Grow Your Imagination

imagination

THE IMPORTANCE OF imagination is so often overlooked. Without it we’re unable to see solutions beyond those that we’ve always used. But sometimes those same ol’ solutions to puzzles or challenges at work aren’t always the best or the most efficient for the current situation.

Therefore you need to flex those imagination muscles. Take them out for a walk and give them some fresh air. Help them grow, so when you need them they’re there for you. Reading books can be one of the easiest, and most fun ways to do just that.

All you have to do is take an hour to read a chapter or two and let your imagination breathe. You’ll be surprised just how quickly your mind and imagination link up to give you ideas and solutions that you never thought possible.

But anything is possible, if you just set your mind to it. So, grab a book, get comfortable, and let your mind and imagination loose.

 

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Plots and Sub-Plots

bellcurves

MANY BOOKS HAVE multiple plot lines such as the action/romance, or romance/mystery, or even the action/mystery/romance. So how do you work the bell curve magic when you have all these various plots and subplots going on?

It’s easy (well, relatively easy, anyway). You need to plan each plot (story line) using the same method. Lay out each plot’s and subplot’s pacing using a bell curve. Make notes within each section of the bell curve as to what needs to happen, what clues need to appear, or what crises need to arise. Then, as you write, make sure to include all those bullet points or notes into the chapters that comprise that particular part of your book.

In your mystery, you might indicate that in Part 1 you introduce your protagonist, antagonist, and other characters (as needed). Then you note that the major plot line is the corruption investigation. Your secondary plot line, the missing young man, doesn’t enter until Part 2. It’s that plot line which amps up the tension.

In Part 3 maybe your protagonist is given a time limit of some kind. A reporter is going to run with the story, so your protagonist needs to get a resolution first or maybe the wrong person is accused and time is running out to prove his or her innocence. Or maybe the push comes from a love story subplot. Perhaps the long-suffering girlfriend gives the protagonist a deadline for their relationship—a proposal by this date or else, but he’s in the middle of a big case. It could even be a work-related timeline that is adding the push.

EXAMPLES:

1) Hero has to save a girl. When he does, they end up on the run together. There’s heat between them, but there’s also tension from her dislike of him and his gruff ways. Eventually, in Part 4 the issues are resolved (usually in bed).

2) The hero hates his boss but has to save the world, so he goes out to do so but continuously butts heads with his boss, until in Part 4, everything gets resolved.

These subplots also need to build into a bell curve and then get resolved. But their curves don’t necessarily need to be as steep since they aren’t the main plots. They add texture, depth, dimension, and tension to your story. They help the reader see who they’re rooting for in your story, as these subplots help build and push the pace of your stories.

So, if you follow the bell curve to pace out your stories, you’ll stop creating just so-so stories with stop-start pacing and start creating winning stories that keep your readers reading.

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Take a Moment…and Just Breathe

Do you need a breather? Do you want to get in touch with your higher self to get a better look at where life is taking you? Then listen to this guided meditation…

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Part 4: Wrapping It All Up

adult birthday birthday gift box

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ONCE YOU REACH Part 4, you need to start wrapping up the story. You need to pull all the different plot lines together into a neat little package that you can present to the reader.

In mysteries you tell or show the readers the dead-ends, the red herrings, and the clues-that-were-so-obvious-you-don’t-know-how-the-reader-missed-them. You can do all of this before or after the great reveal of the who behind the who-dunnit, but just make sure you do it. Failing to answer all of the readers’ questions is a sure way to keep them from reading any more of your books.

In romances you need to bring everyone together in whichever configuration the story calls for (protagonist with ex, protagonist with new love, protagonist with new job and promotion, etc.).

Just remember that whatever genre of story you’re telling you need to ensure that the pacing and plot lines all fit into a bell curve when you’re finished.

Romances:  Sexual and emotional tension builds to top of bell curve. It needs to be so tight that your reader feels it, too. When it finally reaches the pinnacle, the release can be abrupt (they get together and have sex) or it can be more gentle (they finally realize they love each other and share a kiss). *

(*These endings are the traditional romance endings. Nowadays, romances can be more realistic with the romantic lead deciding to take on the promotion, to work it out with the ex, or to pursue both the romance and the career.)

Mystery:  Clues and red herrings are planted along the way, time becomes short for solving the puzzle due to death threats, missing persons, or other time-sensitive obstacles, and then the puzzle is solved in the nick of time.

Action/Thriller:  A small goal suddenly becomes a bigger goal, which then becomes a major goal. For instance, the protagonist needs to save a girl; then they must save a whole city; then a whole country; and then possibly the whole world. And all of this saving needs to be done within a specific time frame as directed by the villain or by nature (such as with the movie “Armageddon”).

