Plot Vs Story

James_Bond_(Pierce_Brosnan)_-_ProfilePlot versus story? I have to be honest, I thought they were the same thing. I was listening to an instructor this week who set me straight. They are not, and both components are necessary for a successful novel.

The Plot is the physical journey your character takes. It’s the action, the conflict, the spine of the novel. You can restate the plot by asking yourself what happened. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end.

The Story is the emotional journey. It’s everything the character experiences and how they experience it. Its what’s going on in the character’s head in reaction to what’s happening around them.

If you want a great novel, you have to have both. If the story (emotional journey) is missing, the reader will not be able to connect with the characters and understand their motivations. They will simply be placed in one thrilling scene after another.

If the plot is missing, there will be too much emotion and not enough action. Your characters will get bogged down in the muck and your reader will become frustrated.

A great example of plot vs. story was shared by an instructor of a course I have been taking. He was quick to point out that books are more story oriented than movies because you can get into your characters’ heads. He chose to use movies for his example because more people would be familiar with what he presented.

James Bond films, especially the older ones, are long on action/plot with only a touch of emotion.

The Twilight Trilogy is steeped in atmosphere and internal battles. The trilogy is story/emotion heavy with less plot.

Harry Potter is a great representation of balance. There is a lot of action combined with an emotional journey that transforms Harry into the Wizard he is destined to become.

Plot and Story work together. Plot causes a reaction in the character (story), and this reaction leads to further action (plot).

Hope I didn’t confuse you. My intention as always is to give you something to think about and hopefully help you along the way to becoming published.

-Jan R


Plot Vs Story

Are Your Sentences Running Loose? (Revisited)

compound-sentences-7-728You’re probably sitting there wondering what in the world I am talking about. I know when I first read about loose sentences, I wondered what in the world the author was talking about. Well, let me enlighten you. Loose sentences are sentences with the main concept at the beginning, followed by a string of related details.

For this blog, I am focusing on loose sentences that are composed of two clauses connected by a conjunctive or relative  (better known as the compound sentence). I use them all the time, and you probably do too. ( Yes, I just used one.) There’s nothing wrong with sentences of this type every now and then. The problem is when you string a whole bunch of them together. A mistake many new writers make.

 ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ was performed at the downtown theater last evening, and a large audience was in attendance. The actors were right on cue, and the orchestra was spectacular. The props seemed to float through the air, as the scenes were set flawlessly. The play was a tremendous success, and I’m sure it will continue it’s run. The tickets are pretty expensive, but you won’t be disappointed.

There are probably a lot of things wrong with this example, but what I hope you focused on, was the string of loose sentences. They are trite, monotonous and annoying. I know this is an extreme example, but I wanted to make sure you understood what I was getting at.

Loose sentences are easy to correct. All you have to do is rearrange some of the sentences in the paragraph to take away the monotony.  Make them simple, short, single phrases, or drop the conjunction and add a semicolon.

It’s okay to have loose sentences but be mindful of the frequency and placement of them.

Most of the information for this blog came from ‘The Elements of Style’ by Strunk and White. If you don’t have a copy of the book, I would highly recommend it. It is short and concise. They don’t waste a single word.

Something else to think about 🙂

-Jan R

Are Your Sentences Running Loose? (Revisited)

The First Five Pages

HeaderCreativeExercisesI’ve written before about the importance of the first five pages of your manuscript. If you ever decide to go the traditional route of publishing, the agent usually asks for the first five pages. That’s all he/she needs to evaluate your writing and premise. In those first five pages, they know if they want to continue reading or not. It’s the same with the person who buys your book.

Some editors claim to know whether they are likely to reject the manuscript after reading the opening. Make it count. Make sure the first five pages are rejection-proof.

Using this checklist should help:

Do your first five pages…

  • Have a great opening line that launches your plot?
  • Introduce the hero, heroine, or villain?
  • Introduce your main plot or major subplot?
  • Hint at your main character’s internal conflicts?
  • Have a sense of time and place?
  • Have little or no introspection? Stay out of your character’s mind-focus on the here and now.
  • Have more dialogue than narrative? Don’t start with backstory or information dumps.
  • Leave the reader wondering what will happen next? What’s the hook?
  • Have structurally and grammatically sound sentences?

Something to think about.

-Jan R


The First Five Pages

Don’t Let Your Sentences Put Them To Sleep!

untitledHave you ever read a paragraph or two of a novel and found yourself yawning, your eyes getting heavy? You probably didn’t get past much more than a few paragraphs before putting it down.

It could be that it was just a boring story with zero conflict and no reason to go on, but it also could have been a very good story with one major problem-Monotony.

Good writers have tricks they use to break up the monotony of their writing. They change subject-verb patterns and sentence length. By mixing things up, they control the pace, add suspense, and keep the story moving forward. It also doesn’t hurt to throw in a hook 🙂

Suzie went to the grocery store. She purchased watermelon and soda pop. She knew her friends were waiting at the park. She would surprise them with a little treat.

Now that paragraph was about as boring as they come. But who’s to say she doesn’t get to the park to find her first love sitting on a bench with a bouquet of flowers and expectations that she will reunite with him, despite the fact that her new love is at the park as well. I guess you will have to hope your reader sticks around to get to the good stuff.

