a single time or place.” Shots becomes scenes become sequences. There is a beginning, middle, and end to all of these. And then you can have long-shots, close-ups, super close-ups, etc.

What we want to do as writers is to use those tools as well (even in first person). We want the extreme close-up of deep POV, but then also to pull back sometimes and see the world and big-picture setting, and then to see that middle distance scene where the character is interacting.

When I write YA and adult genre, my first drafts are almost all deep POV and I have to go back in and add those wider shots, sensory details, setting.

When I write middle grade, my first drafts are almost all middle shots and long shots, and I have to go back and do those extreme close-ups and close ups and that’s okay.

What you want to do as a writer is to know where you tend to lean. Are you a big-picture, abstract, distancer? Are you she-who-is-only-into-close-ups? He who does no transitions and only black-out cuts?

And you want to layer in those elements that you don’t have for effect.

When you don’t do this, you risk one of two things. If you’re a big picture writer with that long-distance point of view, you risk never showing intimacy or immediacy.

If you’re an extreme close-up writer, you risk never showing the reader that bigger world or big picture and sometimes your story can lack setting so it’s all just talking heads and interior monologue.

Don’t be afraid to mix it up.

And don’t be afraid to mix up those transitions, those movements between scenes. Sometimes they can be big cuts and scene breaks and chapter breaks, but sometimes they can be softer and gentler transitional words 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.

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

The key here is this: Don’t use the same transition every time. Don’t even use the same transition technique every time.

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

Mix it up. Good story is about variety. Do long shots. Close-ups. Location transitions, big cuts, fade-outs, scene transitions.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Don’t be boring in life either.

Carrie had the epiphany that she’s tried to fit in with other writers for far too long, clinging to the idea that she can’t be as weird and dorky as she is. No more, my friends. Her witch cackle is coming out.

LINKS WE MENTION IN OUR RANDOM THOUGHTS

Angel shots.

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/weird-news/bartender-explains-what-angel-shot-24605557

Nudist cruise.

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/weird-news/couples-anniversary-dinner-interrupted-nudist-24612029

Weird image on the CCTV.

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/weird-news/mum-calls-priest-bless-home-24611677

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 strange things people do for luck.

Don’t Write Like the Undead

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Don't Write Like the Undead
/

Sometimes you’ll read a book and you’ll think—um, did a vampire write this?

That’s not because it’s sexy and sparkling like the Twilight vampires or sexy and bloody with a rocking 1980s soundtrack like the Lost Boys vampires or sexy and in New Orleans like the Anne Rice vampires, but because the language in the story is so flowerly, so overwrought, so full of clauses that you think, “Only someone over two-hundred years old could have written this.”

Yes, you could argue that M.T. Anderson successfully did this with Octavian Nothing, which won a butt-ton of rewards, but you are not Tobin Anderson.

And that’s part of the point. A lot of us authors look to the classics, to the past and think, “Yo, Charles Dickens, man. Peeps are still talking about him. I should copy his style.”

No.

Also, don’t try to sound hip when you aren’t hip like we just did up there.

If you’re writing historical fiction and like Tobin or Paul Kingsnorth or Dorothy Dunnett, and you think you have a really good handle on the syntax and speech patterns of the time, go for it.

But if you’re writing a contemporary novel about a woman in Maine living with a tall man and two dogs and three cats and one kid and figuring out if writing is worth it? No.

Honestly, even most historical fiction is written in modern language and style.

Why?

Well, that’s because the novel is a communication. It’s you writing for the reader. It’s not just you writing. And you usually want the reader to feel comfortable in that novel, all snuggled in for a cool journey into the character’s world aka your book.

Write like you’re communicating with an audience that’s living right now if you want most readers to enjoy it and keep turning the page.

Here’s an example or what we’re talking about.

While, she stood, one foot upon the ancient sleeping device, and then seemed askance at what stance she had partaken, inhaled a breath so great that it moved her bosom in a terrifying rapturous way, pivoting and climactically inhaling without any scant emotion.

Rather than:

She stood with her foot on the bed. Her face flushed and some sort of scandalous thought crossed her mind. She turned away, sighing so deeply her whole body moved with it.

Okay. Neither are awesome. But one’s a lot easier to understand, right? That’s because it is in the style that’s today’s speaking/writing style, not the style of undead cats and vampires.

