Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Story is Conflict

By Karen Albright Lin

Some folks walk around looking for a battle, but most of us try to avoid conflict in our real lives. We dread the “conversation” we have to have with our son who just got a full-face tattoo of a praying mantis eating its mate. We back out of the class 5 rapids in favor of class ½. We resist the urge to use a few choice words when the IRS threatens an audit. We are cavemen doing whatever we can to avoid the cougar that will inevitably stalk us.

Self-preservation is an instinct. So it can be a challenge setting aside our reputation-preserving, risk-averse, considerate and conscientious selves to create the most essential element of fiction—CONFLICT.

Conflict is about high stakes. It’s not simply disagreement about whether a shirt is gray-blue or blue-gray. Ho hum. True conflict requires consequences. That’s not to say that all conflict has to be bigger than life—like your antagonist holding your hero over the edge of the Grand Canyon. Sometimes the conflicts are quiet yet just as devastating, perhaps thwarting plans by placing obstacles between characters and their goals. Revolutionary Road by the great writer, Richard Yates, is a relationship book, with neuroses as obstacles.

We can think of a book as a series of conflicts, some solved along the way, some building to a giant black moment and a heart-pounding climax. Great books have external main goals and external obstacles as well as internal main goals and obstacles. The external goals are typically obvious. In Back to the Future, Marty needs to go back and manipulate the past to be sure his parents get together, assuring his own existence. His “spiritual” needs concern learning to ignore coward taunts and, more importantly, finding a way to understand and respect his father.

Ideally the external and internal arcs intersect. One resolution leads to the other. Often each reaches a climax at about the same time. Very soon after Dorothy kills the Wicked Witch of the West, she realizes there’s no place like home. On a rare occasion the main conflict can be caused by something other than a human (V.I.K.I. in I, Robot), but usually the conflict is more easily relatable if there is a human face to the obstacle. In Jaws the antagonist isn’t as much the insentient shark as it is the mayor of Amity who refuses to shut down the beaches.

The theme of your story is derived from the character’s needs, what questions are posed, what’s at stake, what goal is thwarted, and what strength (or weakness) helps your hero prevail over the adversary. What are the greatest oppositions? The worst consequences if your seemingly impossible goal isn’t met? These are the keys to finding the greatest conflict in your story. And conflict is your story.

About the Writer:  Karen is an editor, ghostwriter, pitch coach, speaker and award-winning author of novels, cookbooks, and screenplays. She’s written over a dozen solo and collaborative scripts (with Janet Fogg, Christian Lyons and director Erich Toll); each has garnered international, national and regional recognition: Moondance Film Festival, BlueCat, All She Wrote, Lighthouse Writers, Boulder Asian Film Festival, SouthWest Writers Contest, and PPW Contest. Find out more at

Monday, April 28, 2014

Finishing School for Stories

By DeAnna Knippling

So you have a story. You're not sure whether it's really ready to share with other people. You're afraid that it's going to stick its foot into its mouth. It's going to say something truly embarrassing to your great-aunts. It's going to slurp soup, spit when it says the word "protuberance," and, in short, flop.

Like all children, it has its good points, but you're afraid of what it's going to do the first time it goes out to a bar and gets a bit drunk. You're terrified of what it's going to wear during its first job interview. You have fevered nightmares in which it dates all the wrong sort of people, the crazy ones with parents who look altogether too similar to each other or are familiar from America's Most Wanted.

What to do?

You could lock the story away in a drawer. After all, children can't embarrass themselves in public if you never let them out of doors.

Or you could subject your children to a militant writing group that will whip them into shape. GRAMMAR ALL CORRECT? SIR YES SIR!

Or, like many intelligent parents, you could send your story off to finishing school, a place where it can learn to balance books on its head, walk elegantly, and learn which fork to use with salad and which glass to use with the blood of your enemies.

Deportment. That's what many perfectly good stories need. Deportment, also known as editing. That's what many editors are doing for you: putting your stories through finishing school. (Although some editors have been known to correct more fundamental issues and are more akin to plastic surgeons than teachers.)

So what elements of deportment should your story possess? What is the essence of a story being finished?

In short, a story is finished when no element of the story is in the author's, rather than the reader's, favor. To put it bluntly, no reader gives a damn about what the author intended, thought, or attempted to do. They only care about the story's effect on them. A story is finished when it operates in service of the reader, not the author.

