IDEAS, From Spark to Fiction – WATCH THE SERIES

Where do I get my story ideas? Most writers have probably heard that question numerous times, and sometimes it’s difficult to answer. Some of my ideas seem to come out of nowhere, fully-formed. At other times, the birth of a story is made up of several factors that are only clear in retrospect. Many stories grow out of my own experiences, interviews with interesting people I meet exploring, or comment someone makes that stirs my imagination.

To answer the question, I’ve decided to do a series of videos on the creative sparks that have led to different books I’ve written.

Here’s the playlist. I’ll add to it as I post more videos. If you want to be notified when the playlist is updated, signup for my Storyteller Academy newsletter

WILD PASSAGE – IDEAS, from Spark to Fiction

TAKING CHANCES- IDEAS, FROM SPARK TO FICTION

CATALINA’S LOVER- IDEAS, FROM SPARK TO FICTION

If you enjoyed watching these videos, subscribe to my YouTube channel to be notified of the next release. A “like” would come in handy as well.

Where do you get your ideas?

Vanessa

Taking Chances – IDEAS: From Spark to Fiction

Where do I get my story ideas? Most writers have probably heard that question numerous times, and sometimes it’s difficult to answer. Some of my ideas seem to come out of nowhere, fully-formed, and other times the birth of a story is made up of several factors that are only clear in retrospect.

The creative spark that eventually became Taking Chances was born during an afternoon walk with my friend Jan, while describing a novel I’d been reading. Although the book was well-written, I was on a rant because I would not believe in the romantic premise …

Click on the video to listen to how Taking Chances was born…

I had fun remembering this one, and if you enjoyed it too and found it interesting, I’d love it if you’d subscribe to my YouTube channel and share the video with others. A “like” would come in handy as well.

Where do you get your ideas?

Vanessa

Wild Passage – from spark to fiction…

People often ask where I get my ideas for my novels. It can be a difficult question to answer, because every story is different.

My novel Wild Passage, for example, had its origins in the most terrifying night of my life. My husband Brian were 70 miles west of the Oregon coast on our sailboat, Julie Marie II, on a voyage from Canada’s Juan de Fuca straight to San Francisco.

Let me tell you the story…

I had fun remembering this one, and if you enjoyed it too and found it interesting, I have a couple of favours to ask you.

I’d love it if you’d subscribe to my YouTube channel and share the video with others. A “like” would come in handy as well.

And have a great day!

Vanessa

10 Tips for Effective Writing

10 effective writing tips for for clear, powerful, and effective writing.

In this video, I’m sharing 10 red flags that I look for when revising my writing, a list I’ve built up over the years, distilled from a combination of my own experience and others.

The core is based on a little book I was given when I first went to university several decades ago, and still have in my bookcase: The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White, a little goldmine for writers first published in 1918, and now in it’s 4th edition (with a 2011 Revised edition by the original authors and William Strunk, Junior).

Feel free to make suggestions for other videos and multimedia online courses you would like to see in future. Reply with your suggestions, or tweet @vanessa_grant

Vanessa

Seeking input: Hero’s Journey – at the heart of storytelling

Hi everyone, please could you help me?I am planning on creating an online course for storytellers on how to incorporate the Hero’s Journey into their creations. Right now I’m in my research phase and I’m looking for input.

If you were to take a course in Hero’s Journey – at the heart of storytelling what questions would you hope it would answer for you?

Image licensed under Creative Commons by Esbjorn Jorsater

Thank you so much for taking a moment to help me with your feedback!”

Vanessa Grant
Check out my courses at StorytellerAcademy.ca

Dick Francis, master of mysterious beginnings

First published on PenWarrions.com

I told the boys to stay quiet while I went to fetch my gun. (Twice Shy)

Twice Shy by Dick Francis

When I read those first words of Twice Shy by  Dick Francis, my immediate thought was, “Now there’s a powerful opening hook!”  Then I put the thought aside and kept on reading, because first and foremost I love a good story. Time enough to analyze how Francis hooked me and try (hope) to bring that power to my own writing after I’d read the story. 

So began my study of beginnings. The opening hooks I loved most were the ones that not only promised, but also delivered an amazing read. Many of them were written by Dick Francis.

E. C. Sheedy introduced me to the idea of searching for the power words in writing that impresses me. Gun is definitely a powerful word, associated with violence and death. Paired with boys, which implies youth, it becomes even more dangerous and powerful. The command to stay quiet implies a threat, increasing the dangerous stakes.

In seventeen words, Dick Francis completely hooked me. When the next paragraph reveales that the first person narrator is a Physics teacher in a boys school, using the gun as a prop for a lesson on ballistics, I’m even more intrigued. I know the gun is going to be important – after all, this is a mystery. The narrator will be the detective character, and I’ll be staying up late to read this book.

Dick Francis didn’t disappoint me.

I intensely disliked my father’s fifth wife, but not to the point of murder. (Hot Money )

Hot Money begins with the above statement by jockey Ian Pembroke, whose mother was his father’s second wife. I love the way the author blends powerful words  like intensely, disliked and murder with details that skillfully reveal the murdered wife was preceded by four others, one of whom will be Ian’s mother. I anticipate family discord, and I expect Ian to be the innocent prime suspect.

Hot Money delivers on the promise of its opening sentence with a delightfully complex family arranged in factions around three ex-wives, an intriguing mystery, and the delight of discovering Ian’s complex relationship with the father who, when his own life is threatened, turns for help to his estranged son – the one person everyone else suspects of the murder.

