A Great Story Is More Than a String of Interesting Events

image by moonflower83

Like many new writers, I thought I had to create a string of interesting events to make a good story. Some scary, some romantic, some brave, etc. I didn’t see the story as my protagonist’s journey to become someone better.


Now I know my protagonist’s internal and external goals need to guide the events I include. The events will have conflicts and disasters that push my protagonist forward to attain her goals or direct her to change her goals.

Here’s an example showing how to create events so that designer Abby can do something she couldn’t do in the beginning.

image by sasint

First, look at her goals and what she struggles with.

Internal Goal: Abby wants people to notice her and listen to her.

External Goal: She wants to be promoted to manager of a design team.


Next, identify what she’s good at.

Competency: She’s an accomplished designer.

Then, considering the above, brainstorm the initial event that sends Abby on her journey.

Possible Inciting Incidents

Case 1: Abby must use vacation time to go home and take care of her loving mom.

Case 2: A design manager’s accident keeps him home for at least 2 months. The firm will choose the interim manager from Abby and her peers. The chosen designer will show how successful she is as a manager.

Case 3: For the open manager position Abby wanted, the company hires a handsome man from outside the firm.

Case 4: Three top designers must present a design for a particular project. They’ll each have three junior designers to help them. Company vice presidents will judge the design. The winner gets a manager job.

Creating Meaningful Events

Although we could make Case 1 work, it doesn’t naturally mesh with her internal and external goals or her competency. For Case 3, we could, again, brainstorm twists to make Case 3 work with Abby’s goals.

image by jimmikehank

I can see great possibilities for a series of events that flow from Abby’s goals for Cases 2 and 4.

In Case 2, the first set of events could center on Abby getting the interim job because of her competency. She thinks a permanent manager job is hers. But she applies hard-nosed tactics to get her reports to listen to her.

In the next events, conflicts and disasters surge as her reports avoid her, and production and quality decrease. Abby’s internal and external goals are at risk.

Then new events arise when a mentor explains to her what good management is: using her expertise to help her reports be their best, to obtain what they need to do their jobs, and to lead them with firmness, not meanness.

Then the crisis event occurs when the manager returns. Abby is a peer again, and the manager scraps her design.

More events carry her to a satisfying ending. Possibly, her peers back her, and the manager reinstates the design. Then, upper management recognizes her leadership and sends her to management training.

Unlike in the beginning, Abby now knows how to get people to listen to her, is a noteworthy leader, and is on the road to management.

Case 4 could flow with similar events.

Replace interesting story events with events meaningful to your protagonist’s goals. Click to tweet.

What system, such as the Hero’s Journey, do you use to map out events?

Book Promotion Overwhelming? Pick the Plums Touching Your Nose

“Your big opportunity may be right where you are now.” —Napoleon Hill


Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Many of us authors dread marketing our books. It’s difficult, time-consuming, and often we’re unsure it works.

The least we can do is open our weary marketing eyes and grab the promotional opportunities directly in front of us. Those ripe plums.

Opportunity Plums


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

1.  Fans

When someone tells you they enjoyed your book and why, say thank you and ask them to post a review on various sites. Most, because they enjoyed your work, will leave at least one review. Make it easy for them. Say all they need to write is what they told you about your story. Email them links to the spots to write reviews on online bookstores and reader sites.

2.  “Persons of Influence”

Here are examples of my plums. Notice, in none of these did I seek the plum. Those plums appeared because I worked on friendships or put myself out in the reader world.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

•  A friend in my church invited me to her book club. I thought joining a book club too time consuming, but I accepted her invitation. I learned she wanted me to visit once to introduce me to the local bookstore owner who attended the book club. The owner offered to set up an event for Calculated Risk at her store.

•  I posted about the two women who were the only ones to attend my first local library event. They were involved in eight library book clubs. They suggested I come back. I asked if they’d promote to their clubs a second event. They assured me they would.