However, as in a normal finishing school, the devil is in the details. Here are some that I've been noticing in unfinished stories lately:


  • The story must have its own beginning, middle, and end, and must not be merely the prologue or first chapter of a larger work. If that's the case--write the larger work.
  • The story must begin at the beginning of the plot. There must not be six pages of working up to the actual beginning of the first real, significant event of the plot, especially in a seven-page story.
  • Tension must increase with every scene; it must not be avoided simply because the author doesn't feel like writing about something embarrassing, bloody, sexual, heartbreaking, research-heavy, confrontational, taboo, etc. Writers are not allowed to flinch.
  • Plot twists must not be easily anticipatable (developing a skill for identifying easily-identifiable plot twists requires a solid grounding in reading the genre), and they should not usually occur at the end of a story--plot twists are often not properly the end of anything, but a technique used to increase tension in a sagging middle. Only in the shortest of short stories is a plot twist at the end truly enjoyable (e.g., O. Henry).
  • A story in which a despicable character meets a grisly end at the hands of fate rather than the direct or indirect efforts of the main character does not constitute a plot twist.
  • The climactic struggle must be fought on camera as it were, and the main character must play a pivotal part.
  • The very ending of the story must tie up loose ends, resolve major story questions, and settle the characters in a new stasis or on a new course of action, except in cases of serial fiction, which are more properly chapter endings than the ending of a story per se.


  • Stupid characters are dull.
  • Contemptible characters are also dull. Evil characters are often interesting--but that for which we hold no respect holds only the same level of interest as a gossip column or a car accident.
  • Nobody wants to read the story about stupid, contemptible characters who get what's coming to them without any struggle on the part of the main character. This is mere wish fulfillment on the part of the author. In fact, nobody wants to read a story primarily and obviously driven in order to fulfill the wishes of the author, except in cases in which the author wishes to give the readers a particular type of pleasure. Moralizing, instructing the young, and other types of edification are for Sunday school, not stories.
  • The "everyman" character is dull, because they do not make identifiable choices. They have no modus operandi, and it is the modus operandi which truly identifies a character, not their physical characteristics.
  • Every character should have an identifiable modus operandi: Can the reader discern what type of behavior to expect from the characters? To the point where it's amusing seeing a certain problem cross that character's path, because you know they will--they must--handle it badly?
  • Do the characters' dialog and actions match their backgrounds, their habits, and their roles in life?
  • Characters who break character, either by acting out of character or by directly addressing the audience, have failed at being characters, unless it is within their character to do so.*

Other details

  • The opening of the story should establish the genre, place, and time of the story. "Now" and "here," especially in combination, are overused and often dull.
  • Details and information are provided before the reader can think to ask about them.
  • The writing is clear and cannot be misinterpreted, even briefly.
  • The readers' time is not wasted, not by a single word.
  • The reality of the story is grounded in all five senses.
  • Communication is valued above grammar, but grammar is still valued above sloppiness.
  • The language of the story hasn't been polished to death--even finishing-school graduates value some individuality. Do not surgically remove a mole or a prominent nose only to have to add it back in again to add character.
  • The author does not break POV by telling the reader that the character thought, understood, saw, heard, or realized something--they simply show it.
  • Changing character points of view within the same section is an annoyance in the hands of all but the masters.
  • Stilted or generic language and details benefit the writer, never the reader.  If one wished to see "a man," one would have glanced at any one of several to be found at hand.
  • Repetitive traits in your writing should charm the reader--if they don't, as in overuse of adverbs or an over-exuberance of exclamation points**, eradicate them.

As always, in any finishing school--if it is charming, then it is not a defect, it is an element of individuality. But it must charm the reader, not the author. If it only charms the author, it's merely an affectation. 

How dull.

*Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Ferris Bueller is exactly vain enough to visualize his life as a movie of which he is the main character, even when he isn't.
**But don't let this hinder proper use and exuberance!

About the Author: DeAnna Knippling started freelancing in May 2011 and wouldn’t be able to do it without her wonderful family and friends, especially her husband. In fact, she owes a lot to Pikes Peak Writers for helping her be a better writer, especially through the Write Brains, both in the lectures and in meeting lots of other writers.

Her reason for writing is to entertain by celebrating her family’s tradition of dry yet merry wit, and to help ease the suffering of lack of self-confidence, having suffered it many years herself. She also likes to poke around and ask difficult questions, because she hates it when people assume something must be so.

For more kicks in the writerly pants, see her blog at or her ebook How to Fail & Keep on Writing, available at Smashwords, B&N, Amazon, and OmniLit.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Quote of the Week & Week to Come

“Sit down every day and DO IT. Writing is a self-taught craft; the more you work at it, the more skilled you become. And when you're not writing, READ.” -Lois Duncan, born April 28.

Lois Duncan, 1950
By Florida Memory [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This week on Writing From the Peak...

