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This week's blog is more about writing than it is about life, but for those of us who spend our lives telling stories, the two often merge. 

In many ways, we are the stories we tell--whether we are writers with a wide and varied audience or merely conveying meaning to our children or grandchildren. Stories sustain us. They keep memories of the ones who preceded alive--confirming my theory that the dead are alive when you think of them. And if you dare to write about them, they are preserved forever.

Just when you think you know all the techniques, rules and tricks for writing a damn good novel, you attend a Jim Frey workshop and learn something new. These are some of the things I learned from my mentor and story coach this week.

Beginnings should always raise story questions in the first sentence. They should get the reader emotionally connected and start the rising action of the story.

Viewpoint is a technique, but also an attitude. Give your narrator an attitude that is not necessarily the attitude of the author.

Whenever you have the reader's attention because of tension or conflict, exploit it.

The situation in your stories should always be changing. And when the situation changes, so do the character's emotions. 

Conflict causes layers of self protection to be shed, exposing what the character is at his core.

A good story is about a dramatic character in a dramatic struggle who has a dramatic transformation through the events of the story. 

You create suspense through what you tell the reader, not through what you hold back. 

Your job as a writer is to create obstacles (problems) for your character, not to solve them. 

Always ask yourself, what could happen in your scene that would be dramatic, fresh and have high stakes. 

Always narrate scenes where nothing happens. 

Dialogue should be fresh, in conflict, indirect and colorful. 

Jim Frey claims writing a novel is not brain surgery, but for those of us who try, to write them it often seems that way. 



Martha Miller
02/27/2014 12:54pm

I was in the same workshop, but you certainly caught the essence of it. Great post. Thanks for the review!

01/10/2015 8:36pm

I love how you mention that our job is to create obstacles, or problems, not solve them. I've been writing for years and never considered this. I saw your link on my friends facebook page. I think I needed to read this.
Eventually, stories tell themselves and solutions come that you don't anticipate. It's easy to get caught taking the easy way out or over analyzing everything to death.


Living togather is very important for the people with the help of living togather can help them. Without the living togather the people cannot able to become successful.

01/12/2016 2:24am

A good writer needs to have zest in order for a story to be told. You don’t have to be born with a talent for writing; you need to have passion in writing itself to be able to create great stories. Writing also requires a lot of practice. My art teacher once told me that every profession has a certain number of hours you need to put into it before you are proficient. Aside from constant practice, you should study and acquire more knowledge and skills to hone your craft. Study is one of the most important things a writer can do to become a successful author. You can’t simply choose to start writing and produce a best-seller book at the first try. You need to have dedication, daily practice and lot of learning to do.

03/20/2016 3:56pm

Perhaps you write so well because along the way you did not need to take the time out to learn that Virginia Woolf, in Between the Acts, was spot-on when she declared to us all that: “Books are the mirrors of the soul.”

May Sarton, from The Poet and the Donkey: A Novel, regales us with fleeting whimsy: “Must not a poet hunt the unicorn through bush and bramble, through snow and fire, over desert and mountain, through thickets and over long barren roads even though he suspects sometimes that the unicorn does not exist- or exists only in his imagination?”

Lastly, someone who dons a “READER” hat when they read the works created by one who toils under a “WRITER” hat is often attune to the amazing multiplicity of meanings that the creation of thoughtful, yet provocative poetry and prose can bring to us all. We are reminded by e.e. cummings that: "Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question."

So spring-boarding of that assertion, a Reader might ask: “What does the novel know? It has no practical or educational aim; yet it knows what ordinary knowledge cannot seize. The novel's intricate tangle of character-and-incident alights on the senses with a hundred cobwebby knowings fanning their tiny threads, stirring up nuances and disclosures. The arcane designs and driftings of metaphor - what James called the figure in the carpet, what Keats called negative capability, what Kafka called explaining the inexplicable - are that the novel knows.” ― Cynthia Ozick, The Din in the Head


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