Archives for posts with tag: story development

Two words
float, fly, and flit around,
overused:
“authenticity” and “passion.”

It’s a shame. Because their meaning and their expression in reality
is intensely, truly, most surely needed,
to be alive in the highest sense.

To be true, honest, and open in how we interact, with all that is in us. Our best effort. The open heart. No pretenses, no agendas.

Only moving in the honesty of our minds and soul-nature —
melted together to, without manipulation or self-levied protection,
putting ourselves out there…regardless of our endogenous fables and flaws.

Doing. For all to see. For all to embrace.
For all to take shots at.
(Ouch.)

Being authentic and passionate, honest and kind,
invites criticism.

(And it will come.)

Those who are truly brave are those who know the potential criticism and,
regardless of the fear of exposure, step into the unknown
with the gift of themselves riding on hope
that, somehow and someday,
those who need your love-gift most will open their palms,
letting their fingers relax and fall, to grasp, envelop, and own it.

And if they don’t. Well. That’s okay.
Because you did your part.

Writer, write.
Photographer, photograph.
Musician, play.
Dancer, dance.
Sculptor, sculpt.
Thinker, think.

Entrepreneur, create.

Regardless.
(I dare you.)

* Thup
coffeeApril9-15

You might be sleeping. Right now.

I’m not talking about in-the-darkness sleeping. Or mid-day naps.
This is about sleeping with your eyes open.

Because we can be awake but not. Conscious, yet asleep to the vibrancy, the joy, and the exquisiteness of life.

I know, I know. This sounds woo-woo, let’s-all-hum-with-the-monks. But it’s not. It’s about that elusive thing called peace.

It’s true: We want peace, love, joy, and goodness. But we don’t want to slow down enough to think in healthy ways, to focus on truth, to take the steps to appreciate, and to embody candid, authentic, correct, reliable, and sincere thoughts. Somehow, there are too many storms within us…too little faith…too much struggle within ourselves.

Who me?

*Sigh. All of us. We all fall into inattentiveness. Sleeping while awake, the lifeboat drifting and rocking and swaying on lapping water, back and forth into the habit of not being present, the habit that takes away the most precious moments of our lives, simply because we’re not paying attention. Subdued into tranquilized numbness.

Fully awake means breathing in life in loving, caring moments, free from angst.

The question isn’t so much do we want to wake, up, it’s
will we wake up. 

And because we’re meant to live fully awake, wake-ups have a way of coming to our door and knocking. Tapping. Rapping. Banging.
I hope the wake-up alarm isn’t through tragedy.
I hope the voice of refocus doesn’t come from pain-filled catastrophe.
I hope the cold water splash of awareness doesn’t come from calamity.
(Because, unfortunately, the bad shakes us and makes us appreciate the good.)

I hope waking up comes from choosing.
Because we can choose to open the door and take a breath of fresh awakening every second. It’s that primal, that integral, that elemental. That simple. (Almost too simple.)

To be intentional.
To listen.
To consider.
To feel. And deal.
To be at peace — and make peace.
To seek to understand, to give, to love.
(I want to be fully awake, don’t you?)

It’s good for characters in a book to struggle to be awake, to sleepwalk through what’s most important in life, to have flaws that keep the hero from being fully present, fully enjoying life. The storyline is the slow-grow wake-up process of the hero from flaw to freedom, and the long, slow unfolding makes for good story.

But in real life, waking up sooner is better. 

* Thup

This post part of a series called “Don’t Do This” aimed at helping you avoid bad writing habits, identify and steer clear of the pitfalls of poor writing, and become the writer-communicator that people want to follow. (Because no one has arrived. And all of us can use platinum ideas, to be better at the craft of writing.)

It’s like a book online. Free. Bite sized, motivating, practical bits. You’ll like it because it’s all about what works, the how-to for an immediate increase in your writing effectiveness.

Get every word, catch the take-away to apply, and become a sharper writer, right now…
________________________________________

“drive safe” and reasons.

It’s wintertime in Michigan. That means instead of saying, Have a great day! with a saccharine lilt, we say, Drive safe, with sober sincerity.

