How to Write a Pitch, Summary, and Synopsis That Sells


How to Write a Pitch, Summary, and Synopsis That Sells Image Copyright © 2014 Joan Y. Edwards

How to Write a Pitch, Summary, and Synopsis That Sells
Image Copyright © 2014 Joan Y. Edwards

“How to Write a Pitch, Summary, and Synopsis That Sells” by Joan Y. Edwards

In a pitch, query, pitch summary/chapter summary, or a synopsis:

  1. Mention the genre and the number of words.
  2. Use Times New Roman, Size 12 Font.
  3. Use One Inch Margins.
  4. Single or double-spaced according to the guidelines of the publisher or agent. If there are no directions online, go with your best gut feeling or the advice of someone you trust.

 A Pitch is the shortest summary of story that captures the core emotional conflict of a story.

Best selling short pitches use only one or two sentences. They call a pitch for a movie a logline. Your pitch’s job is to tug at the reader’s heartstrings and cause him to feel empathy, sympathy, compassion, respect, favor, understanding, and/or support for the main character’s predicament along with an unstoppable curiosity to find out if and how he solves his problem. If your pitch doesn’t do that, simply it does not sell. The reader closes his mind to your story and that’s it.

A Pitch tells Who, What, When, Where, and How and Why should I care? 

In the Short Selling Pitch -Elevator Pitch – (one or two sentences – 25 words or less is BEST. Keep under 60-100. Get readers to relate to your main character.Short Selling Pitch Describe an ironic emotional situation that your main character is in that cannot be solved unless this character changes. The pitch must have the biggest conflict mentioned so that the emotional pull is there for the audience. Describe his present condition in the inciting incident at which he has no hope of winning or getting what he wants (reaching his goal). In many stories, characters don’t get what they want, however, they get what they need.

Longer Selling Pitch is also only about the Main Character and one or two others in the main problem or conflict. This longer selling pitch is used as the blurb on the back of your book in a paragraph or two. It can be used as the plot summary for Amazon or Barnes & Noble to help sell the book. This longer pitch can be 60-200 words (100-300 for a romance). Lean to the fewest words you can use and still tell the story and pull in with emotion.

Use phrases from short and long pitches in conversations with editors, agents, and prospective readers. Use them also in query letters, cover letters, proposals, and beginning of a synopsis. It is a great marketing tool to persuade people to buy your book.

The Literary Consultancy in the United Kingdom shared a short pitch and a longer pitch for Pride and Prejudice:

 Short Pitch

Pride and Prejudice is a contemporary, literary romance about a woman who falls in love with a man she thinks she hates. (22 words)

Longer Pitch (Major Problem Summary)

Pride and Prejudice, a contemporary, literary novel, tells the story of Elizabeth Bennett, a proud, intelligent woman, one of five sisters, whose mother is committed to marrying her children off as a matter of urgency. Elizabeth meets Darcy, owner of a grand estate, but considers him over proud, arrogant and undesirable. In time, she learns that he is not all that he appears to be, and revises her prejudice, before they fall deeply in love. (75 words)

Non-Fiction Chapter-by-Chapter Summary for Your Book Proposal

In addition to a table of contents, your book proposal needs what Michael Larsen calls “chapter-by-chapter summary.” The chapter-by-chapter summary outlines what each chapter covers in one paragraph each.

Your Agent or Editor wants a Synopsis.

What is a synopsis? A synopsis is an outline of the plot of a book that is 2-5 pages with from 500-1250 words. If your synopsis is 25-30 pages long, the agent or editor might lose interest after the first 5, so be succinct. You don’t want your reader to fall asleep.

When you write a Synopsis, first start with your pitch summary from the blurb on the back of your book cover. After the pitch summary, then write the full synopsis using a paragraph for each plot point and tell the ending.

Scriptlab.com gives 5 major points in a video: http://thescriptlab.com/screenwriting-101/screenplay/five-plot-point-breakdowns

  1. Inciting Incident
  2. Lock In
  3. Midpoint
  4. Main Culmination
  5. Third Act Twist

My Plot Points:

  • Ordinary Day
  • Inciting incident with new goal to solve a really big problem
  • First failure
  • Second failure
  • Third failure – Aha moment when he figures it out and gets brave enough to confront
  • Fight
  • Win/Lose
  • Resolution What’s it like on the new ordinary day

Bonnie Adamson, illustrator and Assistant Regional Advisor of SCBWI-Carolinas shared Darcy Pattison’s article about Synopsis: Darcy Pattison. “Synopsis: A Google Search Example:”http://www.darcypattison.com/marketing/synopsis-a-google-example/. Darcy proposes a fun and effective writing exercise for crafting synopses, blurbs, elevator pitches, based on the conventions of Google search shown through 12 phrases.

