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Writer’s Mail

November 15, 2022

The first word . . .

Trigger the imagination. A story never belongs solely to you the author

Tuesday evening with Zoomers and Sitters:

TWS writers offered their input on four submissions from their colleagues.

—Kashmira Sheth Kashmira submitted two chapters of Nina Soni, Miserable Traveler. The biggest takeaway was to have a positive title and show more excitement about going to India. Also need some more tension in the story.  

— Larry Sommers “Smile”- Although the factory setting, the violent action, and the tension between the two main characters are interesting, most readers felt that Johnny’s detached state of mind in the immediate aftermath of the slashing was unrealistic and that there needs to be a deeper and more meaningful resolution of the clash.  Thanks, everybody!

— John Schneller A series of scenes were submitted. Most felt the redirection of Nia into an active role offers better potential for her storyline. (You can only do so much when locked up.) Dialogue needs were identified.

— Amber Boudreau

Amber read from the beginning of Chapter 20 of Second Act. Amit didn’t understand the humor at the end of chapter 19 and thought there was a bit too much introspection on the part of the main character. Meanwhile, Kashmira wanted to know about what the main character was thinking at the end of chapter 20. Kashmira and a few others also had to ask if a certain character had died because the way one particular line was written made it sound like they were still alive. 

Who’s up next . . . 

Those wishing to present material on December 6 are:

Judy Cummings
Suzanne Gillingham
Jaime Nelson Noven
Mike Austin
Amit Trivedi
Kashmira Sheth
Amber Boudreau

Every scene in your novel should advance your story or reveal character. Avoid:

  • Throat-clearing—a literary term for a page or two of scene-setting and background before a story or chapter finally really begins. Get on with it.
  • Too much stage direction. Don’t spoon feed the reader every action of every character in every scene. Stick with the heart of the scene and let the reader enjoy deducing the rest.
  • Cliches—this doesn’t apply to just words and phrases but also to clichéd situations: starting your story with the main character waking to an alarm clock; having a character describe herself while looking in a full-length mirror; having future love interests literally bump into each other upon first meeting, etc.
  • Telling what’s not happening—like “He didn’t respond,” “She didn’t say anything,” or “The crowded room never got quiet.” If you don’t say these things happened, the reader will assume they didn’t.

The last word . . .

To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.

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Writer’s Mail

Tuesdays with Story

November 1. 2022

The first word . . .

Know something about the world, and by this I mean the world outside books. This might require joining the marines, or working on an oil rig or a hashslinger at a truck stop in Kentucky. Know what things smell like out there. If everything you write smells like a library, then your prospective audience will be limited to those who like the smell of libraries. From Wordsmithy by Douglas Wilson

To zoom or not to zoom,

Four TWS writers gathered around the table. Others gathered around their screens from the east coast to the Mississippi. Here is some of what was said:

— Larry Sommers “Walt’s Mirror” Jack suggested drawing a parallel between the car mirror Walt broke and the mirrors that were originally installed on the first generation of F-4 fighters, to draw past and present together. John suggested moving material from the third paragraph up to the top of the story. Everyone agreed it was a very incomplete work.  Thanks, everybody.

  • Jamie Nelson Noven  New York After All Chapter 14
  • In this chapter, Jack thought it moved well, but he’d like more description of the place and clothing so that it feels more immersive. We talked about the strangeness of the humor checklist and whether there really is comedy going on at this club. Kashmira wondered what would happen if the clothing was reversed, if people were more dressed up than Charlie expected. Larry thought the tense change worked well and that her mental state reflects well her feeling of aging. We also talked about highlighting her choice of auditorium more. Thanks, everyone!

— Amber Boudreau  Second Act Chapters 17, 18 Amber read from the beginning of chapter 18 of her urban fantasy sequel Second Act, but all the trouble came in chapter 17. Jack wanted a bit more out of the fight scene. Not just description but more noise, especially if our protagonist is having a hard time seeing. Larry and John both recommended edits. Jamie wanted the alpha, Richard, to have another reason for sending our protagonist into harm’s way other than bragging rights. Kashmira wanted a better reason why as well.