Michigan winters bring dangerous roads. Especially with the 193-car pile up yesterday on I-94 that killed people — a horrific event on both sides of the highway involving 76 semis, 117 cars, and a truck full of exploding fireworks. The phrase, drive safe, echoes everywhere.

Here’s the truth: Powerful moments motivate us. The crash-crazy event is on everyone’s mind. The reverberating WHOA, THAT WAS AWFUL skitters across social media.

Think writing, now.

Here’s the truth: Powerful moments motivate even the smallest phrases on the page. Everything you write must have a reason, a motivation, and a core to why it’s there. 

Because all quality, powerful, emotion-evoking and mind-changing words must exist for meaning’s sake. We simply cannot afford to use words for words’ sake. I know this sounds Duh! but we’re all guilty.

We’re in love with our own words. But we simply can’t be. You and I must Happily. Let. Go. No, I’m not going to burst into the Disney song, but I am going to say this:

For nonfiction writing,
the words you choose 
must
echo your
key intentions.
And…
For fiction writing,
the words you choose 
must
be saturated with
your characters’
 motivations.

Think about it.
____________________

For anything nonfiction.
emails to blogs to books…
(Get this.)
Your goal is to write the most dynamic — and, yes, succinct — piece, with words chosen to equal the diamond of your idea. Forget the frills, the fluff, the foo — we need clear, purpose-filled words. Unless the words drive the reader to your point, you have to let them go (cue music). Edit. A lot. (Keep asking yourself, Do I really need this?) 

Wordsmith your ideas to get them to the bright, powerful meaning they deserve. Wordsmithing is a cool word, don’t you agree? Tell someone, I’m wordsmithing, and watch his or her face. Your wordsmithed ideas are the ones that  burn onto the page — and into the reader’s heart.

_____________________

For all forms of fiction.
short stories to screenplays to epics…
(Get this.)

In every scene — every paragraph — your character’s motivation is at work. Her reasons surface in her words, her movements, her choices. If it’s not surely tied into her reasons, her internal drives, then rewrite. Edit. A lot.

Wordsmith your ideas to get your story to the enticing, powerful movement with meaning —  burning onto the page and into the reader’s heart.
_______________

Don’t do this:
Don’t fall in love with your words.
Be willing to toss words, lines, paragraphs, entire chapters with gusto.

Do this:
Be flexible — even joyous — at slicing, tossing, and shifting. Expect to reform your page with everything you write. Rarely — if ever — will you get the diamond the first time. Pros take heavy-duty machetes to the page.

______________

Don’t do this:
Don’t start writing without thinking deeply. 
As in jumping into an idea prematurely. He who fails to plan plans to fail. And he who swims in the idea pool with shallow waters doesn’t swim far.

Do this:
Write out your motivation.
* In nonfiction writing,
what response do you want the reader to have, after reading your work? You need a powerful phrase that nails the reader’s reason to read your work. In marketing terms, that’s your reader’s benefit. Have a driving benefit in mind before you write.

But how do you get to the on-fire benefit? 

Here’s how: Before you start, write a guiding phrase that states WHY someone would read what you write. Then write the action that you want your reader to take, at the end of reading your piece. Use that guiding phrase in all that you write. Keep it in front of you. For every paragraph. Every word. Seriously. Everything you write must be tied into that phrase.

* In fiction writing, every living creature in your story must have a clear and guiding motivation. So before you start, write them down — what drives every person to feel what he or she feels, to do what he or she does. Use motivations to guide all that you write. A.L.L. Keep the motivation in front of you. For every page. Seriously. Everything that your character does must be tied into that motivation.

You know, I was supposed to be on I-94 yesterday. Yes, at that exact time, in the exact place where the 193-car pile-up happened. Because of the poor weather, I changed my plans. I took drive safe as a serious, action-inducing motivation — a motivation that changed my behavior. And, boy, am I’m glad that I did.

Find your motivations. Use them.

Oh. And drive safe. Please.
Life is precious.

