Monday’s Manuscript with Barbara M. Britton

Page Turner or Snooze Fest

Do you finish every book you begin? Or do you close a boring book and never reopen it? The opening of a novel can make or break the story. If you’ve heard, “the story gets going on page 30,” then page 30 should have been where the story began.

How do I know first pages are important? Contests ask for the first pages of a story to judge not the middle pages, or the final pages. When I pitched a story to a literary agent (who shall remain nameless), I was shocked that the agent only wanted me to send one page—the first page. One single page? Was the first page really that important. Yes. If a reader or an agent can’t get beyond the first pages of a novel, then the rest of the story won’t be read.

Where does a story start? At the “inciting incident.” I discovered this term in the book “Story” by Robert McKee and it was referenced at a conference by another author. I liked the simplicity. Your story begins when the main character’s life is changed forever, or something happens to the main character that creates the story problem. Your main character can create the problem, too. Who shows up at the door? Who’s on the other end of the phone. What does the main character discover that will set the story in motion? In other words, when does trouble begin? It should happen fast and furious and be filled with enough conflict to carry a novel for several hundred pages. Not a small task.

The author’s taller task is to make the reader like or relate to the main character, so the reader cares about the trouble. Remember the agent who only wanted one page? How do you make your character stand out in a few pages let alone sentences? When I am drafting characters, I think about what makes my character likeable and unique. How will the reader identify with my character? I also make my characters competent. Give your protagonist a skill or ability that sets them apart (Katniss in THE HUNGER GAMES with archery). The skill or ability should help them overcome the trouble that is going to create chaos in their lives.

Not every ability is a physical one. Some of my characters overcome trouble with their phenomenal faith, or their intuition. Those are harder to define than being an expert swordsman but work well in Biblical fiction or Fantasy. David’s faith in God made him confront Goliath. His slinging ability helped him down a giant. Israel’s army had many valiant fighters, but it was David’s sincere love of God that made him volunteer to face a nine-foot warrior.

Remember too, interesting details are engaging. The more specific the details, the better the reader knows your character. Glance at magazines and find an image that looks like your character. What styles are they wearing? Jewelry? Shoes? Habits? Creating a character readers want to hang with will keep them engaged in the story. Anyone remember Kojak? What did the detective suck on while solving cases? A lollipop. It’s been a few decades since the show was on TV, but people remember his quirky habit.

If you’re not sure where to begin a story, sit down and start writing. Later on, go back and have critique partners look at your pages. I’m sure you have heard the adage attributed to Nora Roberts, “You can’t fix a blank page.” The more you think about these things, the more ideas will pop into your head (And I don’t mean lollipop).

Happy “inciting incident” writing!

Barb’s Bio:

Barbara M. Britton was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, but currently lives in Southeast, Wisconsin and loves the snow—when it accumulates under three inches. She writes Christian Fiction for teens and adults. Barb brings little known Bible stories to light in her Tribes of Israel series. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Romance Writers of America and Wisconsin Romance Writers of America. She is published by Harbourlight Books an imprint of Pelican Book Group. Barb has a nutrition degree from Baylor University but loves to dip healthy strawberries in chocolate.

You can find out more about Barb and her books on her website barbarambritton.com, and on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

Barb’s books are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other booksellers.

Monday’s Manuscript with Advice from TEN Award-winning Authors

Writing from the Trenches

Writers are always leaning on each other to learn the craft. Sometimes finding a mentor is hard to do because writers are busy people. When we’re not dealing with every day life, we’re working on the next release. Today, I’m excited to share with you the new book by TEN award-winning authors who have been where you are. They’ve been through the rejections, revisions, edits, critques, marketing and everything else that deals with writing. These ten authors have come together to share their advice and expertise in a new book, Writing from the Trenches. Here’s a sample of the great advice you’ll find:


 Maximizing Use of Beats in Dialogue

guest post by Julie Lessman

Action speaks louder than words. Do you believe it? Well, if you’re an author, you better, because we must use words to convey “action” in a reader’s mind.

 

Maximizing use of “beats” (action) in dialogue ramps up tension, so instead of overuse of speaker attributions (i.e., he said, she said), try a healthy dose of action beats with minimal speaker attributions.

 

1.) ACTION BEATS ALONE ENHANCE DRAMA, especially with only two speakers, allowing less chance for confusion. This excerpt from A Hope Undaunted shows it both ways.

SPEAKER ATTRIBUTION/BEATS:

“Is that all this was between us then?” he said, locking her wrist midair when she tried to slap him. “A little fun while your rich boyfriend was off limits?”

“I never started any of this,” she said, jerking her hand free, “and you know it. It was you.”

“No,” he said, fingers digging in as he pressed her to the counter. “But you sure finished it, didn’t you?”

BEATS ONLY:

She tried to slap him, but he locked her wrist midair with a painful grip. “Is that all this was between us then? A little fun while your rich boyfriend was off limits?”

She jerked her hand free. “I never started any of this, and you know it. It was you.”

His fingers dug in as he pressed her to the counter. “No, but you sure finished it, didn’t you?”

