When the phone rings, you answer it. Forget the telemarketers and charities and imagine that it’s someone you like or important news. You pick up the phone because you want to find out what’s going on.
But when life calls, do you answer?
The Call to Adventure is usually shown as an inciting incident or trigger. Something that forces or compels the heroine to take action and change course. Look at the following examples:
Are there extreme circumstances in your story? Is the hero about to drown, fall off a cliff, or face a bullet? If so, he needs to take immediate action. Or is there a simpler feeling of disease or disquiet that encourages him in a new direction? If so, movement toward a new goal may take some time.
When does the call happen?
Early in the story, usually in the first few chapters. With a lot of emphasis these days on strong openings, sometimes the call takes place at the very beginning. Then the author fills in with background to bring the reader to the present moment.
Who or what issues the call?
The call is often given by a herald, or messenger. (Think of the Christmas carol Hark the Herald Angels. The angels were messengers of God.) The herald says or does something that tells the hero action is needed. The droids in Star Wars delivered the secret message from Princess Leia. Harry Potter received a letter from Hogwarts. Who or what is the herald in your story?
In summary, the Call to Adventure introduces a change for the hero that propels him out of the Ordinary World (see the previous article Set the Scene) and into the unknown. So what change do you foresee for your hero? Who will have a hand in bringing that about? And how will it all take place?
Verbs show what happens in your story. All complete sentences have at least one verb. That verb is either active (acts on) or passive (acted upon). The verb to be—was, were, been, have been—usually denotes the passive voice. I was a hard worker (passive) as opposed to I worked hard (active).
Both active and passive verbs are used in all kinds of writing. Both are correct grammatically. But too many passive verbs can make the writing weak and unemotional.
Here’s an example.
I was a hard worker. Every morning was the same routine. There were chickens to feed, dishes to wash, clothes to iron, food to prepare. I wasn’t a complainer. And the field hands were grateful. They were always nodding and smiling when they came in for lunch. I was sure to lay down the rules and they were sure to follow them. But sometimes I wished there was at least one person to say something special. Just a little note to show I was important.
Note all the instances of was and were. A nice little story but not very impactful.
I worked hard. Every morning I fed the chickens, washed the dishes, ironed the clothes, prepared the food. Without complaint. I could see the field hands’ gratitude. They always nodded and smiled when they came in for lunch because I lay down the rules and they followed them. But sometimes I wished at least one person would say something special. Just a little note to show my importance.
This is a bit stronger. All the passive verbs have changed to active verbs.
Active with emotion
I slaved every morning. Fed the chickens, washed the dishes, ironed the clothes, prepared the food. All without any complaint. And the field hands appreciated my work. They always nodded and smiled when they came in for lunch because I lay down the rules and they followed them. But sometimes I wished for one person, just one, to say something special. Even just a word or two. Then I would feel my worth.
Even stronger here. The active verbs are strengthened to make an impression on the reader. Worked becomes slaved. Could see gratitude turns into appreciated. And feel my worth is added at the end.
Passive voice will creep into your writing and that’s okay. It has a place. But the more you choose active verbs, and strong active verbs, the more the reader feels what you write.
Download your free report Nine Ways to Passionize Your Prose. If you need more help, contact me for a complimentary consultation.
It's a jungle out there in the social media world. There are so many places to post - Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and more. How do you find the time to do it all AND make a difference?
Kiera Stein with Social Media Examiner gives us 7 tips to make your posts more noticeable.
1. Develop Relationships
2. Boost Credibility
3. Invite Conversation
4. Share Blog Content
5. Share Curated Content
6. Comment on News and Events
7. Make Calls to Action
Read the whole article here. Then share how you're making more of an impact. Which tip is your favorite? Which method works the best for you?
Who are you and where did you come from?
The Hero’s Journey (from Joseph Campbell) begins with the Ordinary World. Before you sweep your character(s) into their adventure, you need to establish who they are and where they come from.