* Thup
coffee-oct2-14

Exposition kills story.
In your book. And in life.
(Read to the end. It’s not too long, and
this is important…)

There are three kinds of yada-yada words with high potential to turn people off to your story — and your life:

1. Backstory. Backstory fills in the cracks of the past — it’s the words that move backward in the story.

With backstory, we describe what already happened. It’s not about the future; it’s not about the present; it’s about the former.

Characters mull over what happened, rehashing events and recounting feelings. It doesn’t have to be in excess, but often backstory floods into excess — because the character is me-focused. The author is, too — writing from a personal agenda, trying to get more info out in the text than is needed. Most often, backstory serves the writer, not the reader.

Readers want to move forward.

2. Small talk. Small talk is dialogue (inner and outer) that doesn’t go anywhere — words lacking purpose.

Small talk dialogue runs on with weak, unimportant yada-yada. The character isn’t focused, direct, and active. The writer drinking the pablum of small talk isn’t necessarily me-focused; he or she simply isn’t aware, or is inattentive, unknowing, passive, and even careless with the words (ouch).

Writers who have too much small talk in the story need two things: either they need to learn more about how to write with power (learn! grow! get what you need!) — or the writer needs have the self discipline to cut text (practice… a focus on economy). Writing small talk serves the writer, not the reader.

Readers want crisp, forward-moving text.

3. Lack of plot. Lack of plot is the absence of dynamic movement…the deficit of conflict clarity and conflict resolution — in an action plan.

With lack of plot, the reader is served words upon words upon words — all without action. Characters sit with a drink, rather than get up and move.

Writers lacking plot haven’t spent the time developing a story plan — so because the plot doesn’t exist, the writer can’t carry it out. Then there’s the issue of actually doing the plan. Once the plot is crafted, there’s only so much time permissible in the War Room. We have to step onto the battlefield. Action is critical.

Readers want a pressed-forward plot, intensifying with swift, sure movement.

Okay. Here’s the deal.

If you don’t cut backstory, eradicate the small talk, and dig into a forward-moving plot, your story dies. Readers leave.

It’s that serious.

Now. In real life. This applies.
And it’s that serious, too.

There comes a time when words fail.
Talking only goes so far.
Action is critical.

The three Story Killers are also Relationship Killers.

* Focusing on the past kills forward movement in a relationship. Going backward only goes so far. There comes a point — sooner than later — where we have to get out of me-focused recounting and craft forward-moving life story.

* Excessive small talk saps the power of forward movement in a relationship. Small talk can be (no, often is) avoidance. Small talk lacks power, dynamism, and passion for life. There comes a point where we have to get out of yada-yada conversation and dig into life with passion.

* Lack of a planned plot with specific action points — a dynamic plan for life that’s lived out — ruins a relationship. I know I’m being strong here. But it’s the ignored, the neglected, and the head-in-the-sand day-by-day plodding that takes people to the proverbial end of life, death-bed moment that says, Why didn’t I do more? Lack of a plan — and of action — is the father of regret.

So if we want our story to be a good one (whether on the page or in life), it’s time to take action.

Get out of the past. (Focus on crafting a beautiful present.)
Kill the small talk. (Use powerful words.)
Make a plan. (Take action.)

* Thup

coffeeNov3-14

Stories are messy.
(on purpose. designed that way by the author.)

Life is messy.
(not on purpose. it happens TO us. ugh.)

We can make something good of the mess*
*in the story
*in life

(I “traveled” to the UK for this series. Come join me for a sec.)
Read part 3 of my guest blog with James Prescott right here.

* Thup

coffeeOct25-14

Hey, there.

Part 2 of my series of guest posts for James Prescott in the UK is up and running.  There’s been a lot of buzz about it, so I thought you might like to go here and check it out:

“Ten Life Messes with Potential to Improve your Life.”

(Let me know what you think.)

