Elements to Think About Before Writing Your Story

I’ve been quite busy critiquing and attending writing improvement classes. Here are some things I learned that might help you. Ask your self these questions before you write your story.

  • Who is your protagonist?
  • What is his/her initial problem?
  • What does your protagonist want?
  • What gets in the way?
  • Why does he/she want that goal?
  • What happens if he/she doesn’t get it?
  • What event starts the story?
  • What deadline does the protagonist have?
  • What is the ending?
  • Who is your villain?
  • What is your protagonist’s inner conflicts?

Now figure out, who are your readers? Don’t say everybody because that isn’t true. What age group or gender would your story appeal to?

Here is an exercise for you. This should work for your protagonist, secondary characters, and your villain.

  •  What is the character’s name?
  • age and sex?
  • physical description
  • Where does your character live?
  • What does your character hate?
  • What does he/she fear?
  • Any particular skills?
  • married or love interest?
  • any children?
  • job history?
  • strengths and weaknesses?
  • hobbies?
  • does he/she drive or mode of transportation?
  • what is the character’s backstory?

After you’ve figured out these things, write a book jacket in 1-3 sentences. Believe it or not, you can do this, even if you don’t know all the details of your story yet. Good luck.

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Checklist for Revision

  • Before you submit your manuscript to an editor or agent, print it out and read it aloud. You’ll catch any typos or missed words this way.
  •  Today’s computer systems have a feature in them to alert you to grammar issues and spelling errors. Use it.
  • Does your character have a clear want that moves the plot along?
  • Have you made it clear what your protagonist’s desires and fears are?
  • Do your characters have distinct speech patterns or details that the reader knows who is speaking without a dialogue tag?
  •  Have you included obstacles in your story to play on your character’s fears and weaknesses? Have the obstacles increased and become more difficult over time?
  • Does every plot event challenge, reveal, and shape your main character?
  • Does the plot contain any twists or surprises?
  • Does the ending of your story resolve the conflict? Is it inevitable?
  • Does each chapter end with a hook for the reader to want to turn the page?
  • Does your story start with a great hook?
  •  Ask a fellow writer or critique group to analyze your writing before turning it in. Unless your spouse is a fellow writer, don’t bother asking their opinion.

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Norse Myths

The earliest Nordic inhabitants created myths to explain the natural world and their place within it. According to Norse mythology, Yggdrasil, a giant ash tree occupied the center of the universe and connected the 9 worlds of the cosmos. Today, a wide range of Nordic myths live on in folktales. Four of the seven days of the week bear names associated with Norse gods. Tuesday is Tyr’s Day, Wednesday is Woden/ Odin’s Day, Thursday is Thor’s Day, and Friday is Frigg’s Day. In today’s world, many people are naming their children after mythological heroes such as Odin, Freya, and Thor.IMG_1150.jpg

In the Beginning

With the popularity of the Game of Thrones, I thought I’d share some information I learned at the Nordic Museum for my writer friends. According to the Icelandic Prose Edda, Odin and his brothers, Vili and Ve, created the universe from the body of the evil giant, Ymir. From his flesh, they created Midgard or the Middle Enclosure, the earthly realm of humans. Ymir’s blood became the seas, lakes, and rivers. His bones became the mountains. His teeth became the rocks. From his skull, the brothers created Asgard, the heavenly vault and home of the gods. Four dwarves stand at the corners of Asgard and hold it above the earth.

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Poisons for the Mystery Writer

For those of you that write murder mysteries, this book on poisons is full of information. Put it on your list to read. You’ll be amazed at the information. Did you know that quails eat hemlock seeds? If a man eats one quail that has eaten a hemlock seed, he could die within hours.20190305_120321 (2) poison book


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Here is a short ghost story I wrote. Hope you like it.

Old wooden stairs creaked as I walked up them. A frail-looking woman, with a mass of wrinkles on her face, rocked on the porch.

“Time’s a wasting, child. Come on.” She poured a cup of coffee into a chipped china cup. “Cream or sugar?”

“Sugar, Mrs. Faye.” I cleared my throat. “Your son is concerned about your welfare. He’s too far away to check in on you. He’d like you to live at the Soldiers Home. What do you think?”

“My son said that? Well, I was born in Tennessee. My mama was born here. My grandmama was born here. Long ways back my family goes. I guess you could call me rootbound.” Mrs. Faye poured herself another cup of coffee and added some cream. “Nothing like a good cup of brew. Have you ever been to the opry?”

“No. Can’t say I have.” I sipped my coffee.

Mrs. Faye slapped her knee. “You don’t know what you’re missing, child. It’s the purtiest music you ever did hear. The whole town flocks to it. Yes sirree bob.” Forgetting completely about her coffee, she stared into space. A single tear ran down her face.

“What’s wrong, Mrs. Faye?” I asked.

“Call me Tansey. I haven’t been a Mrs. anything for a long time. You know my Mike fought in the war.”

“Yes, I know. Your son told me.”

“You know George? That’s nice.” Tansey hobbled inside the house. She wore two different pairs of shoes and a sweater as pants. A large wet spot spread across her buttocks. She mumbled, “Dang dog peed in my chair again.” She walked into the kitchen and I followed behind her.

