Monday, September 28, 2015


During the recent ACFW Conference in Dallas, TX, a few other writers and I started chatting about our strengths and weaknesses in writing. Usually it’s pretty easy to point out weaknesses in ourselves, but strengths? I think for most of us that is a little more difficult.

Which got me thinking….

One of my strengths is ‘storytelling’. You probably don’t want me for a line-edit (grammar is NOT my strength), but as far as seeing the big picture, the story concept, I’m pretty good at that. In fact, one of my favorite things to do with writer friends is brainstorm!

Let’s step back and take a look at S.T.O.R.Y.

Yes, I’m a big fan of acronyms (give me a break, I work as an SLP by day so I’m always trying to think of memory-helps J

The hallmarks of a good story can be summed up into some basic components:

S – Solid characters

                At the heart of every good story is either one…or usually more, strong or powerful characters. The best stories take us on a journey with believable characters who are flawed, wounded, and determined in some way or other. Do you know your main characters? Are they engaging? Does the reader have a reason to like them? To cheer for them? Or at the very least, are your characters interesting enough (even if they’re not good) to draw the reader in a make them want to come along on the journey.

T – Tale

                Is there a story? The best books aren’t about people being thrown together with nothing to do (okay, unless we’re talking about The Great Gatsby ;-) Seriously, what is happening in your story? Have you created a world? Do you have something to tell to bring the reader along? A journey to make with these amazing characters? The next one will help us out with this problem.

O – Objectives

                What are the goals of your characters? What does he want? What drives her? The Bible says ‘without a vision the people perish’, well in many ways the same can happen to your story if your characters don’t have a goal. Many times there is both an internal and external goal.

R – Real Conflict

                What’s going to stop your excellent characters on this amazing journey from reaching their goals? Conflict! And more importantly, conflict takes on many hues. In the best books, there is both internal and external conflict, keeping the tension high and moving the story along at a solid pace.

Y – Your voice

                This is what makes your story….your story. The YOU factor! Your voice, your style, your turn of phrase, and personal storytelling skills. The call you have on your heart for this story. Your humor or drama. Your personal experience and imagination. All of these things are special pieces of your STORY that only YOU can bring! Do you know why you want to write this story? If you don’t know….your characters might not either, and it will show.

If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by this new info and would like some help, I have a special treat!!

Today I’m going to offer a brainstorming session on StoryCraft to one commenter. Please indicate whether you want to be a part of the drawing or not (and leave your email address).
What it will entail is:
A form you complete on your story
A 15-30 minute chat related to information on the form
And a follow-up email reviewing what was discussed

Share your thoughts! How have you used the elements of STORY to write your own?



kaybee said...

Good morning, Pepper! And good post. My strengths are, or appear to be, turning a phrase, description and, amazingly, GRAMMAR. These are the things judges and crit partners comment on. My weakness is story structure. Fortunately my crit partner is a structure guru and has even taught workshops, so she and I are constantly working on it. Honestly, before I knew her I thought GMC was a car, ha ha. I've also had issues with voice. My personal voice is breezy, contemporary and a little sarcastic, ReallY Who Knew, but I WRITE historicals with really heavy dramatic situations and not a lot of room for humor, so that's a struggle.
I would love to win the consultation, enter me in drawing.
Kathy Bailey

S.D.King said...

I would love to be in the drawing. I think I have a good story with good structure, but my MC is too straightforward, not nuanced enough.

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Such a great idea, pep! You are fabulous at this!!! Makes me feel incredibly lucky that I get to bend your ear whenever I can! ;) enter to win, people! Gold!!!

Carol Moncado said...

I've brainstormed with you before and it's always fabulous!!! Even if you didn't mean to give me the best idea ;).

I've got one I need brainstormed so count me in!!!

Carolmoncado at gmail dot com

Unknown said...

My objectives are straightforward. Grammar is not a problem...with the exception of my lengthy sentences. :) What can I say? I'm a tad wordy. A session in brainstorming would be right up my alley, so plop my name in the bucket!

Laura C. Brandenburg said...

I like acronyms. They're helpful. :) And I would love some brainstorming help. I like to talk through my plots with other people, so this is right up my alley!

Pepper Basham said...

Oh Kathy!
You know, I wonder if your voice is somewhat similar to Mary Connealy! She has a witty, sarcastic voice but her novels are historical :-) (and hysterical ;-)

Good for you on the Grammar hit!

Pepper Basham said...

S.D. -
What kind of MC are you going for? Some are very direct and straightforward. Writing buddy and Alleycat, Amy Simpson, writes MCs who are pretty direct

Pepper Basham said...

THanks, Ames!
I love doing it!

Pepper Basham said...

I'm not too sure you need help! Mrs. AUTHOR many published books now? 6?

Pepper Basham said...

Sarah, I struggle with being a bit long-winded myself ;-)

Pepper Basham said...

FABULOUS! I'm a big fan of talking through story-ideas too. Good luck with the drawing :-)

Jackie Layton said...

Brainstorming is one of the most fun aspects of writing, and I'd love to have a chance to brainstorm with you!

Comments from contests often say dialogue is one of my strong suits. I like when my main character has a straightforward goal.

Thanks for a great post, and please add me to the drawing. Thanks! joyfuljelatgmaildotcom

Savanna Kaiser said...

Great post, Pepper! I loved your book and would LOVE to have your thoughts on the historical I'm working on. Please enter me in the drawing. ozarkwriter(at)gmail(dot)com. Thanks!!

kaybee said...

Forgot to include my e-mail.

Pepper Basham said...

Isn't brainstorming so much fun!!
Dialogue is so important. How great that it's one of your strengths.

Pepper Basham said...

You are so sweet! And what a wonderful blog you have!
I would love to chat with you about your story!

Pepper Basham said...

Thanks, Kathy!


Jeanne Takenaka said...

Pepper, I loved this! I ran out of time to stop by yesterday, but I'm stopping by now, before I get into the rest of my day. You do such a great job of explaining simply and clearly the different aspects of STORY.

My Book Therapy has helped me so much in creating good characters, though I'm still nuancing this somewhat. :) I'm also figuring out how to give characters story goals as well as scene goals. these are important, as they drive the scene and give us opportunities to add in tension (will they get their goal???). I have other areas I'm working though.

If it's not too late, I'd love to be entered into the drawing. :) If it is too late, that's fine. You have given me some good things to consider for my stories. :)