A Few Storyfix Updates

Greetings. I know I’ve been MIA for a while now… my apologies. I also know I led with this exact opener a few months ago… embarrassing. I get it.

Colleagues are telling me I’ve basically lost equity in this site. I prefer to think of it as hitting the Pause button. I’ve never intended to abandon Storyfix, my intention since the beginning of the year has been to reinvent, revitalize and relaunch it.

Why all that? Because after nearly 1000 posts (over 700 of which remain available here), it began to feel like I’ve lined all available walls with thoughts and teaching and modeling and case studies for all facets of craft and process. I found myself getting entrenched in an unwinnable debate about the continuum of process options, and frankly found the discussion frustrating.

I needed to step away. And while I’ve been away (I’ve still been out there teaching at workshops around the country, which is the absolute highest level of what I do on several levels, as well as posting on a few other websites), my resolve to teach writing the right way, the smart way, the enlightened way, has clarified.

Because you see, the writing process is negotiable. The underlying principles of craft – what makes a story work – are not. The key to everything, especially for newer and/or struggling writers, resides in understanding the core and the nuances of that statement.

I return to the battle emboldened. Less tolerant of ignorance. Willing to call out the bullshit (and it’s everywhere) when I see it put forth. More committed to helping writers see through the fog of the conventional writing conversation by providing principles, tools, examples, and processes that elevate and empower, rather than reinforce stagnation and frustration.

There will be a refurbished story analysis service, as well, priced to deliver the highest value for serious writers available anywhere on the internet.

Thanks for your patience. This is going to be an intense, wonderful and rewarding ride on both sides of the PUBLISH button.

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Art Holcomb to join Storyfix on a more regular, visible basis.

Art and I view the storytelling proposition through a very similar lens. If you don’t know Art, use the search function here to find his guest posts (nearly 30 of ’em), and click here to see his website, where you can access his highly regarded audio training programs.

Art will be posting here more regularity, appearing at least twice a month.  That’s in addition to my posts, which will appear at least a month, as well.

The result will be the most advanced craft thinking available on the internet, targeting all levels of knowledge and experience. There are no cloud-dwelling muses here, urging you to channel your inner consciousness and listen to what your characters are telling you. A crashing silence awaits if that’s how you write.

Rather, what you’ll get here is fierce hardcore story craft. The principles that underpin it. Delivered by two literary linebackers (have you seen us?) waiting to flatten whatever lack of understanding or misinformation stands in your way.

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October Workshops

I’m booked for two October workshops, at this writing:

Central Ohio Fiction Writers (an RWA sanctioned group)

Saturday, October 21, 2017 – Columbus, Ohio

An all-day class, delivering a comprehensive deep dive into differentiating craft, applicable to all genres, with a focus on romance and adult contemporary love stories.

Click here for details.

And then, the annual…

Writers Digest Novel Writing Conference

Friday and Saturday, October 27/28, 2017 – Pasadena, California

Two sessions: Concept/Premise as the differentiating story essence (Friday), and Raising the Bar on Your story (Saturday).

Click HERE to view the conference website, see all 30 presenters and the full schedule.

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Blog to Book – an interview by Nina Amir

Check out this article/interview that appeared on Nina’s site, wherein I wax nostalgic about how Storyfix, the blog, became Story Engineering, the book. If you’re a blogger as well as a novelist or screenwriter, you might find you’re already nursing an opportunity to find yourself in the nearest Barnes & Noble.

Click here to check it out.

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New training videos coming this fall.

You may be aware that I have five video training modules out. More are in the pipeline, arriving later this fall.

Art Holcomb has new audio-based training (with workshops) and ebooks on a regular basis. Click here to see his latest.

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Storyfix to undgo a facelift.

I’m vetting designers now to bring a fresher look to this website.

I’m also interested in hearing from you, the Storyfix community, for your counsel on forthcoming content. Use the comments here, or email me directly, to suggest specific topics and focuses you’d like Art and I cover in the coming months. This is your tool, so please contribute your thinking to help us help you.

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A compendium of posts – mine – from Killzone.com

You may know that I’ve been posting to the Killzone.com for well over a year now. There is a diverse group of contributors there, including a couple of well-known authors you may have heard of, not the least of whom is my craft colleague in arms, James Scott Bell.

Click HERE for a sequential thread of these articles. It’s an entire book’s worth of content and perspective.

Next week I’ll be sharing, in full, another guest post I contributed recently to Writer Unboxed, which stirred things up a bit. Because, you see, on that site and on Killzone there are authors who ascribe to this approach to story development: “There is no right or wrong way to tell a story, unless you do it my way,” – their way, in this case – “in which case it is the right way.” One of them suggests writing cannot be taught (right after this assertion he refers you to his upcoming workshops), and another claims he can impart everything of value he’s ever been told onto one side of a 3 by 5 card, which is interesting.

