8 Essentials to Cook Up Your Story

“Life is a glorious banquet, a limitless and delicious buffet.” — Maya Angelou

by rkit
by rkit

John and I created a straw bale garden. No dirt. No plowing. The straw bales become ovens to germinate and grow fruits and vegetables. The process mirrors what is needed to cook up a great story.

8 Essentials to Cook Up A Great Story.

Essential 1- Foundation


Chicken wire, landscape fabric, posts, and stakes.
Chicken wire, landscape fabric, posts, and stakes.

We laid chicken wire and landscape fabric to keep out the moles, voles, and weeds.


  • Before we can write a great story, we must live a great story. We must transform our hurts, scars, and successes to create something meaningful to share with others. We must lay “chicken wire” to keep out discouragement.
  • My foundation is my desire to write with God. I don the full armor of God against temptations and discouragements. (Ephesians 6:10-17)

Essential 2 – Fence

5 deer checking out our partially fenced garden
5 deer checking out our partially fenced garden


We cemented in sturdy wood posts and pounded in tall metal stakes to support the fencing mesh that protects our garden.




  • The sturdy posts are understanding plot and characterization.
  • The metal stakes are learning punctuation, grammar, and spelling.
  • The fencing prevents such things as shallow characters, weasel words, and misuse of “lay” and “lie” from entering our stories.
The 3 wires will allow tomatoes to climb.

Essential 3 – Climbing Supports


We ran wire between T-bars for plants to climb.


  • Our characters must grow during our stories. They should be able to do or be something they couldn’t do or be in the beginning.
  • If characters droop and rot, readers have little to inspire them.

Essential 4 – Straw Bales


We placed straw bales in the sun. We performed a 10-day process to turn the bales into germinating, growing ovens. Fertilizing and watering. Again and again. On day five, we poked our fingers into the straw and felt the heat.

See the fertilizer pellets?
See the fertilizer pellets?
Warm water only.
Warm water only.


  • We must cook up conflict, obstacles and disasters to give our characters challenges, failures, and successes.
  • Readers will feel the heat and beg for more.

Essential 5 – Soaker Hoses


We ran soaker hoses on top of the bales. Timers attached to the hoses water the plants daily.


  • We need to water ourselves daily.
  • A burnt out writer doesn’t write a great story.
  • For me, soaking is spending time with God. He may invite me to forget about word count and take a walk with Him.

Step 6 – Seeds


We planted seeds and seedlings in the straw.


Our stories should have themes and ah-ha moments seeded within the action, dialog, and reflection.

Essential 7 – Flourishing Plants


We watch our plants grow, reaching toward the sun.


  • Our stories grow almost by themselves. Why?
  • Because we’ve worked through the prior steps.

Essential 8 – Fruits and Vegetables

by JamesDeMers
by JamesDeMers


We pick the red, succulent strawberries and tomatoes. And enjoy.


  • Readers enjoy a satisfying story that grows them in some way.
  • For us writers, the fruit could be to:

-connect with people who’ve read our stories, or simply 

-watch our love of creating come to fruition.

Cook up your stories and get readers returning for more. Click to tweet.

In what ways have you thought about the growth of your stories?

Your Story Must Have Character Growth Moments – Some Examples

“Remember, the essence of storytelling demands that we place our main characters on a path. A quest with something at stake, with something to do, to achieve, to learn, and to change.” —Larry Brooks

by Rickbrk
by Rickbrk

Novels must show change in their main characters. Growth moments in the character arc should be fed along the way as a story progresses.

The transformation might be like a flower bud opening.

lotus-219704_1280I pulled 5 different types of inspirational books off my shelves and randomly opened to pages about a fifth of the way from the end of the stories. In Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, modified by Christopher Vogler, this would be in Act 3, in the Resurrection part of The Return.

The experience was uncanny. I immediately spotted a growth moment in each book on the pages facing me.


Examples of Growth Moments


1.  River Rising by Athol Dickson – Fiction/Historical (Winner of the Christy Award)

“Hale realized he might not have failed in everything after all.

