3 Tips for Writing the Big Story Concept

big-story-concept-writing

by Patty Smith Hall, @pattywrites

Have you ever wished you were a fly on the wall when George Lucas and Steven Spielberg were brainstorming ‘Star Wars?’ Can you imagine it? They probably started with an overall theme—good versus evil—then began to build their characters.

Luke, the impetuous boy who would become his father’s last hope for redemption; Leia, a princess warrior determined to save a way of life; Hans, a cowboy/rogue who becomes a reluctant hero. And of course, Darth Vader. Good verse evil is a simple enough idea until there are two empires on a collision course, two men on route to a battle of good and evil.

big-story-concept-writing

Can you imagine the excitement building, how scenes probably started unfolding in their heads? It had become more than another movie idea. It had something that most everyone could relate to, something that drew on your emotions.

That’s a big story concept, and it’s something each and every writer wants for their book. So how do you do it?

1) Take a simple idea and magnify it.

At the very core of ‘Star Wars,’ we find it’s conflict—good verse evil. Simple, yes, but a dozen movies or books have the very same theme, yet they don’t have the pull of ‘Star Wars.’  Why is that?

Mainly because the good verse evil theme is an integral part of every character, characters we identify with. It makes us care about the outcome because we’ve struggled good and evil before. Look at Luke’s relationship with Vader.

Adversaries on the big scale, at times, physically fighting each other. Yet the moment Vader whispers those words—‘Luke, I am your father’—Luke changes. He begins to see this as a personal battle to save his father’s soul. It becomes more personal and real to us—most of us know what it’s like to have a family member or friend that may need saving.

Luke’s battle becomes our own. If he can lead his father back to the light, maybe we have hope of doing the same.

2) Look for the story within the story.

Most everyone knows about America’s space race with the Soviets in the 1960s. How the best and the brightest were chosen to lead our country into space exploration. Alan Shepard was the first American in space, John Glenn, the first to orbit around the earth. Their names are in our history books. They were our heroes.

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But what about the people behind the scenes of the space launches, the mathematicians who calculated the trajectory of the rocket and figured out how to get the astronauts safely home? They’re heroes, aren’t they? Now, what if those some mathematicians were fighting a battle against racial and gender injustice of the time like the women in ‘Hidden Figures?’ To see these women segregated yet overcome the odds and do something extraordinary gives us hope that we can overcome our own situation.

3) Search out the unexpected.

When my oldest daughter was a teenager, she loved everything having to do with the movie, Pearl Harbor. From the moment she saw it, she wanted to know everything about that time period—the battles, life on the home front, the clothes and music. Being the Bible-thumping, women’s libber that I am, I searched the library for anything on women’s efforts in the war.

I found one book.

And in it, there was one paragraph on the very last page about a small group of women pilots who flew planes and trained flyers for the Army. These women were my heroine in my first book, Hearts in Flight. Since then, I’ve found dozens of stories about these forgotten women who made an impact. And when I share these stories, the faces in my audience light up, and I hear what every writer loves to hear.

“I can’t wait to read it!’

If you’re interested in learning more about big story concept, here’s a great article in Writer’s Digest by Jeff Lyons of Kensington Entertainment.

 novel Writing tips


Seven Brides for Seven Mail-Order Husbands Romance Collection

Seven women seek husbands to help them rebuild a Kansas town.

Meet seven of Turtle Springs, Kansas’, finest women who are determined to revive their small town after the War Between the States took most of its men. . .and didn’t return them. The ladies decide to advertise for husbands and devise a plan for weeding out the riff raff. But how can they make the best practical choices when their hearts cry out to be loved?

Patty Smith-Hall – A multi-published author with Love Inspired Historical and Barbour, Patty lives in North Georgia with her husband of 30+ years, Danny; two gorgeous daughters, her son-in-love and a grandboy who has her wrapped around his tiny finger. When she’s not writing on her back porch, she’s spending time with her family or working in her garden.

How do you come up with this stuff?

By Patty Smith Hall, @pattywrites

Several weeks ago, I helped Mrs. Partin’s second grade class complete an English project. In the days before my visit, the kids were assigned to come up with a list of characters and setting for a story that we would complete together in class. The day of my visit arrived, and I was surprised to find not only the children waiting on me but my cousin(Mrs. Partin’s mother) there too. Over the next hour, the kids and I weaved an imaginative story filled with battles and learning right from wrong and the power of a grandmother’s love.
Once we were finished and the kids were assigned their new project—drawing the story scenes, I asked my cousin why she was there. She said something about wanting to see me in action then asked:

“How do you come up with this stuff?”

My reply floored her. “It all started with Batman.”

Now, I’m not talking about the George Cooney-Ben Afleck-Val Kilmer caped crusader. I’m going old school with the campy television version starring Adam West and Burt Ward as the dynamic duo! With a right hook(BAM!) and a left upper cut(KAPOW!) these caped crusaders cleaned up Gotham City every week from the likes of the Joker, the Penguin and Catwoman.

But for me, Batman was so much more. It sparked my imagination for the first time in my young life. Many Sunday afternoons while on long boring drives with my parents, I’d step into the fantasy world of Gotham City, coming up with different stories with Batman and Robin. And of course, me.

Silly, I know, but looking back, I realized how much I learned about storytelling basics from the show—romantic conflict(Batman and Catwoman’s charged relationship,) chapter breaks(how would the dynamic duo escape the Riddler’s clutches THIS time?) and satisfying endings(the caped crusaders save the day!)

What sparked your imagination as a child? What did you learn from it?

TWEETABLES
How do you come up with this stuff? by Patty Smith Hall (Click to Tweet)

Batman sparked my imagination for the first time in my young life.~ Patty Smith Hall (Click to Tweet)

What sparked your imagination as a child?~ Patty Smith Hall (Click to Tweet)

Seven women seek husbands to help them rebuild a Kansas town.

