31 October 2012

Balancing Your Story - 4 Elements

In my many years of playing RPGs, I can tell you a little about balance in your stories. Balance exists in the gaming world and it should exist in your novels as well. World building is my weakest point when it comes to fiction. There are four main things which I believe determine if a story experience is fulfilling for me in a way which makes me remember it for several years to come. This is what I refer to when discussing balance of these elements.

World Building – What you need in order to have a great setting.

Is the world fleshed out? It is tricky to get a reader to see your world like you see it in your head. You have to describe it. You cannot just explain that your story takes place in an old haunted house and expect to spook your reader. Provide enough detail so we get a better picture. Describe the cobwebs, the cracks in the wooden floor. Hell, mention a few spiders clambering up the wall. Maybe a large hairy one plops onto the floor, wriggles itself upright, and skitters away. Oh, hell no. Now I can't sleep! I hate spiders. I shouldn't have written that. Onward!

Is there balance in the number of characters you develop in your world? Are there enough characters? How boring would that be if the only character in your world had nothing with which to interact? Well, with the exception of those creepy spiders, it would be a bit boring. Likewise, are there too many characters in it? What happens when you introduce too many characters? You feel guilty when you don’t spend the time finding a fit for them in your story without making it an epic challenge. I break this down a little bit more in Matrix Revolutions, my critique. An obvious fan of this particular movie blasted me in the comments.

Is there enough interaction between world and characters? If you take the time to describe an area in your world, make sure at least one of your characters interacts with those details. Obviously, if there are spiders in this house and you take the time to describe to the extent I did, the reader is going to expect this to be foreshadowing something, so you cannot disappoint them. Maybe somewhere along the way someone is bitten, and therein lies a twist!

Quests – What you need to keep your story from flat lining.

Are there distractions? I liken this to twists and plots in fiction. The story can become flat and predictable if you do not introduce some form of deviation from the path of the known. If a reader suspects just another cookie cutter path, they will likely become bored and put your book down. However, if it's changed up a bit with something new and different, then you might keep their attention long enough to get them to the next plot point.

Just be careful in having too many distractions which may detract from the ultimate story line. It could inadvertently dilute your story and make it less important than the collective individual quests.

Intrigue – What you need to pull in an audience (readers).

Here is something I’d like to share with you about my favorite text based RPG. The first time I ever played Threshold, I struggled with navigating around and reading about roads and shops and different places, but it wasn't long before I discovered an intriguing room description. Here's what I read, simple yet very effective:

Academe Arcane

   This large powerful structure houses the Mage Guild of Threshold.
Within are numbers of potent mages, researching that which ordinary
folks cannot comprehend. The air is still, like that of the eye of
a hurricane.

A large sign is posted on the wall.

     Obvious exits are west and up.

          Mages Guild of Threshold
| inquire - tells you about the mage guild
| join    - joins this guild          

Let’s name a few things we all desire: power, a sense of belonging, purpose. See how effective this description is already? Look at the power words: powerful, potent, even hurricane…implying more of the same.

The first thing I did? Yes! I typed "inquire" and was immediately rewarded with a masterfully crafted synopsis of what to expect should I join this mysterious guild. The writing was even more powerful. I was not able to contain myself. I typed "join" right away. I was so anxious to join I immediately performed all required tasks which followed in order to be accepted. The writing seed planted, I was addicted.

A Journey – What you need before the final words “The End”.

A journey is comprised of several distinct relationships with systems around your protagonist/character. Does your character embark on a journey? Or as described by Christopher Vogler in A Hero's Journey, does your character answer the call to journey and then experience that full character arc?

Several of my RPG characters have joined guilds, clans, and churches. They've joined circles, they've opened lines of communications with other races, and they've established connections with other like-minded entities, good, evil, and neutral. However, none of my characters ever came full circle in their arcs.

I like to think I've come close though. What I ultimately failed at is giving my characters goals and objectives, never describing their inner desires in achieving their final destinations, the end of their stories. Maybe I’m not done playing! Er, journeying.

All of these relationships create friction and conflict for the character/protagonist, so if there isn't a journey, then there will be no conflict and your story will fall flat. Which means you will likely be rerolling your character to try it again. I did it several times and never got it right in the RPGs, but they were fun and taught me a little something about what I need to know before I can expect readers to love what I write. I'll find out one day when I finish writing my novel.

