Why the Small Story Matters

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

Chuck Wendig’s informative guide, Damn Fine Story, contains a mix of personal stories, pop fiction examples, and excellent advice about storytelling. Here’s one of my favorite excerpts:

We don’t really care about the big story. We think we do. We think we care about the Empire versus the Rebel Alliance, we think we care about Spider-Man versus the Vulture, we think we care about Buffy versus the Vampires.

But we don’t. Not really. Not deeply.

What we care about is the small story embedded in there, the small story that’s the beating heart of the larger one. We care about the characters and their personal drama. We care about their families, their loved ones, their struggles to feel normal, their attempts to do right in the face of wrong. We care about Buffy wanting to fall in love and hang out with her friends and not fail out of school. We care that the villains fighting Spider-Man are often connected to him personally, and that they reflect some aspect of his troubled journey from a geeky high school student to a city-saving mutant. We care about the friendships that form between Luke, Leia, and Han.

We care because they care.

We care because their story is our story. Our story is one of friendships and family, of love lost and jealousy made, of birth and death and everything in-between.

A big story without a small story has all the substance of a laser light show. It’s pretty. It’s dazzling. And it’s very, very empty.

Look for the little story.

Look for the story about people.

Source: Damn Fine Story, pp. 79-80.

A Radical New Challenge for Writers

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

Award-winning author Julie Carrick Dalton shares a unique perspective in a recent post on the Writer Unboxed blog. Here’s an excerpt from that post:

Writers are often asked ‘Why do you write?’ in interviews, Q&As, and dinner parties (when we used to go to dinner parties.) Why do I write? For me, the answer is easy. I love to write. I have a million stories in my head. I enjoy being part of the literary community. Writing makes me feel good. I want to inspire people. I want to entertain readers, make them feel something. I have plenty of answers—all of which are true—to the question ‘Why do you write?’

This summer I discovered that for me, the more relevant question is this: When should I not write?

I suspect there are plenty of writers out there who feel like me. Pandemic stress is heavy. We’re worried about our families and friends. We’re trying to be smart and safe in the middle of a global crisis, but also trying to live our lives with some semblance of normalcy. We’re trying to hit deadlines, and hoping we don’t let anyone down.

Every time we log onto social media, someone is telling us to write faster, earlier, longer, to get our butt in a chair, finish that book, sell that book, write another book.

I’m proposing a radical new challenge: Don’t write. (At least not all the time.)

Don’t put your butt in that chair. Don’t show up to your laptop every single day. Give yourself permission to not write sometimes. Who knows, maybe it will make you a better writer—or at least a more grounded one.

Source: Writer Unboxed Blog

Writer on Fire

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

Here’s a timely essay from author Hope Clark’s Friday newsletter:

Writers love to write. Some want to tell stories. Some want to tell THEIR stories. Some want to reach out and spread their stories around the world. Some want either to make money or not write. Some write whether the stories sell or not. There are so many types of writers, with so many nuances of those types, that one can almost say no two writers are alike.

Find out who you are. And do it on purpose.” Dolly Parton

There’s writing. Then there’s writing with direction. Neither is wrong. However, there is something exciting about pointing your writing in a direction with a goal to reach whatever is on the horizon. In other words, a writer does have the option of taking charge of their writing instead of letting the writing do the driving. Having a map for your writing can be quite exciting.

There is nothing so empowering as to be in charge.

There is also nothing so scary as to be in charge.

Decision-making is scary, and it takes research, drive, and willpower to direct that energy. That decision-making can mean defining who you are as a writer, what you write, and where you want to be after a certain period of time.

If you don’t like the road you’re walking, start paving another one.” Dolly Parton

Yes, the quotes are from Dolly Parton, because after all, she is a creative spirit who wisely chose how to direct her energies . . . and did well doing it. Not a bad role model.

Own yourself, own your writing, and decide how you can be happy with the results. It’s in your hands.

Source: Hope Clark

Advice from Elizabeth Gilbert

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

Inspirational advice for all writers and wannabe writers from best-selling author Elizabeth Gilbert:

10 Tricks for Good Writing

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

One of the most popular and prolific writers of our time, Elmore Leonard wrote over two dozen novels, most of them bestsellers, such as Glitz, Get Shorty, Maximum Bob, and Rum Punch. Unlike most genre writers, however, Leonard is taken seriously by the literary crowd.

