The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery) – Chapter 1 (backstory)

Long Ago and Far Away…okay, starting in August 2022, I shared chapters from The Alibi. That lasted to mid-September when life and starting a new business got in the way.

Life and a new business consumed more time than I expected. I still wrote – actually updated, edited, and got ready for publication my first non-fiction in six years, That Th!nk You Do (due out 15 Jan 2023. You should all buy a copy and leave glorious reviews) – but The Alibi took a backseat (and it annoyed me I did so, by the way).

But I’m also sensitive to my own cycles, transits, methodologies, dispositions, … . I knew the story wasn’t going where it was suppose to go, but I didn’t know where it was suppose to go.

So shelve it. Give it time. Ruminate.

Some time late-September 2022, Susan and I talked about it. I mentioned my biggest challenge with the story was not seeing a character who would change through the course of the novel, didn’t know who or what would act as the throughline, both of which are (to me) critically important.
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Toing and Froing Again, Part 2

This is the second post regarding teaching myself to recognize Toing and Froing when I commit it (a most heinous act done by inept writers on hopeless prose, poetry (it’d be tough but I’m sure it can be done), scriptwriting, playwriting, (possibly) non-fiction, creative non-fiction, …).

And remember, folks, I’m including myself in the above. I’m writing this Toing and Froing arc to teach myself better writing techniques because I Toed and Froed like a marathon runner who’d lost their bearings while writing The Alibi chapter 3 (of my current work in progress which I’ll start posting in August 2022).

Toing and Froing occurs when the writer/author has their characters move around or do things for no real story purpose; there’s no character development, no character revelation, the atmosphere doesn’t change, no plot elements are furthered or revealed, the movement is irrelevant to any established or impending plot points, the movement is unnecessary to the dialogue, et cetera.

Toing and Froing Again, Part 1 ended with “My writing speed slows down,” meaning I’ve lost my rhythm, and I pick up from there…
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Trigger Warnings – Did you forget to put the gun in Act I?

“If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there.” – Anton Checkov

I keep running into editors and publishers wanting trigger warnings when submitting manuscripts.

The need for trigger warnings confuses me because it raises a question about storycrafting, specifically the aspect of storycrafting known as foreshadowing.

If I, as an author/storyteller/writer, have done my job, the reader won’t need a trigger warning because any story element requiring a warning will be warned of well ahead of its happening by previous events in the story itself. And don’t say “What if in the first scene…” because now you’re talking genre tropes, not storycrafting.

Does some event come out of nowhere without precedent? It doesn’t belong in the story, or the story needs major revision.

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Attribution via Action

People who’ve worked with my in critique groups or in my trainings know about attribution via action because

  • I use it often in my own work and
  • I use it often when editing/critiquing someone’s work as it tightens scenes considerably.

Almost a year ago I wrote

The desire to have characters do something while talking is good, the execution is usually poor, and now we’re dealing with attribution via action which I’ll cover in another post.

in Toing and Froing and now, for various reasons, here’s that post.

Attribution via Action became increasingly important to me when writing my last novel, Tag. I noticed the actions I used for attribution purposes were stale, generic, didn’t apply to what happened in each scene.

I’ll defend myself with “It was a first, rough draft” which is true. I recognized the problem and made notes in the manuscript to fix it during rewrite, which I will because I tend towards anality about such things.

And still, it’s better not to have such issues in any draft, especially first drafts, as the more corrections necessary the more time taken not publishing and promoting the immediate project and all projects together.

So as I often do when I recognize a weakness in my own work, I gave myself exercises to improve my storycrafting and storytelling. In this case, use attribution via action specific to what I want the reader to experience when they read the sentence/paragraph/page/scene.

I’ve also learned from workshops and teaching that the term “attribution” isn’t in vogue any more.

Sigh.

So some definitions/explanations first.

Speech Tags
The reader has to know who’s communicating in a scene. Knowing who’s saying what is often more important that knowing what’s being said. This is done by identifying the speaker with what they’re speaking.

Words like said, talked, shared, spoke, … are now called “speech tags” and use to be called “attributions” but far be it for a writer to use a single, exact word when a weak, two word phrase can almost do the job not as well.

Said, talked, shared, spoke, … are fine words and they are weak because they lack emotional content until we use a adverb modifier such as said angrily, talked quietly, shared emphatically, spoke loudly, …

A thesaurus helps because said angrily becomes hissed, talked quietly becomes whispered, shared emphatically becomes emphasized, spoke loudly becomes shouted, … becomes … and so on.


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Pantsers and Plotters (a neuroscience perspective)

 
Imagine you’re writing a story.

You could be a Pantser. Some people call Pantsing “writing by discovery” because the writer lets the story take them where it will without any preconceptions about where it’s going. Supposedly this is Stephen King’s writing method.

You could be a Plotter. Some people call Plotting “architecting” because the writer first writes some kind of outline describing their characters and what happens to them, and usually details chapter by chapter, act by act, or scene by scene the story from beginning to end. Supposedly this is Orson Scott Card’s writing method.

I like the terms “Pantzer” and “Plotter” because they’re easy for me to remember; Write by the seat of your pants or write out the plot.

My life before becoming a full-time author (you can read my bio or some of my career history on LinkedIn) causes me to think the real divide is between a writer’s conscious and nonconscious.

Conscious, Nonconscious, Subconscious, and Unconscious


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