Thursday, November 26, 2015

Plot Problems Solved in 3 Questions

Before you get into the post from Henry McLaughlin today, all of us at The Write Conversation want to wish you a Happy & Blessed Thanksgiving!

Plot Problems solved in 3 Questions
by Henry McLaughlin @RiverBendSagas

Here is a tool that may prove helpful. Best-selling author Steven James presented this material at an intensive novel writing retreat I attended.

Whether you’re an outliner or an organic author, these simple, yet intriguing questions, will get your creative juices flowing.

The questions open doors into areas of our story we may not have explored before and will lead us to more compelling stories.

What would this character naturally do in this situation?

Believability is the first priority. If our character does something he would not naturally do, it will the strain the reader’s investment in him and in our story.

For example, say our character is an inspector with the National Transportation Safety Board. What’s the first thing he would do at the scene of a plane crash? Would he ask where is the nearest Starbucks? Or would he ask if the black box has been found or if there are any survivors?

Or, he’s an ER doctor and the paramedics have brought in a victim of a gunshot wound. Would he ask when the next available tee time is? Or, would he assess the patient’s need for immediate surgery?

If the reader notices our character is acting unbelievably, than another character must also notice it and comment on it. Otherwise, our story loses credibility.

How can I make things worse?

Escalate the tension by throwing more obstacles at our character. Increase the tension to keep the reader interested. But remember—it has to be believable.

Say my story involves terrorists taking over a nuclear power plant and holding the staff hostage. How can I make things worse? Here are some examples:
  • They strap bombs to the core.
  • There is a group of school kids there on a field trip.
  • They start killing the hostages.
  • The daughter of the chief government negotiator works at the plant.
  • She’s aiding the terrorists.

The key is to avoid coincidence because this will destroy believability. Everything must build on something that happened before.
How can I end this in a way that’s unexpected and inevitable?

Readers don’t want endings to come out of nowhere. The ending needs to be natural and inherent to the story. We want the reader to be surprised and satisfied.

In my novel, Journey to Riverbend, I established throughout the story that my hero believed he killed his father and that he would never kill again. At the end of the story, I put him in the position where, to save someone, he has to kill the villain. The ending was inevitable yet surprising and satisfying to the readers. It was also be believable because of the foreshadowing I layered in.

Steven James writes, “The first question will help focus your believability. The second will keep it escalating toward an unforgettable climax. The third will help build your story scene by twisting, turning scene.”

What plot problems do you typically encounter? How would these three questions help resolve them?


Henry’s debut novel, Journey to Riverbend, won the 2009 Operation First Novel contest. 

He serves as Associate Director of North Texas Christian Writers. 

Henry edits novels, leads critique groups, and teaches at conferences and workshops. He enjoys mentoring and coaching individual writers. 

Connect with Henry on his blogTwitter and Facebook.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

It’s Time to Celebrate . . . YOU!

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

Today is a milestone in the life of The Write Conversation, and in my own blogging life. This post is number 1500.

I read that and I just need to take a minute and let that sink in.

When I shared this information with my husband, his comment was, “Wow that’s over 4 years of posting. I thought you’d been at this longer than that.”

Well he’s right, and he’s wrong.

If I’d been posting 7 days a week from the very beginning of this blog, it would only be 4 years a few months. But I didn’t start out sharing a post a day. I started slow—giving myself a chance to succeed—posting only once a week.

The first post on this site went live on December 11, 2009.

Those early posts were rough. And many of you may think I’ve long since taken them down. But the truth is, as bad as they were, I’m proud of those first posts. To me, they represent my public claim as a writer.

I knew I had a long way to go.

But I also knew that I’d never get there if I didn’t get started. If I’d waited until I was polished and perfect . . . well . . . I’d still be waiting.

Funny thing is, that’s what the first post is all about. I wrote about Mastering Your Dream. As much of a beginner as I was, I still knew that getting where I want to go takes work. 

Enough about me.

The title of this post says what I want to focus on—celebrating YOU.

Each of you is taking time right now, investing in your dream. You’re making the effort to learn and grow as a writer. You’re reaching out and encouraging one another as we come together to follow the path set before us.

I wish I could give each of you a gift. It would only be fitting because this blog would be nothing without you.

What I’m doing instead is offering the chance to win one of 3 $15 Amazon gift cards. You don’t have to do anything to enter the drawing—no tweeting or sharing or liking required. All you have to do is leave a short comment. Then check back on Thanksgiving to see if you won.

Don’t forget to join the conversation!

Oh, in case you’re curious, here are some links to the earliest posts, along with the stats (and you should notice I didn't even know enough to use images to illustrate my posts). They're untouched. I've left them just as they were when I first put them up.

Monday, December 11, 2009
Page views before today: 40

Monday, December 21, 2009
Page views before today: 21

Monday, January 25, 2010
Page views before today: 12

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Writing Like You Know What You’re Talking About

Eva Marie Everson
Edie here. Today I'm super excited to welcome our newest member of The Write Conversation blogging contributors. In addition to being a good friend, she's been my mentor and one of my biggest encouragers. Her contribution to the Christian publishing industry stretches from east to west. I know you'll be as elated as I am to welcome author, editor and writing mentor Eva Marie Everson!

