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So far, the following articles published:

  • Prussian Blind Love
  • Brothers' Keepers; YES I AM Brothers' Keepers; YES I AM
  • To Be German,Gifted&Black; To Be German,Gifted&Black;
  • Pink Declines Whiteness Pink Declines Whiteness
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Brave New World... Or Not?
It seems one can't open a writing publication, print or electronic,
without finding a headline proclaiming that "the way we read is
changing."  The gist of most of these articles is that print books
are rapidly headed the way of the dinosaur, and that soon (the
definition of "soon" not always being crystal clear), we'll all be
clutching some form of e-reader, downloading texts, and explaining
to our grandchildren just what "paper" was.
An article in the May issue of "The Writer" sums up this prediction
nicely.  It quotes from another article, by Michael Todd of
"Miller-McCune," who shares his view of the future of reading.  In
Todd's brave new world, he walks down the street "with an
electronic device that fits in my pocket... As I walk, I pass a
handful of newspaper stands.  There aren't actual papers in them,
but electronic bulletin boards.  I like a couple of headlines...
and so I press a button..." whereupon his device "uploads the day's
content... while subtracting a very minimal amount from either my
bank account or a media escrow account... If I go to a bookstore,
it's the same procedure.  There will probably be a few proper books
for me to examine, but it's button-pushing time when I want
OK, so far, nothing really thought-provoking here.  I mean, we've
heard it all before, and we're going to hear it again -- and one
day it may even be true.  But then, a few days after reading this,
I received an e-mail from my friend "John" in Nigeria.
John and I were brought together in the first place over the
subject of books.  John wanted them, but couldn't get them.  He
couldn't set up an account on Amazon and have books shipped
directly, so  I agreed to act as his intermediary.  (You can read
his account of what it's like to actually try to pick up a package
delivered from overseas to Nigeria at
http://www.writing-world.com/coffee/coffee21.shtml)  Since then
we've maintained a correspondence.
In his most recent e-mail, John was explaining why I was getting a
fairly long e-mail a section at a time.  It was, he said, because
he had to compose it in segments on his cell phone.  "I'll only get
a home internet when I'm able to have... a fairly used laptop or
notebook. So I read with the phone on charge because you never know
when you'll see electricity. For example, we are just coming out of
almost a day of outage and I've just rushed to put the phone on
charge while I compose this email. Isn't it interesting to complete
a novel under such condition? But I bet you, Moira, you would write
better and faster here when you remember the bulb glowing above you
won't shine the next minute."
I couldn't get that image out of my head.  Somehow, I don't see
John strolling along with his pocket-size electronic device,
pushing a few buttons to download today's news or tomorrow's
bestseller at the book or news kiosk of the future -- not anytime
soon, anyway!  Michael Todd and John of Nigeria write of two very
different worlds.  Michael's is a rosy projection of the future;
John's is a not-so-rosy picture of a world that is all too real,
for too many people, right here and now.
What bothers me about Michael's "vision" is that it's not simply a
vision of how the reading world will change.  It's a vision of how
the world will change for people who can AFFORD it.  Michael's
vision is of a future for the affluent.  He describes his pocket
device as being inexpensive enough that he won't be devastated if
he loses it, but costly enough that he's "careful with it" -- and
he adds, "think iPod."
One doesn't have to travel all the way to Nigeria to find people
who can't afford to own an iPod, iPad, Tablet, Kindle, SmartPhone,
SmarterPhone, BlazingGeniusPhone, or whatever the latest gadget
happens to be.  Nor does one have to travel to Nigeria to find
people who can't afford the cost of a home Internet connection --
who, if they go online at all, must do so at a public library or an
Internet café.
Yet, increasingly, the world seems determined to leave such people
behind, no matter where they live.  More and more companies insist
that one transact business with them via their website, rather than
on the phone or in person -- and impose extra fees on people who
insist on speaking to an actual human representative.  Such tactics
impose extra hardships on the people who can least afford them.
Now imagine a world -- Michael's world -- where there are, in fact,
few of what he (rather oddly, I think) refers to as "proper" books.
 At least today, if John in Nigeria wants a book, I can buy one and
mail it to him.  But as publishers and distributors (like Amazon)
place tighter and tighter restrictions on how e-books can be
purchased, viewed, and most of all, SHARED, there is a growing
danger that more and more people will, in fact, be cut off from the
growing flow of information.  John, for example, says that he can't
even use the free Kindle reader that Amazon provides -- which means
that he has no means of accessing books that are available only on
Kindle.  And if you have to sit at a library computer or take your
laptop to an Internet café just to read a novel, how many novels
will you actually read?
There was a day when books were so rare and precious that only the
very wealthiest could afford them.  To highlight their value, they
were bound in fine leather and their covers often embellished with
gold and jewels.  The printing press changed that -- forever, we
fondly imagined.  But I am beginning to fear that part of the
driving force behind this brave new electronic world of the future
is a desire to shift information back into that elite sphere.
Publishers aren't creating e-books out of a warm, humanitarian
desire to share knowledge and entertainment with the world.
They're doing it because there's a PROFIT to be made.
For example, a few months ago, my book "Starting Your Career as a
Freelance Writer" was available on Kindle for $9.99.  Today, it's
selling for $13.83 -- that's just $2.64 LESS than the print
version, for an edition that requires no printing or shipping
costs!  Now, it may prove that I, as the author, will get a higher
royalty out of this (not having seen a royalty statement in months,
I don't know) -- but you can bet that the real profits are going
somewhere else.  More to the point, I can't help but fear that such
a price increase will simply discourage people from reading my book
and benefiting from it.
And there's the question that I think pundits like Michael Todd are
overlooking as they visualize this future filled with handy
electronic devices: Who benefits?  Is it the authors?  The readers?
 Or is it the publishers -- and those who MAKE the devices in the
first place?
The articles that I keep reading about "how reading is changing"
seem to assume that this change is a consumer-driven choice.  We
are reading on devices because we LIKE devices -- and print books
are going to vanish because we, the enlightened public, have
decided that we don't want them anymore.  But here's a not-so-rosy
vision: Imagine a future in which publishers decide to issue
information ONLY in electronic format, thereby REQUIRING consumers
to purchase expensive devices if they want to keep up with the news
or with their field of expertise, or just read the latest
bestseller.  Imagine a future where, if you can't afford a device,
you can't read -- and if your power goes out, you're out of luck.
The printing press was the great leveler in the information field.
It took books -- information -- out of the hands of the rich and
the elite, and redistributed it to the world at large.  Today,
thanks to the printing press, even if John in Nigeria has to read
by candlelight, he can still read a book.  So can a child in Inner
City USA, so can my 89-year-old mother-in-law, so can you, and so
can I.  And while I do enjoy my Kindle and I am delighted when
people buy electronic versions of my books, I don't look forward to
a future where the person who controls my device can control what I
can, and can't, read.  Let's make sure that as we rush toward
Michael's future, we don't leave John's in the dust!
-- Moira Allen, Editor
Copyright 2012 Moira Allen