But what do you do if you have more than one plot line? How do you fit all those subplots into the bell curve? The next (and last) installment of these articles will cover that.

[Read the last installment to understand how to incorporate multiple plot lines into your story and still keep the pacing taut.]

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Part 3: Pushing the Tension

Can't stop reading

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PART 3 OF the bell curve pushes the action and the suspense to the limit. If the reader has reached this point, they are fully engaged in your characters enough to care what happens. So, you need to push the pace to an even more fevered pitch. Throw in a twist or two to amp up the tension.

EXAMPLE:

I slammed a hand onto my desk. Then grabbing the handset of the desk phone, I dialed a number from memory. As I waited for an answer, I tapped my foot.

Somehow these two effing cases were connected, and until I could figure out how, I didn’t know whether any of us were safe.

When my wife didn’t answer, I didn’t immediately panic. Maybe she had a treatment that I was unaware of, maybe she was napping…

My gut told me I was wrong, that something was desperately wrong. But instead of rushing out to check, I dialed Vera. When that went to voicemail, I started listening to my gut.

This wasn’t a simple missing person case anymore. This was a possible-witness-to-a-hit-case-gone-missing and I was afraid that the hitters were now after my family.

As the author, you started out your story having your protagonist investigate some possibly illegal activities. This escalated when one of the informers disappears. Then the protagonist gets saddled with a missing person case that he didn’t really want. The story intensifies when the wife and (possibly) the neighbor lady go missing.

If writing a romance, this is where she or he overhears or accidentally sees the other person participating in something shady or dishonorable. It can also be when the protagonist is taunted with something they really want versus staying with the one they think they love.

No matter what genre you’re writing, you (the author) need to push the tension to its limits. Get those readers on their edge of their seats. Have them so hooked that they don’t dare put the book down before they find out what’s going to happen next.

Now that you understand what you need to do for Part 3, get out there and write it down.

[The next post will describe how to use all that tension to carry you over into Part 4 where you can wrap up your story in a nice little bow.]

 

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Part 2: Holding the Reader’s Attention

person laying on sofa while reading book

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PART 2 HELPS the author to capture and hold the reader’s attention. You do this by planting red herrings (if the book is a mystery), placing small clues in plain sight, adding another story line, and pushing the stakes even higher on one or more of those story lines.

EXAMPLE:

Nera, my wife’s best friend called. She told me that her 20-year old son, Buddy, had gone missing. She said Buddy’s boss claimed that Buddy hadn’t been there all week. And yesterday Buddy missed his weekly visit with her. Buddy never missed their weekly visits.

My lips thinned and I tried not to bark at her. But I didn’t have time for this. I was knee deep in my investigation of Jake Morelli. From what I’d found, a shipment would be hitting town in the next few days and I needed to catch this guy in the act. One of my contacts had gone missing and I feared the worse. And I had another one squirrelled away in, what I hoped, was a safe house. I had no time for this.

Nera’s son was a grown man. He’d probably taken off to Vegas for a wild weekend, away from Mama’s prying eyes. However, when I dared to suggest something along those lines, she squawked.

“My son’s not like that. He’s a quiet boy. In fact, he often spends time with me watching some of our favorite old TV shows. He especially likes Bosom Buddies, Golden Girls, or Fringe—although, I find that one too dark and confusing.”

I sighed inwardly. I know I would’ve taken off if my mother had held the leash as tightly as Nera did.

“I’ll do my best…”

“Oh thank you. You know it was Joan who insisted I call you. I’m so glad I did.”

She paused, but not long enough for me to explain how up to my neck I was in another case.

“I know you’ll find my Buddy and send him home safe. Thank you, so much.”

No word of payment. No chance for me to ask for a retainer. Looked like I was doing this one pro bono. This time I did sigh. Personally, I fully expected her son to come home on his own after a wild fling of some sort.

If you’re doing romances, then this is the point at which you might toss in some interruptions. Perhaps, his or her job calls them away. Maybe while away the protagonist encounters their ex. If not the ex, then toss in someone or something else that creates havoc and perhaps put a temporary wedge between the potential lovers.

Maybe the protagonist dislikes people who cheat because (add a snippet of back story here) she or he was cheated on. The character sees or overhears something that they misinterpret and use to jump to an incorrect conclusion. This not only increases the tension for the characters, it creates tension for the reader.

The reader starts wondering if the character really did cheat; whether the two of characters will reconcile and get together; or whether the characters are even right for each other (perhaps the reader is rooting for the protagonist to reconcile with the ex). Whichever way your story goes, you need to push the tension and keep the reader reading.

Now that you’ve identified what you need to do to complete Part 2 of your bell curve, get writing.