Suzie stopped by the grocery store on the way to the park. She had planned a little surprise for her friends. What she didn’t know, was a little surprise waited for her.

Something to think about.

-Jan R



Don’t Let Your Sentences Put Them To Sleep!

Dialogue Don’ts

images-2I’m still working on the dialogue dos, but I suppose a part of mastering this element is learning what not to do 🙂

  • Don’t use a lot of dialect. It can be really hard to follow and frustrate your reader. Choose one or two words to give the tone and flavor of the dialect you’re going for instead.
  • Don’t repeat in dialogue, what you’ve just said in internal thought. Give your reader a break. Who wants to hear the same thing twice.
  • Don’t let a character explain to another character what they already know. Delete any lines of dialogue that start with “I know you already know this…
  • Don’t allow your character to tell the entire story again to another character when the reader already knows it. Opt to fade out of the conversation. “I went to the gym….” Jason told Marsha the entire story.
  • Don’t us million dollar words or avoid contractions, unless it is a character trait.
  • Don’t repeat names in dialogue. It’s annoying. Once the reader knows you are talking to Marsha, don’t use her name again.
  • Don’t allow your character to give a speech. You have to break it up. use internal thought, other people’s dialogue, or action.
  • Don’t allow everyone to sound the same. Use different speech patterns and word choices to make your characters unique.
  • The biggest don’t- Don’t be boring!

Remember your dialogue should be exciting and provoking. It should keep the story moving forward. Don’t stall out with the everyday humdrum. You don’t have time for pleasantries, and you will lose your reader.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Dialogue Don’ts

Mistakes In Word Choice

untitled.pngI was reading comments from a copy editors’ camp this week, and I thought I would share what was identified as the most common error they cite: mistakes in word choice.

The most common mistakes in word choice are as follows:

  • using which for that and vice versa
  • using affect for effect and vice versa
  • confusing they’re, their, and there
  • confusing your with you’re
  • overusing utilize
  • using between you and I instead of between you and me
  • using compare to when compare with is correct
  • using convince someone to  instead of persuade someone to
  • using its for it’s and vice versa (by far the most common mistake)

There you have it, something else to look for during that revision 🙂

-Jan R

Mistakes In Word Choice

5 Common Mistakes New Authors Make In Their Opening.

  1. Unknown1Leading with the setup. If you’re like me, you thought you needed to give your reader some information up front so they would understand what was going on. I guess it was a little boring, but my reader was well prepared for the good stuff they never got to 🙂 Setup, regardless of how well written, is boring.
  2. Telling too much. Yes, I’m guilty of this one too. Remember backstory and passive voice distance the reader from the action. If your reader’s sense of immediacy is lost, meaning she can’t visualize the events as they occur, you may lose her.
  3. Scenes that lack conflict. You probably guessed I was guilty of this one too 🙂 I had scenes that were nothing but backstory and setup. I really feel bad for the family members and friends I asked to read my finished manuscript.
  4. Writing unsympathetic characters.  Yes, I got this one right 🙂 Readers want to connect emotionally with the heroine and hero. They want to root for them, laugh with them, cry with them. Clearly establish the character’s motivation for behaving in any manner that might make them appear unsympathetic.
  5. Giving the reader a reason to stop reading. Don’t allow a chapter or scene to end on an anticlimactic moment. Always end scenes/chapters with a hook. And yes, I’m guilty of this one too 🙂

Something to think about.

-Jan R

5 Common Mistakes New Authors Make In Their Opening.

Misused Phrases

d4d6ee1756f63c3e26588969cfe33815.jpgWe have all heard phrases that stuck with us. We use them in our writing and speech. Problems arise when we either misheard or remembered the phrases incorrectly. The results  range from humorous to downright confusing.

The Correct Phrase                                           What You’ll Sometimes See or Hear

all it entails                                                            all it in tails

by and large                                                         buy in large

chock full of                                                          chaulked full of

in cahoots with                                                     in cohorts with

amusing anecdotes                                              amusing antidotes

beck and call                                                         beckon call

bated breath                                                         baited breath

beside the point                                                   besides the point

can’t fathom it                                                     can’t phantom it

down the pike                                                      down the pipe

far be it from me                                                 far be it for me

for all intents and purposes                             or all intensive purposes

home in on                                                          hone in on

got my dander up                                              got my dandruff up

had the wherewithal                                        had the where with all

I couldn’t care less                                             I could care less

in like Flynn                                                      in like Flint

moot point                                                         mute point

whet my appetite                                             wet my appetite

up and at ’em                                                   up and adam

tough row to hoe                                            tough road to hoe

supposedly                                                       supposably

shoo -in to win                                                shoe-in to win

over the airwaves                                          over the airways

of utmost importance                                   of upmost importance

recent poll                                                      recent pole

dyed in the wool                                            died in the wool

en route                                                          in route

I think you’re getting the picture.  Before you use those all too common phrases, make sure you have them down. I know I’m guilty of using several of the phrases listed above in the ‘what you’ll sometimes see or hear‘ list.

Something else to check during the revision process 🙂

-Jan R

Misused Phrases