His bizarre kidnapping and bondage had obscured the quest that began with a manila paper folder, soft and mildewed from New Orleans humidity, its faded pages bearing the terse, clerically phrased story of a boy of three or thereabouts, brought north from down beyond the end of everything, to be raised with other orphans in a peeling twelve-room mansion.”

2.  A Slow Burn by Mary E. DeMuth – Fiction/Christian/General

“’I’ve made a terrible mess of things.’

‘We all do. Lord knows I did. But that’s where Jesus comes in. And if we let him, he takes us, turning us from orphans to adopted, loved children, taking our regrets and sadness and giving us unexplained joy. Kind of like the joy I feel right now.’”

3.  Terri by Sharon Srock – Christian/Women’s Fiction

“The noise of busy power tools, pounding hammers, and loud music pumping from three boom boxes did not drown out the annoying little voice whispering in his right ear these days. That little voice kept reminding him that this wasn’t where he needed to be. That this wasn’t the path to his future. This could be a stepping stone, nothing more.”

by geralt
by geralt

4.  Made to Last by Melissa Tagg – Fiction/Contemporary Romance

“Because Matthew brought her to life in a way no one had since Robbie. He listened. He talked. He saw. Exactly what she still wasn’t sure. But it was enough to know he was looking. Not at a homebuilder. Not at a television star. At her.”

5.  Calculated Risk by Zoe M. McCarthy – Fiction/Christian/Contemporary Romance

“Cisney’s heart pulsed like it had when she was a child and feared she’d made Daddy mad. Yes, she was learning at almost thirty to spread her own wings, but she’d lived in Daddy’s nest for a long time. Why did that verse have to be the one giving Mom hope? It rang so personal to their father-daughter relationship. She cringed as she pictured him grousing that God had no business telling him how to raise his children.”

Examples of growth moments that should exist in your story. Click to tweet.

What is a growth moment you’ve included in your story?

25 Questions Writing Experts Challenge You to Answer

“Good questions out rank easy answers.” — Paul Samuelson

by geralt

 I’ve studied the craft of writing for a while now. Sometimes all the questions experts say I need to ask myself gets overwhelming.

by geralt
by geralt

But the more I write, the less often I need to ask myself some of the questions. I finally know a grammar rule. Or I’ve gained a scene-enhancing habit. But some questions I’ll always need to ask myself.

For me, the most important question is: Have I consulted God, my Co-Author, today on what I am to write?

25 Common Questions From the Experts

  1. Who is my audience?
  2. Why would someone care about this story or character?
  3. Will my opening sentence or two hook my reader?
  4. What’s the event or incident that sends my character on her journey?
  5. What can my character do at the end that she couldn’t do in the beginning?
  6. Is my main character likeable?woman-241330_1280
  7. What are my characters’ goals, motivations, and conflicts for the story or for this scene?
  8. Are my secondary characters doing their jobs; are some unnecessary?
  9. Have I grounded my reader in the scene opening?
  10. Have I shown my character using her 5 senses?
  11. Is this sentence, paragraph, scene, chapter, or backstory necessary?
  12. Can I come up with a better phrase than this overused cliché?
  13. Is this the best word for what I’m saying?
  14. Is this sentence too complicated, verbose, or confusing?
  15. Have I ended my chapter with a hook to keep my reader reading?
  16. Does my character’s dialog sound fresh, seem consistent with his character, and move the story along?
  17. Have I cut out phrases that distance the reader from my character?
  18. Have I told the reader something I could have shown?
  19. Did this word exist during the time period of my story?
  20. Have I used too many words my readers will need to look up?
  21. Should I reconsider what my critique partner or editor suggested?
  22. Will this 15- or 25-word synopsis hook a potential editor or reader?
  23. Which plot points, sentences, or words should I cut out of my synopsis to meet the page requirement?
  24. Does my synopsis read enough like a story?
  25. Which editor should I employ to edit my manuscript?

Ask these questions as you write and up your chances of interesting an editor. Click to tweet.

by johnhain
by johnhain

Which of these questions do you need to ask yourself as you write?