[The next post will describe what to do for Part 3 to keep that tension mounting even more.]

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Book Fun

I was having fun with some new tools again. The result was a new (fun) video…Wanna see it?

What’s so amazing, is along with being fun, it’s really easy, too.

I may not sell any additional books with my little videos, but they sure are fun to do.  And we all need a little fun in our lives, don’t we?

So, what are you doing for fun?

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Part 1: Making Introductions

two people making a handshake

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PART 1 IS where you introduce your readers to your story. Introducing the characters and the various story lines affecting the protagonist allow the reader to engage with and have a basic understanding of the character. Readers need to understand and appreciate the struggles that these characters are going through. If they don’t connect with or appreciate the motivations behind your character’s action, then no matter what you do, no matter how wonderful the plot, the readers won’t care.

To get the readers to follow you onto that roller coaster ride of a story that you’ve created, you have to coax them with something intriguing, interesting, or relatable. The best way to really entice them is to build memorable characters and understandable and relatable problems. Therefore, give the readers some small slice of the character’s personality and life goals (or at least their goals that relate to this story).

What readers don’t need is a history dump of the character’s entire life. Nor do the readers really want to be dropped right into the middle of a fight scene. With no understanding of who is whom or why the fight is even occurring, the reader will not only find the action hard to follow, but care little about who wins.

Instead, give the readers something to relate to. Tell the readers the character’s name, give them a bit of description as to what the character looks like, and show them (through dialogue or action) the character’s goal (at least as far as the book is concerned). And somewhere in the first couple of chapters, tell the readers what the protagonist’s philosophy on life is.

EXAMPLE:

I’ve never shot anyone in the back before, but then this wasn’t just anyone.

As an opening sentence to a book it’s not only intriguing, but it gives you an immediate insight into the protagonist’s philosophy. They’ve killed, but not by shooting someone in the back, which this sentence seems to imply is dishonorable.

That means the main character has a code of honor (of sorts) that they abide by; however, they had to break that code.

So, now give us some description. Give us a place, a mood, or maybe even an idea of who the person is holding the gun.

EXAMPLE:

As I stood in the alley behind my office building, the night sounds of the city continued uninterrupted. It was as if the shooting had never happened. But Jake was dead. I could see him lying there, face down on the slimy tarmac.

I ran my still shaking hand through my thinning brown hair. My mind was like a skittering cockroach running in circles. I didn’t know what I should do. Then a scream grabbed my attention. A woman stood nearby, her eyes caught between me and Jake’s body as she continued to wail.

Part 1 is also all about learning who’s who and what the stakes are.

EXAMPLE:

I wish I’d never taken this case. But who could say no to $50K.

$50K. Just saying it gave me chills.

That much money could’ve paid for my wife’s treatments. She told me not to do it; she told me it wouldn’t turn out well. But $50K…

I shook my head. I should’ve listened to her.

While trying to show who and what your protagonist is all about do not do a history dump. Filter in a bit of history throughout the story. It makes the story smoother and more colorful. At this point, you can offer us tiny peeks at the character’s past, but not whole pages.

EXAMPLE:

My wife Joan and I had met in college where she was studying literature and I was majoring in political science. Gaads, that was a long time ago.

I rubbed a hand over my face feeling the stubble along my chin line. I’d forgotten to shave again. Joan would be aghast if she saw how much I resembled the homeless that populated the streets around town.

I would definitely have to stop off at the gym and use their locker room to clean up before I went home.

Now that you’ve identified what you need to do to complete Part 1 of your bell curve, get writing.

[The next post will describe how to build the tension and keep your reader reading as you complete Part 2.]

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How to Plot Your Pace

MOST INDIE AND newbie writers I’ve spoken with find that creating a good pace for their books (whether action/thriller, romance, or mystery) is one of the most difficult. Well, good news. I’ve found an easy way to ensure that you have the best pace for your book no matter what genre.

Look to the Curve

It turns out that great reads have the best bell curve. If you build your plot along a bell curve you can’t miss. And the easiest way to do that is to divide the bell curve into four parts. (See image.)

BellCurve

The first part of your bell curve should be your introduction to character, place, and story lines (if you have more than one—such as love relationship and mystery). The second part builds your different characters (offering more information about them), as well as each of your story lines. Each story line should begin increasing the intensity and raising the stakes. The third part continues to build the intensity while it increases the stakes even more. It should also allow the protagonist to start putting the puzzle pieces of their story lines together. And the final part concludes the story lines in a satisfactory way, which allows the reader to finally catch their breath and feel good about the way things ended.

If you dissect any good book, any book that you’ve truly enjoyed, and if you look at the four parts that I’ve laid out for that book, you’ll see that the basic structure creates a bell curve. If any of those four parts that I’ve mentioned is put together in the wrong order, the curve is missed and the pacing and plot no longer work. Therefore, creating a winning book lies in the union of those four parts creating a perfect bell curve.

