Sometimes all it takes is the right place to inspire your writing. For example, I had the general idea for my latest book, Cricket Song, in my head for a good few months already when something interesting happened in my life and I found myself back in Washington State, the land of my childhood. While I now consider Montana my home, I spent the first ten years of my life in Washington among the seagulls, the overcast skies and the biggest trees in the world, and it was as I was traveling over Deception Pass that I suddenly realized that this was where I needed to set the book. I wanted it to have a magical, childlike quality and what better way would there be to evoke that than to attach my own emotions and childhood to the project?

Giving the book a special location really helped to cement its themes and ideas and give it a unique flavor.

Is this something that should be applied to all of your writing projects? Not necessarily. But give it a try the next time you’re stuck or even just trying to think of a way to add to your current project. You may be surprised how much life a specific and memorable location will give to a story.

Writing Tools Wednesday: Songza

We all have our preferred writing soundtrack, but what if you need something appropriate to your scene on the fly? That’s where Songza comes in. Head over, click on Film Scores, pick the appropriate mood for your scene, and off you go. If you’re feeling fancy go ahead and take a look around the other playlists as well.

The only real downside is that the soundtracks aren’t quite as varied as I’d like and you’ll wind up with a lot of music from the same movie. Still, it’s good at grouping moods and themes together, so if you’re writing a tense standoff you’ll have some tense standoff music ready to go. Same with a major epic battle or some ominous plot twist.

Check it out!

P.S. I know this is terrible to say since I’ve just recently started blogging again, but I may not be around quite so much for the next few weeks since I am hosting a very special visitor. We’ll see how things go, however!

The Most Important Part of Being a Writer is Writing

Did you know that if you write, then you are a writer? Pretty great, isn’t it?

On the flipside, though, if you do not write then you are not a writer.

Don’t be an “aspiring writer”. Just be a writer. Yes yes, I know, writing is a pain. It never stops being a bit of a pain. But I’m certain that you can manage a few sentences today. Even if no one else believes in you, I totally do!

So does this cat.
So does this cat.

If you need a boost today, here’s WrittenKitten. It generates a kitten image when you hit a target word count. You’re welcome.

How to Trick Yourself Into Writing More

Writing is a pain in the butt. No, really, it is. And it never stops being a pain in the butt. No wonder we put off doing it so much.

I have a way to trick yourself into it, though. Ready?

Your goal today is to write one sentence in your current project.

That’s it. One sentence. That’s easy, right? It takes ten seconds, right? Heck, it takes longer to open up Scrivener/OpenOffice than to actually write one sentence.

So go do it. Done? CONGRATS! You’ve hit your goal for the day! Great work!

…but notice now that your brain sort of doesn’t want to stop writing now that you’ve started. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

Go try this method. No, seriously. Then report back to me with results.

If You Write Then I Am Proud Of You

I don’t care what you write. Fanfiction? That’s awesome. Blogs? Super cool. Original fiction? Sweet. A 200-word long short story? Just as valid.

The important thing is that you are writing. That you sat down, pushed away any distractions, and put words onto paper. …or, y’know, screen.

Isn’t that great?

We humans have this cool thing where we can express our thoughts and share it with others to read. Where we can create things.

And I dunno about you but I think that’s super awesome.

Did you write something today? Then I’m proud of you.

“Cricket Song” is Now Available!

Cricket Song Cover

CRICKET SONG is a short (about 50k words) little bedtime fable that was inspired by Lewis Carroll and Hayao Miyazaki and takes us into the fanciful imagination and deep insecurities of a shy art student who is trying to figure out exactly who she is and what she’s supposed to do.


CRICKET SONG is available as an Amazon Kindle ebook, a Nook book, and a PDF file – choose which format works best for you!

A paperback is in the works but unfortunately you probably won’t see it for a few months while I mess with proofs and formats. In the meantime, the first chapter of the book can be read here for free to tide you over!

Cricket Song: Sneak Peek


Outside the sky was gray and inside the fluorescent lights were shining harsh light down onto an almost empty little classroom. “It’s not that she’s not a bright kid, it’s just that… well, I don’t know. It’s so hard to get into her mind. Who knows what she’s thinking. She hardly even talks.” Ms. Nelson paused here to take a sip of latte out of a brown paper cup, and the two adults sitting across from her at her desk took the opportunity to talk themselves.

