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    I am the author of LETTERS TO A DANDELION. It is available at Amazon.com in the kindle version.
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    In order to be a writer, one must love to read. Here, you can also find book reviews and movie reviews.

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The “Wow” Factor

The “Wow” Factor

As entertainment goes, there is a level one must ascend to reach to bring an audience. No matter the genre of the book, no matter the genre of the movie, the writer must bring something to the table that is different or fresh. This is no easy task, to say the least.

I have been given the ability to predict the outcome of any book or movie. I know I’m not the only person with this ability, and I’m sure most can predict at an earlier time, but the fact is, this ability is a curse. I want to be “wow”ed, I want to put the book down immediately to attempt to comprehend the turn of events, and I want to leave the theater saying, “Wow, I never would have guessed.”

I don’t believe this is a “born-ability”, I believe what makes this possible is that I pay attention to detail. Of course, most writers drop hints for the reader or viewer to keep them interested. This works, but there must be more ambiguity. Let me explain.

Predicting plot twists does not feed my ego. I get frustrated that I was even able to predict the outcome in the first place because I want to be “wow”ed. The plot, characters, and setting must intertwine beautifully and punch me in the gut with something so off-the-wall it leaves me saying “wow!” I wrote a post earlier about writing blind and I believe this works well with ambiguity.

If the author is writing blind, with only one or two scenes plotted out ahead of time, then the author might be surprised with the turn of events. If the author is “wow”ed, the reader will also be, without a doubt. The author needs to let go and let the characters take them wherever they please. Feeding off the characters, one might be surprised on where they proceed.

Keep in mind, plotting a book ahead of time with multiple twists may also fall victim to predictability. If the author knows how the book is mapped out, he/she won’t be interested in the journey because he/she already knows where it’s going.

As cliched as it is, writing a completely normal world, with the day to day activities normal and interactions normal, but ending it with the main character in a psychiatric ward and all of it was in his head, still works out well; if written well. The reader or viewer is immersed in the characters “normal” world with the “normal drama” tagging along with it, but then is T-boned with a plot twist only leaving them with a dropped jaw and the word “wow” slowly, methodically spilling out of their mouth.

Plot twisting “wow” factor must be handled with care. Too many twists will leave the reader confused and frustrated, too little may result in boredom. I’m not here claiming that books with twists are the only good ones, because that is not true. If and when you plan a plot twist, avoid predictability.

Joshua Ludeker

Author of Letters to a Dandelion, available at Amazon.

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Letters to a Dandelion is Published!

I know what you’re thinking, this isn’t true. Oh, but it is true. And I’ll prove it!

First of all, I’ll state here that it is self-published through Kindle. Now hold on, don’t leave me just yet. Let me explain myself, maybe you’ll agree.

I didn’t spend a lot of time sending my manuscript to publishers and literary agents. I did get a few rejections and I took them in stride. A couple of those love notes actually had a few personalized comments pinned neatly inside. Want to know what they said? The market is tight, money is tight and we can only take on so many authors. This says nothing about your work specifically, we’re too loaded down!

I’m willing to accept those statements. First of all they were personalized and not a rejection template with my name edited in. Second of all I believe them. Today’s economy has put a hurt on businesses everywhere, not just the publishing industry.

So that got me thinking, where can I go with my book? When I was sending those query letters I had no thought whatsoever that I was doing any of it for fame or money, or just to be published for that matter. The question arose then, why am I doing this at all?

I love to read, I love the ever-advancing innovations of the written word. Ebook readers allow owners to read, carry, and buy virtually any amount of books they want. Hell, Barnes and Noble’s Nook has an in-store feature where you can read any book for a certain period of time, for free. Now, unknown self-published authors can reach millions of readers completely skipping the middleman.

I chose to do this for two main reasons; 1) with the advancements of modern technology allowing readers and authors to connect via the internet, I wanted to join that camaraderie for the art, rather than money; and 2) I wanted a cheap and easy way for readers to get their hands on a thrill ride from an unknown. Honestly, if you were to send me a message right now, I would be inclined to send you the book for free. It’s the art I love, not the exposure or money.

