Thursday, May 30, 2019

Endings: Lessons Learned from Game of Thrones

In my previous blog on Plotting, I wrote: The ending should contain a climax, falling action and a denouement or final resolution. Some element of change needs to occur.

I would like to elucidate a bit further on this element of story writing inspired by an article in the June Edition of Gotham Writers Workshop.

8cc1df66-3e9b-4be5-8c74-e5192e53b4fe.jpgThe final episodes of Game of Thrones drew a great deal of criticism and dissatisfaction from fans. In fact there’s even been a petition requesting HBO rewrite and reshoot the final season.

Alex Steele, President of Gotham Writers Workshop states:Moral: it’s important to give your stories a great ending; it doesn’t matter so much if it’s upbeat or tragic as long as it feels just right for that particular tale.”

Steele further observes: “the best advice about endings comes from Aristotle who said a good ending should be ‘surprising but inevitable.’ In this context, inevitable means the ending shows the blossoming from seeds that have been planted by the events and characters along the way. But the ending won’t be satisfying enough if we could have written it ourselves, so it needs to be surprising, either in what happens or in how we get there.”

The conclusion of traditional romances, for instance, is the happy-ever-after with the lovers finally pledging their undying love and devotion. But there are always obstacles that are seemingly insurmountable. Therefore, the main characters must overcome these obstacles in a satisfying way to achieve that happy ending.

In mystery fiction, endings are often more complex. The ingenious twist is desirable. The reader wants to know who the guilty culprit actually is. This drives the plot. The clues point the way to the denouement. Yet the ending should still be unexpected. In a truly clever mystery the reader should be surprised yet not confused by the outcome because the writer has played fair.

What are your thoughts regarding plot endings in general? Did you follow Game of Thrones? If so, what was your opinion regarding the ending of the series?

Friday, May 17, 2019

Interview with Author Savannah Hendricks


When Savannah Hendricks is not writing, she is a medical social worker. Prior she worked with special needs preschoolers and spent seven years as a nanny. She holds degrees in Early Childhood Education and a Master’s in Criminal Justice. Her stories have been included in over 30 children’s magazines, and is the co-author of Child Genius 101: The Ultimate Guide to Early Childhood Development: Vol 1 & 2. She has two new picture books releasing this year, Winston Versus the Snow and The Book Who Lost its Title. You can find out more at her blog:

Question: What is the title and genre of your novel?  Why did you select them?

Answer:  My first sweet romance novel is Grounded in January. The title came to me when I thought about the plot of the story. I wanted a title with multiple references throughout the story, and Grounded in January does just that! I enjoy light stories and shy away from hardcore emotional fiction and sex scenes, so sweet romance was something I could naturally write. The world can often be upsetting and I want my stories to be realistic, but also give some level of hope and happiness.

Question:   What inspired this novel? How did it come about?

Answer:  My mom’s diagnosis of multiple sclerosis was the inspiration for the story. I also wanted to write something set in the snow, and when I started plotting it out, I was missing the snow back in Washington. As I started writing out each chapter I wanted to make sure there were funny moments to give it a lighter feeling love story.

Question:  Could you tell us a little bit about the heroine and/or hero of your novel?

Answer:  Kate and Ox are the main focus of the story and their differences drive the story forward. Kate has a horrible fear of flying and Ox is a pilot, talk about opposites. They both have a very strong sense of what they want, but lack the courage to obtain it. The independence makes them who they are but, also helps them push aside their dreams because no one is there to say, hey, go after that!  

Question:   Can you tell us about some of your other published novels or work?

Answer:  My first picture book, Nonnie and I (Xist Publishing), set in Botswana is a story about making new friends, but keeping the old. It centers around a little girl, her pet giraffe, and the first day of school. I started my writing career in children’s literature and have over thirty pieces in magazines and anthologies. I have two more picture books coming out this year, Winston Versus the Snow (Brother Mockingbird Publishing) and The Book Who Lost its Title (Big Belly Book Co.)

Question:   What are you working on now?

Answer:  I’m wrapping up two other sweet romance novels, one set in the summer out in the desert and one set at Christmas time in Minnesota. The summer set one is almost ready for submission, and the Christmas one should hopefully be ready come mid-summer.

Question:   What made you start writing?

Answer:   I worked as a nanny for about eight years and I started reading massive amounts of picture books and children’s magazines on a daily basis. Seeing children react with such joy made me take a leap. And I was not sure I could actually be a writer, because I was illiterate until about fourth grade and honestly hated reading until I became an adult. I’m so grateful I decided to be an author, hone my craft, and never gave up.

Question:   What advice would you offer to those who are currently writing novels?

Answer:  Never give up! Write your way! These are the two things that stand out to me over my writing career. I lost track of how many times I wanted to give up. It’s a tough business and most don’t make money from it, at least not enough to quit their full time jobs. Rejections sting and unless you have a support system, it’s hard. Also, write the way that works best for you. If you can’t write every day, that’s alright. Whatever makes your story great is all that matters. Seek out advice and work on your craft, but don’t assume you have to do everything just as everyone else does.

