Please join us in welcoming today’s Guest Chef, Sandra Orchard.
Sandra Orchard was the 2009 Daphne DuMaurier Award winner in the
You can find her at:
Thanks so much for the invitation, Darcy and Debbie. I’m so excited to be here as one of your Guest Chefs, and I look forward to hearing from all of you. Many people have asked me what’s the secret to writing an award-winning story. Well, after much deliberation I think I’ve figured it out. Post-it notes!
That’s right. Post-it notes.
Picture a computer monitor with notes tacked all along its base and a book shelf on either side lined with more notes. That’s what my desk looks like. I’m a list writer. I need to see things written down if I’m going to remember to do them. Here’s the most important:
Why? Why? Why?
You need to understand your character’s motivations, not just surface motivations, deep-seated motivations. Keep asking why until you get to the very root of their motivations and then put it on the page.
Characters choices must drive actions.
If an editor or agent tells you that your story is episodic, this is the post-it for you. In each scene, your character needs a goal. Then you throw in a bunch of obstacles to that goal, until finally the goal seems unattainable—at least not without great cost—leaving your character with a dilemma. What do they do now? The decision they come to will drive the action of their next scene…unless they get sideswiped off course by another character’s actions of course.
Slow down. Five Senses.
The five senses are a writer’s best friend. Whether you’re writing a romance scene or a suspense scene, anchoring the scene with specific details will heighten the tension, drawing out the sense of danger or anticipation. For example, in my opening scene I could’ve simply said that the construction site was muddy from last night’s storm. Instead, I added more details and chose specific words to convey the hero’s growing uneasiness. “Last night’s rain had turned the Southern Ontario sandy loam into a soupy mess, and the late winter chill layering the air around Miller’s Bay bit through his damp jeans. Bit like the suspicion nipping at his thoughts that…”
Better, don’t you think? Then there’s my favorite note: What’s the worst thing that can happen right now?
It’s so much fun getting our characters into trouble, especially when escape seems impossible. And that apparent impossibility is what keeps the reader turning pages.
Your turn… What are some notes you write to yourself or keep filed in your mental file to remind you how to make your stories stronger?
To celebrate the launch of her debut novel, Sandra is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card to one lucky fan selected randomly on September 20th from her newsletter subscribers (http://bit.ly/OrchardNews),Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/SandraOrchard), and blog commenters ( http://www.SandraOrchard.blogspot.com). fans (
And to one lucky commenter today, Sandra has offered to do a 3-page critique!