...DeAnna Knippling takes us to "Finishing School for Stories"

...Karen Albright Lin tells us how "Story is Conflict"

...May News & Events

Friday, April 25, 2014

Sweet Success! Catherine Dilts

Compiled by Kathie Scrimgeour

Catherine Dilts is pleased to announce two Sweet Success Stories. First is the release of her debut mystery novel, Stone Cold Dead, which became available in Kindle format on December 12, 2013, and then the hardcover, available as of January 8, 2014. It is published by Five Star-Gale/Cenegage Publishing (ISBN # 978-1-432-82743-4) and is available at

When her brother abandons the family rock shop, recently widowed Morgan Iverson reluctantly becomes the manager. Business is as dead as the fossils cluttering the dusty shelves. While rounding up a runaway donkey, Morgan discovers a body. After a newspaper article hints that Morgan witnessed the Goth teen’s demise, escalating threats make it clear the killer thinks she holds a clue to the teen’s murder. Morgan knows her life won’t be worth a pile of fossilized dinosaur dung unless she can dig up the murderer.

In addition to her debut novel, Catherine will also have a short story, Tweens, published in the May issue (on stands February, 2014) of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.

Caroline Omiata is a Tween - too old to find a job, and too young to retire. When living with her daughter's family doesn't work out, Caroline accepts an offer from a brassy former co-worker that she can't refuse. The late night deliveries and envelopes full of cash convince Caroline they are disposing of Mob hits, but her troubles escalate when she joins an environmental group seeking publicity for their cause, no matter the cost.  

Tweens is her second short story to appear in AHMM. It also placed second in the 2012 PPW fiction contest in the short story category.

To Catherine Dilts, rock shops are like geodes – both contain amazing treasures hidden inside their plain-as-dirt exteriors. Publishers Weekly calls her novel Stone Cold Dead – A Rock Shop Mystery, an “enjoyable debut,” and that “readers will look forward to seeing more of this endearing and strong protagonist.” Catherine works as an environmental scientist, and plays at heirloom vegetable gardening, camping, and fishing. She has published short fiction in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Visit her at

We love to hear of fellow Pikes Peak Writers' Sweet Successes, including story acceptances, winning contests, getting published and book signings. Please email Kathie Scrimgeour at if you've got a Sweet Success you'd like to share.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

PPWC 2014 Q&A - Kimberly Killion

Kimberly Killion, Author

1. What was the defining moment that made your realize you wanted to be an author?

When I read "the end" for the fifteenth time of Julie Garwood's THE GIFT, I decided I wanted to write something that made people's heart hurt.

2. What is the one thing you cannot work without? What is your creative vice?

Sex and coffee, not necessarily in that order or at the same time. :-)

3. If you could 'revive' any literary figure from the past for a one hour conversation, who would you choose?

King Richard. I would like to know if he really killed his nephews.

4. What is one of your more notable or unusual conference or convention experiences?

Hmmm…perhaps Mohave Nights, but I can't share the experience. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. :-P

5. If we asked your friends and family to compare you to a cartoon character, which would they choose, and why?

Buttercup from The Powerpuff Girls because she's a badass with cool hair.

6. What is one thing would you like aspiring authors to know about the road to success?

Perseverance. It's a long and painful road, but it's totally worth it in the end.

About the Author: Award-winning author, Kimberly Killion, has been hailed by Romantic Times Magazine as an author who writes “captivating romance with excellent pacing and characters who are honorable, intelligent and full of humanity.” Her debut book, Her One Desire (Kensington 2008), was nominated for the romance-publishing industry’s highest award of distinction, the RITA® Award. Her One Desire won the 2009 Booksellers Best Award for both Long Historical and Best First Book. Romantic Times Magazine awarded Kimberly’s second Scottish-set novel, Highland Dragon (Kensington 2009), with the K.I.S.S. Award. Aside from writing, Killion is also the owner of Hot Damn Designs. With 20+ years of experience in marketing, communications and design, Kimberly holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts, a Certificate in Web Design, and is an Adobe Certified Expert. She has designed over 2,000 book covers but she also does website design, promotional material and branding – and has recently started photographing her own Stock Images for Hot Damn/ The Killion Group.

PPWC 2014 Q&A - Deb Courtney

1. What was the defining moment that made your realize you wanted to be an author?

I wrote my first short story when I was about 7. I have always been a word person. I became a small publisher when I realized I could put my professional background in marketing, project management, publication management/editing and journalism all to work in a way that would work well in the rapidly changing publishing arena.

2. What is the one thing you cannot work without? What is your creative vice?

I need an internet connection AND a computer AND a cool notebook AND a pen with the perfect width, heft and ink flow. My creative vice is liking repetition too much. I am overly fond of repetition, and like to repeat myself for emphasis as a literary tool. A lot. Repeatedly.

3. If you could 'revive' any literary figure from the past for a one hour conversation, who would you choose?

Shakespeare. He was the genre writer of his time and yet his works have clearly stood the test of time. I'd like to understand the difference between what he intended to do, and what he actually accomplished, and how he feels about it.

