The Story of Us...And Them
by Lindi Peterson
Yeeee!! That’s me screaming—I’m back in Seekerville! The place where food is a must, learning and laughing go hand in hand, and the best writers you’ll ever want to meet hang out.
Seekerville rocks! A big congratulations for your Writer’s Digest Top Website Award. You certainly deserve it.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about story. Realizing the difference between story and plot has made a huge difference in the way I approach my first drafts. It’s also helpful for synopsis writing. I have to thank Alicia Rasley for her synopsis notes that differentiated the difference between story and plot. I’ll never forget it. I keep those notes with me ALL the time. Whenever I am writing a new story.
Dictionary.com defines story like this:
Story**** a narrative, either true or fictitious, in prose or verse, designed to interest, amuse, or instruct the hearer or reader; tale.
Dictionary.com defines plot like this:
Plot****Also called storyline. the plan, scheme, or main story of a literary or dramatic work, as a play, novel, or short story.
This is how I see it. Story comes before plot. (Stay with me here!) Notice how in the story definition there are the words, designed to interest, instruct the hearer or reader.
The plot is the main story of a novel, play, short story.
Before you get to the main story you need to know YOUR story. And by yours I mean the one the characters in your head are trying to get you to write or type onto that blank piece of paper staring at you.
Readers want to know their story, not their plot. What makes the difference is one little word. One word that writers dread hearing sometimes. One word that doesn’t come into play until the third or fourth revision for some of us.
|Photo credit: Crestock/Odina222|
Emotion can take a plot and turn it into a story.
RayAnn Phillips sat on the fast moving train through the city she’d only been in for two days. She held the paper with the address of her new employer in her hand so she wouldn’t have to search her purse when she got off of the train. The city was much bigger than Rossville. She would start her new job in less than an hour, provided she could find the place. Her stop proved to be the most popular. Many bodies pressed into her and she hoped the address would be easy to find when she arrived on the street.
This is a short excerpt. Do we know what is going on?
Do we care?
RayAnn Phillips wasn’t used to sitting close to strangers, so she scooted as close to the window as she could as she sat on the fast moving train, scrunching her purse, lunch tote and her umbrella on her lap, while holding tightly onto the paper with the address of her new employer. The unfamiliar landscape of city streets whisked by and she realized her toes and palms were sweating. Her second day in the city was her first day on the job, and both had her wondering if she had left her sanity back in Rossville, along with her family and cheating ex-boyfriend. The auto-voice announced her stop, startling her. The train did move fast. Swallowing hard, she double checked to make sure she didn’t leave anything on the train and joined the crush of people exiting. But even being pushed from every side couldn’t shake the loneliness inside. As if mocking, a gray sky greeted her as she stepped onto the street. Refusing to give way to the tears that threatened, she breathed in hope and stared at the address. The address that she could no longer read as the numbers had bled together.
We know the same ‘plot’ information in paragraph 2 that we learned from paragraph 1. RayAnn, formerly from Rossville, was in a big city about to start a new job. Oh, and she’s on a train.
But from the second paragraph we glimpse a bit of her ‘story.’ We know she’s nervous, lonely, and heartbroken for starters. That’s HER story. The city, the train, and the new job are things moving her along through her journey in life. Her nervous, lonely, heartbroken journey. That’s what readers care about.
We all have a story. Now I’m talking about everyone who is reading this post. We are in God’s story and He’s created a storyline for every one of us. We are all gifted in different ways. For those who are called to write, that’s why we don’t give up. Because that’s our role in the story God has created for the world. When we’ve tapped into the vein of what God has put a passion in us to do, we are falling into
|Photo credit Crestock/Fotovika|
Can you picture God’s storyboard? How amazing it must look! And you know, I’m guilty of messing up His story sometimes, not knowing which way to go, what to do in certain situations. I’m sure God is up there shaking His head as His storylines become blurred and go off in the completely wrong directions at time. But with prayer, fellowship and knowing who He is, we live in Him, and He in us. Then His storyboard is back on track. We bring to life all the emotions needed for a great story. Let’s remember to tap into those as we write the stories the world was meant to read. As we pour into characters, their stories come to life, and in turn those emotional journeys pour into readers, who in turn tell others about what they’ve read.
Here is an excerpt from my upcoming release Rich In Love.