Writing Tip of the Pod

Remember that writing is communication. Make it understandable for the people who are alive now.

Dog Tip for Life

Be obvious about your wants. If you want to hang out with the undead, let them know.

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 strange things people do for luck.

LINKS FROM RANDOM THOUGHTS

Getting High With Dolphins and Making Meaning

We have to take back our own power and decide what success is to us, not society, not our parents, not our children, us. What gives us meaning? What gives us joy?

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Getting High With Dolphins and Making Meaning
/

How do you make meaning in your life? That’s a big questions we’ve been struggling with here.

Success is defined for us:

  • It’s having a kid who graduates high school.
  • It’s having your own home, your own car.
  • It’s looking like a Kardasian.
  • It’s being strong like the Rock.

But when you were a little kid was that what you thought?

Let’s say you’re two. Success is going on the potty, honestly, and not the floor. Success is not wearing a diaper.

Success and happiness came from immediate things. It was a piggyback ride on your sister’s shoulders. It was twirling around in circles until you fell down dizzy. It was an ice cream cone that made it into your mouth and not the sidewalk.

It wasn’t a million-dollar book contract or celebrity endorsements. Or a McMansion. It wasn’t 8,000 likes on your TikTok video.

It was what made you happy inside. You. Not anyone else. And somehow along the way, a lot of us have forgotten what makes us happy. Us. Not society. Not Twitter. Not TikTok. Or YouTube or politicians or gurus who charge $390 for a class. Us.

When we’re little, we often don’t get to see people from all different demographics exploring, explaining, existing. We live in pretty big bubbles sometimes. But witnessing diversity in thought and life and experience especially from a young age allow us to grow and not fall into the traps of strict notions of “what it means to be successful.”

We could give a crap about what John Patrick Dorsey or Mark Zuckerberg or our senators or presidents define as ‘successful.’ And when we chase other people’s definitions? That’s when we lose meaning in our lives. We have to define words like “success” and “happiness” for ourselves. Sometimes that means forgetting what we’ve been taught and remembering who we are.

We have to take back our own power and decide what success is to us, not society, not our parents, not our children, us. What gives us meaning? What gives us joy?

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

Think about what you want from your writing. Is it to be a NYT bestseller? To make $600,000 a year. Or is it something simpler?

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

It’s okay to find meaning in things other people scorn. To heck with them. You do you.

REFERENCES FOR RANDOM THOUGHTS

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/weird-news/woman-moves-house-someone-died-24347158

https://shepherdexpress.com/puzzles/news-of-the-weird/news-of-the-weird-june-17-2021/

https://apnews.com/article/nh-state-wire-lifestyle-af56567aee135df951f4fc7f9b3c9d61

BE A PART OF OUR MISSION!

Hey! We’re all about inspiring each other to be weird, to be ourselves and to be brave and we’re starting to collect stories about each other’s bravery. Those brave moments can be HUGE or small, but we want you to share them with us so we can share them with the world. You can be anonymous if you aren’t brave enough to use your name. It’s totally chill.

Want to be part of the team? Send us a quick (or long) email and we’ll read it here and on our YouTube channel.

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?

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


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 261,000 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 a new book 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.

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 strange things people do for luck.

Being Swallowed by a Whale is So Bad Ass – Fear Setting and the Big Lie in Your Novel and Your Life

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Being Swallowed by a Whale is So Bad Ass - Fear Setting and the Big Lie in Your Novel and Your Life
/

A lot of writers get blocks. Sometimes those blocks have to do with story ideas, with the fear that their idea sucks, that they don’t have the writing chops to pull off a novel.

Sometimes those blocks have to do with worry that trolls will ridicule their story, nobody will read it, everyone will hate it.

Sometimes those blocks have to do with the fear of typos, of not being perfect.

But they all have to do with fear.

As a writing coach, I have to talk to a lot of writers about their blocks and their fears. And recently, I realized that adopting Tim Ferriss’s ‘fear setting’ approach could help a ton of the writers-students that I love so much.

Goals are brilliant, Ferris says. Resolutions? Fantastic.

But nothing happens with those goals and resolutions if you are too afraid to make the steps.

So he delves into those fears and explores them and determines the potential and the risk.

That’s what you need to do with your writing (and your life).

