Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Writing Tip ABCs, Part 7, S-U

We've got this week's and next week's posts, and then we've reached the end of the Writing Tip ABCs series of posts. Shortly after that, I'll be discussing publishing your books right here on Cavewriter.


Engage the reader's SENSES, and he’ll become more involved in your story. Think about it, when you smell pine, don’t you think of Christmas, a forest, etc? Smells, sounds, locations you convey to your reader affect his involvement in a story.

Every SCENE should have a character goal which he may or may not achieve. Ending the scene with a cliffhanger propels the reader onto the next scene. If we writers succeed in doing this with all of our scenes we’ll lead the reader on a non-stop journey from the first scene to “The End.”

Where a story takes place should always be germane to the plot. Could “Gunfight at the OK Corral” be the same story if the SETTING were in Florida?

Stories usually have multiple TURNING POINTS. For example, the protagonist is going along living his normal life when 1. the inciting incident happens, and she’s got to set some new goals and make plans to meet her goals. 2. After she implements her plans, setback one happens, then setback two and so on. Each time a protagonist experiences a setback and determines she must reevaluate her goals and decide whether or not to make new goals, plans to meet them, etc. the story has likely had a turning point. Necessary turning points in stories include A. the climax, B. the dark moment, C. the resolution in addition to those cited above.

Call it drama, conflict or TENSION. If your story isn’t full of it, it’ll lack reader interest.

A TWIST is the addition of an unexpected event to a story used to heighten drama. Readers love to be surprised by logical TWISTS. Don’t contrive--be sure the twist is plausible. Foreshadowing it obscurely will add even more reader enjoyment.


UNDERDOGS can make great heroes. (Right Rocky?) Readers love to see a disadvantaged protagonist defeat tough odds and soar to victory.

Even in a fantasy world your story should be believable. If your tale is UNBELIEVABLE, illogical within the world you’ve created, readers will be very disappointed. I don’t know about you, but when I see a character in a movie running at top speed when he’s at 20,000 feet above sea level or when I watch one character hit another in the back with a lead pipe and in both situations the runner and the man hit by a pipe have no ill effects from the thin air or the ribs which must have been broken, it really ticks me off. Our heroes should be tough, but no human being can run at 20,000 feet, probably not even with oxygen usage. And no man can take being hit with a lead pipe at full force and not have broken bones. Superman can bounce back from almost anything because he’s Superman, and his “superness” is believable in the world where he exists.

Even though you as a writer do have the UPPER HAND in your story, readers are happier when your story is told well enough to make them feel they have the advantage over your characters at least part of the time.

For more Writing Tip ABCs go to: www.twitter.com/franshaff

Thanks, Everyone.

I'm sorry my post was late this week. I had a birthday to celebrate on Monday and didn't complete all my work--but I did have fun! :-)


Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author

Monday, September 19, 2011

Writing Tip ABCs, Part 6, P-R

We can see the end of the alphabet now from our stop at letters P, Q, R in the Writing Tip ABCs Series of blogs.

In mid October I'll be doing a series on publishing your book independently. Be sure to visit "Cavewriter" then for tips on how to self publish your book in e-format and paperback.

ABCs, Letter P

POINT OF VIEW (commonly known as POV) refers to the PERSPECTIVE in which a story or scene is told. This point of view may be done in first person (I saw), third person (she saw) or omniscient (the story teller sees everything, like God). It is usually best to use one POV per scene. If you want to change POV during a scene make the transition as smooth as possible so you don't disorient readers.

Never make things happen while PLOTTING. Let them happen in a way that suits the personalities of the characters. For example, let's say your main character is "Superman," and he stubs his toe. You want the readers to know Superman is sensitive, so you depict him crying when he stubs his toe. Readers probably won't buy this reaction which could cause them to stop reading. Better to show your superman as sensitive in a more believable way--maybe he could cry when his dog dies.

Forcing things to happen as you want is contriving a PLOT instead of constructing one. A reader knows the difference. Be honest and true to characters.

The PACE or movement of a story depends on the type of story, its intended length and the logical sequence of events necessary to tell the story.

Letter Q

Every story is a QUEST. Without goals and a plan to reach them (the QUEST)there is no story.

Don't overload readers with details. Tossing them into a QUAGMIRE of trivia may frustrate them and encourage them to close your book.

Leaving readers in a QUANDRY at the end of a scene entices them to read on. Leaving them in a QUANDRY at the end of the book might tick them off. If they don't like the way one of your books ends, they may not want to read another.

Letter R

Writers should constantly consider READERS when writing stories. It's a good idea to build characters and stories which will entertain and connect with READERS.

After breathing a sigh of relief once the first draft is complete, authors must face the task of REWRITING. Creating consistency, fixing character development flaws, sequencing scenes and events logically, correcting grammatical problems, deletions and additions are all part of REWRITING a story.

