steering the craft

is your story running out of time?

 

We writers need to keep our readers awake and engaged. And guess what? In fiction as in life, nothing wakes us up like a ringing clock!

Speaking as someone who recently had a birthday, I can tell you that the passage of time is always a powerful tool for focusing our attention.

If there aren’t some high-stakes deadlines lending urgency to your story, maybe it’s time (see what I did?) to add some.

Today we talk about the ways time plays out in a narrative, and the ways time can be an invaluable tool for us writers to raise stakes, add urgency, and put ever more pressure on our hero. 


My weekly livestream is on Wednesdays at 1 PM Pacific. Come live and participate! Or catch the replays here on the blog.

To watch live and ask questions, you can join the Path of the Storyteller Facebook group right here.

Or subscribe to the YouTube channel here. 

 

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now what?

Rollercoasters: Yes or no? 

I have friends who love ’em, and friends who, like me, cannot be dragged near one. I was once tricked into going on Space Mountain by two people who should have known better. I still speak to them—well, one of them!

I’m more of a merry-go-round type of person, as long as they don’t spin too fast. The car-sickness struggle is real, but there’s consolation in the words of Gustave Flaubert, who once wrote to a friend that a settled, ordinary life is what makes it possible to be fierce and adventurous in one’s work. 

Clearly, real life and fiction are two different things. Yet good art has a way of piercing through the fog of everyday perception and revealing profound emotional and psychological truth. Our lives are a search for meaning. Great storytelling gives us exactly that.

If you’re a noir-minded sort of person, you might argue that...

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Whew! Sometimes life just feels RELENTLESS, am I right?

It’s what so many are experiencing in 2020, a year that keeps trying to top itself in terms of plot twists. We’re all the heroes of our own life stories, and this year has been a long, long, LONG second act.

Each day, we choose how to respond. We face challenges we may never have imagined. We soul-search and find the bedrock our true values. We take action, care for and console one another, grieve, fight, lead, make sacrifices, and (perhaps hardest of all), extend a hand of peace. 

We make tough choices daily, under escalating pressure. And guess what? It’s exhausting. 

It’s not easy being a hero, even a fictional one. The hero of your story is going through tough stuff, page after page. Your reader is along for the ride, and frankly they’re both going to want a break now and then. 

Within your fictional hero’s journey, there must be...

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skip to the good stuff

Fern woke and sat up in bed; she stretched, she yawned. She checked the weather—damp again!— chose an outfit, and got dressed in her favorite blue shirt.

She wandered downstairs and wheedled some breakfast from her mother. "Say, Mother," she said, as they finished eating. "Where’s Poppa going with that axe?”


Sincere apologies to E. B. White! But this unfortunate opening—let’s say it’s from Charlotte's Web in the bizarro universe where Spock has a beard — while perfectly “correct” in a grammatical sense, commits an all-too-common faux pas. It wastes words and the reader’s precious attention by clearing its throat and taking a bunch of practice swings while the STORY is just sitting there on the table getting cold. 

“Where’s Poppa going with that axe?” is where this story begins. There is no need to start sooner. We can assume Fern gets up in the morning and gets dressed before...

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