Three Secrets to Great Storytelling!

Whispering

 

 

 

3 SECRETS TO GREAT STORYTELLING as presented on Writer’s Digest. I found this article by Steven James helpful in forming the structure of scenes.  (this is a re-blogging from 2014 but I thought it deserved a revival now, because it is simple, straightforward, and to the point.)

As a novelist and writing instructor, I’ve noticed that three of the most vital aspects of story craft are left out of many writing books and workshops. Even bestselling novelists stumble over them – Steven James But they’re not difficult to grasp. In fact, they’re easy.And if you master these simple principles for shaping great stories, your writing will be transformed forever. Honest. Here’s how to write a story.

Secret #1: 
CAUSE AND EFFECT ARE KING.

Everything in a story must be caused by the action or event that precedes it.  As a fiction writer, you want your reader to always be emotionally present in the story. But when readers are forced to guess why something happened (or didn’t happen), even for just a split second, it causes them to intellectually disengage and distances them from the story. Rather than remaining present alongside the characters, they’ll begin to analyze or question the progression of the plot. And you definitely don’t want that. When a reader tells you that he couldn’t put a book down, often it’s because everything in the story followed logically. Stories that move forward naturally, cause to effect, keep the reader engrossed and flipping pages. If you fail to do this, it can confuse readers, kill the pace and telegraph your weaknesses as a writer.

Secret #2: 
IF IT’S NOT BELIEVABLE, IT DOESN’T BELONG.  

The narrative world is also shattered when an action, even if it’s impossible, becomes unbelievable. In writing circles it’s common to speak about the suspension of disbelief, but that phrase bothers me because it seems to imply that the reader approaches the story wanting to disbelieve and that she needs to somehow set that attitude aside in order to engage with the story. But precisely the opposite is true. Readers approach stories wanting to believe them. Readers have both the intention and desire to enter a story in which everything that happens, within the narrative world that governs that story, is believable. As writers, then, our goal isn’t to convince the reader to suspend her disbelief, but rather to give her what she wants by continually sustaining her belief in the story. The distinction isn’t just a matter of semantics; it’s a matter of understanding the mindset and expectations of your readers. Readers want to immerse themselves in deep belief. We need to respect them enough to keep that belief alive throughout the story.

Secret #3: 

IT’S ALL ABOUT ESCALATION.  

At the heart of story is tension, and at the heart of tension is unmet desire. At its core, a story is about a character who wants something but cannot get it. As soon as he gets it, the story is over. So, when you resolve a problem, it must always be within the context of an even greater plot escalation. As part of the novel-writing intensives that I teach, I review and critique participants’ manuscripts. Often I find that aspiring authors have listened to the advice of so many writing books and included an engaging “hook” at the beginning of their story. This is usually a good idea; however, all too often the writer is then forced to spend the following pages dumping in background to explain the context of the hook.

IN CONCLUSION

By consistently driving your story forward through action that follows naturally, characters who act believably, and tension that mounts exponentially, you’ll keep readers flipping pages and panting for more of your work.

 

DANGER WALKS HERE!

It happened in a small farming community in the northwestern part of Connecticut that also included a large forest preserve, a once glacial river, now a bubbling brook, a lake, and a spring-fed pond. The community’s roots began in 1680, as The Salmon Brook Settlement that was also home to Native Americans like the Tunix, the Massaco, and the Mohegan.

It was a perfect summer day. The morning was cool and the sky was a brilliant Periwinkle blue. The deep, dense forest was a monolith of wonder for elementary school age kids.  The ancient woods that the Salmon Brook flowed through provided the Native Americans with all kinds of fish, fowl, and river animals, like beavers.

Evidence of their inhabitation lingers still in the form of arrowheads, pathways, in meadows that were once crop producing fields, where they once grew tobacco, beans, squash, and corn, as well as middens of shells like clams, mussels and turtles were eagerly searched for in the forest.  There were plenty of bones to find too, mostly animal, but sometimes, human bones that would be exposed as they washed up on the rocky river banks.

On this beautiful summer morning, a small band of kids, having traversed deeply into the forest, smelled smoke and considered it to be a fisherman on the river or the nearby lake.  At first, nothing much was thought about it. The smoke seemed to be coming from some distance away.

Taken aback by what she was seeing, one of the older members of the group of five children, yelled out, “FIRE!”  All heads turned to the leader of the group, who stood mesmerized by the yellow-orange fingers of flame surrounding a giant oak tree, that appeared to touch the sky it was so tall. The forest fire was closing in around them, silently sneaking up on them, until it roared like a lion.  The fire then leapt among the tree tops, high into the sky, turning the blue sky into a purple twilight, billowing with fire.

