In my first book, The Dragon’s Son, one of my first reviews talked about a “little family” in the story that felt random and unnecessary. It horrified me, because that family was ABSOLUTELY necessary in the second book, and to my main character's backstory. But, because I had not given my readers the reason for this little family to be in the book, they were left thinking “What’s the point of these people?”
To avoid this problem in your story, ask these questions:
If you can concisely sum up what your story is about, it will be far easier to write. Story is about someone solving a problem. It’s best to know exactly what that problem is before you begin writing.
Are you ready to learn more?
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Recommended Books (with Amazon Affiliate links)
Even though I have yet to read the entire series, the first book - A Wrinkle In Time - does an excellent job of answering the basic Who, What, When, Where, Why, & How in the very first chapter. It makes the protagonist clear, the plot forces the protagonist to change and do things she normally wouldn't, it identifies both the external and internal conflict the protagonist must face, and it especially does a great job of showing you her desire and how she needs to change before the story ends. And, of course, while she is still the same little girl, she has grown and changed for the better by the end of the book.
Every good story can be explained as a series of events that happens to someone who is in pursuit of a difficult goal, and how they are forced to change as a result. But oftentimes we as readers and writers are left wondering “What is this person's goal?”
Goals are the protagonist’s driving desire to overcome and achieve. It is the yardstick that your readers will use to gauge everything your character goes through in the story. If you have filler and fluff that does nothing to push the character toward their goal, a reader will get bored and put the book down.
There are two questions you should ask about your characters, especially your main character:
Recommended Book (with Amazon Affiliate Links)
If you want to explore a book that does a great job of getting you - the reader - invested in the characters, I recommend you check out this one.
Just so you know, this is an Amazon Affiliate link, so if you purchase anything through it, I get a tiny commission that goes toward buying kids vitamins and cat food.
Little Women is one of my favorite books! It follows the lives of the four March sisters—Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy— from childhood to womanhood and is loosely based on the author and her three sisters. The girls each have a marked personality of their own, and they quickly come to feel like your close friends. I laughed with them, cringed at them, and cried sometimes. I didn’t always agree with their choices, and didn’t like all the paths they took, but just like with good friends, I was okay with them becoming themselves. It is one of the best books to study for character development and drawing in reader investment, and I recommend it to everyone who asks.
Many writers focus only on the plot of their story. They have a fantastic idea, but the story wanders and stagnates. Why? Was it because they were a pantser? Or did a plotter go stale? Neither. Usually, the author simply did not ask their story the right questions.
Story is about someone solving a problem. It’s best to know exactly what that problem is before you hit the publish button, or even begin to write. If you can concisely sum up what your story is about, it will be far easier to write, and have a much better chance of getting attention.
How do you sum up a complex story?
Try summing up your story by explaining what your theme, conflict, and plot are, and how they work together to solve the story problem.
Once you are able to explain what your theme, conflict, and plot are, you will find it much easier to sum up your story in a short paragraph (and even put it together in a gripping synopsis!). Once you can sum up your story, you can keep it focused, keep it strong, and it will make editing SO much easier for you.
Book Recommendations (with Amazon Affiliate Links)
If you’d like to check out a well written book synopsis that outlines the 3 keys of their story, I recommend you read the synopsis of these well written books.
(BTW, these are Amazon Affiliate links. If you buy these books, you help their author, and you help me as well):
Great writers always clue us into what the characters are thinking and feeling, because that’s where the story lives. But, that's easier said than done. How do you learn to get your reader to feel and put your book on the "All The Feels" list on Goodreads?
Well, my first suggestion is to read more books! Find some books known for giving you the feels, and read them. Dissect them. Watch how the author does it. I will list a couple I recommend below in an affiliate link!
Next, ask yourself these questions:
Help the reader feel what the protagonist feels. Let the reader into their feelings at every turn. Give them what they need to be invested in the story. Don't bog them down with cool world crafting and spell mechanics and backstory. Just let them get in your character's head and heart, so they can celebrate, or cringe, or cry with your character.
Book recommendations (with Amazon Affiliate Links)
Just click the book image, and it will take you straight to Amazon! If you purchase something, it will give me a tiny little commission that will probably be used to buy kids vitamins, dog treats, or more books.