Ten Commandments for Editing Someone's Work

Whether you're a writer or not, there's a substantial likelihood that you will be called into service editing someone's book. It may be a loved one, it may be a writing partner, it may be a sworn enemy. It probably won't be a sworn enemy. (Though that would be the most fun, wouldn't it?).

Whomever you are editing, follow these ten rules of law to be the best editor you can be.

1. Remember that it's not your book - Your job as an editor is not to tell someone how you would have written their book. Your job is to help them write the book they want to write. This can't be emphasized enough: It's not your book. It's not. Defer to the writer. Try to help them do what they're trying to do. Work within the world they've constructed.

2. Find out what the author is looking for before you start editing - Are they wondering about a particular stretch? Are they hoping for a major edit? Are they not really looking for editing at all but for moral support? Make sure you have a sense of what the author wants and what their mindset is before you start editing and adjust your approach accordingly.

3. You're not doing anyone favors by being too nice.  - Here's what a writer wants to hear when someone is editing their work: "OMG it's perfect I love it!!!" Resist the temptation to tell them just that. Your job is to help them make the work better, not to be a human rubber stamp. There is a Major Exception to this commandment: When the writer is looking for reassurance that they should keep going and is not really looking for editing. In which case the appropriate reaction is "OMG you're brilliant I love it you should keep going!!" (If you followed commandment #2 you will have sniffed this out ahead of time.)

4. You're not doing anyone favors by being a jerk either - When you are editing someone's work you have their fragile, mercurial, reptilian writer brain in your hands. Do not crush it. Be gentle. Be polite. Suggest, don't order. Ask questions, don't assume.

5. Pointing out problem areas is far more helpful than offering solutions - While editing, it is inevitable that you will be struck by ideas about how someone else's book could be better: What if he had feathers instead of hair?! What if this vampire twinkled rather than sparkled?! No. It's okay to offer up some illustrative directions the writer could go to fix something that isn't working, but ultimately the writer is the best equipped to come up with ideas for new directions. Your job is to spot what's not working, not to rewrite.

6.  Try to figure out why something isn't working for you - There will be times where something about a scene just doesn't seem right. But rather than thinking about how you would make a weak stretch better, try to figure out instead why it isn't working for you. Is it implausible? Are the characters not being true to themselves? Does the scene lack space monkeys? Identifying the underlying issue can be invaluable for the author.

7. Just make it work - Throw out everything you learned in English classes. You're not looking for what the book means, you're not looking for symbolism, you're not looking for theme. You're looking for whether it works as a coherent story and whether the writer achieved what they were striving for. It's about making it a good story, not about writing a paper on it.

