Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Gone Fishin'

Writers want to grab a reader’s attention.

No, let me clarify that. Writers NEED to grab the reader’s attention.
Most writers call this the hook. You try to hook your reader so he or she will want to read more. But I’m a southern girl from the waters of Florida. My father-in-law owned a bait and tackle shop. I worked side by side with my husband there from time to time. (Okay, I didn’t really work. I was there to see him. This was when we were dating.) Anyway, I know enough about fishing to know you can’t rely on a mere hook. If you want to reel in your reader, you need to start with some tasty bait.

This post offers five possibilities:

1.  Ask a question. Try opening your novel with a question. You need not answer it right away. Use it to make your reader curious.

Would Sarah’s nightmare ever end?

The question should make you wonder a bit about Sarah and what nightmare is tormenting her. Or try this one:

How could John expect the Agent Daniels to protect his family when he couldn’t protect his own in this miserable town?

What does this opener tell you already about the story? The characters? The setting? What does it make you wonder about?

2.  Create a picture for your reader. Use descriptive words to draw your reader into the story.

Ribbons of heat rose from the pavement. Ari looked up and down the
highway, praying silently for a car to come by. He wiped his brow and pressed on.
3.  Use action. Drop your reader right into the action. This is the tool I used in
Breathing on Her Own
Molly Tipton followed her husband through the wide glass doors of the emergency room to the nurse’s station. A male nurse, on the telephone at a desk at the back of the cubicle, didn’t look up. Molly’s heart pounded. She brought her hand down hard on the bell in front of her.       
“We were told our daughter Laney was in an accident and brought here.” Travis’s voice sounded steady, but Molly saw his lower lip twitch. “Laney Tipton.”


4.  Try starting with a single word or phrase. I used this technique for my second novel.

            A lump.

What image or emotion does that single phrase conjure up for you? Women find it a powerful starter.  Here’s another possibility:

            The missing gold locket!

5.  State a fact or statistic that leaves the reader guessing.

            I read somewhere that fifty-percent of the time a remote is missing, it’s between the couch cushions. So what was Harvey’s doing in the flowerbed? And more importantly, where was Harvey?

There are, of course, many techniques to attract your reader and draw him or her into the story. What other tools have you found useful? Share your ideas in the comment section.

 And I hope you have a wonderful new year…..

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Lego & Writing


My grandsons were working on building with Legos. “I’m not following the instructions,” Jay said. “I’m being creative.”

“I’m following the instructions,” replied his four-year-brother responded. “I’m building a tractor.”

That’s a switch. Usually, J is careful to follow the directions and Auggie takes the more creative route.

“The beauty of it, though,” I told them, “is that you can build it one way now and then take it apart and do something different later. Like when I write. Sometimes I put a story together one way and revise it later.”

It’s true. I think writers get stuck in forming a story or even a sentence one way. We need to be able to pull it apart and try it a different way.

I’ve done it.

I’m currently working on a children’s book. I have enjoyed the process, but I am so close to the story and what I know was in my head when I composed it, I’ve had a hard time pulling it apart and putting it back together in a new way.

It is a rhyming book. A good friend and fellow author by the name of Pamela Harrison read the story and gave me valuable feedback. She suggested I look at the “meter.” Hmmm….I had counted the syllables.

Back to the drawing board. I asked some people to read the story out loud. I listened for those places where the meter threw them off. Those awkward words.

Then I pulled the story apart and word-by-word –Lego-by-Lego –I put it back together again.

And that, my friend, is writing.

So now, I wish you a Merry Christmas…Have fun with your new toys this season.

Be sure to join me next week as I talk about creating a strong HOOK for your novel.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Legend of Santa Claus

As part of the 2014 Christmas Blog Hop, today's guest is 
Tamera Lynn Kraft, author of A Christmas Promise

The Legend of Santa Claus
By Tamera Lynn Kraft

Santa Claus is a legend loved by millions of children throughout the centuries. While the story of Santa Claus is a myth told to illustrate the spirit of giving at Christmastime, there was a real man named Saint Nicholas.

Nicholas was born in the third century in the village of Patara. When he was born, Patara was a part of Greece. Now it’s located in Turkey. His parents were rich and raised him to be a Christian, but they died when he was young.

He used up his inheritance caring for the needy, the sick, and the suffering. When he was a little still a young man, he was appointed as bishop of Myra and became well known for his generosity to the needy, his love of children, and his care for sailors.

One story tells about three dowerless girls. In that time, girls whose fathers were too poor to provide dowries often had to be sold into slavery. On these three occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home providing enough for the dowries. People suspected Saint Nicholas of leaving the gifts. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas.

The Roman Emperor, Diocletian, persecuted the church. Nicholas was exiled and imprisoned in a prison that was so full of Christians, it didn’t have room for criminals. Eventually he was released and returned to Myra and attended the council of Nicaea in 625.

Nicholas died on December 6, 643. A substance grew on his grave called manna that was reported to heal people. Since then, December 6 has been known as Saint Nicholas Day.