Brief set up. Heroine Ann Thomas is in Florida at the reading of the will of the father she’s never met. She’s staying in his home, (mansion!) and is supposed to be downstairs for a dinner. She’s broken the heel on the only pair of shoes she brought so Anastasia, ‘the help’ has some extra clothing items she’s going to let Ann borrow for the evening. Ann is in her bedroom waiting on Anastasia. Oh, and Ann has a Jimmy Choo shoe obsession that she can’t afford to fuel. :)
My door opens. I can hardly see Anastasia through the jumble of material she’s carrying.
Actually it’s only two dresses. She has two pair of strappy sandals dangling from her arm, high heels jutting toward me.
“Okay, pick one. Coral sundress with tiny black polka dots or this very cute chiffon flowery print.”
Both dresses are beautiful. “I’ll take the coral.”
“I knew you would. Here.” She hands me the dress.
“Where did these come from?”
“From me. I wanted to help Mama with dinner, and I couldn’t decide what to wear. So I brought a couple of choices.”
“Thank you. I’ll go put this on.” I head for the bathroom.
“All right. The shoes are on the bed. See you downstairs. Pronto.”
Even though I know she’s gone, I still dress in the bathroom. I’m a pretty modest person. After slipping the dress on, I hang my ‘funeral’ dress back in the closet.
The coral dress is soft. It fits me well. I don’t recognize the name, but I’m sure it’s expensive. It just feels like it is.
I walk to the bed, stopping about a foot away. The sandals sit on the bed, proud and tall. I know, without a doubt, they are JC’s.
Stepping closer, I can see the white label with those lovely words, Jimmy Choo. Anastasia has left me a pair of JC shoes to wear for the evening.
Is this how Cinderella felt? Fluttery heart and all smiles?
My foot tingles, I swear it does, when I slip the shoe on. My bad pedicure clashes with the elegant shoe, but I don’t have time to do anything about it. I’m already late for whatever it is that is happening downstairs.
After buckling the strap around my ankle, I quickly put the other shoe on. Coral suede JC platform sandals now adorn my feet. Cautiously, I take a few steps around the bedroom. It’s like I’m walking on air.
I’m not sure what kind of impression I’m going to give to whoever is waiting downstairs.
But I’m sure it will be the wrong one.
We learn a little about Ann’s story from this excerpt. She’s modest. She’s not used to high-end fashion. She’s nervous about going downstairs, but wearing a pair of JC shoes give her confidence she doesn’t normally have. And she’s going to project that false confidence on the people at the dinner. I think every female knows that sometimes, right, or wrong, wearing something pretty makes us feel better. No, it’s not a permanent fix, but for the moment, we’ll ride that feeling.
Make sure you have a good plot for your characters, but don’t forget to tell their ‘story’ as they walk through the journey on the pages. Picture God’s story board, find your place in His story, pour into your characters the same passion and emotion we live in, and you will have a great story to tell.
I’m giving away 2 copies of Rich In Love. Print or Kindle version. Winner’s choice. As soon as it releases, I’ll send the copies. **Please let me know you'd like to be entered in the comments.**
Thank you Seekerville for having me today.
Rich In Love
When Ann Thomas is summoned to Florida for the reading of the will of the father she never knew, her life is forever changed. She learns she has a half-sister, she has the chance to inherit millions, and her name is really Angelina. Brett Hamilton, CPA, is assigned to help Ann spend a lot of money in a short period of time. As soon as his ‘assignment’ with her is over, he’s headed to Peru to be a missionary, something he’s felt called to do his whole life. Ann still lives with the pain of having a mother who chose world missions over her. Can Ann risk giving her love to someone who might give it back, or should she ignore her growing feelings towards Brett to keep her heart safe?
It's an honor to be able to bring the characters to life and put their stories on pages.
I live in a small town Northwest of Atlanta, Georgia, with my husband, 2 cats, 1 dog and 2 birds. (The cats rule, by the way!) We're a few hours away from the beaches of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, a couple hours away from the mountains of Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee. The best of both worlds, I say.
When God reeled me in and showed me true love, my stories really came to life. For when we know we are loved well, we know we can love well.
My tag line, Happy Endings Are Just The Beginning, guarantees the reader a happily ever after. www.lindipeterson.com