Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Making Every Scene Count

with guest Karen Barnett.


“I couldn’t put it down.”
“I read all night.”  
“I felt like I was right there!” 
“I didn’t want it to end.”  

Aren’t these the type of praises we most want to hear from readers? Most authors know the key to getting a reader hooked is a killer first line. But no matter how gripping the opener is, if the rest of your story sags, no one will continue reading for long. So, how do you keep them engaged and turning pages from the opening hook until the sigh-worthy final line?  

By making every chapter—even every individual scene—count.  

Sounds simple, right? Novelist Elmore Leonard is attributed with saying, “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.” There’s so much more, though. It’s about creating scenes that draw readers in so thoroughly they wouldn’t dare skip a line.  


Here are some of my favorite techniques to make sure every scene counts. When you are revising a chapter, comb through your pages and check for each of these five points: grounding, sensory detail, character voice, dynamic verbs, and deep point of view (DPOV). I’ll show you some examples of each point by using quotes from some of my favorite authors, plus selections from my new novel, The Road to Paradise.  

Grounding — Have you ever started reading a scene and felt completely lost? Where am I? Who’s speaking? The first line or two should pull the reader into the moment and leave no lingering doubts in their mind. If it takes more than a few lines to establish these facts, they’ll feel disoriented and will probably put the book down.  


  • Whose head are we in? (Point of view).
  • Where are we?
  • What’s happening? Or, what is the character feeling?


Here are a few scene openings that waste no time answering those questions. 


  • Pulse racing, Rebekah pressed farther into the shadows in the corner behind the wardrobe, still able to see Mr. Whitcomb’s silhouette in the hallway.” A Note Yet Unsung, Tamera Alexander. (Who: Rebekah. Where: behind the wardrobe. Action/Mood: Hiding and/or spying.)
  • “The creek beckoned Jonas. Quiet and stillness would calm his anxious soul.” Road to Harmony, Sherry Kyle. (Who: Jonas. Where: Outside by the creek. Action/Mood: Anxious)
  • “Ford entered the cavernous lobby of the Paradise Inn, the room’s warmth gripping him like a bear hug.” The Road to Paradise, Karen Barnett. (Who: Ford. Where: Paradise Inn. Action/Mood: Comforting.) 


Sensory Detail — To make the reader feel as if they’re inside the character’s skin, add rich sensory detail. Focus on the five senses: sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch.   


  • "The claws scrabbled through the cabin, pausing every few seconds. The more she tried to ignore the disturbance, the harder her ears labored to locate its position." The Road to Paradise, Karen Barnett. Sense: hearing.


  • "That evening, Tess opened the door to Robillard’s Bakery and inhaled the aroma of fresh-baked bread and purpose.” When Tides Turn, Sarah Sundin. Sense: smell.


  • "Their sly glances and the subtle brush of their elbows kept them both distracted by something infinitely sweeter than the bitterness rising at the back of her throat." (On Love's Gentle Shore, Liz Johnson. Sense: sight, touch, AND taste!


Character Voice — When your character speaks or thinks, it should be distinctive. The metaphors they use, the language choices, the grammar, the way they view the world—it's all a reflection of who they are. When you read through your writing, look for changes you can make to cause your character to stand out. 

In The Road to Paradise—as in many romances—the two leads begin as opposites. Ford is a gruff park ranger, raised in a masculine world of trees and hard work. Margie's a highly-educated Senator's daughter who is nature-obsessed and resorts to poetry and quotations to express herself. These traits become obvious in their word choices and dialogue...sometimes even when they're using the same word.  


  • Ford’s POV: "'You assumed wrong. A person—a man—has to earn the right to that title. We don't just hand out . . .' Ford caught himself, Harry's warnings still ringing in his ears. 'You're not a ranger. Just a naturalist. And here on trial, at that." 


  • [A moment later, after a scene change, we're in Margie's POV]. "'A naturalist.' The word coursed out from her heart to her fingertips, like a flower unfurling in the morning light. She clutched the small leather bag containing her journal to her chest. She couldn't wait to record the days' events on its crisp pages. The first thing she'd do would be to inscribe her name on the inside cover. Margaret Lane, Naturalist.” 


Can you hear the distinctiveness in each character's voice? It should practically leap off the page. Kind of like the difference between Pooh Bear and Eeyore in the A.A. Milne classic, Winnie-the-Pooh

    "Good morning, Eeyore," said Pooh. 
    "Good morning, Pooh Bear," said Eeyore gloomily. "If it is a good morning, which I doubt," said he. 
    "Why, what's the matter?" 
    "Nothing, Pooh Bear, nothing. We can't all, and some of us don't. That's all there is to it.” 


