Toing and Froing

We’re going to build on elements from Using One-Line Summaries to Write Better Stories and Flashback as Story Frame to deal with another story challenge that often leads editors and publishers to stop reading and reject a story: Toing and Froing (To-ing and Fro-ing), something I first wrote about in Quit Stage Directing.

Simply put, 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.

The end result is weak writing, exposition, narration, and lots of uninteresting things happening just to fill the page. Most writers/authors fall down on “movement is unnecessary to the dialogue.” They’ll have two or more characters talking and feel the characters should be doing something while they talk.

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.

Eating my own dogfood
I’m currently editing Cicatrix, a work-in-progress last picked up and put down in late Feb 2019.

What follows is the ninth scene in the story. I’ll share the scene’s original form first with brightly colored “Problems” buttons after each weak paragraph. Click on the “Problems” buttons for examples of that paragraph’s problems. Next I’ll share share a rewrite with brightly colored “Solutions” buttons. Click on the “Solutions” buttons for explanations of why the rewrite is better.

PS) this is more for my edification than yours. Feel free to disagree. Please make sure you explain your disagreement and offer suggestions for improvement. Always happy to learn, me.


Greetings! I’m your friendly, neighborhood Threshold Guardian. This is a protected post. Protected posts in the My Work, Marketing, and StoryCrafting categories require a subscription (starting at 1$US/month) to access. Protected posts outside those categories require a General (free) membership.
Members and Subscribers can LogIn. Non members can join. Non-protected posts (there are several) are available to everyone.
Want to learn more about why I use a subscription model? Read More ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes Enjoy!

Mystery Writers of America “Mystery Writer’s Handbook”

Another book purchased years ago and finally read because a work-in-progress, Search, had mystery elements and I wanted to know ahead of time what I should be doing and what to look out for.

 
Mystery Writer’s Handbook, like most of the writing books I’ve reviewed on my website, is a worthy read for all authors, writers, and writer-wannabes. It’s focus is mystery and its view is broad. Romantic suspense novels fall into the mystery fold. I didn’t know there was such a genre, but I do now and surprise! my work-in-progress with mystery elements is more a romantic suspense novel than not.

Like all writing books, it discusses character, scene, POV, dialogue, description, and the like. Its real power is in both plot – because good plot tends to drive most mystery and the plot techniques are gems – and editing – the chapter on revising and editing is truly a standout. An extra bonus is a short section on contracts. Many of the books I’ve read mention contracts, Mystery Writer’s Handbook provides a roadmap of potholes and things to avoid.

Strongly recommended.

Flashback as Story Frame

I wrote about using one-line story summaries to craft craft better stories in Using One-Line Summaries to Write Better Stories.

The next question is “How does the story come together on the page?” Note: we’re continuing with the work we did in Using One-Line Summaries to Write Better Stories.

Give the reader a reason to read your story.

 
You have to give the reader a reason to read the story. Reasons to read a story are varied and pretty much all come down to the reader asking themselves these questions:


Greetings! I’m your friendly, neighborhood Threshold Guardian. This is a protected post. Protected posts in the My Work, Marketing, and StoryCrafting categories require a subscription (starting at 1$US/month) to access. Protected posts outside those categories require a General (free) membership.
Members and Subscribers can LogIn. Non members can join. Non-protected posts (there are several) are available to everyone.
Want to learn more about why I use a subscription model? Read More ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes Enjoy!

Using One-Line Summaries to Write Better Stories

Sometimes a story, scene, or chapter isn’t working as you wish. Sometimes a completed story doesn’t have the oomph! you want it to have.

Here’s a suggestion for getting your story, scene, or chapter working as it should.

Write a one-line summary that tells your story
Let’s say (for example purposes) we’re working with a completed short story. We recognize the story is flawed but are unsure what the flaw is. We write the one line summary Man with a painful past hopes for a better future.

That’s a start and, if that’s the entirety of the story, the flaw (from a StoryTelling perspective) becomes obvious: it’s cliched.

“Hoping” for a better future but doing nothing to get that future makes a character pitiable (maybe) at best. They are the person who complains about their life but does nothing to change it.

Not interesting (especially if it’s the main character in the story).

Rewrite the one-line summary to include some action on the main character’s part which indicates that character is working towards a better future; Man with a painful past sees opportunity for a better future.