Like deer, caught in the headlights of an on-coming car, they froze in fear.  Suddenly, they ran, following their leader to an old wagon wheel road where giant, thick oaks lined the road, that was little more, now, than a pathway.  They ran and out of the corner of their eyes the watched the fire explode into the giant oaks behind them. As they ran, animals of all kinds joined in their fierce desire to escape the flames that were now, 40, 50, 60, 100 feet high in the air, and animals ran alongside the five children. The leader was shocked to find a black bear keeping pace at her side and deer leaping everywhere. Wild Turkeys, Foxes, Porcupines, Skunks, Woodchucks, all, ran with the humans, side by side on the narrow path, until the path widened as they reached an open field. Ahead of them was Canton road and fire trucks with long hoses and a helicopter overhead. The parents of the children were kept back by officers and firemen.

The children emerged, blackened with smoke, wild-eyed with fear, and the animals took off in different directions, some crossing the road to the other side where safety could be found, unmindful of the crowd gathered on Canton Road. The children, now at the point of exhaustion, collapsed into their parent’s arms as the firefighters dosed them with cool, clear water.

This was a day the five children would never forget. I will always remember the black bear running by my side. I remember how we looked at each other, the black bear and I—with a look that was “will we get out of this alive?”  It was as if we saved each other and we were a team. It was amazing. I will always remember the look he gave me as he turned to run into the safety of the tall bushes and another part of the forest, he turned and stopped for a moment, like he was saying, thank you and nodded his head.

By K. D. Dowdall

***I wrote this sometime ago and I had not proofread it before publishing. I have now made grammatical changes. A mistake, hopefully, I will not make again.

A Review: THE GENIE HUNT by author, M. C. Tuggle

A new novel, by M. C. Tuggle, The Genie Hunt, is so engaging that I could not put it down. I continued reading it until the end, without stopping.  It is not often that I want to reread a novel that I just finished reading. It is that good.  It is a rather unique story about a lawyer, a reformed law-breaker, a kidnapped Genie, and a crime. It is a story about a friendship under duress, life-threatening danger, and a who-done-it mystery. The writing is superb, smooth transitions through scenes, characters that are so real that I was sure I knew them. It was the great dialogue, however, that moved the story along, including, strong pacing and time elements, that rang true.

As the investigation drew closer and closer to the perpetrators of the crime, the action grew and so did the breath-taking danger. And, oh yes, there is a real Genie with a complex set of circumstances.  The main characters, Coot Pickard, and his lawyer friend, Buddy Vuncannon, have been friends since childhood. However, they are total opposites in personality and lifestyle. It is often said, that in relationships, opposites do attract and in this case, it adds to the interesting complexity of the characters. I found this story to also be about a well thought out ode to the wonder of friendship under great duress, because the evidence clearly points to Coot Pickard.  But, as is often said, “the devil is in the details” and in this story, it is certainly true.  The ending is very satisfying and since this novel is book 1, in a new series entitled, Spook Hunters, by author, M. C. Tuggle, I look forward with great anticipation to book 2 of the Spook Hunters. I highly recommend this intriguing story!  5 stars!

BLOG TOUR FOR THE STONE ARCH SECRET!

New Blog Tour Sign Up! The Stone Arch Mystery by K.D. Dowdall (Jan. 8th – Jan. 12th) Genre: Thriller/ Mystery/ Romance

Reads and Reels, Blog Tours is doing a Blog Tour for my new novel, a mystery, thriller, romance, The Stone Arch Secret,  to be released January 8th, 2018! Go to the shown blog above and see the description excerpt of the story.

 

 

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – New on the Shelves – An Uncertain Faith: A Novel for those who live between a rock and a hard place. (A Rocky Road Novel) by Allie Potts

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore is a great place to get a free book promotion and I love Sally’s idea for this wonderful opportunity. What is also wonderful, is that all your different sites on social media are given here too, with all your new reviews as they come in. What could be better! I am thrilled. My new novel to be released in January, “The Stone Arch Secret”, will be there at Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore soon for promotion and Sally does it all for you.

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

A welcome to a new author to the Cafe and Bookstore – Allie Potts with her two books. The featured book today is her first novel, An Uncertain Faith: A Novel for those who live between a rock and a hard place. (A Rocky Road Novel).

About the book

Feeling trapped in a job that bores her, Charlotte used to yearn for the life she had before the responsibilities of marriage and motherhood. That was until the day she came home to find her husband and son missing. Did they leave her, or is there a more dire explanation? An extreme example of the reason to be careful what you wish for, Charlotte must now come to terms with her new reality and decide if she wants to continue to merely daydream about a better future, or to take charge of her own life. Along the way she must also…

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Search for Maylee – A Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quoting the author of Search for Maylee, “It’s a cold dark world we live in, and Autumn is about to find out just how cruel it can be. Strength and determination are on Autumn’s side and she will do whatever it takes.”

