The HeArt and Craft of Writing

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My blogger friend Sean Carlin wrote a post a few days ago about Artistic Originality. He’s a writer with a background in film, and he often laments the industry’s sequels and reboots that sacrifice the original film’s creative power for a guaranteed (but unsatisfying to the viewer) box-office bump.

His post got me thinking about the same phenomenon in books and what makes a story original.  We may disagree on the number of plots available to us, ranging from 4 (man vs. man, man vs. society, man vs. nature, man vs. himself) to Polti’s 36 (here’s the list). But we can all agree that the number we have to work with is limited.

Since we’re essentially rehashing the same plots millions of time (sit with that thought for a minute) how is it that we aren’t bored to tears with writing and reading? Aren’t we all, in a way, regurgitating our favorites?

Sean Carlin

Carlin concludes his post with a reflection on his current writing endeavor Escape from Rikers Island, and to me, he defines what makes a piece of art original:

“For better or worse, it is a reflection of my personality, my interests, my sensibilities, my experiences. When I read it back, I …hear myself. It sounds like me.”

In lauding George Lucas’s original Star Wars trilogy, Carlin writes:

“… he diversified his influences, internalized them, developed an authentic voice all his own, and—this part is key—summoned the courage, without any assurances of a receptive audience, to make it heard.  If all artists took inspiration from that and aspired to the same, our popular culture would yield a limitless bounty of originality.”

I find these conclusions both wonderful and daunting because they place originality in a realm where we, as artists, have full control—our individual collections of experiences, imaginings, and most important of all, our hearts.

My reflection on Carlin’s post led to the core of what makes a piece of art compelling and memorable to me, which is the artist’s internal investment, the deeper the better. In writing, it’s an author’s emotional soul that feeds a story and evokes a reaction. That personal vulnerability requires courage, but it’s worth it because readers perceive the authenticity of the human experience unfolding in the books they love.

The blogosphere is full of spectacular advice on the “craft” of writing, but not so much on the “art.” Because heArt is like a fingerprint—personal and one of a kind. It isn’t something taught, but a rich quality mined from a soulful place within us. You are sublimely unique, and therein lies your source of originality.

Carlin wrote in his comment to me:

“…tools, techniques, and even theory are cool, but they’re only there to help us create an authentic emotional experience, and we can’t do that unless we write honest stories, drawn from our own experiences, imparted with a piece of our souls … I think that goes to illustrate just how sensitive storytelling is—what a delicate balance between heart and craft we have to strike in order to get it right.”

I love that.

Happy Writing. ❤

Author Spotlight: Magical Writing, D. Wallace Peach

Not too long ago, I had the pleasure of guest posting on Colleen Chesebro’s site. If you don’t recall, she’s the fairy whisperer who advised me when my husband accidentally squashed a fairy.  I decided to share my experience of using magic to write my first book. Comments are closed here, so click over if you want to say hi.


Hello, and welcome to my Spotlight Author Guest posts where you can meet independently published authors and sample some of their work. My inspiration was to give independent authors another place where they could connect with readers.

I asked for posts dedicated to the themes of fairies, myths, and magic where authors could show off their writing skills by stretching their wings and stepping out of their genre comfort zones if need be. I also wanted them to tell you about their books and to share the magic it took to create them.

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This week, I am pleased to introduce you to author D. Wallace Peach. I’ve just recently started reading The Rose Shield series also written by Diana. I’ve reviewed the first book, “Catling’s Bane,” and you can read that review HERE. If you LOVE fantasy, this is an author whose writing will speak to you in ways you didn’t think possible. I am enthralled by her writing, her world-building, and the magical stories she weaves.

So, grab a cup of coffee or tea and take a few minutes to meet and read the magic behind D. Wallace Peach’s first book, Myths of the Mirror.

Continue Reading: #Fairies, #Myths, & #Magic 2018 Author Spotlight Guest Posts, “Myths of the Mirror,” by Author, D. Wallace Peach

20 Symptoms of Writeritis

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This 2-yr-old post was one of my most popular, and for those who missed it, I once again share the symptoms of this incurable condition.


