Posts Tagged ‘larry brooks’

Good books lately

I’ve curled up with some lovely reads lately. Here’s a list of my recommended reads, ranging from fantasy to mystery, thriller and suspense.

Deadly Faux – Larry Brooks

Deadly fauxThis ingenious thriller features one of the genre’s best characters, Wolf Schmidt. He’s cynical, out for himself, and has a mouth that will kill him someday – but he’s also sweet, scary smart and sexy. Brooks keeps him believably on the edge of truly appalling danger, while getting laughs in all the right places. For a double treat, pick up the first Schmidt book, Bait and Switch. (Thriller)




Hull Zero Three – Greg Bear

Hull zero 3A wildly inventive story of a generation ship run amok. I loved how the main character grew, coming into his memories and his humanity. This was accomplished with a deft touch, humor and mystery. The generation ship is a sheer marvel, technically wondrous and fittingly strange. Stunning work. One of Greg Bear’s best. (Science Fiction)




Read More…

Blog Tour: A Thousand Perfect Things

Check it out: my blog tour begins! I hope you’ll dip in – with a chance to win cool prizes.

Over next two weeks, I’ll be appearing here and there on blogs of folks who’re participating in my blog tour. Drop by for some interviews & peeks inside-the-book and the so-called mind of the author!


  • $50 Amazon or Pay Pal gift card
  • signed, personalized, copy of A Thousand Perfect Things

How to Participate in the Give-away

Click the Rafflecopter widget below, and earn points for joining in on FaceBook, Twitter or Pinterest! It’s easy and only takes a few seconds!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Larry Brooks, The Storyfixer

Larry Brooks, The Storyfixer

Not on tour, but also fun: Join Larry Brooks and me at StoryFix, (Tuesday Aug  27) wherein we discover whether it helps a fantasy book (mine) to use his HOT approach to story structure!

Tour Schedule

Wednesday, Aug 28. Asteria’s Blog  – Review and Giveaway

Thursday, Aug 29. Behind a Million and One Pages –  Excerpt and Giveaway

Sunday, Sept 1 Author Jonathan Ryan – Excerpt and Giveaway

Monday, Sept 2. Chirenjenzie – Favorite Pinterest Pins and Giveaway

Tuesday, Sept 3. Dave-Brendon’s Fantasy and Sci-Fi Weblog – Excerpt and Giveaway

Wednesday, Sept 4. Mindy Ruiz – Excerpt and Giveaway

Thursday, Sept 5. Elizabeth Isaacs’ Blog – Excerpt and Giveaway

Friday, Sept 6. Hooked in a Book – Excerpt and Giveaway

Saturday, Sept 7. BlKosiner’s Book Blog– Interview!

Sunday, Sept 8. Delphina reads too much – Featured Article and Giveaway!

Monday, Sept 9. A Dribble of Ink –  Featured Article!

Tuesday, Sept 10.Lilliputian’s Journey – Excerpt and Giveaway

Wednesday, Sept 11. Mom With A Kindle – Interview!

Thursday, Sept 12. A Dragon’s Love – Excerpt and Giveaway

 See you ’round the Blogosphere!



Live: First page critiques by Larry Brooks

Write On The River this Thursday, September 29th: A First Page Critique Session with best-selling novelist, award-winning blogger and Writers Digest Books author, Larry Brooks.

Deadline to sign up, Tuesday, September 27th!

Larry’s newest book, “Story Engineering: Mastering The Six Core Competencies of Successful Writing,” came out from Writers Digest Books earlier this year. Kay Kenyon will assist with the critiques.

This First Page Critique Session gives  writers in the Wenatchee WA area a rare opportunity to have a professional critique their work for free!  But only members can attend, so be sure to sign up today, if you haven’t already! Write on the River membership benefits include:

-savings on our 2012 writing conference
-early conference registration opportunities
-early agent appointments sign ups . . . and more

For more information, please contact membership chair, Melody Kreimes, at:

First Page Critique Session
September 29, 2011
North Central ESD Building
430 Olds Station Road, Wenatchee (2nd floor, Ponderosa Room)

5:30-6:00 pm, social with appetizers
6:00-8:00 pm critique session
(wine by the glass available for purchase throughout evening)


All Write on the River members are welcome to attend for free, whether they’re having a first page critiqued or not. Members wanting a page critiqued MUST RSVP to by 5 p.m. on 9/27. Members are to bring to the event the first pages of their novels or non-fiction manuscripts, with title and genre printed at top.  Double space, 12 pt. font, one-sided.The first 20 to RSVP will have their first page read aloud anonymously in front of the audience, then verbally (and constructively) critiqued.

Where your plot begins

How do you start a story? Do readers expect a nice big grabber scene? And at what point does the plot kick in?

I said in my last post, Fiction Myths, that we should be wary of the oft-repeated admonition that the story should begin as soon as possible. The thought apparently driving this bit of advice is that readers are impatient. They want conflict, a reason to turn pages–something, perhaps, to worry about.

Fair enough. But getting your plot fully engaged on page 6 isn’t the way to do it. Not that we have the luxury these days of beginning a novel with a meandering tour of the village or setting out on an epic journey, first provisioning at the local market.

So how do you start a story?

Story shape

The question of how to begin is grounded in the shape of story. From screenwriting comes the classic shape of the three act structure, pierced in the middle by the mid-point scene (thus actually creating four sections of the story.) For a great discussion of this structure, see Larry Brooks, Story Engineering. Don’t leave home–don’t start a novel–without a thorough understanding of this basic blueprint! Within this context of story architecture, you will find the crucial turning points, Plot Point 1 and Plot Point 2.

