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Spin That Captivating Tale

Today’s guest post is by Carla D. Bass.

Rumpelstiltskin spins straw into gold. An author employs an intriguing plot, captivating characters, and exquisite settings to spin a tale.

However, these ingredients, themselves, don’t guarantee a captivating tale. The author must induce the reader to hang on every single word (double drumbeat for emphasis) from that all-important title and opening line to the story’s conclusion. How? What additional pixie dust generates that literary magic?

The answer is twofold: 1) make each word count in conveying the story and 2) respect the reader’s time—present a memorable, enjoyable experience.

A foundational principle—for fiction and nonfiction—is leveraging available space and the reader’s time. I, too, am an avid reader, but lose interest when I can scan a few sentences on the page and skip the rest. Continue Reading…

Creating Tension in Fiction Scenes

Today’s guest post is by Erick Mertz.

One of the things writers commonly ask me is, how do I create more compelling scenes? How do accomplish the elusive gold standard of “show but don’t tell”?

If you have written for any amount of time, you’ve probably been given feedback along those lines. For any number of reasons, the story feels weak. The prose is filled with soft spots. Maybe the characters come off as flat. Somewhere between inspiration and execution, the story lost some necessary life.

Writers receive these types of comments for any number of reasons. Sometimes it is because of a lack of clarity in a scene or the need for vivid color in a particular description. Other times it is a matter of repetition. One section of a manuscript too closely resembles another, or else it outright mimics it. But, in my experience, one reason tends to rise above the others: a lack of conflict.

Focusing your writing on a series of strongly rooted conflicts is the best way to elevate your storytelling. In bigger terms, these would be defined as the archetypal clashes of person versus person, person versus self, or person versus machine, just to name a few. When characters are at odds with something or someone, the stakes in the story naturally ramp up, and the quality of prose follows. Continue Reading…

Momentum and Pace—Giving Readers a Satisfying Ride

Today’s guest post is by Tiffany Yates Martin.

Imagine you’re trying to get to LA on a cross-country road trip and the driver keeps doubling back, or going on winding detours, or stopping on the side of the road to just hang out. And when you finally do get moving toward your destination, he does ninety miles an hour on the entire journey and never lets up—or crawls along at twenty mph the whole … way … there.

That’s momentum and pace, and when either element isn’t working well, readers are in for a frustrating journey. Momentum, as the engine of story, should be constant—the vehicle should always be heading toward the final destination.

But pace—how fast it gets there—can and usually should vary throughout.

Though often these terms are used interchangeably, momentum and pace aren’t quite the same thing. You can think of momentum is a function of story and pace as a function of scene.

Momentum is the story’s steady push toward its destination, the answer to the central story question that the reader is invested in finding out: Will Harry Potter defeat Voldemort; can Sherlock solve the crime; how does Stella get her groove back? Continue Reading…