  • Kashmira Sheth  Nina Soni, Miserable Traveler Chapter 1
  • Kashmira submitted the first two chapters of Nina Soni, Miserable Traveler. John wanted a more active beginning.  Jack wanted a faster pace and would like to see a Diwali scene later in the story. Larry thought the rain scene in the beginning was a little confusing. Jamie wanted Nina’s age mentioned right at the start of the story. Amber had a few small suggestions and Mike liked the story. Judy sent her comments saying that the plane scene was too long. Thank you all for your comments. 

Who’s up next . . . 

On November 15, here’s who will be presenting:

Kashmira Sheth

Paul Wagner

John Schneller

Amber Budreau

Openings available

Our editor . . .

John Schneller will edit our November issues of Writer’s Mail. He would appreciate your news. Email it to him and he’ll include it in the next issue.

Line Editing | written by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency
Today’s post is the second installment of definitions about different types of editing. If line editing, that means someone “fixing” the craft. Sometimes I receive submissions from authors who need more practice in craft. That’s okay! Even the most experienced authors can improve. However, once we’ve agreed to work together, you’ll know that I believe you have mastered craft and that your work is excellent enough to present to editors. I have listed below the most common areas for improvement I see from newer authors (and sometimes even in published books). I wrote the examples offered. None are either intentionally or unintentionally taken from any published or unpublished work: 1. Too many conversational tags. Maximillian sighed. “I wish you would think more of me before you go about making decisions that will affect our lives, Mimosa,” he said. Mimosa glared at Maximillian. “I will do what I want to do when I want to,” she shot back. Maximillian took a swig of his drink before answering. “In that case, we are through,” he declared. 2. Conversational tags that are too detailed. Unneeded adverb: “If only you loved me as much as I love you,” Sebastian told Verona sadly. Sarcasm (or other speaker emotion) is noted when the reader should intuit the context: “Well, Roxanna, you did get up at five this morning; wash four loads of laundry; iron Dwight’s oxford-cloth shirts; go to spin class; cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner for six people; work on your novel; and teach school. I don’t understand why you’re tired,” Midge said sarcastically. 3. Conversational tags that aren’t doing the right job or doing the job right. “Give me the gun!” said Dorian. Try: “Give me the gun!” shouted Dorian. “Hand over the package or else!” said Axel. Try: “Hand over the package or else!” threatened Axel. “I don’t like you,” hissed Tawny. Instead, use hissing sounds with, “You slithering snake!” hissed Tawny. 4. Too much unnecessary description of places. When I started writing novels, an editor rightly suggested that I avoid too much travelogue. This tendency is tough to tame when a writer is excited about a recent trip. When writing a description, ask yourself how much the reader needs to know to feel the sense of place enough to believe the story. Accuracy is foremost. Be sure not to have wildflowers blooming at the wrong time of the year for the area, for example. 5. Asking the reader to invest too much emotion in a character who ultimately doesn’t matter to the story. If, as an author, you are giving too much time to a character, ask yourself why. Why has this character captured your imagination? Does the character need her own story? 6. Offer description as appropriate through logical characters. From a detective: The redhead with brown roots and freckles looked innocent enough, but he placed her on his mental list of suspects. From a love interest: Her long, auburn hair shone in the sunlight. Adorable freckles sprinkled her face as a testimony to long summer days spent on the lake. Can you think of other ways to improve your craft?

The last word . . .

Courage does not always roar. Sometimes it is the quiet voice at the end of the day that says, “I will try again tomorrow.”

Writer’s Mail

Tuesdays with Story
10/4/22

The first word . . .

From the beginnings of literature, poets and writers have based their narratives on crossing borders, on wandering, on exile, on encounters beyond the familiar. The stranger is an archetype in epic poetry, in novels. The tension between alienation and assimilation has always been a basic theme.

Jhumpa Lahiri

Tuesday evening. . .

