I love to think of myself as having a special eye for talent, and when I find gems like Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, it just makes a gal go “SQUEEEE!” I’ve been following these ladies for a loooong time since they were relatively new in their careers.
Back up because they are a powerhouse and they offer up some of the most excellent writing instruction in the business. They are the authors of the legendary Emotion Thesaurus which eventually gave rise to stacks of other writing tools (I recommend and use them ALL) and now they are launching something truly special.
And, since they are rockstars, they have given me, the W.A.N.A. Mama a very cool deal to share with you guys at the end of this post. This is HUGE! This is the new state-of -the-art-site every writer needs. One place for all the tools we use, and Becca is here to tell us some more about how One Stop will help you reach your dreams and how to get it. You need this. You deserve it. NaNo is coming. You will thank me later 😉 .
But, the best editors will always say, show don’t tell so this isn’t simply a sales pitch. Becca is here to talk about how story elements must work together and then use that to introduce how One Stop helps make that happen (and then the super sweet deal) …
Take it away Becca!
When it comes to writing a successful story, people tend to think in terms of two elements: plot and characters. Obviously, these are incredibly important, and if you want to write a story that readers will appreciate, you’ve got to get these two pieces right.
But there’s so much more to a good story: setting, symbolism, theme, emotion, voice. And as important as it is to do all of these things well, it’s just as important that they fit together.
Look at The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Characterization is a huge part of this story—particularly for the hobbits. The opening scene is Bilbo’s birthday party, and we see right off that hobbits in general are fun-loving, laidback foodie types who like their tankards almost as much as their pipes.
But it’s difficult to define this people-group without also referencing The Shire.
Their passion for this place, their organic connection to the hills and rivers and trees: Tolkien didn’t just pick a setting out of thin air. He created one that fits with the characters like a missing puzzle piece. The characters and the setting go hand in hand; you can’t imagine one without the other.
Which is why, when evil arrives, Frodo’s decision to take it far away and preserve the Shire is a no-brainer.
I find it interesting that the symbol for evil is a gold ring: something that really has nothing in common with the hobbits or their home. They’re simple people; yes they have whole rooms devoted to clothes and they’re proud of their residences, but gold and silver and coins aren’t a huge deal to them.
Tolkien could have used anything to represent evil in his story, but he chose something that had nothing whatsoever to do with The Shire. In doing so, he showed the Shire’s goodness and wholesomeness and the need for its preservation.
I could go on about other writing elements and how they all fit together to make a beautiful, resonant whole, but I think you get the picture. Very likely, none of us are present-day Tolkiens, but his work is the perfect study for how various elements aren’t only successful in isolation; they’re amazing in the way that they work together.
So how do we do accomplish this in our own writing?
When it comes to the various elements of a story, it’s tempting to go with the things that excite us as writers: settings we’ve visited, character traits that we embrace, symbolic trinkets and knickknacks that speak to us. And while those things may work, they probably won’t be the best choices for our stories. When it comes to any writing element, don’t choose randomly. Ask yourself: What makes sense for my character and the story? This is the way to make sure that the elements you choose are the best possible fit.
Start With Characterization
I know, I know. Not every author or story is character-driven. But if you’re looking for ways to tie your elements together, the main character is a good starting point.
For instance, let’s say you’re trying to figure out the setting for an important scene. You could just pick one at random—a restaurant, the school cafeteria, an old barn, etc.—but your scene will have more impact if the setting ties in with your character.
Narrow down the virtually endless set of options by asking these questions: What locations have special significance for my character? What setting is emotionally charged for him or her? By choosing a setting to which your character is already connected, it comes with the potential for tension and high emotion—both of which are good for sustaining reader interest and building empathy.
Symbolism is another element that can be tied to characterization for added effect. In Great Expectations, the stopped clocks in Miss Havisham’s house symbolize her abandonment at the altar—the moment when her life essentially stopped.
Dickens didn’t choose a random, external object for this; he chose a specific time, down to the minute—an intensely personal symbol to represent the most formative event from Miss Havisham’s past. This is a great example of how choosing symbols that are personal to the character can add oomph to a story.
Know Your Characters Well
If you want to bring all the story elements together and you’d like to use a character as the centerpiece, it’s imperative that you know that character well. You don’t have to know every little thing about her; but you do need to have a clear understanding of the important parts of her past so you’ll know not only the kind of person she is in your current story, but also what objects, settings, ideas, and events are going to move her.
