TheNerdyGirlExpress Reviews Midnight House by Ian Dawson

Thank you, TheNerdyGirlExpress, for reviewing Midnight House by Ian Dawson!

Check out the review here: https://thenerdygirlexpress.com/2021/04/12/midnight-house-book-review-from-kleffnotes/


GET YOUR PAPERBACK COPY OF MIDNIGHT HOUSE ON BOOKBABY AND USE THE PROMO CODE HOUSE20 TO SAVE 20% OFF THE PAPERBACK AT CHECKOUT.  CLICK HERE TO ORDER

Today’s the Day! Get Midnight House by Ian Dawson NOW!

I’m excited to announce that Midnight House by Ian Dawson is now available on all platforms today! Buy now on BookBaby, Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, and Target.com!

Amazon eBook links below!

Click below to buy the Midnight House eBook on Amazon!

Or…

GET YOUR PAPERBACK COPY OF MIDNIGHT HOUSE ON BOOKBABY AND USE THE PROMO CODE HOUSE20 TO SAVE 20% OFF THE PAPERBACK AT CHECKOUT.  CLICK HERE TO ORDER

And get the eBook of The Field by Ian Dawson on Amazon below!

Or, you can…

ORDER THE PAPERBACK OF THE FIELD FROM BOOKBABY AND USE THE PROMO CODE BIKE15 TO SAVE 15% AT CHECKOUT. CLICK HERE TO ORDER.

Pre-Order Midnight House by Ian Dawson Now (Out March 30, 2021)!

GET YOUR COPY OF MIDNIGHT HOUSE ON BOOKBABY AND USE THE PROMO CODE HOUSE20 TO SAVE 20% OFF THE PAPERBACK AT CHECKOUT.  CLICK HERE TO ORDER

Pre-order your copy of Midnight House by Ian Dawson on amazon.  Click here to order.  

Need to read The Field by Ian Dawson?  Order the paperback from BookBaby and use the Promo Code BIKE15 to save 15% at checkout. click here to order.

You can also Pre-Order the eBook of Midnight House on Amazon and BookBaby, and buy the eBook of The Field on Amazon, BookBaby, iBooks, and Barnes & Noble.

Pre-Order Midnight House by Ian Dawson – Book 2 in The Field Series – NOW!

Pre-Order Now!  Paperback and eBook available March 30, 2021!

I’m excited to announce the upcoming release of the second novel in The Field series, Midnight House!  

Haunted by the traumatic events of his abduction two years ago, sixteen-year-old Daniel Robinson has tried everything to make his escalating nightmares vanish. Failing to cope with it on his own, Daniel knows it’s only a matter of time before his family, best friend, and his girlfriend notice the lingering effects of his insomnia. Will Daniel reach out for help, or allow the nightmares to consume his sanity?

Meanwhile, Daniel’s best friend, Kyle Hanson, has been invited by Enterprise’s Varsity basketball captain to take part in the Varsity team’s rituals at the mysterious Midnight House.  Skeptical of their motives, Daniel takes matters into his own hands to find out what’s going on at the secretive hideaway.  Is this Kyle’s chance to prove himself to the Varsity team, or is something more sinister at play?

As the boys navigate through the complications of new friendships, jealousy, romance, and high school, their unbreakable bond and the strength of their friendship will be tested.

Can they survive what’s waiting at Midnight House?

Get your copy of Midnight House on BookBaby and use the Promo Code HOUSE20 to save 20% off the paperback at checkout. CLICK HERE TO ORDER

Pre-order your copy of Midnight House on Amazon now.  CLICK HERE TO ORDER.  

Need to read The Field?  Order the paperback from BookBaby and use the Promo Code BIKE15 to save 15% at checkout. CLICK HERE TO ORDER.

You can also Pre-Order the eBook of Midnight House on Amazon and BookBaby, and buy the eBook of The Field on Amazon, BookBaby, iBooks, and Barnes & Noble.

More updates to come!

Writer’s Workshop Wednesday: Dan Brown

He’s a best-selling author, known for his series of books about Robert Langdon, an inquisitive Harvard symbologist who’s always in the middle of historical mysteries with present-day catastrophic consequences.  The series, which includes Angels & Demons (2000), The Da Vinci Code (2003), The Lost Symbol (2009), Inferno (2013), and Origin (2017), has made Brown a household name. Most of the novels have been adapted into feature films starring Tom Hanks.

