This is EJ Runyon’s Bridge to Story ‘Tiny Brainstorm’ blog.

Beak Bump out

image by Rob Leanna

‘ltlxltl’, I had a license plate once that read that – Little by Little.

This is a  Tiny House on Wheels project build, bringing coaching and story editing from my Bridge to Story workshop space to your town, or even your door. Great for writing groups, senior center events, homeschooling visits, one-on-one intensives… you name it.
Soon to be roamin’, teachin’ & fixin’ yer writin’ -wherever you may be in the lower 48.

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We’re Almost There….

October 25, 2013

HELP quoteMy New Author’s site is nearly up and running, I figure another week or two and things will be ready. Until then, let me set the way-back machine to an old post you might enjoy, titled: ‘Let Your Story Tell the Reader About It◄ Click to read

For some of you recent followers, it may be brand new. Either way, feel free to re-blog it or post a comment. Happy Writing everyone.

And remember, there’s a new book out:

Gotta e-reader? pick up “Tell Me (How to Write) A Story” Good, Basic Advice for Novices Ready To Write. By EJ Runyon
US: http://tinyurl.com/kkcfsjz
UK: http://tinyurl.com/kjon5ub
CA: http://tinyurl.com/klq7ls9
IN: http://tinyurl.com/lv8wnwh

 

 

Hi folks, I’m back.

My FB- writer friend, known on her blog, procrastinatinginpublic.wordpress.com , as Obi Kemnebi,  was gracious enough to give me a crack at 5 of her writer-questions. I’m her Writing-Coach-For-a-Day! Check out this guest-blog! Read the rest of this entry »

Before the Break…

July 17, 2013

This coming Monday I’m having a lot of work done on this blog and also to my Bridge to Story website.

My next book is coming out in October, ‘Tell Me (How to Write) A Story’,  it will be released by Inspired Quill mid month. (the July date was moved out)  So my online presence is getting a facial, perm, and new shoes, so to speak.

This blog will be down for awhile and hopefully, everyone will be able to then find me over at my new Author’s site once all the under construction signs come down.

The new site will act as a 1-stop place for my Author activities like releases, book groups and interviews, All the Bridge to Story pages, and  of course, my blog.

Until all that gets underway here’s some ‘Author’ things to remind you about:

My Short Story collection Claiming One It’s been gathering some positive reviews online and on the Amazon reviews page, though I could use more of both – so if you want to run an interview, have me post as a guest blogger on your site, or  if you want to review the book, contact me for an ARC file.

And here’s a Book Trailer for Claiming One on YouTube

Also,

Call for SubmissionRevision for Beginners my next project, is still looking for 200 word excerpts, Consider submitting.

I am hoping this little work, 20 novices have their first draft excerpts revised and the method of the revisions discussed, will be ready for shopping around to publishers late 2014.

Thank you all for such a nice following.

Until we meet again,

ej

 

Cat at laptop, writing fiction

Mitten’s 2013 Camp NaNo effort

 

At the next stop sign we pass a junkyard. Rusted body parts, strewn all around the yard, lean up against the chain links like they’re begging for release.

Can you see that the use of like here isn’t a clichéd simile (like a flash, like a hurricane) or an average description (Rusted body parts are strewn  around the yard)? Read the rest of this entry »

Telling sentences begin like this:  I stand…  Sara looks around…  He waits with a…   We wish …   I sit here…Bob looks to the …

These are forms of you the writer telling the reader about the character. We can hear you saying these words. Your voice is at the forefront.

That may be fine for one line of narration. But to slip into scenes that show you  have to make a shift in your writing.  A writer’s voice needs to fade into the background. She needs to narrate her story from there. Read the rest of this entry »

You can begin your first draft like this:

Joseph stood on her front porch but didn’t knock. The wind as it was coming from the east, made his eyes squint.

She opened the door. Saw him there, and she nodded and smiled.

 In one way, it’s a nice way to start. You aren’t over using state-of-being verbs, like was or were, or the helpers words like as and had been, too much.

The verbs here are stood, knock, was, coming, made, squint, opened, saw, nodded, and smiled. But it is a lot of stage direction for the wind, Joseph and someone named she.

 ON second glance, you have to admit, these lines are mostly story facts. The ‘Where folks are’, the ‘What they did, movement wise’. There’s not a lot of storytelling here yet.

 

We aren’t given many suggestions about anyone’s emotions, or motivations, there’s no hints at why we should be watching these folks, yet. It seems like first drafts fall into the trap of ‘get the movements down first’. And they read like ‘story-notes’ more than they do first tries at storytelling.

What is Joseph feeling as he stands there?

What about the wind is so evocative that you felt it needs mentioning?

This she you are telling us about, what’s making her smile and nod at seeing Joseph?

 

Did you write up scene notes before you began writing? If you did, what kind of verbs did you use in those notes? Are your notes writing in strong, active verbs?

Or like this:

Joseph will be at the door. Mary will be glad to see him.

If you didn’t write up scene notes at all, you may be writing by accident.