Choose Dynamic Verbs —You might have heard that passive verbs slow the action, but to make your scene shine, choose verbs with an extra punch. 


  • “A sharp knock at the door jarred an already fractured moment.” A Note Yet Unsung, Tamera Alexander. “Interrupted” would have worked, but how much better is “jarred?” 


  • “Crossing an ankle over his knee to untie his boot, he yanked on the lace until the bow morphed into an angry knot. His blunt, calloused fingertips fumbled against it, only managing to bumble it more. Hopping on one foot, he thudded a shoulder against the whitewashed board wall and bounced against the cement basin.” On Love’s Gentle Shore, Liz Johnson. These well-chosen verbs made me feel like I was hopping around on one foot right alongside the character. 

    


Deepen Your POV— Not only should each scene be taking place from a specific character's point of view, you should be so deep inside a character's skin that you experience their emotions as if they're your own. Here are a few techniques you can use to accomplish that.  

  • Avoid words/phrases that distance us from the character by telling the reader what is happening rather than letting us experience it, such as the following:

- he thought- she wondered- he saw -she guessed- he considered 

  • Try not to use emotion words that tell the reader how the character feels instead of showing them: joy, shame, happiness, anger, rage, despair, sadness, etc. 


Replace those words and phrases with ones that pull your reader into your character’s head.  

  • Internal thoughts or monologue (Warning: don’t overdo this.)
- “Candy, wait —” I tried to take a deep breath, but my lungs felt heavy. I can do this. I need to. For Elinore." The Girl Who Could See, Kara Swanson. 
- “I believe one former customer referred to me as a ‘termagant,’ which if memory served me was actually code for ‘someone who will insist on people keeping their hands out of the loose-leaf tea jars, thank you very much.’” Jane of Austin, Hillary Manton Lodge. [Also a great example of character voice, isn’t it?] 

  •   Physical (gut) reactions to action or dialogue


-"A smile spread across her face, and I felt a tightness in my chest." Jane of Austin, Hillary Manton Lodge.  
-“When Lars helped Elena into the carriage, heat flooded Jonas’s face and his hands clenched tight.” Road to Harmony, Sherry Kyle. 
- “Margie pressed fingers against her temples, the tension gathering like storm clouds.” The Road to Paradise, Karen Barnett

Back in my college days, I took a class on story telling from the great author, Walter Wangerin Jr. I still remember him talking about creating special tales to relieve his daughter’s bedtime fears. In class, he said something I’ll never forget.  


"While you are telling the tale, the child actually dwells within the story."  


That’s a big responsibility, isn’t it? If you have done your job well—through grounding, sensory detail, character voice, dynamic verbs and deep POV—then the person holding your novel isn’t just reading, they are living within the pages. Everything else fades.  

That’s when you’ll receive the treasured words every writer dreams of hearing: "I didn’t want this story to end." 

 Are there any books on your keeper shelf that fill this criteria?

Leave a comment today for an opportunity to win a print copy of The Road to Paradise: A Vintage National Parks Novel. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.




 The Road to Paradise: A Vintage National Parks Novel

An ideal sanctuary and a dream come true–that’s what Margaret Lane feels as she takes in God’s gorgeous handiwork in Mount Rainier National Park. It’s 1927 and the National Park Service is in its youth when Margie, an avid naturalist, lands a coveted position alongside the park rangers living and working in the unrivaled splendor of Mount Rainier’s long shadow. 

But Chief Ranger Ford Brayden is still haunted by his father’s death on the mountain, and the ranger takes his work managing the park and its crowd of visitors seriously. The job of watching over an idealistic senator’s daughter with few practical survival skills seems a waste of resources.

When Margie’s former fiancĂ© sets his mind on developing the Paradise Inn and its surroundings into a tourist playground, the plans might put more than the park’s pristine beauty in danger. What will Margie and Ford sacrifice to preserve the splendor and simplicity of the wilderness they both love?

KAREN BARNETT is an award winning author of five novels who draws on her firsthand experience as a naturalist, former park ranger, and outdoor educator to transport readers to America’s national parks. She lives in Oregon with her husband, two kids, and three mischievous dachshunds. Beyond writing, she enjoys photography, hiking, decorating bizarre birthday cakes, and dragging her teenagers through boring history museums. 

Sign up for Karen's newsletter here. 