“She’s a little more open at home… she clams up the minute someone she doesn’t know shows up, though,” said Mrs. Dillford, combing through her hair with her fingers. “But she’s always been a little…”

“We just want to make sure she’s not causing any issues, I mean. We know she’s different,” broke in Mr. Dillford, gesticulating as he spoke.

“Oh no, she never causes problems,” Ms. Nelson said hastily as she set down her cup. “But I worry she’s not paying attention sometimes. She… look, I’ll show you. Here…” she pulled out a tan-colored file folder and set it on the desk. “This is some of her homework from the past few months.” She opened the folder and began to flip through papers, revealing pages of schoolwork, all with fair grades— and all thoroughly covered in scribbles. Fanciful characters of all shapes and sizes lined the margins and landscapes arched their way along the tops.

“See,” said Ms. Nelson, “That’s all she does, is… draw, and I know she’s very good at it, but…”

“Cadence is…” Mrs. Dillford spoke up, but hesitated briefly before finally continuing, “She does that at home, too. She always has. That’s just… her.”

“Yeah,” Mr. Dillford nodded in agreement.

“I know it’s important to her and I know she’s… herself, but this is third grade,” said Ms. Nelson. “The older she gets, the less she’s going to be able to get away with this, and as a teacher I’m not sure how best to approach her on it, or if I should even approach her at all. She’s a good child… who knows, maybe she’ll surprise us all and become some famous artist some day.”

“Like they have those anymore,” Mr. Dillford joked.

“Tell me about it,” Ms. Nelson reached for her cup again.

Cadence was outside in the hall, sitting at a desk that had been set up out there. The most remarkable thing about her appearance was that she was rather unremarkable and thus seemed to be nearly invisible to other students, who mostly ignored her or at least failed to acknowledge her existence, but this had never bothered her much. School in general didn’t bother her much, in fact; it was just another thing that happened in her day that might inspire her or might bore her. Usually the result fell somewhere in between.

She didn’t know what they were talking about in the classroom, but she didn’t care— it was one of those mysterious Parent-Teacher Conferences that happened twice a year and she didn’t ever put much thought into them. At the moment the main issue on her mind was that she was lacking paper and a pencil and thus she was incurably bored.

She swung her legs back and forth as she traced invisible patterns onto the desk with her finger. The pictures in her brain were vivid and she knew how to translate this with her hands, but while her imagination was strong she eventually become frustrated with being unable to see her results, so she stopped and looked around restlessly, desperate for any sort of creative stimulation. She’d read every sign and notice on the wall already, and examined every picture and every poster…


Figuring she could perhaps pass the time by using the restroom, and assuming that her parents would not care too terribly if she did so, she slipped out of her chair. She didn’t really have to go, of course, but it would give her something to do, and so off she went down the familiar hallways of the microcosm that was her school. Down one hall she went, and then around a corner, and down another hall, opting to go to a more distant bathroom than she usually did, just to kill time. She had practically lived in this school every year since Kindergarten, and she knew it very well— most of it, anyway, because way down here by the bathroom was the wing that branched off to the middle school, where big kids like her brother hung out. The Big Kids were never happy about having to share space with the Little Kids, and they tended to be scary in general, since Cadence could swear that their heads almost touched the ceiling, so she tried to keep a respectful distance from this section of the school, rarely using the bathrooms and drinking fountain here and never going past them. She paused as she approached and brushed back her hair, preparing to lean down and take a sip from the fountain.
But then she saw it: a classroom, just beyond, with the door ajar, and from her vantage point she could barely make out pencils and paint and brushes…

Cadence stared at the room. She looked around a bit, and then back at the room. Well, since no one else was around…

She approached the room and entered tentatively. No one was there. Good, because the place was magical. It was an art room, filled to the brim with pallets and paintbrushes and model clay and students’ paintings lining the walls, and nothing was going to drag Cadence away. At least, not until she could grab a paper and some pencils and sneak away, she figured.

