Saturday, January 31, 2015

What "The Story Knows Best" Really Means, by KM Weiland

When writers start talking about the autonomy of their stories, non-writers are likely to give us looks that range from confused to concerned, especially when our comments include the following: 

"Nothing was working for me until I quit fighting my story and let it do what it wanted." 

"I have no control over my story. I just sit back and let it take off."

"My characters made me do it."

"The story knows best."

These comments may sound like wild exaggerations to our listeners, but, in truth, we mean every word of them. Our stories often do seem to have minds of their own, and those minds usually seem to understand the subtleties of story craft much better than we do.

What does this idea that the story knows best really mean?

As our by now nervous non-writing friends would be quick to point out, a story isn't a conscious entity. It can't know anything. Our characters are just figments of our imagination. Outside of our own minds and the words we've put on paper, they don't exist, much less exercise control over us or our story worlds. How can we claim to "listen to the story" when the story is an emanation of ourselves?

To some extent, the phrase the story knows best is a pie-in-the-sky concept used by writers to describe the indescribable. When you're in the throes of creative passion, hammering away at words that seem to appear on your computer screen faster than you can think of them, when the story does things you never planned for it to do, when your characters take the bit in their teeth and gallop away onto trails unknown-that's something almost too magical to put into words. How do you explain any of that to someone who's never experienced it, when you can barely grasp it yourself?

We can't. So we say the story did it. Or our characters took charge. Or we were just a conduit through which higher inspiration could flow.

None of that is really true.

What’s true is this:
The story doesn’t know best. The characters don’t know best. You know best.
Yes, you.
When we say the story knows best what we really mean is “our subconscious story sense knows best.” Even when we can’t consciously articulate what we’re feeling, something deep inside of us understands how to craft our stories into something perfect. Every author needs to make a point of not just acknowledging this underlying story sense, but of recognizing it in action and refining his ability to interpret and channel it.
Talking about how our “stories know best” is a fun and easy way to describe the process—but it not only sells us short, it can also inhibit our ability to see that story sense for what it really is and to work toward harnessing it in perfect tandem with our conscious, logical story skills. The next time you’re talking about your story with a hapless non-writer, let that twinkle in your eye shine out as you unnerve him with your announcement that your story knows best. But don’t forget to remind yourself that, really, it’s your inner story sense doing all the heavy lifting.

About the Author:

K.M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. She is the IPPY and NIEA Award-winning and internationally published author of the Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel, as well as Jane Eyre: The Writer’s Digest Annotated Classic. She writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in western Nebraska and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors. Her newest writer's help book, Conquering Writer's Block, released in December, 2014.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

WOTS January Meeting

If you weren't in January's meeting, you missed a great time, good fellowship, and Betsy St Amant's wonderful speech.

Betsy St. Amant has a heart for three things – chocolate, new shoes and sharing the amazing news of God’s grace through her novels. She lives in Louisiana with her adorable story-telling young daughter, a collection of Austen novels, and an impressive stash of Pickle Pringles. A freelance journalist and fiction author, Betsy is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and is multi-published in Contemporary Romance via Love Inspired and Harper Collins (Zondervan). When she’s not reading, writing, or singing along to a Disney soundtrack with her daughter, Betsy enjoys inspirational speaking and teaching on the craft of writing. Betsy is proud to be represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency.

Betsy encouraged us to be more organized with our time this year. She provided each of us with a bookmark holding the acrostic PAMPER:
P--prioritize the things in your life to assure yourself of writing time
A--adjust to interferences
M--multitask: write as you wait
P--promise, i.e. commit to meet your goals
E--enjoy. This is supposed to be fun!
R--reject negativity and guilt
We could all relate to her stories. After all, who among us hasn't sat down to a writing session only to have it interrupted by phone calls or minor emergencies?  How many of us haven't scrambled to finish a project by its due date? And, who among us hasn't temporarily fallen out of love with our craft?

Betsy was charming and personable, fun to listen to and visit with. Be sure to "like" her Facebook page and check out her books on FictionFinder.

Just an aside: Among the books Betsy brought was her September release, All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes, the title of which had Janice bopping her forehead V-8 style. "Why didn't I think of that?"

Aside from meeting Betsy and listening to her words of wisdom, we also introduced the 2015 WOTS officers:

Janice Thompson, President 
Linda Yezak, Vice President 
Linda Kozar, Secretary 
Kathrese McKee, Treasurer

And speaking of  the treasury, our 2015 dues are due! This year we're paying the $40 fee as close to "up front" as possible, instead of per meeting, so be sure to bring your checkbook/cash to the next meeting (or you can bring a $20 payment).

Other News:

Aside from our usual meeting dates, Janice is considering a couple of "write-ins" and one "write-out" and is hoping to hold conference this year. She'll provide details in meetings to come.