Ferris’s process is quite refined and quite simple. We have links in the podcast notes on carriejonesbooks.blog so that you can find them in Ferris’s own extended version. He also has a TedTalk about them.

But it begins like this:“Define your nightmare, the absolute worst that could happen if you did what you are considering. What doubt, fears, and “what-ifs” pop up as you consider the big changes you can—or need—to make? Envision them in painstaking detail. Would it be the end of your life? What would be the permanent impact, if any, on a scale of 1–10? Are these things really permanent? How likely do you think it is that they would actually happen?

Next, think about what you could do to fix it if that worst-case scenario happens. Write it down. Was it not quite as hard as your fear made you think it would be?

Next what are the benefits, the potential, the outcomes in forever ways and transient ways of all those scenarios and possibilities? Would you be more confident? Happier? Would you have more money? Make a scale of 1-10 and rate those outcomes.

He asks,

What are you putting off out of fear? Usually, what we most fear doing is what we most need to do. That phone call, that conversation, whatever the action might be—it is fear of unknown outcomes that prevents us from doing what we need to do. Define the worst case, accept it, and do it. I’ll repeat something you might consider tattooing on your forehead: What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do. As I have heard said, a person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have. Resolve to do one thing every day that you fear. I got into this habit by attempting to contact celebrities and famous business people for advice.

And how is this hurting you? By not doing something because of your fear how are you hurting yourself? Inaction also has a cost. It’s just a cost that seems easier because it doesn’t seem to rely on as much choice.

Ferris has some fantastic slides from his TedTalk that relate to this, too.

A lot of us who write novels, talk about the big lie that dominates our main character’s life, the wrong belief that dictates and holds the character back.

Fear is our big lie in the story of our lives.

All of us have our own big lie or lies. We worry so much about what might go wrong that we are afraid to embrace what might go right. We live so much in our heads that we fail to live in our world. We allow the fear, the lie, to hold us down. Our fear is also a symptom of our lie.

It’s good to see how that’s holding you back. Just like we want the characters in our novels to have transition arcs and evolve, so should we, right?

Dog Tip for Life

Don’t let your fear control your life.

Writing Tip of the Pod

Use the big lie and your characters’ fears to show their transition throughout the story.

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 strange things people do for luck.

RESOURCES AND LINKS NOT LINKED ABOVE.

https://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Mysterious-black-substance-on-Wells-Beach-is-many-16235442.php

https://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Dog-ejected-from-vehicle-in-Idaho-crash-found-16237347.php

https://www.capecodtimes.com/story/news/2021/06/11/humpback-whale-catches-michael-packard-lobster-driver-mouth-proviencetown-cape-cod/7653838002/

Writing What You Know is B.S.

Nobody wants to read every single author’s autobiography masquerading as fiction.

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Writing What You Know is B.S.
/

Don’t Fall for the Write What You Know BS

So, I just realized that we don’t have the word WRITING in our podcast, which makes us not niche enough and is a total branding f-up.

Oops.

A little too late now.

Anyway, our concept is that we’re just these random married people who give writing tips and life tips via the filter of our two adorable rescue dogs and our own quirky weirdness.

We figured if people found us? So be it.

But if we had done a tiny bit of research we would have probably named the podcast DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN WRITERS or something to get the damn writing word in here.

There’s a weird danger of not thinking quite enough about who your listeners are and this is true for your readers, too, right? But there’s also a weird danger in taking writing advice like WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW and think it’s an edict that Shaun can only write about tall, white, CIS, ex-cops from Florida who now live in Maine or that Carrie can only write about short, quirky authors from New Hampshire who have no clue who they really are.

So, we’re going to break down that phrase for you.

Write what you know doesn’t mean only write about someone exactly like yourself.

Write what you know means:

  1. Write about settings that you can accurately describe well so readers can feel them and experience them, too.
  2. Write dialogue that you can hear in your head coming from characters who have different speech patterns and mannerisms.
  3. Write about emotions that you feel or can understand.

If I only wrote what I knew, I’d never write a book about pixies almost causing an apocalypse or a cheerleader who has alien DNA or murder mysteries.

Nobody wants to read every single author’s autobiography masquerading as fiction.

