Category Archives: Write better (tips and techniques)

Empowering the CORE of Your Story

Introducing a new level of affordable Story Coaching… and why you should take a look.

You don’t have to spend a couple grand to get your story professionally evaluated and coached.  There’s another way to get there, and it’s every bit as thorough and effective at the story level as a full manuscript review… for less than 10 percent of the cost.

You don’t even have to have the manuscript finished… or even started yet.

And now, it’s even better and more focused.


When asked about your core story, what would you say?

There really aren’t enough qualifiers in that question to point you toward the best answer, because your genre and your level of craft-speak (knowledge) become variables in that proposition.

There are three primary candidates when it comes to “core story.”

One is the inherent potential and compelling power of your CONCEPT AND PREMISE… how one feeds into, and off, the other.  Without a good answer here your story might be flat before you write a word of it.

Another is the core DRAMATIC ARC of your story, which is a function of genre and structure… and, in every genre, becomes the primary narrative engine of the story.  Get it wrong and the story loses steam before the first quartile concludes.

At this point you may be thinking… wait, isn’t the primary engine of my story the sum of my characters (leaving CHARACTER ARC as the third option among the aforementioned three)?

Well… not not so much.  In genre fiction in particular (as opposed to “literary fiction”), it is the nature and degree with which you’ve given your characters something to do that drives the story forward.

That “something to do” is your CORE DRAMATIC ARC.  Your plot.  The source and contextual impact of conflict in the story.

If that doesn’t work, or if it isn’t there at all, your characters won’t matter.

So the question — the key question, because nothing works until you get this right — is this: how IS your core story coming together?  What is the level of compelling strength and structural execution of your core dramatic arc”

Does it work?  How can it be strengthened?

And then the next question is… how do you find out?

Here’s the new Story Coaching answer to that one.

I’ve developed, and have just launched, a new level of coaching that focuses in on the Core Dramatic Arc of your story, as a facet of your story plan (or of your latest draft if you’ve gone that far).  It’s a Questionnaire-driven process, which makes it affordable at only $95.

This program stands alongside my Quick Hit Concept Review ($49) as a specialized evaluation of your story plan.  And it is a subset of my Full Story Plan level of analysis (at $245), which looks at your story according to a sequential rendering of your major story beats.

Why add this new level?

Because you can totally nail your Concept and Premise , but the story will still hobble if your Core Dramatic Arc is not optimal.

And you can get to the finish line with a full story plan, only to find that the central driving force of it – the core dramatic arc – is a 4-cylinder putt-putt installed into the body of a gleaming sports car or elegant luxury machine.

In other words, your full story and it’s gleaming new characters may be under-powered.

Here’s what the initial beta user (a writer, just like you) has to say about the new DRAMATIC ARC ANALYSIS:

“Wow, I am BLOWN AWAY by how good this is! I’m about halfway through the “first draft answers” and I’m amazed at the info you’re pulling out of me. Hurts so good! It is the most detailed, but succinct, interactive step-by-step forced look-in-the-mirror that all of us novices need, that I’ve ever seen. (And like most writerly dreamers, I have a large library of writing how-to books, including yours.)

It’s ‘way too cheap, too.”

You can opt in using the proper service level Paypal button from the Home page in the left column…or email me to request direct invoicing if you don’t have a Paypal account.

If you’re a prior client at the Quick-Hit Concept Review level… (already, or you plan to be), your fee for the Dramatic Arc Analysis is only $75.  See the drop down menu on the Home page (under Dramatic Arc Analysis), or email me for an invoice; this also means you can start now with the Quick Hit Concept Review and add the Dramatic Arc later at only $75… or you can opt in now for both at $124).

Don’t leave your best intentions stranded at the starting gate, concept in hand, with no takers.

Your story deserves the best developmental effort you can throw at it.  Another set of eyes — professional eyes — can save you more drafts and cut months or even years off your story development learning curve.


Got $2.99… and a hunger for more craft?

Here is one of the new ebooks I’m launching as part of my Storyfix eBookstore, which is soon to be launched (though the books are available now):

Three Men and a Manuscript:

Three Writing “Gurus” Discussing Craft, a Shifting Market and What it Takes to Create Successful Fiction

A dialogue between James Scott Bell, Randy Ingermanson and Larry Brooks on the nature and context of craft and what it means to the creation of successful fiction today.