Keep writing! I’m still doing the balancing act and learning myself. Oh, and you can support my writing by checking out my one and only published short story - Lethal Injection, The Seed.

26 October 2012

Creating Strong Chapters

I had an opportunity to attend the FloridaWriters Association conference in Orlando, Florida this year and I had the best time. Meeting other writers, some published, some not, made me feel so at home. I found myself selecting sessions which intrigued me, looking for that next morsel of knowledge which makes it all come together in this mystical journey toward weaving the ultimate tale.

Here are some tidbits we gained about creating strong chapters. I think we already know these things, but have we seen them in a list, jumping off a page, or passionately lectured at a writing conference? I am not sure, but I will share it here. This was such a refresher and I was enthusiastic when I sat down to map out chapters six and seven!

Before you start your next chapter, ask yourself these questions and then proceed. Keep in mind, each character needs to have a goal, a desire for a favorable outcome.

These were questions asked in our session: How to Structure Your Fiction by Janice Decker

Who will be in this chapter and what are their goals/desires?

You will obviously have your protagonist or POV character, along with other known characters and characters you wish to introduce. List them and their goals. Every character in your chapter must have a desire or else why are they here? When every character has a goal, go to the next question.

What is each character's physical, emotional, and psychological state coming into the chapter?

The reader needs to know this so that when the story unfolds, there is a transformation which happens while you write your chapter. By knowing this information, you are able to write a natural story line and make your fiction more believable. Readers relate to your characters' emotions and psychological makeup, so long as they are believable, you can let the fiction flow!

Where do you want each of your characters to be with respect to their physical, emotional, and psychological state when the chapter ends?

If you know character A is anxious because she suspects her husband of cheating on her, then she cannot be anxious when the chapter ends. She will either be relieved to have discovered she was wrong, or she will be distraught to discover she was right. Either way, there has to be a change by the end of the chapter. If there is no distinctive difference, then your characters will come across as flat and your chapter a dud!

With all three questions answered, you will be able to move from point A (beginning of chapter) to point B (ending of chapter), keeping your chapter tight and strong. That was the lesson and I plan to put it to use from here on out. Thank you, Janice Decker!

19 October 2012

J is For Just Do IT!

Anticipation of the Writers Conference in Orlando, Florida this weekend inspires this post. The Florida Writers Association is organizing the event and I am super excited about attending. It was an extraordinary learning experience last year and well worth the cost. I am sure to absorb loads of material with which to share when I return. If you are unable to attend, please consider attending the TWA conference next May in Tallahassee, Florida.

Why the title "J is For Just Do It"? Because J was the next letter. Seriously, because that is the message I want you to take away after reading this post.

Two years ago, I made the decision to do something about my desire to write on a more serious level. Sure, I had written stories throughout the past 10 years, but I had never considered sharing my interest. I called it an interest because many years ago, that is exactly what it was. Today, that is not the case anymore. My writing has more meaning to me. It has been a base from which I have grown and developed a sense of identity and this growth has helped me discover things important in my life.

Writing seems to have an emotionally soothing appeal for me. My husband calls it self-medication. Whatever it is, wherever it may take you, if you love to write, don't let anyone stop you. It will bring meaning to your life and it will gain you an insight into the world around you, which you might otherwise miss.

Just do it. Write your future!

Visit my Alphabet Links:
A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z

14 October 2012

Other Worldly Blog Chain

This month's prompt: 
Otherworldly at Absolute Write

Ghouls, ghosts and things that go bump in the night. Old Hallows Eve, Dia de los Muertos and Halloween. October is the month where the veil between our world and the other things. Therefore, this month is about those things beyond our world, be they scary, funny or anything in between. Write wherever the prompt inspires you, fiction or non-fiction, prose or poetry. Do try to keep things at a PG-13 level, though.

My Otherworldly Weirdness!

Who Art Thou?

"Who's there?" I insist.

The danger looms.

"I am that from which you have escaped many times," the low, raspy voice insists.

"Who are you?"

"I'm not here to harm you, only to help."

The kind sentiment puts me at ease. "You must know my dilemma." I ponder this aloud, attempting to unravel the mystery behind such a gracious offer of support.

The voice continues after a brief chuckle, "Ah, but you see, your dilemma is no mystery to me. By your escaping me, consistently and with much success, I can guess with relative surety what torments you. Your persistence, your tenacity, and your insistence in continuing escapades throughout my lands gives me a very clear picture of who I'm dealing with."

