Friday, January 1, 2010

2009 Consolidated Storysleuths Tips

To our StorySleuths Readers,

Here are all 36 StorySleuths Tips that we put together October - December 2009. We have had a lot of fun reading and researching, and have learned quite a bit along the way--we hope you have, too!

We look forward to kicking off 2010 with Geektastic, Stories from the Nerd Herd, starting later this week.

Happy reading and writing in 2010!

Allyson, Heather and Meg

StorySleuths Tip #1: The first line and first page need to shine, shine, shine and call out to the reader, “Get ready, you’re in for something special.”

StorySleuths Tip #2: Read the story you have written and ask yourself: Is my storytelling voice fresh and unique?

StorySleuths Tip #3: See the world through your character’s eyes.

StorySleuths Tip # 4: Backstory and slower pacing can lead up to and heighten important dramatic action.

StorySleuths Tip #5: Questions build suspense, whether they are posed by a character, or the situation begs that your reader ask them.

StorySleuths Tip #6: At the outset of the hero’s quest, raise the stakes by setting risk or danger directly in his/her path.

StorySleuths Tip #7: Chapter headings can serve as an invitation to your reader that they cannot resist--please keep reading!

StorySleuths Tip #8: Adult characters can assist your protagonist, and can offer advice and wisdom, so long as the main character stays directly involved in the action.

StorySleuths Tip #9: Promise your readers “something next” to keep the action going.

StorySleuths Tip #10: Use different approaches--such as another point of view, action without words, and dialogue devoid of action--to develop characters and explore the relationships between them.

StorySleuths Tip 11: To quote Ellen Jackson, “When thinking about your secondary characters, think quirky.”

StorySleuths Tip #12: Sprinkle your text with tidbits of wisdom.

StorySleuths Tip #13: Literary and cultural allusions, and references to familiar and famous people, can give authenticity and depth to your characters and your story.

Storysleuths Tip #14: Be consistent with your characters maturity level and sensibility and you can get away with a lot

StorySleuths Tip #15: Introduce the unexpected to propel a scene forward.

StorySleuths Tip #16: Share wisdom with your readers--offer them new strategies for learning from challenges in their own lives.

StorySleuths Tip #17: Make sure that, like the entire story, each chapter has an arc.

StorySleuths Tip #19: Accent important points with one repeated word, which can be its own sentence.

StorySleuths Tip #20: Stop worrying about the first chapter. Let your character tell his story, and then you can figure out how and where that story should start.

StorySleuths Tip #21: Don’t be afraid to play with chronology as a means of enhancing your story.

StorySleuths Tip #22: Creating a reliable narrator by making him or her feel real to readers will pull them into your story.

StorySleuths Tip #23 (a): To write effective secondary characters, give them a story arc all their own, complete with a beginning, middle and end.

Storysleuths Tip#23 (b): Even minor characters can (and perhaps should) trigger significant events.

Storysleuths Tip #24: Don’t be afraid to broach larger social issues in your work, but when you choose to do so, avoid narrative. Instead, create scenes which demonstrate how your characters’ lives are touched by these issues.

Storysleuths Tip #25: Use mystery plots and subplots to hook readers, then keep them reading by dropping clues judiciously in bits and pieces. But make sure to tie up all the loose ends.

Storysleuths Tip #26: “when used intentionally and with a full understanding of its effects, the second person viewpoint provides MG and YA stories—any fiction actually—with an intriguing, necessary, character-revealing viewpoint.”

Storysleuths Tip #27: Use chapter titles to hook readers to continue reading, to emphasize an important element of the story, to focus on the passage of time, and to foreshadow or reinforce important themes. Sometimes chapter titles can accomplish several of these objectives at once, but never give away the punch line of a chapter in the chapter title.

Storysleuths Tip #28: Specific time setting descriptions at the beginning of a chapter, and the judicious use of past and present tense, can be enormously helpful when establishing for the reader where they are in the chronology of the story.

Storysleuths Tip #29: Play with titles until one pops up that’s catchy, memorable, different from anything else out there, and, most important of all, fits the story. Then be open to suggestions and input from the editor and others who’ll be responsible for marketing and selling the book. Fighting for a title you love is OK, but ultimately the decision may be up to the folks who will promote and sell your book.

Storysleuths Tip #30: A picture book telling a Hero’s Journey type story must, just as with a novel, have an arc which begins with a problem, has rising tension and ends at a solution which is both surprising and yet inevitable. Along the way the character must grow and change over the course of an emotional arc which mirrors the arc of the story’s action.

StorySleuths Tip #31: Focus on the power of language--make conscious word choices. Read the story out loud. Particularly for picture books that will be read aloud, strive for fluent rhythm in an oral “storytelling” voice. Don’t be afraid to break conventions to get the sound right. Choose words with awareness of how they sound—words that are fun to say and that convey personality and mood, and/or foreshadow plot, and/or have emotional overtones.

StorySleuths Tip #32: To deepen a readers experience with a story give them opportunities to figure things out themselves by alluding to things rather than pointing directly at them.

StorySleuths Tip #33: Think beyond setting alone. Paint a broad landscape for readers by including unique individual settings, concrete details, fresh imagery, and references to the time period and place.

StorySleuths Tip #34: I cannot say it any better than Rick Riordan does: “Define a character through action, first. Through dialogue and description, second. Through explanation, never.”

StorySleuths Tip #35: Solicit feedback from others. If something seems potentially offensive or insensitive, ask whether the questionable part is integral to the story. Review the CIBC guidelines. Brainstorm other options for achieving story goals.

StorySleuths Tip #36: Pay attention to language on every level, from word choices and sentence structures to sections and chapters. Don’t be afraid to include poetic language and rich imagery.