Monday, March 10, 2014


It's the day after the Oscars. I know. For you it's the week after the Oscars. But I'd already written last week's blog and didn't want you to miss it.

So for me, today is the day after the Oscars. :) 

I love the dresses. I love looking at the guys. (Sorry. I'll always be a fan girl.) But what I really like, what always strikes me, is the fact that everybody involved in the film industry from screenwriters to producers, directors, actors, lighting people... all talk about being storytellers...telling stories.  When they give their acceptance speeches they talk about falling in love with the "story" and wanting to bring it to life in such a way that the audience will see the beauty...That's storytelling.

Authors too frequently talk about writing books and in that slight twist, we miss something important. Something that would hit our souls, would resonate with our souls...and make our books infinitely better: the fact that we are telling a story.

Anybody can write a book. All you've got to do is think up a plot, give your characters some arcs, divide it into scenes and get it into your computer, and eventually onto paper. But how many people do you know who really know how to tell a story?

In my younger days, I had a friend who was a joke teller. It didn't matter where we were, fifteen minutes into any party or wedding or even funeral, my friend would have a crowd around her. Laughter would spill out into the room and her crowd would grow. Because her jokes were good? Some were. But, really, her jokes were good because she made them good. She knew set up. She knew how to deliver a punchline.

In thirty seconds, she could draw you in and then hit you with something that would cause you to belly laugh.

That's storytelling.

I talk about this a lot...especially after I judge contest entries...published or unpublished...because I think a lot of us "get it" that we have to be craftspeople, but few of us realize that, somewhere along the way, our process has to involve that magical part of us that knows how to lift the mundane into the sublime.

That happened big time with HER SUMMER WITH THE MARINE, the book I have releasing today from Entangled's Bliss line. I have to admit, this release is as much fun as my very first book TAKE THE RISK.

Why am I as excited/nervous about this book as I was for my first? Well, it's different. It might not be what readers are expecting from me...But, then again, it is.

To have a great story, I believe a book has to have rich, strong characters. Ellie and Finn don't just have a past together. They are interesting people in their own rights. They have troubles. But they are both problem solvers. They are not the sit-on-the bench-and-hope-the-coach-calls-a-good-play people. They are the ones who go after the ball and make the play.

Because they aren't the sit-on-the-bench kind, the story's turning points don't fall from the sky. I don't say, What's the worst thing that can happen to these two...and then make something up. The plot evolves naturally, because there is a story here. These are two damaged people, trying to make the best out of life, whose decisions to solve problems and actions sometimes make things worse.

But isn't that life? Sometimes the harder you try to fix something the worse you make it. But isn't that also a story? Ellie and Finn are not bound to or guided by the plot...they affect the plot. They create the plot. They come up against their worst fears, and sometimes get beaten. But pick themselves back up.

As they fall in love with the least likely people...each other. Because they're old enemies. Rivals. People who don't just want the same thing. They need the same thing.

And it's the tug of war that causes them  to recognize and appreciate the best in each other.

I've done my best to tiptoe around the actual story in HER SUMMER WITH THE MARINE. I don't want to spoil it for you. But my point is...storytelling is an art. Yes, there's a science to it. But crafting should be a help, not a prison. And true storytelling should be for you, as a writer, the same as it was for my friend the joke teller. You should be so skilled that people gather around. That people stand with rapt attention, knowing you're going to satisfy.

There's no magic pill. There's no secret handshake. There's no formula. There's just something that bubbles up from your soul when you hit the mark.

That's why I do those one-paragraph story summaries that I preach about in my workshops. I don't let myself write until something "hits" me. I get a ping that tells me, "Yes! There is a story here. A great story! Something I can put together in such a way that people will want to sink into my world."

So don't stop short. Go the distance. Don't be a writer. Be a storyteller.

Happy Monday..and Happy Reading.

Go get a copy of HER SUMMER WITH THE MARINE. As I said, it's different! LOL And for two weeks it's only $.99!!!

susan meier

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