Monday, July 10, 2017

Guest Post from Ann Gimpel - Elements of Great Storytelling

SOUL DANCE SERIES
by Ann Gimpel
Tarnished Beginnings is the prequel to the Soul Dance series. Novella length, it's shifter fantasy, but not a romance. The other three books in this series are full length romances with HEAs. Join Tairin as a young woman struggling to survive in 1700s Egypt. You'll meet her again in Tarnished Legacy, book two of Soul Dance.
READ more from SOUL DANCE SERIES . . . Reviews & Blurbs ect . . .  
Elements of Great Storytelling
I’ve thought about this a lot lately since I ran into a spate of uninspired books, both on my Kindle and in audiobooks. I will say, though, that in the latter format, a gifted actor can make even a mediocre story come to life and can gloss over awkward grammatical constructions so they aren’t quite as noticeable.

How about if we start with characters? It goes without saying they need to be three dimensional, which means they have thoughts, feelings, and actions that are congruent with their personalities. In my opinion, if a book doesn’t have characters that reach out and grab your heartstrings, then it’s DOA. It can have the most inspired plot in the world, but it’s wasted if readers don’t care about the characters.

So we have decent characters. Maybe not great characters, but they’re good enough you want to pick up the book to see what they’re going to do next. Plot determines the next moves in a book. Plot is basically the story that the book tells, but it’s how we get from point A to point B that weeds out talented writers from the rest of the pack. Brilliant plotting is tightly woven, and the writer’s hand is all but invisible. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been somewhere in a book and something happens that just screams “convenient plot twist.” As an aside, this is why all writers need someone—crit partners, publishers, editors—to be a fresh pair of eyes. No matter how seasoned a writer is, he (or she) can’t see the foibles in his own writing. Not all of them, anyway. Another plotting issue is plot threads that go nowhere. They look intriguing, but the writer just never gets back to them.

Corollaries of plotting are pacing and tension. The plot has to move fast enough to draw a reader along, yet not so fast as to lose them. Writers accomplish this by inserting pacing into the plot and building/releasing tension. Of course certain genres, like horror, have a whole lot more tension than most romances. But even romances—the good ones—have at least one big, dark moment when it seems like the hero and heroine will never be able to bridge the gap between them. This introduces tension and draws readers into turning pages to see what’s going to happen next.

I think I’m probably like most writers in that I write the same type of fiction I like to read. For me, it’s fast paced, with strong characters that collide with one another. Lots of passion. Lots of angst. Big, dark moments that are really big and truly dark. In a lot of ways, writing isn’t so different from being a psychologist. Not everyone will like what I write. I don’t expect them to. Likewise, I always told my patients that the first couple of sessions were “getting to know one another,” and seeing if we were a good match. Just like I’m not the right author for everyone, neither was I the right therapist. That’s just common sense, really.


What sings to you in books you read? Why do you adore your favorite author? If you had to pick great characters versus great plot, which would it be? 


Author Info
Ann Gimpel is a mountaineer at heart. Recently retired from a long career as a psychologist, she remembers many hours at her desk where her body may have been stuck inside four walls, but her soul was planning yet one more trip to the backcountry. Around the turn of the last century (that would be 2000, not 1900!), she managed to finagle moving to the Eastern Sierra, a mecca for those in love with the mountains. It was during long backcountry treks that Ann’s writing evolved. Unlike some who see the backcountry as an excuse to drag friends and relatives along, Ann prefers solitude. Stories always ran around in her head on those journeys, sometimes as a hedge against abject terror when challenging conditions made her fear for her life, sometimes for company. Eventually, she returned from a trip and sat down at the computer. Three months later, a five hundred page novel emerged. Oh, it wasn’t very good, but it was a beginning. And, she learned a lot between writing that novel and its sequel.

Around that time, a friend of hers suggested she try her hand at short stories. It didn’t take long before that first story found its way into print and they’ve been accepted pretty regularly since then. One of Ann’s passions has always been ecology, so her tales often have a green twist.

In addition to writing, Ann enjoys wilderness photography. She lugs pounds of camera equipment in her backpack to distant locales every year. A standing joke is that over ten percent of her pack weight is camera gear which means someone else has to carry the food! That someone is her husband. They’ve shared a life together for a very long time. Children, grandchildren and three wolf hybrids round out their family.

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