She Couldn’t, But She Did

by Peter Leavell @PeterLeavell

Once upon a time, a young girl wanted…

But then she was told she couldn’t. And she believed them.

My temperature rose 10 degrees writing those words, even though my heart chilled to absolute zero. Repression of any kind is wrong and must stop. But here’s the rub. Overcoming repression makes for fantastic stories.

I’ve written on gender bias, slavery, Native Americans, and religious topics. At the moment, I’m obsessed with female repression. (To be clear, I love hearing how the oppression was overcome, thus learning a bit more about how I can be of service to the oppressed.)
Repression, force or control over someone, is prevalent in every society, in all times. NOT FUN. But again, overcoming repression makes for fantastic stories.

The American West is no different in their sins than any other culture, but the specific repressions thrown together by different powers are unique. So when I write westerns, I combine my obsession with repressed females with bad dudes wearing guns, and boom, page turner.

But here’s where my westerns are different.

I give the girl a gun. And you know what? That’s how some women in the American West solved their repression issues. Because overcoming repression makes for fantastic stories.

Does the feminine mystique only go so far when pitted against masculinity? Instead of blurring these gender differences, I love to enhance them. Why? Because each person has qualities and weaknesses that are unique. And when you bring their skills together, they solve common problems. They do in my novels.

To see if I celebrate the differences of gender roles or blend them or disregard them, read my latest novel, Shadow of Devil’s Tower.

Once upon a time, a young girl wanted…

But then she was told she couldn’t. Then she planned, worked hard, and it happened.



TWEETABLES
She Couldn’t, But She Did by Peter Leavell (Click to Tweet)

Overcoming repression makes for fantastic stories.~ Peter Leavell (Click to Tweet)

But here’s where my westerns are different. I give the girl a gun.~ Peter Leavell (Click to Tweet)

Peter Leavell, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing’s Best award for First-Time Author. His latest book, Shadow of Devil’s Tower, is out now! Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. Learn more about Peter’s books, research, and family adventures at www.peterleavell.com.

First Page: Level—Expert

by Peter Leavell @peterleavell

The novel’s first page is a sacred contract with the reader. The fine print is written between the lines. This is my best writingcontinue if you want more.
I’ve read 25 books already this year, and frankly, the self-published novels are getting this wrong.

Take great pains to craft the first words carefully, because the reader will fling the book aside if she can’t figure out what the book’s about.
Surely, by now, you know everything there is to writing a first page, but it’s always good to keep the rules fresh.

Level: Beginner

—Prepare to write and rewrite the beginning at least one dozen times.
—Page one is flashback hell. Make page one heaven by throwing the reader into the scene immediately.
—No writing tricks. The first page must be as basic and clear as possible. Don’t give readers resistance as they read.
—Don’t start with dialogue.
—No tension? No reason to keep reading. Tension MUST be present. (Inciting Incident)
—Don’t make the reader plow through 8 pages until they reach their first antecedent. Use names.
—Don’t start with weather.

Level: Publishable (all of Beginner plus the following—)

—The scene should be set in one or two sentences, with clear language.
—Reader must have a solid idea of the world they’ve entered.
—Show, don’t tell.
—Introduce the main character and their strongest character trait.
—Introduce the main character’s basic need or want.
—Who cares about the past? No one. Start with the main story immediately.
—Be precise, and avoid adverbs and adjectives.
—Give hints at the momentous troubles ahead.

Level: Expert (the previous, and—)

—Is your first sentence sublime and unique? —Book thesis. Ask the moral question that will be answered in the last page.
—Evoke all five or six senses.
—Create an emotional connection with the character by making the reader relate to the character’s problem.
—Can you show how the main character is unique from any other in the world?
—The tone should be clear—Funny? Dark? Romantic?
—Can the first page stand alone as a short story?

TWEETABLES

First Page: Level—Expert by Peter Leavell (Click to Tweet)

The novel’s first page is a sacred contract with the reader.~ Peter Leavell (Click to Tweet)

It’s always good to keep the rules fresh.~ Peter Leavell (Click to Tweet)




Peter Leavell
, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing’s Best award for First-Time Author. Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. Learn more about Peter’s books, research, and family adventures at www.peterleavell.com.

Title Photo Copyright: palabra / 123RF Stock Photo

Everywhere A Story

by Peter Leavell 
@peterleavell

You have one job.

Like troubadours of old, you tell stories.

This blog page’s name hints at your storytelling medium. Novels!

That’s good. No, that’s better than good. That’s fantastic.

So, a little scope about how stories propel our lives might be in order.

The first human did something—something either so stupid or so profound he had to tell someone about it.

Storytelling and taking in a story is a part of every breath we take.

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF US

At night, our minds turn jumbled thoughts into a logical progression of stories.We stretch in the morning and either remember the dream or not.

