#NaNoWriMo2015–Get to the Heart of Your Story (writing tip #19)

Okay, for today’s tip, here I go again, talking about staying curious about what your protagonist wants. And, remember, our fictional heroes are extreme–they go after what they want with an intensity that can be frightening and invigorating and freeing. They are bigger than life and we can watch them slip and slide and struggle and push and yearn and obsess to the extreme, whether their story is a tragedy or a comedy. So back to the want. I wrote a very personal blog post a few years ago about going through the death of my marriage and how the …

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#NaNoWriMo2015–Get to the Heart of Your Story (writing tip #14)

When it comes to understanding the story you are writing, teachers stress the importance of knowing what your hero desires, yearns for, desperately wants! They will probably remind you that her goal (want) is something that can be measured externally, in the world. It’s also a very good idea, they say, to know the meaning your hero attaches to getting what she wants. This meaning is internal, having to do with her most vulnerable emotional wounds. Example: She will do almost anything to get that promotion because then she’ll feel validated and successful (instead of feeling like the failure in her …

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#NaNoWriMo2015–Get to the Heart of Your Story (writing tip #11)

How well do you know your significant other? Do you know where and when your best friend went to middle school? Do you know your sibling’s deepest secrets? Do you know if your mother had a first love before she met your father? Or if your older cousin  dropped out of sight and out of touch for several years? We are often attracted to people because they hold some mystery for us and we find that challenging, frustrating, and alluring.So, you ask, how does that apply to my novel? Don’t aim to or pretend to know everything about your main …

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#NaNoWriMo2015–Get to the Heart of Your Story (writing tip #5)

It’s National Novel Writing Month and many writers around the world are in gear and cranking out pages! Yesterday, my tip was about writing in drafts–and the quick (and shitty) first draft aligns with getting your novel done in 30 days (although even when I’m fast, I’m not that fast!). Today my tip is for those moments when you feel you might be veering off track, stumbling into deep water, and all the other cliches that basically mean you feel lost and disconnected from your story.  Don’t panic, this counts as a normal part of first-drafting. When you feel you …

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#NaNoWriMo2015–Get to the Heart of Your Story (writing tip #3)

Make it easy on yourself–keep your characters in action and in relationship. Physical interaction and dialogue between two (or three) characters is one of the easiest ways to reveal deep traits. When we witness your hero counseling a 12-year-old runaway we will judge your hero’s level of compassion and concern, we will probably get a glimpse of her past and the wound that leaves her vulnerable, and depending upon the 12-year-old’s responses, we’ll know if she is street savvy or naive–in our eyes and in the eyes of the ‘tween. When you begin writing the scene, you will likely identify …

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#NaNoWriMo2015 — Get to the Heart of Your Story (writing tip #1)

Get to the heart of your story-it lives inside your hero: know what she wants, what drives her, and why. Give her a goal that matters. Know her deepest wound.  Show us her fight to reach her goal and make sure that the forces of opposition might destroy her. Give her a friend who can make her laugh and let us readers catch our breath. Know that her fight is always a fight to the ‘death’-she will face a dilemma between what she wants and what she needs. She can’t have both. She must surrender her old view and be …

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The Big Nothing, Small Deaths, and How a Dilemma is Vital for Storytellers

 22 comments Two days into 2014 I had a ‘New Year’ conversation with a good friend.  Our talk turned to Noam Chomsky. I’d just seen Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy?, an animated documentary on the life of the linguist, philosopher, and political activist by French filmmaker Michel Gondry. (It is, btw, a delightful and provocative film.) Chomsky had been an early influence in my friend’s academic life. We touched briefly on Chomsky’s atheism and his belief in (I paraphrase) the “big nothing” that follows death. The topic of what comes after—nothing or something—tugged at me more than usual, due I think, …

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WRITER TO WRITER: 12 Possibly Relevant Tips at Year’s End

Do not take your moods too seriously (exclusions to this rule include clinical depression, bipolar disorder, and the like; if any of these apply, seek expert help and do not skip your meds!) because the dark hole you inhabit today may well presto-change-o to a snowy peak tomorrow, and either way, you still have to face the blank page and write the next paragraph/page/chapter/repeat. Do know what makes your skin crawl, your stomach turn to mush, and your brain freeze because chances are at least some of your characters share your fears and, writers, this is useful knowledge. Do know …

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COACHING QUESTIONS TO KEEP YOU ON COURSE

When I was nineteen I started a business with a partner and we called it “Hat Trick Hats”. We wanted to be portable. We sold our hand-stitched leather creations on the sidewalks of Santa Barbara and on the Wharf and Union Square in San Francisco. We wanted to be free to make our own designs and decisions and we accomplished both. We needed to make a living and sometimes we actually ended the month with a financial surplus! Of course that money was quickly spent to replenish our supplies to make more hats. Our goal was never to get rich—and …

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