8. Don't overdo it - Tailor your edit notes to the amount of work that needs to be done. If you see major plot/structural issues, stick to detailing those, don't get caught up in copyediting and line edits. If the plot feels mainly okay, focus on chapter-level issues. If most everything is in place, feel free to pick nits. There are two reasons for this approach: 1) You don't want to overwhelm the author and 2) There's no reason for spending a lot of time on line edits that are changing in a major revision anyway.

9. Remember that personal taste is personal - We humans can be too sure of our own viewpoints. We may hate things other people love and love things other people hate. Never be too sure of your opinions when editing; you may be the only person who feels that way. Be cautious when making suggestions and frame your thoughts as your own personal reaction rather than as a pronouncement from the editing gods.

10. Be Positive - Your job as an editor is not to crush someone's spirit, even if you think their manuscript sucks. Your job is not to "tell them like it is" (telling them like it is is telling them how YOU see it). Your job is not to transform a mess into The Great Gatsby. Your job is to be helpful. Your job is to be supportive. Your job is to leave the manuscript and the writer in better shape than you found them. That is the essence of editing.

By Nathan Bransford


Taming h Dreaded Synopsis

By Jane Lebak


We'd all like to live in denial that this thing exists at all, but you need one if you're querying. The synopsis. The 800-word summary of your 95,000 word novel.


(Nonfiction writers, you may breathe easier: you do not need to produce one of these monsters.)


The query and the synopsis are different animals. Your query needs to entice and leave tantalizing questions. Your synopsis needs to tell a story and provide us with answers.  And despite the three-times-greater word count, your synopsis has more than three times as much work to do, so you still need to write tight.


Like the query, the synopsis is primarily a selling tool. It will give a quick overview of your entire novel from soup to nuts, proving to the agents and editors that you understand story structure, that your story has both a plot arc and a character arc, and that you know how to pull together a satisfying ending. Your synopsis will also need to show how the stakes increase during the course of the story. It will need to hit all the major plot changes and introduce the major characters and their issues. Readers of your synopsis will need to care about your character and root for the character to succeed. For SF/Fantasy writers, you'll need to include world-building as well.


Many of the techniques you use for writing fiction will have to come to bear in the synopsis. Powerful verbs, sentence rhythm, saying a thing once and not needing to repeat it. And other techniques will just have to go by the wayside.


The synopsis should run between 500 and 1000 words, unless the agent or editor requests a different length. (I've seen several who want a one-page synopsis. Give them what they want.)


A synopsis is not a chapter-by-chapter outline of what happens. I've tried that, and it's a mess. Instead you need to focus on the frame of your story and give us the "story beats," (as Blake Snyder would say in Save The Cat) and give us only what we need.


1) Your main character's inciting incident, with a description of your main character worked into that description.


2) What your main character decides to do about that.


3) Descriptions of other main characters as necessary, but worked into the story.


This is how I opened the synopsis for the revised edition of my first novel, The Guardian.

The Guardian opens as a guardian angel stands trial for murder. Although the other angels, and even Tabris himself, expect God to send him to Hell, God inexplicably grants Tabris mercy and a second chance. On probation, Tabris is deployed as an assistant guardian to a ten-year-old girl named Elizabeth.

Where does this fall flat? I didn't give any description of Tabris. I could have said everyone was shocked because Tabris was considered one of the most conscientious angels until this happened. I could have said Tabris was a former commander in Michael's army. I felt the setup here was compelling enough that the description could wait.


You'll need also to establish the stakes.


Although Tabris tries to fit into the new routine with the family's other guardian angels, he's torn by grief and guilt. His new companions don't want him around, speculating that he must have hated his previous charge and wondering if he might harm Elizabeth--or the other family members. Tabris still loves God but can't bring himself to pray, convinced that when he does, God will refuse him. The only one who does seem to want Tabris is, unfortunately, Zeffar, a demon who changes names every time they meet but always presses for the same thing: he wants Tabris to join him in rebellion so he'll fall forever.


So we've got stakes (both internal and external), we've got both internal and external opposition, and we've got an antagonist. 


And after that, I set out to follow the threads of the A-story (how Tabris adjusts to guarding Elizabeth, and what Elizabeth's guardian does about his presence) and the B-story (how Zeffar begins seducing Tabris in order to assure his fall.)


As you go through your synopsis, think broad strokes. Your novel is the Mona Lisa, but your synopsis is going to be a coloring book rendering of the Mona Lisa. Give us the outlines. The novel will have to provide the shading and the contours.


Make sure your synopsis mentions the midpoint of the novel (where the plot probably takes a major turn, along with the false-high or a low,) the point where "the bad guys close in" (or the situation takes a sharp turn for the worse,) the main character's darkest hour, the "help from outside" (or however your character manages to get his groove back) and then the climax. Make sure to mention how both the A-plot and the B-plot are resolved.