I wonder how I might respond to this interlude. I expect it to be brief. I will make an attempt to flee after I satiate my curiosity.

The dark figure, now looming over me, reaches out and lifts my chin. Red eyes glow brighter than rubies and burn into mine. They unleash a fire into my core, singeing my heart, and encasing its outer layer in a hard, blackened crust.

I feel hot tears fall down my cheeks, yet the curiosity lurks.

The figure speaks a final sentiment before it fades away, "Let your hardened heart heal on the inside. In time, you will understand my purpose in your life. For now, know that I am.

If you enjoyed this theme, please visit the other participants:

pyrosama:  (YOU ARE HERE)
xcomplex:  (post link here)

bmadsen:  (post link here)
bearilou:  (post link here)
CJMichaels:  (post link here)
Damina Rucci:  (post link here)

10 October 2012

My 50,000 Hit Giveaway

It's that time!

We are coming up on 50,000 hits on my blog, therefore I'm holding a giveaway because I do appreciate your support. Please put your creative minds to work. 

I will be giving away a Kindle with a copy of my first short story, Lethal Injection, The Seed. The winner will be chosen by a public vote on the entries for this 100-word flash fiction contest. 


  • You must provide a title (title words do not count toward final word count. 
  • Final word count cannot be more than 100 words. 
  • You must provide an email address in the format of name (at) provider (dot) com. 
  • You must provide title, story and email address in your comment to this blog post. 
  • The theme for this contest is The Seed (should not be your title). 

The contest will end when 20 entries are made or on October 21, 2012, whichever occurs first. I will then put up a voting gadget with each entry and invite people to read the entries and vote. I will leave voting up for one week, ending on October 28, 2012. I will then contact the winner who receives the most votes. I hope you will all participate because I look forward to reading your stories!

Contest over! No more voting, sorry.

05 October 2012

The Work In Progress Blog Hop

Yes, I joined another blog hop! We have to answer questions about our Works In Progress. Join if you like and send me a link. I'll provide it at the bottom of my post.

Okay, here we go!

What is the working title of your book?
Precinct 9

Where did the idea come from for the book?
I wanted to write an evil character, but I wanted the evil traits to unfold throughout the story and not through concrete character development of the villain. The more I develop the storyline, I find myself plugging away at this concept.

What genre does your book fall under?

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Viggo Mortenson as Captain Grant Elliot and Reese Witherspoon as the protagonist, Kelly Cooper. As for the villain, I think a good pick would be Hugo Weaving, the dude who played Agent Smith in The Matrix Trilogy.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? 
Sergeant Kelly Cooper is transferred to Precinct 9, where her new boss, Captain Grant Elliot, assigns her three cold cases which will either make her career or send her packing.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I'm pretty sure it will be self-published. I'm not one to wait around for a gold nugget.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I'm still writing it! I have fifteen chapters written on three separate works. How does that happen???

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
The Alienist (Yeah, I wish)

Who or What inspired you to write this book?
My husband. He said he would help me with the investigations part. After all, he is a veteran investigator who spent three years as an NCIS agent. Woot!

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Ever wondered how people wind up missing just for "friending" someone on some social networking site?


Now it's your turn! Sign up.

03 October 2012

Conversations of a Writer - The Beginning

As a writer, you've probably run into many situations where you wish people understood you and your passion a little more. It's just difficult to explain to people what you've learned for yourself in your journey toward becoming a writer.

For all the time I've spent in wonderment over how to respond to people who do not realize how insensitive they are by not understanding our passions, I've decided to post (on occasion), Conversations of a Writer.

Writer:  Well, I write short stories and some poetry. However, currently, I'm working on a police procedural novel.

Nancy Nuisance: Oh, really? Have you published anything I might have read?

Writer: I'm a writer, not a publisher.

Be reminded. Technology has changed the scenario. We will not have to experience this sort of thing much longer. Self-publishing options make this conversation very different.

Writer: I have published a police procedural novel and an anthology of ghost stories.

Nancy Nuisance: Really? How many copies have you sold?

It shouldn't be an embarrassment to call yourself a writer if you write. The fact that you write makes you a writer. Don't let these people keep you down. A successful writer is a happy writer! Don't ever forget this in your writing journey.

Do you recall any conversations which made you feel like you were embarrassed to say you are a writer? Please share your experience!

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