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Welcome to my Writing blog. If you're interested in my comments about "My Favorite Things," my articles for yourLDSneighborhood.com, and Life in general, click here for a direct link to rondahinrichsen.com.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

BEGINNING YOUR STORY WITH SETTING? By Ronda Hinrichsen

If an author cares whether or not his manuscript is read and/or bought, he must instantly catch the reader’s attention. For that reason, until the last year or two, I wrote with the belief that all stories must begin with a scene which shows what happens to the main character on the day everything changes, i.e., the inciting incident. By contrast, I also believed beginning a story with long, detailed descriptions of the setting killed the story, for people, especially me, either immediately closed the book or fell asleep reading about sunsets and mountain peaks.If you’ve had those same beliefs, listen up. Yes, action, as I earlier described, is an important element of a good beginning, but I now realize setting is too, only, and here’s the critical part, that setting needs to be included within the action.

Why? Because a well-drawn up setting helps transport readers to your character's world. Don't believe me? Consider the following first paragraphs from two of my favorite best-selling novels: In each case, the characters are in the middle of a physical action on the day everything changes.



Princess Academy, Shannon Hale
Miri woke to the insistent bleat of a goat. She squeaked open one eye. Pale yellow sky slipped through the cracks in the shutters. It was day—the very day trade wagons might come to carry her off. She’d been expecting them all week with both a skipping heart and a falling stomach. Strange, lately, how many things made her feel two opposite ways twisted together. 






The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. My fingers stretch out, seeking Prim’s warmth but finding only the rough canvas cover of the mattress. She must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother. Of course, she did. This is the day of the reaping.






In each paragraph, the author slips the setting into the action in such a way that we hardly notice it, and yet we get a clear picture of what is happening in the story at that moment. We are also immediately drawn into the character's world. The main tool the authors use to accomplish this are specific details. Details, details, details. We hear that phrase all the time, and yet it truly is the key to fleshed-out writing. And those details are not limited to the physical. Both of the above examples also incorporate a detail from at least one other of the five senses. Also, and perhaps most importantly, those details hint at the POV character's current emotion. 

With that understanding, now look at those same two paragraphs. Only this time, I've highlighted the specific setting details. 

Princess Academy, Shannon Hale
Miri woke to the insistent bleat of a goat. She squeaked open one eye. Pale yellow sky slipped through the cracks in the shutters. It was day—the very day trade wagons might come to carry her off. She’d been expecting them all week with both a skipping heart and a falling stomach. Strange, lately, how many things made her feel two opposite ways twisted together. 


The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. My fingers stretch out, seeking Prim’s warmth but finding only the rough canvas cover of the mattress. She must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother. Of course, she did. This is the day of the reaping.

In the example from The Hunger Games, I highlighted "our mother" and "day of the reaping" because, to me, they add to the setting; but I highighted it with a different color, because you may not agrree with me. However, whether you agree with me or not does not matter nearly as much as whether or not you understand that Beginnings do begin with Setting. And character. And action. And emotion. With all of them working together to pull readers into the authors' worlds. 


Monday, November 16, 2015

Guest Post--Sympathy vs Empathy by September C. Fawkes

I once read a story that had a passage like this:

"My parents never really cared about me," Allie said. "All my life they saw me as a disappointment, a waste of space. I was always the butt of their jokes. And no one really noticed. I was always last place, as far as they were concerned. I had a really difficult childhood. . ."

And it went on like this for about a paragraph or two.

I could see that the writer wanted to foster sympathy for the character, wanted to explain how the character felt about her upbringing.

But ultimately, it made her sound whiny--and I could tell that wasn't what the author intended.

At first I was a little sympathetic to the character. . .then after several sentences, the writing just felt sentimental to me, meaning, I felt like the writer was trying to coax me to feel a certain way, like I was being controlled, rather than letting me feel for the situation myself. 

It's a good idea to want your readers to connect with your characters' hardships, but it can backfire if it's too sentimental or sometimes even when it's sympathetic.

Instead, when you want to impact the reader, strive to create empathy.