Mockingjay is the third book in the Hunger Games trilogy, and you really won't understand all of the emotions in it without the other two books. The other two books build up to this book, so it is RAW EMOTION. Yet, the author's writing style never changes between the books. You, as the reader, have just taken a wild journey with the character, and know what she loves, expects, and hopes for. So, before you know it, your emotions are wrapped up in her success and failure as well.
If you like classics, my mom recommends Charles Dickens for drawing in reader emotion. Specifically, she recommended The Old Curiosity Shop.
Published in 1841, The Old Curiosity Shop was an instant bestseller that, even while it was criticized for its sentimentality, captured the hearts of the nation with its portrayal of little Nell Trent, who is thrown into a terrifying world when her beloved grandfather is unable to pay his debts to the loathsome Quilp.
The Book of Form and Emptiness finds a mother and son grappling with the profound loss of the father of the family. While the mother’s anguish expresses itself in a hoarding problem, her son hears inanimate objects talking to him, and these voices eventually overwhelm in a cacophony that drowns out his own. Did I mention the book itself is also a character?
Story is internal, not external.
If the reader is not feeling what the protagonist feels, the reader won’t keep reading.
Everything that happens in a story NEEDS to affect the protagonist. If it doesn’t affect the protagonist, it doesn’t trigger emotion, and so remains neutral to your reader.
The reader’s understanding is important as we share the protagonist’s thoughts when their expectations are being met or not being met. If your reader doesn't understand, they have no emotional investment.
It's been a long time since I did any blogging or vlogging, and unless you've been keeping up with me on Facebook or Instagram, you have NO idea that I - the person who swore she was incapable of staying in a long-term romantic relationship and would never get married and was totes okay with that - got married to my best friend in 2019, and inherited some bonus kids! And then I - the person who was led to assume she would likely not be able to get pregnant or give birth easily - to my own surprise, popped out my very own baby a year later (she's the only DIY project I've ever finished)! I also started growing my hair out again (yikes), and have moved from the country into town (don't get too excited - the pop is roughly 1500, there are chickens right next door, and cows across the street).
It's been a whirlwind of craziness in my life the last couple of years.
However, I am slowly reentering the blogging/vlogging/bookish world again, and let me just say that it is pretty terrifying and I'm scared I'm gonna drown... again... BUT! Here I am, giving it another go.
OH! Not to be forgotten: I still have Pilot. He's gotten old and chonky, but is still the most goodest boy ever to wag a tail. He loves his new baby that I made for him.
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I read my first Gothic Horror novel: “Dracula” by Bram Stoker.
I personally am not into vampires. I don’t like them; they have gone from creepy and disgusting to just plain annoying in today’s world! So, when my mother suggested I read the old classic “Dracula” I was naturally leery. However, Dracula is now on my “Favorites” shelf and I think that it throws any other vampire stories I have read so far “into the mud”. I also think it was one of the most Christian books I have ever read, next to anything written by Frank Peretti. It surprised me that Bram Stoker actually depicted the vampires as demons, with no heart or mercy or pure thought, inhabiting a human’s body. Try to find that in today’s vampire stories!
However, before I would recommend Dracula for reading I would give a warning: it is a horror genre novel. It has some very gruesome, morbid parts and it does suggest some very mild sensuality in some parts that would be somewhat disturbing to a few readers that I know. But, if you can handle watching the news on TV or if you have read any of Frank Peretti’s books, I can guarantee you will be able to handle Dracula.
So now that I have that said and done, shall we move on?
It took about three chapters of for the story to really get rolling, but I must give the author some leeway because “Dracula” was written in the late 1800’s and does not follow the guidelines of today’s modern fiction: begin with a KAPOW that grips your readers on the very first page! Dracula actually eases mysteriously into the story, which was a nice change from today’s fiction.
Once I got past the first couple of pages, the story became very intriguing. I was amazed at how well the author tinged the story with deep mystery, really arousing my curiosity in the plot. This kept me turning the pages through the first part of the book.
