Tag Archive for storytelling

Give Me a Topic and I’ll Write You a Story

by Jared McVay

I’ve been writing stories and doing storytelling for quite a few years now and whenever I do a session, storytelling or book signing, I’m always asked, where do I get my inspiration, and I say, “Give me a topic and I’ll write you a story, it’s that easy.”

But I guess that’s not true for all writers. You’d be surprised at how many people tell me they need to do tons of research, develop the characters, and then do an outline before they write the first word, and even then, it might take days or even weeks before the opening paragraph is finished.

I’ve had at least a dozen people tell me they’ve been working on their book for over a year, some, several years and my heart goes out to them. I encourage them to not give up, but inside, I feel most of them will never get the first book off the ground, and that brings me to my subject today – A book series…

Not only my publisher, but also most of the people I talk to say they love a series where they can follow a character from book to book. But most of those folks have no idea of what it takes to write a series. And for those who write the first two or three feel they are easy, but after that things start to get a little tougher.

Unlike a stand-alone book, the author has to build a life for this character, then keep coming up with adventures for that character [man or woman] to get involved in.

At this point I need to point out that the storyline must be able to carry your character from one book to another, like say, a detective, an attorney who specializes in a certain type of law, a western that is filled with action or whatever the writer may come up with. All I can say is make sure the road he or she is to follow will have a strong storyline.

It will be helpful if you have a mind that can slide your character into and out of situations that are both, funny and serious. After all, life is not all funny or serious. We all have our ups and downs. Life is full of surprises, and for the reader to be able to be drawn into your story so deep that they hate to put the book down, the writer has to keep coming up with fresh material, which for many becomes pressure they don’t want to deal with. For those writers, I suggest you stick to stand-alone stories.

With that said, who is to say the writer can’t build a following using the same character in stand alone stories. For some that might be tougher, but for others it is the very foundation they can build a career on.

So, whether you follow a character down a long path with many twists and turns, or put him or her in a stand-alone situation, find the path you are comfortable with and enable you to write your stories.

My publisher suggested I write a western series. I said, alright and sat down at my computer and began. My biggest challenge was what his name was going to be. Once I established that in my mind, I placed my fingers on the keyboard and turned them loose. Two hundred and ninety-two pages later, I had book one, ‘Stranger On A Black Stallion.’ I have written three Clay Brentwood books this year and book four should be out in the early part of 2017. I like to write two to three books a year.

My biggest advice is; don’t let anyone tell you how to write your story. It’s yours and yours alone. Just do the best you can and allow your mind to roam freely, whether it is a stand-alone book or a series.

For me, I like to write several genres, stand-alone, series and children’s books.

In parting, I will leave you with this, “Write to have fun. Tell the stories you want to tell, in your own voice… in a way only you can tell them.”

Author’s Bio: Union stage, film, and television actor for more than twenty years – semi retired. Storyteller – children and adult – part of several storytelling guilds from coast to coast. I write, historical fiction, action adventure, westerns and children’s books… Have won several awards. A humble man who enjoys spinning a yarn.

When did I know I was an author?

by Sharon Anderson

I think I probably always had stories coming out of me. As a kid, I would gather up the neighborhood gang on the front lawn and tell them ghost stories – sometimes in costume. I’m not certain how I could have done anything else, really. But the kicker for me is looking back and seeing those moments in my life where I didn’t trust myself. Time where I thought there was no possible way I could ever make a living at telling stories – that was a dream that would never come true. There were times – don’t laugh too loudly – where I thought that if I were meant to be an author, then I would put perfect words on the page and never have to edit them. I sorely misunderstood the process…

I came from a family of story tellers. My dad had all sorts of stories with which he would regale us over dinner, my mother, too, had her fair share of tales from work. I spent a lot of time with my maternal grandparents and those two – Esther and WP – were full of stories. Each visit brought out another hilarious and poignant adventure I hadn’t heard before, from scraping through university during the Depression to my grandmother hearing a whistling sound emit from her dead brother in the parlor, those stories are so rich with texture and identity, I think they play a big part in who I am today. My paternal grandmother was quite a story teller as well, and I’m glad I knew her when she had calmed down a bit. She was a child evangelist and my dad used to say that when she took the pulpit, the parents would send their kids to children’s church – but when his dad preached, everyone would gather around to soak it up. I never knew William McDonald, my dad’s dad, but I would have loved to meet him. In fact, I heard so many stories about his life, I wrote a children’s play, God is in the House, that was performed in church a few years back.