Synopsis: A Google Example: Need better marketing copy for your story? Using only 12 phrases, this video tells a story and evokes emotion.

Holly Robinson gives pointers for your synopsis:

  1. Keep your language clear and active, and focus on telling the story. As your plot unfolds, write it the way you would tell about a movie to a friend, skip the dull parts and hit the main highlights.
  2. Start the book at the first scene in the book with the main character: “From the moment she woke on that chilly February morning, Savannah Smith knew without a doubt that she would divorce her husband.”
  3. Show the beginning, middle, and end with main character conflicts and resolutions. Don’t get bogged down in details. Stick to a few main characters – perhaps the protagonist and antagonist and make their core conflicts and their emotional ups and downs, with their twists and turns.
  4. When you introduce a new character, give a quick character sketch: “Burly Jones is a 36-year-old workaholic whose biggest joys in life are horseshoes, women, and his motorcycle, not necessarily in that order.”
  5. Include perhaps one piece of dialogue between the protagonist and the antagonist to give evidence of the tone of the story.

On Internet Movie Data Base website (IMBd.com), you can check the Plot Summaries against the Synopsis. The synopsis is usually much longer. Compare the Plot Summary of Gone with the Wind with its Synopsis. The Plot Summary is approximately one page. The Synopsis goes on and on and on.Synopsis.

References:

  1. AP Watt Agent Juliet Pickering. “How to Approach a Literary Agent written by a real life AP Watt Agent:” http://bubblecow.net/how-to-approach-a-literary-agent-written-by-a-real-life-ap-watt-agent/
  2. Book Ends Literary Agency. “Synopsis:” http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/2009/02/synopsis.html
  3. Bonnie Adamson. http://bonnieadamson.com/
  4. Cliff Daigle. “How to Pitch Your Novel:” http://fictionwriting.about.com/od/thebusinessofwriting/a/How-To-Pitch-Your-Novel.htm.
  5. Darcy Pattison. “Synopsis: A Google Search Example:”http://www.darcypattison.com/marketing/synopsis-a-google-example/
  6. Glen C. Strathy. “How to Write a Synopsis:” http://www.how-to-write-a-book-now.com/how-to-write-a-synopsis.html
  7. Holly Robinson, “Synopsis Tips:” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/holly-robinson/book-synopsis-tips_b_2426724.html
  8. Internet Movie DataBase. http://www.imdb.com
  9. Lee Allen. “How to Write a Book.now.com Plot Outline vs Synopsis:” http://www.how-to-write-a-book-now.com/plot-outline-vs-synopsis.html#sthash.eXbj8Uxa.dpuf
  10. Literary Consultancy: “Synopsis:” http://literaryconsultancy.co.uk/?s=synopsis
  11. Miss Snark. the literary agent. “Synopsis Spacing:” http://misssnark.blogspot.com/2006/01/synopsis-spacing.html
  12. Nathan Bransford. “How to Format a Query Letter:” http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2010/03/how-to-format query-letter.html
  13. Nathan Bransford. “How to Write a Synopsis:” http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2007/08/how-to-write-synopsis.html
  14. Scriptlab. “Five Plot Point Breakdowns:” http://thescriptlab.com/screenwriting-101/screenplay/five-plot-point-breakdowns
  15. William Cane. “Book Proposal:” http://www.hiwrite.com/bookproposal.html

Thank you for reading my blog. I’d love to hear your tips to make your pitch, summary, and synopsis sell! It’s not too late to enter to win a free critique on the following blog post:
Oh My Goodness! My Blog Hit 140,000 Views Today!

Celebrate you.
Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards

Copyright © 2014 Joan Y. Edwards

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197 Subscribers  – Thank you. (Oh my goodness! Only four more to an extra gift of 20 affirmations for writers when you subscribe.)

Subscribe to Joan’s Never Give Up blog by email from the left-hand column and receive a free Never Give Up logo image. You’ll receive her new blog posts filled with inspiration and information in your inbox as soon as she uploads them.

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Oh My Goodness! My Blog Hit 140,000 Views Today!