Changing gears; here is my proof.

Being this as it is, there is only one way to read my book and that is through Kindle’s product. Now you’re screaming, “But Josh! I want to read your book but I don’t own a Kindle!” No Kindle, no problem!

There are multiple Kindle applications:

All downloads are free.

If you don’t own any of these and still want to read my book, don’t forget, I’ll most likely send a PDF freebie on request.

One request I would like to make, if you read it, please rate and review on Amazon.

Also, look me up on Goodreads Authors here.

Hopefully by the end of the week I will have a Facebook Fan Page. I will keep you posted.

Thanks to those who have checked it out and if you’re leery, go check out my Letters to a Dandelion page with a book trailer, summary, and preview.

Ludeker, out!

What Makes Good Storytelling?

What makes good storytelling?

I was having a discussion on one of my favorite forums (shout out) with a fellow aspiring writer about what makes a writer a good storyteller. I decided to dedicate this post to the art from a reader’s aspect, rather from a writer’s.

Telling, not describing.

There are books out there where I cringe and trudge through acres of text describing scenery, or a characters clothing, or a dog. What inspires me to continue on is hopes that the author will dig the reader out of the describing hole and onto more entertaining plot lines. The problem I see is that the author ran out of interesting scenes and focuses on an object, just to get the words onto paper. This is what a rough draft is for (or three or four).

Instead of describing these nuances to the reader, tell them to me. The reader needs to have an imagination or the concept is depleted. If the author creates an evil antagonist and wants, no demands us to hate him for his evil deeds, the author has failed on giving the character a fat chance in ever changing his ways. I love villains for two reasons; I like to see and understand why it is he is evil, and I want to see how he changes throughout the course of the story. If the author wants us to hate him for his evilness, we will and the story has a plotted dead-end.

There is a master of the art (I humbly apologize for not remembering his name) who once said; If you present a gun in scene one, that gun better fire in scene two. This is wonderful advice because it is completely true. Readers do not want to read a four paragraph description of an ice cream truck if it never gets blown up. These little chunks of text need to be thrown into the pit because the reader is now bored and asking why. So, if your antagonist picks up a gun from a pawn shop, impatiently waiting for the legal time limit, he better walk out of that shop firing.

Too many adjectives.

There is such a thing as too many words. As I trudge through writing novels, in the back recesses of my cob-webbed mind, I worry about word count. Yes, worrying about such trivialities take away from the art itself, but it’s a sickness I can’t help. I’m sure there are many others that think about the same issue and, unfortunately for the reader, these extra adjectives come out clunky and thick.

As I said above, this is what rough drafts are for. Write, write, and write until you physically can’t anymore, then cut that baby until she bleeds. Most times I’m unsure and unaware myself that I’m using too many adjectives and adverbs. One helpful tip is to read the text out loud. If it doesn’t roll off the tongue it will have the same effect on paper.

In essence, I enjoy reading a novel that tells a wonderful story. I don’t chuck a hardback for not using commodious words, nor do I throw it out if it describes too much. There needs to be a gap between the author describing an object and the reader filling in the blanks. Writing is a crazy art, but you know you love it.

Storyboarding vs. Writing Blind

Storyboarding vs. Writing Blind

There are many ways to write a novel and each novelist has their own way of plotting their story. The secret is testing.

Writing Blind

When I wrote LETTERS TO A DANDELION, I wrote blind. I had nothing but the next two to three future scenes plotted out in my head and my characters took the story there. Many of the greats, Stephen King for one, write in this manner. They allow their characters to pull the story along and give them free-rein.

The issue I encountered with using this method is that I hit quite a few stumbling blocks. I didn’t consider this “writers block”. I considered it as poor planning. I wanted to write the next sentence, paragraph, or chapter but I was lost. I was stuck at 30,000 words for a week, blindly stumbling along. Eventually, events formed themselves and my characters spoke to me once more.

I do not dispute this method. I actually love it. Writing blind kept me interested and intrigued for the next crisis and was anxious to see what my characters would do next. In this sense, I knew my readers would feel the same way.

