Tag Archives: stories

Title Tricks for Your Story

Your title is important. It’s the first words a potential reader sees, and your first chance to draw them into your story. How does a writer go about finding the right title for their story?

Titles Don’t Come First!

In my experience, writing a story for a title just doesn’t turn out well. It’s too constraining. Usually a title is made for a story, not the other way around. I’ve written multiple stories now that remain title-less even after the plot is full fledged, and are just waiting for some title TLC.

Titles Take Thought

Sometimes they come easy, but with longer novel-length stories, often they don’t. It helps to really know what your story is about. (If you’re like me and prefer to write off-the-cuff, sometimes you don’t know what your story is about. Someone once asked what the NaNoWriMo novel I’d written was about, and I said, “I don’t know, I haven’t read it!”) Titles take thought, study, critique, and revision. When something catches, you’ll know it.

Titles Should:

  • Reflect the essence of your story
  • Have meaning for the reader before they read your story. If your book is fantasy, you may be tempted to write fantasy words into the title, but my advice is to keep this to a minimum. The title should communicate something about your story to potential readers who have no knowledge of your story whatsoever, thus enticing them to pick your book off the shelf.
  • NOT give away too much. They’re just a glance at the worm on the hook. The first paragraph should get the bite, and the first chapter reel them in.

What are your tricks for titles? Writers don’t get much chance to practice these. A great way to learn is to pay attention to your favorite stories, study the titles, and see what works for your tastes.

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Here Comes November

There are only a few days each year when Autumn’s leaves are burning up and still on the trees. Summer is hanging on, but in a month or two, it’s going to be cold and grey and gloomy.

That’s novel weather.

Fellow NaNoWriMo adventurers, whip out your pens (if you’re really actually going to try writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days by hand), keyboards, and thinking caps. It’s time to imagine the possibilities! Not just that, but live them through the characters you bring into existence and tag along with as they live out their lives on your page.

Write your novel.

Ink Runs Dry

When the ink runs dry
the stories have been told
the thoughts written down
the loose ends tied

there’s more to life
than a book and a pen
there’s more to stories
than writing them down

this is why writers have to get up and live
feel their stories
make their own choices
be fearless like heroes
be a little bit mad
and see what others don’t see

get up and look.
leave the desk and go live.
write every day
but not every day
if life deserves to get in the way.

The stories will stay with you
draw your hand to the pen
but don’t force it
not today
let the ink
run dry.

Inspiration & Originality: An Interview

   You’re a writer. What, or who, inspires you most?

The one thing that never fails to pull me out of a writing rut is the magic of a favorite story. These stories have a life of their own—they pick me up and make me forget and make me care, and remind me why I tell stories. Books, movies, plays, even music can do it. And once all that greatness has seeped into my thoughts, it’s bound to come out in my writing.

   Shouldn’t you be worried about originality?

No. You’ve heard that all the great stories have already been told. Take Star Wars, the original Star Wars. That was far from original. George Lucas took a good helping of his storytelling from ancient mythology and The Hero’s journey. C. S. Lewis did that too. These authors were inspired by classics, and created new classics that really aren’t new.

Don’t worry about originality, worry about authenticity.”

The point is, if you’re a writer, you need something to aspire to. That’s inspiring. Stories to remind you why you love stories, that pick you up and blow you away and leave you changed. You’ll absorb elements from them, and I think that’s great. What more could you ask for than having the quality of your writing approach that of your heros?

Your Character from a Distance

I’m shortsighted. I first donned glasses in third grade and they’ve only been getting thicker since. The glasses work pretty well, but at a certain distance away, things start to get fuzzy. That’s when I can’t identify people by their faces anymore.

When I’m walking across campus between classes, I start to rely more on other 248_e_e_walking_1600recognizable features to identify people I know. Gait. Hair color. Body size. Clothes. Any defining feature that’s more visible than those subtle facial details we’re all so miraculously talented at recognizing.

I have to pay a bit more attention to these non-facial attributes than most folks, because of my short eyesight. It’s really very interesting, the differences I get to see in people. What does a gait mean? There’s the basics of walking faster or slower depending on your rush, but everyone has a different default speed and style. Bouncy, twitchy, wobbly, solid, labored or energetic . . . a gait is just one aspect of a person’s style of movement. What does the body language mean? A storyteller (or anyone, actually) could go wild imagining interpretations of these everyday clues.

“…I could tell from the way his fingers moved that his favorite color was green.” –Siri Keeton (Peter Watts), Blindsight

How do you tell who someone is from a distance? You’re only seeing an abstracted version of who they are—a simplified, distilled version, still filled with evidence of personality. Think on this, all you storytellers out there, as you get to know your character. Take 5 minutes now, and find out how your character walks, moves, and the meaning underneath. Draw on your life experience interpreting body language. Show me your character from a distance, in the comments section below!

Make Time for Great Stories

As a college student, I don’t have a lot of spare time. Every now and then, I’m hit by the jolting realization that I’ve let my storytelling fall by the wayside. I haven’t been writing as much as I want to.

These moments of realization are never really moments. They’re long points in time: a few days, a few weeks, when I feel ready to write on a moment’s notice. I started wondering to myself, what exactly prompts this urge to write? Something had to be inspiring me.

Now I know what it is. Experiencing a great story is what makes me want to write and create. It’s what reminds me why I do it all—sit typing for hours upon hours, careful editing, trying to figure out who my characters really are. I try to make magic because I’ve experienced it through someone else’s work.

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These points of inspiration come when I happen to watch a great movie or find a wonderful new novel, stories that suck me in and make me forget where I am. As a busy college student, I encounter these moments of wonder accidentally, but now I think that it’s important to seek these things out. Keep looking for great stories, be they books, TV shows, movies, podcasts, blogs. Anything that draws you in and rekindles your sense of wonder, and leaves you wanting desperately to give back. That’s inspiration. That need to give makes writing as easy as it ever gets.

Make Your Story Real: Hinting at Secrets

We are all detectives.

When I meet a new person, I immediately begin gathering clues about them. The process starts with a first impression and continues as long as we interact. I watch their actions, listen to their words, judge their reactions, and try to piece together the hidden inner world of that person. I get to know them.

The longer I know a person, the better I can interpret body language clues and guess their inner state. Sometimes I may even be able to predict their reactions. But no matter how well I know a person, there will always be surprises and more mysterious clues to decipher. No one acts reasonably all the time, and no one perfectly fits into a mold. Sometimes there may be no answer, but we still want to understand.

mystery_person

Every human being has hidden complexity in their inner world, something their friends can only guess at through interpreting secondary clues. When you write a story, make it more realistic by imitating this hidden complexity. Drop clues that indicate there’s more to uncover, even (and especially) if there’s no clear interpretation of these clues. Humans are meaning-makers, and we’ll still try to understand. Your readers will try to solve the unsolvable, just as each of us does in real life.

Hint at secrets. Why did he frown when she asked about his girlfriend? Why does she hate the smell of coffee? Why won’t he speak about his past?

We are all detectives, and we want to know more.