A wonderful example of this is the opening of The Wizard of Oz. The movie begins on a farm in Kansas in the middle of flat, prairie land. Dorothy, a kind, sensitive, unappreciated teenager with a huge heart, is surrounded by busy, preoccupied relatives and farmhands. The black and white tone paints a bleak picture of her life and lends an air of depression. Miss Gulch (later the wicked witch) has a sharp edge about her looks and dress, due to the lack of color. When Miss Gulch threatens Toto and Dorothy commits the foolish act of running away, we feel for her and her dog because of her harsh surroundings.
To help you set the scene for your story, answer the following questions:
1. What is the story location?
Where are we geographically? What is the scenery—buildings, houses, land, climate? What is the time period—historical, current, future? What is the culture and/or environment? [The Wizard of Oz begins with plain and simple.]
2. Who is your hero (heroine)?
Describe your character physically, mentally, and emotionally. List his/her history, education, family background, job, romances, likes and dislikes, prejudices, preferences in food and clothing, etc. [Dorothy is kind, generous, big-hearted, self-centered, and a little impractical.]
3. How much do you need to tell?
Your hero has a story prior to the beginning of your book. Every incident and event has helped to shape his life. Are all of these important to the reader? What does the reader need to know right now? Do you need to tell the reader those things up front, or can they be revealed indirectly (through dialogue, flashbacks, conflict)? [We don’t need to see all the years of Dorothy’s life leading up to the crisis with Toto and Miss Gulch. The desolation of the farm and the quick, vicious interaction with Miss Gulch establish the needed mood.]
4. Complete a GMC (goal, motivation, and conflict) chart for your hero (heroine).
What are your hero’s inner (emotional need) and outer (physical/worldly) goals? What is his motivation? What are his inner (fear) and outer (biggest obstacle) conflicts? Is there a villain? What would your hero never do? [Dorothy feels taken for granted. She wants to be appreciated and included. And she would never, never hurt anyone.]
5. What is the story theme?
Theme is the underlying idea behind the story, the big message you want your readers to understand. Common themes are “love conquers all,” “good vs. evil,” “man vs. nature.” What is the theme of your story? [In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy runs away from home to find the illusive something that’s missing in her life—more love and appreciation—only to discover that it was there all along, inside her.]
By answering these questions you lay out the necessary information for your story, discard the irrelevant, and begin to weave in background to bring your characters and plot to life.
Download your GMC chart here.
Does the title of this article sound familiar? The phrase is often used in regards to the new year, letting go of what’s already happened (the old) and looking forward to what’s about to be (the new).
You’ve also probably heard the following:
• A good man is hard to find
• Actions speak louder than words
• Count your blessings
• Easy come easy go
• Flattery will get you nowhere
And so on.
These old familiar phrases are clichés. Some have been around since the Bible. They come to mind instantly because they’re comfortable and well-worn, like a pair of favorite slippers. You can find common clichés at Cliché Finder and ClichéSite.com.
Clichés are fine in daily conversation. But not in your writing.
Your readers see you as the expert in what you do. Whether you’re a life coach, a marketing genius, a social media guru, or a brand new author, your audience wants more than platitudes. They want creativity, imagination, originality. They look up to you to solve their problems or give them an escape. Spouting the same old phrases won’t work.
When I finished my third novel I gave it to a good friend at work. I was so proud of myself, so excited to hear her praise and amazement. When she told me it was full of clichés I was stunned. Clichés? Moi? I was a great writer; I didn’t use clichés. But I did. I wrote the way I thought, the way I carried on conversations. Those clichés were everywhere. What a lesson that was!
So the next time a cliché pops into your head, pause. Review. Rewrite.
Here are a few examples to fire up your brain cells. The first comes from the free report Nine Ways to Passionize Your Prose.
Cliché: Love is a bed of roses.
• Love is a bed of thorns.
• Love tasted like the fresh tang of lemon in a glass of homemade lemonade.
• Love scars.
Cliché: Flattery will get you nowhere.
• Flattery will get you anywhere.
• Flattery will get you a smile and a cup of coffee, but that’s all for now.
• You can just forget the flattery.
Cliché: Never judge a book by its cover.
• Never judge a book by its title.
• Everyone judges books by their covers; after all, you only get one first impression.
