Ask yourself, why do you want to write this story? What is your passion? What theme do you want your readers to take away from your story? What is the premise of your story? Describe it on one sentence using the what-if formula. What if a flawed protagonist encountered a problem and had to overcome the flaw to solve the problem? Whatis one flaw that prevents your protagonist from solving his or her problem? Later, you can give other flaws to your character, but the main flaw is what you will structure your story on.
I don’t know about you, but I find the comma a mystery in itself. Everyone is good at something. Those that are great at grammar, may still have issues with the dreaded comma. Where does it go? How do I know I placed it in the right spot. Here is a simple guide.
- Use commas to separate independent clauses when they are joined by a conjunction such as and, but, for, so, and yet.
- Use commas after introductory clauses, phrases, and words that come before the main clause.
- Use a pair of commas in the middle of a sentence to set off clauses, phrases, and words that aren’t essential to the meaning of a sentence. Use one comma at the beginning of a pause and one at the end to indicate the end of the pause.
- Use commas to separate three or more words, phrases, and clauses written in a series.
- Use commas to separate two or more coordinate adjectives that describe the same noun.
The comma is a valuable punctuation device, because it separates the structural elements of sentences into manageable segments, and it gives the reader time to take a breath when reading a long sentence.
A good part of writing is research. The internet is a good source, but isn’t always reliable. Researchers know to follow up internet resources. Look in their bibliography where they got their information and the listing of books. If a writer writes a non-fiction book, they usually have to provide a proposal that entails a bibliography as proof of information. Here are a few research sites:
loc.gov Library of Congress chronicles American newspaper collections, catalog of manuscript collections, American Memory collections, and digital images of America’s past.
www.hti.umich.edu/m/moagrp This is a digital library of the 19th century which includes 10,000 books and 50,000 journal articles.
www.castlegarden.org NY Castle Garden is the immigration center with a database of 11 million immigrants from 1820-1892 when Ellis Island opened.
www.itd.nps.gov/cwss Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System- this site includes background on the social, economic, political, and military aspects of the Civil War.
www.usgs.gov/pubprod This is the US Geological site that has 57 printable maps for ancestral places.
www.archives.gov/ This is the National Archives & Records Admin. site. It contains useful information from genealogy to White House tapings.
www.newspaperabstracts.com This site hosts pages of abstracts and extracts from historical newspapers.
Many states have their own library systems for history but an invaluable portal to the world’s non-virtual library is the WorldCat with more than 1.5 billion items in libraries around the world. Look it up @ worldcat.org.
There are numerous genealogy sites that are also helpful for research.
A Terza rima is a form of poetry with a rhyming verse stanza consisting of an interlocking 3-line rhyme scheme. The end word of second line to supply rhyme for first and third lines. Here is my example:
They rose from the dead
like gorgeous towers
in brilliant blue, yellow, and red.
Oh, they have such powers
to strike love in my heart
with the sight of their blooming flowers.
I hate to see them part,
For it seemed they just got here.
So, I’ll take them to the mart
and everyone will peer
at my dazzling beauties,
before they’re gone for another year.
A limerick is a five line witty poem with rhythm. The first, second, and fifth lines are longer lines and rhyme. They should have between seven to ten syllables. The third and fourth lines are shorter and rhyme. They have five to seven syllables. Here is an example:
There once was a man from Blether.
Whose skin looked like dry, old leather.
He spent all his time afloat
On a rickety old boat
That man just loved the sea weather.
An English sonnet has 14 lines. Out of those, there are 3 quatrains or 4 line stanzas, and 1 couplet or 2 line stanza. It has a rhyming scheme of abab, cdcd, efef, and gg. Here is my example.
The Angel & Her Puppet
Your face is a work of art,
Carved without any flaws,
Yet you’ve pierced my heart
And my sanity lies in your claws.
You’ve become my master.
My eyes glisten like fresh morning dew,
Yet translucent as alabaster,
For your beauty holds me together like glue.
Your smile soothes away the pain
Of another dark day alone.
Forgive my imaginative brain,
For it dreams of swimming in your cologne.
I’m a puppet pulled by your strings.
So, carry me away on your wings.
I found this helpful in writing mysteries and young adult stories and thought I would share it with other writers out there.
To move action forward, you write a scene. A scene is a unit of conflict lived through by your character and reader. It is mostly plot. To analyze its effects upon the protagonist, you add sequel. Sequel is a unit of transition that links two scenes. It is mostly story or emotion.
A scene is built around three things: a goal, conflict, and disaster. Every scene should provide interest and move the story forward as well as build characterization. The sequel bridges between scenes where the reader learns what the character is thinking and it’s a good place for backstory. It gives logic and plausibility of your story by explaining why your character acts the way he/ she does. Four parts consist of a sequel: emotion, thought, decision, and action.
We’ve all heard that a writer needs to draw in their readers with a great hook, but how do we do it? Establish who is your protagonist and what is their flaw. Draw off that flaw as you write your hook and connect your reader to your protagonist. Propel your reader into action. Try to set the mood in the setting also and how the protagonist relates. Throughout the story, you have to think like your protagonist and what they would do. Their flaw must get in their way and the protagonist doesn’t realize it until the epiphany part of the story.
A reader has to engage with your characters to care about them or they won’t finish your story. You, as the writer, must figure out the details. What do you know about your character? What brings them joy? What scares them? What are their values? Do they have goals?
As you write your story, think about your character. Whose story is it? What do they want? What stops them from getting it? How do they get it? Put your character in a new situation. Is his everyday life disrupted?
Think about voice. You don’t want all your characters sounding alike. If you took away the dialogue tags, can your reader distinguish each character without them? Does your character repeat a phrase? Does your character stutter? Does he have an accent?
Your character drives the plot. You don’t want to bore your reader. Give your character a flaw to overcome and put obstacles in his path. Continue to increase the stakes. If you find your story is paced too fast, then slow it down with emotion. Good luck.
How can you tell if your novel or tale is only story or plot? Story is the emotional journey and plot is the physical journey. For example: If a heroine’s father is gunned down by mobsters that is plot, but if the heroine cries over the bloody corpse that’s story.
Plot moves your character from the starting location to the ending location. Struggles along the way are the physical parts of the plot. The story moves your character from the person he/ she was at the beginning to the person he/ she ends up being at the end.
Plot is action. If things are dragging in your story, simply add more action. If things are too fast, slow it down by adding emotion. Goals drive your characters and their flaws impede them. Create a flaw in your character that is opposite of your theme so the character can grow emotionally.