If you're not sure what I'm talking about with some of these "story beats," here's a brief summary of Save The Cat.


While in a query you must not answer all the questions (all the better to tantalize) you must do so in your synopsis. If there's a secret ending, for the synopsis it should not be secret anymore. All the major plot twists and turns must be included. Yes, Luke, I am your father, and all that stuff no one suspects while they're going through the book? It'll have to be in there.


In eight hundred words or thereabouts.


It's not fun, but it's doable. Good luck!


How to Write Effective Dialogue

Dialogue serves several key functions in your fiction: It reveals your characters’ personalities and beliefs, heightens tension, provides an alternative to lengthy descriptive passages and, most importantly, advances your plot. The key to writing effective dialogue is compression. Dialogue in fiction shouldn’t mimic the “everydayness” of actual speech, with all of its unnecessary details and interjections. Instead, it should capture the essence of a real conversation by getting to the point quickly.

To learn how to write effective dialogue, look to the stage and big screen, says author James V. Smith, Jr. In his newly revised writing handbook, The Writer’s Little Helper, he weighs in on the benefits of this approach and offers five steps to writing effective dialogue:

What Does Effective Dialogue Sound Like?

If you want to learn how to write effective dialogue, study the best plays and films. If possible, study dialogue both in performance (live or video) and in print. Read plays and screenplays to get the feel of writing on the page.

And, in the best scripts, what writing it is—pure dialogue unadulterated by music, actor expression, pictures, or narrative transition supplied by an author. Read it aloud to get a flavor of the emotion contained within the word choice made by the writer of the screenplay. Playwrights and screenwriters who succeed at their craft are probably the best writers of dialogue you can study. By looking at such refined gold, you can learn more than from any ten books that tell you how to write dialogue.

If you want to advance your study to the graduate level, follow the steps in this little exercise:

5 Steps to Writing Effective Dialogue

1. Rent a video of a play or film that’s best noted for its writing rather than its pretty actors and pictures. Any nominee in the Tony Awards or the screenwriting award in the Oscars will do.

2. Buy a copy of the screenplay of the film or play.

3. Decide which scenes of dialogue make the strongest impression on you. If you can’t come by a copy of the screenplay, take notes as you watch the film.

4. Return to those scenes and transcribe them—if you don’t have the screenplay. Print out the transcriptions so you have a hard copy in hand for the next step.

5. Watch your chosen scene again with sound muted. Read all the parts of the dialogue to yourself as the video plays silently. Don’t get ahead of or fall behind the pace of the film—try to lip-sync each actor’s part.

You’ll be impressed by this exercise for several reasons. Not only will you reap the benefit of the screenwriter’s words, but also a director’s influence on how those words accompany pictures and action. Not to mention the effect of the language of professional actors. You’ll also learn how decisions are made about word choice, diction, timing, emphasis, pace, and pauses—how everything comes together and flows in the performance (all without narrator intrusion). In plays especially, dialogue carries the story rather than special effects. Learn from them.


How to Write Feature Articles

By Chris Bibey

One of the most lucrative projects for freelance writers is writing feature articles. Of course, this is not always true. There are some clients that don’t pay as much as the industry average; this is to be expected. But overall, I have found that writing feature articles is a great way to increase income while having a great time along the way.

For the sake of this post, let’s consider feature articles for print publications only, such as consumer and trade magazines. Most freelance writers who I speak with really want to break into this market, but have no idea how to get started or what to do if they ever land a gig.

These five details will help you become better acquainted with feature articles and what you should be thinking about:

  1. Who is the audience? When you pick up a feature article project you must first know who you are writing for. Is it a sports publication focused on basketball? A wedding magazine for brides? Finding the audience is usually as simple as picking up a back copy of the magazine or heading to the appropriate website for additional information.
  2. Length. The length of the feature will be specified by the editor. While most feature articles are at least 500 words in length, the editor may decide that they need something a bit shorter due to page layout. Also, don’t be surprised if some of your features end up being 2000 words or more. The best thing you can do in this area is take advice from the editor you are working with.
  3. Facts are important. In most cases, a feature article is going to be full of facts and not much opinion if any at all. For this reason, it is important to make sure all of your information is 100 percent accurate and backed up by reliable sources.
  4. Interviews. Speaking of reliable sources, most feature articles that are assigned to me come with the specification of interviewing at least one authority on the subject. This is not always the case, but be ready to conduct at least one interview. Not only will this please the editor, but it will round out your piece.
  5. Revisions. I cannot remember ever writing a feature article and getting it perfect the first time around. With most features you will be asked to complete at least one revision, if not more. There have been times when I worked with an editor for days on end, revision after revision, until the article was perfect. If you are going to get involved with writing feature articles you should be ready for revisions and plenty of them.