•  A few friends asked me to let them know if I ever did a book signing in my former city. I knew I should arrange an event there at a library, a bookstore, or my former church. It seemed overwhelming. Then a librarian friend from my former church emailed me. She wanted to buy a copy of Calculated Risk for the church library. A plum. Who better to help me arrange an event in that city? I asked, and she graciously agreed to help. 

•  A popular author and I have the same agent. Though time-consuming, I’m active in our agent’s email group for her authors. When I announced my contract for Calculated Risk to the group, this popular author emailed me and offered to interview me on her high-traffic blog.

by joncutrer
by joncutrer

3.  Conference Centers 

Many have bookstores connected to them. You pay the fees and do the work to travel to and attend conferences at these centers. Why not ask their bookstores to carry your book. The bookstore rep I called yesterday said they usually carry a few of attendee authors’ books if they asked. And since I’d asked, she’d carry mine.


Pluck the promotional plums hanging in front of your nose. Click to tweet.

 So, keep active in writer and reader groups, put yourself into the reader world starting with small events, and be alert to the plums that drop in front of your nose.

 Which promotional plums directly in front of you did you pluck?

One Marketing Idea That’s Fun, Easy, and Effective

“Marketing is a contest for people’s attention.” — Seth Godin


I’m promoting my upcoming novel, but this idea can work to market other products.

A drawing for a gift basket of items related to your novel is easy and effective. Click to tweet.

I made 5 baskets for planned events.

Why it’s fun:

  1. Purchasing reasonably priced items is like a treasure hunt.
Woman's compact with pad of adhesive notes
Woman’s compact with pad of adhesive notes.

Example: In Calculated Risk, Cisney lives by sticky notes. I spotted sticky note dispensers in the shapes of a shiny heart, a purse, and a woman’s compact with a mirror.

  1. I invited a “crafty” friend for lunch. We spent the afternoon chatting and putting the baskets together, using her expertise in making them attractive.

Why it’s easy:

  1. Compared to researching how to write a press release or an effective ad, buying several things that remind you of your story is simple. Especially, if you purposely write easy-to-find things into your novel.

Why it’s effective:

  1. Store managers are happy to help you get the word out about your book with something that’ll draw customers into their shop.
  2. A basket at an event, such as a launch party, provides visuals for talking about your story. You don’t have to memorize a formal speech.
  3. A basket of goodies is eye-catching. It draws people to your book-signing table.
  4. Email addresses collected for winner notification are good for announcing your next novel or discounts on your books. Have a way people can decline receiving updates.
  5. A basket of goodies can work for you without you being present.

Example: My hairdresser displayed my book cover poster and basket for a drawing. So for a month, my basket will draw ladies to enter with their email addresses, pick up a free bookmark and pad of sticky notes with my website info, and take a flyer about my book signing and launch party.

A giveaway basket of items can work for you without you being present. Click to tweet.

Butterfly sporting words for a writer from my "crafty" friend.
Butterfly sporting words for a writer from my “crafty” friend.

How to make a giveaway basket of goodies. 

1. Brainstorm story events and items your characters use. For example, Cisney rashly accepts an invitation to spend Thanksgiving with Nick’s family. I needed something to represent Thanksgiving.

2. Purchase 15 to 20 items. Dollar stores often have some quality items for a good price. I included at least three nice gifts women would enjoy, such as a bracelet, scented candle, and specialty hot cocoa mix.

3. Make tags that give a hint of how the items relate to the story and attach them to the items.

4. Arrange the goodies in an inexpensive basket lined with pretty tissue paper. Use colors from your book cover. Wrap the basket with transparent tulle so people can see the goodies. Tie it up and add something like a large butterfly to the bow.

5. Add your book to the basket for your personal events, such as a launch party. Best not to giveaway books at a bookstore that’s hosting you to sell books.

From the last book you read, what might be used as a goody in a giveaway basket?