Brown’s two lesser-known novels – Digital Fortress and Deception Point – quickly became best-sellers once The Da Vinci Code became an international sensation.  It also created some controversy with the Catholic Church.  

A fan of research, history, and art, Brown has used his passions to create one of the most-read novels of the 21st century.  To date, The Da Vinci Code has sold over 80 million copies since its release.

Below are some interviews with Brown as he speaks about his novels, his writing process, and his research methods.

Check out his official website HERE.

Enjoy!

Back in two weeks with another great author!

Writing Tip of the Week: Story Structure – The Middle, Part One

Over the past two articles, we discussed what goes into creating the opening of your story.

Today, we’ll start to look at the Middle of the story.  You can call it Act Two or even as some writers call it: The Muddle.  This is where your hero’s path toward their goal should become increasingly challenging, where they begin to grow and change as a character, and the story continues to create conflicts for the main character.

The Stage Is Set

The Who, What, Where, When, and Why have all been established and your main character and their helpers have been launched from their ordinary existence into a new and challenging adventure.  Your main character has a stated goal, and forces prevent them from quickly achieving what they want.

Once they cross over the threshold of Turning Point One, they have no entered a new phase of their journey. They may have to reassess how they are going about achieving their goal.  They may realize that they can’t do things on their own and need some help.  Maybe the antagonist has taken this moment to up the stakes just a little more, which only motivates the hero to keep going despite the odds.  

At this point, you as a writer should know your main character fairly well.  What they are willing to do and not do.  How far they will go to get what they want.  What decisions they will make – good or bad – that will impact them reaching their goal.  

And The Hits Keep on Comin’

Obstacles.  Lots of obstacles.  The Middle of the story needs to present challenges and problems that make the hero challenge who they are and make them work to reach their goal.  Think of this section of the story as the main obstacle course for your characters.  They have to do things that they may not want to do, may not like, and may have to go outside their comfort zone to get to the next level to get one step closer to their goal.

Reality shows like American Ninja WarriorWipeout, and Holey Moley are examples of individuals having to traverse seemingly impossible odds to reach the intended goal and get the prize.  Essentially, you are sending your characters through a similar maze filled with hazards, hits, and dangers that they must overcome in one way or another.

It’s okay for them to fail and have setbacks.  In fact, that makes your hero more human if they don’t always get what they need or want on the first try.  Creating a flawed character who doesn’t give up creates empathy and relatability between the character and the audience.  

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

The Middle is where the bulk of the character arc takes place, mainly since it’s also where the bulk of the story happens.  Your main character started out one way when we first met them at the beginning of the story, but now as they face new odds and problems, we should begin to see them develop and grow.  

A stagnant and unchanging character lacks relatability.  If your character experiences some traumatic event that launches them into the story and has zero effect on them, it’s hard to relate to that character.  Now, suppose they are repressing their anger, sadness, or despair, affecting their judgment and ability to problem-solve.  This creates an internal conflict that will eventually manifest itself since they will have to overcome those things in order to reach their goal by the end of the story.

Think of Mando’s arc in season one of The Mandalorian.  How does he change when he meets and interacts with The Child for the first time?  What choices does he make that affect his character arc throughout the season?  How do his choices and changes affect the story?

Think about how the events in Jurassic Park affect Alan Grant’s relationships with and views on children.  How do his interactions and perspectives change from the start of the film to the finale?

Keep Things in Motion

A story should be in constant motion.  Each scene or chapter leading into the next.  The protagonist should always be doing something.  They should always be active in what’s going on.  It is their story, after all.

As you develop the Middle, think about how to map out the story so events keep moving forward.  That goal is still out there.  The antagonist still exists to prevent the protagonist from reaching their goal.  How can you keep your hero moving toward their goal while hitting them with problems that prevent them from reaching it?

Each scene or chapter should give the audience a new piece of the puzzle.  Some new information that keeps them reading or watching.  The hero is handed a note and reads it.  What does it say?  We don’t find out until several chapters or scenes later, but our curiosity has been piqued.  

Keep the audience interested, and they’ll stay to find out what happens next.

Staying Focused

During this time in the story, it can be easy to slowly go off course and get knee-deep in subplots or tangents.  And while subplots are acceptable, it’s important not to lose sight of the real reason we’re in this story: to watch the hero go after their goal in the face of opposition.