Steps To Writing A Feature Article

-Brainstorm ideas.
-Whats the purpose?
-Research your topic.
-Grab the reader's attention.
-Keep that attention.
-Leave an impression.

Feature Article Structure

Like any form of writing a feature article follows a standard structure. While it may vary depending on your topic, a feature article should always include a headline, introduction, the main body and a concluding paragraph.

Title & Headline


The headline performs two important functions. An effective headline:

  • Grabs the reader's attention and persuades them to read the article
  • Highlights the main idea of the article.
  • Includes keywords (for online articles).



The first paragraph outlines the subject or theme of the article, it may also:

  • Provoke the reader's interest by making an unusual statement.
  • Provide any necessary background information.
  • Invite the reader to take sides by making a controversial statement.
  • Heighten the drama of an event or incident to intensify its appeal.
  • Establish the writer's tone
  • Create a relationship between the writer and the reader.

I can't write about my topic the way anyone else would, I need to put my own spin on it.

Details (The Main Article)


The middle section consists of a number of paragraphs that expand the main topic of the article into subtopics. The usual components are:

  • Subheadings.
  • Facts and statistics which support the writer's opinion.
  • Personal viewpoints.
  • Opinions from authorities and experts.
  • Quotes and interviews.
  • Anecdotes and stories.
  • Specific names, places and dates.
  • Photographs, tables, diagrams and graphs.

... A spin that grabs my readers so they connect with what I am writing.


The concluding paragraph should leave a lasting impression by:

  • Reminding the reader of the article's main idea
  • Suggesting an appropriate course of action.
  • Encouraging a change of attitude or opinion.

Language of Feature Articles

  • A personal tone is created through the use of informal, colloquial (slang) and first person narrative.
  • Relevant jargon adds authenticity to the information and opinions.
  • Anecdotes help to maintain reader interest.
  • Facts validate the writer's viewpoints.
  • In humorous articles, exaggeration and generalisation are used to heighten humour.
  • Rhetorical questions help to involve the reader.
  • Emotive words are used to evoke a personal response in the reader.
  • Effective use of imagery and description engage the reader's imagination.
  • The use of direct quotes personalises the topic.

Don't Forget

-Research & inform.
-Write well.
-Be Authoritative.
-Be insightful.







The Breaking Point…and Beyond

By Carolyn Kaufman

Have you ever seen the TV show nip/tuck (2003 - 2010)?  It's unusual show, because you're watching along, and they imply that something really edgy is going to happen.  A main character is feeling kind of turned on by the super-expensive sex doll modeled after his business partner's ex-girlfriend. A plastic surgery patient character has threatened to perform her own mastectomy.

Most writers would turn away, getting their characters out just in the nick of time. Of the few writers who decided to go all the way, most of them would never show the actual event. In nip/tuck, they Go There. All the way. And they show all of it. The sex with the doll. The woman who does the mastectomy on herself with an electric carving knife in the doctors' waiting room. And then they show the fallout. These characters never get a break.


Going There is what intrigues me. Not what happens when the hero gets there in the nick of time, but when the worst the hero can possibly imagine happens. And then sometimes...that's not all. Next come a few things the hero couldn't possibly have imagined in his worst nightmares.  And then, of course, there's the fallout.  Shattered relationships. Grief. Nightmares. Depression. Post-traumatic stress disorder.  Suicidality. And the humiliation of having had all those reactions in front of other people.


Maybe it's having been on the frontlines and counseled people who have had things worse than they could ever imagine happen to them. Maybe it's just having lived through a few things in my own life.  But I Go There in my fiction. A lot.


I don't see it as torturing my characters. I see it like this: Life can really, truly be that ugly.  Human beings do horrible things to other human beings, and sometimes they even do them intentionally.  I don't pretend otherwise when I tell a story.


One of the best ways to learn about the dark side of life is to be willing to be open, and to listen. Everyone has suffered indignities, and some have suffered horrors.  But those things are invisible unless you're open and willing to other people, including the really nasty, awful bits.  Like Mary Lindsey once said to me, the people who seem the most benign are often the ones who hide the most.  Because they've had to learn to seem benign to be accepted by a world too horrified by the realities of their lives.


The same thing is true with your characters.  You have to be willing to really listen to them, and if they have to Go There, you need to be brave enough to go with them. Carl Jung talked about how we all have a dark side to our personalities (which he called the Shadow), but only a few of us are willing to confront that side and integrate it into the Self.  I've always believed that part of what makes Stephen King so great is that he faces his own Shadow and then writes about what he finds.


So how do you do that , avoid giving in to the urge to look away from the dark stuff? 


The most important word in your story is NO. Whatever your character wants or needs, the answer must always be NO. Once in a while, it may seem that the character is getting a yes, but in reality that yes must ultimately drive them farther from what they want or need. I believe strongly in the NO.  It always leads to a better story.


