Story Unbelievability: “But It Happened to Me!”


This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is TYFMI30D-Print-5.75x8.89.jpeg


Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days is designed to shape a not-yet submitted, rejected, or self-published manuscript with low ratings into a book that shines. The method can also be a guiding resource for writers starting a manuscript. See details below.


Sometimes an incredible event or intervention happens in a writer’s life, or he’s privy to one. The writer shares the story in a manuscript. Or he includes the event in a novel. Acquisition editors aren’t interested because they think the event is too far-fetched for readers to embrace. The writer says, “But this happened to me!”

Observations

  • Many such stories that are published and/or made into movies are based on true events.
  • Many memoirs or biographies written about people with amazing events in their lives are either ghostwritten or penned in collaboration with an experienced writer of this kind of story.

Some Reasons Why These Stories Don’t Work

image by geralt
  • Dumped research doesn’t work for most readers.
  • Writing about someone else’s true event may lack the struggles going on inside the person experiencing the event.
  • True events can seem like a miracle thrown in to save the day without requiring the character to overcome anything.
  • These stories may beg for more to keep the reader engaged, such as a touch of romance, a mentor, conflict, peoples’ choices leading up to the event.
  • Something more interesting than ordinary living needs to fill gaps.

True Example

When I was five in Tampa Florida, my mother read a newspaper article to my sister and me. As I remember it, a woman’s son lay under his car, working on a problem. The woman saw the car fall onto her son. She ran outside and lifted the car to save her son, breaking her back. Amazing. However, if I threw this into one of my stories, too many readers wouldn’t buy it. Too many wouldn’t have heard of such true happenings or read the research behind such a feat.

image by RyanMcGuire

Suppose a writer interviewed the woman and wrote her story. Suppose, before and after that day the family’s life was ordinary. Suppose the mother’s operation was like any other back operation and her son, after a brief time of fame at school, was like any other teen. Acquisition editors might think the event made a compelling news article, but needed conflict to make a good book.

Move forward in my life. Twenty years later, I moved back to Tampa and worked two years as a payments social worker for the state of Florida. One of my colleagues worked on the case in which that woman in the news article in the early 1950s was then in her fifties and was applying for disability assistance because of her back.

The connection between my event at age five and the one at twenty-five was amazing to me.

Now, instead of throwing that true event into a story or writing the true story of this family, suppose I write the story from a social worker’s perspective—how, like me, she heard the story long ago from her mother reading the news article. And she, not her colleague, is assigned the case. And she’s not the payment social worker, but the service worker.

image by sabinevanerp

Suppose for technical or other reasons, the woman is not eligible for financial assistance. The social worker, because of her connection at age five, is drawn to the woman. She researches reports and medical documents about such events and gets involved with the woman outside her job. Suppose under warnings from her manager and clashes at home, she struggles to help the woman. This believable story with conflict would be partially based on my true story.

What true amazing event in your life could you use in a believable way?

Buy Link

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is TYFMI30D-Print-5.75x8.89.jpeg

Zoe McCarthy’s book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days, is a fresh and innovative refocusing of your novel or novella. Through a few simple—and fun—steps, Zoe helps writers take their not-ready-for-publication and/or rejected manuscripts to a spit-polish finish. Writing is hard work, yes, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. —Eva Marie Everson, best-selling and multiple award-winning author, conference director, president of Word Weavers International, Inc.

If you want to increase your chance of hearing yes instead of sorry or not a fit for our list at this time, this book is for you. If you want to develop stronger story plots with characters that are hard to put down, this book is for you. Through McCarthy’s checklists and helpful exercises and corresponding examples, you will learn how to raise the tension, hone your voice, and polish your manuscript. I need this book for my clients and the many conferees I meet at writer’s conferences around the country. Thank you, Zoe. A huge, #thumbsup, for Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days.  —Diana L. Flegal, literary agent, and freelance editor

Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript is a self-editing encyclopedia! Each chapter sets up the targeted technique, examples show what to look for in your manuscript, then proven actions are provided to take your writing to the next level. Whether you are a seasoned writer or a newbie, you need this book! —Sally Shupe, freelance editor, aspiring author

McCarthy crafted an amazing self-help book that will strengthen any writer, whether new or seasoned, with guidance and self-evaluation tools. —Erin Unger, author of Practicing Murder, releasing in 2019


A Powerful Visual Image in Your Story

image by Pexels

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is TYFMI30D-Print-5.75x8.89.jpeg


Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days is designed to shape a not-yet submitted, rejected, or self-published manuscript with low ratings into a book that shines. The method can also be a guiding resource for writers starting a manuscript. See details below.


