Books are puzzles

Have you ever asked yourself… what makes a good book? What makes you engaged? Everyone is different. We all respond to different things. But, at the root of every good book, we become engaged.

As humans, we’re curious. Ever driven slowly alongside a road accident? We want to see, to know, even if we know it’s none of our business. Because we’re human. Curiosity is ingrained… its in our blood . Some of us are stronger than others, some of us can fight the magnet of morbid curiosity, but only the strong-willed succeed.

As writers we need to satisfy a reader’s curiosity. That doesn’t mean telling readers what’s going on. That’s boring. We need to drop clues. Don’t tell a reader your character is angry, show a reader they are. Let the reader have the satisfaction of deciphering whether or not those ‘flared nostrils’ mean the character is angry. Even better if your dialogue shows anger. Or maybe use subtext and make the ‘flared nostrils’ a contrast to what’s being said. Give the reader even more opportunity to become engaged.

And this ‘line-by-line’ showing is just the tip of the iceberg.

A reader needs hints and questions raised throughout the books they read. I don’t believe genre changes a reader’s basic need. They don’t read for purple prose. They read for enjoyment. To feel. Reveals scattered in a book keep a reader satisfied. However, there needs to be balance. Hints v reveals – it’s not easy to juggle.

I find it easier to imagine I write a giant puzzle. I want a reader to enjoy themselves. To help ensure I do this, I ‘show’ most of the time (I let a reader decipher how a character is reacting), I plant questions so a reader can wonder and I scatter my prose with moments of description that allow a reader to see a picture only they can see. I (hope) I don’t give too much detail. I want a reader to picture what they imagine, but by giving a few details. Not by telling. Not by reciting a list (even if that list is a ‘showing’ list). The ‘showing’ list only manipulates a reader and detracts from their enjoyment. The more a reader has to figure out, the more they should enjoy your book. Think Harry Potter. You can think what you like about J K Rowling’s writing, but her books are popular for a reason. J K Rowling knows how to engage her target audience. I admire that.

In a first draft, writers needs to tell themselves what’s happening. Think of Terry Pratchett’s famous quote. In subsequent drafts, a writer needs to go back and start layering in hints and questions. Add in the showing. This part is the fun bit. This part is where you drop clues for the reader. The more clues, the more a reader should enjoy reading your book. Of course, there are moments when telling is necessary. Again, learning this is a balancing act. It’s all part of the joy of writing. And that should start with entertaining your reader. Of course, not everyone’s goal is to give a reader enjoyment. Writers, ask yourselves, ‘what’s your goal?’

I expect it to take many books to learn every skill out there, and then some. I plan to savour the journey. How about you?

 

Books about locked-in syndrome I’ve read or own

Locked-in syndrome is a rare condition. If you survive the event causing it, then your chances of dying in the first four months are 90%. I’m really, really sorry if that’s doomsday to anyone going through this. However, that’s what the doctors told my family. I’m just quoting the professionals. I wasn’t told anything. Having experienced a brainstem stroke resulting in Locked-In syndrome, I can understand why the doctors tell families this. It damages you’re ability to cough. So eating any kind of food is life threatening.

However, if you’re frantically looking for anything about locked-in syndrome, please know everyone has a different experience. These are a few books available. Click on the picture to follow the link to Amazon:

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This is the leading account of Locked-In syndrome. I’ve tried to get a copy in Australia. I couldn’t. An American friend mailed me a copy. I can’t be sure which countries it’s available in, but it’s not available in Australia.

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Kate is now a doctor, so this is an encouraging perspective.

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This Kate still makes the journey between America and New Zealand.

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Peter is now studying to become a speech pathologist.

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Lastly, my own addition to this illustrious company:

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I wish you the best.

My kind of sleep

Everyone shifts unconsciously in their sleep. Well, those without a disability. But for me? I’m fortunate to sleep in my own bed. No hospital bed. Yet, I have moments where my swallow doesn’t work properly and I wake coughing and spluttering – in the wee hours of the morning. Shane always rushes to sit me up. Oh, how I love waking him at that hour, especially when he has to be up at 6:30am. Not.