Have you ever seen Cool Hand Luke?  No matter how many times they drag Luke back to the chain gang, he always takes off again. He can't seem to help it. After the second time he escapes, the boss makes him dig a trench.  Then fill the trench.  Then dig the trench.  Then fill the trench. Over and over and over, until Luke finally breaks down, half dead, and begs to be allowed to stop.  But they keep pushing him. The other inmates turn away, horrified by what's left of this free spirit they all admired.


Still, later in the film, Luke escapes again, this time with another inmate.  The friend laughs, crowing that Luke's groveling was so convincing that "They didn't know you was foolin!"  And Luke says "Foolin, huh? You can't fool them about somethin like that.  They broke me."


So forget a little spilled milk, a few broken eggs. For me the real question is...what does it take to break your character, and what happens to him after he's broken?



10 Ways to Launch Strong Scenes

by Jordan E. Rosenfeld


Any story or novel is, in essence, a series of scenes strung together like beads on a wire, with narrative summary adding texture and color between. A work of fiction will comprise many scenes, and each one of these individual scenes must be built with a structure most easily described as having a beginning, middle and end. The beginning of each scene is what we’ll address here.


The word beginning is a bit misleading, since some scenes pick up in the middle of action or continue where others left off, so I prefer the term launch, which more clearly suggests the place where the reader’s attention is engaged anew.

Visually, in a manuscript a new scene is usually signified by the start of a chapter, by a break of four lines (called a soft hiatus) between the last paragraph of one scene and the first paragraph of the next one, or sometimes by a symbol such as an asterisk, to let the reader know that time has passed.


Each new scene still has a responsibility to the idea or plot you started with, and that is to communicate your idea in a way that is vivifying for the reader and that provides an experience, not a lecture. Scene launches, therefore, pave the way for all the robust consequences of the idea or plot to unfurl. Each scene launch is a reintroduction, capturing your reader’s attention all over again. Start each scene by asking yourself two key questions:

  • Where are my characters in the plot? Where did I leave them and what are they doing now?
  • What is the most important piece of information that needs to be revealed in this scene?

Only you and the course of your narrative can decide which kinds of launches will work best for each scene, and choosing the right launch often takes some experimentation. Here we’ll cover 10 key techniques for launching scenes in three main ways: with action, narrative summary or setting.



The sooner you start the action in a scene, the more momentum it has to carry the reader forward. If you find yourself explaining an action, then you’re not demonstrating the action any longer; you’re floating in a distant star system known as Nebulous Intellectulus—more commonly known as your head—and so is the reader.

Keep in mind the key elements of action: time and momentum. It takes time to plan a murder over late-night whispers; to cause an embarrassing scene by drunkenly dropping a jar at the grocery; to blackmail a betraying spouse; or to haul off and kick a wall in anger. These things don’t happen spontaneously, they happen over a period of time. They are sometimes quick, sometimes slow, but once started, they unfold until finished.

The key to creating strong momentum is to start an action without explaining anything:

Albert leads them all into the dining room and everyone drifts around the large teak table, studying the busily constructed salads at each place setting—salads, which, with their knobs of cheese, jutting chives and little folios of frisée, resemble small Easter hats.

“Do we wear these or eat them?” asks Jack. In his mouth is a piece of gray chewing gum like a rat’s brain.

Lorrie Moore plunges her reader into the above scene in the story “Beautiful Grade.” Although the action is quiet, there is physical movement and a sense of real time. The lack of explanation for what is happening forces the reader to press on to learn more. The action gives clues to the reader: The characters are led into a room full of wildly decorated salads that one character is uncertain whether he should eat or wear, which gives a sense of the environment—probably chic. We get a feeling for Jack—he’s got a good sense of humor. Clearly something more is going to happen in this environment, and judging from the tone of the paragraph, we can probably expect irony and humor.


Action launches tend to energize the reader’s physical senses. To create an action launch:


1. GET STRAIGHT TO THE ACTION. Don’t drag your feet here. “Jimmy jumped off the cliff” rather than “Jimmy stared at the water, imagining how cold it would feel when he jumped.”


2. HOOK THE READER WITH BIG OR SURPRISING ACTIONS. An outburst, car crash, violent heart attack or public fight at the launch of a scene allows for more possibilities within it.


3. BE SURE THAT THE ACTION IS TRUE TO YOUR CHARACTER. Don’t have a shy character choose to become suddenly uninhibited at the launch of a scene. Do have a bossy character belittle another character in a way that creates conflict.


4. ACT FIRST, THINK LATER. If a character is going to think in your action opening, let the action come first, as in, “Elizabeth slapped the Prince. When his face turned pink, horror filled her. What have I done? she thought.”