Joan and Carl Edwards wearing hats

Copyright © 2013 Joan Y. Edwards
Joan and Carl Edwards Wear Hats to Celebrate Life

“Oh My Goodness! My Blog Hit 140,000 Views Today!” by Joan Y. Edwards

In an effort to practice what I preach, I decided I needed to celebrate you, me, and my blog! I had planned to wait until 200,000 views, but thought it would be more fun to do it sooner than that. So I decided when I reached 140,000 views I would celebrate again. That about was 13 days ago. Thank you very much for reading my blog. Each time you read it and leave a comment, you give me life and confidence to write more.

Here are earlier celebration blog posts:

May 18, 2013 Celebrate 50,000 Views with Me
September 24, 2013 Over 70,000 Views! Yippee! Oh Wow! Win free prizes!
February 5, 2014 Over 100,000 Views – Wow! How Exciting! Thank You

When I first started my blog on October 9, 2009, I was clueless about what to write or what people would want to read. My personal mantra all of my life has been “Never Give Up.” This same philosophy is embodied in the spirit of my picture book about a little duck who never gives up on his song, Flip Flap Floodle. It is in Joan’s Elder Care Guide which the editor from 4RV Publishing and I are currently working on to get it ready for its publication in December 2014 or as close to that as possible.

There were a few times in my life that I wasn’t sure about how to keep on going. I know what it’s like to be feel frustrated, depressed, worthless, and without hope. My goal in my blog is to help encourage, motivate, and inspire you and others to find a solution to your questions about life and about writing to help you reach your goals and stay out of the depths of despair.

So to celebrate 140,00 views that I achieved at 12:30 p.m. today, July 10, 2014, I am offering 4 prizes to 4 lucky people who leave a comment on this post between now and next Thursday, July 17, 2014 at midnight EDT. (This contest is over now. I hope you’ll try for another contest) I will announce the winners on Friday, July 18, 2014. Random.org will choose the winners for me in the order below:

1. A free critique of 1,000 words of a manuscript
2. A free critique of 2,000 words of a manuscript.
3. A free critique of 3,000 words of a manuscript.
4. A free critique of 4,000 words of a manuscript.

In each critique I point out at least three Blue Ribbon phrases in your manuscript. Blue Ribbon means that if a judge at a fair critiques your work, he would put a Blue Ribbon on it.

Here are the ten posts with the highest views on my blog since 2009 (all have over 1,600 views):

  1. 18 Publishers Who Accept Unsolicited Manuscripts
  2. 18 Literary Agents Who Are Looking for You
  3. How Many Words Should Your Sentences Contain?
  4. Family Sewing Projects – Jedi Robes and Princess Leia Ponchos
  5. Put Universal Conflict, Theme, and Emotions in Your Story
  6. What Is Your Story’s Premise? Editors Want to Know
  7. 17 Days to Repaint a Wooden French Provincial Bed
  8. Twelve Ways to Get Over Disappointment
  9. Wonderfully Funny Analogies and Metaphors
  10. Eight Character Archetypes to Emphasize the Conflict in Your Story

Remember to celebrate you today. Who you are and what you do makes a difference to our world, and especially to me. Thank you.

Celebrate you.
Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards

Copyright © 2014 Joan Y. Edwards

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196 Subscribers  – Thank you. (Oh my goodness! Only four more to an extra gift of 20 affirmations for writers when you subscribe.)

Subscribe to Joan’s Never Give Up blog by email from the left-hand column and receive a free Never Give Up logo image. You’ll receive her new blog posts filled with inspiration and information in your inbox as soon as she uploads them.

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Don’t Ignore Unexpected Treasures


 

Don't Ignore Unexpected Treaures Copyright © Solid Stock Art Photo 223884 http://a.ssa.bz/wsyssu

Don’t Ignore Unexpected Treaures Copyright © Solid Stock Art Photo 223884
http://a.ssa.bz/wsyssu

“Don’t Ignore Unexpected Treasures” by Joan Y. Edwards

In 1988 Bjorn Secher, Bjorn Secher Achievement Systems said, “Any road can become a scenic route, depending upon your attention.”

What does this mean to you?

How can you use this with your writing?

My mother, Ethel Darnell Bruffey Meyer, said, “I’ve never been lost, but I’ve taken many interesting detours.”

How many times do you fuss and squirm when you take a wrong turn? How many times do you get upset when your GPS directions takes you to a dead end road nowhere near where you wanted to be? You hate these unexpected detours. They are prickly thorns in your side.