 

2.)ACTION BEATS W/MINIMAL SPEAKER ATTRIBUTIONS CAN ENHANCE EMOTION. In this angry love scene from A Passion Most Pure, I relied heavily on beats (underlined) because speaker attributions can slow the flow of a tense scene. Only two speaker attributions are included (bolded)to drive emotion home with a strong response.

 

She jerked her hand from his and stood, quivering as she caved against the chair.“I can’t marry you, Collin.”

He leaned in.“I know you love me. Can you deny it?”

She didn’t speak and he jumped up, gripping her arms to lift her to her feet.When she wouldn’t look at him, he grabbed her chin.“Look at me! Can you deny you love me?”

She stared through a mist of tears.“Let me go.”

“Tell me you don’t love me.”

“I don’t love you.”

“You’re lying, Faith. I would have thought better of you than that.”

“Well don’t!” she screamed. “I’m not better than that. You’ve said your apologies, Collin, now let me go.”

She tried to turn away. He jerked her back.“I know you love me. Don’t you think I can feel it every time I touch you?” He silenced her with a savage kiss. She struggled to pull free, but he only held her tighter, the blood pounding in his brain. His mouth was everywhere—her throat, her earlobes, her lips—and he could feel the heat coming in waves as she melted against him. She was quivering when he finally let her go.

“You love me, Faith,” he said quietly. “You know it, and I know it. Your heart belongs to me, and nothing can ever change that fact—not Charity, not you, and not your god.”


These examples shed light on just how important “beats” are, not only to good dialogue, but in escalating the romantic tension in a novel as well. And if you’re looking for more ideas to hone your craft, check out Writing From the Trenches: Tips & Techniques From Ten Award-Winning Authors. Here’s a blurb:

TEN-HUT! Gear up for your writing with tried-and-true tips from the trenches. Ten award-winning authors share invaluable tips and secrets they’ve gleaned the hard way, offering a broad range of insights and opinions on the best way to tackle tough subjects such as the following:

Plotting Techniques

Research

Characterization

Villains We Love to Hate

Dynamic Dialogue

Sigh-Worthy Heroes

The Right Heroine for the Job

Hooking Your Reader in the First Chapter

Scene Endings to Lead Your Readers On

Creating a Movie Set

Making your Readers Cry

Deep POV

Copyediting your Manuscript

Indie Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing

Marketing for Those Who Hate Marketing


At last … a writer’s tool that provides the experience and expertise of ten authors who’ve been on the front lines of publishing and lived to teach about it: Connie Almony, Lynnette Bonner, Hallee Bridgeman, Louise Gouge, Michelle Griep, Julie Lessman, Elizabeth Ludwig, Ane Mulligan, MaryLu Tyndall, and Erica Vetsch.

Get your copy today! 

AMAZON          B&N          KOBO

Monday’s Manuscript with Suzy Parish

Advice for Writers

Flowers would not reproduce without bees and as we have seen and heard bees are essential for our vegetables and fruit trees to produce.

Cross-pollination for Writers

cross-pollination

1: the transfer of pollen from one flower to the stigma of another.


My definition of Christian writers promoting Christian writers: CROSS-pollination.

If the flower stays alone, it withers and dies and does not produce seed (fruit.)

If the flower is allowed to CROSS pollinate with other flowers, it provides seed (fruit)

and benefits many.

Alone=Death

CROSS Pollination=Life.

“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” John 12:24 NIV

Enter the humble bee.

He works tirelessly to provide for his hive. He’s working for himself and his queen, but in the process, he unknowingly creates a bounty of flowers, fruits, and vegetables from every bloom he touches.

Just his touch. He doesn’t spend hours at each flower. He alights, then he’s gone. But he’s left behind fruitfulness.

As writers, if we focus on our own marketing solely, we are cheating ourselves and our friends of the blessing of being connected, and increasing fruitfulness.

If we re-tweet and promote other’s books and blogs on social media, we are benefitting readers by providing them with a generous amount of book choices. We introduce them to new authors, and this creates hungry readers! This helps us all. And it only takes a second to re-tweet an author’s message.

If we are generous in promoting others, God honors that. It’s not the reason we do it, we do it without expecting any return, but God in his kindness gives us a harvest.

The humble bee.

Let’s become more like that beautiful creature in our personal and professional lives.

1 Cor. 3:7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their labor. 9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.


Flowers from Afghanistan coming August 10th!

Pre-order your copy today! Amazon.com

 

 

 


About Suzy

Suzy Parish wrote as a Community Columnist for the Huntsville Times and has been published in Splickety Magazine. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW).

Suzy discovered her love of books as a child in Richmond, Virginia when she took refuge from the summer heat in the local Bookmobile. She believes strongly in the power of literacy to improve the lives of individuals and stewards a Little Free Library in a local park.

You can contact Suzy here:

https://suzyparish.com

https://twitter.com/SuzyParish

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17945323.SuzyParish

https://www.instagram.com/suzyparish/

https://www.facebook.com/Parishauthor/

https://www.pinterest.com/suzyparish/