• strict warning: Declaration of FeedsImporter::copy() should be compatible with FeedsConfigurable::copy(FeedsConfigurable $configurable) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/includes/FeedsImporter.inc on line 94.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsNodeProcessor::map() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::map($source_item, $target_item = NULL) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsNodeProcessor.inc on line 319.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsNodeProcessor::setTargetElement() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::setTargetElement(&$target_item, $target_element, $value) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsNodeProcessor.inc on line 319.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsFeedNodeProcessor::map() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::map($source_item, $target_item = NULL) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsFeedNodeProcessor.inc on line 227.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsFeedNodeProcessor::setTargetElement() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::setTargetElement(&$target_item, $target_element, $value) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsFeedNodeProcessor.inc on line 227.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsUserProcessor::map() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::map($source_item, $target_item = NULL) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsUserProcessor.inc on line 195.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • You must include at least one positive keyword with 3 characters or more.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_display::options_validate() should be compatible with views_plugin::options_validate(&$form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_display.inc on line 1877.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_display_block::options_submit() should be compatible with views_plugin_display::options_submit(&$form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_display_block.inc on line 193.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_field_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_field.inc on line 641.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_sort_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_sort.inc on line 82.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter::options_validate() should be compatible with views_handler::options_validate($form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 585.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter::options_submit() should be compatible with views_handler::options_submit($form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 585.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 609.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter_boolean_operator::value_validate() should be compatible with views_handler_filter::value_validate($form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter_boolean_operator.inc on line 128.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_style_default::options() should be compatible with views_object::options() in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_style_default.inc on line 25.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_row::options_validate() should be compatible with views_plugin::options_validate(&$form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_row.inc on line 135.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_row::options_submit() should be compatible with views_plugin::options_submit(&$form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_row.inc on line 135.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Declaration of content_handler_field::options() should be compatible with views_object::options() in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/cck/includes/views/handlers/content_handler_field.inc on line 208.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_argument::init() should be compatible with views_handler::init(&$view, $options) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_argument.inc on line 745.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_argument_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_argument.inc on line 770.

6 Writing Techniques I Learned at Storymasters

Today’s guest is David Bruns, the creator of the sci-fi series The Dream Guild Chronicles and one half of the Two Navy Guys and a Novel blog series about co-writing a military thriller. His latest novel is Weapons of Mass Deception, a story of modern-day nuclear terrorism that could be ripped from today’s headlines. David is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy, and he served six years as a commissioned officer in the nuclear-powered submarine force. After twenty years in the high-tech private sector, he traded in his frequent flyer cards for a career in writing.
Writer Unboxed is about the craft of fiction and my post is about the craft lessons I learned from attending a StoryMasters workshop. I approached WU first because of your connection with Don Maass. My hope is that other writers will be encouraged to use workshops as a way to hone their writing skills.
Connect with David on his blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter.
6 Writing Techniques I Learned at Storymasters
Sometimes you just need to jump into the deep end of the pool. Take, for example, my New Year’s writing goal to attend a craft workshop. When the opportunity to attend StoryMasters in February came up on my radar screen, I decided to knock out one of my 2015 goals early in the year.
StoryMasters is a 4-day intensive seminar on the craft of writing co-taught by Chris Vogler, James Scott Bell, and Don Maass, all well-respected teachers in the fiction writing community. 