Work through their story first.  If you want to go back and add a subplot that ties into the main story afterward, go for it.  Your main goal here is to develop the main character’s arc and their related story arc.  It can be very tempting to go and take a detour with the main character’s best friend and see what shenanigans they’ll get themselves into.  But unless that directly impacts the main story, hold off and see if that side trip is really necessary.

Think about movies you’ve seen where subplots pop up and then go nowhere, or they have no relation to the main story and just seem to be there to eat away screen time.  Avoid these types of subplots and make sure that all roads point back to the hero.

In The Middle of Things

As I said before, the Middle is the longest part of any story.  It can be almost an hour of what you see on the screen (and if it’s a long movie, even more).  At the halfway point, there’s something known as the Mid-Point Sequence.  The outcome affects what the hero does moving forward. 

This is a big moment for the hero. After everything they’ve been through and worked through, things seem to be going their way for the most part.  They still haven’t reached their goal, but now they are getting a better idea of how to get there.

This is also known as The Point of No Return.  Once we get past the Mid-Point of the Middle, it’s now only a matter of time before the protagonist has to confront their antagonist head-on (literally or figuratively). 

In Legally Blonde, the Mid-Point of the Middle comes when Elle gets chosen Callahan’s law internship.  This is a big moment for Elle since she has been working to prove herself a viable Harvard law school student and future lawyer.  Worth noting is that her antagonist, Warner, was also chosen along with his fiancée, Vivian (Selma Blair).  I mention Vivian since she is an extension of the antagonist, and therefore can cause problems and issues for Elle on his behalf.

The sequence then leads to Elle, Warner, and Vivian arriving at the internship and finding out about the case they will be assisting on.  

Elle is at the Point of No Return.  She can’t back out now, and she can’t allow herself to fail without a fight.  

Check out the clip below:

In two weeks, we’ll explore the second half of the Middle as we charge toward the End and the Climax of the story!  

Happy writing!

Check out the articles on The Beginning, here:

Writer’s Workshop Wednesday: Alex Haley

Even if you’re not familiar with his name, you’re probably familiar with one of Alex Haley’s most famous works: Roots: The Saga of an American Family.  A powerful and resonant author and historian, Haley used the story of his own family’s horrific ancestry as slaves to write the acclaimed novel that won a Pulitzer Prize in 1977.  It was also made into a mini-series on ABC in 1977 and later for History in 2016.  Roots is a novel I highly recommend.  It is a sobering look at a dark time in our nation’s history.

Prior to being a writer, Haley enlisted as a member of the Coast Guard during World War II – a compelling story in itself – where he eventually became the first chief journalist of the Coast Guard before retiring from the branch in 1959.

Haley would go on to conduct interviews for Playboy magazine, author The Autobiography of Malcolm X in 1965, write a screenplay titled Super Fly T.N.T. released in 1973, and the aforementioned Roots.  

Haley passed away in 1992, but his contributions to American literature continue to resonate today.

Below are several interview clips I found of this amazing man speaking about his life, career, and issues still relevant today.

Check out the official Alex Haley website HERE.  

Enjoy!

Back in two weeks with another great author!

Writing Tip of the Week – Story Structure: The Beginning, Part Two

Last week, we talked about some of the elements that go into the Beginning of a story.  Whether a novel, a short story, a screenplay, or a play, there are important items to consider from the start as you develop your story.  In this post, we’ll talk about a few more things to consider as you work on creating the beginning of your story. 

A Basic Formula

One of my screenwriting professors once wrote a basic formula on the board that holds true for pretty much all commercial stories:

Hero + Goal + Opposition = Conflict = Drama

Think about most movies or novels of today, and this formula rings true.  We are presented with a Hero.  That hero has a Goal they wish to achieve.  There’s some Opposition in the way of the Hero achieving the stated goal.  That Opposition leads to Conflict.  And that Conflict translates to Dramatic tension. 

As you develop your story, make sure that the three main ingredients are clear.  Then you can find ways to create conflict that increases the dramatic tension of the story.

What is an Antagonist?