Bethany Macmanus has a release due out on Valentine's Day. Nerve is available for preorder on Amazon. 

Help Wanted:

Bethany Macmanus and I (Linda Yezak) discussed the idea of participating in festivals to sell our books. We just tossed around a few ideas, but nothing definitive. Anyone know of any festivals coming up? Anyone care to participate?

Laurie Alice Eakes's church is trying to get a library up and running now that we have the space for one. They need more fiction and, if available, nonfiction books about, by, for missionaries. Other topics are great, too, esp. devotionals, and the first two are the greatest need. If you are willing to donate anything, do, please, contact her at and she’ll send you the address.
The church’s web site, in the event you want to know more about us, is

Coming Next:

Author K.M. Weiland is providing next Saturday's blog post. Her topic: "What 'Story Knows Best' Really Means."

Kellie Gilbert and Lynne Gentry are our guests in February, speaking on this topic: Tools to Build a Great Novel.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Getting Creative About Being Creative, Janice Thompson

In the beginning, creativity flowed!
It’s staggering to think that creativity played a role from the very beginning of time. It plays a key role in the beginning stages of our writing, as well. As we dare to think about our futures as novelists we must face the startling reality that daydreaming—seeing into unseen worlds—is not only acceptable, it’s critical to our survival. So, peel back the curtain of your imagination, novelist. Take a glimpse inside. Allow your eyes to grow accustomed to the kaleidoscope of colors that await you. Take a few tentative steps toward the characters that beckon you to come and play. Romp with them. Hide away in their world until you come out carrying their scent.
Not sure you can do it? Afraid too much time has lapsed since your last visit to the great unknown? Don’t let that stop you. Reach for a rag and send those dust bunnies twirling off into space then tiptoe inside that hallowed territory and spend adequate time dreaming as you did when you were little. The novelist is only as healthy as his—or her—imagination, after all. Maybe it’s time yours had a little infusion.
So, how do we tap in? We have to learn to “think” creatively. Imagine this: You have a computer in your home. It has a really large hard drive. Much of that hard drive space will never be touched. Think of the “untapped” creativity inside you the same as you would that “untouched” portion of your hard drive. It’s time to use that untouched space. It’s time to think outside the box! It’s time to begin looking for the story inside the story.
I once did an experiment with my students. I asked them to take their temperature every two hours over a twenty-four hour period. According to one theory, we are at our most creative when our body temperature is the highest. For me, that time is late afternoon/evening. I’m NOT a morning person. Perhaps you’re just the opposite. Maybe you’re the most refreshed/creative in the morning.
There’s another theory that we’re also more creative when we’re relaxed. Perhaps that’s why great ideas come to us while we’re in the shower. Some of us get our best ideas when we’re “nearly” asleep, or just waking up. That’s why it’s important to keep a pad and pen on your bedside table. Might sound crazy, but my laptop goes to bed with me every night. Well, not actually in bed. But it’s at my bedside all night long, just in case. Rumor has it that Mary Shelley conceived the idea for her novel Frankenstein during “twilight sleep.” You just never know when a great idea might hit.
The Five Part Process
According to online site:, creativity is a five-part process, which occurs in interconnected phases:
STIMULUS: Could be anything from a picture to a song to a person’s face. Could be a perceived need or a story. Anything can stimulate us and cause us to want to act/create. (There are stories all around us. It’s up to us to find them!)
EXPLORATION: Looking at the possibilities, the what if’s. Moving beyond the first ideas, considering the alternatives. (What do you think the author/screenplay writer was really trying to tell us?)
PLANNING: Gathering information/thinking about the task (in writing a story, this is usually the point where I begin to lay out chapters or work off of a plotter or outline). Some people use diagrams.
ACTIVITY: Let the party begin! Create, create, create. It’s one thing to talk about the story you’re going to write or the project you’re going to begin (think home improvement here), it’s another altogether to strategize, to fly into action. Some of us are all about the planning and don’t like to get into the actual work of it.
REVIEW: What have I accomplished? Was it successful? What could be improved next time?
CREATIVITY EXERCISES Let’s get our creative juices spinning!
Locate a piece of art. Set a timer for two minutes and write down as many titles as you can think of. Once the timer goes off, look at your title choices. Choose the one that speaks to you. Take it a step further. Using the title ONLY (not necessarily the picture) create a plotline for a movie.
Pop open a fortune cookie and read what’s inside. Come up with a story idea based on the “saying” you’ve read.
Wrapping Things Up
I hope you’ve enjoyed this journey into creativity. Who knows. . .you might have the Great American Novel hiding inside of you. Perhaps, with a little stirring it will rise to the surface. I will leave you with the words of Mark Twain, who said: You can't depend on your judgment when your imagination is out of focus.