She found a stack of blank paper easily enough, but all the pencils were in an empty coffee can high up on a shelf. Cadence stood underneath the shelf and stared up at the can for a while, and then wandered over to the teacher’s desk where there was a wooden chair that she could pull over to use as a step. She paused there, though, upon seeing something on the desk. It was a watercolor painting. It wasn’t anything particularly fancy, a picture of some farmlands— unfinished. There was a red barn and a big yellow tractor. A brown fence ended partway through the page, a horse behind it only half-colored.

Cadence stared at it. Something was off. There should be more horses, she thought, to balance out the picture. Perhaps some of them could be running across the field. And she could already visualize the colors that should be in the sky…

Suddenly there was a noise behind her. She swung around, her thoughts knocked out of her, and she saw a tall, lanky man with glasses and a thin goatee entering the room. He paused upon seeing Cadence and stared at her, and Cadence stared back, her eyes round and wide, like a wild creature caught in headlights.

“Hey,” said the man, his voice relaxed and calm. “Did you need something?”

Cadence didn’t say anything; her whole mind felt frozen. She hated this. She hated having to talk to people that she didn’t know. Any time she had to, her mind would go blank, and she hated it.
The man picked up on her shyness and her age and sauntered over to where she was at the desk. “Are your parents at the parent-teacher conference?”

Cadence nodded tentatively, backing away from the desk as the man approached, but he just chuckled a bit at he sat down at his desk. “Are you lost?”

Cadence shook her head no.


Cadence didn’t say anything, though she was somewhat impressed with the man’s ability to guess her thoughts. Then she realized two things, one after the other. First, this man was now sitting in the chair she was planning to use as a stool, so she’d have to come up with an alternate plan. Second, perhaps this man was an alternate plan. Of course, that would mean having to talk, but…

…but she was desperate.

She opened her mouth to speak. A squeaky stammering noise was all that came out, much to her dismay.

“What was that?”

“I said I just need a pencil,” she mumbled.

“A pencil, huh. What do you need it for?”

Cadence was going to have to talk again. She wished people would stop asking her questions and just accept what she needed. It would make life so much easier. “Just… just to draw,” she said.

“Do you like drawing?” the man asked.

Cadence nodded emphatically, although admittedly part of the reason her nod was emphatic was because she was glad she didn’t have to talk again to answer this time.

The man looked at her for a moment, as though trying to decipher the unusual little girl, but he didn’t dwell long on this and said “I’ll tell you what. I’ll give you one of my best pencils, but you’ve gotta promise me something, okay?” He opened a drawer in his desk and pulled out a drawing pencil that was painted blue and had shiny golden letters on it. He held it out to Cadence and said, “This is a drawing pencil. The kind real artists use. So use this pencil to draw a masterpiece. Okay?”

Cadence stared at the pencil for a moment, hesitating, but then she reached out and took it.
“Alright, now you’d better go back to your classroom, you don’t want to worry anybody.” The man began sorting papers on his desk, and Cadence, glad to have a pencil and relieved to no longer be the center of attention, hastily left the room, although as soon as she had, she realized she’d forgotten to grab a piece of paper. Her heart fell a bit, but there was no way she was going to go back in the room now that A Person was in there, so she conceded defeat on this one and wandered down the hallways back to her classroom.

The conference was still going on when she returned; no one had noticed her brief absence. She sat herself back at the desk and drew patterns on the desk with the end of the pencil, which, curiously she thought, did not have an eraser, but rather a bright golden metallic nub. No wonder the man had told her to draw a masterpiece, she thought. She couldn’t erase any mistakes, so whatever she drew with the pencil would have to be perfect.


The more she thought about it, the more she was glad she didn’t have any paper with her at the moment— and for Cadence, that was a rare thing to think. But she’d have to put some thought into figuring out a good masterpiece before she could draw one.

A few moments passed and her parents and teacher left the room. Ms. Nelson said goodbye to Cadence, and her parents walked with her out of the school. Cadence noticed that her mother was carrying a folder under her arm, but she didn’t question it, and similarly her parents didn’t question the pencil that their daughter had apparently procured out of nowhere, since that sort of thing was fairly commonplace with her.