Stories are important. Even if they are bad stories.

Michel de Montaigne asked himself every morning, What do I know? Of course, he asked it in French, because, you know, he was French… The point is, I am beginning to ask myself the same question. What do I know? And to take it a little further – what can I learn? These last few years in my career as an aspiring author, I have won a prize for a dark fantasy piece, signed on with a publisher, put out a book, started a blog, supported countless fellow authors in marketing campaigns, published a non-fiction piece in a parenting magazine, sent a second book to an editor, survived the death of my publisher – and do you know what? Dreams do come true.

Author’s Bio:   Sharon Anderson is the author of the paranormal romantic comedy, Curse of the Seven 70s, and the award winning short story, Stone God’s Wife. She lives in Skagit Sharon Avatar 2Valley with her amazing husband, two brilliant children, a sweetheart of a dog, two cats, a small grouping of fish, and a sketchy guinea pig. Sharon is just about ready to release her second paranormal romantic comedy, Sweet Life of Dead Duane. You can find out more about Sharon on her website http://www.SharonAndersonAuthor.com follow her on Twitter @SharonEAnderson and make friends with her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/SharonAndersonAuthor

Writing for Personal Insight

by Laura Rink

This month I took a writing workshop with Andre Dubus III. He said just because something happened to you doesn’t mean you know what happened. You must explore, with authentic curiosity, that particular event, and your place in it. This piece of advice resonated with the insight I gained last summer while writing a memoir piece for the upcoming Red Wheelbarrow Writers’ memoir anthology, Memory into Memoir, being released this September. I had had an unsettling experience and writing about it freed me from a skewed sense of myself that I hadn’t even realized I’d been holding onto for thirty years. This kind of writing is not reserved for writers but is for everyone.

Writing about your experiences creates, at the same time, an objective distance and a subjective intimacy. The physical act of pen to paper or fingers on keyboard allows you to view yourself as a character in a narrative and be the person who had the experience. Writing gives form to the images floating in your mind, and the emotions coursing through your body. Writing is a way to capture that voice in your head and prod it for truth.

Logically knowing something to be true—I am a capable person, for example—is not the same as feeling it to be true in your body and in your heart. Writing can help bridge that gap. Put yourself back in an event and using all your senses describe the scene, the other people involved and especially yourself. Be open to whatever arises—write without judgment, without preconceived conclusions. Take your time exploring the sensations, questions and ideas that present themselves. Writing about an experience with a strong desire to understand is a powerful way to learn, to find meaning, to discover your truth.

A caution: if you’re not ready to write about a particular event, don’t. Sometimes time must pass, a lot of time. Some experiences you may never write about. That’s okay. Honor yourself. Pick an experience you are ready to write about. And remember this writing is for you alone—it is not necessary that another person read it, unless you deem it necessary.

You can also rewrite the story you tell about yourself to yourself. The science, solid and anecdotal, behind this idea is explained in the New York Times blog “Writing Your Way to Happiness.”

There are similarities between writing a good story and living a fulfilling life. Slapping a label on a character or on yourself is a sure way to limit both. You tell yourself you’re lazy or unlovable or even infallible. Write to get at the specifics behind those generalizations—the things you, or others, do or say that make you view yourself that way. The specifics may or may not support the label. Either way there is opportunity for change and concrete ideas on how to do so. Author George Saunders illustrates these ideas in this video, which applies to everyday life as well as storytelling.

Jane Fonda said she wrote her memoir so she could figure out where she’d been, so she’d know where to go. Writing about myself has allowed me to move forward along a more personally fulfilling path. I encourage you to write about your past to see yourself as you are now with more clarity and to discover where you want to go from here.