For a number of resources on building and understanding your character’s backstory, check out the Writers Helping Writers Tools page.
Bringing all of these elements together can seem daunting. But if you start with a solid working knowledge of your character’s backstory and who he or she is today, you’ll be able to move forward from there.
Once you’ve got that basic knowledge down and you’re ready to bring it all together, you might consider visiting One Stop For Writers. This new online library, dreamed up by Angela Ackerman, Lee Powell (creator of Scrivener for Windows) and me, is full of one-of-a-kind resources to help with various aspects of storytelling.
Its unique thesaurus collection covers symbolism, character traits, emotions, physical features, settings, and more—and it’s all cross-referenced and searchable, making it easier to tie all of these pieces together in a way that makes sense for your story and will resonate with your readers.
Most of us probably don’t aspire to be the next Tolkien or Dickens. But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from their brilliance. Know your characters well. Choose your elements thoughtfully, and whenever possible, tie them in with your character and your story. If you can do these things, your work will be much tighter and will ring true with readers, which hopefully will lead to more people finishing your books and spreading the word about their new favorite author.
THANK YOU, BECCA!
All right, so last time we talked about channeling that inner Bad Girl (yes, this works for the guys, too 😛 ). No more Mr. Nice Guy. Take some time for yourself. You are important. Your writing is important and people like Becca, Angela and I have worked hard to give you what you need. Now, all you have to do, Sunshine is suck it up and WRITER UP! Give it a try!
Curious about One Stop For Writers? Register to check out the free version and get an idea of what it’s all about, OR take advantage of this sweet launch-week deal: 50% off any first-time subscriber plan—1 month, 6 months, or 1 full year. This deal is only available until October 14th, (6:30 PM EST), so if you’re interested, shake a tail feather and get on over to Writers Helping Writers for all the juicy details.
Becca Puglisi is a speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via her newest endeavor: One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library like no other, filled with description and brainstorming tools to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
#1 by Julieann Dove on October 8, 2015 - 9:15 am
Thought provoking post! Thanks for sharing. I certainly took away something from it:) We can always improve our writing with nuggets of knowledge.
#2 by beccapuglisi on October 10, 2015 - 12:39 pm
Thanks for stopping by, Julieann!
#3 by Melissa Lewicki on October 8, 2015 - 12:08 pm
I clicked on the register button and followed the directions. Apparently, the free version only allows you to look at the site, but not use it.
#4 by Author Kristen Lamb on October 8, 2015 - 12:28 pm
I oopsed that and corrected it in the blog. But I corrected it too late after I’d hit publish (and it sends out the e-mail to subscribers). If you go look at the blog live, there is a new link with the actual promo and Angela and Becca will take care of you. If you need to shoot a messenger, unfortunately it is me *hangs head* .
#5 by Ann Brown on October 8, 2015 - 12:19 pm
Awesome, as usual. Thanks for the info!
#6 by beccapuglisi on October 10, 2015 - 12:40 pm
Thank you, Ann! It was my pleasure.
#7 by digestibleink on October 8, 2015 - 3:08 pm
A great reminder about character building. Thank you!
#8 by beccapuglisi on October 10, 2015 - 12:40 pm
I’m so glad it was helpful.
#9 by angelaackerman1 on October 8, 2015 - 4:31 pm
Thank you so much for all the wonderful praise and support! I don’t think we would have the courage to attempt half the things we do if it weren’t for all the great people we have met that come along at just the right time. I am so glad the universe brought us together. 🙂
#10 by Erin Hartwell on October 8, 2015 - 7:47 pm
Just in time for NaNo! Thanks for the coupon!!!
#11 by beccapuglisi on October 10, 2015 - 12:42 pm
Oh, it should come in handy for NaNo! Knock ’em dead, Erin. 🙂
#12 by karenmcfarland on October 8, 2015 - 8:24 pm
Sounds wonderful Becca and Angela! You two have been so excited about something lately. Now we know why. Congratulations! This should be an awesome tool. Is it available for the Mac?