Plot Point One

It is at PP1 where your plot launches the character down her path in a way that changes everything. It is the point where the protagonist takes up the gauntlet in full knowledge of what is at stake for her. You might now introduce a partial glimpse of the forces arrayed against her. Your main character is now determined to take action. Perhaps she has no choice. (This point may be proceeded by the inciting incident. The inciting incident brings the potential of a story on stage. The gunslinger arrives in town, the old man dies leaving all his money to his young mistress. The main character is not yet engaged fully. That happens at PP1.)

The PP1 scene typically occurs about one quarter of the way in. It can be said to be the end of Act One. A storyteller has some leeway here. Use the elements of classic structure in service to your story. These aren’t iron clad rules. (Yet, the closer you can come to the ideal one-quarter point, the more the audience will, unconsciously, recognize the familiar territory, the deliciously familiar story-telling turning point.)

Function of beginnings

The purpose of beginnings is show us the characters and their life situation (including the milieu in sf/f) in a way that brings the reader to care about the action to come. We want to know what’s at stake for the major character; what they want–or if they don’t know that yet–what they value. We learn why the desire or value is held so dear: we are introduced to the inner world of the character. Not usually through flashbacks, but through real-time actions dramatized in scenes. We see the forces of antagonism, or their shadows on the wall. This is all set up for PP1. When the private detective takes the case against his better judgment, when the major character is kicked out of the house, when the disgraced officer is given one last chance to redeem himself.

Bridging conflict

So how do we keep the reader turning pages in Act One? Through bridging conflict. Bridging conflict is any conflict that is not the main story conflict. It can be used any time your main conflict must retire to the wings for a beat or three. It is often used in subplots to carry us along until we return to the main stream. But at the start of a story, it is why we keep turning the pages.

An example: At the beginning of Naomi Novik’s Victory of Eagles, Captain Lawrence is disgraced, in irons in the brig. He is awaiting execution. His faithful dragon, Temeraire, is kept in the dark about his beloved captain’s fate. Now, the plot can’t begin yet, because we haven’t seen Lawrence suffer enough, we haven’t had time to become enraged by his treatment. Furthermore, the plot when it bursts open will be a hell burner, and it requires some set up. What does Novik do to bring us to PP1? She has Temeraire under threat of losing his nice big cave.

That’s it. A morose dragon who is wallowing in self-pity is now going to be summarily ejected from a miserable hovel of a cave that he has spent some time digging out to make it more comfortable while he mopes. I’m not kidding, this was her plan for getting us a few chapters in. And it works brilliantly. Instead of milking Temeraire’s anxiety, Novik has him acting out his terrors by self-righteously protecting a few feet of mud and rock. We are outraged by the obnoxious interloper and rooting like hell for our favorite dragon. Meanwhile Lawrence undergoes one humiliation after the next while waiting to be hanged. Then at PP1 Napoleon invades England. Lawrence and Temeraire are dragooned into emergency service. By the time the French land on English shores, the two main characters are on the path to a dramatic struggle for redemption.

Learning to care

The first part of your novel, therefore, is devoted to making the upcoming conflict meaningful. To make the stakes matter to the reader, not just to the character. To make us care. So that at PP1 we feel a turn in the gut, a hope, perhaps even a desperate one, that things will work out.

That’s why grabber scenes as openers often fall flat. They may be loaded with conflict and violence, but frankly, we don’t give a damn. We don’t know the characters. Death and betrayal are all very well, but they are common. They aren’t meaningful to us unless we know a bit about who it happens to.

Take the book I’m reading at the moment. Please, take it. It’s by one of my favorite fantasy authors. But he started his latest book with a big grabber scene where the major character nearly dies. Did I care? Not at all. Then he falls back to some painfully slow stuff, so I am still annoyingly disengaged from his story, and I’m on page 40! Listen up. Readers are the most picky, demanding, and thin-skinned of people. They usually see through the fakery and formulas, especially that grabber scene that was meant to signal an action-packed story. They respond by saying “I just couldn’t get into it.”

Which is why openings of novels are so important. Because if the reader puts your book aside at page 40, they’re not going to recommend your book to anyone else. And they’ll remember you let them down.


Books on Story

I own a bunch of books that promise to impart wisdom on writing. They tell me to get a notebook, dive in, discover myself and have faith. They advise me to write concise scenes, deep characters and great dialogue.

Often, though, they fail to tell me how. Sound familiar?

One common failing of these books is that they concentrate on writing, not on story. The distinction is vital for those who want to publish.

Books on writing explain the qualities that our writing should have; sometimes they describe the elements of writing that one must master, such as pacing and plot. But without the context of story we’re lost in the funhouse. We don’t know what we’re about. We try to fix things piecemeal instead of holistically.

We’re missing depth, structure and context. The key to all this is story.

The Straight Scoop on Story

This is why I’m so pleased to see some of the newer books on writing focusing on story. You can still deepen in the major elements of fiction, but it’s so much more helpful to do that in context of a story that’s going somewhere. A story that’s about something.

Without further ado, here are my latest recommendations for books that will help you write a better story. (And, let us not forget, just in time for Christmas!)

In the Golden Theme, let that superb teacher, Brian McDonald, show you how to approach and tell a story with purpose and passion. I love the subtitle: How to make your writing appeal to the highest common denominator.

Get deep with your rewrite. In The Weekend Novelist Re-Writes the Novel, let Robert J. Ray show you how to get at the structural connective tissue that will flesh out a mediocre novel and turn it into something fine.

The classic book on structure from Larry Brooks. He taught this approach at the 2010 Write on the River conference and wowed the attendees. Me too!

And watch for his forthcoming book: Story Engineering. February 2011.