Too bad they’re both full of complete and utter crap on those fronts. Because simply by putting it in print, some poor writer will believe it to be true.

Here at Storyfix, Art and I are committed to shining a light on principle-based story development, with a qualitative focus on what empowers stories, rather than what simply finishes them.

 

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“The Two Questions” — A Guest Post by Art Holcomb

More goodness from our friend Art, who is always worth the read.

The Two Questions

by Art Holcomb

I want to talk to you about a place where all writers get to – regardless of our form, genre or level of experience.

I’m talking about The Big Suck – that place where we have written ourselves into a corner.

Does this sound familiar?

You might have been cruising right along, hero making his/her way through the Special World of the story, fighting the bad guys, getting the girl (or the guy) along the way – basically plowing his/her way through the story and are well into the throes of Act 2…

When suddenly…

Nothing.

Nada.

Zilch.

You come up completely empty and slam into a creative wall.

Maybe your hero isn’t cooperating, or the villain is done something that you just don’t understand.  Maybe you’ve crafted a threat that’s too overwhelming (or worse, isn’t powerful enough) or you’ve suddenly and quite simply run out of ideas.

Worst of all, maybe you’ve gone back and re-read what you’ve just written and realized…

It’s boring. It’s just plain-vanilla, cold-leftover oatmeal BORING.

And then the anger comes.

You suddenly hate the story. You begin to doubt your abilities and ask yourself why you started this foolishness in the first place.

Here’s the good news:

I‘ve been in this hole and I know the way out.

At this point, I want you to stop. Just Stop.

Understand that every writer goes through this. It’s part of the process and there’s no way around the problem.

All you can do is go through it.

The Two Questions

Here’s a technique I learned from one of my mentors and one of the smartest writers I’ve ever met, Steven Barnes ((learn more about him here).

First, take a moment to remind yourself where you are in your story. Reread the last passage. Really find a way to put yourself in the place of the character you’re writing about. Understand their situation. Feel the emotions that the character must be feeling at that very moment.

Now, ask yourself these two questions:

QUESTION #1: What is ABSOLUTE TRUTH about this moment?

What can you say here that is absolute, positively true about what’s happening?

Not what you think the reader wants to hear. Not what you believe would be interesting.

But what is true about what’s happening at this very moment.

This may take a while to understand.  More than anything else, readers want authenticity from their storytellers.  They are in your story at this moment with you so that you can evoke in them an emotion that they cannot get elsewhere. That emotion is best produced by the truth that you are subconsciously trying to tell them through your writing.

Spend a little free-writing time to explore the setting, the underlying motivation of the characters. How would YOU face this problem (this is key to the authentic moment because, in some subtle but important way, YOU are this character)? Try to sympathize with the antagonistic forces involved here.

That is – FEEL your way through the moment.

And then, move directly to . . .

QUESTION #2: What does this moment say about us AS A PEOPLE and about the HUMAN CONDITION?  Regardless of whether you’re writing a science fiction or a mystery or a romantic comedy, every story tells the reader something about who we are as a people.  What our lives are like and what we have to pass along to others.

Regardless of whether you’re writing a science fiction or a mystery or a romantic comedy, every story tells the reader something about who we are as a people. What our lives are like and what we have to pass along to others.

For example, romance stories feed our desire to be connected. Science fiction stories give us a sense of what we are becoming. Fantasies lead us down a path towards our own dreams and alternative realities.

Each story, whether we realize it or not, says something about us as a species.

The Purpose of Story

So, lean into that curve.  Seek out the truth that you’re trying to tell.

You may just realize a deeper level of your own storytelling.

These two questions serve the original purpose of Story from the days of our ancestors. Stories were created by the elders of the village to instruct the young people about what their lives were going to be like. They needed to know what to look out for, to know where they came from and, more importantly, gain some inkling of an idea about where they were going.

For example, the Cave Paintings of Lascaux, France, warned of the danger and glories of the hunt. The tales told around the campfire were the lessons of the day, made all the more important by the power of the Storyteller. The emotions brought forth in the story bound the lessons into the mind of the listeners and they . . . learned.

That is the role of Story. And you, as the Storyteller, can find your way out of the corner by leaning into that curve and going for the deeper truth.

It’s the best way I know to write myself out of a hole.

It might just work for you, too.

Until next time – keep writing!

Art

P.S. – If you’ve enjoyed my posts here in StoryFix and are interested in learning more about our teachings about the craft of writing, drop me an email at aholcomb07@gmail.com and we’ll send you information on our seminars, workshops and boot camps.

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