When we think about the concept of an Antagonist, we are usually drawn to the big guns: The Joker (The Dark Knight), Thanos (Avengers: Infinity War), Cruella DeVil (101 Dalmatians), Loki (Avengers), Ursula (The Little Mermaid), Dr. No (Dr. No), Hades (Hercules), Dr. Evil (Austin Powers), Scar (The Lion King), or the Evil Queen in Snow White.  These are clear-cut antagonistic characters that oppose the goals of the hero in their respective stories.

However, an Antagonist doesn’t have to be a maniacal super-villain or an evil entity bent on world domination.  Anyone in your story who opposes your main character’s goals and is a constant block to them achieving that goal is an antagonist.

In Legally Blonde, Elle Woods’s antagonist is her ex-boyfriend, Warner.

In Hairspray, Tracy Turnblad’s antagonist is Velma Von Tussle and her daughter.

In October Sky, Homer Hickam’s antagonist is his father.

Even if the antagonist wants what’s best for the main character, they can still be an antagonizing force getting in the way of their goal if what they want for the main character is in conflict with what the antagonist wants.

And that conflict leads to dramatic tension.  

I think that because mainstream cinema is saturated with big-time antagonists because of all the superhero movies, it’s easy to forget that romantic comedies function on the formula of starting the partners off in an oppositional relationship.  You’ve Got Mail.  Crazy, Stupid, LoveTwo Weeks NoticeThe Proposal10 Things I Hate About You. All begin with oppositional relationships between the main couple.

How Do You Like Your Stakes?

Your protagonist wants something.  Something big.  If they get it, that’s great.  But what if they don’t get it?  What if all their attempts to achieve their goal fail?  What will happen to them?  Their best friend?  Their family?  Their home?

In other words: What are the Story’s Stakes?

Stakes keep things interesting.  They keep the protagonist motivated to achieve their goal.  They also keep the viewer/reader along for the ride.  What should the stakes feel like?

Life or death.  That’s what things should feel like to your hero if things don’t work out.  I’m not talking literal life or death (unless your story is about that), but the odds have to be pretty steep against the main character once the inciting incident happens that we’re unsure how they’ll reach their intended goal.

If you have a basic idea of what your story is about, who your main character is, what their goal is, and where the story is going, you should start to brainstorm obstacles that the hero might face throughout the story.  Each one should be unique, escalate the stakes, and help move the story and the hero’s character arc along.  

The higher the stakes, the better the dramatic tension.  Most sitcoms have low-stakes situations (Oh, no, the poker game and the dinner party are planned for the same night!).  Dramas tend to have higher stakes (If we don’t find the killer soon, he’ll start killing a new victim at the top of every hour!).  

Think of your favorite movie, or a movie you recently saw.  What were the stakes for the main character?  Were they high or low?  I can tell you that in the new Angelina Jolie movie, Those Who Wish Me Dead, the stakes are very high.  If a movie you watched has low stakes for the main character, did you lose interest?  

Can I Help You?

All protagonists are on a journey.  It may not be away from their uncle’s moisture farm on Tatooine to learn the ways of the Force, but they do have to move from point A to point Z by the end of the story.

Is anyone with them? 

Best friends.  Romantic partners.  Sidekicks.  Co-workers.  Family. Neighbors.  Are they people close to the main character that can assist them on their journey?  Every character in a story needs to serve the hero and the story in some important way.  Much like the protagonist and antagonist have a function in the story, the Secondary and Tertiary characters need to as well.  

These characters also help in giving us insight into the main character, they help dimensionalize them, and make them more relatable to the audience.  Who populates the world of the hero? Of the antagonist? What functions do those characters serve throughout the story?

The Big Moment

So, you’ve shown us a glimpse of the protagonist in their natural habitat.  All is good in the world.  And then…BOOM…something unexpected happens that throws their world into a tailspin.  Now, they have to regroup and figure out how to fix, stop, or change whatever has just happened.  The stakes are high.  The Opposition is great.  The way to achieving the goal seems impossible.  But they have a few folks to help them along the way.  

After a few missteps, things start to feel like they’re going the hero’s way.  Maybe getting to that goal will be easier than they thought.  All they have to do is…

BOOM

Something HUGE comes out of nowhere and knocks the wind out of them.  What they thought was the way forward is no longer the way forward.  Everything they thought they knew, every decision they were sure was working, is suddenly turned upside-down.

Welcome to Turning Point 1.