A Christmas Promise by Tamera Lynn Kraft
A Moravian Holiday Story, Circa 1773

During colonial times, John and Anna settle in an Ohio village to become Moravian missionaries to the Lenape. When John is called away to help at another settlement two days before Christmas, he promises he’ll be back by Christmas Day.
When he doesn’t show up, Anna works hard to not fear the worst while she provides her children with a traditional Moravian Christmas.
Through it all, she discovers a Christmas promise that will give her the peace she craves.

“Revel in the spirit of a Colonial Christmas with this achingly tender love story that will warm both your heart and your faith. With rich historical detail and characters who live and breathe on the page, Tamera Lynn Kraft has penned a haunting tale of Moravian missionaries who selflessly bring the promise of Christ to the Lenape Indians. A beautiful way to set your season aglow, A Christmas Promise is truly a promise kept for a heartwarming holiday tale.” – Julie Lessman

Available at these online stores:

Pelican Book Group

Tamera Lynn Kraft has always loved adventures and writes Christian historical fiction set in America because there are so many adventures in American history. She is married to the love of her life, has two grown children, and lives in Akron, Ohio. Soldier’s Heart and A Christmas Promise are two of her historical novellas that have been published.
Tamera is the leader of a ministry called Revival Fire For Kids where she mentors other children’s leaders, teaches workshops, and is a children’s ministry consultant and children’s evangelist. She has curriculum published and is a recipient of the 2007 National Children’s Leaders Association Shepherd’s Cup for lifetime achievement in children’s ministry.

You can contact Tamera online at these sites.
Word Sharpeners Blog:
Revival Fire For Kids Blog:

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Good Night, John Boy

Earl Hamner, Jr.
Anyone over fifty has probably watched John Boy on television. He sat at his desk penning words of reflection over the events taking place on Walton’s mountain. The Walton’s, a successful television program of the seventies was based on author, Earl Hamner’s life experiences.

Many writers engage in journaling. While a diary often records the day-to-day activity of a person, a journal usually offers more room for the writer to reflect on the events of life.

As most of my readers know, I lost my husband the last week of October. Nearly every site I’ve visited about grieving or book I’ve read on the topic suggests journaling is the most effective tool the survivor can use to move through the grieving process.

The process. Like meat or cheese. I do feel a bit as though have been ground up and now I’m trying to become whole again. Perhaps that is what journaling does. It makes us feel a bit whole again.

How? Journaling tends to capture our emotions in ways we rarely express elsewhere. It chronicles our growth over time; our ups and downs, and it gives us a vehicle to move through pain and suffering. Journaling brings clarity to our story; our experiences.

So how might we as writers use journaling to improve our writing?

Apart from drawing on our past experiences to retell a story as Hamner did, I think we can implement journaling techniques to help us create realistic characters and move our story along.

Remember last week's post when Michelle Levigne challenged us to “show” rather than “tell?” Journaling about an event from your character’s perspective may give you the words your character is feeling. The inner voice through which your character filters the events you have created in your story.

For example, in my current work, my main character crossed a cow pasture, slipped in some manure, and scraped his hand on a rock as he went down. I knew he was upset by all that happened. There was no one around or he would have been embarrassed. Okay. But when I stopped to reflect on what he felt in that moment, I realized an image of his father laughing at him came to his mind and he was embarrassed.  I could have left it there. Instead, he emerged with a renewed determination to prove to everyone his toughness and resiliency. He went from being an awkward city kid to being a young man with attitude and personality.

Real people change their behaviors over time and with each new experience, they understand more about themselves. Or they should. Take a look at your characters. If they were to reflect on their own growth and development what would they see?

Journaling will also help you create context. You can draw from your own experiences to bring clarity to the storyline. How do you build on past experiences? How do those contextual pieces build your own story? How do you handle situations differently now than you would have in the past? Journaling helps you see those connections.

Let me give you an example from my own life.

There is a depth of pain I have never before experienced. Others have lost someone close to them. I’m sure I’ve hesitated. I may have not known what to say or do so I did nothing. One of my daughters says “Err on the side of being there. You can always leave, but at least let the person know you are the sort who shows up.”

The evening Tom died, I remember looking out my front window and seeing three friends from church all but running toward my house. They may not have been moving as quickly as I remember, but in my minds eye, they were rushing to my side. I will never forget that. Now I know what that means. That one experience will forever change my behavior. I don’t need to have the right words to say. I need to have arms that hold and ears that listen.

If you are a follower, you know this is the first post I’ve written since that day. (Thanks again to my guest bloggers and my God who put it on my heart to load all of November’s posts in before October 29th) I hope my words will challenge you to journal on a regular basis –either for yourself or on behalf of your characters.

Suffice it to say journaling gets you writing at a depth that will

enhance your descriptive language,
help you develop empathy,
provide you with a rich context,
give your writing purpose, and
help you build on past experiences.

What else? What have you learned through journaling? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Until then, Good night, John Boy.