• I don’t care if you judge my book. Go ahead.
Now see what you can create! If you get stuck, contact me for a brainstorming session.
Photos by Ladyheart and dexart
Words of Passion welcomes you to 2015! Happy new year to all!
This year we’re dedicating the blog to specific ways to improve your writing and your business. Two to three times each month (and maybe more) the blog will feature articles on how to strengthen your writing, develop your story, and reach out to others. You need writing that’s clear and easy to understand and a story that captivates. But even the best writer (or book) goes nowhere without an audience. If you’re not attracting your target audience, well . . .
So each month we’ll explore
1. Writing Tips to clean up your writing and make it sparkle
2. The Hero’s Journey, a path the greatest writers of all time use to create obstacles and support for their characters
3. Social media/Marketing and how to stay ahead of the game and get recognized
We hope you enjoy the new year and the forthcoming articles. Stay tuned next week for the lowdown on clichés. You never know where they’re hiding.
Until then, write from your heart.
Christmas has become a holiday about giving. You give your spouse or special relative or friend something to show your love. These tokens of affection display how much you care about that person. And if you’re lucky, you get some token of affection in return.
But the gift of love starts much closer to home. What about loving yourself?
Self-love means the love of oneself, the instinct or desire to promote one’s own well-being. True self-love is not narcissistic or self-indulgent. It is an awareness of your inner power. A knowledge of who you really are. Without self-love, the soul can’t flourish. Unless you appreciate you, no one else can. And until you appreciate you, you won’t be the magnificent person you are meant to be.
So how do you start loving yourself? Here are five ways to begin the journey.
1. Address self-sabotage. Does the little voice in your head say you’re not good enough, not smart enough, not pretty enough, or you don’t have enough experience? Those negative thoughts and beliefs stem from past experience. To practice self-love you need to let them go.
2. Use affirmations. Affirmations train your mind to develop new ways of thinking. If you’re trying to lose weight, you could say, “I am at the perfect weight for my body.” If you’re trying to attract more clients, you could state, “I easily attract the perfect clients for my business.”
3. Appreciate yourself. When was the last time you told yourself how beautiful or handsome you are? Do it now. Start with what you do like and really love that part of you. The more you do this, the more you’ll be able to incorporate parts of you that you didn’t like before.
4. Be creative. Do you love to play with color? Are you amazed by the power of words? Have you always wanted to make something with your hands? Give yourself permission to follow that voice inside your head, the one that’s saying “can I, can I?” Play. Explore. Discover.
5. Practice forgiveness. Criticizing yourself or comparing yourself to others only hurts you. Sometimes it’s hard to remember you’re not perfect. Holding on to that resentment can damage your health. Forgiveness is a way to heal and move forward with peace and love. The Hawaiians have a beautiful forgiveness prayer called Ho’oponopono. It’s just four simple lines. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.
The above list is an excerpt from The 28-Day Thought Diet chapter on Self-Love, a perfect gift (available from the Words of Passion store). So be kind to yourself this holiday season. The more you give to yourself, the more you have to give others.
Happy Holidays! May you have love everywhere you go.
How long has it been since you had a professional manicure? Just the other week I was walking through the mall and made it past the Dead Sea Salts booth twice without any mishap. The third time by I got snagged and I didn’t even have any hangnails.
A lovely woman named Danielle from Israel looked at my pathetic nails and gently talked about the wonderful advantages of buffing. I smiled and nodded my head. I’ve had my nails buffed before. I’ve even owned a buffer. But I was stunned when she whipped my nails into shape in just seconds. They glowed like fresh pearls under the harsh fluorescent lights. And there was nothing artificial on them.
Your writing needs a manicure too. A draft is just a draft until you give it a makeover. Good editing will turn that rough, dull manuscript into a polished gem. But how do you give your writing an overhaul?
Here are 5 simple steps.
1. Remove unnecessary clutter. Are you getting to the point or are you a little long-winded? There’s no need to belabor the point. Don’t go on and on and on just to see more words in print. Be concise.