The book is written completely in first person, being a collection of diaries and memoirs from each character involved in the story. I was certain that the first person narrative was going to drive me crazy, as it did in Mobey Dick, but it flowed smoothly in this book and made the characters VERY realistic. Again I was amazed at the author’s skill as he was able to craft each of the characters with such different personalities! I generally pride myself in staying detached from fictional characters in a story, but Bram Stoker’s skill in the first person narrative made it impossible for me to remain indifferent to these characters. In other words, I became attached to the characters of the story very quickly.
One of my favorite characters was Abraham Van Helsing. Caring, gentle, intelligent, crafty, and humorous, Van Helsing has a right to be one of the main heroes in “Dracula”. He is a brilliant Dutch doctor who is in England, trying to help his friends smoke out and destroy Count Dracula. Because he is a Dutchman in England this causes some humor throughout the book as his English is sometimes a little shaky and he gets things a little mixed up.
Midway through the story it became practically impossible to set the book down! The plot grew intense as the characters started making discoveries and finding out their foe, and the story started to roll very quickly as Count Dracula tried to destroy them and they quickly learned how to fight the demon back.
The ending seemed a bit rushed to me, but it ended better than I thought it would. I expected everyone to die and the bad guy to live on, as in many horror novels, but it was not the case and all the mystery and puzzles presented throughout the book were wrapped up very well in the end.
All in all, it was a very good book that I would recommend to most people, and I like it much, much better than any other vampire literature I have come across. Thumbs up for Bram Stoker’s Dracula!
“I saw the Count lying within the box upon the earth, some of which the rude falling from the cart had scattered over him. He was deathly pale, just like a waxen image, and the red eyes glared with the horrible vindictive look which I knew so well.”
- Mina Harker - Dracula
"...a contemporary fantasy story that inspires young people to dig deep within to find their God-given strengths and use them to overcome any obstacle. It’s a perfect blend of fantasy and science fiction with a Christian message."
There are four books in the series: Raising Dragons, The Candlestone, Circles of Seven, and Tears of a Dragon. In paperback, kindle, or audiobook, they are excellent books. Just pick one and get involved! Believe me, once you get started, you won't want to set this series down.
Do dogs really have self-esteem?
I might not have been able to answer this question a few years ago. Since I've had Pilot, though, I can confidently say YES. Dogs do have self-esteem.
Most of the dogs I have owned in my life have had no lack of self-esteem. They were confident in themselves and their abilities, and they were assured that their owner felt the same way. They were not afraid to try new things, and if they failed at something, they got right back up and tried it again and again until they succeeded.
Because of this, I never questioned whether dogs had self-esteem.
And then I met Pilot.
Pilot was easy to worry. He was clingy. He was hard to teach and train. If someone spoke one loud word he would drop to the ground like he was being punished. If he did something wrong and I said "no", he would do the same thing. Sometimes he would shut down completely and not do anything at all.
He wasn't as troubled as some dogs I've met. He was still a happy, playful pooch, ready to please me, but he just wasn't... well... I couldn't put my finger on it at the time, but he was missing something.
Then, the day came when he learned to "Roll Over" on command. The first time he did it, I threw a party and he acted surprised. The second time he did it, I threw another party and I saw a light come on in his head.
After that, Pilot became a whole new dog. He became more receptive and started learning more tricks. He would try new things, instead of shutting down. He started wandering short distances away from me on hikes, rather than sticking to me like glue. He grew more calm and confident in public. His self-esteem tripled just from learning that one trick, then it continued to grow with each new trick he learned, with every public place we visited, and with every new thing we tried.
Pilot showed me that dogs DO have self-esteem, and it can be weak or strong, just like ours.
How do you build a dog's self-esteem? Have patience, try new things with them, and set them up for success. Every time they succeed, they become a little more confident in their abilities. It can be a very long process, especially for those dogs who need their self-esteem built from the ground up. But it is very rewarding to see them gain that confidence bit by bit, and having a proud, confident dog is the goal of every dog owner, isn't it?
Here are 10 of the best ways to build up your dog's confidence:
The beasts of the field shall honour me, the dragons and the owls. - Isaiah 43:20
Self-published author of the fantasy series, Tales of the Wovlen, Kathryn spends a great deal of time in the world of her imagination, having tea with fire breathing dragons, writing books on flying space ships, and practicing her mad scientist laugh with gusto. However, on occasion, she returns to this world just to play with her dog, blog about her fun, and coach people through writing self-doubt.
The First Book
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