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A Writers Toolbox

Hi, Angie here:
Sharing one of the writing tools I use in my regular office time. This week I sat back down with an older workbook. As I wrote my story, a novella, I wasn't happy with the plot. So I went to an older workbook, Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. 

I think it's important to note a few things about this workbook.

1) Really helpful in getting back to the basics.
2) Some examples use language you might not use normally.
3) Sometimes the author is discourteous to romance category books and their authors.
4) I like the worksheets for gathering my thoughts. It's easy to take the questions and write my answers (when appropriate to my story) into a document in my laptop.
5) Remember the author is male. That matters when you're writing for females as he tends toward more male-oriented examples. That makes it harder to translate into the romance genre, but the concepts can still apply (most of the time).

This is one tool of many. It just happens to be the one I used to dig into my plot this week. So, I would say it's a good one for plot but would not rely on it as my only one for my historical romance genre. Then again, I don't think a workman's tool box only has a hammer. Do you? 

Purchase Worthy Writing Books

Diana here:
Do you have a shelf full of books on how to write?

I do. My writing friends will tell you they too have many books. But which one would you pick up and use over and over?

That’s what this series is about, the books worthy of us spending our writing education money on them instead of __________(fill in the blank for yourself)

One of the books I pick up over and over is called Deep and Wide by Susan May Warren.

So what makes this book so terrific?

I get it.

It’s as if Susan May Warren looked into my brain, unscrambled my questions with the answers and put them in this book just for me.

It’s a simple book to follow. There isn’t a lot of discussion about how books have been written for centuries by using the ABC method or something else that puts me to sleep.

Right away, from the front cover, you get the purpose of this book.

Deep and Wide 
advanced fiction techniques for making your characters deeper and your plot wider.

Yes, ma’am, that’s exactly what I need every single time I write a book.

This book uses movies to teach you how to write your own story. For me that’s the reward—I get to watch a favorite movie and dissect it. 
*Disclaimer I cannot guarantee your safety if you learn how to do this and you tell your spouse what will happen next in his favorite spy movie.

One of the most helpful (there are so many in this book) is learning about the glimpse of hope every hero/heroine needs. You want your hero/heroine to do , see, be, or value something that indicates their need. 

In my book, A Bride’s Dilemma in Friendship, Tennessee I have my hero looking into a store front. He's returned from the war and feels he can't stay in his hometown.

Travis noted the toy wagon and kitchenware display in the front glass windows. He paused long enough to wonder if he’d ever have a wife and child to treat some Christmas. Maybe Friendship had a woman who would steal his heart…

That’s a glimpse of hope. It shows Travis has a desire for something more in his life.

Another bit of wisdom passed on in this book is how to add backstory. Hint: it isn’t in the first ten pages of your book. 

What do you think is recommended?

Yes, of course, you knew! Yay you! Small pieces or as Susan May Warren calls them a breadcrumb trail is how you let your reader know what's happened before your story begins. I love how she thinks! Breadcrumbs are something I understand.

This is a book I would recommend buying at any stage of your writing career. If there is a fire and I can only grab one writing book it will be Deep and Wide.

You can find this book on MyBookTherapy for $24.99. This is not an affiliate link. :) Thanks, Carrie for asking.

What book would you recommend?

Three Methods to Build Conflict

Liz here: 
A story without conflict is dead. It's boring, hard to read, and frankly, not a story at all. It's one of the biggest problems I see in my editing. There's not enough conflict or tension in the plot. I'm not a big movie watcher, so I'll stick to my fairy tales for examples. Take Little Red Riding Hood. What if there wasn't a big, bad wolf? The story would be about nothing more than Little Red skipping through the woods, delivering a basket of calorie-free cookies to Grandmother, and having a nice chat with her. 

Would you read a story like that? 

Stories have to have conflict. 

One way to build conflict and tension in your story is to make your characters miserable. If they are smiling all the time, throughout your entire book, you aren't creating enough of conflict for them. I've heard the saying to keep throwing bricks at them. What is it that's going to cause them misery? 

Have her catch a cold right before her big date with the guy she's had a crush on for years. Have her spill her coffee in the lap of her new boss. Have him forget his phone, so he has trouble finding her house to pick her up. Have her give him food poisoning when she cooks for him for the first time. 

This all creates conflict. What are they going to do to resolve it? Will she dope up on so much cold medication she acts a little tipsy? Does she try to wipe up the mess with napkins, only to spill his coffee all over his papers? Will he be forced to stop and ask for directions? Will she be afraid that he'll never talk to her again? 

When in doubt, put your characters into a situation where it looks like they'll never recover. Take the woman who spills coffee on her boss. In the process of wiping up the mess, she spills his coffee all over his desk, including the papers for her raise. Instead, he demotes her (okay, a little extreme, but play along with me here), and now she can't pay her rent. What is she going to do? How will she ever get out of this scrape? 

It's great conflict that's sure to hook the reader. I've done it plenty of times in my own writing. I finish my writing day sure there's no way to get my characters out of this quandary. How on earth will I resolve it? Imagine how your readers are feeling. This is conflict. Yes, I've always found a way get them out of a sticky situation, but it usually leads to more conflict in the story. A great way to break writer's block. 

Another way to introduce more conflict is to give your characters impossible choices. In my latest manuscript, my hero is an officer in the German army during WWII. My middle was beginning to sag (always unsightly), and I needed to amp up the conflict. How did I do that? I gave this conscience-stricken character an impossible choice. Either go into the house and find the Jews hiding in there or face discipline and possible execution yourself. 

I won't give away the ending, but you can see how that impossible choice built conflict in the story. The ramifications of his impossible choice rippled throughout the rest of the book. It shored up a slow spot and carried the plot along to the end. This impossible choice created conflict far beyond just that scene. 

Having conflict is key to building tension and moving a story along. In fact, a story without conflict is no story at all. When you feel the life draining from your book, these strategies come in handy for adding more tension.

How do you build conflict in your writing?