In a writers conference workshop, Zena Dell Lowe, a conference speaker, college professor, and writing consultant, told us, “A powerful visual image is when your character does something that speaks volumes of truth.”

Example 1

Look at the opening photo. Suppose the woman, Marie, has dodged marriage talk with boyfriend, Tate, for almost a year. She says she likes her independence and her job. Tate continues to be loyal to Marie, treating her like a princess, hoping she’ll one day agree to marry him.

One Sunday afternoon, he invites Marie to stroll over to the cliffs. They walk hand in hand. She’s happy and can’t wait to tell him about her promotion. On the cliff top, he tells her he’s enlisted in the Marines and leaves for boot camp tomorrow. She gapes then turns and steps to the edge of the cliff. He holds her hand in a loose grasp.

Analysis

To me, two actions speak volumes of truth.

  • Marie’s gape says she never believed Tate would leaver her.
  • Tate’s loose grasp on her hand says he’s onto Marie. He knows she won’t jump off the cliff. Her move to the edge is another of her attempts to scare him and keep him in tow. But he’s had enough. He’s moving on and removing himself from her reach.

~~~

image by keshavnaidu

Example 2

Airline pilot Michael, has soared the skies for ten years, taking passengers safely to their international destinations. He’s away from home days and weeks at a time. He goes out with other pilots and stewardesses to bars in exotic places. He loves flying, but he feels his home life is wanting. His introverted wife, Anna, is a school librarian and Sunday school teacher.

Michael returns home after nearly a week away in Europe. Anna greets him at the door, takes his overnight bag from him, and sets it on the foyer floor. She grasps his hand and leads him to the living room sofa. He wonders if she also finds her home life wanting and wants to end their marriage. It would be bitter sweet, but maybe a trial separation would be for the best.

Anna tells Michael she’s pregnant. Three and a half months along. After two miscarriages, she’s finally going to have a baby. He doesn’t know what to think. Her hopeful expression disappears. She slips away to the kitchen.

Michael digs his laptop from his bag, leaves the house, and heads for the airport. On the way, a whirlwind of thoughts about Anna, the pregnancy, and a child churn his mind. At the airport with the laptop in hand, he strides onto the tarmac and sits at its edge. He hammers out a new life mission statement, detailing how he’ll become a caring, attentive husband to Anna and the best father to his child.

Analysis

I think Michael running to the airport shows his job has been his comfort zone and possibly his crutch for dealing with life. Sitting on the tarmac pounding out a new mission statement says he realizes it was his life that needed revival, not the relationship. The baby has awakened his desire for what he really needed.

Can you share a movie example in which an unexpected character action spoke volumes of truth?

Buy Link

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is TYFMI30D-Print-5.75x8.89.jpeg

Zoe McCarthy’s book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days, is a fresh and innovative refocusing of your novel or novella. Through a few simple—and fun—steps, Zoe helps writers take their not-ready-for-publication and/or rejected manuscripts to a spit-polish finish. Writing is hard work, yes, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. —Eva Marie Everson, best-selling and multiple award-winning author, conference director, president of Word Weavers International, Inc.

If you want to increase your chance of hearing yes instead of sorry or not a fit for our list at this time, this book is for you. If you want to develop stronger story plots with characters that are hard to put down, this book is for you. Through McCarthy’s checklists and helpful exercises and corresponding examples, you will learn how to raise the tension, hone your voice, and polish your manuscript. I need this book for my clients and the many conferees I meet at writer’s conferences around the country. Thank you, Zoe. A huge, #thumbsup, for Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days.  —Diana L. Flegal, literary agent, and freelance editor

Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript is a self-editing encyclopedia! Each chapter sets up the targeted technique, examples show what to look for in your manuscript, then proven actions are provided to take your writing to the next level. Whether you are a seasoned writer or a newbie, you need this book! —Sally Shupe, freelance editor, aspiring author

