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Writer’s Mail

Writer’s Mail
Tuesdays with Story
December 7, 2018

At Alicia Ashman, the branch library in the small conference room:

 Present on December 4 were Larry Sommers, Millie Mader, Tracey Gemmell, Jack Freiburger, Lisa McDougal, Cindi Dyke, JohnSchneller, Amit Trivedi, and Amber Boudreau.

Tracey Gemmell (chapter 5, Lavender Wine) . . . “Members treated the chapter kindly. Some questioned the use of ‘skew-whiff’ so this may be a more British word. Larry wanted less emphasis on scooters and Jack suggested changing transportation and transformation usage. Cindi likes the expression ‘accidentally fine.’ Isabella is coming across as a star character. It’s recommended I downplay the ‘goodbye’ scene when Cassie leaves the hotel as it almost seems Isabella’s part is over. Some of the banter needs cutting. Thanks for your input. Thanks also to Larry and Lisa for helping with the book cover blurb for More or Less Annie.”

Kashmira Sheth and Amit Trivedi (chapters 2-3, untitled novel) . . .  “Summary of comments by group: (1) Pay attention to point of view. (2) Define ‘Indian’ words up front. (3) Kedar needs to be a bit more aware of what is going on in the country. Thanks!  Amit.” Continue Reading »

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Writer’s Mail

Writer’s Mail
Tuesdays with Story
November 23, 2018

At Barnes & Noble Westside

For the second meeting in a row, seven writers gathered in the magic circle. They critiqued the work of seven of their colleagues. Here is some of what was said:

Kashmira Sheth and Amit Trivedi (chapter 1, rewrite, untitled novel) . . . Jack would prefer the story open with a wide shot and then had a question about how dark
it was exactly. He also had comments about continuity and breaking up sentences. Jerry thought the story was going to be about the tree. Cindi found the descriptions beautiful, but wondered why they traveled down to the temple and back. Larry and Jack are looking for some symbolic value as they’ve read ahead and know what’s coming. They’re in search of a hook. Continue Reading »

Writer’s Mail

Writer’s Mail
Tuesdays with Story
November 6, 2018

 

At ye olde bookshop

Seven TWS writers gathered around a real table at B&N Westside to work through the submissions of five of their colleagues. Here are some of the comments shared:

Lisa McDougal (chapter 7, The Tebow Family Secret) . . . Jerry felt that this version of Ahna is wimpy. Group suggested Glenn’s more character development. There was so incorrect phrasing issues that needs to be fixed. Visual setting needs to be flushed out more. Overuse of 2 words.

Jack Freiburger (chapter 19, A Walk Upon the Water) . . . The mid part of Lester’s foundation tale seemed well received.  There were a few grammar discussions, use of parenthesis, etc., but readers reported they enjoyed the chapter and the written comments were supportive.   Lester’s first tale will wrap up next meeting and then we will proceed form fantasy to adventure to disaster  as Sean comes back into focus. Continue Reading »

Writer’s Mail

Writer’s Mail
Tuesdays with Story
October 19, 2018

They gathered at the bookstore

John Schneller led 11 TWS members gathered in the writers circle through critiques of the works of seven of their colleagues. Here is some of what was shared:

Lisa McDougal (chapter 6, The Tebow Family Secret): There was some confusion about why Adam gave Jessica a Sprite instead of a beer when she asked (under age). It was suggested that the African mask be made less valuable so that it would be more believable that Adam would have it. Also to rework line about camera being new. Tracey recommended I change the lines from the movie because of copy right issue. Larry thought the ending wasn’t subtle enough.

Millie Mader (Short story, rewrite, “Stone Cold Stripper”): My only contribution is that I’m going to do more rewriting. (sigh!!)

Jack Freiburger (chapter 18, A Walk Upon the Water):

Bob Kralapp (short story, part 1, “Capacity”): Continue Reading »

Writer’s Mail

Writer’s Mail
Tuesdays with Story
October 2, 2018

October gathering

Eight writers came in to critique the work of five of our colleagues. Amber’s ginger snaps kept the evening, well, snappy. Here’s some of what was said:

Jack Freiburger (chapters, A Walk Upon The Water): I sent out a long read for the 4, including Black Ice, which the group had read early on. It was gratifying that while our hero/anti-hero is not necessarily likeable, at least he seems interesting enough to hold the reader’s attention. Larry and others noted that the melt-down scenes struck a chord.

Bob Kralapp (poem, “Passage from a Letter”):

Tracey Gemmell (chapter 4, Lavender Wine): Consensus: the chapter was entertaining and well-written. Isabella still steals the show but Claude is hot on her heels. The chapter answered questions for Meg as to how the children were taking Cassie’s move to France. Larry felt some switching between modes of transportation could be confusing. Cindi also noted poor driving skills on Cassie’s part. This needs clarifying because Isabella was actually driving. Jack noted some missed opportunities to tie Cassie’s emotional state to Isabella’s close shaves with tractors. Many thanks for your help. Continue Reading »

Writer’s Mail

Writer’s Mail
Tuesdays With Story
September 21, 2018

Tuesday evening at B&N

Nine writers circled the chairs on the store’s bargain floor for an evening of ghost stories, lost memories, changing lives, magic, and cauterized wounds. Here is some of what was said in the critiques:

Meg Matenaer (chapter 3, Write in Time) After a lively garbage disposal discussion, the group decided that Marie should drop a thin juice glass into it instead of a thick coffee mug. Jack suggested the line, “The garbage disposal could be reset, but her day could not.” Amber, John, and Jerry noted that the readers know little about the professor. The group was alarmed about John’s (Rueger not Schneller) ear and thought he should be too.