The sky was a steel-gray blanket that hung in the air like a wet towel. This thick sky tended to lull unsuspecting people into thinking that nature was dead and still, but those who knew better knew that it wasn’t: leaves rustled, branches quivered and trembled, a rogue seagull strutted around the parking lot and off in the distance somewhere a goldfinch chirped: cheep-cheep-cheep. It wasn’t raining, but the impenetrable sky liked to threaten that it could at any moment, and a slight breeze blew Cadence’s brown hair against her face. Not that she put much thought into this; this was normal weather and besides, she was still busy trying to figure out what to draw for a masterpiece as she climbed into the back of the family car and buckled up.

Her mother, in the passenger seat, turned around and handed her the folder she’d been holding. “That’s your old homework,” she said. “You get to keep it.”

Cadence took the folder without questioning and flipped it open, revealing hundreds of her sketches of strange creatures and strange places, scattered across math homework and history homework and English homework and everything else.

“You should doodle a little less; you need to pay attention in class,” her mom continued. “I know you like to draw, but there’s a time and a place, okay?”

“Fiiiine.” Cadence had been through this discussion before with various adults and had learned that “Fine” was usually the best way to get out of the talk, or at least push it off a little farther. Her mind quickly drifted back to the glorious paper that was now in front of her… paper with blank backsides and all that marvelous drawing space…

…but no, she still couldn’t think of a masterpiece. Hmm.

She thought all the way home, which wasn’t a long journey so she didn’t feel too bad about having not come up with anything yet. They parked in the driveway, and Cadence haphazardly stuffed the papers back into the folder, unbuckled her seatbelt, and hopped out of the car. She turned to shut the door, but as she did so, the folder slipped out from under her arm and landed open on the ground. She reached down to pick it up, but the wind whipped up a gust and blew several pages of her doodle-covered homework into the yard. Cadence gave a little gasp and ran after them, reaching for as many as she could, but the wind was persistent and Cadence’s grasp was awkward because she was still holding her new pencil, and she watched as pages went fluttering away down the street, some drifting into other peoples’ yards and others disappearing into stretches of evergreen trees behind those yards.
Cadence stared at the escaped papers as they twirled around in the wind. She was distraught and considering running after them but then she realized that then she would risk running into people, which she did not want to do. She was shaken out of her thoughts by her dad calling out “You’re not gonna get ’em back now, just grab what you can and come on inside.” So Cadence pushed her hair out of her eyes, closed the folder and trapped its remaining contents as best as she could, and followed her parents inside the house.

It was nighttime and Cadence was in her room. She should have been asleep, but instead she was playing with toys on her windowsill. She still hadn’t thought of a suitable masterpiece to draw with her new pencil, but she had mostly put it out of mind by this point. She figured she could always come up with something later. Right now she was stretching her imagination in other ways— ways which she knew she was entirely too old for, but which she continued to do nonetheless. She had plastic dinosaurs and a rubber snake and a stretchy lizard, and she was carefully acting out intricate scenes with them, providing different voices and personalities for each one, set partially to a script that she had written earlier.

“Do you really think you can beat me? You are nothing! You are but an ant to me. I laugh at your folly. Bwa. Ha. Ha,” said the Tyrannosaurus Rex.

“Don’t listen to him, Proto! It’s a lie! I believe in you!” said the rubber snake.

Cadence here made several detailed special effects sounds as the Tyrannosaurus Rex and rubber snake engaged in mortal combat, which culminated in the defeat of the snake.

“Nooo! Stretches!” wailed the Protoceratops.

“Hahahaha! You see? You have failed. And now, you’re going to see just how powerful I really am!” Cadence attached a little felt cape to the T-Rex’s back. “You see, I am not an ordinary dinosaur. I am actually the dreaded… uh… terrible… er… X-REX!”

“X-Rex? Oh no! I heard about you in the ancient legends!”

“Yes, of course you have. Everyone else has, too. And I’m in charge here now!”

“Oh no!!” Proto wailed.

“Don’t worry!” the stretchy lizard spoke up now. “We have the secret weapon! We can still defeat him!”

“What??” X-Rex screeched. “How did you get it? I’ll fight you for it! Raaaawr!”