Seven TWS writers attended October 4 meeting.  

Suzanne Gillingham (Kaleidoscope, Chs. 1-2) The characters were interesting and for the most part likable. The first chapters had too much telling and not enough showing with too much info dumping though there were areas that needed more explanation, for example, souls vs emotions. Also needed was a conflict set-up. 

Bob Kralapp (Logical Realities of World)
(Logical Realities of the World, short story) The major observation was that the story felt unfinished, and left the reader with far too many unanswered questions. Judy suggested that the opening paragraph needed to be broken into shorter paragraphs for ease of reading. Amber commented on the tension generated in the concluding scene. Thanks one and all for the excellent comments.

Kashmira Sheth (Journey to Swaraj, Chs 26-27) Over all the comments were positive. John had suggestion to change the last sentence and also take out one trivial sentence. Judy pointed out to one verb that needed to be changed. Judy also asked about theme of the book. Amber said the story was coming of age. Larry suggested defining the word “swaraj” (self-rule) earlier in the story. We also talked about “theme” in general. Bob doesn’t start with a theme, Larry does. I have quotes about theme in this newsletter. Thank you.

Judy Cummings (A Real Hero, Chs. 3-5) In general, everyone liked the character’s voice and felt the plot was moving along well. Larry suggested putting the protagonist’s name and age earlier in the manuscript, along with correcting the use of military salutations.  Amber pointed out some confusion with unclear dialogue tags and John recommended tightening up the language in a few places.  Thanks for the feedback.

Larry F. Sommers ) Lost in the Woods) Larry F. Sommers, “Lost in the Woods”:  Everybody liked the general tone. A couple of “cute” bits in dialog could have been left out. Judy refused to believe that in eight years of marriage Genie had learned nothing of Gus’s personal history. There were some thoughts that the old man, Carl, may have reached out to Gus by letters or by sending woodcarvings.  Otherwise, it’s hard to see Gus’s motivation for re-establishing contact. Thanks for lots of constructive thoughts, everybody.

Presenter for our next meeting on October 18:

Amber Boudreau

Kashmira Sheth

Judy Cummings

Suzanne Gillingham

Please note that we still have two spots open.

The last word . . .On themes from the writing master class.

  1. 1. Put your characters in conflict with one another. Most themes center on controversial ideas that are a source of conflict for human beings. By putting your characters in conflict, you’ll create more opportunities for actions, choices, and conversations that enable them, and your readers, to tackle your theme head on.
  2. 2. Reinforce your theme with motifs. A motif is a recurring image or detail that highlights the central ideas in a story through repetition. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, for example, Gatsby’s constant, lavish parties emphasize the theme of excess, materialism, and the pursuit of the American dream. Use motif to shed additional light on the theme and also give readers a reminder of its existence.
  3. 3. Represent your theme with symbols. Symbols are objects, characters, or settings that are used to represent something else (while, again, supporting the theme). A symbol may appear one time, or be present throughout the story. In The Great Gatsby, a green light symbolizes Gatsby’s dream for a better life with Daisy. In the beginning of the book, he reaches toward it; in the end, it seems unreachable.

Writer’s Mail

Tuesdays With Story

September 20, 2022

First Word…

“There is a basin in the mind where words float around on thought and thought on sound and sight. Then there is a depth of thought untouched by words, and deeper still a gulf of formless feelings untouched by thought.

—Zora Neale Hurston (1891–1960) American author, anthropologist, and filmmaker.

Last Tuesday Evening with Tuesdays With Story…

Six TWS writers met via Google Meet to discuss the works submitted. Here is a summary of what was said:

—Jaime Nelson Noven (New York After All, Chs. 7-9) …Bob enjoyed the cinematic opening. Kashmira suggested getting more insight into her thoughts as she approaches. John suggested adding tension during this scene and in the dorm room. Amber noted that the teaser “after everything” is a good opportunity for backstory, since it doesn’t work well as foreshadowing. Judy recommended showing us something in the scene that “doesn’t feel right” instead of just saying it. Kashmira also suggested extending the scene to see her hesitate over her big decision in the end of the chapter. Thanks, everyone!