Meet seven of Turtle Springs, Kansas’, finest women who are determined to revive their small town after the War Between the States took most of its men. . .and didn’t return them. The ladies decide to advertise for husbands and devise a plan for weeding out the riff raff. But how can they make the best practical choices when their hearts cry out to be loved?

Patty Smith-Hall is a multi-published, award-winning author with Love Inspired Historical/Heartsong and currently serves as president of the ACFW-Atlanta chapter. She currently lives in North Georgia with her husband of 30+ years, Danny; two gorgeous daughters and a future son-in-love. Her next release, New Hope Sweethearts will
be available in July on Amazon.

Advice on Writing a Novella Collection

by Patty Smith Hall

A few weeks ago, my first novella collection, The American Heiress Bride Collection from Barbour Publishing hit the bookstores, and I was tickled to death. After fourteen published books and novellas, it may seem funny to get excited over, but it was a dream come true for me. Working with the staff at Barbour has been a goal of mine ever since I helped them with multi-city book tour several years. I learned a great deal about marketing and what goes into the publishing process during that tour, and saw firsthand the dedication Barbour had to producing the best books possible.

But most of all, I loved writing it because of the amazing writers I was blessed to work with every day. They taught me a great deal about craft so I asked them to share some of their wisdom on writing in a novella collection with you today.

Lisa Carter, author of Under the Turquiose Sky—The positives of working with other authors is you have someone to help share the marketing load. It’s also an opportunity to learn from others as well as have fun together!

Susanne Dietze, author of The Reluctant Guardian—I’m a visual person so I make on excel spreadsheet when I plotting. My columns aren’t just labeled by chapters but also things like ‘the point of no return’ or black moment.’ In a novella, there isn’t a lot of time to hit those beats so I like to have structure to show me what to focus on.

Cynthia Hickey, author of The Shady Acres Mystery Series—The great thing about working in a collection is the ability to reach new readers you might not have the opportunity to reach otherwise. But remember—you’re dealing with a multitude of personalities and authors who do things their way. Be flexible.

Anita Mae Draper, author of Romantic Refinements-Being in a collection gives me the chance to work other authors of varying experiences where we share craft and media skills, and multiply the promotional factor. You need to work as a team and abide by the group’s decision-even if it’s not the one you wanted. Remember, the end result is what’s important.

Kim Woodhouse, co-author of In the Shadow of Denali—Write a detailed synopsis so you know exactly where you’re going. Yes, they’re hard work, but it’s necessary in our creative field if you want to succeed. In a novella, you have write tight. There’s no room to go off the rails-so write that synopses!

As for my advice, go into the experience with a teachable spirit. Be open to the other writers’ suggestions and be willing to present your own. And always pray for each other.

TWEETABLES

Advice on Writing a Novella Collection by Patty Smith Hall (Click to Tweet)

Go into the experience with a teachable spirit~ Patty Smith Hall (Click to Tweet)

Be open to the other writers’ suggestions~ Patty Smith Hall (Click to Tweet)


Patty Smith Hall is multi-published author with Love Inspired Historical and Barbour. Patty lives in North Georgia with her husband of 30+ years, Danny; two gorgeous daughters, her son-in-love and a grandboy who is due to arrive any day now. Her new release, Hometown Heiress in The American Heiress Bride Collection is available on Amazon or your local bookstore.

What I Learned From Self Publilshing

post by Michelle Griep

You know those TV shows that feature some daredevil lighting his underwear on fire as he hops on a motorcycle and jumps over five semi-trucks and a baby, all while some scrolling type at the bottom of the screen warns you not to attempt this at home? Yeah. I feel like there should be some kind of warning to those considering self publishing because it’s really not as easy as it looks. Leastwise not if you want to put out a quality book.

So here is my attempt at enlightening those who think they’ll just slap up some type on Createspace and rake in a million bucks.

**pretend the following is scrolling across the screen . . . I’m not technologically savvy enough to do that and there’s no teenager around for me to collar**

1. Covers are a pain in the patootie. Who knew there’d be so many decision to make? Color. Style. Artwork. Wording. Layout. Font. Sizing. Transparency. Bleed. And that’s just in the first consultation.

2. No matter how many times you go through a manuscript, you can always find something else to change.

3. A good editor is worth her weight in chai. I didn’t actually have the money up front to pay for a manuscript edit so I bartered for a lifetime supply of chai. So far it’s worked out pretty good. Of course, if she lives to be one hundred, I may be in trouble. Nah. I’ll be dead first. Hahahaha! Joke’s on her. . . wait a minute. Maybe not.

4. If you put your book up for pre-order on Amazon, they give you a deadline set in stone to upload your final copy. If you’re late, oops! Your name is written on the Amazon naughty list and you don’t get to put up any more pre-orders for over a year.

5. There’s way more that goes into producing a book than simply good writing, though that is a must. There’s book size, paper color, paper weight, ISBN nonsense, Library of Congress shtuff, a bajillion different kind of ebook conversions, yada, yada. Seriously, I had no idea.

It was an adventure putting out my self-pubbed book, Writer Off the Leash, but one that’s been a good education. Would I do it again? Probably. Will I leave the realm of traditional publishing behind? Nope. Each venue has their pros and cons.

ABOUT THE BOOK:

WRITER OFF THE LEASH: GROWING IN THE WRITING CRAFT is a kick in the pants for anyone who wants to write but is stymied by fear, doubt, or simply doesn’t know how to take their writing to the next level.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Michelle Griep’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. Follow her adventures and find out about upcoming new releases at her blog, Writer Off the Leash, or stop by her website. You can also find her at the usual haunts of FacebookTwitter, or Pinterest.