Is There a Time and Place in Your Story?

Setting: Week 6 of Re-visioning Your Story There’s a time and place for . . . time and place in your story. When and where your story takes place gives the reader a reference point, or as Dwight V. Swain calls it, ” a standard for your reader.” Getting the time and place right is like the difference between Sleeping Beauty’s castle and Windsor castle. When revising your manuscript, you’ll want to be certain to read through at least once while focusing on how you reveal the story’s setting. Perhaps you think you don’t need to because “my story takes place in the real world, in a real city, in a real home/office/park.” Whether your story’s world is based in reality or made-up purely from your imagination, your choice of details revealed and withheld in your manuscript can support or destroy your reader’s suspension of disbelief. (And I’m assuming you want to do everything you can to support your reader in this regard.) Setting is a huge topic. In Thanks, But This Isn’t for Us, Jessica Page Morrell calls setting details “a literary Leatherman.” And she gives a long list of things from politics to technology and everything in between […]

As the Plot Turns

Pantser or Planner it makes no difference when you are knee deep in re-visioning your story. The first draft is to get the story down on paper. How you choose to write the story MAKES NO DIFFERENCE. It’s the second draft, the revision, that matters. This is where you take that diamond in the rough and cut away everything that gets in the way of your reader seeing the shining gem inside. In the final analysis, for your story has to have some kind of structure, some thread of a plot, that will keep your reader engaged. Lesson 5: Re-Visioning Your Story More than Just a Beginning, Middle, and End First, let’s agree upon a definition of plot. Wait a minute, you say, everyone knows a plot is: a Beginning, a Middle and an End. Some of you may think you’ll outwit me by quoting a dictionary, such as The American Heritage Dictionary, which says the plot is “the plan of events or main story in a narrative or drama.” I’d argue that plot is more than that. To paraphrase and meld together definitions by Dwight V. Swain, Donald Maass, and Jessica Page Morrell: plot is a series of scenes […]

Do Your Characters Play Well With Others?

Lesson 4: Re-Visioning Your Story While writing the first draft you can allow your characters to ‘’take over’ your story, but not so in revision. During revision you may find that your characters react more than act, are less than focused on their goals, or simply aren’t a good fit for your story. In that case you have some characters that need re-visioning. Every character in your story must be there for a purpose. A story is not like life where you meet random people that appear and disappear without disturbing your world. Every character should serve your story by doing the work of the story. Even in a heavily plot-driven story, your characters must be in the driver’s seat. So how do you make certain your characters are taking charge? With more analysis of your story, of course. Before you read your story this time, you’re going to make a table or an excel spreadsheet. Across the top there should be columns for number, character name, role, traits, relationships, and physical attributes. Number the rows of your table so that you will have a total count of characters when you’ve finished. A Rose By Any Other Name Sorry Shakespeare, […]