She was in the midst of this intense scene when a very unusual creature hopped in through the partially open window and began to watch what she was doing.

This creature was an insect— somewhat larger than most— with big hind legs that it sat on and two long wiry antennae that sprouted from the top of his head. Its eyes were big and human-like, and it sat and blinked at Cadence, who was still deep in play. In fact, she didn’t notice the bug until he inched a little closer and cleared his throat.

Now clearing one’s throat is typically a fairly normal thing to do, unless one is a bug, and even Cadence knew this instinctively and she put down the toys and turned to look directly at this intruding insect. It didn’t scare her at all, but then, she’d always appreciated the more unusual creatures of the world, and besides, whatever-it-was was kind of cute.

Cadence peered at it and it peered back, and then it did something that caught the girl only partially off-guard: it talked. “Hi,” it said politely, antennae quivering.

Cadence’s eyes widened. She’d always known this kind of stuff could happen. She’d seen enough movies to know how this sort of thing worked. Just like she knew Santa Claus was real, too, although she didn’t dare admit it to anyone. Still, coming across a talking animal in real life was understandably a bit of a shock.

“Hi,” the bug said again, inching a bit closer, in case Cadence hadn’t heard it talk the first time. But she had, and gulped and returned the salutation somewhat shakily. “H… hi.”

“You’re Cadence, right?” asked the insect.

Again, Cadence was only half-surprised that the thing knew her name. She nodded.

“Good. I’m at the right place then,” said the bug.

“Who are you?” Cadence asked, her courage eking out a bit more now.

“Your imaginary friend.”

“Ohh,” said Cadence. It all made sense now. And then, excited about having a real imaginary friend like on TV shows, she ventured, “What’s your name?”

The insect cocked its head, its antennae quivering. “I… don’t know. I don’t think I have one yet.”

“Well, who names you?”

You do… I think.”

“You think?”

“Hey, take it easy on me, I’m pretty new at this whole imaginary friend thing,” the bug put his hands on his hips a bit indignantly. It was a playful gesture, though, and he grinned.

Cadence thought for a moment, trying to figure out what one would name an imaginary friend, or any sort of bug for that matter, and then finally said, “How about… Zadmark.”

“Zadmark?” the insect wrinkled his face for a second or two, but then seemed to change his mind and approve. “That works.”


“Oh yes. It’s very, uh… exotic.”

Cadence was tickled by her new friend’s approval, but before she could say anything, the bug asked, “So, are you going to invite me in? It’s kinda cold out here…”

Cadence reached over and shut the window, and Zadmark leaped forward with strong legs and landed on Cadence’s desk, which was littered in paper and pencils. “Nice place you’ve got here,” he commented. “And oooh… nice drawings.” He looked below him at the multitude of papers that he was now standing on.

“Thanks,” said Cadence. She was never sure what else to say when she was complimented… she did think her drawings were pretty good, after all.

“Do you draw a lot?”


“I thought so!”

Zadmark did not explain this comment, and Cadence didn’t ask. She was sure imaginary friends had their ways of figuring all of this out. She just watched, fascinated, as the insect hopped around on those long legs of his, examining the bedroom of his new charge. Eventually he hopped up onto her nightstand— there, next to her alarm clock, was the blue pencil she’d received earlier. “You sure have a lot of pencils,” Zadmark said.

“Oh, that one’s special,” said Cadence, going over to sit on the edge of her bed.


“Yeah. I have to draw a masterpiece with it. So I can’t use it until I think of something perfect.”

“Ohhh. I see.”

They were quiet for a moment, and then Zadmark said, “Well! You’d better go to bed. I mean, if I’m gonna be a good imaginary friend and all, I can’t be keeping you up late now, can I?”

“You’ll… still be here in the morning?” Cadence asked, suddenly worried that she’d wake up and find her new friend gone.

“Oh yeah,” Zadmark said. “I’ll be here for a while.”

“How long?”

“However long you need me for.”

“How long is that?”

“Well, I guess we’ll see.”

Cadence thought about this for a minute before accepting it. “Okay,” she said, and then she worked her way into bed beneath her crumpled sheets. “Goodnight, Zadmark.”