Karen Barnett’s vintage national parks novels bring to vivid life President Theodore Roosevelt’s vision for protected lands, when he wrote in Outdoor Pastimes of an American Hunter: "There can be nothing in the world more beautiful than the Yosemite, the groves of the giant sequoias and redwoods, the Canyon of the Colorado, the Canyon of the Yellowstone, the Three Tetons; and our people should see to it that they are preserved for their children and their children's children forever, with their majestic beauty all unmarred.

120 comments :

  1. I can name the last three books I've read that had me so immersed in the story that I forgot the real world: Ruth Logan Herne's "Peace in the Valley" (the whole Double S Ranch series really), Sweetbrair Cottage by Denise Hunter and Life After by Katie Ganshert. There have been other exceptional ones, of course, these were the ones I thought of first!

    I've started Karen Witemeyer's "No Other Will Do" and going right into "Heart on the Line" and so far her characters have charmed me, her humor & wit have hit my funny bone, and her plots have beguiled me, but then again, I never doubted they wouldn't :-)

    When a story can suck me into the fiction world and make me forget everything around me, you've done your job as an author!

    Toss my name in the vintage suitcase for a chance to win "The Road to Paradise", thanks so much! Especially intrigues me since it's set in my neck of the woods and one of our favorite places I wished we had more time to visit :-)

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    1. Aw, thank you, Trixi! I love that series, too and I'm so glad you loved it. Oh, those cowboys... that whole Stafford family! :) Bless you!

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    2. The vintage suitcase--that's a great image! Thanks, Trixi! I've heard such good things about Peace in the Valley. I'm going to add it to my summer reading list.

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    3. Karen, you can't just add Peace in the Valley, you need the whole kit and kaboodle...Back in the Saddle, Colt Stafford's story, and Home on the Range, Nick Stafford's story. You need to meet the whole clan around the Double S Ranch, you'll get the whole picture through them :-)

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    4. Got it! Is Back in the Saddle the first one? I'm looking forward to meeting Ruth (Ruthie?) at CFRR next month. Hopefully she'll autograph them for me. :)

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    5. Yep, that's correct! It goes Back in the Saddle, Home on the Range and Peace in the Valley :-) I hope you fall in love with everyone like I did!! I'm positive Ruthy will sign those for you, she's just generous like that! I am SO jealous you'll be meeting her, lol!! One of these years I want to attend CFRR, maybe if it moves a bit more West (hint hint) ;-)

      I'm looking forward to all the wonderful pictures on Facebook from my reader/Author friends...guess I'll live vicariously through them!

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  2. Welcome to Seekerville, Karen. Karen is an author who is new to me and I am remedying that. A few years ago I had the opportunity to tour Paradise Inn, the national park, and the entire area she talks about in her book.

    So this is particularly exciting to me.

    And her post is so timely and so spot on, I printed a copy for myself the day she sent it to me.

    I think we need scones from the Puyallup Fair (now the Washington State Fair). Fisher Scones smeared with butter and jam. Yes!!!! I'll make another batch in the morning!

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    1. Thank you, Tina! It's a HUGE honor to be here! Seekerville was an incredible boost to me as an aspiring writer. I'm thrilled to be able to give back in a small way. And Puyallup fair scones? I haven't thought of those in years! I've got my fresh strawberry jam waiting.

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    2. I don't want to torment you, BUT..you can order the mix on Amazon.

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    3. Really? You may have just changed my life, Tina!

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  3. Sometimes it's very hard to let go of a story. Love it when they are part of a series and I can expect more great reading.

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    1. Mary, that's exactly what drew me to writing series... because I loved them so much.

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    2. I love series fiction, too. There's nothing better than finding a new favorite and then discovering that it's the first in a long series!

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  4. I love it when I begin a book, get pulled into it by the characters and am not released even after I turn the last page. I have read many books like this and they reside on my keeper shelves. Books by Ruth Logan Herne, Dan Walsh, Colleen Coble, DiAnn Mills, Lynette Eason, Terri Blackstock, and many more.

    Thank you too for this post. There is a lot of information packed into it that would be a great addition to my keeper book.

    I would love to win a copy of Karen's book.

    Blessings,
    Cindy W.

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    1. Cindy, thank you for including me in that list! I'm so grateful.

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    2. Thank you, Cindy! Those are all fantastic authors!

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  5. Welcome, Karen. You've touched on many techniques that make a book linger in my mind long after the last page. Some of my favorites are Cathy West, Denise Hunter and Katie Ganshert. Thanks for visiting today!

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    1. Thank you, Jill! It's an honor to be here. I just bought Cathy West's The Things We Knew on ebook yesterday. I can't wait to read it!