Question:  Where and when will readers be able to obtain your novel?

Grounded in January is available via Amazon, Barnes and Noble, IndieBound, Books-A-Million, and the publisher (Brother Mockingbird).

Nonnie and I is available in English, Spanish and bilingual editions via Amazon, Barnes and Noble, IndieBound, Books-A-Million and numerous apps for children such as Epic and Reading Rainbow).

Comments and question for Savannah are welcome here!

Friday, May 10, 2019

The Truth about Mother's Day

Some of the facts about Mother’s Day are surprising and unexpected. The idea of an official celebration of Mother’s Day in America was first suggested by Julia Ward Howe in 1872.  She became famous with her Civil War song, "Battle Hymn of the Republic". Anna Jarvis is actually recognized as the Founder of Mother’s Day in the United States. She never married or had children herself. However, she got the inspiration for celebrating Mother’s Day from her own mother Mrs. Anna Marie Reeves Jarvis, an activist and social worker. Mrs. Jarvis expressed a desire to have a day set aside to honor all mothers, living and dead, and pay tribute to the contributions made by them. 

 By 1911, Mother's Day was celebrated in almost every state in the
Union, and on May 8, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a Joint Resolution designating the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day. Mother’s Day is now celebrated in several countries including the US, UK, India, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Turkey, Australia, Mexico, Canada, China, Japan and Belgium. People take the day as an opportunity to pay tribute to their mothers and thank them for all their love and support. Sadly, Anna Jarvis became disillusioned by the commercialization of the holiday. She eventually denounced it.

Today mothers are honored with many kinds of gifts: cards, perfume, jewelry, candy, flowers, plants. If a mother is a reader, books are great Mother’s Day gifts, either print or digital.

What most of us who are mothers appreciate most is simply spending time with our children. Sharing a meal like a brunch or dinner together is one way of making the day special. If children live and work too far away to visit, a phone call is always appreciated. I hope to see my children and grandkids.

My gift to other mothers this year is some fun free reading--since this is International Short Story Month as well.

For a Mother’s Day story:

“The Art of Listening”

BEYOND THE BO TREE is a collection of ten romantic short stories of all types and lengths. The first one, “The Phone Call,” is a free read:

What are your thoughts regarding Mother’s Day? How do you think this holiday should be spent?

Friday, May 3, 2019

Elements of Fiction: How to Build a Strong Plot

Whether we’re creating short or long works of fiction, plot is one of the key elements of story writing. Simply put, the plot consists of a beginning, middle and end. Plot is the structure, the architecture of a story. Build it strong and you have coherence. Build it weak and it falls apart. The plot of a story needs to be dynamic. Like a tree, it grows well if it has deep, healthy roots.

It doesn’t matter what genre you’re writing, a good plot puts forth a question, a puzzle, a mystery that needs a solution. Plots have a chain of cause and effect relationships, not just what happens, which is the story, but why things happen the way they do. Clearly, this brings character into play.

I believe it’s best to create a flexible outline before starting to write so that you have a clear idea of where your story is going. I write a rough synopsis of the plot. But before I tackle that, I write a character bible which names and describes the key figures.

As to the actual writing, I begin with the setup, an initial action or problem that needs to be solved. The beginning defines main characters and what they want, what motivates and drives their needs.

I try to start a book or story in medias res, beginning in the middle of a scene of some significance. Something important should be happening. Dialogue and action are crucial. You don’t want a static beginning. Description, internal monologue, narration, flashback and reflections all have their place, but they need to be limited, and they should not occur right at the beginning of a work.

My latest YA novel WITCH WISH begins in the middle of an argument, setting up a conflict between two sisters leading to surprising complications.

I suggest intriguing the reader by starting with some form of mystery. Make your reader curious from the first and then keep them guessing.

Think of the middle of the novel as rising action (Aristotle’s words). What happens grows organically from what occurs in the beginning. The protagonist runs into difficulties and can’t easily solve them. Don’t slow the pace. Keep the tension building. Increase the danger and/or the obstacles. This goes for any genre of fiction whether it is romance, sci-fi, mystery, literary etc. Always remember that the main characters drive the plot which involves some deep innate need or flaw in character.

I was very pleased with the review from LIBRARY JOURNAL regarding my latest mystery novel DEATH PROMISE:

“The plot kept this reviewer turning the pages."

The ending of a story should contain a climax, falling action and a denouement or final resolution. Some element of change needs to occur. Elements of plot follow a distinct pattern and yet each plot should be unique and not formulaic.

Jan Fields of Institute for Writers has this to say on the topic: 
Plot is exactly how the journey happened in the story. And if you have skills and imagination, your plot will not be exactly like anyone else's, nor will it be just like any other story you've written.”

Your comments welcome!