I lay on my right side. My kind of shifting involves trying to roll on my back. Even then, I can’t completely lie flat on my back because my butt is stuck in the position for lying on my side. So, lying on my back is often a twisted affair. I never fall asleep like this. For two reasons. 1. If I fall asleep on my back, I wake morbidly weak (even more than normal) and getting off my back requires mammoth effort. I grunt and snort and wake Shane. If you haven’t already guessed, I unintentionally wake him as much as a newborn babe. 2. My swallow can’t keep up with the saliva produced on my back. It’s too much of a choking risk. I only manage around 5 minutes.

Did you know, when you can’t shift your weight you get pressure marks or sores? My skin is soft. That’s lucky, you think. Well, no. It’s a curse. If I wear pyjamas or underwear, I get welts where the creases of clothing were. Itchy as hell. Just on my right side. Half the time, I can’t even reach to scratch. An taunting itch I can’t scratch? Let’s just say, I used to the torment.  My saving Grace? They disappear throughout the day. In time to start all over again.

I worked hard over the course of my hospital stay to advance from a hospital bed to a normal bed. If you want to see how, check out my book here. It’s only $US0.99 for this week. The transition was fresh in my mind when I wrote the book, otherwise I’d share but I bound to forget details now.

Find your passion

A brush with death brings life into sharp perspective. We all know life is short but, for me, overnight (well, once I emerged from my coma) I appreciated everything more. Oh, sure, I appreciated and took time to drink in the kids as babies. No regrets there. I travelled, even lived in the UK. No regrets there. Been to Disneyland. Twice. No regrets there. Even made sure I visited Prince Edward Island in Canada (only Anne of Green Gables fans will understand my motivation for that trip).

However, the moments I savor now are even more basic. Time with family. Time with wonderful people, be they friends or amazing people. Having a conversation (I’ve waited five long years for that goal) with them. Basking in the sun. A sunset slashed with oranges, pink and night blue  (when I can see it, hard to see over our fence from a wheelchair!).

Do what you love. Live your passion. I was torn pre-stroke. There was law – I loved helping people. Then there was hand-making cards – I loved the thought of bringing joy to someone else.

Writing ran last. I thought writing a personal passion. It didn’t involve anyone else. I hadn’t reached a level where I considered the most important part of writing. The reader. I didn’t see … it can touch someone too. The day I realised that… what a lightning strike. Writing escalated to first, for now I see. Now, I live it. I breath it. I love it.

My advice, should you choose to take on board my experience (for 90% of people die from a brainstem stroke), find what you love. Savor it for the short time we are here. Don’t wait. Otherwise, it may be too late. I know I’m not ready to waste a second.

 

A Storyteller’s Life

Cage Dunn: Writer, Author, Teller-of-tall-tales

Here is a part-quote from a first reader about the new story (Not On The Cards):

I enjoyed the book. It read like a short story — very fast paced, very focused on plot.  I got caught up in Chiri’s desires. 

Isn’t that what every writer wants to hear? Thank you, M.

Ooh! And I got one on Goodreads: Fast-paced from the start; I was completely enthralled with her fears and journey. 

Thank you to everyone who enjoys the story. I know that won’t be everyone who reads it, but each story has the people who enjoy it, and those who look for something different. I like different. I like stories that are beyond what’s the current flavour, the expected, the norm. I like to be so involved in the story that if anyone disturbs me, I get [ummm, do I really have to admit to this?] cranky.

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How to Avoid Info-Dumps in Your Stories

For the writers…

A Writer's Path

by Ryan Lanz

Dumping is rarely appreciated anywhere, and inside your novel is no different.

When I started writing, I can remember feeling the urge to clue the reader in on every tidbit of information on a character/setting, including the culture, people, landscape, type of plants that grow there, every holiday, flavors of tea consumed, what type of bear is best (a Jim Halpert reference), etc.

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Well now, there’s a thing…

R Munro

So … an anthology I contributed to a little while ago called “Flashpoint: The Inner Circle Writers’ Group Flash Fiction Anthology 2018” has been released, and it has instantly rocketed to the bestseller list in France and Canada.

Incredible.

So naturally, the contributing authors are now technically bestselling authors.

Including me!

Staggering.

Me? Little-ol’-me? A bestselling author?

Inconceivable!

And yet … there it is.

*pinches self

Still feels the same.

But … best-selling.

I’m not sure it has fully sunk in yet…

Oh, if you’re interested in having a look at it, follow the link.

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