4. What is one of your more notable or unusual conference or convention experiences?

I read the first page of my own work-in-progress out loud and was met with stunned silence. I assumed it was because it was awful, and was surprised to get a super enthusiastic response, especially in light of having used the F-word maybe 4 times in that first page. That's me, swearing in public since the late 1970s.

5. If we asked your friends and family to compare you to a cartoon character, which would they choose, and why?

Jessica Rabbit. Slightly conniving, surprisingly intelligent, with a true love of revealing clothing and stilettos.

6. What is one thing would you like aspiring authors to know about the road to success?

That writing the number of words that constitutes a full manuscript isn't enough. When you hit 80,000 or so words what you have is a perfectly square block of marble, a starting point. The talent is in carving away the excess and refining that block into its true essence, doing the hard work until you reveal the work of art inside.

About the Author: Deb holds a degree in Fiction from the University of South Florida, where she was a Saunders Scholar in Fiction. She has had numerous short stories published and has worked as a freelance journalist. Her background includes marketing and public relations in several business sectors. Her most recent venture is Courtney Literary.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Do you review books? — A Reader University Post

By Stacy S. Jensen

This is the fourth post in a series of 12 ways to help authors (and your writing) by reading.

I’ve heard self-published authors mention before that one of the most valuable ways to support them is to write a review. An honest review can help an author sell more books. 
There are many ways to share a review. An easy place to begin:
  • online
  • at a book club
  • in person
I mostly think about online reviews after a book purchase from an online retailer. If you have a blog, you can write up a review, too. I do this every Friday through the Perfect Picture Book Fridays list.
Book clubs are a great place to share reviews. When I lived in Texas, the local library hosted a monthly book review. Trust me, it wasn’t like a book report, either. A couple times, I was grilled about the books I shared. It kept me on my toes and really tested my affection for a book.
Word of mouth or “in person” recommendations are always good. I find the kid-lit community is wonderful about sharing titles.
Reviews are a great place to learn about writing, too. While some reviews can be nasty, there are often little nuggets of information writers can glean about the craft — characters, story development, and even genre.
Reviews often teach us that some readers will never be pleased with our stories. A little proof of this (and maybe a laugh, too) can be found on Marc Tyler Nobleman’s site. Take a few minutes to watch children’s authors reading reviews.
How do you review books?
(This post originally appeared on Stacy S. Jensen's blog on January 27, 2014)
About the Author: Stacy S.Jensen worked as a newspaper reporter and editor for two decades. Today, she writes picture books and revises a memoir manuscript. She lives in Colorado Springs with her husband and toddler.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

PPWC 2014 Q&A - Carol Berg

Carol Berg, Author

1. What was the defining moment that made your realize you wanted to be an author?

When I started typing my first letter 'in character' to a friend, after a lifetime of believing I couldn't make up a story.

2. What is the one thing you cannot work without? What is your creative vice?

Bigelow's Raspberry Royale tea.

3. If you could 'revive' any literary figure from the past for a one hour conversation, who would you choose?

Edith Pargeter (aka Ellis Peters). She was self-educated, found her biggest success late, and wrote the best villain I've ever read.

4. What is one of your more notable or unusual conference or convention experiences?

I almost didn't walk in to the pitch session with the editor who bought my first eight books, because I was convinced she didn't like the two pages I'd read.


Sitting (terrified) on a convention panel in Scotland with two very famous authors and the head of the Vatican Observatory, and after surviving it in decent order, being swarmed by the entire front row. They turned out to be my Israeli publisher, Hebrew translator, and their friends, none of whom I had met before.

5. If we asked your friends and family to compare you to a cartoon character, which would they choose, and why?

Maybe Dory in Finding Nemo. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, even if you're a little bonkers.

6. What is one thing would you like aspiring authors to know about the road to success?

Two things. It involves a lot of hard thinking. And often the success you find is not at all what you expected.

About the Author: Though a devoted reader, Carol Berg majored in mathematics at Rice University and computer science at the University of Colorado, so she wouldn’t have to write papers. Somewhere in the middle of a software engineering career, she started writing for fun, and the habit ate her life. Carol’s thirteen epic fantasy novels have won national and international awards, including multiple Colorado Book Awards and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature. They’ve been read, so readers tell her, on five continents, on a submarine under the Mediterranean, in the war zone of Iraq, and on the slopes of Denali. Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews called her Novels of the Collegia Magica things like compelling, intelligent, complex, and superbly realized. The latest is The Daemon Prism. Next up is a new fantasy/mystery duology about a sorcerer who draws portraits of the dead. First volume, Dust and Light, will be out from Roc Books in August 2014. Carol camps, hikes, and bikes in Colorado and lives on the internet at

PPWC 2014 Q&A - Kerrie Flanagan

Kerrie Flanagan, Author

1. What was the defining moment that made your realize you wanted to be an author?

I am not someone who knew from a young age that I wanted to be writer. It wasn't until after college that I even thought about becoming a writer and even then it was more out of necessity. I was teaching 2nd grade at the time and I wanted to find a creative way to teach my students about using a comma in a list. So I created a story and made it into a book to read to them. It started the writing wheels in motion and I wanted to learn more about writing and publishing. I found a critique group, self-published my book and eventually started writing for magazines.