Zadmark settled himself down on a napkin. “See you in the morning, kid.”

“Cricket Song” will be available through most digital channels within the next day or two and a paperback version will be available soon after.

Writing About Writing 2: The Outline

Good morning everyone! Here’s a post to continue my last one about Writing About Writing. This time, we’ll be talking about outlining.


There are a bunch of different ways to go about doing this. I’ve experimented with quite a few of them. Here are a couple of methods that I’ve tried:

No Outline: Also known as “pantsing”, aka, you’re “flying by the seat of your pants”. This is the classic NaNoWriMo scenario: you have, at most, a vague idea of what you want to write about and you’re making it up as you go along. I wrote “Windshifter” this way. The upside was that I got very, very emotionally invested in my story because it was so raw and new to me. The downside is that the flow wasn’t very natural, and as such, editing took forever.

No, really... FOREVER.

A Big Ol’ Paragraph: Most of the plot for “Cricket Song”, the book I am currently editing, came to me in a dream. I woke up, stumbled over to the computer, and pounded a long, rambly synopsis out into a text file. The final first draft followed this text file very closely (although not exactly.) Pros include a largely very tight and cohesive story which won’t require quite as much editing as a “pantsed” draft. Cons include losing that exciting feeling of throwing yourself into the unknown, and also the fact that you still might get stuck at a few points where you haven’t elaborated in your synopsis.

Chapter by Chapter: “Windshifter” actually isn’t my first novel. I wrote three or four of them when I was in high school. Writing a chapter-by-chapter outline was my modus operandi back then, and I’ve gotta say, it worked pretty well. Basically I decided in advance how many chapters I wanted my novel to be (say twenty), then I looked at what my page limit was (back then I was writing by hand in notebooks, so a 240 page notebook would turn into a 240-page book), and then I divided the number of pages by the number of chapters and gave myself that amount of pages, plus or minus a few, to write a chapter. I gave each chapter its own synopsis, so each one became its own little self-contained unit. Pros included a very tight outline and never having to worry about what, exactly, I was writing next. Cons included the fact that sometimes sections of the plot would just drag on forever because I wanted to fill my chapter up.

FUN FACT: Two of my novels back then were about my toys coming to life and declaring war on each other. No, really.

Using Tools: Lots of people use writing software to organize their thoughts and book ideas. Scriviner is a popular and widely lauded example; it comes with all sorts of neat tools to help you organize in the way you feel most comfortable with. It does cost money, though. I’m cheap and, in the past, have used a free software product called Kabikaboo, which doesn’t have half the options of something like Scriviner but allows you to make a “tree”-like outline, of sorts, which you can branch off into other thoughts. The pros to using these products are that they’re often very, very helpful for helping you get organized and keep things together. The cons are that sometimes you need to “re-wire” yourself for using these instead of just going the traditional route, which involves a bunch of text files in a folder. Still, a great many writers swear by these once they get them all figured out.

In Summary!

Outlining is one of those things that you should experiment with and figure out which option works the best for you. Hopefully, by giving you a few examples of methods I’ve tried in the past, you’ll be able to try some of these out for yourself and find out what you like.

Next time we launch into the actual writing process itself! 😀

Writing About Writing 1: Ideas, Concepts, and Emotional Hooks

Hi everyone!  Pike here.  I’ve decided to try something; specifically, I would like to write a series about my own adventures in writing, editing, and self-publishing.  I know a lot of people out there are interested in this process and I thought some of my own thoughts on it might be helpful and/or interesting to people.  So here we go!

So you want to write a book

Congratulations! You are about to embark on a journey that will probably take years (and I know what you’re thinking, which is that you can do it faster. Well– we’ll see when you get there ;3 ), and which will teach you much about yourself. Of course, before you start, you need…

An idea

Ideas can come from anywhere and strike at pretty much any time. I’ve had ideas that have turned into full-fledged books while driving, while in the shower, while at work, and even while dreaming. An idea can be very simple. My idea for Windshifter, for example, was “I want to take a bunch of old characters I invented when I was a kid and have fun with a steampunk-inspired fantasy world.”

Good ideas can’t be rushed. You let them come to you.