Raising my mug to you —
* Thup

coffeeOct26-14

Hey, friends. Check out my guest blog for James Prescott in the UK…

http://www.jamesprescott.co.uk/blog/10-life-messes-part-1/

See you there.
* Thup
coffeeSept17-14

Well. I’m letting you (and me) off the hook.
This isn’t about our personal character. (You know, the interior part of us, the part where integrity sits.)

And I’m not going to ask you where you’re from — your physical geography — the point on the map where you lay your head at night (as in the state of Michigan, where I live in the US, called “the mitten state” because it looks like a mitten).
Michigan
This is about your story — your characters in that story.
Their personal, emotional states.
As in how we feel at any given moment.
(Emotions.)
(Feelings.)

Oh — and if you’re not a writer — keep reading, because
there’s something important here…
(it all makes sense when you read to the end).

There’s a not-so-secret secret to help you create compelling characters (and a compelling plot line, too).

(You ready?)

TRUTH:
State doesn’t come from outside influences
(what people say or do “to” you).
Your personal state comes from you.

That’s right.
You and I create our own states.
(And your character will create his or her state.)

Like this…
eat computer or this happy at the computer

You create state in three ways (and they’re very cool, by the way):

1. Your focus. Answer me this: At any given moment, what are you thinking about — and what are you doing? Wherever you place your thoughts and energy on feeds your state.

2. Your language. And answer me this: What do you say to yourself, day after day, in your mind and out your mouth? Words are uber-powerful. What you think and say to yourself, in your head, matters. What you say toward others around you matters. Even what you say to objects — things — in the world around you matters. It all feeds your state.

3. Your physiology. One more question: How are you moving your body? Are you slumped and breathing shallowly — or are you sitting tall and taking in deep, full breaths? How you sit, stand, walk, breathe — and how you look on your face — it all feeds your state.

Your focus, your language, and your physiology.
All three ascribe meaning to your life.

(how you interpret the world)
(what you believe in the world)
(what you do in the world)

The coolest thing is this: Master your emotional state, and you can master your life.

So. Writers.
We want our characters to struggle, right?
If you want your character to wrestle with demons big time, then have him or her…

  • focus on past mistakes and hurts
  • focus on how they’ve been wronged, whether imagined or real
  • focus on impending doom in the future, whether imagined or real
  • focus on how someone will supposedly hurt them (imagine the worst)
  • focus on how everything will be bad, or go wrong, or have no solutions in the future (pessimism)
  • speak out negative imaginings
  • speak angrily, with disdain
  • curse people, things, and events
  • rehearse what went wrong — and what could go wrong
  • imagine the worst case scenario, then make decisions based on fear
  • sit still — don’t move
  • breathe shallowly
  • slump, hunch, slouch, drag, look down, sigh, frown, be static, stare, and stay in one spot

And if you want your character to gain momentum and grasp onto triumph, then have him or her…

  • focus on the present
  • focus on personal responsibility and personal growth
  • focus on the positive possibilities
  • focus on responding well him- or herself, not on how others are responding
  • focus on a faith-filled vision
  • speak out positive outcomes
  • speak with kindness, from though-based discernment
  • speak words of hope and faith over other people
  • rehearse what will go right in the future
  • imagine the best outcome — and all the other positive possibilities
  • move — act — get up and go
  • take deep breaths, with their eyes upward and smiling
  • stand tall, stride, grasp the sword, bound, be alert and quick, grin, be active, meet others’ eyes, and get going

Hmm.
Maybe this isn’t just about the characters on the page, after all.

* Thup
coffeeSept13-14

PS. Thank you to my dad (Hugh Brown) and Tony Robbins (who I’ve followed since he and I were young) for bringing these ever-so-cool life truths to my attention at an early age. Sure has made life easier and more enjoyable — and helped get through life’s ever-changing story arc. hugs to you both.

I don’t know about you,
but I thought summer was supposed to be easier.
As in sips of lemonade and lounging in the sun.
Right?

Beach days and sleeping in.
Right?

Nope.

All of a sudden, the pressure’s on. Why?

Deadlines.
(GAH.)
I have a love-hate relationship with deadlines.

