Writing in a Nutshell: 9 Story Musts! (an excerpt from my forthcoming how-to, Writing in a Nutshell)

One: Action!  Hero in action, ruthlessly pursuing a meaningful goal; antagonists actively standing in the way of the onrushing hero; writer in action, channeling the story, staying out of head and experiencing from the heart; prose in action, show the reader; reader in action, receiving and experiencing the story. Two: Bloody Knuckles! Also known as “skin in the game” or “a dog in this fight.”  To write a story that allows readers/viewers to fully experience the hero’s journey can only be done if you write Continue reading →

Writing 101: The Mountain as Metaphor

Not many of us wake in the morning and think: “I’m going to climb Mt. Everest.” Ascending a twenty-nine-thousand-foot peak requires a skillset hardened by years of dedication and training. The same holds true for writing a book. It’s not done on a whim. You don’t cast a glance at the Toni Morrison novels on your bookshelf and think, “A Nobel Prize in Literature? Sure, I can do that.” Now, this metaphor might be a bit of a stretch, but I was thinking about it while Continue reading →

Awful Inspiration: War on the Page

The first war novel that truly moved me was Johnny Got His Gun, by Dalton Trumbo. It’s a wrenching story, set in World War I, and I read it in my teens. Nonstop. Spellbound and aghast. How did Trumbo write such a powerful novel that it has stuck with me for all these years? Trumbo’s antiwar novel is set in motion by a sound, a ringing phone, a small detail that draws the reader into the story. Instead of launching into exposition, instead of describing the global Continue reading →

Jiggery-pokery and Elections and 2.0 US Fluid Ounce Pours

It’s been a dark week, a dark month, a dark year for news. Countless writers are covering current stories—some with intelligence and sensitivity, many without—and after I absorb what I can, my eyes wander and my mind leaps at the chance to follow. While perusing news-lite this morning I came across the word “rejiggering”—think it was in the Huff Post—and that made me think of jiggering, meaning a person or thing that jigs, and before you picture someone dancing wildly, remember that to jig means Continue reading →