As some of you know, a pervasive syndrome has troubled a segment of society for centuries. After years of research, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders finally classified these symptoms under the diagnosis: Writeritis. 

Writeritis is defined as a persistent, maladaptive pattern of writing that leads to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by six (or more) of the following within a single month:

  1. A marked craving for increased amounts of writing, and longer periods of time to write.

  2. An unquenchable thirst for coffee.

  3. Repeated efforts to cut down or control word count are unsuccessful.

  4. Withdrawal occurs when writing is discontinued or suddenly reduced. Symptoms include shakiness, moodiness, and/or irritability.

  5. A tendency to rapidly relapse into extreme patterns of excessive rewriting – even after periods of abstinence or control.

  6. After writing, a compulsive urge to return and edit.

  7. An inability to initiate household chores until a plot hole is resolved.

  8. A clinically significant preoccupation with the motivations of imaginary people.

  9. Obsessive attempts to manipulate and control the lives of main characters.

  10. A tendency to forget the time, fail to make dinner, and/or eat in general.

  11. Overt rumination about murder, fear, revenge, evil, and/or world-conquest leading to extensive research and placement on the TSA watch list.

  12. Unusual or intense need for colorful verbs accompanied by an aversion to the word “was.”

  13. Periods of anxiety regarding commas.

  14. Unrepentant willingness to jeopardize a significant relationship, job, or educational/career opportunity due to a need to finish a chapter.

  15. Thrives on creating conflict and will often escalate disputes to the point of violence.

  16. Uses fictional fantasy words in Scrabble and argues that they should count as real words.

  17. Writing is continued despite a persistent physical or psychological problem that is exacerbated by staring at a laptop.

  18. Frequent disruptions during sleep to jot down a section of dialog.

  19. Tends toward exhibitionism and “showing” it all.

  20. A compulsive need to write about something, including not being able to write.

Do you have Writeritis?

36 Plots and Mad Max

My husband and I watch a lot of action and superhero movies. Did I mention that he’s 10? A suggestion that we watch something with an actual plot earns the “Really? Do I have to?” face.


Well, I’m a good sport, so last night we watched the latest Mad Max Fury Something or Another. I shouldn’t say it doesn’t have a plot, because of course it does (spoiler alert):

Car chase
Loner Hero Captured
Car chase
Loner Hero Escapes
Loner Hero Helps Beautiful Woman Save Beautiful Women
Car Chase
Car Chase 
Car Chase
Bad Guys Killed

I know, you’re shocked! Who would have thought?

In the early 19th century, Georges Polti compiled a list of 36 dramatic situations after studying Greek and French literature. Shorter lists also exist, but Polti’s outline has endured to this day. I have difficulty thinking of a story that isn’t a spin on one of his basic formulas.

The idea for this post rose from my “comment chat” with Carrie from The Write Transition on one of my posts Gardeners and Architects. She astutely noted that one key to breaking free of formula-writing is great characters. And she’s right – compelling characters can save a been-there-done-that plot.

I added unique setting as another factor (I’m a fantasy writer after all), but ANY opportunity to diverge from our readers’ expectations is worth serious consideration. Otherwise, were just churning out The Same Old Stories, right? Think of Pocahontas and Avatar…same plot, fresh take!

As I typed out the list below, I reminisced about the books I’ve loved. Each one contains an overarching plot complemented by a combination of subplots that wove a more complex tapestry for the reader. To think that millions of unique stories originated from such a small collections of human scenarios is pretty mind-boggling.