Money Grows on Trees

I loved the following story about a man who came back from Chicago.

Dan said, “Man, they’ve got money growing on trees up there in Chicago.”
Jake said, “Really.”
“Yeah. I picked a 50 dollar bill off of one tree,” said Dan.
Jake said, “Wow! That is awesome. I think I’ll take a trip to Chicago and find that money tree.”
Dan said, “Good luck.”

So Jake hitches a ride with his buddy who drives an 18 wheeler. They delivered furniture to a store in downtown Chicago.

“You go on to Wisconsin without me. I’m going to find that money tree.”

He walked around town and found a tree with one dollar bills in it. He said, “Shoot fire. I’m not going to mess with measly one dollar bills. I want to find that tree with fifty dollar bills on it.”

You know the rest of the story as Paul Harvey used to say. Jake never found the other one and missed the treasure because it was not what he was expecting.

Don’t miss something fun, spontaneous, and worthwhile because it wasn’t on your goal for the day! Don’t miss the beautiful sunrise because your GPS took you in the wrong direction. GPS to me stands for God’s Positioning System. When you listen to God, he has you right where he wants you. Focus on what you want, but be grateful and acknowledge what you have.

Sometimes we plan for a character to be the hero and he decides to be the bad dude. Perhaps you thought this was a fantasy mystery but it turns out to be a mystery similar to Monk or Columbo.

Celebrate you.

Pick up the unexpected treasures from your day and rejoice in them. I promise you they are there even in detours that you thought were interesting.  Leave a comment and tell me your treasure detour, your unexpected treasure today.

Celebrate you.
Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards

Copyright © 2014 Joan Y. Edwards

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196 Subscribers  – Thank you. (Oh my goodness! Only four more to an extra gift of 20 affirmations for writers when you subscribe.)

Subscribe to Joan’s Never Give Up blog by email from the left-hand column and receive a free Never Give Up logo image. You’ll receive her new blog posts filled with inspiration and information in your inbox as soon as she uploads them.

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What Is the Secret to Your Strength, Determination, and Endurance?


The Secret to Your Strength, Determination, and Endurance Is Your Attention --Bjorn Secher  Image Copyright © 2014 Joan Y. Edwards

The Secret to Your Strength, Determination, and Endurance Is Your Attention –Bjorn Secher
Image Copyright © 2014 Joan Y. Edwards

“What Is the Secret to Your Strength, Determination, and Endurance?” by Joan Y. Edwards

Bjorn Secher said, “The secret to your strength, determination, and endurance is your attention.”
Copyright © 1988 BSAS  Bjorn Secher Achievement Systems.

Ask yourself or your characters these questions.

What gives you strength?

What makes you more determined than ever to keep on going?

What gives you so much encouragement that 50 obstacles do not stop you. Each obstacle seems to make you even more determined not to give up?

What keeps you alive and helps you endure when others in your same shoes bit the dust years ago?

Not everyone’s answers are the same.

My mother, Ethel Darnell Bruffey Meyer, said many witty things. Here is one thing she used to say: “If all the women in the world liked my Johnny, there would be a lot of hairless women running around.”

What sparks a woman to say something like that? Love, jealousy, confidence, and determination plus physical, mental, and emotional strength.

Physical strength comes from using your body in exercise or in work using your muscles. Mental strength comes from using your brain to think. Emotional strength for endurance comes from self-confidence, love, and support of others and successful experiences and accomplishments.

I believe that God is the source of all energy. Energy comes from the sun, from an electrical power plant, and from every cell in your body.

Where do you focus your thoughts? On your bad experiences or on your good experiences? Choose to focus on what you want as if it is already true now. Because what you focus on will become your reality.

Where do you focus your words? What kind of words come from your mouth? Pay close attention to the words you speak. They are powerful. They speak your present and your future. They let you know your emotional interpretation of people and events.

You become what you give your attention to – attention is thoughts, words, and actions.

Joel Osteen said, “Do what you can and God will do what you can’t.” If the key to reaching your goals is down the street three miles, you might not get it unless you walk, ride, or fly there. Take the action that bubbles up from your heart, your “gut” feeling. Your belief in yourself and your goal will give you physical, mental, and emotional strength to “git her done” as Larry the Cable Guy would say.