It’s a big moment in the story.  It’s something that shakes things up and takes the hero and the audience in a new direction.  Here’s an example from Legally Blonde (get used to it, I’m gonna use it a lot in this series):

Hero: Elle Woods

Antagonist: Warner

Inciting Incident: Warner dumps Elle as he heads to law school instead of proposing to her.

Hero Goal:  Get into and graduate from Harvard Law School (and reconnect with Warner).

Turning Point 1: At the first party of the semester, Warner tells Elle she’s not smart enough to get a prestigious internship with their law professor.  

Notice how Elle is initially crushed by Warner’s words but then actively pushes through and uses his Opposition to her goal as motivation to keep going.

In the film, this is the start of Act 2.  It’s the end of the Beginning, and the beginning of the Middle.

Homework

Watch some movies and determine what the initial stakes are for the hero and when Turning Point 1 happens. For most two-hour movies, it’s around the 25-30 minute mark.

We’ll talk about the Middle (of a story, not the series starring Patricia Heaton) in two weeks!

Writing Tip of the Week – Story Structure: The Beginning, Part One

Every story has a starting point, a place where the writer has decided to begin the story and launch the characters into an adventure that differs from the day-to-day normalcy of their lives.  Over the next few weeks, we’ll explore the different aspects of the Beginning, Middle, and End of a story and what components go into each.

Let’s get started.

Where Are We?  Location, Location, Location.

The opening chapter or scene sets the stage for what’s to come.  Give us the location, the time period, and the current circumstances.  Is this a contemporary story?  Are we in Victorian England?  In a galaxy far, far away?  Give the reader descriptors that help orient them into the world of the story.  Your characters occupy a specific space at a particular time.  The beginning is where to establish these things and make sure the reader has a clear understanding.

Read the first chapter of a few novels and see how those authors establish location and time while also moving the story forward.

Who Are We With? Who’s the Story About?

Whose journey are we following?  Knowing your main character and who they are before the Inciting Incident is a key factor to ensure you know how they will react and actively pursue their goals when the new events begin to unfold.  What’s their name?  Their profession?  What relationships do they have?  What conflicts do they have in their lives?  What’s their personality?  

In his book, The Story Solution, Eric Edson lays out nine “personality traits and story circumstances that create character sympathy for an audience” (Edson 14).  These don’t all have to be used, but they are a great way to help your reader/viewer connect with your main character at the beginning of your story:

•          Courage – “brave people take action, and only action can drive the plot forward.” (15)

•          An Unfair Injury – placing your “character in a situation where blatant injustice is inflicted upon her…[it] puts the hero in a position where [they’re] compelled to DO something, take action in order to right a wrong.” (16-17)

•          Skill – “It doesn’t matter what your hero’s field of endeavor might be as long as [they’re] an expert at it.” (17)

•          Funny – “if you can bestow upon your hero a robust and playful sense of humor, do it.” (19)

•          Just Plain Nice – “We can easily care about kind, decent, helpful, honest folks, and we admire people who treat others well.” (19)

•          In Danger – “If when we first meet the hero [they’re] already in a situation of real danger, it grabs out attention right away.” (20)

•          Loved by Friends and Family – If we see that “the hero is already loved by other people, it gives us immediate permission to care about them, too.” (21)

•          Hard Working – “People who work hard have create the rising energy to drive a story forward.” (21)

•          Obsessed – “Obsession keeps brave, skilled, hard-working heroes focused on a single goal, which is enormously important to any story.” (21)

These are just a few points from the book, which I highly recommend. You can pick up a copy at the link below:

Active or Passive Protagonist?

In modern commercial fiction, the protagonist is almost always active.  This means that when things happen, they react and actively pursue a goal.  Mando in The Mandalorian is actively working to keep Grogu (aka Baby Yoda) safe from those who wish to harm him.  Mando’s inciting incident was meeting Grogu; he now has an active goal to protect him.  His actions move the story in a new direction.

Katniss in The Hunger Games actively volunteers her life to save her sister’s during the Hunger Games lottery.  She is actively involved in the decision that launches the story in a new direction.

A passive protagonist just allows things to happen around them, or they don’t do enough to try and fix what’s happening.  Even in disaster movies where the elements are out of the hero’s hands, they still are active in their attempts to save their own lives and the lives of others.  When you watch TwisterDante’s PeakSan Andreas, or Volcano, notice that while what’s happening is out of the main characters’ control, they are still actively pursuing a goal: survival.

