A few summers ago, I visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. Every little detail—the buildings, layout, animatronics, costumes, food, and music—whispered authenticity. As I explored, I got swept up in the magic and thrill of discovery. If I hadn’t known better, I would have believed that Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade actually existed, even if only on another plane that my muggle eyes couldn’t see. I wanted my surroundings to be real, so I embraced the playacting, which made the whole experience even more enjoyable.
Lori Z. Scott
Story Embers Staff Writer
Elementary school teacher Lori Z. Scott usually writes fiction because, like an atom, she makes up everything. Her down time is filled with two quirky habits: chronic doodling and inventing lame jokes. Neither one impresses her principal (or friends/parents/casual strangers), but they do help inspire her writing. Somehow her odd musings led her to accidentally write the 10-book best-selling Meghan Rose series and purposely write more than 150 short stories, articles, essays, poems, and devotions. In addition, Lori contributed to over a dozen books, mostly so she would have an excuse to give people for not folding her laundry. (Hey! Busy writer here!) As a speaker, she’s visited several conferences and elementary schools to share her writing journey. Some of Lori’s favorite things include ice cream, fuzzy socks, Batman, Star Trek, Star Wars, books, and hugs from students. Guess which one is her favorite?
My son is a skilled storyteller. He has notebooks and online files bursting with magic and mystery. When he visits, I often sit like a child at his feet and beg him to read his latest chapter. He always indulges me, settling into his deep narrator voice. When he stops, I pry him for sneak peeks at what’s ahead because, like a soap opera, I long for the next part of the adventure.
One of the downloadable worksheets here at Story Embers defines theme as “the broad moral topic or idea that your story addresses.” In general, you should be able to capture it with a single word, such as love, peace, kindness, courage, gratitude, or hope. If your manuscript is crafted well, anyone who picks it up will find clues in the title, word choices, plot, and symbolism to help them recognize the underlying meaning. But developing a relevant theme can be intimidating. How do you weave it into your novel in a way that’s both natural and impactful?
Action scenes strap readers in for a thrilling ride—or at least that’s what they’re supposed to do. Every millisecond must be engaging and accurately portray what’s happening. If the action crawls, it loses its impact or, worse, readers’ interest. And if the action hits light speed, readers crave more details, similar to the dissatisfaction of eating a fun-size piece of chocolate instead of a whole candy bar.
On the surface, writing seems easy. You plop into a chair, uncap a pen or power on your computer, and rack up a word count. Right? If you’re a hobbyist, that description is generally accurate. But, if writing is your profession, any burst of creativity also brings an explosion of related tasks. Tackling all these responsibilities can daunt even the most determined writer. But you can keep stress at bay by pacing yourself and developing a healthy amount of productivity in three crucial areas.
When my children were growing up, they performed in the theater. Occasionally they earned starring roles, but more often than not, they played side characters. That didn’t stop them from trying to steal the show, however. Their facial expressions became more animated during group scenes, or they delivered their lines with extra drama. Since their antics amped up the audience’s reaction, sometimes the director overlooked their schemes. But, in other moments, she stepped in to remind them where the focus needed to remain—on the lead. As authors, we face the same issues with our own side characters.
I’ve long believed that authors can benefit from the methods educators employ in the classroom. Applying them to short pieces or rough inspiration may open up reservoirs that would otherwise go untapped. And daily mental aerobics train your mind to approach topics from a variety of angles.
The sky’s the limit to the number of clichés that can infiltrate writing. In fact, I intend to dump a truckload into this article to illustrate why writers should avoid them like the plague. However, I also believe we ought to tip our hats to clichés. Because the phrases were crafted well, people repeated them until overuse rubbed off the gilding. Now they’re commonplace. But I still appreciate their origins, and I’m going to show you how to dig out the creative potential buried beneath them.
In the kitchen, a competent cook uses a handful of thickening agents to improve the texture, stability, and even the flavor of a dish. Similarly, a skilled writer tackles plot problems with an arsenal of techniques. And I’m going to show you three that you can experiment with to transform your story into something savory and delicious.