Just keep on going, even though your humanity takes you on a few detours along the way, revamp your focus, run a video in your mind of you crossing that three-mile marker to find the key to your goal.

Please leave a comment. It makes me smile to hear from you. Good luck in reaching your goals.

Celebrate you.
Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards

Copyright © 2014 Joan Y. Edwards

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196 Subscribers  – Thank you. (Oh my goodness! Only four more to added gift for subscribing)

Subscribe to Joan’s Never Give Up blog by email from the left-hand column and receive a free Never Give Up logo image. You’ll receive her new blog posts filled with inspiration and information in your inbox as soon as she uploads them.

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How to Bloom Where You Are Planted?


Copyright © 2014 Joan Y. Edwards and Her Licensors

Copyright © 2014 Joan Y. Edwards and Her Licensors

“How to Bloom Where You Are Planted” by Joan Y. Edwards

Are you lacking the necessary ingredients to bloom where you are planted? Or do you have them and just don’t realize it.

I hope these ideas will inspire you to find joy, peace, health, and wealth wherever we are.

One person who is given credit for saying Bloom Where You Are Planted is St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622). He said: “Truly charity has no limit; for the love of God has been poured into our hearts by His Spirit dwelling in each one of us, calling us to a life of devotion and inviting us to bloom in the garden where He has planted and directing us to radiate the beauty and spread the fragrance of His Providence.”

Mary Engelbreit created a picture that helped this saying become popular. You can see it here at the following link: http://www.maryengelbreit.com/03-27-13-military-illustrations.html

How do you bloom where you are planted mean?

  1. Even if you don’t like where you are and your present circumstances, you make the best of it.
  2. Even if you don’t understand why God has allowed something to happen to you, you make the best of it, and look for ways to be a good example to others.
  3. Even if you don’t like being sick, you make the best of it and visualize yourself well and take action to make it happen.
  4. Even if you blame yourself and everybody and his brother, it won’t change what happened or alter what your present situation is, therefore be thankful for the good that exists within you and around you. In other words, when someone hands you a “lemon” of a bad situation, make “lemonade.” Transform it into something great.
  5. When you look in the mirror, you realize that you are human and love and accept yourself in spite of and because of the situation and circumstances you are in right now.

The more you resist being somewhere or having something you don’t like, the longer you’ll have it. What you resist, persists. There is peace in accepting things as they are. Only in accepting them are you able to get on with your life and take action to change it to something better.

Here are quotes from the Bible that relate to Bloom Where You Are Planted:

  1. Ecclesiastes 3:4-14 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,  a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent, and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
  2. 1 Corinthians 7:17 Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them.
  3. John 15:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.
  4. Song of Songs 2:15 Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.

Joel Osteen said in a You-Tube video to believe that God has anointed you to make it through anything and everything he hands to you. God anoints you with the blessings you need to survive and bloom wherever you are. If you feel a slight lack of faith, ask God to renew your anointing. “God, give me a fresh anointing on my thoughts. Give me new strength of body and mind and new ideas to empower me.”

Say to yourself every day: “I am blessed. I am equipped. I am able. I am well. I am healthy.” Whatever it is you want to be, declare it as if it is that now. You are anointed with everything you need to bloom where you are planted.

I pray that God fill you with peace and understanding. Please leave a comment. Please let me know what you do when you get discouraged where you are. What helps you bloom where you are planted?

Celebrate you
Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards

Copyright © 2014 Joan Y. Edwards and Her Licensors

Resources:

  1. 1 Corinthians 7:17
  2. Joel Osteen. “You Are Anointed:” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Ujikurrj10&feature=kp
  3. John 15:5
  4. Mary Engelbreit. “Bloom Where You Are Planted:” http://www.maryengelbreit.com/03-27-13-military-illustrations.html
  5. St. Francis de Sales Quote “Bloom Where You Are Planted:” http://www.fransalians.com/quotes/quotes-april.html
  6. Song of Songs 2:15
  7. Tom Langford. “Bloom Where You’re Planted:” http://tomlangford.wordpress.com/2010/01/03/bloom-where-youre-planted/

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196 Subscribers  – Thank you. (Four more to added gift for subscribing)

Subscribe to Joan’s Never Give Up blog by email from the left-hand column and receive a free Never Give Up logo image. You’ll receive her new blog posts filled with inspiration and information in your inbox as soon as she uploads them.

