Friday, 26 April 2019

Putting your Story's Plot in Order #BYBin30

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

I had an experience today that made me think about the order in which we tell stories. For instance, if you were telling someone about how you fell off a deck and injured your foot, you could explain what you were doing on the deck, what happened to cause you to fall, about the fall itself and then about the results of the fall.

Of course, you could just say "I fell off the deck." That much information would let people know what happened in a very simplistic way, but it wouldn't be very interesting to them, and they would probably ask questions.

You could say, "I have a sprained ankle, because I fell off a deck," and then go on to explain the details of why you were on the deck and how you fell, which would change the order of the story.

But there are times when changing the order of what you are telling is not a good idea. And other times when changing the order of a story can change the tension in the story or change or the over-all mood and tone of the story.

And now I'll tell you a bit about what happened to me today which got me thinking about the order in which we tell stories.

Some of you know that, back on March 5th, I had a cyst on my ovary, the ovary on the same side as the cyst and the fallopian tube on that side removed, along with a biopsy done on some tissue taken from the lining in my uterus. Today, I had a follow-up appointment.

It was a new (to me) doctor.
Doctor: "Unfortunately, we found something we were not expecting when we examined the mass that we removed."
(long pause while I start to freak out)

"It wasn't a cyst. It was a borderline ovarian tumour."
(another long pause while I REALLY start to freak out)
"Let me stress that it is NOT cancer."
Me (in my head): Dude, LEAD with "It's not cancer"!!!

So for a little while after that appointment, I was feeling emotional because for a brief moment in time, I thought I was being told I had cancer. (I'm so relieved it's not though!)

And this is just one example of how the order in which you tell things in the story can change the entire mood of the story.

Have you changed the tone in your story by changing the order in which you tell the events in it? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, 22 April 2019

Interview your Character #BYBin30

I had an odd dream last night. I am a fan of a certain Korean singer. In the dream, I was doing an interview for a magazine. I was not interviewing that singer but, instead, I was interviewing his former group, which now consisted of only two other singers.

I wanted to ask them the kinds of questions that their fans would be most interested in hearing about, not just the stuff that would be considered standard questions. I was more interested in finding out more about their interpersonal relationships, with each other and with former members of the group, as well as their reactions to some of the fan fiction written about them, especially the writings that would have been, possibly, awkward for them. I had other questions for them too, once they'd answered these, but, as often happen with dreams, I have forgotten a lot of the dream and can't remember everything I asked them.

But the point of telling you about this dream has nothing to do with the KPop idols I interviewed in my dream. The dream made me think about the characters in my stories. What kinds of questions would readers ask of them, if given the chance? How would they answer those questions? And how could I weave these aspects of their answers into the story? Their answers, obviously, would tell something about their personalities, but also about their relationships to others in the story, because, I suspect, many of those questions would have to do with those relationships.

I'm suggesting that you, dear writer, interview your characters as a way of more fully developing your characters within your own mind. Let their answers tell you more about your characters and their relationships, and then find ways to allow those aspects of your characters to be seen within the stories you are writing.

If you do this, let me know how it goes by telling me in the comments.

Sunday, 21 April 2019

Do You Have a Writing Companion? #BYBin30

Do you have a writing companion? No, I don't mean a person who helps you with your story, although those are great to have too. I mean a pet that hangs out with you when you write and takes an inordinate amount of interest in your laptop or notebook?

Many writers do. Some have writing companions in the form of dogs and some have writing companions in the form of cats.

While I do have a dog who loves to lay at my feet when I write, it has always been my cats that have taken the most interest in my writing endeavours. They are sort-of like familiars for the wizardry of writing. (And yes, they do often generate new ideas for my stories while they are playfully interrupting my writing).

Here are some photos of my writing companions busy at their writing-companion work.

Pagan, who passed away over three years ago, frequently cuddled up beside me as I worked, often grabbing my arm between his upper paws so that I was forced to stop typing and pet him.

Loki started training to be my writing companion from when he was only an itty-bitty kitten.

As he grew, he even practised his writing companion skills by using his abilities to help visiting writers.

And now, he is a fully-capable writing companion who takes his job very seriously.

Writing companions can take many forms. I know people who have writing companion dogs and even one with a writing companion rabbit. But not all pets are born to be writing companions. I have a dog (Mercury) and a cat (Jynx) who have never attempted the task.

What about you? Do you have a writing companion? Let me know in the comments.

Friday, 19 April 2019

Writing Dream Sequences Into your Story #BYBin30

Image by Leandro De Carvalho from Pixabay
Some authors will tell you to never include a dream sequence in your story, but I don't think there are any rules to writing that can't be broken if broken in a way that benefits the story.

There are some things to keep in mind when adding a dream sequence to your story though.

Does the dream sequence benefit the story in some way? Is your character having this dream important to the story? Does it advance the story at all? If you removed the dream sequence, would it harm the story in any way? Does the dream sequence inform the reader of something that can't imparted in a better way?

Does a dream sequence fit into the overall theme of events within the story? Dream sequences can work really well in fantasy stories. Dreams can be given to a character through magic, or through an elder "wizard" figure. Dreams can be had by a character who can see glimpses of the future through them or sees omens. Dreams can be had as prophecies. For non-supernatural stories, dreams can be had as a way for your character to work something out in their mind.

