“Writing Good Stories” (Part II) by Edward C. Patterson

Read Part I of “Writing Good Stories” here.

Another major point of resonating with the reader is your presentation point. Words can be presented in many styles within the same paragraph-from Austen to Hemmingway. These will resonate differently, but adds variety to the story. A brief sentence, such as “He wept” or “The door opened,” one active, the other passive-both Hemmingwayesque, is very effective for capping or moving a story along. However, a passage such as “It is in the realm of human experience that men generally do not weep unless provoked in the extreme,” or “Shaken by the thunderous waves below the terrace, the mighty door decided to release its unbidden secrets,” are good examples of Austenian (and Dickensian) presentation. Both have their place, especially if we add a drop of humor or whimsy. Humor resonates well, and is very engaging.

Combining twist with resonance, we get image. Each reader has a wealth of experience that they bring to your work. If you tap into it, you resonate and engage. If you add to it, you engage relentlessly. Therefore, you should always be conscious of the images you create. Thinking of images brings the old yarn spinner to mind. You could write: “The moon shimmered over the water reflecting the tree-line to the mind’s eye.” Or, you could twist and resonate this into a memorable image. “Like Trojan horses against the night moon, the old oak forest lorded over the sleeping pond-a beach head of foreboding.” Now that is an image that engages. It is also a building block for more images of a Homeric kind, allowing you to reference everything from ankles to doublets, from Helen to Iphigenia. It is also more interesting, and therefore more engaging. Spin the yarn to its credible limits.

There are local images, such as the one referenced above, which engages the reader as they travel your words; and there are global images, which are built on situations, great big twists and bigger than life resonance. These are the icons of your work. The reader will most probably not remember your words, but they will remember the big pictures – the icons. When we think of The Wizard of Oz, we think tornadoes in Kansas, Scarecrows, Flying Monkeys, and Emerald Cities. We do not think of L. Frank Baum’s words. This is due to a famous movie. However, like the movies, the reader will remember iconic scenes. Therefore, to get a reader to say to another (potential) reader “My favorite part was when the cow fell out of the sky and landed on the pitchfork,” you must provide both cow and pitchfork, although not necessarily the sky. Even if your genre is Slice of Life psychoanalytical, you must provide an iconic scene, the grand image, for remembrance. When we think of Anna Karenina, we think Woman throws herself under the wheels of oncoming train (with snow and all the trimmings).

Engage the reader’s memory by seeding. Think of the story and its logistics. Introduce objects and people as seeds for later development. A spoon used to stir the tea, may very well be the twist that turns the story line. The chance meeting of a street bum might be an opportunity to have that street bum become the main character’s sister’s cousin. Perhaps he was an accountant fallen to hard times. Perhaps you will need an accountant to take inventory of the spoons. Like kneading bread, the more you use and reuse characters and objects, the more engaged your reader becomes. The reader begins to feel at home within your world, because they now have a vocabulary of things and people they trust. The more they trust them, the more your opportunity to twist through contradiction.

A vital part of seeding is structural. As you seed, you shore up the overall structure of your novel. You can seed by using scenario patterns or similar characters. Patterns are redundant behaviors in the plot, mirrors so to speak, that emphasize some part of your theme. At the same time, it hides major beams in your structure. A good example is from J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, which repeatedly has a departure image of a shining woman fading further and further away until disappearing. Tolkien also creates a pattern of danger and safety again and again, until the reader inherently believes that the characters will inevitably be in danger and, likewise, will be saved. Such patterning can be applied to similar characters, usually brothers or sisters, who extend each other’s depth by dipping from the same gene pool. This can be seen with Dickens in Nicholas Nickleby with the brothers Cheryble; or, the variety Jane Austen creates with her family portraits. These patterns are part of seeding the work to engage the reader better.

Finally, and most important, movement is critical. Stay in the same place for too long and you risk disengaging the reader. Therefore, you need to know when to dwell and when to move. Move too quickly and the reader is puzzled-too slowly, they nod off. In both cases, disengaged. Remember, if you cease to tell the story, the story ends. The trick for serialized genres, for example, is to forecast story movement so the reader can be disengaged from the story at a point in time and reengage immediately a week later. You can move forward by moving backward, although flashback is somewhat cliché. Nonetheless, you can move backward in story telling by having the characters tell the story. You can manipulate speed by changing points of view, although changing from first person to third person can be disconcerting if not handled well. Dickens discovered that in Bleak House. However, if you need to control the speed of delivery, try this: In a third person novel where character A is always the point of view for the reader, begin a chapter where character B is now the focal point. This will change speed and tone (and will have your English teacher screaming bloody murder. As long as your editor does not commit suicide, you are safe).

Many authors have difficulty moving forward. Their plot points call for a character to go from point A to point B, through many interesting subpoints. They manage to waste a good deal of time and effort writing non-essentially, using valuable materials and disengaging the reader. The secret of moving forward is just that. Do it. Have the character at point A, with a notion that point B is the destination. Then, start a new paragraph at point B. Use a short phrase like, “It was raining at Point B.” The reader adjusts to this immediately, and will not miss the mounds of walking, hiking, flying, and swimming (although swimming might be worth a subpoint-sharks and barracudas). They will be in the story and very much engaged. They do not need the infamous three asterisks (***).