And then there’s the more philosophical aspect going on. How do we write what we know when we aren’t sure what it is that we know? What is it to know? Maybe a lot of us writers write in order to know. Similarly, maybe a lot of us humans and dogs live in order to know.

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

Immerse yourself in the details, emotion, and setting of the story so that the reader can trust the world that you’ve created.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Don’t limit what you know. Move beyond your local fire hydrant and smell the world.

BE A PART OF OUR MISSION!

Hey! We’re all about inspiring each other to be weird, to be ourselves and to be brave and we’re starting to collect stories about each other’s bravery. Those brave moments can be HUGE or small, but we want you to share them with us so we can share them with the world. You can be anonymous if you aren’t brave enough to use your name. It’s totally chill.

Want to be part of the team? Send us a quick (or long) email and we’ll read it here and on our YouTube channel.

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?

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


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 261,000 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 a new book 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.

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 strange things people do for luck.

DON’T STEAL ADULT TOYS THREE BIG TIPS FOR WRITING AND LIFE

The earlier you put the conflict, the more invested your reader gets

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
DON'T STEAL ADULT TOYS THREE BIG TIPS FOR WRITING AND LIFE
/

We’re keeping it simple this week, my friends, with three big tips to write better novels and being a better human.

Make your stories sexy and accurate.

You can’t write a book that takes place in the south and not write ‘y’all’ or ‘bless your heart.’

You can’t write a book that takes place in the south and not have sugar in iced tea.

Similarly, you can’t write a book in New England in the winter and not have the character’s breath puff out into the cold air.

Your stories lose impact if you fail to be concise and sharp.

Your stories lose impact if your readers think, “WTF is this? There are no kangaroos in Maine.”

So, know your people. Know your setting.

And this goes for life too. If you keep buying your wife red roses and she’s told you a bunch of times that she doesn’t like roses, she likes tulips and bright flowers because roses remind her of death?

Yeah, that’s not good.

If you’re handing out flyers in a high school to promote your Gram and you don’t look like you’re in high school? Not going to go well.

If you leave your halloween prop out in May? Not going to go well.

Listen. Learn the details. Be appropriate, my friends.

Have a f-ing point.

A story should have a damn theme. It’s what you want to say in the story. It reflects your personal beliefs, your experiences.

What’s a theme? According to MasterClass,

“A literary theme is the main idea or underlying meaning a writer explores in a novel, short story, or other literary work. The theme of a story can be conveyed using characters, setting, dialogue, plot, or a combination of all of these elements.”

So, your life should have a theme, too.  What is your life’s theme?

Redemption? Love? Courage? Revenge? Good vs evil? Perseverance?

Pick one and give your life some meaning.

If it gives your life meaning to steal someone else’s adult toys for years and years (See the link) just know that this is illegal and stuff.

Don’t jump from one head to another.

Readers want to get attached to your narrator. You don’t want to jump around from one character to another. That’s how the reader gets confused and detached and doesn’t want to follow the story any longer.

So, life is like that, too. Yeah, sometimes it’s frustrating hanging with one person, but you hop around too much? You might get a disease. Make your hopping purposeful.

BONUS TIP FOR WRITING NOT FOR LIFE.

Put the damn conflict in there early.

In real life, it’s pretty nice to not have drama or conflict all the time. It allows us to blossom and to grow. And it’s easy to get addicted to the energy of drama and try to incite it for attention.

But peeps, that’s not the kind of attention you want. Negative attention kind of sucks. You want the positive kind.

However, in stories, the earlier you put the conflict, the more invested your reader gets. They want to know what happens. Readers (and people) are a bit addicted to conflict and drama and you want to put that on the page.

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

Care enough to make your settings accurate, put in the conflict early, have a point and don’t hop around from character to character.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Sometimes things don’t make sense. Figure them out. Investigate the stuff that doesn’t make sense because that’s how you learn and grow and understand things beyond you and your bubble of experience.

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 strange things people do for luck.

What Makes A Sexy Beginning and Emergency Poop?

I was not going to make it to the house. Not with this kind of poop.

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
What Makes A Sexy Beginning and Emergency Poop?
/

Every writer and storyteller wants their beginning of their story to be enticing, sexy, something that someone can’t put down.

A story is like a hot fudge sundae. You want the reader to gobble the whole thing down and that’s not going to happen if the first few bites suck.