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  6. You should see my Keeper shelf, and they include all the Seekers and a ton of Women's Fiction, romantic comedy, mysteries, and suspense.

    Probably my oldest keepers are Jude Devereaux, Nora Roberts and Jenny Crusie.

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    1. I should go take a photo of my keeper shelf...which has become a whole bookcase. Tina, I'm with you. Among my earliest keepers are Jude Devereaux and Nora Roberts. And SEP (you know you've made it when everyone calls you by your initials). And Susan Wiggs (especially the older historicals) and... on and on...so many!

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    2. Those keeper shelves can get pretty big! I have a whole bookcase, too. Lol!

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  7. Karen, what a straightforward way of making your points clear and concise for all of us. Thank you for that! And how fun to do a series about the parks! I'm all over that idea!

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    1. I was delighted WaterBrook took a chance on this series. It's a dream come true to write about the parks.

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  8. Keeper shelves are wonderful things... I've got a full (and now BIG) bookcase with all the Seeker books. I even replaced one that the puppy chewed in 2010 (Missy Tippens) and one that got left in the rain (Debby Giusti) because I love these women... and I love their work! I finally donated all of my LaVyrle Spencer books... but kept Jan Karon, Karen White and Lisa Wingate and Deborah Smith's Sweet Hush, one of my all-time faves. And some classics that I love. It's a little crazy here, but that's okay!

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    1. Ruthy, I've always wondered how MY book managed to get chewed up by your dog. (I suspect you gave it as a dog toy.) LOL!!!

      My Seeker keeper shelf is overtaking a whole bookcase now!

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    2. Those naughty puppies! NOT THE BOOKS!

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  9. Karen, welcome to Seekerville. Thanks for the excellent tips to ensure readers our books are keepers. What we writers all want.

    I love the sound of your book! You're the perfect person to write it. I imagine you've got lots of stories from your experiences as a park ranger.

    Janet

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    1. Thank you, Janet! It's an incredible honor to be included here. Seekerville was an inspiration to me while I was working toward publication.

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  10. What I want to know is which park you are writing about next.

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    1. Yosemite National Park is up next and Yellowstone will follow the year after that. Writing these books has been an adventure!

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    2. Oooh! My husband will be delighted to hear this.

      You might run into YOGI BEAR and BOO BOO!

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    3. Running into a bear is both a dream and a fear for me! Now Yogi and Boo Boo would be fun. :)

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  11. Hey, Karen, WELCOME TO SEEKERVILLE!!

    Excellent post, my friend, with outstanding examples. I couldn't agree more except there is one infraction that I am rather fond of and have butted heads with authors on before. :) And that is ...

    "Deepen Your POV— Not only should each scene be taking place from a specific character's point of view, you should be so deep inside a character's skin that you experience their emotions as if they're your own. Here are a few techniques you can use to accomplish that."

    This I TOTALLY agree with, it's just a few techniques that I do tend to abuse. ;)

    1.) "Avoid words/phrases that distance us from the character by telling the reader what is happening rather than letting us experience it, such as the following: he thought- she wondered- he saw -she guessed- he considered."

    I believe that there are times when these words are needed for flow and rhythm or just plain getting the point across soundly. But I do agree that they should be used sparingly.


    2.) "Try not to use emotion words that tell the reader how the character feels instead of showing them: joy, shame, happiness, anger, rage, despair, sadness, etc."

    I do agree with this is well if just the emotion is named because that's clearly telling rather than showing. But one thing I do employ a fair amount is personification, where I give an emotion I'm trying to convey a job to do, such as in: "Fear feathered her skin like a hundred thousand spiders." To me, it's a double visual that helps drive the point home all the more, but that's just my take on it -- doesn't mean I'm right, only stubborn. ;)

    Great post, Karen!

    Hugs,
    Julie

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    1. Valid points, Julie. And as always what reins supreme is that breaking the rules with intention supersedes all. A writer who breaks the rules with intent clearly understands the rules.

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    2. Julie, I've done that some with emotion words. Sometimes I'll try to find ways to show better. Other times I leave it like I have it. I look at the sentence and try to figure out if I'm being lazy or if I really prefer the way I wrote it. :)

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    3. Very good points, Julie! I don't mean any of these techniques to be "rules." I've known writers who take this type of advice too far. We shouldn't remove every emotion word, especially if it adds to the power of the sentence.

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    4. I try to use it as a guideline, only. When I'm revising a scene, I'll search out these emotion words and see if there's a better way of expressing the mood through an action or reaction. Sometimes I change it, sometimes I don't. It can even be a subtle change like changing "fear" to "a chill" or "a shiver." Other times I leave them alone. Especially since you don't want your character to shiver so many times readers start to worry about their health.