McCarthy crafted an amazing self-help book that will strengthen any writer, whether new or seasoned, with guidance and self-evaluation tools. —Erin Unger, author of Practicing Murder, releasing in 2019


Test Your Use of Hyphens in Your Stories

image by johnhain

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is TYFMI30D-Print-5.75x8.89.jpeg


Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days is now available. See details below.


I decided to stop winging my use of hyphens and arm myself with some rules. 

A Hyphen-Usage Test

Which four of these examples are incorrect? At the end of the test, see the analysis of why each example is correct or incorrect.

  1. ceiling-tall Christmas tree
  2. the small-delicate dancer
  3. a protein-eating diet
  4. the front-porch rocker
  5. he was soft-hearted about disciplining
  6. a lovingly-planted garden
  7. a well-timed event
  8. a twenty-four-hour job
  9. held for two- and three-hour sessions
  10. black and white cruiser

Analysis

First, my heading is correct—A Hyphen-Usage Test. Capitalize the first word and all hyphenated words in a title except articles (the), prepositions (with), and conjunctions (and). The only time a hyphenated word is not capitalized in a title is when the first word is a prefix that can’t stand alone (A Smile Is an Anti-aging Device). 

image by JerzyBorecki
  1. Correct. This noun and adjective unite to modify a noun. The noun following united words is key.
  2. Incorrect. Small and delicate don’t unite to describe the dancer; they each stand alone. So, “the small, delicate dancer” is correct.
  3. Correct. This noun and gerund unite to modify a noun (diet). Eating standing alone would suggest a fun diet!
  4. Correct. It’s not a front rocker. Front and porch unite to modify the rocker (noun). 
  5. Incorrect. Here, soft-hearted doesn’t unite to modify a noun. The correct sentence is “He was soft hearted about disciplining.”
  6. Incorrect. Yes, this adverb and verb unite to modify garden, but two words with a leading adverb ending in -ly aren’t joined with a hyphen. Correct is “a lovingly planted garden.” An -ly adverb is what causes the different rule. However, if lovingly is in the middle of a multiple-word descriptor, such as “the far-from-lovingly-planted garden,” lovingly gets a hyphen.
  7. Correct. Well is not an adverb ending in -ly, and it unites with timed to modify a noun (event). But the adverb well in “the meeting was well timeddoesn’t use a hyphen. Here, “well timed” is not followed by a noun.
  8. Correct. This multiple-word modifier unites to describe a noun.
  9. Correct. Both two-hour and three-hour are adjective phrases modifying a noun and are written as in the example.
  10. Incorrect. When a color combination precedes a noun, it’s hyphenated. It’s a “black-and-white cruiser,” but “the cruiser was black and white.” Also, it’s a “blue-green pond.”

Sometimes hyphens are used for clarity. Consider: “We passed five mile markers.” This talks about the number of mile markers. If the markers were placed every five miles and we passed these markers, we’d write, “We passed five-mile markers.”

Which hyphenating rule is a problem in your writing?


Buy Link

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is TYFMI30D-Print-5.75x8.89.jpeg

Zoe McCarthy’s book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days, is a fresh and innovative refocusing of your novel or novella. Through a few simple—and fun—steps, Zoe helps writers take their not-ready-for-publication and/or rejected manuscripts to a spit-polish finish. Writing is hard work, yes, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. —Eva Marie Everson, best-selling and multiple award-winning author, conference director, president of Word Weavers International, Inc.

If you want to increase your chance of hearing yes instead of sorry or not a fit for our list at this time, this book is for you. If you want to develop stronger story plots with characters that are hard to put down, this book is for you. Through McCarthy’s checklists and helpful exercises and corresponding examples, you will learn how to raise the tension, hone your voice, and polish your manuscript. I need this book for my clients and the many conferees I meet at writer’s conferences around the country. Thank you, Zoe. A huge, #thumbsup, for Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days.  —Diana L. Flegal, literary agent, and freelance editor

Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript is a self-editing encyclopedia! Each chapter sets up the targeted technique, examples show what to look for in your manuscript, then proven actions are provided to take your writing to the next level. Whether you are a seasoned writer or a newbie, you need this book! —Sally Shupe, freelance editor, aspiring author.