2. What is the one thing you cannot work without? What is your creative vice?

I need my computer to work. I can write out notes and ideas longhand, but to put everything together, I need to be able type it all out on my computer.

For many literary greats, having a creative vice almost seemed expected. For me though, not so much. If I try to drink while writing I will fall asleep (it doesn't mean I won't drink after, just not during). I don't smoke and I am not much of a coffee drinker. I do love tea when I am writing, but in the true sense of the word, it isn't really a vice. I've never heard of tea being considered a bad habit or something that will lead to an early demise.

3. If you could 'revive' any literary figure from the past for a one hour conversation, who would you choose?

I would revive Laura Ingalls Wilder. Her books were a huge part of my childhood and now I have a huge amount of respect for her as a writer. The fact that her writing career didn't start until she was 65, is pretty amazing to me.

4. What is one of your more notable or unusual conference or convention experiences?

Early in my writing life I attended PPWC. It is a conference I will never forget because I made a complete fool of myself during a pitch session with a literary agent (who shall remain nameless). I had co-written a book with a friend and she pitched the idea to an agent first. The agent said the idea wasn't bad, but she didn't think it was a good fit for her. My friend and I panicked and changed the whole concept of the book before I went to my pitch session. I started with, "I am sure you won't want this book because *** didn't like the idea." I rambled for another minute or two until there was nothing but silence between us. I excused myself, leaving a four minute time-slot for another author to pitch. I was mortified and learned many valuable lessons. Don't change the concept of your book right before pitching. Be prepared. Speak from the heart; agents are looking for well-written stories and the more you can convey that through your own excitement of your work, the better chance you will have in finding representation.

5. What is one thing would you like aspiring authors to know about the road to success?

The road to success does not happen overnight, even though it might seem like that for some authors. The successful authors are the ones who take their role as a writers seriously, devote time to their craft and who don't give up. Many talented writers are never discovered because they didn't put in the hard work and time needed to finally reach that level of success they aspired to. Writing success can be in your future with enough drive, determination and of course good writing skills.

About the Author: Kerrie Flanagan is the Director of Northern Colorado Writers, a writing consultant and a freelance writer. Over the past decade she has published articles in national and regional publications and enjoyed two years as a contributing editor for Journey magazine. She has articles in the 2011 Guide to Literary Agents, as well as the 2012, 2013 and the 2014 Writer’s Markets, Writer’s Digest Magazine and The Writer. She was a frequent contributor for WOW! Women on Writing, is the author of Plane, Trains and Chuck & Eddie and has five of stories published in various Chicken Soup for The Soul books. Along with her own writing, she is passionate about helping other writers achieve success.

Monday, April 21, 2014

POV Faux Pas

By Linda Rohrbough

I spend time thinking about Point of View (POV) as a concept in fiction, because this is the one area where even experienced writers make the most mistakes. Let me define what I mean by POV – at a core level POV is how the story is told. I’ll start by saying there’s really two kinds of POV, and two major POV mistakes in popular fiction. Want to guess which POV mistake is mostly likely to keep you from getting published? And want to hear about a way to use POV to get unstuck in a story? Read on.

The first kind of POV has to do with the mechanics of how your fictional world is presented to the reader. What I’m referring to here is what we commonly call first or third person. First person uses the pronoun “I” and the story is usually told in real time. (The story can be told as “this is what I remember,” but I think real time is stronger and more popular with readers.) Third person is a lot more distant and the story can be told in the past as well as the present.

(As an aside, who in their right mind would craft a novel in second person? You have probably heard of someone with an English literature fetish who has done it, but it’s either first or third person in popular fiction.)

First person is the scary POV for me. I haven’t tried it. In first person, the character is telling the reader the story first hand in real time using the pronoun “I.” Where this gets tricky is the reader can only know what the character knows. In this mode, there are all kinds of ways to make a POV faux pas that pulls your reader “out of the bubble,” meaning they get disjointed and lose contact with the world you’ve created for them. (Readers hate that, by the way.)

The most common example is when a character says or thinks another character is afraid. How can the viewpoint character know that? That’s a POV slip. Not that you won’t see this slip in print from an experienced writer. You absolutely will. But technically, you’re not supposed to. However, as long as the reader isn’t pulled out of the bubble, the author can get away with this boo-boo.

The boring fix is to use dialog - the second character says, “I’m scared.” Now your POV character knows because they’ve been told. But this works in a lot of cases.