Lisa McDougal (chapters 3-4, The Tebow Family Secret) . . .

Amber Boudreau (chapter 13 rewrite, The Dragoneer) Amber read from Chapter 13 of her novel The Dragoneer which she is deep in the middle of rewriting. John and Jerry enjoyed the piece but had suggestions on switching a few sentences around for clarity and deleting some mundane dialogue.

Mike Austin (short story, “Go Faster”)  I received a lot of really good comments and input for, “Go Faster.” I found that I need to start naming things. John wanted me to name roads and locations, Jerry wanted me to name the beer they’re drinking. There was a brief discussion about fingers tickling, “as light as spider’s feet.” In the end, I was allowed to keep it. Jerry thought I could say “humerus” instead of “arm bone.” Sounds kind of funny to me. Okay, bad pun. I was concerned that the humerus through his chest (Hm. Now I’m starting to like it.) might seem contrived, but was assured that it was not. Thank you, everyone, for the encouraging comments.

Jerry Peterson (short story, part 1 rewrite plus 6 new pages, “Death Rides the Rails”) . . . The scene of Early hunting a rabbit was not serious for Amber Boudreau but a comedy. “Could you add a few more animals?” she asked. John Schneller said a hawk would not attack a man, that another way has to be found to injure Early so the next scene—he cauterizing of his wounds—can be saved.

 

Who’s up next

October 2

Bob Kralapp (???)

Paul Wagner (???)

Larry Sommers (chapter, untitled novel)

Jack Freiburger (chapter, A Walk on the Water)

Cindi Dyke (???)

John Schneller (chapter, Final Stronghold)

Tracey Gemmell (chapters)

 

Fifth Tuesday

As, yes, October 30. And we now have a writing challenge. Here’s the prompt: “A howling good time.”

Your story, in no more than 500 words, doesn’t have to be a Halloween story, but it could be. Figure out where you’re going with the prompt and start writing!

 

Our editor

Tracey Gemmell loves editing our e-newsletter so much that on October 1 she moving back into the chair where she will shepherd the next two issues. Email your good stuff to her.

 

Why you need an inciting incident

From Randy Ingermanson who bills himself as America’s Mad Professor of Fiction Writing:

 

First, let’s define our terms. The inciting incident is some “new thing” in your protagonist’s world. It marks the change that is ultimately going to pull your protagonist into your story. Usually, this is something external to your protagonist, but it’s possible it could be an internal change.
I don’t see a problem with starting the inciting incident in the first two pages of your novel. You can put it pretty much anywhere you want, so long as it’s reasonably early in the story and as long as it works. Some stories start fast out of the gate, and some take longer to get rolling.
I do see a problem with a scene that has no conflict of any kind. Conflict doesn’t get in the way of your reader caring about your protagonist. Conflict is often the reason your reader does care, at least early on. When we see somebody in trouble, we instinctively care about them. We might later stop caring about them if we decide they aren’t worth caring about.
But let’s face it—when somebody’s in trouble, we care. The news concerning twelve young soccer players and their coach in Thailand trapped by rising floodwaters two and a half miles into a cave, made people care. The minute we heard about them, we cared. Because that’s what humans do.
Fiction is about giving your reader a powerful emotional experience whether it is external or internal, conflict is conflict.
Do all scenes require a Goal, Conflict, and Setback? The answer is no. That’s one strategy, and we call that strategy a Proactive Scene. But another strategy is the Reactive Scene, where you have a Reaction, a Dilemma, and a Decision. (For much more on both of those, see my latest book, How to Write a Dynamite Scene Using the Snowflake Method.)
I strongly recommend that all scenes be either Proactive or Reactive. These are solid design patterns that work well and that your readers are already primed to understand. If you have a scene that’s neither Proactive nor Reactive, you should be able to explain to yourself what makes the scene work—why is it giving your reader a powerful emotional experience? And then you should ask whether you can make the scene better by turning it into either a Proactive or Reactive scene. Because usually, you can.
Let’s circle back to the inciting incident. I don’t sweat the exact location of the inciting incident, as long as it’s in the first several chapters. Remember that the inciting incident is not what makes your reader start caring about your story. The inciting incident usually comes much too late for that. Long before your reader reaches the inciting incident, she should already care about your story.
My thinking is that you want to start pulling your reader into your story with a strong first sentence.

 

  1. Followed by a strong first paragraph.
  2. Followed by a strong first page.
  3. Followed by a strong first scene.

 

If you do all that, then it really doesn’t matter when the inciting incident happens, because your reader already committed to the story from the very beginning. The inciting incident just gives your reader words to explain why she’s committed.

Writer’s Mail

Writer’s Mail
Tuesdays with Story
September 7, 2018

 

Our Tuesday evening collect

Ten of your colleagues gathered around the tables – yes, we had tables! – on B&N’s bargain floor Tuesday evening. Here’s some of what was said in the critiques:

Paul Wagner (part 1 rewrite, “Mad Jack”) . . .

John Schneller (chapter 29, Final Stronghold) . . . A great deal of discussion was generated over a dirty rock. While the author limped away from the stoning, he did resolve to make things more clear to the reader instead of explaining himself to the critiquers. Thanks for the input. I think I figured out a way to develop the scene which will make the rock more useful when it shows up again later. The other concerns about the cashbox dynamics also need clarity, but doggone it, the description of the jail cell will  …..o heck, that will probably go also.  Thanks for the comments!  Continue Reading »