Writers often try to include narrative summary, such as descriptions of the history of a place or the backstory of characters, right at the launch of a scene, believing that the reader will not be patient enough to allow actions and dialogue to tell the story. In large doses, narrative summaries are to scenes what voice-overs are to movies—distractions and interruptions.

Yet a scene launch is actually one of the easier places to use a judicious amount of narrative summary, so long as you don’t keep the reader captive too long. Take the opening of this scene in Amanda Eyre Ward’s novel How to Be Lost:

The afternoon before, I planned how I would tell her. I would begin with my age and maturity, allude to a new lover, and finish with a bouquet of promises: grandchildren, handwritten letters, boxes from Tiffany sent in time to beat the rush. I sat in my apartment drinking Scotch and planning the words.

The above bit is almost entirely narrative summary, and the only action—drinking Scotch—is described, not demonstrated. There is no real setting, and the only visual cues the reader has are vague and abstract. However, the narrative summary does demonstrate the nature of the character, Caroline—she feels she must butter her mother up, bribe her even, in order to ask for something she needs, which turns out to be a relatively small thing. It reflects Caroline’s tendency to live in her head, and shows us she’s the kind of person who must prepare herself mentally for difficult things—a theme that recurs throughout the book. It’s also useful because Caroline spends a lot of time by herself, cutting herself off from her relationships, and, therefore, it is very true to her personality. In just one short paragraph of narrative summary, the reader learns a lot about Caroline, and Ward gets to action in the next paragraph:

Georgette stretched lazily on the balcony. Below, an ambulance wailed. A man with a shopping cart stood underneath my apartment building, eating chicken wings and whistling.

If the entire scene had continued in narrative summary, it would have had a sedative effect on the reader, and the scene’s momentum would have been lost.

A narrative approach is best used with the following launch strategies:


5. SAVE TIME BY BEGINNING WITH SUMMARY. Sometimes actions will simply take up more time and space in the scene than you would like. A scene beginning needs to move fairly quickly and, on occasion, summary will get the reader there faster.


6. COMMUNICATE NECESSARY INFORMATION TO THE READER BEFORE THE ACTION KICKS IN. Sometimes information needs to be imparted simply in order to set action in motion later in the scene. Opening sentences such as, “My mother was dead before I arrived,” “The war had begun” and, “The storm left half of the city underwater,” could easily lead to action.


7. REVEAL A CHARACTER’S THOUGHTS OR INTENTIONS THAT CANNOT BE SHOWN THROUGH ACTION. Coma victims, elderly characters, small children and other characters sometimes cannot speak or act for physical, mental or emotional reasons; therefore the scene may need to launch with narration to let the reader know what they think and feel.



Sometimes setting details—like a jungle on fire, or moonlight sparkling on a lake—are so important to plot or character development that it’s appropriate to include visual setting at the launch of a scene. This is often the case in books set in unusual, exotic or challenging locations such as snowy Himalayan mountains, lush islands or brutal desert climates. If the setting is going to bear dramatically on the characters and the plot, then there is every reason to let it lead into the scene that will follow.


John Fowles’ novel The Magus is set mostly on a Greek island that leaves an indelible imprint on the main character, Nicholas. He becomes involved with an eccentric man whose isolated villa in the Greek countryside becomes the stage upon which the major drama of the novel unfolds. Therefore, it makes sense for him to launch a scene in this manner:

It was a Sunday in late May, blue as a bird’s wing. I climbed up the goat-paths to the island’s ridge-back, from where the green froth of the pine-tops rolled two miles down to the coast. The sea stretched like a silk carpet across to the shadowy wall of mountains on the mainland to the west. … It was an azure world, stupendously pure, and as always when I stood on the central ridge of the island and saw it before me, I forgot most of my troubles.


The reader needs to be able to see in detail the empty Greek countryside in which Nicholas becomes so isolated. It sets the scene for something beautiful and strange to happen, and Fowles does not disappoint.

These final three methods can create an effective scenic launch:


8. ENGAGE WITH SPECIFIC VISUAL DETAILS. If your character is deserted on an island, the reader needs to know the lay of the land. Any fruit trees in sight? What color sand? Are there rocks, shelter or wild, roaming beasts?


9. USE SCENERY TO SET THE TONE OF THE SCENE. Say your scene opens in a jungle where your character is going to face danger; you can describe the scenery in language that conveys darkness, fear and mystery.


10. REFLECT A CHARACTER’S FEELINGS THROUGH SETTING. Say you have a sad character walking through a residential neighborhood. The descriptions of the homes can reflect that sadness—houses can be in disrepair, with rotting wood and untended yards. You can use weather in the same way. A bright, powerfully sunny day can reflect a mood of great cheer in a character.