Autumn, no stranger to grief and lost, is inconsolable when Maylee, her much loved niece is abducted a month before her high school graduation. Autumn has not given up hope of finding her – alive. She believes and is frustrated by what she sees as the detective in charge of Maylee’s case doing next to nothing to find Maylee.

Finally, Autumn decides to take matters into her own hands and gathers a strength within herself to search for Maylee – by herself, alone. She even moves across the country to find the man that abducted Maylee and to get Maylee back from him.

This fictional story is exceptionally well written, ominous, compelling, riveting, and portends the truth of what often happens to abducted young women. The same young women that we so often see in Newscasts, Internet, and in local newspapers, with pleas from family and friends to help find their loved one.

These abductions often cross our visual paths, but then, it is as quickly forgotten. But, what we don’t know, is that it is much worse than we ever thought possible. I highly recommend this spell-binding story, Search for Maylee.

 

 

 

The Witch Minnie Brogan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Indian summer began like any other when I turned fifteen years old growing up in the small colonial era farming community of Granby, Connecticut. The last fields of the summer harvest had already been shorn of their corn, alfalfa, hay, and tobacco. The wet smell of fresh cut hay filled the air as well as the mingling aroma of tobacco fields that now lay bare of their crops. The large tobacco leafs would hang neatly from wooden poles to dry underneath white-sheeted tents.

The smell of tobacco, sweet and pungent, hung in the air. It was a grown-up smell, a smell of intimacy and secret goings-on. My cousin Garrett and I would sometimes sneak up behind the white-sheeted tents and listen. Giggles, laugher, and strange noises were not unfamiliar sounds to our ears as we listened. More than tobacco leafs nestled under the white-sheeted tents.

Not far from the tobacco field was an ancient apple orchard that looked like something out of a wicked fairy tale. Walking through its darkly gnarled wood was a rite-of-passage experience for anyone under the age of twelve.

To this day memories of Canton road, where I grew up, float across my senses.  I envision its tar paved darkness as it crosses over Salmon Brook, cuts through McLean’s game preserve, wanders by weird old Stewart Duncan’s farm, and the said-to-be-haunted Sperry colonial homestead. Canton Road weaves it way over-laying the swell of land occupied for ten thousand years by the indigenous people like the Massaco Indians who were a part of the Algonquian tribes. Evidence of their inhabitation is still visible by those who know what to look for.

Spirit Pond is one of those places. There are sightings by the locals of ghost warriors that still drink the dark cold waters of Spirit Pond and are not as rare as one would like to believe. Spirit Pond is a large spring fed body of water surrounded by tall reeds and weeping willows. Its dark cold water and deep recesses still hold untold secrets as well as the body of Minnie Brogan.

My rather strange cousin Garrett was drawn to the story of Minnie Brogan and I followed suit. Beautiful Young Minnie Brogan who lived in early colonial times near the old settlement of Salmon Brook, adjacent to Spirit Pond, was said to have met with a ghastly end. It is a haunting legend of sorts and the story appears in the town’s tourist pamphlets as a way of advertising its colonial history to visitors.

It was said that young Minnie Brogan lived a solitary existence in her meager dwelling on the edge of Spirit Pond and tended a few chickens and a vegetable garden. She also grew medicinal herbs. In colonial times, a female living alone who also concocted remedies was sure to raise suspicions of witchcraft.

Yet, Garrett and I doubted this explanation and we would often sit by the edge of Spirit Pond trying to envision that long ago crime when Minnie Brogan was dragged from her thatched hut, bound by her hands and feet, and thrown into the spring fed pond. We wondered how scared she must have been as she slowly sank into Spirit Pond’s cold dark waters.

I personally believe there was more to it than just medicinal herbs. Minnie was young, alone, and was said to be hauntingly beautiful. She was accused of conjugating with evil forces. As a six grader, I had no idea someone could actually be murdered for not knowing how to conjugate a verb (although there were times I was sure by teacher at thought of it).

So, it was in winter when Spirit Pond was frozen-over that Garrett and I would go ice skating and just as often we would look to see if Minnie Brogan’s ghostly apparition would rise up from the ice. Although we never actually saw her ghostly-self rise from the pond, we imagined what she would look like if she did.

I wonder about Minnie Brogan’s secret hopes and dreams that vanished into the dark cold waters of Spirit Pond one nefarious moonless night long ago. Sometimes I even imagine I can feel her presence as I dip by fingers into the waters of Spirit Pond. It is though the earth remembers her and still holds her secret longings. I, too, will always remember Minnie Brogan.

by K D Dowdall

Copyright 2014