The interesting way to manage giving the POV character information about other characters is to describe things your POV character observes in the behavior of other characters. This allows the reader, along with the POV character, to conclude the emotional state of another character. Body language is the biggest “tell.”

For example, what are the physical reactions produced in the body by the emotion fear and how do they manifest? Blood runs away from the extremities, so the hands and feet get cold. The teeth chatter in extreme cases. But more often people rub their hands together or on their arms or thighs. The eyelids pull up so someone observing would notice more white around a character’s iris. And yes, I know these examples are cliché. But you get what I mean. When I’m stuck I use Google and type in “physical reaction to fear” (or whatever emotion I’m looking for) and see what comes up. Usually that’s enough to give me a spring board to figure out what I need to do.

What you want is a fresh way to describe this stuff. Readers are pretty sophisticated so unless there’s a reason to use a cliché, I try to avoid it. What I do a lot is watch people everywhere I go. (I had a creative writing professor in college say fiction writers are just glorified gossip columnists. I suspect he was right.)

Of course, what’s even more fun is to let the reader and the POV character conclude something based on observation, which actually turns out to be something else. That’s what readers love - to be tricked but in an honest, clever, interesting way. That’s what I try to go for in my work. And that’s what I think is the pinnacle of achievement in fiction writing.

However, there’s a second meaning for POV - how the character sees the world. This is the most common area where errors are made and this error can keep your work from getting published. It’s critical to have characters with a viewpoint. And that’s the same whether the work is written in first person or third person.

Let me put this another way: the character has an opinion. Hopefully, a strong one. And when that character takes us as readers into their confidence, it draws us into the story. That doesn’t mean the character’s world view is your opinion. It might be. The work (and the fun) is figuring out what this character will think, do, and say in a given situation. What makes fiction interesting is to place characters in situations where they are uncomfortable or even in danger and then have them react to figure a way out.

Of course, the most obvious way to accomplish a character with an opinion is to write in first person. It’s also one of the reasons first person fiction sells so well. The character must have an opinion in first person because there’s no way to write a character that doesn’t have a POV.

I promised you I’d give you a way to use POV to figure a way out when you’re stuck. One of the tricks experienced writers use is to rewrite a scene or a chapter changing the POV. Change the POV from third to first person. Describe the scene from the POV of another character other than the one you originally started with. Maybe retell the scene from the viewpoints of several different characters. Sometimes this works to stir things up so you see the work differently, and that might get you unstuck. Rewriting the scene from different points of view is one of those things you want to have in your bag of tricks for those days when it seems the well has dried up. (You’re welcome.)

That said, we’ve come full-circle in this discussion about the two kinds of POV in popular fiction, the two most common mistakes, and even a way to use POV to get yourself unstuck during a dry spell.
How about you? Have you tried first person? Does it scare you? Got a favorite POV? What is the POV of your main character in the story you’re writing now? These are important questions to ask yourself and I hope they’ve shed some light on your current work in progress.

About the Author: Linda Rohrbough has been writing since 1989, and has more than 5,000 articles and seven books to her credit along with national awards for her fiction and non-fiction. New York Times #1 bestselling author Debbie Macomber said about Linda’s new novel: "This is fast-paced, thrilling, edge-of-the-seat reading. The Prophetess One: At Risk had me flipping the pages and holding my breath." The Prophetess One: At Risk has garnered three national awards: the 2012 International Book Award, the 2011 Global eBook Award, and the 2011 Millennium Star Publishing Award. An iPhone App of her popular “Pitch Your Book” workshop is available in the Apple iTunes store. Visit her website:

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Quote of the Week & Week to Come

"Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt." -Barbara Park, born April 21.

Barbara Park

This week on Writing From the Peak...

...Linda Rohrbough discusses "POV Faux Pas"

...Stacy S. Jensen brings us the 4th in her series Reader U-"Do You Review Books?"

...Kathie Scrimgeour shares a Sweet Success

...Our final Q&As with Kerrie Flanagan, Carol Berg, Deb Courtney, and Kimberly Killion

Saturday, April 19, 2014

PPWC 2014 Q&A - Gordon Warnock

Gordon Warnock, Agent, Foreword Literary

1. What was the defining moment that made your realize you wanted to be an agent? 

There was a moment when I started falling in love with manuscripts and realized that this was something I could make happen

2. What is the one thing you cannot work without? What is your creative vice?


3. If you could 'revive' any literary figure from the past for a one hour conversation, who would you choose?

I think Borges would be a hoot.

4. What is one of your more notable or unusual conference or convention experiences?

Hanging out with R.L. Stine was a bit of a moment, having grown up in the Goosebumps generation.

5. If we asked your friends and family to compare you to a cartoon character, which would they choose, and why?

I asked, and they said Archer. No idea why.

6. What is one thing would you like aspiring authors to know about the road to success?

Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads.