What actions can your protagonist take to try and resolve their newfound issues?  What is their active goal, and what steps will they take to reach it?  They can try and fail, but they should be active in their attempts.

Is It Really “The Beginning”?

A story begins at a point that shows the reader/viewer the protagonist in their normal element.  We, as an audience, have to assume that this character existed before this story. We are about to see a series of events markedly different and far more interesting than a typical day in their life. 

You want to give your readers a glimpse of this world before things begin to change and move the protagonist into a new direction that they didn’t see coming.  We need to know who they are before this story starts so we can witness how the events of the story impact and change their lives by the end.

A character’s story is on a continuum.  What we are writing about and what the reader/viewer is experiencing is something out of the ordinary.  Steve Rogers (Captain America: The First Avenger), Elle Woods (Legally Blonde), and Mando (The Mandalorian) all were just doing their normal thing until a new set of circumstances took them to a new level of existence, which is…

What Starts the Journey? The Inciting Incident.

Things are pretty normal for your main character.  They’re just living their life as always when suddenly…something big happens to alter their life for the better or worse.  This is the Inciting Incident, the moment where the protagonist has to begin making choices that will launch them and us into a new storyline apart from what they are familiar with.

Your main character could be all set to go into the boss’s office to get a promotion and get fired instead.  Your main character could find out something devastating about their family that requires them to act and discover the truth.  It can be anything that jolts the main character out of their normal life and takes them on a new path.

Brainstorm some ways a character’s ordinary world can suddenly change and how your character would react to new information and their potential paths forward.

Homework

Now that you have the basics about the Beginning of a story, watch the first 15 minutes of a few movies or read the first few chapters of some novels and see how events, characters, and Inciting Incidents are introduced.  How does the main character react when something new happens?  What’s the first thing they do?  How do their actions at that moment propel the story forward?  What traits from Edson’s book are present in the main character when we first meet them?

Happy Writing, Reading and Viewing, and I’ll see you next week with more on story beginnings.

Writing Tip of the Week: Avoiding Procrastination [Repost]

So, you’ve finally sat down to write your story.  Your hands are poised over the keys.  The cursor blinks invitingly at the top of the blank Word page.  You have notes about your story scrawled on legal pads in mostly illegible writing.  The time has come to write.

But did you finish that last episode of Hoarders on Hulu?  You think you did, but you’re not sure if Dr. Zasio and Matt Paxton were able to help that woman with the 50 cats.  So, you look, and you did.  But the screenshot for the next one looks intriguing, so you start the episode.  Just to see if the home is as bad as you think it was.  And it’s worse!  Now you have to watch.

Three episodes later and it’s time for bed.  You decide you’ll write tomorrow, but after watching multiple episodes of Hoarders you’re now motivated to clean your house the next evening.

Welcome to procrastination.

Everyone procrastinates. We all put off stuff we either want to do or don’t want to do for some reason or another.  When it comes to writing, procrastination makes perfect sense: writing is work.  Hard work. And if you’ve spent all week at a desk in front of a computer, the thought of doing that at night or on the weekend becomes something you want to avoid at all costs.

To me, procrastination is okay.  To a point. But while you are binge-watching TV shows or going down the YouTube video rabbit hole, ask yourself why you’re avoiding writing.  It’s more than just the whole desk/computer/work thing.  Is there a problem with the story?  Do you not like the story?  Would you rather write something else?

With any form procrastination, there is a root cause for its existence.  But when participating in the act of procrastination, I say you need to embrace it.  Don’t kick yourself or beat yourself up.  What’s the point?  If you really wanted to write right now, you would be. 

At some point, however, you need to realize that your story needs to be written, and that all the TV shows, cleaning, and reading of junk mail won’t solve your procrastination problem. Is there a better time for you to write other than the evenings or weekend?  Could you stay a little after work and write at your desk?  Could you go to a local bookstore, library, or coffee shop with fewer distractions, turn off your phone, and write there? 

Also remember that all the shows, movies, and other things that you use as tools of procrastination will still be there when you’re done writing.  And you’ll feel better when you do finally sit down to watch because you’ve accomplished your writing tasks for the day.