 

Let’s say you did write up some notes about the scene. But they were very ‘will be’ style. How can we fix that opening now that it’s on the page?

 

Well, we can go back to questions like above, about emotions, or motivations, or reactions.

What is Joseph feeling as he stands there?

What about the wind is so evocative that you felt it needs mentioning?

This she you are telling us about, what’s making her smile and nod at seeing Joseph?

 

Ask yourself some questions about what you want to show us. Go beyond the telling us stuff of story-facts and movements. Get into the why of things.

            Joseph’s nervous that’s why he doesn’t just knock.

I’ll show that by how the wind makes him react.

Mary, at the door, won’t unlatch the screen, but she won’t be able to stop from smiling because he’s there.

 

Now you have something to work with for showing us the story behind these two folks at this door, on this porch.

 Look a this compared to what we began with:

Joseph stood on Mary’s front porch, feeling like a soggy morning paper, limp and forgotten there.  He wanted so much to be braver than he felt, but he couldn’t get himself to knock. The wind, from the east, felt like an icy finger poked into his ear, it made his eyes squint and tear. At least he told himself that was why his eyes felt wet.

She opened the door, surprised, but didn’t automatically reach for the screen’s latch like she would have yesterday. Though Joseph could see in her eyes, the secret smile as she nodded. Maybe there was hope after all

 By taking the original lines, asking the why behind it, and then using commas to expand your thoughts you end up bringing in the story to mix and mingle with your story-facts.

Joseph is feeling like a soggy morning paper, limp and forgotten there. This tells us there might be a problem somewhere.

The wind, an icy finger, poked into his ear, making his eyes squint and tear, is now nearly an inanimate character that makes Joseph react. The line that then follows makes sure we know there’s a problem here.

We then see Mary though Joseph’s eyes, not through the narrator’s eyes, this is a great way (reaction) to show rather than tell the reader stuff in a storytelling way.

Then, we see what Joseph’s thinking about when he sees Mary’s eyes. And we see that the problem might be solvable.

 

Story-facts into storytelling.

Try this type of questioning with your story-facts. What did you mean behind the movements of your characters?  Figure it out, add it to what you began with, and expand your stage directions.

Bring in the story.

I advise my coaching clients to read often and widely. I offer them novel titles and examples from novels when I want to broaden what I’ve taught them. Because if a writer has moved you with their way of setting words on the page, then that is an author to study.

If a coaching client is trying a scene with an element of narration told in summary, or of horror shown in common objects, or of emotional upheavals, extensive fighting action, dialogue where no one is saying what they really mean, or any other bit of  writing done well, I turn to novels for examples of how that can be done.

They are a novice’s best textbook.

Even novices who are attempting genre work can use an extensive reading-base to learn better writing. Moving your reading lists to outside your own genre is a smart move. So don’t stick to what you write. Go wider and deeper, use what you read as a textbook for what you want to try, or want to try avoiding in your writing.

I even show some clients the ‘Click to Look Inside’ feature on Amazon, to show them the opening pages of some self-published novels that I feel have just missed the mark of what their author may have intended. Because there are also things to learn from work that is not as stellar as its author could have it. And unfortunately, more and more Indy publications seem to fit that description in our rush to self-publish.

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Want one-on-one coaching or story edits in this and other craft elements?

See the side panel for my contact info.

Make you writing all it can be before you send it off for self-publishing.

________________________________________________________________

If you like the way something is written, then take notes about what you liked. These can serve as prompts to your own writing.

Example:

Let’s say your note from your reading says:

Look how this author stopped the scene on a flat phrase. There’s no reply, but I can tell what would have been next.

Then the next scene comes in on them in action.

You can use that note to build two scenes of your own, one that will end on a flat phrase, and one that will start in the middle of the action that follows.

Your story notes have just gotten a bit more precise. You have a plan now, and an example of what that plan looks like in action, there on the page. It’s almost like the textbook novels you read and take notes from are training wheels that help you get rolling with your own story.

Try it. Stop writing accidentally. Read something from an author you admire to learn how to better your writing. Open all those Look Inside views of books that are self published, take notes on what works for you. And what you see that doesn’t, that might be done better. Use that info to make your own writing stronger and cleaner.

Let’s hear from you in the comments.

If you’ve written an opening for a character it’s not always wise to start your story with only description. That can be a bit boring – like looking at a still-life painting, or out the car window at a building you’re approaching. It’s static.

Writing out a description of your MC usually has very little movement to it. Plus, the most common thing that novices do is step away from the scene while they’re telling their readers about the colour of someone’s hair, or the clothes that they wear. If you’re going to tell us about those things, make them do double duty by reflecting either the character’s state of being, or the tone you’re trying to get across in your narrative voice.

Gus Sanchez commented recently:

I like to keep descriptions about people’s physical appearances to a minimum, unless there’s something about their physical appearance that drives their character or motivation…. I would rather picture this character on my own terms, and let the author tell me more about the character’s motivations than what color their socks are.

 

About The Idea Of Keeping Character Description To A Minimum.