Scenes are either action or REACTION segments in a story. If in scene five the hero tries to solve a problem and is thwarted by the villain, scene six will feature the hero's reaction to his setback.

For more Writing Tip ABCs go to: www.twitter.com/franshaff

Have a great week!


Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author

Monday, September 12, 2011

Writing Tip ABCs, Part 5, M-O

The Writing Tip ABCs Series continues this week with the letters M, N, O.

We might as well get right to it!


Characters must be highly MOTIVATED. Stakes should be high--life or death or at least a state at which life would be greatly changed in a negative way if the hero is unsuccessful in meeting his goals. If the protagonist's motivation isn't high enough, readers won't care what happens to him. In the movie "Firewall" Harrison Ford's family is held hostage while he must rob his own bank. Stakes are high--both his family's lives and his business are at extreme risk.

Writers sometimes choose words with double MEANINGS to add a special flavor to a phrase or sentence. Take a look at this sentence: Annmarie suddenly realized her stock broker, the man who'd just let her in on a lucrative new venture, had an office on the ground floor of the high rise.

METAPHORS enhance literature by making it more powerful in some way. Example: The sunset was a collage of purple, red, yellow, blue and green.


The NEMESIS in every story must be a strong challenger to the protagonist. Think Lex Luther vs Superman but also consider the mild mannered trustee in "Rain Man" who was Charlie Babbit's (Tom Cruse) nemesis. Luther knew how to zap Superman physically, and the trustee had all the legal power over the money which Charlie wanted so badly.

Keeping NOTES on characters, events, important facts (and minor facts too) as you write helps an author maintain continuity in her book.

A character's NAME can say a lot about him/her. Consider an Old West sheriff named Matt versus one named Percy.


The "point of view" character in a scene tries to meet an OBJECTIVE. His antagonist in the scene has his own objective. Watching these two opposites collide makes the scene compelling for the reader.

Though readers will expect a "happily ever after" OUTCOME for most novels, a prudent writer will enhance the HEA with something better than the reader expects.

Be sure to include the OLFACTORY system in your writing. The sense of smell is potent. Using a familiar odor or aroma can make an object, event, location, even a character more real. Tell me, don't these words conjure up some vivid images or pleasant or unpleasant associations? fresh-baked apple cinnamon pie, steaming chilli, a dead skunk on the highway.

For more Writing Tip ABCs go to my Twitter page at: www.twitter.com/franshaff

Have a great week!


Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author

Monday, September 5, 2011

Writing Tip ABCs, Part 4, J-L

Thanks to everyone who's letting me know how much they appreciate my Writing Tip ABCs here and at my Twitter page.

This week we're working on letters J to L.


Get your characters in a JAM immediately. The deeper they’re in trouble the more engaged readers will be.

A JEZEBEL, a wicked scheming woman, makes a terrific antagonist. Readers love to hate this archetype. Of course, like any other villain, don't forget to give this nasty person a redeeming quality or two.

A JILTED man or woman is reluctant to enter into a new romance which makes him/her a great type of character to put into a romantic novel. (Once burnt, twice shy.) A hero left broken hearted by the rejection of a woman he'd loved is going to think more than twice before giving his heart away again. And doesn't this type of situation make the titanic struggle in a romantic novel all the more compelling?

Up next, K.

Readers love KARMA in their stories. They want to see the antagonist punished and the protagonist rewarded.

The KEY holds the answer to the mystery. It’s the object everyone is after. A/k/a the MacGuffin, particularly in screenplays. Think "National Treasure." Everyone was after the Declaration of Independence. Some wanted to learn the code contained within it which would give them riches beyond their wildest dreams. Some wanted to possess it for historical purposes, some wanted the document for historical and treasure purposes. The Declaration of Independence was the KEY and the MacGuffin.

That unexpected twist in a plot is known as the KICKER. Kickers add an extra element of enjoyment for readers (as long as they’re believable).

Lastly, L

Using well known LANDMARKS as a setting or element in a plot can heighten reader involvement and interest because the locations are familiar to them. Maybe they've even visited one of these landmarks. Familiarity always increases a connection between the reader and the story, protagonists, etc. Think Devil’s Tower in “Close Encounters” or early American landmarks featured in “National Treasure” and its sequel, "Book of Secrets" or Mount Rushmore in “North by Northwest.”

Determining the LAYOUT of your plot is crucial. Events should occur in the order best suited to enhance your genre as well as your story.

Don’t neglect the LEGWORK required before you begin to write. Research, develop characters, outline, plan your plot. Writing without completing the legwork makes writing the first draft and succeeding drafts even more difficult. I know many writers like to "write by the seat of their pants," and this is okay, of course. Whatever method suits the particular author is fine. However, even if you're what's known as a "pantster" it's terribly important to know characters thoroughly and to do necessary research completely before a writer begins to write the first draft.

J, K, L completed here now. However, for more J, K, L tips, visit my Twitter page at: www.twitter.com/franshaff



Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author