Writing Like You Know What You're Talking About
by Eva Marie Everson @EvaMarieEverson

Have you ever set a scene, a section of a book, or an entire novel somewhere you’ve never been? I have. Plenty of times.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Keys to Choosing Blog Post Titles that Work

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

I spend a lot of time sharing other bloggers’ posts with my social media network. But spend even more time passing over valuable posts because my followers would have no idea what the post was about. So today I want to give you the basics of titling blog posts.

I pay a lot of attention to my blog post titles, and I often spend almost as much time composing them as I do writing an entire post.

They are that important!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

We're Not Meant to do this Writing Thing Alone

by Brenda McGraw @BrendaMMcGraw

Alone again, me and my words.

When was the last time you felt like you were on your own with no one by your side or encouraging you?

Writing is sometimes a lonely calling. 

We touch the keyboard and are supposed to type words and make them jump off the page and touch the hearts and lives of others.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Writing Life

Edie here. Today, marks the beginning of something new here on the blog. Two to three times a month, in place of the usual Social Media Image Saturday, I'll be introducing you to some of my author friends. So without further ado, I'm happy to introduce you my first guest author, Gail Kittleson. I was fortunate to be invited to appear on her blog, Dare to Bloom, back in May and I'm so excited to have her on The Write Conversation. Be sure to give her your usual warm welcome!

The Writing Life
by Gail Kittleson @GailGKittleson

Writing takes confidence. What a comforting thought as I look back over those unproductive years, my “wasted years.” Without believing that our words and unique perspective matter, who finds the courage to write? Yet Virgil wrote, “Fortune favors the brave.”

But if nobody else can create the precise stories that come to us, begging to be penned, then we have a mission. Unless we tell this tale, who will? And if this story remains unwritten, if we hide it under a bushel, who will miss embracing its truth?

Writing means facilitating feelings in our reader. We want them to feel what we’ve felt, what we sense deep within. We avoid words like elated, sad, disappointed, miserable, and hesitant, because we want to evoke emotion in the reader, not tell them how to feel.
Memoir writing taught me that even in nonfiction, the goal is the reader’s emotion. The Glass Castle’s startling image of the author’s mother digging in a dumpster stays with me. So does the young heroine's utter terror in To Kill a Mockingbird, and a thousand other emotional responses various authors worked hard to stir up in me.

That’s what it’s about—the connection between writer and reader, the power flow from spirit to spirit, soul to soul. It’s why we speak of “beloved authors.” They’ve moved us in one way or another—to grief, to longing, to ecstasy, to puzzlement or distress. It's why I want to meet Isaiah in heaven—his words have made all the difference in my journey.

As writers, we must believe in ourselves, in our intrinsic value. This was where I got lost on the way to authorship. For shame-based would-be writers, the trek to confidence, fraught with speculation and introspection, seems to take forever.
But little by little, step-by-step, I heard my voice—found my voice, as they say. The writing life involved waiting for things to shift into place inside me before confidence gradually slipped in. Oh, I kept busy, but I was merely dabbling in my passion.

Instructing college expository writing helped tremendously. I love cheerleading students who believe they can’t write. They can, of course, and what fun to join in their colossal discovery. The involved process of helping them find their theme, cut unnecessary verbiage, and choose strong verbs to hone their truth honed mine: I needed to write again.

As Mark Twain quipped, “The two more important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.” I would add the day you develop the confidence to answer that call. Now, after years of learning fiction skills, my debut novel has released. No, none of the big names picked it up, but the small company that did assigned it to their Vintage line and classifies it SUPER SWEET. That means the entire book contains nary a reason to blush.

Yet Dottie, the heroine, shares her story with clarity and purpose. After all, she thinks, there must be a purpose—she survived losing her only son to World War II. On top of that, her daughter Cora moved to California straight out of high school to work for the war effort, married a sailor and settled down in the Golden State—another loss.

Dottie contributes to her everyday post-war world in down-to-earth ways—cooking and cleaning, volunteering at her church, and tending her garden. But when troubles arise in Cora’s third pregnancy, old fears inhibit Dottie from traveling across the country to help her and meet those precious grandbabies. And as that elusive, intangible quality of confidence grows in Dottie, so does the interest of the widower next door.

This story links with every woman who’s ever traveled the road from anxiety to confidence. Dottie’s become very real to me—I hope readers will embrace her and cheer her on, while I continue writing and believing.

Thoughts on the #Writing Life - via @GailGKittleson on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Blurb: It’s 1946. Dottie Kyle, an everyday Midwestern woman who lost her only son in the war and her husband soon after, takes a cooking/cleaning job at a local boarding house. But when a new employee is hired, complications arise, and when they niggle Dottie’s “justice meter”, she must decide whether to speak up or not. 

At the same time, her daughter's pregnancy goes awry and the little California grandchildren she's never met need her desperately. But an old fear blocks her way. When the widower next door shows Dottie unexpected attention, she has no idea he might hold the clue to unlocking her long-held anxieties.

Gail Kittleson:Our stories are our best gifts, and blooming late has its advantages—the novel fodder never ends. Gail writes from northern Iowa, where she and her husband enjoy gardening and grandchildren. WhiteFire Publishing released Gail’s memoir, Catching Up With Daylight in 2013, and her debut women’s historical fiction, In This Together (Wild Rose Press/Vintage Line) greets the world on November 18, 2015. Please feel free to contact her—meeting new reading friends is the frosting on her cake!