Rethinking your opening gives the reader actions your characters make. Writing ‘in-scene’ from your opening line, “Joey gripped his bb-gun and watched the fog of his breath rise in the early morning chill.” is better than “Joey stood, dressed in camo and a bright orange vest” type of opening.

One shows how those actions reflect your characters’ motivations, reactions, or emotions right from the beginning. Your word choice is storytelling from the very beginning:

Gripped = nerves?  Rise = hope? Chill = dread?

In the line-up of smart writing elements, description is rather low. Action for description, or action’s sake, ( Joey stood…) isn’t even top of the go-to list over Action with word choices, that convey motivations, reactions, or emotions.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Want one-on-one coaching or story edits  in this and other craft elements? See the side panel for my contact info.

Make you writing all it can be before you send it off for self-publishing.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________

 Here’s another example,

Let’s suppose Tim’s a character who’ve you’ve outlined as someone whose actions are rough and menacing. Forgo the guy’s physical description unless you can use it to show us this roughness via his motivation and reactions. Do this by asking questions – How would someone hiding his anger act? What motion does someone make who is trying not to yell, and fails?

Then any movement Tim makes are doing double duty to show is this violence or his suppression of it.

If Julie’s written up on your character outline as nervous, battered, or wary. Knowing her hair colour won’t show much of that side of her to us, at least not the bits we want to know about.

If you write an opening ‘in-scene’ to show us those traits via her emotions, then your word choices for the movements Julie make as she cringes away from the sound of Tim’s voice can then do double duty to show is this hesitancy in Julie’s character. And the menace in Tim’s.

This is why if you are going to describe your characters right from the start – your descriptions can go so much deepr than a physical one.

Paint a picture with the intangibles too.

Do your novel’s characters seem bland? A bit too average? Nothing setting them apart from anyone else you have walking around in your pages?

Want to work on that?  Here’s how.

The trick here (and for novices it is tricky) is to come at this problem backwards.

Don’t say to yourself, Humm, I need to make this gal or guy more quirky.  They just do the same old things everyone does. How can they be more I don’t know, better? This character needs more—umph!

Instead, work from what you know.

Don’t think of your characters at all yet. Just think of things you know about people.

What do you know about boys, girls, men, or women?

Not what we all know – that general stuff, those are just clichés that society knows about people.

I’m talking about what you’ve personally experienced in your life about boys, classmates, brothers, girls, cousins, men, nieces, women, or ex’s.

These are the bits of knowledge that bring your writing up a notch, and bring your characters to life.

The tricky part is that what you know is applied randomly.

So don’t ask yourself  What do I know about private investigators, or single dads, or bad boyfriends?

That’s coming at things head on.

We’re trying for tricky here – and what needs tricking is your preconceived notions of what you think you know about boys, classmates, brothers, girls, cousins, men, nieces, women, or ex’s.

For instance: I know that an old friend of mine, when he cooked, would talk to himself in a low voice all though the prep; lovingly narrating every move he made.

That quirk of self-talk in the kitchen is something unique that I can take from my actual life knowledge and use as a character’s quirk— in any of my novels. Luckily, it could be used differently on any PI, or a single dad, or a bad boyfriend character I write.

Drawing on character knowledge of this sort will work far better than those societal clichés we all assume we know about people. He is a silent type. She can be a harridan. Teens are disgruntled or sullen.

Those things are rather abstract. The act of self-talk in a character is a bit more concrete.

Now, if you feel you’re not a novice, perhaps you’re a 2nd Tier writer, there is even more you can do.

Ask yourself how this character’s quirk would differ from character to character? That is refining uniqueness for the needs of your story. It also exercises refinement of how you might use the character trait in your character.

How can it be applied on that investigator? How can it be switched up so that it’s nothing as how it would be used for a single dad, or a bad boyfriend? How can you do some serious writing to find what’s uniquely characteristic about your characters?

If all three of these characters are in your story, and you run this exercise for all three of them, one will work a lot better than the others and that is who you’ll give this quirky habit to.

To find that out you’ll need to put that found quirk into a unique circumstance or scene. It doesn’t have to do with your plot (though that’s good if it does); it is there to heighten your characters’ uniqueness so that the reader sees him as real.

Example:

Private investigatorhe’s contemplating going to AA and the self-talk he does waiting in his car while on a case is his way hearing what he’ll sound like if he ever gets up the courage to go to a meeting.

 Single dadHe’s outside the kid’s room, in the hallway, and overhears his two sons mimicking that self-talk Dad does and in a flash, realizes he’s doing okay by them after all, no matter what anyone says.

 Bad boyfriendHe’s there on the couch after a fight, doing that self-talk thing again. But this time your character hears him running baby names options, mixing them with his last name, then a hyphenated version of the FMC’s and his. For one moment in your story, this person is more than a clichéd version of all those other bad boyfriends.

Here’s the final tip of the day:

This is what the experts mean when they tell you that you need to write what you know.

My Call for Submissions for your 200 word excerpts is still open.

Click the link to find out about it.