I hate deadlines. Because it’s as if a tiny little man with a tiny little pickaxe is chip-chip-chipping away at something in my head, morning to night (and sometimes showing up at 3 or 4 AM). As he chips, the story (or nonfiction work) unfolds. Sometimes in pieces. Most of the time in stops and starts. And often when it’s inconvenient to get out the computer (or notebook), to capture that thought.

(Authors, you’ll get this.)
I live inside the story that the little man sculpts. And on the outside, real life whirls and whizzes with its own noise and intensity, like papers caught in stormy gusts.

(The little man and the wind compete for my attention. All. The. Time. Which can be really. really. irritating. Like having a gaggle of people talk to you at once. I don’t need that. I have lots of kids who’ve been doing that to me for years. oy. Got kids? You know what I mean, then.)

Ahem.

But then, I love deadlines. (Bust out the smile, here.) Because deadlines thrust me forward … which means that stuff is actually getting done and coming to fruition. As in end result. Accomplished. Completed. And that feels glorious. Ideas have downloaded out of my head, cascading over the falls and into the pool of finished. And I look at the result and feel relief.

(Little man has, for a moment, stopped. He’s actually sitting on a rock, polishing his little pickaxe with a smile on his face.)

So.

Problem is, when the little man does his work
and too many outside pieces whirl in the wind around my head,
Big Bad Overwhelm threatens to jump in the picture and taser me into something frozen.
(Please don’t sing Let it Go, here. Thanks.)

Overwhelm = the worst response to deadlines.
Because overwhelm stops me cold.
Staring at the page. Or at the calendar. Or at the wall.
Not sure which pressing problem to turn to, first
(which only increases deadline pressure).

Anyone else feel this?
I thought so.

So when the pressure’s on, it’s time to
step back,
take a breath,
organize the rampage of thoughts into little lines
(“take a number”),
listen to each one’s plea,
and DO.
Act.
(Just start on one thing.)

So.

Do you have a deadline looking at you, right now?
Something happening soon that needs attention?
Something that you need to take care of?
Something you’ve been putting off?

Yep.
Time to stop blogging and start doing.
(Time to stop reading and start doing.)
Bazinga.

(See you later.)

* Thup
coffeeJune17-14

In the creative process, importing is faster.

Let me explain.

When I create an online course, I import a previous course’s outline, to use as a guide. Using the same form, I create the new course around the placeholders of the old one. Importing makes life oh-so-much easier.

When I create a beat sheet for a screenplay, I import a previous beat sheet, to use as a quick guide. Using the same form, I create the new beat sheet within the same headings. Doing so speeds it up — and even gives me ideas, based on the old ideas’ categories and form.

When I create a new book’s outline — or build a new world — the same thing applies: I import a previous outline, creating the new around the form by my handy-dandy highlight-delete-write over function.

Do you do the same? Because everything that we do has form, or format. And if we use a previously-successful format as a guide, it saves time and energy.

The same thing, for ideas. Now, I’m not advocating stealing ideas. But form for ideas is everywhere — and able to be used as a guide, too.

Think about your favorite authors. What is his or her “form,” when introducing a character? Just for fun (and learning), go to your favorite author’s most recent book and look at the first sentences each and every time a new character arrives on the page. Do you see any patterns? Oftentimes, as in character introductions or the first time we are dropped into a setting, successful authors employ form in elements of story.

What’s cool is this: Any form can be copied. Not the content — the form. (Repeat after me: Plagiarism is b.a.d.) Content — the exact words chosen — is off limits. But form is not.

You can even take a super-cool sentence and, breaking it down into its form of verbs, nouns, and adjectives, create a sentence in the same form. If the adjective is a cross-sensory word, you can create a cross-sensory word in its place (e.g., smooth melody is a combination of senses: smooth is tactile/touch and melody is sound). This kind of word form copying is a great way to learn to create your own unique style and content.

Cool fact: Importing is a technique that can be used in just about any field or endeavor. Think about it. I bet that, today, you’re going to interact with form that you can import and use, to make life smoother.

Successful form is everywhere.
Import.

* Thup
coffeeApr6-14

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