About the Agent: Gordon Warnock is a founding partner at Foreword Literary, bringing years of experience as a senior literary agent, marketing director and editor for independent publishers, freelance publishing consultant, and college-level writing tutor. He frequently teaches workshops and gives keynote speeches at conferences and MFA programs nationwide. He is an honors graduate of CSUS with a B.A. in Creative and Professional Writing. Gordon is taking pitches for nonfiction, fiction, and graphic novels for adults, NA, and YA.

Friday, April 18, 2014

How to Survive PPWC Without Becoming a Zombie - Plus Bonus Tips!

(Below this post on surviving PPWC, you'll find tips from PPW members!)

By Tena Stetler

Good news is that I recently read Colorado is one of the few states most likely to survive a Zombie Apocalypse. Better news is that it is possible to survive the conference and not become a zombie. First, you want to get as much rest as possible in the weeks leading up to the conference because sleep is a fleeting thing during the conference. There are old friends to catch up with, new friends to connect with, and so many workshops to attend your head will spin.

Second, make sure to pack high protein snacks and drink lots, and I mean lots, of water. If you are from out of town, this is especially important; you’re now residing at over 6,000 feet in elevation. One glass of wine can have quite an effect on you, so suck down that H2O. You can use those frequent bathroom trips to work on your pitch or figure out which workshop to attend next.

Is this your first conference? Take deep breaths and plunge in, but make sure you come up for air and relax from time to time - it can be a bit overwhelming. Download your workshop sheets as early as possible, and review them carefully, so you can plan what you want to attend and check for any conflicts ahead of time. There could be last minute changes, so check the packet you receive at sign in for the up-to-date schedule. If you are pitching, work on that logline and practice talking about your book to everyone that will listen in the weeks prior to the conference. Participating in the Read and Critique? Polish that first page, double-spaced, and have several copies ready (remember to bring them). You won’t remember everything you learn at the conference, but you will remember the friendships you make. Most of all, have a wonderful time, it is a great adventure. One you’ll want to experience year after year.

Remember that editors and agents are all people just like us. They are attending the conference in hopes of finding that new idea and fresh voice that you have perfected in your novel. Don’t let nerves get the best of you. Be creative and use your imagination when conjuring up the agent or editor’s appearance in your mind. But stifle the giggle when you make that pitch or read your page. 

For those of us who have attended a few conferences, help out the newbies. You'll recognize them by the glazed eyes, rapid breathing, and panicked expression. I know you still carry memories of your first conference.

Finally, just soak it all in. Too soon it will be all over and your zombie-like characteristics may emerge Sunday night. Until then, do what you can to keep all your parts attached. Have Fun.   

About the Author: By day, Tena Stetler is an Office and IT Manager for an electrical contractor. When the sun disappears behind the Majestic Rocky Mountains, she can be found at her computer surrounded by vampires, demons, witches, and other paranormal creatures as she writes Paranormal Romance and Cozy Mysteries. She’s also written articles for a variety of magazines about traveling with pets, and raising and training parrots. She shares her life with her husband, two parrots, a dog, and a 40-year-old box turtle. When not sitting behind a computer, she enjoys hiking, camping, kayaking, and whitewater rafting.

Thank you, Tena! Now, we've got some additional bonus tips for attending conferences. We asked members on our Yahoo! Loop for their advice, and this is some of what we got:

For low-landers with little experience in high altitudes, you need to accept that the hotel is at 6400 ft (well over Denver's "mile high" claims) and the humidity is typically low.  As a result, alcohol will pack a double punch because you'll already by partially dehydrated due to the low humidity and the fact that there is less oxygen in the air at altitude.  Drink half as much alcohol as you normally would in a comparable social situation.  When it's time to go to bed, turn on the hot water in the shower for about 10 minutes and leave the bathroom door open.  You'll add some much needed moisture to the room and you'll find it easier to get to sleep.    

~Laura Hayden-- who faces this same problem each year, dealing with the altitude

DRINK WATER!!! Drink at least 3 bottles of water from the time you wake until you go to bed for the first two days you are in Colorado (more if your bladder can handle it). If you drink any alcohol....drink more water.

TAKE IT EASY. Don't plan on a 10 mile hike your first day here, and don't play 18 holes of golf. A friend of mine played 18 holes the first day he was here and spent the next 3 days in bed. A nice easy walk on a flat surface (like cruising around the conference) is great. Breath the mountain is amazing!  

DRINK MORE WATER! Really!  :-)

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of fun!
I can't wait to meet everyone!!

~Kathie Scrimgeour

Drink water for three or four days BEFORE you come.  Then keep it up.  It's all about hemoglobin...

~Jax Hunter

Shy people: Arm yourselves with the most wonderful phrase anyone ever invented.  

     "What do YOU write?"