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    5. Thanks, Tina! I honestly have never considered myself a "rule-breaker," but maybe I am because I love this: "A writer who breaks the rules with intent clearly understands the rules." :)

      LOL, Missy ... thanks for telling me that! Nice to know I'm not the only rule-breaker here ... ;)

      LOL, Karen, trust me -- my characters already shiver, gulp, chew their lips, bite their nails, etc. WAY too much, so I hear you on that. ;)

      I sure hope you don't think I was attacking that suggestion or you, Karen, because I didn't mean to do that. I think I'm a wee bit sensitive when it comes to personification because I got slammed really hard by another author on this very point, so I tend to pipe up when it's referenced in a blog. And I agree with you on the sometimes I do/sometimes I don't approach, which really means it's all about balance. :)

      Hugs,
      Julie

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    6. I didn't see it as an attack at all, Julie! Lol! It's good to point out that these are just suggestions and no one should go overboard with them. I love your writing, and I have no problem with personification.

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    7. Hi Tina:

      You wrote: "A writer who breaks the rules with intent clearly understands the rules."

      Yes, but that fact alone does not mean the rule-breaker knows when it is better to break the rules. That takes judgment, not knowledge of the rules. : )

      Lesson: If you are going to break the rules, you better be right.


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    8. Hi Julie:

      You wrote: "but that's just my take on it -- doesn't mean I'm right, only stubborn. ;)"

      I don't agree. I think it means you're an artiste.

      (Now before you say that's an entertainer, what's a CDQ if not an entertainer?)

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  12. Awesome post! I have printed this out to keep and refer back to. Thanks for sharing these tips! Janet Tronstad's Dry Creek series- I feel like I live there and the characters are my neighbors.

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    1. Sally, Janet Tronstad's characters always stick with me, too!

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    2. I haven't read Janet's books. I'll have to look for them. My to-read list is growing like crazy thanks to everyone's comments! Thank you!

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  13. Hi Karen - I signed up for your newsletter and looking forward to it. I like this post. The part about grounding really speaks to me because I have some trouble with this in my writing. In my attempts to avoid the boring and repetitive "he said" and "she said" phrases, I think a reader can get confused in my dialog (even though I know perfectly well who's talking!)Thanks for your help with this - a great post to print out and keep handy.

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    1. I'm glad it's been helpful, Cindy! We all have our weak spots in our writing, and it's good to be aware of them. I really struggle with the passage of time and showing that in a story. I'm still working on that!

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  14. Excellent post Karen.
    I notice the books on my keeper shelf, the author makes storytelling seem so easy. Simple. Scenes move seamlessly along one to the next. Everything you mentioned is exactly what the author does well.

    Thanks so much.

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    1. Thank you, Connie! Yes, it should look effortless, just like a ballerina gracefully leaps and pirouettes across a stage all with a shining smile on her face. My teen daughter is a pointe dancer and I know the level of work that goes into those difficult maneuvers. Great story-telling is similar in that way.

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  15. Karen, this is a great post and one I will refer to again in my writing. I love the idea of the vintage parks series. I would love to be entered in the drawing.

    At the moment a particular book doesn't come to mind as one that kept me turning the page as many books do that for me. Suspense and mystery novels do that the most, but even romance novels can keep me wanting to read to see how the two will stay together.

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    1. And if the author has done her job well, these techniques should be invisible to the reader. We close the book and think, "Wow, what a great story!" Not, "She did a great job with deep point of view." Haha!

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  16. Welcome, Karen! Definitely a keeper post--thanks for all the great tips!

    Wow, I'm so impressed you got to take a class from Walter Wangerin, Jr! That must have been so memorable. I remember reading his columns years ago in The Lutheran magazine. Always filled with deep insights!

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    1. It was a life-changing class, that's for sure! I wasn't an English or theology major, so I really had no business being in there--I just really wanted to listen to him talk. I still have an old cassette tape (remember those?) of him telling his picture-book story "No Sky" during one of our lectures. It gave me chills.