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I Am Presenting 3 Workshops at the SCWW Conference in Myrtle Beach, October 24-26, 2014


SCWW Conference, HILTON MYRTLE BEACH RESORT 10000 Beach Club Drive, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina 29572 Copyright © Hilton Hotels

SCWW Conference, HILTON MYRTLE BEACH RESORT              10000 Beach Club Drive, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina 29572
Copyright © Hilton Hotels

“I Am Presenting 3 Workshops at the SCWW Conference in Myrtle Beach, October 24-26, 2014″

Thank you to Dr. Bob Rich for recommending me as a presenter of a blog workshop to Linda Cookingham, Chair and Coordinator of the South Carolina Writers Workshop Conference in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, October 24-26, 2014. I am very excited. Thank you, Linda Cookingham for inviting me to be a presenter. This fulfills my dream of being a paid, requested presenter for a writer’s conference! Thank you, God, for this opportunity.

Workshops are called Classes. The classes and Slush Fest are free with the Complete Conference Package and the Basic Conference Package.  If you don’t purchase a package, each class is $40.00 on Saturday.

I am teaching three classes: two on Saturday and one on Sunday:

Class: “Get Your Blog Going and Make It Stand Out,” Session 5 10:30-11:45 am

Class: “33 Ways to Correct, Trim, and Enhance Your Manuscript” (class) workshop (Bring 20 pages of your manuscript) Session 7 3:00-4:15 pm

Sunday
Class: “How to Add Pizazz to your Blog” with Q & A Class during Session 8 9:30-10:45 am

Here is other information about the conference: You don’t have to be a member to attend.

SCWW Conference Information: http://myscww.org/conference/ (Scroll down to see all of it)

Register with Credit Card or Debit Card

Register with Check

They have Intensive Workshops on Friday.

They have Slush Fest in different genres where you can submit a page of a manuscript (without your name on it) for impromptu comments by an editor/agent.

You can pay for a breakout session class individually for $40.00 each.

You can pay for a personal manuscript critique.

You can pay to have a query session with an editor or agent.

Other links from the Conference page:

Please share with your writing friends. I hope you will be able to come. I’d love to meet you.

Celebrate you.
Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards

Copyright © 2014 Joan Y. Edwards

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195 Subscribers  – Thank you. (Five more to new gift for subscribing.)

Subscribe to Joan’s Never Give Up blog by email from the left-hand column and receive a free Never Give Up logo image. You’ll receive her new blog posts filled with inspiration and information in your inbox as soon as she uploads them.

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7 Questions to Make Sure Your Plot Has Believable Consequences


7 Questions to Make Sure Your Plot Has Believable Consequences Copyright © 2014 Joan Y. Edwards

7 Questions to Make Sure Your Plot Has Believable Consequences
Copyright © 2014 Joan Y. Edwards

“7 Questions to Make Sure Your Plot Has Believable Consequences” by Joan Y. Edwards

A great plot in your fiction novel must have believable consequences in the world you create there. Otherwise, your story falls off the deep end.

Sometimes, if you’re like me, you create unbelievable consequences and happenings for your characters. You need a gauge that lights up and goes “BEEP BEEP BEEP” when you put a character in a far-fetched situation or consequence.  If you don’t have one of these gauges and can’t find one in your local bookstore, how do you keep the events in the flow of your story natural, believable, and true to character? Perhaps a look at what is the difference between natural consequences, logical consequences, and unrelated man-made consequences that are neither natural or logical will help you:

  1. Does what happens to your character as a natural consequence for his chosen actions?
  2. Is what happens to your character as a result of his action a logical consequence set up by another person…the consequences for breaking a law of an antagonist, bully, family, parent, teacher, organization, church, county, city, country, or society? (who makes up their own rules and consequences)
  3. Is the consequence or result of his action neither natural or logical but a man-made punishment unrelated to crime decreed by a bully, family, parent, teacher, organization, church, county, city, country, or society (who makes up their own rules and consequences)?

In an article “Natural and Logical Consequences” on Kansas University.edu website it states that D.B. Pryor and T.R. Tollerud say that that natural consequences are outcomes that are not planned or controlled but happen as a result of behavior.  (Pryor, D.B. & Tollerud, T.R. (1999). Applications of Adlerian Principles in School Settings. Professional School Counseling, 24, 299-304.)

Jerry Webster in his About.com article, “Consequences, Not Punishment,” says that a natural consequences can be dangerous, for instance, when you play with fire you are going to get burned.