2. Be clear. Are you saying what you mean? Most writers assume the reader knows what the author is thinking. Sadly, that’s not the case. If you’re not clear, the reader won’t be either. Read what you’ve written as if you know nothing about the subject. Does it make sense? If not, explain it, clarify it, or write it another way.
3. Put some emotion in it. Don’t write the same old same old everyone else is writing. You do what you do because you love it. So share that love with your audience. Put your heart into your writing. Your feelings are what communicate with your readers. When you’re excited, your writing vibrates with enthusiasm, and your readers respond.
4. Be authentic. Your audience wants to know that you’re the expert. They’re coming to you to solve their problems. But these days they want more than your expertise. They want to connect. It’s not enough anymore to simply offer solutions. You need to be open and vulnerable. Readers want you to show them that you can relate, that you’ve had the same or similar experiences. In order to do that you have to be vulnerable. For some writers, vulnerability is the last thing they want to face. But being open and authentic will truly open readers’ hearts, and they’ll see you not just as an expert but someone they can trust.
5. Check your grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Nothing turns off a reader more than a slew of mistakes. Don’t rely on spell-check to clean up your manuscript for you. Software programs can’t catch everything and they don’t know what you mean to say. Read, read, and read some more. If you’re reading on the screen, print out your pages. Words on paper look different than words on a screen. Then read aloud. Saying words out loud gives you a chance to hear their sound and rhythm—another way to catch mistakes. And if you don’t have those “eagle” eyes that you need, find someone who does.
These five tips are a great starting point for cleaning up your manuscript. Be patient with yourself and the process. With some effort, you’ll start to see that glow.
If you’re ready for professional help, email me or call 770.623.8303 for a consultation. I’d love to make your writing shine!
Photo by Mikhail Malyshev
How often do you get an idea for a book? Ideas are to a creative person what numbers are to a mathematician—food for thought. Something to play with, expand, be excited about. Ideas are fun.
But how often do those ideas become actual books? Not as often. It’s easy to have an idea. I have the beginnings of 20 novels on my computer and a dozen short stories. All were wonderful ideas, so I thought. But it takes more than just the idea, or the beginning, to make a book.
Books are made up of chapters. Novels have characters, a plot or two or three, twists and turns, a main goal, several huge obstacles, a glorious climax, and an ending. Nonfiction books have a main subject, subtopics (or points) of discussion, personal stories to illustrate these points, comparisons with other methods, lots of motivation to keep the reader engaged, and a stirring ending to urge the reader to take action.
How does all this happen?
When I started working on F.A.I.T.H. last November, I loved the idea of a collaborative book and thought it would be easy to put together. I wanted 19 other authors. Simple. But it wasn’t simple. People said “no” time and time again. Months passed and I had little to show for my efforts. There were moments when I thought of giving up, but I didn’t. Why? Because I was determined to complete the project. It wasn’t just a book anymore. It was a mission. I couldn’t “not” do it.
Here are three ways to feel that calling:
1. Solve a problem. What’s happening in your life right now or in the lives of your readers (or clients) that calls for a solution? Do you have a new way to market a product or service that will save time or money? Did you have an important “aha” about love and relationships? After months of dieting, did you finally learn the secret to losing weight? All of those answers are important to your readers.
2. Know your message. Every book has a theme, an underlying message that the author wants to get across to the readers. Romances are about the strength of love. Tragedy shows us that life is often unfair. Books about relationships may talk about the need to love yourself before you try to love someone else. What is your message? When you’re clear about your theme, then infuse it into every part of the book.
3. Write from the heart. If you don’t care about your book or your message, neither will anyone else. But a simple book, written with great passion, can encourage and motivate and inspire. Believe in your message, in the importance of your book. Then write from the heart and watch your readers feel your love.
Millions of books are published each year. New authors are created every day. You can be one of them if you don’t let your ideas die through neglect. Solve a problem. Know your message. And write from the heart. Then persevere. A little bit at a time will eventually result in an entire book. Your book.
F.A.I.T.H. was published the end of June 2014 and F.A.I.T.H. Volume 2 will be coming out early 2015. I am a proud author! Who will join me?
Photo by Danielle Bonardelle, photoXpress.com