Okay, better but still not much and still cliched. If the character sees an opportunity then the reader must share that experience. But if the character doesn’t act on what is seen, they’re even more pitiable than before, possibly a coward, and probably someone the reader would avoid in real life.

Not good.

Make sure your summary includes the threat/challenge/possible loss to the main character if they don’t change!

Greetings! I’m your friendly, neighborhood Threshold Guardian. This is a protected post. Protected posts in the My Work, Marketing, and StoryCrafting categories require a subscription (starting at 1$US/month) to access. Protected posts outside those categories require a General (free) membership.
Members and Subscribers can LogIn. Non members can join. Non-protected posts (there are several) are available to everyone.
Want to learn more about why I use a subscription model? Read More ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes Enjoy!

(Video published – see link below) Join science fiction, fantasy, alt-history, steampunk, YA science fantasy, speculative fiction, and military science fiction authors F. Stephan, Geoff Genge, Claudia Blood, Theresa Halvorsen, C.G. Hatton, special guest alt-history and dystopian author Liz Tuckwell and myself in a two hour talk on #worldbuilding this Saturday, 6 Mar 21, noonET on Facebook

UPDATE: You can watch the panel discussion at both Litcon 2021 World Building Panel with Science fiction, fantasy, alt-history, steampunk, YA science fantasy, speculative fiction, dystopia, and military science fiction authors F. Stephan, Geoff Genge, Claudia Blood, Theresa Halvorsen, C.G. Hatton, and Liz Tuckwell and YouTube


Watch it live Saturday, 6 March 2021, noonET on Facebook!

 
About Minnesota based Claudia Blood
The Relic Trilogy – Which is YA sci-fantasy (or soft sci-fi)
Book 1: Company Assassin
Book 2: Horizon Found
Book 3: Time Rift — Goes live March 15th

 
About PEI based Geoff Genge
Terra Obscura series
My genre is alt-history/steampunk/sci-fi. What can I say… I’m complicated.
I like romantic dinners, stiff drinks, and long walks down abandoned country roads. Ya’know… since you asked.

 

About Temecula based Theresa Halvorsen
heresa Halvorsen has never met a profanity she hasn’t enjoyed. She’s generally overly-caffeinated and at times, wine-soaked. The author of multiple spec-fiction works, including Warehouse Dreams and River City Widows, in addition to various short stories and non-fiction articles, Theresa wonders what sleep is. Because she didn’t have enough to do, she also started No Bad Books Press with S. Faxon and edits for other spec fiction writers.), Theresa enjoys board games, geeky conventions, and reading. Her life goal is to give “Oh-My-Gosh-This-Book-Is-So-Good!” happiness to her readers. She lives in Temecula with her amazing husband, occasionally her college-age twins, and the pets they’d promised to care for.

 
About Lyon, France based F. Stephan
I have now 4 science fiction books in the same universe
The first two will tell you of Brian’s path to become a fully qualified starpilot and to overcome his worst fears
The third brings you back to Earth and the first trading space station above it, unsupported by the planet below
The fourth introduces you to a new character. She is forty, her birth has been deleted from the databases by the Federation until now and suddenly she has to find out what happened then.
I have pushed back the anthology of short stories
I am writing a fantasy book, set up in an alternate roman-styled world. When Giants attacks Antiago’s ally and northern border, General Torkal has only one choice. Step in. But the Giants are only the first threat he faces. We follow Allus Vernal, Scout Master of the First Legion, protegé of the General, from reconnaissance to battles, from throne rooms to secret fortresses

 
About North East England based C.G. Hatton
I write fast-paced action adventure military scifi (Thieves’ Guild), far future, galaxy at war, lots of intrigue, character-driven, complex, six books in main series, two so far in YA origins series set ten years before the main drama, new book out in April is the 3rd in that origins series…
Also editor of the Harvey Duckman Presents series of scifi, fantasy, steampunk and horror short story anthologies…
Background is degree and PhD in geology, worked at Durham Uni for five years, worked as a journalist, sub editor and editor on local newspapers for six years or so… started Sixth Element Publishing in 2009… mentor writers, run writing workshops, edit work, publish stuff… did some other stuff here and there

 
And from Special Guest alt-history and dystopia author Liz Tuckwell
I have written one dystopian short story and I’ve written several alternate history fantasy short stories about an alternative Rome. And a urban fantasy novella.

null