This past Saturday, I attended the Lancaster Christian Writers’ monthly meeting. Laurie J. Edwards, who also writes under many pen names – one of which is Rachel Good, gave us some great information and had our minds churning about our current WIPs.
Three resources she suggested for writers are: Inside Story by Dara Marks, Wired for Story by Lisa Cron, and The Anatomy of Story by John Truby.
Laurie shared that the two most commonly missed elements missed in novels are: Character Arc and Theme (Moral Argument). She shared that even fiction that is not specifically “Christian” should include a theme, otherwise a book may be popular for a while but it will eventually fade away. She mentioned about current popular series for kids/teens that have great story lines and action; they keep the readers turning the pages, but at the end of the book, there’s no real takeaway because they lack a good, strong character arc or they lack a theme. That’s why in about ten years or so, they will fade away; their popularity gone.
Laurie pointed out that all good stories should have the following pieces:
Premise: logline, one sentence; essence of the story — every decision is based on this decision.
Theme: Moral vision of how people should act in the world. Express through action and story structure to surprise and move readers.
Central Conflict: Who fights whom over what?
Fundamental Change in Character: could the character at the beginning of the story do what he/she does at the end? How and why is he/she different?
She shared the following from John Truby’s book, The Anatomy of Story:
Seven Steps of Story Structure
- Weakness or need – moral and psychological; hero unaware of these flaws.
- Desire – Story goal; must be intimately connected with need.
- Opponent – not preventing hero from goal; wants the same goal.
- Plan – defeat opponent and reach goal.
- Battle – confrontations escalate until final conflict.
- Self-Revelation – hero recognizes weakness
- New equilibrium – fundamental and permanent change.
*Psychological Need: a flaw that only hurts the hero. *Moral Need: a moral weakness that hurts others.
Her talk was filled with lots of great little tips and advice that had my friends and I really thinking about things we need to change in our current WIPs (work in progress) to make them better, or things to do to make our stories “unputdownable”.
Laurie has lots of experience as an author, speaker, and editor. You can find out more about her and her books at https://lje1.wordpress.com/
How about you? Have you heard or read any great writing tips or advice you’d like to share?