In conclusion, a good story is one that fully engages the reader by twisting the elements into something worthwhile and memorable. You constantly tell the story, resonating with the reader’s natural ability to simulate into the world you create. Give the reader interesting images and some icons, and they walk away satisfied. Hold this world together through seeding and patterning; and, above all, keep it moving. Tell a good story and your characters will write themselves and your material will team with themes from cover to cover.

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The above is an excerpt from Mr. Patterson’s book, Are You Still Submitting Your Work to a Traditional Publisher?

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Sierra Rose – S.E.A.L. Team Omega Flames of Betrayal

Title: S.E.A.L. Team Omega Flames of Betrayal

Author: Sierra Rose

ISBN: 1449915396/ 978-1449915391

Page count: 266

Genre: Action/Adventure

Price: $11.75 paperback or $1.00 Kindle

Author Bio:

I was born in 1974 in the Eastern Ohio Valley town of Martins Ferry where I lived until I was five then we moved to a very rural town in the same area. I’m the youngest of four children of a mill worker and a housewife but have 15 years between me and my closest sibling.  I grew up with a vivid imagination, which seems to have become active at age four.

Having an imagination and a passion for reading, inventing little worlds and stories in my head seems natural. I began writing for fun mainly to survive reports I was making while being home schooled (illnesses kept me out so the school sent a teacher) and I wrote the most colorful but accurate history reports they’d seen. My passion for writing original pieces came at high school and I still have novels on paper to prove the start of this career.

I’m a 1993 graduate of Buckeye Local High School and still live in the same house I grew up in with my family of my mother and brother, plus three spoiled cats and a semi-fierce Beagle who likes to think he’s a Pit-Bull.

I still enjoy writing stories for fun that I can’t do anything with while I take a break from my original works. I mainly write action/adventure so my series of Celtic Evil, which is a paranormal romantic suspense series, is a slight break for me. I used to write poetry but can only do that in times of stress or deep emotional crisis.

I enjoy writing for the sake of telling a story. I write for myself and for others who enjoy the act of reading a good story. I hope to be able to tell many of those.

Tell us about your book:

Flames of Betrayal is the first in the S.E.A.L. Team Omega action series. It introduces readers to a unit of Navy Seals that aren’t exactly like many others as they do things differently, in more than one way.

This one is about a betrayal that begins in the highest offices of the Navy when the team is left out to dry and becomes much more complicated when its discovered that more is involved. Fighting black op agents working for someone in their own government, they need to discover who is behind the ultimate scheme before one of their commanders pays the ultimate price.

How long did it take to write the book?

I’d actually had this title started a few years ago but it wasn’t going anywhere. This past November while working on another story for the Nano event, this one popped back into my head so I started multi-tasking on it. It flowed out fully in about a month.

What inspired you to write the book?

My original genre of writing was action so it seems to be one that I automatically cross back over to when taking a break from my other series.

Talk about the writing process. Did you have a writing routine? Did you do any research, and if so, what did that involve?

I don’t think I follow a routine, except to try to write on it every day. Because of the military aspect of this title, research was required so that I got the jargon, words, and weapons down right. I googled for things that I didn’t already own research books on, like a few weapons that don’t come listed in Gun Digest, etc, or some ranks.

What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?

A sense of enjoyment, of maybe losing themselves in the world and characters created for this series.

Where can we go to buy your book?

Amazon.com has both the paperback and Kindle version available, B&N also has paperback and ebook available and also the Ebook is available on Smashwords.

Any other links or info you’d like to share?

Links for this one include it’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/SEAL-Team-Omega/338011825276?v=wall it’s blog at http://sealteamomega.blogspot.com/ or my webpage at: http://sierra-rose-books.webs.com

Excerpt:

Lieutenant, they have a damn sniper!” Casey seen the rocket launch from the bridge then his heart did a fast leap into his throat as he seen his commander’s jeep flip into traffic then keep rolling downs an embankment.

Brookes had frozen. He knew with that bike still close, if Ethan and Cassidy had survived, they wouldn’t for long.

“Stop this thing.” he snapped, shoving his door open. “On foot!” he ordered the SEALs. “Get to them and take out that damn bike!”

Jake had already stopped the second vehicle and SEALs were running on foot with weapons drawn.

Ford had stopped long enough to aim his PSG-1 sniper’s rifle at the motorcycle, his bullet hit the passenger who fell off but rolled into the way of a car that couldn’t stop in time.

As cars and trucks tried to stop, SEALs had reached the scene just as another rocket was aimed at them.

Since Ford already had his PSG1 rifle out, he raised the aim and found their rocket man.  “LT! You want him alive or dead?”

Brookes had pulled a woman out of a burning car. “He’s shooting rockets at us! Kill the son of a bitch, Ford!”