Amber Boudreau (Second Act, Chs. 13-14) …Amber read from the beginning of chapter 13 of her novel Second Act. Overall people seemed to like the chapters, but they thought there could have been more tension especially when the three characters go out for a meal. As John pointed out, we trust two of the characters, so the way to introduce tension would be with the third. Jamie wondered if the sound of the packing peanuts would drive a werewolf with sensitive hearing to distraction. Judy wondered how in control of his wolf the main character is. Answer: very. John wondered if the packing peanuts might have been tampered with.

Judy Cummings (A Real Hero, Chs. 1-2 and panels 1-8 of comic The Adventures of Captain Tharros) …In general, the group thought the protagonist’s voice was authentic and consistent with that of an 11-year-old boy. Amber questioned whether the name Captain Tharros might be too similar to the villain of the Marvel series. Jamie thought it wise to not feature the comic book too often between chapters, consistent with advice Judy received from an editor recently. Kashmira suggested further research on whether or not it’s appropriate to give art suggestions in the comic book sections, as this is typically not done with other types of manuscripts. Thanks for the feedback, everyone.

Kashmira Sheth (Journey to Swaraj, Chs. 24-25) …Kashmira submitted chapter 24-25 of JTS. Jaime felt that there was urgency in these chapters. Judy felt that chapter 24 had too much information in the beginning that readers might skim over. John suggested using metaphor for the death of 10 million people. Bob pointed out that characters have grown. Amber liked the present tense and wondered if Mayur and Jasubhai would return. 

Here’s who’s up on October 4…

Judy Cummings (A Real Hero, Chs. 3,4 and panels of comic The Adventures of Captain Tharros)

Suzanne Gillingham (Kaleidoscope)

Bob Kralapp (Logical Realities of the World, short story)

Kashmira Sheth (Journey to Swaraj, Chs. 24-26)

Our Editor for October…

Kashmira Sheth takes on Writer’s Mail for the next two issues. She is always on the lookout for good things to include, so if you have something you want her to include, do email it to her.

In Other News… 

Kashmira’s fifth book in the Nina Soni series will come out on October 18th, 2022. Here is the first review from Kirkus:

Nina, who enjoys making lists and sometimes has trouble focusing, is an earnest protagonist with classic worries about sometimes-intricate levels of friendship. Snow good! (Kirkus Review)

She also did a podcast with Reading With Your Kids.

The link is: https://traffic.libsyn.com/readingwithyourkids/Kashmira_Sheth.mp3

Last Word…

Everything is held together with stories. That is all that is holding us together, stories and compassion.

Barry Lopez (1945-2020) American author, essayist and nature writer.

Writer’s Mail

Tuesdays With Story

September 6, 2022

First Word…

“The important thing is not to offer any specific hope of betterment but, by offering an imagined but persuasive alternate reality, to dislodge the mind, and so the reader’s mind from the lazy, timorous habit of thinking that the way we live now is the only way we can live. – Ursula Le Guin, Paris Review, Art of Fiction, No 221

Tuesday evening…

Jack Frieburger (Three poems) Rende Moi:  Fluff at this point, but may eventually become a poem.

Je Suis Charlie:  Some phrasing was appreciated. Larry saw moral equivalence, which was not intended. I suggest Baader was correct in that there are no innocents, but the romance and high principle of terrorism is not what the person in the street feels. But there is the suspicion of those not of the same race, class, etc., that pervades the west.

Would that we could be Innocents.

Barbara Salisbury is either coming along or as far as I can take it. Previous readers saw an improvement.

Kashmira Sheth (Journey to Swaraj, Chs. 21-23) Kashmira submitted chapters 21-23 of JTS. There were some questions about how Dadima’s death would make Veena think of certain issues like fighting for freedom as well as British rule. There are few things that need rearranging. Also comment about expanding one critical scene to make it stand out more. One phrase was overused. Thanks everyone for your input. 