What’s next? Do you check Facebook for snippets of stories that are connected with characters who you probably met once but you don’t remember where? Or Twitter, where the thought put down is so short you read them twice or three times?

Then you race to a job.

Working in a cubical. BORING. Until Susie pops her head over the gray wall and says, “Hey, can you believe what John just said to Marsha?” Boredom gone.

When home, you pop on the TV when home and catch the news. Tidbits of bizarre stories (news is abnormal human behavior) cover half an hour, then the local broadcast to see if anyone you know did something ridiculous you can use for blackmail.

Next is a gameshow. We learn a little about folks (Johnny is a brain surgeon) and they compete by guessing questions to answers, a quick little story unfolding, highlighted by the greatest soundtrack in the history of humanity. Then another gameshow story (Billy is interested in bright things) to guess letters and figure out a phrase.

Then television is hourlong story after story.

At night, we read a story, or a non-fiction story (science, art, etc) about our world.

ZZZZZZZZZ


Our lives are built on an obsession with stories. I sit with my wife for dinner and we tell stories about our day.

Jesus Juke—parables. Need I say more?

Good news! You’re a novelist. People crave your work. By all means, make your stories palatable by learning the art. But evidence is in— story trumps everything.

So go boldly, telling your story!

TWEETABLES
Everywhere A Story by Peter Leavell (Click to Tweet)

Like troubadours of old, you tell stories.~ Peter Leavell (Click to Tweet)

Our lives are built on an obsession with stories.~ Peter Leavell (Click to Tweet)


Peter Leavell
Peter Leavell, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing’s Best award for First-Time Author. Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. Learn more about Peter’s books, research, and family adventures at www.peterleavell.com.

More Complicated Than Icebergs—But More Fun

By Peter Leavell @peterleavell

She spills on the fancy tablecloth again.

With practiced efficiency, my family finishes the dishes, whisks off the fine linen, and tosses it into washer.

My kids are good at cleaning up messes.

You’ve heard writing teachers compare character development to icebergs. Icebergs? Engines full reverse! Writing fascinating characters is so much more than a floating chunk of ice.

When the laundry is done, we put the cloth back on the table. The color across the center of the squared tablecloth is a cheerful yellow and blue. The bright patterns reflect our love and joy.
Most likely, spills on the fabric will reoccur next meal. And we’ll work the same routine.

You’d think at this age, she’d learn to keep from tipping over cups. Or dropping plates. Taco chips with salsa balancing on the corn’s edge drip every time. And there’s the breaking of fine china… Why do we let her handle the dishes?

Build a bigger iceberg, and you’ll sink bigger ships? Is that how we’re going to write? Deep knowledge of your character allows for depths on the pages of your….blah blah blah.

Her hand slips and the knife draws a deep line through her skin. We help her to the bathroom and I bandage her finger while one of the kids clean up and finish cutting the carrots.

Why would anyone ever let her have a knife? Ridiculous?

Building an iceberg is for the author. The reader sees far less of the iceberg than writing teachers hope. What do I mean? Even the deepest literary characters are shallow compared to the bits and pieces that make up a real human being. The writer’s job is to trigger the reader’s emotional response to a situation in the story so that the reader’s imagination concocts a character from their own experiences and icebergs, making the characters relatable. 

After another spill in a restaurant, a stranger in his 60’s leans over and asks my wife why her hands shake so bad.

She’s humiliated. Her hands have shaken her entire life. But she doesn’t tell him that. It’s just one more rock around her neck that reminds her that she’s broken.

The author must find relatable aspects in their own characters they can bring forward to connect with the reader’s imagination and past. Iceberg? Rubbish. Your character is a mix of ingredients. One part was grown on a distant farm, harvested, then ground into powder. Another was pressed and aged in an oak barrel. Another was plucked from a tree and pitted. And so many more until the ingredients have created a dish the reader can taste. Some ingredients are a hint, while some flavors bite. Every reader has different tastes.

My wife returns home. That night she makes dinner. Doesn’t spill. Doesn’t burn her fingers.

That will show that horrible man.
Later, her shaking fingers try to click on the computer’s mousepad at just the right time. She can’t get it. She’s glad the horrible man isn’t looking.

The snapshot of my wife’s life might annoy some, or endear her to others. A small ingredient to her recipe (or as I call her, a dish), ignites the reader’s imagination. 

Create ingredients for your characters, and you’ll have an amazing meal for your readers.

The day I had married my wife and we said our vows, I took her hands.

Her hands still don’t shake when I hold them.

TWEETABLES

More Complicated Than Icebergs—But More Fun by Peter Leavell (Click to Tweet)

Writing fascinating characters is more than a floating chunk of ice~ Peter Leavell (Click to Tweet)

The author must find relatable aspects in their characters~ Peter Leavell (Click to Tweet)

Peter Leavell, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing’s Best award for First-Time Author. Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. Learn more about Peter’s books, research, and family adventures at www.peterleavell.com.