About Laura Rink:

LAURA RINKLaura Rink writes most days—dreaming up stories keeps her grounded in everyday life. She is currently working on a collection of linked short stories, writing with authentic curiosity to find out who the characters are and what they want. Her website LauraRink.com features an occasional blog and a picture of her calico cat.

Teller of Tales, Lover of Life

Ask me what I am, and I’ll tell you I am a storyteller. That hasn’t changed over the years.

When I was just a child, my mother had to wait patiently for an answer to what she believed a simple question.

“Why did the principal of the kindergarten call saying you were very persuasive?”

A big word for a four year old, but I simply told her that, “When my teacher asked me to invite the other class to join us for a snack, I mimicked their birds voices, showed her the pink flower petals, and the picnic table. By the time I had finished, the entire school was outside. I guess the teachers thought it was a good idea too.”

At fifteen, when my older sister and I went out for a drive in Miami Beach, our new home, we arrived home past midnight. My sister sent me in with my version of the night. My mom listened with experienced skills, trusting my view. I explained that arriving late wasn’t accurate. We had made good time considering how my sister had driven up the exit ramp on the freeway in the wrong direction, and I had to slip below the seat to push on the pedal as my sister went into reverse, backing off the ramp. You see she was so upset that her leg was shaking and couldn’t find the pedal. And then when we turned right off Collins Avenue—the parking lot was the beach and the tires to our car got stuck. “Good thing Harriet called the tow truck, and had me explain to him that we had no money to pay.” My story kept us from being punished that night and has reminded me that the true story is in the “spin.”

For a time I made my living crunching numbers, a bookkeeper for forty companies. I read between the lines of numbers to discover fraud, rainy day sales, sloppy methods of ordering, waste of materials, and discontent. Patterns spoke to me with stories behind figures, truth that exposed characters, settings, and plots. Honest owners took my advice as I was their editor, their conscience. Dishonest owners fired me.

Each morning begins the same. I wake early and make my latte, prepare to work. I write quick notes to my husband who remains asleep. First thoughts jotted down before the critic’s analysis. A flittering feeling attached to words, future lines in a poem, chapter, or discussion. Non-sense, with heart and brain synced with the aromas of a new day.

My mother passed away last year. To her I was the “little bird.” How fitting that a hummingbird feeder hangs in front of my kitchen sink. Each rapid flutter of their wings reminds of stories not yet experienced or told. Love never ends and neither do stories. The more I see, the more people I meet, the more places I go, I still begin the same. I spin facts to gain perspective, to share stories.

Join me here: If you’d like to see my morning notes please visit my website and subscribe to Abbe’s Notes.


Author Bio:  Abbe Rolnick grew up in the suburbs of Baltimore, Maryland. Her first major cultural jolt occurred at age 15 when her family moved to Miami Beach, Florida. In order to find perspective, she climbed the only non-palm tree at her condo-complex and wrote what she observed. Here history came alive with her exposure to the Cuban culture. This introduction to the Latino Culture proved fortuitous. At Boston University she met her first husband, a native of Puerto Rico. Her first novel, RIVER OF ANGELS, stems from her experiences during her stay in Puerto Rico.

Stateside, she capitalized on the knowledge she gained as an independent bookstore owner and worked for one of the finest bookstores, Village Books, in Bellingham, WA. More recently she opened a healthy foods cafe.

COLOR OF LIES, her second novel, brings the reader to the Pacific Northwest where she presently resides. Here she blends stories from island life with characters in Skagit Valley.

Her short stories and travel pieces have appeared in magazines. Swinging Doors won honorary mention by Writer’s Digest. Her next novel, FOUNDING STONES, will be the third in the series, continuing the stories of characters from the two previous novels, introducing new themes that connect Skagit Valley to the larger world.  

Her recent experiences with her husband’s cancer inspired, COCOON OF CANCER: AN INVITATION TO LOVE DEEPLY. Presently she resides with her husband on twenty acres in Skagit Valley, Washington.