StoryMasters is a 4-day intensive seminar on the craft of writing co-taught by Chris Vogler, James Scott Bell, and Don Maass, all well-respected teachers in the fiction writing community. Using complementary teaching and story-building techniques, the three “masters” each shared an entire day with us. Here’s a sampling of what I learned.
1. Every scene is a transaction. We’re taught to think of scenes as conflict, but Chris Vogler suggested we approach each scene as a deal. Character A wants something from Character B–how will she get it? Deceit? Bribery? Pleading? Then, as any salesman worth his salt will tell you: when you get to “yes,” end the meeting! Don’t let the scene drag on. Bonus tip: cut the last 2-3 lines from your scene to see if you can also end it with an increased sense of “what happens next?”
2. “A story is a conspiracy to teach a lesson.” I liked this Chris Vogler quote so much it now occupies a spot on my wall. Audiences come for the thrills (the external story), but they stay for the moral lesson (the inner journey). Give the people what they want.
3. The Mirror Moment. A few weeks ago, as I was revising my own novel, I had a character that just would not cooperate. A writer friend read the manuscript and pointed out to me that my character lacked a “turning point.” It was true. I had done some great buildup and resolved things at the end, but completely missed the scene where she faces herself and makes the decision to change. In his book, Write Your Novel From the Middle, James Scott Bell makes the argument that the “mirror moment” is the place to start with your character. Until you decide how your character is going to change, you don’t really have a story to tell.
4. Pet the Dog. This is another euphemism from Mr. Bell to represent the point in the middle of the story where you remind your reader why they should care about your flawed protagonist. When Dirty Harry saves the stray puppy in a gun battle, or when Katniss teams up with Rue in The Hunger Games, these are “pet the dog” moments where the protagonists put themselves at risk to help a weaker character. This vulnerability builds an emotional bridge to your reader.
5. Micro-Tension. A real eye-opener for me was Don Maass’s session on how to introduce that “I have to keep reading” feeling into your prose, a state he calls “micro-tension.” He took random selections of dialogue, exposition, and action from workshop attendees and demonstrated how we could infuse an element of anxiety or uncertainty into the story that can only be resolved by reading the next line. You want your readers to keep turning pages? Introduce micro-tension into every single sentence.
6. Use Secondary Emotions for Maximum Impact. A corollary to Maass’s micro-tension is the use of secondary (conflicting) feelings to amplify the emotional impact on the reader. Consider this line: “I recoiled in horror at the bleeding body lying in the center of the floor” with this one: “I loved seeing him lying bleeding on the floor—and I hated myself for it.” Why does the second pique your interest? Because the character is experiencing two conflicting emotions—joy and horror—at the same time and we want to know why. Maass went through a process to help us excavate the emotions of a scene and retell it for maximum impact by focusing on secondary emotions.
These six gems were only the tip of the iceberg. By the time the four days ended, my head was bursting with ideas about how to implement all these wonderful techniques. In case you’re wondering, my secondary emotion was a paralyzing fear that maybe I wasn’t up to the writing challenge.
But nobody ever learned to swim without getting wet. Dive in—the water’s fine.
Have you ever taken a plunge on a writing goal? What did you learn?
 

"To get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement. To condense the diffused light of a page of thought into the luminous flash of a single sentence, is worthy to rank as a prize composition just by itself...Anybody can have ideas--the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph."
Mark Twain

Random picks

  • Nothing shines more than a document that reads as though that it was written by an expert, and almost nothing provides that shine better than professional copyediting. Face it, any person can scribble. Writing is one of those basic skills, one that's called upon regularly. Even with the recent technological revolution, nobody has truly figured out how to replace the human element in writing. Whether it is a dissertation, a blog post, a business strategy, an e-book, or almost any other document,
  • The Gift of the Magi—an Appreciation is a critique of the immortal short story by O. Henry on the theme of Christmas and gift exchange. The short write-up brings out the essence of the story without revealing the surprise ending.
  • I'm not sure why I find this story so subtly sad. There's a woman and her husband--a woman who works hard to become a better person, a husband who barely tries at all. And yet, the husband comes off seeming more capable. The woman, by contrast, keeps slipping into old routines, into, for example, a binge drinking habit. Perhaps what is so sad here is that the lack of moving forward--the story itself is light on plot--seems so akin to my achieving of goals. It seems more like one is given a standard personality and mode of behavior and no matter how hard one tries, the old ways inevitably...
  • There are two things all writers can do, regardless of skill level, to keep improving. We
  • Mike Landweber is a great PR associate editor and reader, who has something to say about the tenuous relationship between writer and time:Writers often talk about what is the most important part of writing. Do you start with plot or theme? How about characters? Are those things more important than the style or the voice or the imagery? Of course, these are all elements necessary for a good story or novel. But I believe there is one thing that is more crucial to quality writing than anything else.Time.I’m not talking about time as a device within fiction. I’m quite simply referring to...

Recommended sites

Most recent titles

Fast fact about writing

Writers not writing for a living often find enjoyment and small payouts from Web sites seeking material to raise their sites higher in the search engine rankings. Although this is a legitimate practice, the writing being published on the Web can often be less than professional. This lack of professionalism distorts the line between qualified and amateur writers. Writing standards are often not the highest priority as Web sites seek to drive traffic to gain advertising exposure. It seems as if readers are not as concerned about the writing quality, as long as they find a relevant account on a particular topic.