Scene launches happen so quickly and are so soon forgotten that it’s easy to rush through them, figuring it doesn’t really matter how you get it started. Don’t fall prey to that thinking. Take your time with each scene launch. Craft it as carefully and strategically as you would any other aspect of your scene. Remember that a scene launch is an invitation to the reader, beckoning him to come further along with you. Make your invitation as alluring as possible.



4 Ways to Grow a Twitter Following That Matters

Is Twitter working for your business?

Are you looking to grow a larger and more relevant Twitter following?

This article will show you four actionable steps you can take to improve your Twitter experience.

Why Twitter Is Not Just a Numbers Game

Many brands, businesses and marketers have already discovered how powerful Twitter is for finding and engaging their audience.

Its low cost, immediacy and viral nature make it a favorite tool for everyone from news organizations to celebrities to small businesses.

Yet when marketers jump on Twitter for the first time, they wonder why they don’t get an overwhelming response to their initial tweet. Soon they learn that they must develop a following.

They see others with followings of 500, 5,000 or 50,000 and they want some of that. So they start to Google “how to get more followers on Twitter” or falling for tweets like this one:

If it sounds too good to be true…

Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s not too difficult to build a following on Twitter if you’re willing to partake in some shady, bad-karma tactics—from following and unfollowing people to creating hundreds of bogus accounts that follow you and retweet everything you say to buying followers on the black market.

But few if any of those followers will provide you any value for the time you put into Twitter.

So I’m also here to tell you that it’s not how many followers you have, but how many relevant followers you have. Having 20,000 followers who don’t respond to anything you share is equivalent to shouting from the top of the Empire State Building and claiming all of New York City as your audience.

Yes: more engaged followers are better than fewer engaged followers. So, let’s focus on getting more engaged followers.

Building a relevant Twitter following comes down to four core concepts:

  • Find and follow relevant people.
  • Tweet content that will be interesting to your target audience.
  • Engage with your audience.
  • Promote your Twitter account through other channels.

With that framework in place, here are some tips, tools and tactics to attract relevant followers on Twitter.

#1: Find and Follow Relevant People

Your audience is out there… Now, how to find them?

Start with a strong profile.

Because most people will check out your profile before following you, it’s important to put your house in order and present yourself in the most engaging way possible.

This includes:

  • Profile photo: Make sure you’re using a photo of your face for your personal account or a logo for your business account. Research has shown that people trust faces more that they’ve seen multiple times, which is why a photo of your smiling face works best.
  • Detailed bio: You’ve got 160 characters, so get creative! Let people know why they should be following you.
  • Location: Because so much of business is local these days, make sure you include your location as appropriate. It can be the make or break for follows.

Strong profiles increase your followers. Blue hair doesn't hurt.

Discover new people with third-party tools.

One of the first places to start your search for relevant people is at one of the many Twitter directories out there.

In a discussion around Twitter tools in Social Media Examiner’s Small Business Networking Club, everyone seemed to have a favorite tool or tip.

Social media marketer Paul Wylie recommends Twellow (for the clean interface) and WeFollow (for finding influencers). You can search by industry, location or keyword for starters.

WeFollow has many categories. Thus, whether you're targeting personal trainers or WordPress trainers, you'll find them here.

Karen James, a social media coach from the UK, likes Tweepie to check out people before she follows them. Karen Black, a digital marketer also from the UK, uses ManageFlitter to do bio searches, as well as keep an eye on her followers.

Use these tools to search for your own industry and the industries of your ideal customers.

Leverage other people’s Twitter lists.

A great source for new people to connect with is other people’s curated Twitter lists.

Whatever your interests are, you can find well-curated lists and subscribe to them.

Twitter users often create lists or subscribe to other people’s lists to improve their
signal-to-noise ratio. As long as people make their lists public, you are free to subscribe to them, quickly getting access to dozens or hundreds of vetted Twitter users.

Some lists are more serious than others.

Use Twitter’s search functionality.

You can use Twitter’s search functionality to find relevant people and engage with them.

For example, let’s say you had a product or service for NASCAR fans. Start by doing a search on #nascar within Twitter.

Searching on #nascar will help you find passionate NASCAR fans whom you can then follow.

You could then join the conversation by @ (mentioning) them, answering their questions and otherwise engaging them.

If your business is more local, like a restaurant, you can find out who’s hungry and in driving distance.

Filter your search by geography to find local people on Twitter to follow.

You could then reach out to those starving denizens on Twitter and offer them a discount or free drink if they come in now and mention “Twitter” as they place their order.

For more ideas on finding and following the right people, be sure to check out 7 Twitter Strategies for Growing a Great Following.




darkestafrica.jpg khirastraum.jpg bound-to-tradition.jpg khirastraum-tb.jpg


Darkest Europe … ”Europe’s politics in Europe & Africa and Africa’s politics in Africa & Europe.”

Bound to Tradition … “When a potential adoptive father & daughter experience forbidden attractions.”

Khiras Traum … “Rich man poor in love.”


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