What’s Leonard’s secret to being both popular and respectable? Perhaps, you’ll find some clues in his ten tricks for good writing:

1. Never open a book with weather.

2. Avoid prologues.

3. Never use a verb other than said to carry dialogue.

4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” . . . he admonished gravely.

5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.

6. Never use the words suddenly or all hell broke loose.

7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.

8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.

9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.

10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

He says, “My most important rule is one that sums up the ten. If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”

Excerpted from the New York Times article, “Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle,” July 16, 2001.

10 Excellent Tips from Chuck Wendig

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

In his informative guide, Damn Fine Story, New York Times best-selling author Chuck Wendig shares 50 storytelling tips in the Appendix. Here are ten excellent tips about character development:

1. Characters are not role models, and stories are not lectures.

2. We care about characters we understand, so it’s your job to make us understand your characters.

3. Characters must earn their victories.

4. Characters also earn their failures and losses.

5. If your characters are getting in the way of your plot, good. Let them. They are the plot. They are the subject, so let the tale unfold in their wake, not in their absence.

6. Likeability is less important a factor in your characters than relatability. It’s not about wanting to sit down and have a beer with them; it’s about being able to live with them for the breadth of a whole novel. Forget liking them, but do remember that we have to live with them. If all else fails: Just make them interesting.

7. Characters must make mistakes. But they cannot only make mistakes. They must have triumphs, too. A story isn’t an endless array of failure and disaster—we must have some sense of success to understand why success must, above all else (and against all odds), not be lost. Further, characters who only make mistakes become intolerable to us. We start to actively root for their failure if we cannot see in them the potential for success.

8. The best villains are the ones we adore despite how much we hate and fear them. We should adore them, and we should understand them.

9. Characters don’t know what the plot is. So don’t ever expect them to follow it. We can feel when characters are forced from their own program because authors are overwriting them with the Plot Program. It feels gross. Characters only know what they want and what they’re willing to do or lose to get it.

10. Characters are more interesting when they are smart and capable instead of dumb and pliable.

Source: Damn Fine Story pp. 218-225.

Writing as Restoration

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

In a recent post on Writers Unboxed, author KL Burd shares his perspective on the restorative powers of writing. Here’s an excerpt from that post:

Writing has the power to restore, not only within your life but the lives of others as well. That’s why our words, our art, our craft is so powerful. It can be used to tear down or build up. It can be used to enslave and entrap. To inspire and set free.

There are two ways that you can bring restoration through your art. The first is to write your story. It can be fiction or nonfiction, but there’s a certain freedom that comes from putting your story to paper and letting it burst forth into life. You open your world to others and invite them in. There’s healing in knowing that you are not alone.

The second way is the same as the first:

Write your story.

This time, however, you have to go to the place where your human skill and imagination collides. You have to take whatever hope you have, be it small or large, and cast it — like an anchor — into the future. Take your imagination and dream up what your story can be, what it will be. Use your imagination to create your future reality.

Read the rest of the article here.

On Writing Naturally

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

In her book, Journal to the Self, Kathleen Adams shares the following advice:

Writing naturally means that you make it up as you go along.

Writing naturally means that you trust your inner wisdom to guide you to the places you need to go.

Writing naturally means that you freely create your diary world with confidence and ease.

Writing naturally means that you give yourself permission to play, and to cry, and to cuss, and to celebrate, and to be fully, vibrantly alive.

Writing naturally means that you allow yourself to use your journal as a blank canvas onto which the rich and intricate portrait of your life can be painted as it organically emerges.

There is only one person who can write the story of your life, with all its foibles, follies, treasures, and tears. That person is you.

Writing naturally means that you let yourself be you.

Source: Journal to the Self by Kathleen Adams

In Praise of Moodling

When I first heard the word moodling at a writing workshop, my thoughts gravitated toward zucchini noodles. A bit off base, but considering it was close to lunchtime, I assumed there might be some connection.

The facilitator quickly put an end to that line of thinking. A long-winded explanation followed with brief mentions of famous moodlers such as Isaac Newton, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Albert Einstein.

Intrigued, I decided to do my own research. Here’s what I discovered:

Moodling is primarily a solitary activity. You won’t find any university or college courses devoted to moodling. Nor will you find it in the Pocket Oxford English Dictionary (2013 edition).

Continue reading on Catherine Castle’s blog.