#13 by beccapuglisi on October 10, 2015 - 12:44 pm
Thanks, Karen! It’s actually a website, so it doesn’t matter what system you have. I use a Mac and it works wonderfully :). If you want to check it out for yourself, the address is http://www.onestopforwriters.com. And don’t forget the coupon at Writers Helping Writers! (http://writershelpingwriters.net/2015/10/the-one-stop-for-writers-library-is-now-open/)
#14 by Deborah Makarios on October 8, 2015 - 8:26 pm
Where I struggle is in finding the right, consistent tone for each work. It’s so… ephemeral. Any advice welcomed!
#15 by ugiridharaprasad on October 9, 2015 - 2:42 am
Reblogged this on ugiridharaprasad.
#16 by beccapuglisi on October 10, 2015 - 12:44 pm
#17 by Woebegone but Hopeful on October 9, 2015 - 10:00 am
Thanks for the wealth of info. and advice. Also Amazon (UK) has The Emotion Thesaurus priced on Kindle at $1.52 and Emotion Amplifiers for free- I pounced
#18 by beccapuglisi on October 10, 2015 - 12:48 pm
You’re welcome! Yes, we were participating in March to a Bookseller 3 (http://www.bestpageforward.net/march-to-a-bestseller-3/). As a result, The Emotion Thesaurus was available for only 99 cents. I’m glad you snagged your copy because that was a one-day deal. Emotion Amplifiers, though, is free all the time 🙂
#19 by Woebegone but Hopeful on October 12, 2015 - 12:54 pm
What luck to catch that! I’ve been reading both (time permitting) over the past 2 days and I’ve been given much food for thought. Thanks for the opportunity to have them both on such reasonable terms
#20 by cleemckenzie on October 9, 2015 - 10:19 am
Loved reading Becca’s post. She’s so right on about the integration of all aspects of a story. The greatest stories were created by careful selection of place, people, symbols and language choice. The right combination creates the memorable reading experience. Hurray for your new enterprise WRITERS HELPING WRITERS.
#21 by beccapuglisi on October 10, 2015 - 12:50 pm
Thank you! I agree that that integration can be the difference between an okay book and one that really makes an impression.
#22 by Lucie on October 9, 2015 - 4:49 pm
Many thanks, Kristen! I went from Becca’s post to Barbara (Baig’s) post and a number of other valuable “reads”!! As usual, you’re a highly valuable resource for me! Thanks, Kiddo! Highly appreciate your talent and your generosity in “sharing it”!!! 🙂
#23 by beccapuglisi on October 10, 2015 - 12:53 pm
THIS! When it comes to practical knowledge and the generous sharing of that knowledge, Kristen is tops :).
#24 by aurorajeanalexander on October 10, 2015 - 8:41 am
Reblogged this on Writer's Treasure Chest and commented:
Becca Puglisi , speaker, writing coach and bestselling author published a post on Kristen Lamb’s blog about how making a story magic by bringing all elements together. In my opinion it’s an excellent educational blog post worth sharing with as many people possible.
#25 by beccapuglisi on October 10, 2015 - 12:53 pm
Thanks for the reblog and the kind words!
#26 by aurorajeanalexander on October 10, 2015 - 12:56 pm
It was my pleasure, Becca. 🙂
#27 by njmagas on October 12, 2015 - 7:19 am
Yes! It’s such a hard thing to help other writers understand that a good story is not just the idea of the plot. It’s so much deeper than that, even before getting into tricks of technique, craft and word choice. Even after understanding that a work needs to be more layered than an onion, actually marrying all those layers together so that the whole thing looks effortless is a monumental challenge in itself.
#28 by beccapuglisi on October 12, 2015 - 1:07 pm
Thanks! I agree; it’s one thing to know how important this is. Accomplishing it is something else! That’s one of the things we’re hoping One stop For Writers can help: integrating these different elements to writers can see how they work together. Thanks for stopping by :).
#29 by feministinthecity21 on October 13, 2015 - 1:37 pm
This gave me a lot to think about for writing stories!
#30 by beccapuglisi on October 14, 2015 - 9:14 am
I’m so glad! Best of luck!
#31 by leanne on October 15, 2015 - 5:13 pm
Bugger! Just catching up with my email now, and missed the free month deal 😦 Signed up for a free account, but it’s limited. Will check out some of the books on Amzon.
#32 by beccapuglisi on October 15, 2015 - 5:25 pm
Bummer! I hope you find the books to be useful!