Bob Kralapp (Two poems) General response to Aria centered on its being warm and comforting, creating a feeling of peace. Larry liked the simile used in depicting the destitute man in Holborn Station. A few readers had questions about the choice of words used to characterize the narrators’ reaction to the man. Kashmira noted the haunting nature of the poem. Thanks for all comments.

Amber Boudreau (Second Act, Chs. 10-12) Amber read from the beginning of Chapter 12, the last of three chapters she sent to the group. (Apparently, we should only send 15 pages or so. Amber hastily makes a mental note). Everyone seemed to agree that chapters 11 and 12 were where things really picked up and started to move along. Larry suggested compressing Chapter 10 and saying the same thing, but with 75% of the words. Jamie has found the tension taking a roller coaster ride in these first chapters, but seems prepared to buckle herself in for whatever’s next. Paul wondered if werewolves could get fleas. Larry found the time it takes for our main character to change into a wolf fascinating at a whopping twenty-two minutes. 

Larry F. Sommers (Brothers, Ch. 1 rewritten, Hal view – possible opening chapter of a WWII novel) Jack and others thought the previous version, written from Jag’s viewpoint, was more robust and straightforward. Suzanne and others liked the Hal viewpoint. Point for the Hal viewpoint: Introduces the character from an internal viewpoint. Point for the Jag viewpoint: Hal will disappear for a while; better to start with a character we can follow for a few chapters and then go back to Hal.  Thanks, everybody.

Who’s up Next?

John Schneller (Precious Daughter, unnumbered chapter)

Jaime Nelson Noven (New York After All, chapters 7-9)

Judy Cummings (???)

Amber Boudreau (Second Act, chapters 13,14)

Kashmira Sheth (Journey to Swaraj, chapters 24-26)

New Members to TWS…

An invitation went out, courtesy of Jaime Nelson Noven, for anyone interested in joining TWS. Judy Cummings, Gregory Renz, Suzanne Gillingham, Mike Kern and Cheryl Vickroy answered the call. Welcome!

Last Word…

The challenge is to write about real things magically.” – Raymond Chandler

Writer’s Mail

Tuesdays with Story
7/10/22

The first word . . .

“At the most basic we are only discussing a learned skill, but do we not agree that sometimes the most basic skills can create things far beyond our expectations? We are talking about tools and carpentry, about words and style…but as we move along, you’ll do well to remember that we are also talking about magic.”

–Stephan King, On Writing

Tuesday evening. . .

Six TWS writers came together on Tuesday to share their works. Here’s the conversation:

Bob Kralapp  Jaime liked the sequence where Katherine is almost clipped by the Mercedes, then thinks through the incident later at the grocery store. Mike felt the story is only partially resolved since the pistol is still in the bedpost. There were several comments that some of the longer sentences later on in the story could be broken up into shorter ones. Thanks all for the excellent comments.

Kashmira Sheth Kashmira submitted two chapters of Journey to Swaraj.

Larry had a couple of comments regarding certain metaphors and phrases. Overall, he thought it flowed nicely. Jaime wanted a little more time to go by in the cart before Veena reached home from helping her brother. Bob wanted a little more information about the salt marsh, the leaders’ involvement, and its significance. Mike wrote that he enjoyed the chapters. He did find Mrs. Bibra too kind. 

Thank you all.

Jaime Nelson Noven  Chapter 1… Kashmira enjoyed the world-building but could use some clarity on the sequence of actions happening. Larry enjoyed the tension caused by the character’s lack of sleep. Jack made suggestions for cutting long sentences into smaller ones, as well as adding some more scene-building sentences. Bob also thought the chapter could go a little longer. We all wondered whether the alcohol business would have gotten better as things got worse or whether the vodka would really be made out of fermented squash from a rotting Jersey. Amit noted that the somewhat disembodied voice of Alexei speaking to Nathan from below reminded him of Alexa, which made for an amusing image. Thanks, everyone!