A pile of newspapers stood in a corner. Half-filled cups of cold coffee littered the dining table. Tansey made another pot of coffee. I picked up a framed photograph off the buffet.

“Is this your husband?” I asked. I showed her the picture of a soldier.

“Yes, that’s my Mike. He was in the war you know. Be a good girl and get me a spoon from that drawer.”

I opened the buffet drawer and it was lined with pinecones amongst the silverware. I grabbed a spoon from the mess and headed to the  kitchen sink. I turned the faucet on and rusty water dribbled out.

“Let the faucet run a spell, before the good water comes out,” Tansey said.

I wiped the dirty spoon on my slacks. I threw out my coffee in the sink, after realizing I drank rusty water. Ants and roaches climbed out of the drain. I shivered and jumped back.

“Don’t worry about those varmints. They’re just looking for a scrap of water,” Tansey said.

“How long have you been living in these conditions?” I asked.

“I’ve lived in Tennessee all my life, child. I was married here. Ask Mike. He’s sleeping in the bedroom.”

I opened the bedroom door and a horrible smell assaulted my nose. A room full of flies buzzed around. On the bed, a skeleton reposed, with pieces of flesh remaining on it and  some rotten fabric. I gagged and fled the room. “Tansey? I agree with your son. You need help.”

“No one tells me what to do in my own home, missy. If you’ve come here to cause trouble…” Tansey grabbed a butcher knife. She had a crazed look in her eyes.

I stepped back. “Tansey, put the knife down. Your son sent me. He’s worried about you.”

“You saw George? That’s nice.” Tansey poured herself a cup of coffee. She added a drop of cream. “Where’s my manners? Let me fill your cup.”

“When was the last time you saw your son?”

“I don’t rightly know. I’ve been busy caring for Mike. My George followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the service. Time flies. Must have been a year or more.”

“Tansey, since your husband and son were in the service, you qualify to room at the Soldiers Home. Allow me to make the necessary arrangements,” I said.

“I told you, girly, I’m rootbound. I’ve lived here all my life. No one tells me where to go. Get out!”

I strode outside and placed a call to the local authorities. “I’d like to report a death. It’s at Tansey Faye’s house. 123 Maple Drive. The body has been here for some time. Yes, I’ll wait.”

The sheriff and the medical examiner arrived a few minutes later.

“Thank you for coming, sheriff. The body is in the bedroom,” I said. “Mrs. Faye’s son called me. He was worried about his mother’s welfare. He wanted me to see if she was a candidate for placement at the Soldiers Home. I’m a social worker there.”

“What was the son’s name?” the sheriff asked.

“George,” I said.

“Are you sure it was George?”

“He said his name was George Faye. Why?”

“George died during the Vietnam War,” the sheriff said.

My jaw dropped.

Tansey strolled outside in a pink chiffon dress and a straw hat. Pearls encircled her throat. “Are you trying to catch flies, my dear? I’m ready. The deputy told me I’ve been invited to the Soldiers Home, for a celebration, in honor of George. Isn’t that sweet?” She patted my arm. “I know it’s a shock, but George has been gone a long time.”

I groaned.



Fantasy Writing Tips

This is a great reference book for fantasy writers.  It gives detailed traditional and world cultures of fantasy. It  talks about weapons, armor, and armies. It delves into magic and fantasy creatures. If you want to build your world for your writing, this book will help.20190219_131009 (1) fantasy reference

The Dreaded Synopsis & How to Make Yours Better

I once had a synopsis rejected because I gave too many details. I’ve tried to improve my writing through classes and joining critique & writing groups. This is what I discovered.

According to Writers’ Digest: A synopsis conveys the narrative arc, an explanation of the problem or plot, the characters, and how the novel ends. It summarizes what happens and who changes from beginning to the end of the story. It ensures character actions and motivations are realistic and makes sense.

  • Begin with a strong paragraph, identifying the protagonist, conflict, and setting.
  • Convey major plot turns or twists
  • How are conflicts resolved?
  • Is your plot cliché or predictable? Strive for unique or fresh elements to set your story apart from things agents have seen already.
  • Avoid wordiness and overdone descriptions
  • Don’t include every character or event in your synopsis, only the important ones
  • Include the main character’s feelings and emotions to advance the plot and story
  • Don’t write your synopsis like a book cover. Yes, it’s your selling point, but a synopsis  is a summary of your novel.
  • Also limit your synopsis to one to two pages

I hope this helps.

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Key Elements to Include in Your First Chapter

Each chapter should introduce the subject or character, build the plot, have character arc, and end with a hook. The 7 key elements to include in your first chapter are:

  • A great opening paragraph
  • A compelling character
  • A strong voice
  • A well-chosen starting point
  • An authentic sense of place
  • A burgeoning conflict
  • A hook for your intended readership

When beginning your chapter, think about your protagonist, and ask yourself what does he want and what stands in his way of achieving it? The story must be seen through your protagonist’s eyes and feelings. Good luck.

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