Usually when I hear empathy, I think of someone who is in pain, going through a lot of difficulty, but really, it's a level of deep understanding--whether that's an understanding of fear, bravery, or obsession.

Here are two examples to illustrate empathetic writing.


In The Maze Runner, I got to a scene where James Dashner wanted to show that his main character, Thomas, was a hero with a good heart--but I could only tell because I'm not just a reader, I'm also a writer. He didn't write about it sympathetically or sentimentally, he created empathy simply by putting us in Thomas's head and showing us what he did in a given situation.



Thursday, October 15, 2015

Promotion--Bookmarked Bargains

When at twelve I first decided I wanted to be a writer, I had no idea that meant I would have to learn more than writing skills to accomplish that goal/dream. I'd also have learn business and marketing skills. And this post, my friends, is part of that marketing side of things. As you know, I've recently released 101 Pocket Writing Tips & Techniques To Inspire Your Fiction and Strengthen Your Craft,  and I'm now in the process of revealing it to the public--i.e., marketing. As part of my marketing plan, I have included it in this awesome five day sale which is quickly coming to a close. If you love to read, or if you want to get 101 Pocket Writing Tips at the low price of .99--check it now. The sale ends tomorrow.


Monday, September 28, 2015

Writing Spaces

Today I contributed to Josi S. Kilpack's post on Writing Spaces; i.e., where is the best place to write? The answer comes down to what works best for each individual. For me, I need quiet and comfort. Others write best when they're surrounded by noise--do I hear music, anyone? And still others write wherever they are and whenever they can possibly grab a moment to do so. Since Josi's post aptly applies to this blog, I thought I'd share the link here.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Chapter Blocks that Keep Readers Reading by Ronda Hinrichsen

Most writers know the protagonists of their novels must have an overall goal that propels the length of the novel. Without it, their story falls flat and readers stop reading. But what we authors sometimes forget is that the protagonist in each chapter/scene also needs to have a specific goal he wants to accomplish in that scene or chapter. Furthermore, that goal needs to be related to the character's main story goal, and the scene/chapter must have an obstacle to that goal. 

CHARACTER GOAL + OBSTACLE = CONFLICT and CONFLICT ENCOURAGES ACTION. Action is the cornerstone of great stories. 

Keep this formula in mind as you begin your chapter, Better yet, figure out each element before you write your chapter. A quick outline of the main points of the struggle between your protagonist and his opposition (it's often another person) can not only help you organize your story and keep your characters moving toward their goals, but it can also help you hasten your writing process. I've always found it much easier to write quickly when I know beforehand what I want to accomplish and/or write. Figuring it out as I go always leads to more rewrites.

Finally, according to Evan Marshall's The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing (and I've found it to be true), when you reach the end of your scene or chapter, make sure your character does one of these three things as it relates to his current goal:

1. He fails to accomplish his goal,
2. He fails to accomplish his goal and learns of a new, even larger obstacle.

3. He succeeds in accomplishing his goal, but he also learns of a new, even larger obstacle. 

Each of these endings will keep your reader wanting to know what will happen next. On the other hand, if your character only succeeds, your story ends, and your reader closes your book.

(This article was originally posted on September 10, 2015 on the Author's Think Tank blog.)

Monday, September 7, 2015

Betrayed is a Whitney Award Nominee!



Earlier this year--on April Fools Day no less--those in charge of the Whitney Awards notified me that Betrayed had been nominated for the 2015 Whitney Award. Betrayed will now move on to the highly competitive judging process. After that, the 5 finalists from each category will be announced early in 2016 and will then move on to the second and final judging process. I, of course, hope Betrayed makes it as a finalist, but no matter the result, I am truly grateful and humbled that it was nominated in the first place. Nominations come from readers, and a book must receive 5 separate nominations before it can be considered a nominee. Thank you so much to all those who've read and enjoyed Betrayed, and to those who went the extra mile and nominated it--THANK YOU.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

New Covers

From time to time, authors and publishers change the covers on their books, and I am now one of those authors  Here are the two new covers for the first two books of my Dalton & Dalton Paranormal Mysteries series. 



I absolutely love these covers because I feel they better reflect the stories' strong romantic elements. Enjoy!