Amit Trivedi  (If Not For The Partition, chapter 1) The group felt it was an improvement from the previous version. Babubhai illness has to be developed more. The importance of books and Kedar leaving needs to be explained.  Slowing down pacing will also help. Explain  Rangoli. Otherwise it seems it’s a police officer!

Larry F. Sommers Early passages from memoir Good Enough–There were various suggestions for word order and flow in the opening section (1948). Kashmira and others felt I, the narrator, could have been more active in seeking to play with the electric train. The final scene, being evicted from my second-grade teacher’s house, needs a bit more specification of the circumstances and elaboration of the impact. Thanks, all.

July 19,  here’s who’s on deck

So far, we have only three. There is room for more. If interested, please let Larry know. Thanks.

Kashmira Sheth

Amit Trivedi

Larry F. Sommers

???

???

Our editor

Amit will edit the July issues of Writer’s Mail. If you have something, do email it to Amit.

The last word . . .

“The first draft of everything is shit.”

                                                                                                                      —Ernest Hemingway 

Writer’s Mail

Writer’s Mail

Tuesdays With Story

June 7th Meeting

First Word…

“I write to discover what I know.”
― Flannery O’Connor

Tuesday evening…

Larry, Jack, Kashmira, Jaime, Daniel and Bob met via Zoom to discuss the works submitted. Here is a summary of what was said:

Dan Culhain (A Grand Thing, chapters 3 and 4) … Dan submitted two chapters from his work-in-progress. In general, he received more feedback on the Aikken chapter than the Nellie chapter. Kashmira thought there were some opportunities to better show Aikken’s mental state vs. telling. John offered a couple of wording suggestions related to how Aikken would perceive the sudden presence of the strangers. Jack wanted to see more of Aikken up front to invest the reader more in the character. Also, the Aikken chapter seemed to jump around a bit and could use some arrangement.

—Larry F. Sommers (“Sketches,” experimental early chapters of memoir) … Discussion centered around the contrasting and complementary roles of juvenile vs. adult narrator voice in different sections. It was illuminating and informative. I will go and try to make it better. Thanks, all.

Kashmira Sheth (Journey to Swaraj, chapters 14-16) … Kashmira submitted three chapters of Journey to Swaraj. Jack wanted sentences to be shortened in the part when Veena confronts the police officer. Jamie asked about the turban and how it came undone. John wanted to know how quickly the brother disappeared and reappeared. Overall the comments were positive. Thank you all.

Jaime Nelson Noven (New York, After All, chapter 3)… We talked this week about world-building, and Dan brought into question if the population is dwindling, why does she pay for rent, and why would the city build a new train? Larry would almost like to see this as chapter 1. Kashmira enjoyed the slow build and the character relationships. Bob enjoyed the tone, texture, and imagery of the chapter. John brought into question the connotation of a toucan’s beak (as being long more so than curved). Jack was concerned the narrative voice may be dulling the scene, and that the narrator should notice more than the characters do. Dan pointed out that Charlie needs to think about her missing book in this chapter since it’s so important to her and the plot. Thanks, everyone!

Who’s up Next?

The only definite presenters so far for June 21st are:

Kashmira Sheth               Journey to Swaraj

Bob Kralapp                    Storm, revised ending

That leaves several slots open if anyone has something to submit for the next meeting.

Interview…

On June 1st, Amber Boudreau appeared as a guest on The Author Blurb Podcast, hosted by E. A. Maynard. Some of the talking points include finding a supportive writer’s group, the slippery conventions of the genre, and the sometimes disconnect between the writer’s intentions and the reader’s expectations. This interview can be seen here

Last Word…

That’s my only defense against this world: to build a sentence out of it.— Jim Harrison

Writer’s Mail

Tuesdays With Story

May 17th Meeting

“Remember, a writer writes, always.”—Billy Crystal, Throw Momma from the Train.