Luckily, there are a few components that absolutely help us writers make the beginnings of our stories sexy.

Hook – This is the first sentence or first paragraph. You want it to clutch the reader in its hands and never let go.

What makes a sexy hook? A mystery. A question. A strong voice. Urgency.

I was not going to make it to the house. Not with this kind of poop.

Disruption – This is the tension. This is the suspense. Will there be trouble in the beginning? Can you sense it like a good phone psychic in the quivering resonance of the sentences and word choice? Are there big stakes?

I was not going to make it.

Backstory – I know! I know! It’s a naughty beast and we must be wary of it before it takes over our entire lawn like some sort of invasive weed. But you do want to sprinkle a little bit of it here and there.

I was not going to make it to the house. Not with this kind of poop. It had almost happened before in first grade in the pool.

Emotion – There needs to be some emotion on the page and that emotion needs to be detailed and sexy and all about the showing and not the telling. Don’t say, “Shaun was sexy.” Say, “Shaun rubbed that ice cream sundae all over his bulging pecs and he didn’t fart at all. He was the perfect husband.”

I was not going to make it to the house. Not with this kind of poop. It had almost happened before in first grade in the pool. They called me Poop Pants Patty forever after that. My eyes watered as I grabbed the steering wheel.

A Want and a Must Have – Your character needs to want things. Those things need to be surface level (an ice cream sundae or a toilet) and a bigger yearning (to finally feel loved or not be made fun of). They need to be on the page throughout the whole book and inform the entire book.

I was not going to make it to the house. Not with this kind of poop. It had almost happened before in first grade in the pool. They called me Poop Pants Patty forever after that. And now? Right before my first interview with Santa Claus? Seriously?

Things that Suck – Similarly, most books involve the transformation of a character on their journey. To have a positive transformation, there needs to be things wrong in your character’s life. Those things need to be there in the beginning.

I was not going to make it to the house. Not with this kind of poop. It had almost happened before in first grade in the pool. They called me Poop Pants Patty forever after that. And now? Right before my first interview with Santa Claus? Seriously?

Some day I’d know not to eat Flaming Hot Doritos sprinkled with Da Bomb hot sauce. Some day I’d be able to control my anxiety and my colon. Some day I wouldn’t self monologue in the car on the way to my super-important interview with Santa. But today was not that day.

Writing Tip of the Pod

Make your beginning (and your ending) sexy.

Dog Tip for Life

Make everything sexy

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?

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


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 261,000 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 a new book 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.

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 strange things people do for luck.

How Do You Make Your Story Thrilling and Sunbathing Your Testicles?

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
How Do You Make Your Story Thrilling and Sunbathing Your Testicles?
/

You’ve all read a story or heard a story that just bores you to tears, right?

You don’t want to write that story UNLESS boring people is your goal. That’s a fine goal! You get to have that if you want it. Don’t let anyone take your goal away from you.

But if that’s not your goal? Let’s talk.

To not bore your reader, at the most basic level, you have to do three things. And these three things are the basic elements. Bare bones here, okay?

  • Keeping your damn word.

Just like in a relationship, when you write a book for someone or tell them a story, you set up an expectation in them that there is going to be a payoff there.

There is always an expectation the reader will have.

Will they catch the murderer?

Will James get out of the giant peach? Will the rich family get out of the town?

Will Lassie save whoever Lassie needs to save?

Your book is full of these promises and questions that you the author set out for the reader and that you have to answer. If you don’t? You’re a promise breaker! And you’ve ruined your relationship with your reader.

  • Making your damn character interesting (This has to do with plot too, actually.).

Your character has a journey. They make choices. The bigger the story and the scarier? The bigger the choices. The character in a thrilling story has to be the hero, the brave one, the choice-maker. Those choices lead you to a thrilling and amazing finale.

  • Making time matter

If you have your whole life to hunt down the monster that’s killing everyone in town, there’s not as much tension there.

If the bomb is going to explode in 10,000 years? Same thing. But the pressure of a villain who is killing people, the pressure of the bomb about to explode, the pressure of a destiny that might not happen if you don’t hurry up?

That’s a big deal. It’s a trope. Who cares? Use it.

There’s some other things that make a good thriller, too.