Logical consequences teach a lesson because they relate to the behavior. If a three-year old rides his bike in the street, the parents take the bike away for three days. If you do not do your work and a boss fires you, it’s a logical consequence.

Dr. Laura Markham says that punishment is imposing something painful (physically or emotionally) on a child in the hopes that he will behave as we’d like in the future to avoid more punishment. If our child hits and we respond by spanking, sending him to his room, or rescinding his screen privileges, that’s a parent-imposed consequence, otherwise known as a punishment. It may or may not be a logical consequence.

According to Robert K. Merton, purposeful action can have unintended, unanticipated, unforeseen consequences both positive and negative:

  • A positive, unexpected benefit which is sometimes called luck, serendipity, or windfall.
  • A negative, unexpected detriment that occurs in addition to the desired effect of the policy.
  • A perverse or ironic effect that is the opposite or contrary to what the character intended and/or expected. For instance, instead of making it better, it makes the problem worse. Or instead of making it worse and stopping someone, it makes their path easier.

When you use unintended, unanticipated, and/or unforeseen positive and negative consequences for a character’s actions, it adds pizzazz to your manuscripts. It embeds unexpected twists and turns of the plot in your stories that heighten the interest of readers.

What is literary irony? Oatmeal.com and LeastTern.com say there are three types of irony:

  1. Situational Irony- when the reverse of the expected happens or when the person you least expect to do something, does it – such as: It is ironic that Cinderella gets the prince.
  2. Dramatic irony happens when the person watching the movie or the reader of a story is aware of a situation, but a character does not realize it.  In Romeo and Juliet the reader knows that Juliet isn’t really dead, but Romeo doesn’t know it. Dramatic irony can be a source of tragedy, comedy, or tension.
  3. Verbal Irony (Language Irony) happens when a person says one thing but means another…the opposite of the truth. For instance, after his wife went on a griping kick, the husband says, “My but you’re in a good mood.”

I hope that studying these different views of natural, logical, consequences and punishment which may be logical or decreed as an aim for control you may be able to put your consequences into a category or figure out a better consequence for the action your particular character takes and what happens to him as a result. Add a dose of irony to put a little layer of oomph in your story.

7 Questions to Make Sure Your Plot Has Believable Consequences:

  1. What would happen to me if I took this action?
  2. Would the consequences be different if I did this somewhere else – in a different environment?
  3. Are there unwritten, unspoken, unknown rules and consequences? Are they natural, logical, or neither?
  4. Does your story show natural consequences for your character’s actions?
  5. Does your story show logical consequences for your character’s actions? Decided by: Self, Bully, Parent, Teacher, School, Church, State, Country, Society
  6. Punishment, neither natural or logical? Decided by: Self, Bully, Parent, Teacher, School, Church, State, Country, Society?
  7. What result or consequence do you or others expect for the character’s action? Does this happen or does something different and unexpected happen as a result of a character’s actions? Is it situational irony, dramatic irony, or verbal irony?

Resources:

  1. Jerry Webster. About.com. Special Education. “Consequences, Not Punishment:” http://specialed.about.com/od/managementstrategies/a/Consequences-Not-Punishment.htm
  2. Sara Bean, M.Ed. “Five Areas to Let Your Child Face Natural Consequences:” http://www.empoweringparents.com/5-areas-to-let-your-child-face-natural-consequences.php#
  3. University of Kansas.edu. “Natural and Logical Consequences.” http://www.specialconnections.ku.edu/?q=behavior_plans/classroom_and_group_support/teacher_tools/natural_and_logical_consequences
  4. Least Tern.com. “Literary Terms: Irony of Situation, Dramatic Irony, Irony of Language:” http://www.leasttern.com/LitTerms/literary_terms.htm
  5. The Oatmeal.com. “3 Kinds of Irony:” http://theoatmeal.com/comics/irony
  6. Robert K. Merton. American Sociological Review:“The Unanticipated Consequences of Purposive Social Action:” http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/2084615?uid=3739776&uid=2&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21104203355877
  7. http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unintended_consequences
  8. Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irony
  9. Laura Markham, Phd. “What’s Wrong with Consequences to Teach Children Lessons?” http://www.ahaparenting.com/parenting-tools/positive-discipline/Consequences_Punishment

I hope you enjoyed reading my blog. Good luck with the publication of your books! Please leave a comment. Thank you.

Celebrate you.
Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards

Copyright © 2014 Joan Y. Edwards

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