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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.

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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!  (more…)

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Writer’s Mail for May 14, 2012
by Jen Wilcher

Blending in with the students preparing for finals, five of us gathered at Barnes & Noble for critiquing and fun.

Up first, Terry Hoffman read from The Great Tome. Carol liked the improvements with the library scene, but would have liked some physical manifestations of the emotional pain Rachel surely must have suffered upon seeing the other children. Jen wanted to know why Rachel didn’t defend herself with the truth when Doug confronted her about not answering her phone – it was in the car. And Jack thought Doug made a bit of a leap in connecting Rachel’s disappearance to her messing with the book again. Andrea suggested letting the conversation move toward that – go from anger and worry about her being late to discovering she has the book again. Also felt that Rachel’s reactions were kind of child-like. These are both adults, here. Carol liked the hiding place for the book.

Jack Freiburger contemplated theology with Jesus and a cup of coffee in Jesus at the IHOP. There was some concern about being able to follow the time jumps which are both reflected by Johnny waking up. Terry said she had no trouble following it. Carol pointed out that the use of the month of “May” wouldn’t be likely, given the time period. Spring, perhaps. Terry and Andrea weren’t sure about the reasoning behind Jesus stealing Johnny’s coffee, but Carol liked the idea of him being a bit of a thief.

Carol Hornung read the next scene of Sapphire Lodge, which was a bit of an information dump. Jack said getting through the information would be more fun if it was funnier – give Finley a chance to play around with words and joke a bit. Terry felt that Finley is a little too eager to give up information. Make him a bit more coy, make Saffi work harder to get the information out of him. Andrea pointed out the too-frequent mentions of “sadness.” Need to cull that out a bit. Refocus on Finley – he’s lost part of his memory, and he has to be frustrated at that. That frustration would probably come through as snarkiness. (more…)

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