By guest poster Lisa Alber on Writer Unboxed 4/16/2014
I once had a wise-woman teacher who said, “Your story is only as good as your villain.”
Being a new writer, the word “villain” confused me. It had me imagining serial killers and blood-sucking demons, which wasn’t my thing. I didn’t truly understand what she meant until I started thinking of villains as tricksters. In mythology, the trickster deities break the rules of civilized life. They’re often malicious, but not always. They exist to cause transformation. They upend. They are catalysts. This is why the better your villain (trickster), the better your story. Another way to think about it is that without a good villain, your conflict can go flat. This potential story flaw applies to everything from literary novels to high-octane thrillers to romances. No writer is exempt from creating conflict, and for conflict you need upheaval. And for upheaval, you need trickster energy. To get your trickster groove on, consider the following....
(con't on Writer Unboxed)
photo by kirstyhall
Written by Chuck Sambuchino at Writer Unboxed 4/22/2013
In a previous Writer Unboxed column, I discussed the value of starting your story strong and how an “inside-out” approach to narrative action can help your case. But just as important as knowing what to do when beginning your novel is knowing what not to do.
No one reads more prospective novel beginnings than literary agents. They’re the ones on the front lines — sifting through inboxes and slush piles. And they’re the ones who can tell us which Chapter 1 approaches are overused and cliche, as well as which techniques just plain don’t work. Below find a smattering of feedback from experienced literary agents on what they hate to see the first pages of a writer’s submission. Avoid these problems and tighten your submission!
“I don’t like it when the main character dies at the end of Chapter 1. Why did I just spend all this time with this character? I feel cheated.”
- Cricket Freeman, The August Agency
“I dislike opening scenes that you think are real, then the protagonist wakes up. It makes me feel cheated.”
- Laurie McLean, Foreword Literary .... (Con't on Writer Unboxed)
By Jane Friedman of the Virginia Quarterly Review (formerly of Writers Digest)
On July 11, I was a featured speaker at True Theatre. True Theatre is a Cincinnati storytelling event, where everyday people tell true stories about their lives to a general audience.
Each evening has a specific theme—independence was last week’s theme—and I told a story about traveling to Thailand on my own, and getting stuck.
To prepare for this spoken word event, I had to spend time, at first, reading the story out loud, then memorizing and rehearsing it.
Aside from the lessons I learned about storytelling (to come in another post), I learned the value of reading a piece out loud.
Now, up until this point, I was probably like most of you. I’ve seen the advice to “read your work out loud” many, many times. I didn’t practice this technique (except for poetry), and found it irrelevant, unhelpful, uncomfortable, and time consuming. Who cares how something sounds when read aloud, unless it was meant to be heard?
But for important short stories or essays, I’ll be using this technique. Why?
(And, if you live near Cincinnati, I encourage you to check out True Theatre for wonderful storytelling.)
Have you ever felt the wonderful, addictive rush of adrenalin when a great story idea invades your gray matter, only to lose it when, as time goes on, the idea peters out and you don't know where to go from there?
It's a common problem. We've all been there.
Nine times out of ten, that means there was some story planning you rushed past. Just put the vehicle in reverse, and go back and do that now.This blog post by Janice Hardy of The Other Side of the Story should give you plenty of help with that, so dig right in. ~ Premise and theme.