Once again I am indebted to blogger, artist and writer- Mary Carroll Moore for her recent post – Why Bad Decisions Sometimes Make Good Stories
I have been stuck in a place where I haven’t felt inspired to move book 4 of my historic fiction series to its conclusion. But, after reading Mary’s blog, I have decided that telling a little lie might bring the twist to the plot I have been looking for. It’s back to the keyboard to move ‘Secrets’ on.
Now have a read of Mary Carroll Moore’s blog- Why Bad things sometimes make a good story
A friend from Florida once emailed me a list of random thoughts, truisms to laugh at or shake your head over, concerning writing. We both struggle with the ups and downs of being authors, the long haul of a relationship with a manuscript, versus a one-night stand.
Here’s the one that has stayed with me over the years: “Bad decisions make good stories.”
It sounds counterintuitive. Who wants to make bad decisions? But often, at least for me, a bad decision is a gateway to something wonderful. I’ve learned that my lousy writing (freewrites, nanowrimo efforts, those days when I am convinced I should never write again) often leads to some excellent ideas.
I’ve also learned that bad decisions are one of the only ways plot is furthered in memoir and fiction. If you’re stuck in a rut, chances are your writing is staying too safe.
A student in my classes complained about her writer’s block. She wrote several chapters that just flowed out. Then, about chapter 5, she got stuck. Nothing happened–either on the page or with the pen. I suggested she look at the bad decisions in her chapters. Try to find something that made everyone uneasy or got them into trouble.
What you’re after here are the qualities of risk. What does the edge feel like? What does it feel like to “up the stakes” in your writing?
This writer was working on her storyboard (see post two weeks ago) so she went back to it. As she reviewed the plot points, she realized nothing big had happened. She was saving the big stuff for later. No bad decisions yet, so very little momentum. Very little energy to propel the plot.
I asked her why not. As she explained, I saw that this writer is a very nice person. She believes in a world where most people are good at heart. She just couldn’t see getting her characters in trouble, painting them as anything but good people too.
I like her, who wouldn’t? And I also believe in that kind of world. But not on paper. Not in fiction or memoir, especially if you want to publish today.
I’m not suggesting you have to make murder and mayhem. Bad decisions can just be telling a white lie, and watching the consequences unfold. I asked this writer if she’d ever told a white lie, and she said, “Of course, who hasn’t?”
“Find your bad decisions,” I suggested. “List them, then transport one into your story.”
We’ve all made bad decisions. We’ve been on the receiving end of other people’s, too. They are hard to forget, no matter how hard we try. Think of what your “story” was after the decision. It probably had drama, movement, energy, and consequences. That’s what you’re after in your writing.
This week write about one really bad decision you made in your life. Write about it in all its glory. I like to set a kitchen timer for 15 minutes, to limit the agony. Maybe you’re far enough away to not feel the pain of it again, but if you do feel some embarrassment or unease as you write, good thing–because it’ll make the writing that much more emotionally grabbing for a reader.
Now look at your book draft. Where are the bad decisions? If you don’t have many, make a list of 10 things your character would never do. (Use this equally for memoir or fiction.) Now write one scene, one moment, using one item on the list–imagining it happening.
See if this provides momentum. Gets you unstuck.
PThe Journeys of the Fortune Seekers Series
Have you read the first three books of the Journeys of the Fortune Seekers series yet?
Book 1 – Bitter Sweet Lives
Book 2 Power and Authority
Book Three- Temperance
Reviews feed authors. Have you considered returning to the website after reading my books and writing a few words of encouragement?
A Review of Temperance by OWEN Clough
Thank you author Owen Clough
Reviewed in the United States on August 22, 2021Verified PurchaseThis Historical fiction story takes you from Totties family farm in Victoria Australia to the brutal winters and boiling summers of Otago. The hardships on the way span 20 years and 15 children. A great settlers story. Annie Browne weaves her story through the various families and leaves a powerful impression of a life of a settler in a harsh climate.
A well-written story and one that I would have no hesitation in recommending to anyone who likes a good yarn.
Well done Ms’ Browne. I will wait with impatience for the next instalment.
Thank you to all my reviewers for your reviews. I value each and every one.
Owen Clough is a New Zealand author who also writes historical fiction. His series is a time travel series set in New Zealand in the colonial days and present day, where he cleverly takes the reader through a portal into the past. You will enjoy reading his books if you enjoyed mine.
Have you watched the Video of The Journeys of the Fortune Series ?
The video for my first 3 books has been launched. Many thanks to graphic artist Ingrid Gane from Queensland Australia for creating this brilliant representation f the series.
You may view this video at the link below.
Journeys of the Fortune Seekers Video 2019
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Until next time. Your friend and author, Glennis Annie Browne