The closer you listen to the writing conversation, especially when it comes from those who teach craft at workshops and write bestselling books on the topic (in addition to their own critically-acclaimed novels), the more commonality you notice. While it it possible to convey and cloak the basic principles of writing effective fiction with a variety of contexts and tones and approaches, which can sometimes cloud the issues, certain basic truths remain, and they are as universal among genres as they are eternal in their validity.

What’s less evident, but nonetheless true, is that there remains some “wiggle room” within the parameters of those principles, as well as a deep well of subtleties that become the tie-breakers for writers who harness them to create truly remarkable and original fiction.

In this dialogue, three leading voices in the realm of fiction craft seek clarity and precision of those principles, while culling out the subtleties that empower stories and storytellers toward greater heights. The result is, rather than the creation of an ominously higher bar, an illumination of a clear and doable path toward the reaching of that bar, no matter what one’s level of experience or genre of choice.

Click HERE to go to the page to order this ebook.


Filed under Write better (tips and techniques)

Novelists and Screenwriters: Concept Equals “Situation”… and Then Some

Concept is, bottom line, more a CONTEXT for the premise-driven story that emerges from it.


Sometimes the context of a story is indeed situational.  Sometimes, though, it is merely a contextual framework that could apply to any number of situations.

“Concept,” as a powerful storytelling tool, continues to befuddle and amaze. 

I’ve heard from two readers on this recently.

One of them dismissed the whole conversation with an oversimplification: “Concept is settingNothing complicated about it.”

That’s true. Until it isn’t true.  Because there are several other contexts that offer a story a compelling source of richness at the conceptual level.

The other reader, less sure and dismissive, suggested that concept is “a situation.”  This is also often true… but sometimes a concept is less situation and more a description of focus and topical or issue-driven arena.

I’d like to share my response to the latter reader here.  Hope it helps clarify.

Hey (reader) – I wanted to respond to your comment about concept equals “situation.” That’s certainly an accurate statement in many instances. But consider this, as well: concept can be something other than “situational.”
The reason concept is tricky, hard to grasp, is that it can reside in several camps… each of them creating context before a plot or even a protagonist is added to the mix.
The primary criteria for concept is this: the conceptual “idea” is something that causes someone to say, “now THAT has my interest… haven’t really seen that before, or if I have I want more… so I want to read whatever story arises from that.”
Notice there is no story yet. Just the context for one.
It can be a thematic concept, such as “The Help.” What if we set a story in the 1960s deep south, from various POVs of domestic employees? You could argue that this is a sort of situation, but really, it’s not situational yet.  It’s more contextual.
It can be a speculative proposition, such as “The Davinci Code” – what if the largest western religion on the planet is actually based on a historical lie? Again, not yet a situation, though richly contextual.
It can be an “arena” – a love story among US troops stationed in Afghanistan. This is only loosely situational, yet completely contextual. This is setting plus context, yielding a concept that is rich with situational potential.
Concept can strictly be a location or setting: a historical novel set amidst the chaos of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. The premise could be anything at all. There is no specific situation in this concept, as stated it is pure context derived from time and place.
Concept can also be a character attribute: what if a rich kid adopts a superhero persona to fight crime in Gotham City? Again, more context than situation.
While these are, technically, “situations” in the loosest sense, I suppose, most of these are more CONTEXTUAL than situational… they present a compelling context to a story… or many possible stories… that are set within that context.
From this we can conclude that, as a truism, it is PREMISE that offers up a situation, because within premise there is a problem and a goal and an obstacle, which is the very essence of situation.
A situational premise, when it works, emerges from within the CONTEXT of the concept itself.
The risk is having nothing much at all that is conceptual, in any of these contexts. That handicaps a story right out of the starting gate. Just as true is a premise that isn’t situational, which means it is more or less void of dramatic tension, which almost always renders it DOA.

Story Coaching Discount for March

To fill some open slots in my late March and April schedule, I am discounting my Full Story Plan Analysis by 25% if you enroll by the end of March.  Once enrolled you can take all the time you want to apply the Questionnaire to help develop your story plan prior to submission (and it’s a killer criteria-driven story development tool).

This is a great way to save some money by acting now, while greatly empowering your story in the process.

The normal fee for this Questionnaire-driven process is $245.  Opt-in by March 31 and the cost is only $183.75 (first quartile pages remain available at the normal $350 add-on fee). 

Use the CONTACT tab to request an invoice at this discounted rate.


Or, if you want to focus on your concept and premise for now, click HERE to learn about my Quick Hit Concept Analysis service, at only $49.  Given the critical nature of concept and premise – the whole deal depends on you nailing this – this might be the best story coaching value in the history of the trade.

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Filed under Write better (tips and techniques)