Storyboarding

For my next novel, tentatively named THE KNIGHT PARADOX, I wanted to test another method; storyboarding. Storyboarding plots out the entire novel, broken up by chapter, before writing the novel itself.

Here is an example (I use Microsoft PowerPoint to storyboard).

THE KNIGHT PARADOX

There are many benefits to this method, namely completing the synopsis before completing the novel. As it stands, my plan is to complete the storyboard, branch a synopsis from there, and then fill out the novel.

Many novelists dispute this method, claiming the characters are “destined” for an end, rather than forming their own. I understand this point, but my counter argument is I’m really not taking anything away from the characters. I still have to creatively plot the novel from the start and my characters are already a part of that. As I write the novel, I put the characters in a tree (crisis), throw stones at them (plot complications), and then bring them down (direction). The plot points are already established, so I’m not taking anything away from the character, they will bring themselves out by emotion and reaction.

Again, there is no right way to write a novel and everyone has their own methods. I cannot argue storyboarding to be better for me yet, because I am far from completion. As it stands, I’m enjoying this method because of its structure.

Related articles:

Traditional Plot Story Layout

Fiction Writing Plot Development Storyboards

The One Line Pitch

Being a new author, or rather completing my first book, I thought the hard work was complete after finishing the writing. I thought, Man, this feels good, now all I have to do is get it published. That is a whole animal in and of itself, but what I didn’t realize is that I needed to condense it, make it marketable.

One night my wife and I had a few friends over for dinner and drinks. She had told all her friends about me completing a novel and everyone was so astounded and excited to hear about it. Then, I got the dreaded question; “What’s it about?” I cringed; I clammed up, and said, “Uh, well, it’s rather difficult to explain.” Dull! Loser! I just failed miserably at selling to people of whom I was certain would buy.

Finishing the novel was not the hardest part. Now, I have to condense my story into one sentence, a paragraph, and a two paragraph paraphrase. Kill me! The actual writing took me about a month and a half to complete. I trudged and wrote until my fingers bled, and now, I have to write a ONE sentence pitch? I’d rather jump from an airplane, thank you.

Then, when I thought all hope was lost in the wind, I came across a very helpful article by a literary agent, Nathan Bransford, who explained how important it is to condense your story to make it interesting and marketable. If only I had read it prior to my get together, I wouldn’t have this nasty scar on my wrist.

Here’s my attempt for LETTERS TO A DANDELION:

One Line Sentence Pitch: Two children witness a murder and stumble upon a box of letters written by the murderer’s wife that alter their future by truth.

One Paragraph Pitch: Marie Eckers, the wife of a murderer, was diagnosed with lung cancer. In her final days, she writes letters to log and memoir her life, when it falls into the hands of two boys after they witnessed her husband’s act. As the truth unfolds, Dax Sheppard takes on a quest to rid himself of the past and create a new by following specific instructions from those letters. His childhood friend, Chris Lonestine, embarks on a fuller future as a US Marshal in hopes to bandage a lifetime of heartache for not stopping one crime as a child when he had the chance.

Two Paragraph Pitch: Struggling from a broken childhood, Dax Sheppard and Chris Lonestine witness an act so terrible, their impending lives can never veer from. To Chris’s most demanding opposition, Dax enters the home of the murderer to confront him to where he finds letters written by a loving hand, while involving Emily Strickland, the two’s school crush.

As the two grow apart, Chris pairs up with US Marshal Melissa Easton and Dax moves about in a psychological delusion, powered by the words from the murderer’s wife. After a bank robbery, the three are forced to confront their past as their normal, present lives come crashing to a halt when they realize they are chasing the one man of who is committing those insane acts, Dax Sheppard.

This took me a week to write, no kidding, and I still don’t like it. But, if there are authors out there now with a new book idea, might I suggest starting this first. Get the idea out in one sentence, then formulate from that into one paragraph, and then two. From there, work the idea into a synopsis, or a short story, and then it will morph into a whole book. Granted, this is only one way of writing a book – everyone has their own way – but this will certainly be a test of mine for my next one.

Again, writing a pitch (for me, anyway) was harder than the actual writing, but it is very important. Good luck and keep writing!

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