If you’re still having difficulty putting this together, my next few posts should help you understand it more clearly. I’ve written about the specific information you should include for each section and included examples to help with clarification.

[For more information, read the next post, Part 1: Making Introductions]

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Building the Language of Intuition

TO HONE YOUR own Intuitiveness, you need to understand your intuition’s language. Some insights may come as words, others as clear images, and other times the words or images may be only representative of what your intuition is trying to tell you.

Many times your intuition works similarly to dreams. For instance, if you ask your intuition whether your project at work will be successful your intuition may give you an image of a bird flying over a soccer fields and from the perspective of the bird you see yourself running across the field carrying a kitten. You are then left to try and understand just what that means. Does it mean that you need to find a soccer field that resembles the one your intuition showed you so you can run across it with a kitten in your arms while a bird flies overhead? Not likely.

Instead, you might look at the soccer field as a representation of competition and those you’re competing against are of little trouble (the kitten) because you are so far above them (the flying bird).

But if you don’t understand your intuition’s language, you may never understand the message and so expend energy fighting against enemies that exist only your mind or enemies that have little impact on your success.

Learning the Language of Intuition

So, to help you understand what your intuition is telling you, you need to first learn its language. To do that, just follow this technique:

  1. On separate pieces of paper, write out the words that you would typically use when seeking information about a situation.
    For instance, if you often seek information regarding the best career path, then focus on the words regarding careers.
  2. Clear your mind and settle yourself into a light meditative state.
  3. Take the first piece of paper and study the word you’ve written there.
  4. Let your mind wander freely as you sketch images, write words, or scribble symbols or descriptions that you sense or see in your mind regarding that word.
    Note: If you’re not good at drawing (like me), then just write out the description of what you’re seeing in your mind.
  5. After several minutes, set the first word aside and repeat step 4 for each of the words you wrote down.
  6. When you finish with each word, you can turn these images, symbols, and descriptions into cheat sheets to help you know what your intuition is trying to tell you. And each time your intuition gives you a new symbol, you can add that to your vocabulary.

Repeat this process for each type of situation that you typically ask your intuition about. So, you might have situations such as career, life, love life, family and friends, life goals, etc. that you need to develop a vocabulary for, and that’s all right. As your vocabulary grows, so does your understanding of your intuition. Eventually, you won’t need to create cheat sheets to understand what your intuition is trying to tell you.

Example of a Cheat Sheet

Below is a table explaining some of the imagery that my inner self uses when I ask about upcoming choices and paths.

Path Description Interpretation
Smooth and flat without branches Life ahead is easy without turmoil, drama, or decisions
Rocky or gravelly Small dramas and irritations
Twisty with lots of curves Drama, confusion, without a lot of forward headway being made
Filled with boulders Large troubles. If there is room to go around the boulders on the path, then the troubles might be avoided; however, if there is no way around, then you will have to work through the trouble to move ahead.
Covered with vines or tree roots There will be problems or people that might trip you up, but if you pay attention you should be able to avoid them
A smaller path going to the right or left Ask yourself whether taking the branch path will be useful or helpful in achieving your life’s goals or lessons.

If the answer is yes, then even if the path appears overgrown or frightening, you should follow your instincts and take it. Oftentimes we cloud positive options in fear because we’re afraid of the unknown. We think it will be easier to stay on the tried and true rather than try something new.

Hilly Struggles ahead
One large hill ahead There will be one large struggle ahead. (It could be emotional, financial, physical, etc. To find out, ask yourself.)
Downward slope If the slope is low to moderate, then life will be rather easy going for a while.

If the slope is steep, you may be about to take a fall.

Ends abruptly If it ends at a wall, then you are probably at a loss as to what to do, and you need to calm yourself so that you can see the alternatives.

If it ends at a cliff, then you need to decide whether an offer presented to you is worth the leap of faith that you must take.

If the path appears hopelessly blocked by some sort of nature (cacti, trees, vines, jungle, etc.) or frightening creature (jungle cats, unknown monster, or large wild beast), then you must look for the hidden path. Something about your life has you frightened to keep moving forward, and until you overcome that fear, you’ll never see or be able to continue down the path.

Ask your inner self about your options and your paths in life and see what responses you get. If you get some sort of image, then determine what that image means to you. Use the above table if it helps, and before too long, you’ll have your own table of meanings to help you.

On Dreams and Dream SymbolsTo give you a head start on understanding the meanings of some symbols, try the book, On Dreams and Dream Symbols. It’s one of the largest available compilations of symbols and their meanings.

 

 

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