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  17. Good post, Karen. I've had trouble with grounding in the past, and we can never learn too much about Deep POV. When I first started writing (and reading), the author could get away with "she thought." Now my characters don't think, ha ha. Except that they do, but I don't TELL you that they do.
    I read a lot, too much to delineate any specific author for craft. I did read Tamera Alexander's Nashville books and remember the one you mentioned. She is an expert at grounding and deep POV.
    I like a sense of place and time. I like to get lost in a book and come up for air three hours later! That's what I'm trying to do in my new contemporary series, about a small town in the New Hampshire mountains. When my readers go to Hilltop, I want them to know they're in Hilltop. Kind of like Mayberry, only with snow.
    This is a strange day for New Hampshire in July. We're not above having rain in summer, but the rain yesterday and today has been chilly rather than warm. I'm going to stay in, catch up on my WIP, map out the second book and try to drum up some nonfiction work. And drink a lot of hot Earl Grey in a china cup. Could be worse.
    Please enter me in the drawing, Karen's work is new to me and I'd like to find out more.
    Kathy Bailey
    Hunkering down in New Hampshire

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    1. I'd love to read a novel set in the New Hampshire mountains, Kathy. I especially enjoy when a novel's setting is so vivid it practically becomes another character. It sounds like you're well on your way to that style. I hope I get to read it someday!

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  18. Hi Karen, Welcome to Seekerville and thank you for posting such an informative and helpful article. Great going. I love the National Parks. I love, love, love them so am so excited for a series set in the parks. Yay. Have fun today.

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    1. Thanks, Sandra! There are some great Christian novels set in the national parks. I'm fond of mine, of course (lol!), but you can also look for novels by Annalisa Daughety, Tracie Peterson, Susan May Warren, Kimberly Woodhouse, Gayle Hiss, and many others. Great stuff!

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    2. Oops, make that Gayla K. Hiss. I messed up her first name. :)

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    3. Thanks Karen, I am familiar with some of those. I'll look up the others. Looks like you had a fun day today.

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  19. "Now my characters don't think, ha ha. Except that they do, but I don't TELL you that they do."


    Snorting at this!!!!!

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    1. I giggled at that one, too. I was worried there for a second.

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    2. I can always amuse Tina...

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  20. Karen, thanks for this great post! One of the things my cp has to mark in my manuscripts almost every scene is to anchor the scene! I'm so bad about that. The reader gets lost if I don't fix it.

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    1. That's a common one that many authors struggle with. We know where we are while we're writing, right? My big weakness is a similar issue--the passage of time. I never like to start a scene with, "Two days later..." When I try to SHOW time passing, my readers often miss it. I still don't know what to do with that. Maybe someone here can write that post? I need help. :)

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    2. Oh, my gosh! I so struggle with this one too. Let me see who I can round up to write that post. Good idea.

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    3. Karen, I have a problem with the "two days later" thing, too. But sometimes there just isn't a good substitute. And it seems when I try something different, I confuse people. :)

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  21. Hi Karen, thanks for this post with lots to glean and remember. I'm going to red pen all my emotion telling words and take a hard look, spend some time with them and see what I can change.

    My down time enjoyment is reading and I'm always disappointed when a story makes me want to skip huge boring sections. I also dislike tired used over-used words and phrases.

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    1. Hi, Barbara! I'm glad the post was helpful! I know a couple of fantastic resources that might assist you with replacing those emotion words. One is a book called Rivet Your Reader with Deep Point of View by Jill Elizabeth Nelson and--of course--The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide To Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. I often keep the Emotion Thesaurus open on my Kindle app while I'm writing, just as a reminder to show those emotions rather than telling them. I hope this helps!

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    2. HA!!!!!! I was just telling someone this about The Emotion Thesaurus the other day.

      Another GREAT book on POV is Understanding Show, Don't Tell (and really getting it) by Janice Hardy. Fairly new. EXCELLENT.

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  22. Thank you for such an informative article, Karen.

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    1. You're welcome, Rhonda! I hope it helps.

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  23. Thank you for this good advice, Karen. So useful. Yes, I find myself skipping sections of a book. I think a lot of authors try to incorporate those beautiful similes and phrases they find in other books. That's why we find so many using the same way of saying things, like "she bit her lip" to indicate indecision. Just let the character be who s(he) is. Such a simple statement, but so hard to achieve.

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    1. I've been guilty of "she bit her lip," too. And my pet mannerism, "she sighed." My heroine tends to sigh, take a breath, draw a breath, blow out a breath between her lips, etc. I always have to go back and edit scores of these out. My characters breathe WAY TOO MUCH. Haha!

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  24. Hi Karen, welcome to Seekerville.

    This is definitely a keeper post. Thanks so much for sharing.

    Robin Jones Gunn's Sisterchicks series are some of the books I return to from time to time. I've read so many great books though from Seekerville authors and others that I didn't want to end.

    Thanks again for sharing with us today!