Dream sequences do not have to be rational or follow the normal laws of nature. Just as people in real life have different types of dreams, your characters can have different types of dreams too. Some dreams are very realistic, and other dreams do fantastical, magical things, some dreams make sense when remembered in the light of day, and other dreams are disjointed and jumbled, full of imagery from a mish-mash of storylines in one's head. In some dreams, you might follow a normal time-line and in other dreams you might jump from one place and time to another with no explanation of how and why.

Dream sequences do not have to be fully remembered by your character. Just as we sometimes wake up and don't remember what we were dreaming about, your character might have the same thing happen. If your character can only remember pieces of the dream, and the dream imparted some important information to them, this can set the stage for the reader to be hoping and waiting for your character to remember. thus the dream can either be a way of foreshadowing a future event in the story or as a way to create suspense because the reader knows what is coming and the character does not.

Dream sequences should not be in place to trick or cheat the reader. If your story goes along the lines of the dream without the reader knowing it is a dream until several events occur, and you leave them with the idea that "it was all just a dream," your reader is going to feel cheated. If your dream sequence misleads your reader into believing something that isn't true, your reader is going to feel betrayed by the story. Be careful how you use your dream sequence. Don't use it just for an easy out. If you want to change your story from a certain point but don't want to lose the word count, setting everything back to that point by claiming it was a;; dreamed from there is lazy and disingenuous and your readers will not thank you for it.

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Stringing Bits of Your Soul Onto the Page #BYBin30

Image by Dagmar Räder from Pixabay

I wrote a blog post for a friend's blog today. In my guest post, I recycled a phrase I have used in the past. That phrase was describing writing as "stringing out tiny bits of your soul onto the page for people to read." 

Reading that phrase again got me thinking about how difficult writing is, at least most of the time. And how difficult it is to share what we have written with the rest of the world. 

Whether or not someone likes what we have written is subjective and every reader has their own likes and dislikes and personal tastes in the type of writing they prefer. But when someone doesn't like what we've written, because, no matter what story we've written, we put so much of ourselves into the writing of it, it can feel very much like a personal attack.

The converse is also true though. Because we are sharing a part of ourselves when we share our writing with the world, when someone likes what we have written, it can feel like a beautiful light has been shown on us, making our hearts feel warm and loved.

Writing, no matter what the subject is, is personal for a writer. Our stories are special to us. Stringing out tiny bits of our soul onto the page can sometimes hurt and is usually difficult. And letting people read those words, those bits of our soul, is scary for us.

All writers are also readers. So this message is for the readers out there. Please, when you read our words, be gentle with us. Remember how difficult putting our words out into the world is for us, and, if you like our writing, please tell us.

Monday, 15 April 2019

Don't Sweat the (Boring) Details #BYBin30

Image by Iván Tamás from Pixabay 
Details can be important for your story, especially if you are doing some world-building. Readers want to feel like they are there in the moment, tasting, touching, hearing, seeing and smelling their surroundings within each scene within the story.

However, no one wants to know the boring details, the details of the story that are unnecessary to conveying the story to them. No one want to know that Karen got up from the couch and walked over to the table. No one needs to know the tiny, excruciatingly boring details of someone's day-to-day life if those details don't move the story along in any real, or interesting way.

I once read a story by a very talented writer. Most of her book was riveting and intriguing. However, it took until the fifth chapter for that description of her story and her writing to be true. She could have deleted the entire first four chapters of the book without any negative impact on the story. In fact, it would have improved the story by sucking the reader into the action from the very first page instead of making them slog through the boring ordinary life of the character for months before they actually got to the action part of the story.

I read another story once where a very long and detailed day out with the main character and her mom was one of the scenes - a scene that had nothing to do with the story and did nothing for the story.

So take a look at your story and really evaluate each scene. Ask yourself, does this part add any necessary information to the story? Does it move the story forward? Can this scene be deleted from the story without any negative impact on the story? Or can the story even be improved without this part?

Have you found any scenes like this in your current story? Let me know in the comments!

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Writing from the Heart #BYBin30

Image by cromaconceptovisual from Pixabay
I've had a rough day today; my emotions have been all over the place, from sad one minute and impatient another to smiling and feeling content in the next. Restlessness has hit me at several times during the day, as though my mind is telling me I should be doing something else, be somewhere else, but it doesn't tell me what or where.

I don't mind days like today though. It all feeds into my writing. It means I can truly write from my heart.

We've all heard the expression "writing from the heart," but what does it really mean? I've always understood it to mean that you write emotions into your story using your own experience of them. Or, if you've never felt them, then you write them the way you think they might be. But there's a power in being able to write about an emotion you've actually experienced. If you've never been infatuated, you might not be able to fully portray it the way people truly experience the feeling, or you might not be able to distinguish the things that make infatuation different from truly being in love with someone.

As readers, we can learn a lot about emotions from the books that we read. But as writers, it can sometimes be even more powerful to write those emotions into our stories by delving into the depths of those same emotions we've been through ourselves. Devastation, depression, love, joy, contentment, heartbreak, infatuation, desire, passion, anger, hatred - each emotion is experienced slightly differently by each person experiencing it. But it is the things that are universal about going through a particular emotion that will make it relatable and believable to your readers.

And, in writing these emotions into our characters' hearts and souls, we have the added bonus that, in doing so, it can sometimes be cathartic to our own hearts and souls, or to those reading our words.