Now, you can’t write a book on an idea alone. You also need a plot, some concepts, and an emotional hook.


Plot is pretty easy. It’s what your English (or whatever language you speak) teacher taught you back in the day. It’s a few lines describing what happens in your book. What the action is, what the conflict is, and how the characters resolve it.


Concepts are ideas and themes that you want to explore in your book. My Idea for Windshifter was to write a fun steampunky book with airships and clockwork. My Concepts included things like touching on the ideals of open source/free software, and talking about the nature of technology and science and our place in a world where both are more important than ever. Often one of those Concepts will sift away from the others, like gold from sand, and shine and glint more brightly than the others. And suddenly you will realize with a jolt that that particular Concept is your…

Emotional Hook

Every good story needs an emotional hook. You could have interesting characters, a great plot, and some neat concepts, but if your readers aren’t emotionally invested in your story, then they won’t care. Ideally your emotional hook is something that most (if not all) of your readers will be able to relate to– the characters can relate to it in a specific way, but everyone can feel those feelings.

With “Windshifter”, the emotional hook is loss. Several of the characters have lost something and are dealing with it in different ways. Heck, the dragon race as a whole lost something and is dealing with it in different ways.

I don’t know how it is with other writers, but for me, Emotional Hooks are often the very last thing to come to me when I’m planning a story, and it usually hits me like a lightning bolt triggered by personal experience. I wrote a book a couple years back called “Cricket Song” which I am currently in the process of editing. “Cricket Song” was born from the Idea “I want to explore a story about a girl and her imaginary friend.” This Idea was kicked around in my head for a good few months while I hemmed and hawwed over how to best go about publishing “Windshifter”, and I was really starting to feel rather overwhelmed with this, and it was in the midst of it all that the Emotional Hook of “Cricket Song” came clear: “What it means to do what you’re good at when everyone else is good at it too.” And suddenly, just like that, I had a story.

A quick note on characters: You’ll notice I don’t have a specific spot on the list for characters. Personally I think that characters are “born” from things like plot and concepts and emotional hooks. Or maybe you’ve just had a character in your head for a while. Who knows! But I tend to come up with them at the same time as I’m coming up with the other story elements.

How it all gels together

When I was in film school, one of the professors’ favorite examples for, well… pretty much anything was Finding Nemo, because it’s such a solid film and because Pixar is a storytelling genius.

With the disclaimer that I don’t know exactly how Pixar cooked up this film intact, let me tell you how it would have gone if I’d made it:

Idea: I want to make a story about fish and sea creatures lost in a big ocean.
Plot: A young fish is captured by a diver and put into an aquarium, and his father rushes off to find him. Along the way they meet a lot of interesting characters and learn a lot about themselves and each other.
Concepts: Disabilities, anxiety, family, friendship
Emotional Hook: What it means to “let go” of your comfort zone.

I said earlier that Pixar is a storytelling genius and I meant it. If you watch Finding Nemo you will see just how expertly they weave that Emotional Hook into the fabric of the story, which beautifully peaks as Dory tells Marlin “it’s time to let go!” when they’re stuck inside the whale that swallowed them. It’s subtle, but not too subtle. It’s comforting. It’s emotional and raw. And people love it.

And now!

A final word on all of this stuff: Don’t rush it. Let it come to you. You can have a good Idea without an Emotional Hook (or vice versa). You can have Concepts or Plots without a home. Let them all float around in your head, mess with them a little, play with them, put them together and take them apart like legos, and see what you can make. Once you find something you think you can make into a book, it’s time to jump into the next step… which we’ll talk about next time!

“Windshifter” Is Now Available As a Paperback!

Been wanting to read my book “Windshifter” and not wanting (or able) to read it on your computer or an ebook device? Well fret not! Your problem is now solved: You can order a high-quality, 6″x9″, 338 page paperback version for $12.99 USD!

You can buy it now from either Amazon or CreateSpace.

CreateSpace will net me more royalties but please order through the website that you prefer to use.

If you like the book, please tell your friends and family about it and review it either on Amazon or on GoodReads. That would mean the world to me!

Help me sell 100 copies, guys! 😀

Less talk, more tick-tock