Sometimes the Procrastination Resolution (sounds like the title of an episode of The Big Bang Theory) comes by changing environments and limiting the distractions.  By subtracting your distractions, you then give yourself and your brain the freedom to get down to business and write.

Now it’s time for me to stop procrastinating and write some new posts for the coming weeks!

Happy writing, and I’ll see you next week!

Writing Tip of the Week: Silencing Negativity [Repost]

Let’s talk about negativity. Primarily, negativity when it comes to writing.  We oftentimes have a tendency to get mired in negative self-talk, especially when it comes to our own creativity.  Are we talented enough?  Will anyone want to read this?  What about the negativity swamp of social media or bad reviews? 

And these can often creep into our thoughts even before we’ve even started writing!  What a headache!

I sometimes do this when it comes to my writing.  I put a lot of unjust pressure on myself to write a pitch-perfect and flawless first draft. When you put that type of pressure on yourself, do you know what happens?  You don’t write.  You do anything else because what’s the point of writing if it’s not perfection?

Well, guess what?  I’m not perfect.  And the first draft of anything shouldn’t be expected to be perfection, either.  The best way to overcome the negative voice inside your head is to start writing and shut it up.  Keep this in mind: no one has to see that first draft.  You can present it to other eyes when you feel it’s ready.  Why do you care if it’s 100% perfect?  You’re going to fix it later, and you can’t re-write anything until you write it in the first place.

If you have the will and the desire to write and to tell stories to others than do it.  Even if you believe you aren’t skilled or talented in creative writing, practice can only improve your skills in the long run. Look at any published author’s work and know that at some point they probably were feeling exactly what you are now. And they worked through it, accomplished their goal, and kept on writing.  You can do that, too!

At the time of the writing, there are an estimated 7.7 billion people on the planet.  Even if only 1% of those people like your writing, that’s 7.7 million people.  And if you’re selling an eBook for $2.99 and get 70% of that, you would make $16 million dollars (before A LOT of taxes are taken out, of course)!  So, don’t worry about whether or not there’s an audience for what you write.  There are billions of people who crave good stories, great characters, and exciting dialogue.  Give those people a story to tell their friends about!

As for social media, we all know the pitfalls of that swampy underbelly of the world wide web.  It exists.  But just because someone doesn’t like what you wrote, that doesn’t mean that everyone does.  It’s a big world.  Think about it this way:  that one negative comment or review in the grand scope of the world’s population is equal to 0.00000000012987% of people who don’t like your writing. Seems pretty tiny when you look at it like that, doesn’t it? 

Remember that if someone doesn’t like your book, your poem, you video, etc, you are under no obligation to engage with them, and also know that a lot of people troll other people’s creative works because they get a rise out of it.  I’ve seen downvotes on YouTube videos about puppies! How is that even possible???!!

So, take a deep breath, exhale, and let the creativity flow in and the negativity flow out.  You have the idea, now make it a reality. 

You can do this.

Writing Tip of the Week: The Importance of Conflict in Your Story

People generally do all they can to avoid Conflict in their everyday lives. We will often go to great lengths to stay out of situations that make us uncomfortable, make us confront an issue, or even deal with someone who makes us feel anything but peaceful. For the most part, humans prefer a sense of neutrality.

But not in fiction.  

Fiction requires Conflict as an essential ingredient to make a narrative move forward. There has to be something or someone driving the protagonist to act; to get them out of their neutral state and make them work toward a goal that looks impossible to achieve on the surface.

Let’s explore a little about Conflict and its role in fiction.

Conflict = Dramatic Tension

Your protagonist wants something. Another character wants something else. Only one of them can get what they want in the scene or chapter. And so, this Conflict creates Dramatic Tension between the two characters, and – hopefully – the Conflict and dramatic tension pique the audiences’ interest. Who will get what they want? How will they negotiate to get what they want? What are they willing to do or say to achieve their goal?  

Watch any film or TV show, and you will see this played out on either a small or a larger level. If you watch Law & Order: Special Victims Unit – or most procedurals – you can see this play out in almost every scene. There is a conflict between the detectives over how to interrogate a suspect. There’s Conflict between the suspect and the detectives interrogating them. There’s Conflict while a witness is being questioned. All of which creates Dramatic Tension and leaves the audience curious and wanting more.