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    1. I loved the Sisterchick books! Robin Gunn has a gift for writing tender stories laced with humor. She's an inspiration to me.

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  25. Wonderful writer tips in this great post, Karen! I'll be printing it off to keep in my ever-growing file of helpful hints. Thank you!

    My favorite Keeper Shelves are the ones in my Momma's little library where every space is crammed full of books of all kinds!

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    1. Those keeper shelves can get pretty packed, can't they?

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  26. Great advice Karen. Your experience as both ranger and naturalist help me to see that your writing must have a special voice since you know both so we'll.

    I look forward to checking out your series of books. Please throw my name in the hat for your book.

    Your advice today is clear and gives me lot to think about. Definitely a keeper. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. I'm glad the post was helpful, Bettie!

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  27. Karen, this post is absolutely perfect for what I'm doing right now! How did you know? :-) Thanks so much.

    I wasn't aware of your books -- they sound right up my alley. Putting them on my 'to order' list.

    Again, thanks for this great guide.

    Nancy C

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    1. Thank you, Nancy! I'm glad you found it helpful. Seekerville was an inspiration to me while I was working toward publication. I'm glad to be able to give back in this small way. :)

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  28. Hi Karen:

    So happy to have 'discovered' you today! Oh, I knew you as a writer but not as someone who uses National Park settings! I am a big fan of National Park locations. One of my auto-buy authors is Nevada Barr. You might even know her given she was in the Park Service for years and she writes about the Park Service internal politics. (They even told me her books were banned from the Mesa Verde book store! Even her "Ill Wind" which is set at Mesa Verde and may have a second meaning.:))

    It's even better because you write historical fiction. Did you know there is an underwater National Park at St. John's island? I think that setting would generate record sales from the cover art. It may be a sacrifice to make the trip to do the research but I think the rewards would be well worth the candle. Some rank it as the most beautiful beach in the world.

    I could not agree more with your post. I can really relate to this quote:

    "While you are telling the tale, the child actually dwells within the story."

    I see it even stronger than that. The child hearing the story and the adult reading the story is also 'creating the story' in the theather of their mind. A story is just words on paper or a screen. It's like sheet music. It has to be played to 'exist'.

    Since not everyone plays an instrument as well as they should or would like, the music has to be well crafted so all an play and enjoy it. That's where a lot of what you have in your post comes into play. The writer must help the readers 'play' or 'create' the best reading experience possible.

    BTW: I am currently taking a playwriting/screenwriting course by David Mamet and I loved this quote from that class:

    "Every scene must change the trajectory of the plot or it is not needed."

    Yes, this is writing where there are pictures to tell most of the story but you get the idea. Mamet thinks you should leave out as much material as possible because that is how life happens. Of course, the complaint about David that actors have is that he cuts all the best scenes from his movies! He was even a major character in one of his own movies, "Spartan" and he still cut himself out in the editing stage!.

    So Mamet is a little too minimalist for most but he's one of the best.

    Please enter me in the drawing. I have not been to Mount Rainier National Park. I just love reading a story with a park setting just before visiting that park for the first time.

    Thanks for an exceptional post.

    Vince

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    1. Thank you, Vince! Screenwriting can teach us a lot about crafting fiction. That Mamet quote is gold!

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    2. "Every scene must change the trajectory of the plot or it is not needed."

      Must write that down, Vince. Thanks.

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  29. Karen, your suggestions are wonderful. If a book can make me laugh or tear up, I know the author has hooked me. One book that really drew me in was The Wedding Shop, by Rachel Hauck. Her descriptive writing and deep POV reel me in every time.

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    1. Rachel is a master at this! Thanks, Jeanne.

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  30. I wish I had the freedom to travel to all the locales I write about. Usually I try to write about locations I have lived and since I've lived a lot of places, that helps.

    Will you be traveling to the other national parks? If so do you bring your family entourage?

    Tax deductible vacay. Boy, hire your husband or a teenager as your assistant. Totally legal and necessary in fact.

    Looking forward to your newsletter, btw. How often do they come out? I am anxiously waiting right now, lol.

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    1. I'm heading to Yellowstone in either August or early September. I wanted to take my kids along, but it looks like their school and activity schedules aren't going to cooperate. Sadly, they're not broken up over this. They've discovered over the years that tagging along while Mom researches takes a lot more patience than they have. ;) Last night I was drooling over the website for the Yellowstone research library in Gardiner, MT. I know that would NOT be a fun stop for my family! Haha!

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    2. I remember reading Robin Jones Gunn's Sisterchicks series and marveling that her research travels would all be tax deductible. I still can't believe I'm doing that now. Hee hee!