  1. There needs to be high stakes. Time limits. Multiple problems increases those stakes.
  2. There needs to be an actual threat to the characters or society.
  3. There needs to be some things that you don’t expect to happen, happen.
  4. The characters need to be multiple dimensions, not flat little cardboard figures or game pieces. But interesting.
  5. There needs to be some cool action going on. That might be mind games. Mind games count. Car chases do too.

Bonus Element:

  1. Cool locations. Your reader wants to explore the world from the safety of their bed/couch/porch/subway seat. Your book lets them do that. Use details. Make those locations real.

Writing Tip of the Pod

Think about your damn audience not just yourself.

Dog Tip for Life

Make your own excitement like Gabby. Every moment can be thrilling.

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 strange things people do for luck.

Resources for Random Thoughts

https://apnews.com/hub/oddities

https://www.mynbc5.com/article/video-shows-1-000-dolphin-stampede-off-california-coast/36017470#

https://www.menshealth.com/health/a19539973/i-put-a-giant-red-light-on-my-balls-to-triple-my-testosterone-levels/

Where Does Inspiration Come From and Raccoons Robbing Banks

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Where Does Inspiration Come From and Raccoons Robbing Banks
/

A lot of writers go around saying that they can’t find anything to write about.

Ideas are everywhere; I promise.

Just this week there was a headline on theslate.com that read, “Two ‘masked bandits’ raid California bank, and they didn’t want money, officials say.”

The masked bandits were actually raccoons who broke into  Redwood City Bank though it was closed.

They were reported when a guy using an ATM said he saw a stuffed animal moving around inside the bank. Humane society officials were called and the raccoons played tag for about ten minutes before letting the humans catch them.

They think the raccoons gained entry via a tree, then some airducts. Then they broke out some ceiling tiles, messed up some of the man’s papers and tipped over a computer. They did not get hurt. They did not take any money. Maybe they took a wall calendar or a you just opened a new checking account gift, but we aren’t sure.

So, you know that this is definitely a picture book or an early reader, right?

That’s the thing, ideas are everywhere.

During his TedTalk,  Steven Johnson  said

“We take ideas from other people, people we’ve learned from, people we run into in the coffee shop, and we stitch them together into new forms and we create something new. That’s really where innovation happens. And that means we have to change some of our models of what innovation and deep thinking really looks like, right?”

In another TedTalk, writer Elizabeth Gilbert talks about how ancient Greeks believed that creativity didn’t come from us humans, but from daemons, “divine attendant spirits.” Socrates was really into that. And the Romans, she says, called these spirits “genius.”

Ideas are genius.

Ideas were separate from us and we weren’t responsible for them. Imagine if we believed that now.

You don’t need to stress about your process is the point. Your ideas will come. You can ask them to show up. And you don’t need to be afraid of those ideas coming or going. You just have to write, paint, sing, and allow your brain, your genius, your daemon to do the work. It can only do that if you show up to do the work, too. 

Smithsonian Magazine says,

“The innovative drive lives in every human brain, and the resulting war against the repetitive is what powers the colossal changes that distinguish one generation from the next, one decade from the next, one year from the next. The drive to create the new is part of our biological makeup. We build cultures by the hundreds and new stories by the millions. We surround ourselves with things that have never existed before, while pigs and llamas and goldfish do not.”

They go on to say,

“Just as nature modifies existing animals to create new creatures, so too the brain works from precedent. More than 400 years ago, the French essayist Michel de Montaigne wrote, “Bees plunder the flowers here and there, but afterward they make of them honey, which is all theirs … Even so with the pieces borrowed from others; he will transform and blend them to make a work of his own.” Or as modern science historian Steven Johnson puts it, “We take the ideas we’ve inherited or that we’ve stumbled across, and we jigger them together into some new shape.””

How cool is that? Creativity is about altering and twisting memory.

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

Stop being so damn afraid. When ideas come, grab them. Just say yes.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE


Our biggest internal issue is living in fear. Go balls to the walls. Smell everything. Wag your tail. Lick things (with consent). Live.

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 strange things people do for luck.

Links for our Random Thoughts

About the strange car theft.

Let’s get married here.

All the Josh info you could ever want.

The Places We Hide by Carrie Jones
The Places We Hide by Carrie Jones (That’s me. If you click the image, it will bring you to the Amazon page!)