Responses to Stress: Fight, Flight, or Freeze

Hello everyone! Happy Memorial Day!

“It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.” – Lou Holtz

Everyone reaches a moment in their life where they face a situation (physical, financial, emotional, relational, etc.) which feels too overwhelming to handle. There are three basic responses to these situations:thS1LJR4YA

  1. Fight – Work to resolve the problem
  2. Flight – Remove oneself from the situation
  3. Freeze – Avoid or ignore the issue

Your writing challenge for the next two weeks is to come up with a potentially crippling situation and write a short story about how the protagonist handles it. The issue can be internal (a health issue or mental disorder) or external (a difficult relationship, financial troubles, a sick loved one, etc.). You must have a goal for the protagonist to either succeed at or fail to achieve.

1. Beginning: Introduce your high stress situation and decide how your character will respond to it (fight, flight, or freeze).

Things for You to Consider as the Writer:

  • What is the protagonist’s attitude towards the situation?
  • Will that attitude change over time?

2. Middle: Come up with three ways that your protagonist will try to accomplish his/her goal and a minimum of one consequence for each action taken. I strongly recommend that the first two attempts fail or that they are only partially successful. The results of the first two attempts should add to your protagonist’s stress in some way. The protagonist’s third attempt should be your climax.

Tension 4Example Responses to Stressful Situations:

  • confiding in and/or depending on someone (e.g. God, family members, a friend, a therapist, etc.)
  • trying to manage stress through:
    • a healthy diet and/or exercise
    • impulse shopping
    • excessive eating
    • using a controlled substance (e.g. drugs, alcohol, etc.)
  • becoming depressed
  • responding irritably to people
  • making a major life change
  • etc.

3. Conclusion: Does your protagonist succeed or fail?

Happy writing!

Katie

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Strong, Clear, Concise Writing

Hello everyone!

It is easy to recognize bad writing and to identify why it is bad.  However, it is harder to explain why a piece of writing is good.

Below is an article and an infographic which helped me to identify weaknesses in my own writing.  I also included some of the strategies I applied to correct these shortcomings.

Active VerbsIn writing, it is always better to show than tell.  “Don’t Use Adverbs and Adjectives to Prettify Your Prose” by William Noble explains when and how to use adverbs and adjectives.

Laurie Wallmark directed me to 5 Basic Rules of English Writing That Everyone Should Know (Infographic)” by Jennifer Frost.  After reading the infographic, I found that I am guilty of regularly breaking rules three and four.

Rule #3 – “Do not use words whose meanings you are not sure of.”

When I’m writing, I will sometimes use a word that I am 90% sure means one thing.  Before I started blogging, I liked my chances of having used the correct word.  Now, I either look up the word before using it or change it’s color in the rough draft, so I will remember to confirm it’s meaning later.  I’m glad I started doing this.  Sometimes, the word means exactly what I thought it did and other times the meaning is vastly different.

Rule #4 – “Use concrete rather than vague language.”

thV903596HI tend to be sparse in my descriptions of cities and scenery during travel sequences.  For example, I might write “While walking through the forest, a tree branch whacked him in the face.”  What type of forest was he in: coniferous, deciduous, or rainforest?  Is it dark or is there lots of sunlight?  Was the tree branch leafy, flimsy, spiky, thick, dry, etc.?  (Remember Noble’s advice concerning adjectives.)  Since I am more drawn to witty dialogue and dynamic characters than descriptions, it can be difficult for me to recognize this lack of specificity.

After acknowledging this tendency, I began training myself to watch out for bland descriptions in my writing.  First, I reread portions of The Hunger Games, Eragon, The Maze Runner, and Divergent to get a sense for how some successful Dystopian Sci-Fi and Fantasy authors described their worlds.  I also re-watched The Lord of the Rings trilogy, paying special attention to the different looks of elven homes (Rivendell vs. Lothlórien), human cities (Edoras vs. Minas Tirith), and the changing landscapes.  My brother, who studied film, recommended that I look at photos of whatever biome my characters are traveling through.  I could then assign the locations in my world specific photos and consult them before writing the descriptions.  I am hoping that these exercises will help me to eliminate vague language from my writing.

My challenge to you is to read “5 Basic Rules of English Writing That Everyone Should Know (Infographic)” and then look at your own writing.  Which rules do you regularly break?  After identifying them, take the necessary steps to reform.  Your writing will be stronger if you do.

Happy writing!

Katie

Tension in Storytelling Is Essential

Hello everyone!

One important element to storytelling is tension. No one wants to read a bland story. Readers want the protagonist’s urgency to transport them from one event to the next. If something is not emotionally, financially, physically, politically, relationally, or spiritually important to the protagonist, why should the reader care?

Any situation or task, however boring or mundane, can become stressful and increase the tension of your story if the conditions are right.

Tension 5Have you ever been in a car with someone who was mad at you or walked into a room where someone was crying? Awkward! How about doing your taxes, mailing them in two days before they’re due, and then realizing that you did them incorrectly? (Yeah, that one might be somewhat autobiographical, and I still have the second set of Certified Mail receipts to prove it.)

Writing Challenge

Choose one or more of the activities below and write a tense scene. If it has potential, try developing the story beyond just that scene. In order to achieve the desired level of tension, you will have to do some character development.

Mundane Activities:

  1. Eating cereal
  2. Getting the mail
  3. Grocery shopping
  4. Going to the dentist (Okay, this is an easy one.)
  5. Returning a phone call

Happy writing!

Katie

How to Create a Successful Blog

Hello everyone!

While preparing for the 2017 NJ SCBWI Conference, I thought back to September 2015 when I became serious about getting published. I researched how to make a living as a children’s author (FYI – The answer is to publish a lot of books or get insanely lucky.). Then, I explored how to make myself appealing to agents and editors.

One term I kept seeing and hearing was “platform.” Somehow, I didn’t think they were referring to a wooden plane. Eventually, I figured out that a writer’s platform is his/her following – the people who will read the author’s newest book just because he/she wrote it. I concluded that I needed to grow an online presence.

In January 2016, I decided to create a writer’s Facebook page, website, and blog. My friends joined my Facebook page, but my blog was a graveyard. It was so disheartening to post weekly and not have anyone read my work. I wanted to delete my blog, but knew that was not a good marketing strategy. So, I stuck with it.

In early 2017, I discovered the magic of using tags and other bloggers started to find my posts. I also started using more photos to increase the visual appeal of my blog. After almost a year and a half of blogging, I finally feel like I’m getting the hang of it, and I still have room for improvement and adaptation. Isn’t that the majority of the writing process?

Below are some articles I wish I’d read before I created my blog. I hope you also find them helpful.

The Author’s Dilemma: To Blog or Not to Blog” by Claire E. White

How to Craft a Blog Post – 10 Crucial Points to Pause” by Darren Rowse

How to Use Tags on Your Blog or Website” by Michael Gray

Traffic 1Happy writing and may you get lots of blog traffic!

Katie