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    3. Oh, and my newsletter comes out 5-6 times a year, as needed. I'll be doing one very soon--either this week or next.

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    4. Oh, goody! I love newsletters.

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  31. Great blog. I find that I have to have some sort of resource or checklist like this when I'm trying to figure out what might be amiss in my story. There's just something about blogs and craft books that helps me brainstorm new ideas and fixes. Your novel sounds interesting. Great setting! Please count me in for the draw :-D

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    1. Thank you, Lara! I agree, blog posts and craft books are an inspiration. Seekerville was a big help to me while I was working toward publication.

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  32. Wonderful article, Karen! Thank you for mentioning my book, Road to Harmony.

    Like Tina, I'm going to print this off to keep as a reminder.

    Blessings,
    Sherry

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    1. Hi, Sherry! Thanks for letting me borrow lines from Road to Harmony. :)

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    2. Thank you for stopping by Seekerville, Sherry.

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  33. Hi Karen,
    this is a wonderful post to help us edit with an eye for those necessary components. Thank you for sharing your ideas and I love the premise of your books! I don't know much about US history in this regard. I always like to read stories where I learn something too.

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    1. Thanks, Laurie! The history of our national parks is fascinating stuff. If you ever watch Netflix, check out the Ken Burns documentary, The National Parks: America's Best Idea.

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  34. Every scene must count. An important thing to remember. With my current WIP, I keep going from loving every scene, to slower parts. Definitely want to keep to the former!

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    1. That's so true! Creating a great plot to carry through those scenes would be another great blog post, wouldn't it?

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  35. Karen, I'm late to the par-taaaay! (In my defense? I have roofers here today and I'm a bit cray-cray from all the racket.)

    Such a tremendous post - thanks so much for sharing!

    Ahhh... Our good ol' deep POV friend. As I've grown in my writing, I've learned to hone in on those things that distance the reader from our stories. You so nailed it in your explanation!

    And Road to Paradise sounds awesome!

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    1. I'm always a little crazy when I have people working in the house. That's one of my least favorite things!

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  36. Love this, Karen! And thanks for including When Tides Turn :) By the way, folks - I ADORED Road to Paradise. Buy it now!!!

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    1. Sarah, I HAD to include When Tides Turn. Thank you for giving permission for me to use it. "...The aroma of fresh-baked bread and purpose." That line jumped out at me right away. That's why you're the best!

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    2. And you've lured us all to buy all those books with the great lines today, Karen. Thank you!! :)

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    3. Thank you for visiting, Seekerville, Sarah!

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  37. Great information and ideas, Karen. Thank you so much!!

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  38. Great article! Thank you Karen!

    Please enter me in your drawing for a copy of "
    The Road to Paradise: A Vintage National Parks Novel" Looks like a great read!

    May God bless you and all of Seekerville!

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  39. Excellent advice, Karen. I shall have to be sure to put it to use as I work on my story. I've just gotten back from vacation, and now I've got to catch up on all the writing I fell behind on.

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  40. In case we miss each other as I dash off to make pork chops for dinner...thank you for spending the day with us, Karen. You've been a terrific hostess. You can count on a few evening folks and one or two in the am..those folks get us on digest, but for the most part the evening is down quiet.

    Praying for continued success on your journey and lots of National Parks in your future. XX

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  41. now quiet, not down quiet. Time for the late afternoon caffeine I see. HA!

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  42. Outstanding advice!! Printing now!

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  43. Always good to have a refresher course in this information.

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    1. WALT! Great to see you in the Village.

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  44. Always a day late and a penny short, but I. Loved this statement: "When you are revising a chapter, comb through your pages and check for each of these five points: grounding, sensory detail, character voice, dynamic verbs, and deep point of view (DPOV)."

    For me, it is reminding me I don't have to get it all right in the first draft. I can go back later and fix these things. This is definitely a keeper!

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    1. Definitely! I'm a big proponent of writing ugly first drafts. You can polish later using these techniques. It's fine to keep them in the back of your mind while writing, but don't let them slow you down too much.

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  45. Thanks for a great post!
    Blessings!
    Connie
    cps1950(at)gmail(dot)com

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  46. The books that have put my emotions on high gear are The First Gift
    by Ruth Logan Herne, The Underground River
    by Martha Conway and Christmas at Carnton (Carnton #0.5)
    by Tamera Alexander . Ruth's book, oh my, WOW!!!!!
    What a great post. Please throw my name in for the Road to Paradise: A Vintage National Parks Novel. Sounds great!

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