Stimulus and Response: Getting Down to the Nitty Gritty

cute fluffy cat kitten string playing adorable pet animal fun

In fiction, stimulus and response work like a ping-pong game. They make you look at the line-by-line progression of a story.

Stimulus is external, and so is response, and as such they must be shown on the page. Action and dialogue are key. However, action can include a character interacting with the setting, showing an emotional response, or describing a sensory input. So long as these are ‘shown’, not told.

Character thoughts do not create an external stimulus or response.

So let’s have a closer look. The first stimulus might be an event or action which affects Character A. Character A responds. Their response creates a stimulus for Character B. Character B responds, which in turn becomes a new stimulus for Character A.

For example we could take the following initial stimulus:

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Clues to Writing A Brilliant Mystery Story: Kate Pankhurst Investigates

Sometimes when you meet an author in person you find yourself delighted they’re published, because they’re so nice, and the world is a better place for their books.

I met Kate Pankhurst in York a month or so ago, when we both attended the second of Sara Grant’s wonderful workshops on editing. We got talking, and I asked if she’d like to contribute a post to this blog. Being the lovely person she is, she not only wrote a post but illustrated it as well. Here’s what she has to say about writing a mystery story:

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Make the Impossible Look Real

In his book, Writing the Break Out Novel, Donald Maass states: “take that which is improbable and make it look possible: better still, make the impossible look real.”

As I’m currently working my way through the first draft of my third novel, I’ve come to realise that my story scope is too small. My main plot events are commonplace and my dramatic moments nothing out of the ordinary.

It’s not something I’m worried about at this stage. I shall forge on until I’ve a complete first draft, then set to work correcting the problem when I re-write. I’ll need to really think about those moments when my protagonist finds himself in danger, as they need to be both extreme and believable.

To help, I got out my highlighter pen and marked any sentences in Donald Maass’ book which I thought may help. I found this one particularly useful:

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How to Write a Book in Four Drafts

I’ve learnt a huge amount from writing this blog. One of the most important being, ‘you’ve always got something else you can learn.’ But now I’m back to writing a first draft, I find all this information on writing techniques buzzing around my head is getting in the way.

It’s like buying a new house and trying to re-decorate everything at once. Nobody chooses the colour scheme, paints the woodwork, puts up the wallpaper, and changes the light fittings all at the same time.

Learning so many wonderful and useful things about writing craft is all well and good, but I’m beginning to feel like I’ve gone to B&Q and bought the whole shop, so now I have no idea where to start.

What I need to remember is a first draft is just that; the first draft of many. So I’ve come up with a plan and it compares surprisingly well to my decorating techniques. Continue reading

Kevin Brooks Shares a Thing or Two about Plot

I am more than excited to welcome Kevin Brooks to the blog today. He is definitely one of my favourite writers, and I do not say that lightly. Road of the Dead is on my top ten list of books I’m grateful got written. Here’s what he has to say about Plot. Continue reading

Looking at the Big Picture – Are Your Character Motivations Working?

Sometimes when you’re editing, you can find yourself spending so much time focusing on the line by line detail that you lose track of the big picture. It’s something I’ve had a lot of trouble with writing my second novel, Cradlesnatch, partly because it’s taking so long to get the first draft down on paper. I find I lose track of the story’s inner connections.

I wasn’t sure what to do about the problem. When I’m sitting at the computer all I see is the section of manuscript I’m working on. It felt like I needed to make room in my head to get a grasp of the story as a whole. So I started taking afternoon walks. Continue reading

It’s Behind You!

There’s a great post up on Kim’s Craft Blog which looks at how to use foreshadowing in narrative fiction.

Here’s the link: Fun with Foreshadowing.

Look Behind You