Here are a few more great openings from Dick Francis novels:

Dying slowly of bone cancer, the old man, shrivelled now, sat as ever in his great armchair, tears of lonely pain sliding down crepuscular cheeks. (Wild Horses)

I had told the drivers never on any account to pick up a hitchhiker but of course one day they did, and by the time they reached my house he was dead. (Driving Force)

I don’t think my stepfather much minded dying. That he almost took me with him wasn’t really his fault. (To the Hilt)

StraightAnd then there’s Straight, which I believe is Dick Francis’ most brilliantly crafted novel:

I inherited my brother’s life. Inherited his desk, his business, his gadgets, his enemies, his horses and his mistress. I inherited my brother’s life, and it nearly killed me. ( Straight)

The violence implied by killed is preceded by a tantalizing blend of what seem to be small details (his desk, his gadgets) and the threat implied in inheriting his enemies and his mistress.

What elevates this book beyond the status of a truly great mystery is the way every one of those inherited items became meaningful: not only in solving a murder, but also in painting the evocative portrait of the uncompromisingly Straight man whose death preceded the story’s beginning.

Dick Francis was a master who continues to fascinate me. Every time I re-read one of his novels I hope to soak up some of the magic of his storytelling.

Dick Francis died on February 24, 2010, survived by two sons and a legacy of best-selling mysteries. The fascinating story of his life and its real-life mystery is revealed in family friend Graham Lord’s biography Dick Francis: A Racing Life, which I discovered (and bought) while writing this blog.

The Truth About Trish – free this weekend

the-truth-about-trish600x900My romance novel The Truth About Trish is enjoying a “free” promotion on Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords this weekend.

It seems a suitable time for this particular title to be on free, as I’m giving a workshop today on character-driven plotting, and pacing to maintain tension – and this story was very much a result of character-driven plotting, because I had to dig deep into the characters of Abby (the heroine) and Ryan (her hero) in writing their story.

So pick up a copy and enjoy – and for those of you with Kindles, although Trish is priced at $.99 on Amazon, you can get your free kindle version at Smashwords.

Vanessa

 

Workshop: Character Driven Plotting, Pacing to Maintain Tension

Writing RomanceThis Saturday I’ll be giving a day-long workshop for the Romance Writers of America’s Vancouver Island Chapter. If you’re in the Nanaimo area, come along and join us in an exploration of character-driven plotting, and pacing your novel to maintain story tension.

Workshop Details

When: November 2, 2013, 9:00 to 4:00 (registration from 9:00 to 9:30)
Where: Vancouver Island University, 900 Fifth Street, Building 255, Room 170, Nanaimo (Campus Parking Map)
Cost: $40.00 if registering after October 19th or at the door. Lunch, coffee, and tea is included.

Session 1—Character-Driven Plotting
In this workshop, Vanessa explores character-driven plotting, and the technique of using the hero and heroine’s personal territory to build a bridge between character and conflict. We all want the magic formula to work: characters + conflict = a great story. Sometimes, we need a little help, and adding a territorial imperative to the mix could be exactly what your story needs.

Session 2—Pacing to Maintain Tension
Pacing a book involves finding the balance between showing and telling, between emotional intensity and distance, between slow and fast. Vanessa makes this complex technical subject clear with graphic examples. Topics include time and the writer: story time, reader time, and writer time; the simple rule that covers it all; and how pacing relates to viewpoint and narrative style.

I’m looking forward to a great day with this group of enthusiastic writers!

Vanessa

Workshop Handout

Book Recommendation – Killing Bliss by EC Sheedy

Killing BlissKilling Bliss by EC Sheedy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book when I read the initial release in 2005, and I’m loving it all over again now reading the Kindle edition.  Wonderful story, great characters, and I can’t write a better blurb about it than the author’s own, which starts:

One night. Two bullets. Three runaways.Addy Michaels, living her careful life on a forgotten back road, thinks she’s safe–that the past and its corpses are long buried. Surely after fifteen years the cops have quit looking for the street kids believed to have kidnapped a baby and killed their prostitute foster mother¬, Belle Bliss.Addy couldn’t be more wrong.A cold case.Hot again, when the missing child’s grandmother hires renowned profiler Cade Harding to find her grandson. Cade tracks Addy to her safe haven in a remote area of Washington state. Their attraction to each other is immediate, dangerous, and badly timed because…Cade isn’t alone.

A twisted killer

Faceless and unknowable, a murderer follows in Cade’s footsteps–on the hunt for anyone who can tell the truth about killing Bliss.

All roads lead to Addy.

 ~~~

EC Sheedy has a wonderful knack for a beautiful turn of phrase that has served her well in romance. In her romantic suspense novels, EC reveals a talent for spooky atmospheres and gritty, street-wise characters.

The author is one of the Pen Warriors, a group including myself and 4 other writing friends. At our regular writing retreats, I have the great pleasure of hearing scraps of her stories before they come out. That wets my appetite for the real thing – and I’m heading back to my eReader right now to read a few more pages before my family come for a Sunday night dinner.

Vanessa

View all my reviews

THE HIT – by David Baldacci

The Hit (Will Robie #2)The Hit by David Baldacci
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m a definite fan of David Baldacci’s Will Robie series. I read this book on the heels of Baldacci’s first Will Robie book. The Innocent. Both are excellent, although I connected more deeply with The Innocent, and loved its character-driven plot.

The Hit is an exciting read, and I will be watching for the third in the Will Robie series. Baldacci is a skilled craftsman when it comes to writing thrillers peopled with vibrant, believable characters. My favorites are some of his early titles, particularly Absolute Power and Absolute Power The Winner The Winner.

Vanessa

View all my reviews