Five of us, Daniel, Kashmira, Bob, Jaime, and Mike, got together for Tuesday’s meeting to discuss and offer suggestions for the three submissions. Here are the summaries:

Kashmira submitted two chapters of Journey to Swaraj. Mike and Jaime said they enjoyed the metaphors that were grounded in Veena’s world. Jamie had a question about the chapter 12th ending. Daniel felt that Veena’s paranoia could be better presented and Bob wanted more details about the mob scene. Thanks all for your comments.

Mike submitted a new version of his short story, Roger. Bob missed the post-funeral dinner scene in the re-write, but liked young Roger’s wondering about the baby being lonesome. Kashmira suggested that the ending should show more transformation or resolve from Roger. Daniel thought that Roger lost some kindness in this version. Thanks, everyone for your helpful comments!

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Writer’s Mail

Tuesdays with Story

May 3rd Meeting

“Writing is like sex. First you do it for love, then you do it for your friends, and then you do it for money.”
–Virginia Woolf

Well, let’s just hope we don’t get as cynical as that.

Mike

Seven of us Zoomed in on Tuesday to share their writings to offer suggestions and comments on writing. Here are the summaries from the writers:

Jaime Nelson Noven (New York, After All, chapter 2)… Most writers agreed the chapter is working well in both introducing the characters and providing intrigue. For Bob, the detail of the chocolate on the breath of the nurse made the scene really come to life. Kashmira suggested that instead of telling Charlie’s intentions in the last line, I can show this by having her hesitate putting on her reading glasses. Thanks, all!

Amber Boudreau Amber read from the beginning of chapter 6 of her sequel, Second Act. Jaime seemed to take immense pleasure in deleting sentences and Amber can’t wait to see what she got rid of. John, who wasn’t with us last time, said he didn’t immediately like Jeremy as much as he did Mavis. Jaime suggested mentioning a role Jeremy didn’t get as a way to perhaps endear him to the reader. Bob wondered if Jeremy isn’t on the autism spectrum. Spoiler: he’s not. Kashmira was looking for a little more reaction from Jeremy concerning his old pack. 

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Writer’s Mail

Tuesdays with Story
April 19, 2022

The first word . . .

In selecting the starting point and ending point for your story, it will help “if you will remember the following facts about readers:

  1. They are fascinated and threatened by significant change;
  2. They want the story to start with such a change;
  3. They want to have a story question to worry about;
  4. They want the story question answered in the story ending;
  5. They will quickly lose patience with everything but material that relates to the story question.”

– Jack M. Bickham, Scene and Structure, p. 7 (1993).

Tuesday evening April 19, 2022

Six TWS writers came together over Zoom and in person this week to review the works-in-progress of four of their colleagues and offer insights and critiques. Here is a summary of what was said:

— Mike Austin (“Roger”) … “Roger” was very well received. I had concerns that it might be too depressing, but that didn’t seem to be a problem. Some areas that could use fleshing out were the things that have alienated his family from him, such as his affair and his mocking of his son’s religion. I also should clarify Angie’s comment about not being able to afford an emergency room. (And along those lines, it occurred to me that if Angie had a job at the university, she’d have insurance. So I might have to give her a different job.) There was a little brawling, though no bloodshed, thanks to Zoom, about whether the structure could be changed so that the story begins with Roger waking in the waiting room, contemplating the events leading up to his being there, or if it should remain linear. I did find the idea of beginning in the waiting room appealing. Hm. Thanks to everyone for your comments and suggestions.  

Dan Culhane (A Grand Thing To Be An Afternoon, Ch. 2) Dan submitted chapter 2 in which we are introduced to Nellie, Oren, and Jacob and start to see the world of MY026. Dan received some very helpful feedback on the mechanics of the chapter, including on the opening description of the scene and the purpose of certain section breaks. A universal agreement against the use of parenthesis was duly noted. The piece succeeds in introducing characters that are engaging and get people to care about their relationships. However, the narration needs some attention in places to avoid the voice of the narrator sneaking into Nellie’s internal dialogue. All very helpful feedback and much appreciated.

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