Comedy is also rife with Conflict. Yes, Dramatic Tension does exist in sitcoms and comedy movies as well. It’s what helps keep the story moving forward and the audience engaged. On I Love Lucy, Lucy Ricardo wants to be in a TV commercial. Her husband, Ricky, says she can’t do it. A Conflict between the two characters has now been created. It then evolves into Dramatic Tension, which in this case is played for laughs.

Conflict Isn’t Always Good vs. Evil

When we picture Conflict, we think of Batman vs. The Joker or some other large-scale epic showdown between good and evil. But that is not the case. While this is a clear-cut example, conflicts are often between best friends, or kids and parents, or employees and employers.  

Maybe the characters just have a minor disagreement about how to punish their child for their bad behavior. Perhaps it’s a conflict between and father and son over what type of first job the son should apply for. Small conflicts between characters that aren’t an explosive battle of wills destroying Gotham City can be just as impactful, just as exciting, and just as engaging.

Conflict Should Be Organic

The source of the Conflict that occurs should have sense and logic to it within the story you are telling. Have you ever watched an action movie where a car chase or bar fight just happens for no reason? If there’s no reason for the Conflict to arise, it feels forced and out of place.

All characters want or need something. When your characters each want something different, a conflict is formed. In Avengers: Infinity War, Thanos wants the Infinity Stones to achieve his goal. The Avengers have an opposing goal: stop Thanos from acquiring the Infinity Stones. It’s a basic conflict, but it makes sense and is logical within the confines of the story being told.

There should be a reason for Conflict to exist at that moment in the story. If there’s no conflict present, figure out why and what’s causing a lack of Conflict between the characters involved. At the same time, don’t force Conflict to happen. If you cut the scene or chapter, would it impact the story?  

Conflict Ups the Stakes for the Protagonist

Imagine a story where nothing goes wrong for the protagonist. No matter what, everything goes right. Now, take that same character on her way to a big job interview, when someone runs into her, shoves a device in her hand, and seconds later, the office building she was headed to explodes and collapses. As she comes back to the reality of the chaos around her, she discovers there’s a detonator in her hand. Her fingerprints are all over it. Someone notices the device in her hand and calls out. Panicked, she gets up and runs.

She’s now wrongly accused of blowing up a building that she was headed to, with her fingerprints on the detonator and people screaming that she caused the explosion.

Talk about Conflict and Upping the Stakes!

While this is an extreme example, giving the protagonist a – even to them – life and death situation to deal with gives them motivation to achieve a goal despite the odds. Katniss in The Hunger Games ups the stakes on herself when she volunteers to take her sister’s place in the games. The stakes continue to mount as the games continue, and she must do all she can to survive—plenty of Conflict.

In Legally Blonde, Elle Woods wants to go to Harvard Law School. Based on what we know about Elle at this point in the film, even we think she’s creating stakes that seem impossible.  

Both The Hunger Games and Legally Blonde show us two strong protagonists actively putting themselves into situations where the stakes could not be higher for either one of them. The stakes up the Conflict, which increases the Dramatic Tension, which keeps the audience engaged.

Internal and External Conflict

Characters can have inner conflicts, wants, needs, desires, and motivations. These can help add dimension to a character and help lead to their growth and arc through the narrative.  

External conflicts are opposing forces outside the inner life of the character.  

In Lethal Weapon (1987), Sergeant Martin Riggs is depressed and suicidal (Internal Conflict) after the death of his wife (External Conflict). His new partner, Sergeant Roger Murtaugh, is melancholy about his age and retiring from the LAPD (Internal Conflict). He is not very happy to be saddled with a new partner who’s a live wire (External Conflict). Two characters with conflicting internal and external conflicts then have to face a conflict even larger than them. No wonder the movie was such a hit!

Giving your characters Internal Conflicts that must be dealt with during their External Conflicts is an excellent way to up the Stakes and add to the overall Dramatic Tension.

Creating Conflict between characters in your writing is a fun way to see how your protagonist and others respond to someone entering their space and destabilizing the neutral world they – like all of us in the real world – so desperately desire. Take a few of your characters and write a couple pages of Conflict between them and see if you discover anything new about them.

And, the next time you watch a movie, a TV show, or read a novel, observe what the Conflict is in each scene, what the stakes are, and how those conflicts and stakes lead to the dramatic tension in both the scene and the narrative as a whole.  

Happy writing, and I’ll see you next week!