Here are those 36 dramatic situations compliments of Wikipedia with my simple examples:

  1. Petition/Supplication 
    • A village is subject to a ruthless lord. The people ask the king to remove him. The king makes a judgment.
  2. Deliverance 
    • The townsfolk are threatened by the undead and the protagonists must rescue them.
  3. Revenge
    • A protagonist seeks revenge for a wrong, is the object of revenge, or is caught up in someone else’s plot for revenge.
  4. Vengeance by Family upon Family 
    • Feuding families. Romeo and JulietWest Side Story.
  5. Pursuit 
    • The Fugitive,  Mad Max.
  6. Disaster 
    • Towering Inferno. Titanic. San Andreas. 
  7. Victim of Cruelty or Misfortune
    • A common theme for Greek tragedy with Fate or Destiny being a source for somebody’s woes.
  8. Revolt 
    • Star Wars, Dune, Julius Caesar. Any historical revolution.
  9. Daring Enterprise 
    • Protagonists go on a quest to an enchanted island to defeat monsters and/or find a treasure.
  10. Abduction 
    • Save the princess, prince, or ransom victim.
  11. Enigma 
    • Most mysteries. Also the wise mentor who poses a riddle that the protagonist must solve.
  12. Obtaining 
    • Raiders of the Lost Ark. Romancing the Stone. A protagonist’s party is continually competing against a rival group for the coveted object.
  13. Familial Hatred 
    • The conspiracy and consequences of such hatred.
  14. Familial Rivalry 
    • The daughters of King Lear fighting over who should inherit the land. Two brothers battling over a woman.
  15. Murderous Adultery 
    • One or both adulterers plot to kill a betrayed spouse who stands in the way.
  16. Madness 
    • A common plot in horror and thrillers where the protagonist must escape the madman.
  17. Fatal Imprudence 
    • The general’s ignorance or arrogance leads to the destruction of his forces.
  18. Involuntary Crimes of Love 
    • The boyfriend kills his partner’s father and is seen in the act by a blackmailer.
  19. Slaying of kin unrecognized 
    • Stephen kills Amanda, failing to recognize they’re siblings. Generally identities are hidden.
  20. Self-sacrifice for an ideal 
    • The wizard sacrifices his life or his magic to rid the world of evil and bring lasting peace.
  21. Self-sacrifice for kin 
    • A ballet dancer gives up her dreams of the stage to provide for an ill sibling.
  22. All sacrificed for passion 
    • A prince gives up his royal inheritance to marry a commoner.
  23. Necessity of sacrificing loved ones
    • Sophie’s Choice. Sophie must sacrifice one child or she will lose both.
  24. Rivalry of superior vs. inferior
    • An underdog faces a more powerful rival.
  25. Adultery 
    • Will and Angela conspire against Connie, the deceived spouse.
  26. Crimes of love 
    • A mob boss ruthlessly destroys a whole family and the boss’s disillusioned wife decides to leave him.
  27. Discovery of the dishonor of a loved one 
    • A boy learns his best friend has stolen a bicycle. A king learns his sister dabbles in dark magic which will destroy the royal family.
  28. Obstacles to love 
    • Two lovers, driven apart by obstacles, overcome those obstacles to come together or remain together.
  29. An enemy loved 
    • Romeo & Juliet. Enemy Mine. An enemy soldier is beloved by one of two allies and hated by the other.
  30. Ambition 
    • A girl overcomes shyness to win a singing contest. The dragon riders desire to take over the kingdom and are opposed by the king’s guard.
  31. Conflict with a god 
    • Hercules, Clash of the Titans, Immortals
  32. Mistaken jealousy 
    • Othello is purposefully led to believe that his innocent wife is cheating on him and he strangles her.
  33. Erroneous judgment 
    • Sandra’s necklace is stolen. Alexandra has always admired the necklace so Sandra assumes she stole it. It is ultimately revealed that Sandra’s husband took the necklace to have matching earrings made.
  34. Remorse
    • The Shawshank Redemption. It’s a Wonderful Life, Ebenezer Scrooge in The Christmas Story.
  35. Recovery of a lost one 
    • Rescuers search for lost skiers in the mountains. Protagonists seeks the sacred amulet that will restore the kingdom.
  36. Loss of Loved Ones 
    • The killing of a teenager by a gang member is witnessed by the victim’s sister.

What do you think? Can you think of a story that doesn’t fit the mold?


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