Wednesday, August 03, 2016

IWSG: My First Piece of Writing

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means hundreds of us will be posting about our insecuritiesIf you're a writer, join in!

This month's question:

What was your very first piece of writing as an aspiring writer? Where is it now? Collecting dust or has it been published?

In 1995, I was working in public relations for the Tennessee Arts Commission. One of my jobs was to promote an anthology of short stories by Tennessee writers. As I read a bunch of rambling nonsense about sweet tea and front porches, I decided I could write a better short story than some of these people. I was 24 and one of these:

Since I was 24, I had perspective on adolescence and not much else. My story was called The Gymnasium Memorial and it was a fictional version of an event that happened in high school. Several people died in car accidents my senior year, so they had everyone go to the gym where we did a memorial to those students.

I entered a contest I found on Writer's Digest because life in 1995 meant no Internet.

A couple of weeks later, I received a letter. (Because life in 1995 also meant no email.) It was basically this:

But I saw it as this:

I'd won the prize for "saddest story," which meant absolutely nothing, as I saw when I got my three free contributors' copies and paper certificate. It was a "book" of short stories that looked like it had been bound at Kinkos.

And there were only a dozen or so stories in it. I'm sure everyone in the book won an award for something...and we were probably the only ones who sent our stories in.

But it gave me the confidence I needed to write a book and send it to a publisher. I actually thought I'd get a call from an editor wanting to buy it. Instead I got this:

Only instead of a phone call, it was a rejection letter. And I'd get enough of those to paper my entire house by the time I got published. But it's all part of the journey, right?

What are you insecure about this month?

Monday, August 01, 2016

Goal Motivation and Conflict: It'll Help You Create Great Fiction

When you first start a new book, you come up with a bare-bones story that includes the characters and the basic plot. From there, you either start writing or you start plotting, depending on the type of writer you are.

Fairly early on, you realize that you need more than a simple story. If your characters move along happily in life, without a care in the world, your story will quickly become this:

I'd been writing only a couple of years when I attended a workshop that was led by the woman who wrote this book:

Pure genius. Here's how it breaks down: Every character in every story has a goal, a motivation (a reason for having that goal), and a conflict (something standing in the way of reaching that goal). Once you've outlined that, you can create a multilayered story filled with action and excitement.

Each character also has an internal and external GMC. Here's a GMC chart for The Wizard of Oz:

This is the chart you'll create:

While plotting is far more complex, GMC charts can help you get to know your story once you have that initial idea.

Do you have any special techniques you use to plot?