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Jim Chambers – Recollections: A Baby Boomer’s Memories…

Title: Recollections: A Baby Boomer’s Memories of the Fabulous Fifties

Author: Jim Chambers

ISBN: 978-0557091003

Page count: 144

Genre: History/Memoir

Price: $12.60

Author Bio:

I was born  in Atlanta, Georgia, on July 22, 1946, exactly nine months and five days after my father returned home from England, where he had served with the U.S. 8th Air Force during World War II. After a relatively undistinguished twelve years in public schools, I went on to the Georgia Institute of Technology, where I earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering. After that, I went to work with the Georgia Department of Transportation, where I designed highways for thirty-four years. I retired in 2001.

I’m an avid reader, reading a little of everything, but I prefer action novels, history and historical fiction, and biography. My wife Deborah and I love to travel, but scuba diving and underwater photography are our real passions. Deborah shoots video, and I shoot stills. I’ve managed to win or place in several major international underwater photography competitions, and my underwater photography has been published in magazines such as National Geographic and Popular Photography. Unfortunately, due to medical problems, I’ve recently had to give up scuba diving.

Tell us about your book:

As one of the first post-WWII Baby Boomers, my childhood and early teenage years were in the 1950s, a remarkable decade for the United States that saw enormous political, technological, and cultural changes. Although many books have covered the headline-making events of the era in great detail, few of these books give the reader a real feel for what daily life was like for Americans living in that decade, especially for kids growing up then. I remember the little nuts and bolts things of daily life for families during the fascinating decade known as the Fabulous Fifties. “Recollections” perfectly blends paying homage to the little day-to-day rituals with a larger scale examination of social issues and mores of the times, and it’s equally entertaining on either level. “Recollections” is a warm, lovingly honest, and fascinating portrait of America in the mid-20th Century.

How long did it take to write the book?

Approximately six months

What inspired you to write the book?

One of my favorite books is The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, a humorous memoir by Bill Bryson of his childhood years growing up in the 1950s and early 1960s. Bill did a marvelous job of describing how it was to be a kid in the United States during that period. I was born in 1946, so the 1950s were my coming of age decade too. There were some major differences in our lives, however. Bill grew up in the Midwest (Des Moines, Iowa), and I was born and raised in the South (Atlanta, Georgia), so we had somewhat different perspectives on our times.

Many of the incidents in The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid were reminiscent of my own youth, and they brought back a flood of recollections. Reading the book brought back a lot of childhood memories that I had forgotten, memories of what it was like to grow up in that exciting decade. World War II had ended a few months before I was born, and I was one of the first Baby Boomers.

Talk about the writing process. Did you have a writing routine? Did you do any research, and if so, what did that involve?

I’m retired, so I have a lot of time available to write. I didn’t have a regular writing routine, but I typically wrote for 3-4 hours a day from Monday through Friday. Occasionally, I took a break from writing for a week or so. Most of the book came from memory, but I did a lot of online research to check dates and spelling of names.

What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?

My purpose in writing the book was to reminisce a bit about life in the United States during the mid-20th century. In many ways, the 1950s was a kinder, gentler era, sandwiched between twenty years of depression and war in the 1030s-1940s and the explosive social changes of the 1960s. It was an exciting era to live in, and I wanted to give readers a look at the 1950s, particularly from a kid’s point of view. The book has been received very well by both young people who are interested in American history, and older people who lived in that era. Recollections was written as an historical account of the 1950s decade, but there are enough personal memories that some readers have compared it to a memoir.

Where can we go to buy your book?

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Recollections-Boomers-Memories-Fabulous-Fifties/dp/0557091004/ref=tmm_pap_title_0

Excerpt:

From Chapter 2 – The Family:

I still remember one incident when I was twelve years old. I had gotten a .22 caliber rifle (a Marlin Model 57 lever action, a really sweet rifle) for my birthday. You couldn’t discharge firearms in our suburban neighborhood of course, but I was on the back steps just loading it and unloading it when the rifle accidentally discharged and a bullet went into the wall. I heard my mother scream, and I ran inside to the kitchen, where plaster dust was everywhere (walls were plaster then, not the sheetrock drywall that would come later). The bullet had grazed the plaster and made a very noticeable crater. Fortunately for me, the crater was behind the refrigerator and wasn’t very noticeable, especially with the stack of old newspapers on top. My mom calmed down, cleaned things up, and sat me down to explain that if my dad ever found out what happened, he would kill me instantly and without remorse. Therefore, she said, as long as he’s alive, we’ll keep this refrigerator so he never sees the wall behind it. My father died thirty-two years later, and my mom kept that refrigerator going with duct tape and baling wire. I contributed by praying for the refrigerator’s continued health. My dad must have wondered why my mom was so attached to the refrigerator, but he never said anything, and since he was a bit of a cheapskate, it was okay with him to not have to buy a new refrigerator. My mom got a ton of points for that, and afterwards, I upgraded her birthday present considerably from the usual soap-on-a-rope or chocolate-covered cherries. After my dad died, I bought her a new refrigerator, a deluxe model with all the frills. It was worth every penny.

NOTE: A Kindle edition of the book is also available for $0.99:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B002H9XTWI

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