Posts Tagged ‘creativity’

When A Story Starts

January 11th, 2017 • by Karen A. Chase • No Comments

once_upon_a_time_lccn98518274A dear friend of mine was struggling to choose when to begin her novel. Not when to begin writing, but when, in the timeline of her protagonist’s struggle, her story should begin.

One method we discussed was outlined in Syd Field’s book, Screenplay, The Foundations of Screen Writing. If the chronological timeline of a story are points along a line, numbered 1 through 10, we can begin with a glimpse of number 9 (the denouement), and then return to number 1 and write the rest in order. In All Is Lost we first see Robert Redford drifting in despair without his sailboat, then we are taken back and shown everything preceding it. The result? We know what’s coming before the protagonist does, but neither of us knows if by number 10 he will sink or swim, so we stick around to find out.

In a book I recently picked up, Wired For Story, the author Lisa Cron discusses the importance of starting your novel or script for the greatest neurological impact. Humans (readers) are hard-wired to hear/need stories. When tales begin, we want to be drawn in to know whose story it is, what’s happening, and what’s a stake. In Albert Camus’, The Stranger, this is accomplished with just three words. “Mother died today.” The child will be somehow affected by a death. I want to read on.

And that, my fellow writers, is the goal that ultimately my friend and I agreed upon. We strive to begin our books so it increases our readers’ curiosity to such a pitch they must keep reading.

There are countless articles that share countless ways on when and how to begin, (this one from Writer’s Digest illustrates 10 Ways to Begin). When or where have you decided to begin?

Research & Writer’s Block

February 5th, 2016 • by Karen A. Chase • 1 Comment
Writers block means going back to the books. (Public Domain Image: Ivan Kramskoy. Reading woman.)

Writers block means going back to the books. (Public Domain Image: Ivan Kramskoy. Reading woman.)

Writers often dread the idea of becoming stuck, and Writer’s Digest (WD) has a great post this week about 5 Tips for Overcoming Writer’s Block.

I’ll admit that I’m not a big believer in writer’s block as this staring-at-a-blank-page, drink-in-hand, woe-to-the-tortured-Hemingway-like-writer syndrome. Much like the WD article author, Molly Cochran, I think the reasons for why writers might stall are pretty straightforward. And Molly’s tips are a great help for overcoming those problems.

But I will add to her list a sixth reason, and it’s primarily for all the historical novelists out there. Lack of preparation or research.

I write what I call “Factual Fiction,” whereby my plot, story and characters are not loosely set in history but intrinsically tied to real events, people and places. So if I am having difficulty with my plot, or what my characters are doing or saying, it’s because I simply don’t know enough about the event, person or place with which they must interact.

To overcome those moments when words come to a screeching halt, I read (or sometimes reread) about an event. I take out pictures of the locations I’m featuring, or I read second-hand accounts or bios about the person they’re speaking to. Once, I had to request a historian’s dissertation from a California university to overcome a lack of information.

Usually within an hour, or in that one case a couple weeks, I’m humming along with ideas again. No more writer’s block. Then my only problem becomes whether or not I’ve blocked off enough time to write.

Sponsored Writing

January 30th, 2015 • by Karen A. Chase • No Comments
Image courtesy of WikiMedia Commons. Another contributor to my writing...

Image courtesy of WikiMedia Commons. Another contributor to my writing…

I recently read this article about Ann Bauer’s writing life being sponsored by her husband. It proves my point that while writing is a solitary job, being an author is not.

True, my Ted helps to pay the bills–just as I worked to support him as he started a new practice a few years ago. But the money for groceries or electricity doesn’t fuel me nearly as much as his arms do. He’s not alone either.

If it were not for Leslie and Susie and others feeding me paying copy jobs, I could not have paid the editor who fixed what I could not see. If it were not for those clients who changed schedules so I could attend writing conferences, I would not now be presenting at them. My parents, historians, and my friends gave time as first readers. The baker on the corner occasionally gives me free coffee… An author thankfully introduced me to her (and now my) agent…

To my count, roughly 250 people have contributed in some way over these last six years. Financially, physically, intellectually and/or emotionally.

The better lesson from Ann Bauer’s article is to be gracious. Have some humility. Appreciate your talent, but appreciate those around you who give you time to exercise it.

Then honor them by putting your head down to write. Write well. And finish the book. I’m off to do just that.…