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Nov. 9, 2015

Fiction That Wows Your Reader (Part 5)

Writing Outside the Box

stock-photo-happy-child-playing-in-cardboard-box-kid-having-fun-at-home-303306602

First, let’s define the term “outside the box.” What in heaven’s name does that mean? “Write outside the box.”

Well, in plain language, it means to write a plot and develop characters that don’t have a normal humdrum boring story line or everyday blah life.

As a short exercise in my presentation, I always cite some average boring story lines and ask my class to change the plot so that it’s outside the box. One example I cite is the following:

“A little girl finds a nest of baby bunnies in her back yard.”

Now, of course, everyone is immediately drawn to the “outside the box” famous children’s story, Alice in Wonderland, where Alice finds a whole new world, not a nest of baby bunnies.

Several years ago, I presented this workshop to a group of writers and asked how to change the story line. One fellow in the back of the room raised his hand and said, “How about if a big rabbit finds a nest of little girls in his back yard?”

I said to him, “Sir, you are DEFINITELY thinking outside the box. Go for it.”

Just for the fun of it, I’m going to list about 10 different story lines. Analyze each one. If you can change the plot to move it outside the box, do so. But some of the story lines are already outside the box and are, in fact, famous stories or books written by best-selling published authors. See if you can identify those that are already great plots.

So, which of these would you like to continue to read?

  1. A little girl saves enough money to buy a horse at auction.
  2. A bitter sea captain of a sailing ship hunts for a white sperm whale to kill him.
  3. A newly married couple tours Paris, France, and enjoys all the sites.
  4. A boy is shipwrecked on an island with only a wild stallion that won’t let him get near him.
  5. A middle-aged woman works at Wal-Mart, saving enough money to take a trip to Hawaii.
  6. A young pioneer woman is left alone on the prairie in her covered wagon when her husband falls from his horse and is killed.
  7. The neighbor’s cat has a litter of six kittens underneath a little boy’s porch.
  8. A collie dog, sold and taken away from the boy he loves, travels a long distance through life-threatening dangers to return to his boy.
  9. A young unmarried girl decides to marry her childhood sweetheart.
  10. An unmarried woman on a plantation in a southern state faces the harsh reality of post Civil War life and the loss of all she held dear.

Well, how did you do? Did you analyze the boring plots and the character development and decide what you could do to make them better? (Numbers 1, 3, 5, 7, 9)

And did you identify the best-selling books/movies in numbers 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10?

MOBY DICK

THE BLACK STALLION

LOVE COMES SOFTLY

LASSIE, COME HOME

GONE WITH THE WIND

When you analyze what makes these million-dollar story lines what they are, you’ll be on your way to writing, possibly, the next great American novel. And all the while you’re writing, keep on reading. Read tons of books, especially in the subgenre in which you are writing, and learn how the masters did it. Maybe someday, your name will be on a best-seller list with the rest of them!

Marsha (Web) www.marshahubler.com

(Writers Tips) www.marshahubler.wordpress.com

Montrose Christian Writers Conference http://www.montrosebible.org/OurEvents/tabid/113/page_550/1/eventid_550/58/Default.aspx

(Horse Facts Blog) www.horsefactsbymarshahubler.wordpress.com

******

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Fiction That Wows: Write “Outside the Box”

Here we go again with one of those strange authorish terms that sometimes needs clarification, especially for beginning writers.

Writing “outside the box” simply means creating characters and plots that are different from the norm. The characters are unique; yet your reader will identify or sympathize with them and will want to jump right into your story. Your plots will keep the reader on the edge of his seat, and he’ll not want to put your book down.

So, how do you as a clever writer manage this state of affairs? And how is your story different from the thousands of other manuscripts that are submitted to editors every year?

Mary loves John; Mary loses John; Mary gets John back. (Yawn)

Let’s look at some samples of ho-hum characters and potential boring plots. As an exercise, I’d like you to change the characters and the storyline so that your reader would want to find out more and keep turning the page. If you wish, please e-mail your suggestions to me. If they’re clever, I might post them in my next blog:

SAMPLE ONE:

• Mary is 29 years old w/ brown hair and dull hazel eyes. She’s 50 pounds overweight.

• She lives in Philly in a rented brownstone.

• She works at a near-by Wal-Mart within walking distance.

• She’s always had a dream to go to Hawaii. So far she’s saved $298.16 toward her trip.

SAMPLE TWO:

• John is sixteen. He is an average student at the local public high school.

• He’s waited for years and years to get his driver’s license.

• He has five brothers and sisters, so his parents don’t have the money to get him his own car, so he decides to steal one after he gets his license.

• His best friend, Bob, talks John out of stealing the car and convinces him to get a job at mini-mart to buy his car instead.

I have one word to describe these characters and storylines: BORING! Please help these poor souls get out of their pathetic, humdrum boxes!

And just for fun, check out these short scenarios. Work on them to make them come alive!

• A family with three kids is shipwrecked on an island but manages to row ashore in a raft to a nearby port.

• A little girl in her backyard finds a rabbit hole and a nest of baby bunnies.

• A ten-year-old boy wants a dog badly. He saves for six months and buys a golden retriever puppy.

In fact, if you’re up on your kiddie lit, you should be able to name three very famous books and/or movies that got all these characters and storylines “out of the box.”

Next time, we’ll discuss the importance of writing an “outline” before starting the manuscript.

Happy writing!

Marsha

www.marshahubler.com

 www.horsefactsbymarshahubler.wordpress.com

www.susquehannavalleywritersworkshop.wordpress.com

 

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