You can even approach people you've never met!

Come with open ears and open mind.  You might hear three different speakers say three different things about anything from how to publish to how to develop your ideas to how to create characters or worlds or sentences.  All of them have something to teach, even if it is only that every writer is different and every career is different.  Somewhere there will be a spark that's just right for you.  Real Writers are constantly learning.

~Carol Berg

Out going people: Don't monologue. Give everyone at your table a chance to talk to that author, agent or editor. Use your outgoing personality to encourage more shy folks to talk about their stories.

~A. Stopani

Make the most of your conference experience by networking.  Don’t simply cling to the familiar.  Make it a goal to get to know your fellow writers as well as the industry professionals.  You’re attending to learn, to make those contacts, so treat it as business.  And have fun.

~Donnell Ann Bell,

Listen, Listen

You’ll be surrounded by people with myriad experiences, most good, a few not so much – but even those will be helpful in the long run.

Say Howdy to everyone you see with a STAFF badge. They are all there for YOU. Pick a couple of panel discussions, and you can get the experience of several panelists, and a number of experienced people in the audience. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Look for some of the fun stuff. Weapons workshops, pitch practice, etc.

Did I mention Listen?

Oh yeah, this one can’t be said enough --- HYDRATE! And take in the beautiful country surrounding Colorado Springs.

~Ron Heimbecher

I've been attending and/or teaching at PPWC for 17 years.  I have suggestions.

pillow - if you are picky about the one you use
antihistamine - if sleeping is an issue with all the excitement
lotion - dry air in CO

Drink tons of water - especially if you drink - high altitude has knocked some visitors out.

Take social chances. Push through shyness. Stretch those boundaries. Schmooze outside of pitches and is when much of the action happens. I've gotten 3 different agents whom I didn't formally pitch to by simply talking casually with them.

Buy the recordings if you have to miss some sessions because of an agent appointment or parallel workshop. Then you can listen to them as you take your long walks.

Bring different lengths of work you'll pitch. Typically they won't take anything from you to lug home, but I know at least one author who was asked for a full at the conference and picked up by that agent before conference was over-literally the agent read the work over the conference.

Put on your smile and allow for a day of rest after the conference. You'll need that rest; the energy at PPWC is so intense, relaxation may be hard to come by.

And say hi to Shannon while there!  :) 

~Karen Lin,

:: The first time I attended PPWC, I drove out from Kansas City, alone, knowing no one. We writers tend to be loners anyway, but we're MUCH more comfortable with our own kind--other writers. Remember that you're not alone, that others face the same introvert issues you do, and remind yourself that we're ALL in the same boat! The people you'll meet are "just like you." And this particular conference is the friendliest ever.

:: Volunteer. My first break in the "ice" (my personal ice, no one else's) came when I I got up the nerve to talk to Dawn Smit about an idea I had for the annual writing contest, which I'd entered 2-3 times. And as she and I talked, I realized there are other things, some of them little things, that the conference workers could use help with. So I stepped up. I now volunteer every year as a moderator, which I enjoy tremendously. And it feels good to be a contributor in some small way.

:: For meals, sit at tables where you see people--including speakers--that you're interested in talking to. Even if you can't get up the nerve to talk to a famous author directly, there will be people at the table who can and will, and before you know it, you'll just be one of the writers, full of questions, curiosity, and awe!

:: Take lots of notes--and write legibly! Take advantage of every opportunity to meet people and pick their brains. Or buy the conference recordings of the sessions, so you won't lose anything. 

:: Relax. enjoy the events, learn everything you can, and remember that you're with friends. I've become convinced that, at least at PPWC, everyone is a friend of everyone else attending. 

:: Come back next year. And the year after. And the one after that. From my first bumbling, uncertain conference I made friends, and I'll be attending my 8th? 9th? PPWC this month. And I look forward to seeing the friends that I only see once a year, at this event.

~Marti Verlander,

Finally, J.T. Evans, president of PPW, posted some great conference tips at his blog in the following 2 posts:

Got business cards? Know how to avoid Con Crud? Are you aware of the 3-2-1 Rule? No? J.T. mentions these and more in the above posts.

Thanks for visiting! We'll see you at Pikes Peak Writers Conference 2014!

Compiled By Shannon Lawrence

Thursday, April 17, 2014

PPWC 2014 Q&A - Pete Klismet

Pete Klismet, Author/Expert

1. What was the defining moment that made your realize you wanted to be an author?

I had so many experiences in 30 years in law enforcement, and had read some books by former law enforcement officers that made me think “I can write as well as he can.” It was a long process, but I finally found the impetus - a case I’d done a profile on almost 30 years ago in which 6 innocent people were convicted, and wouldn’t have been if only they had paid attention to the profile I’d done. My first thought was “This story MUST be told,” and that led to my completion of “FBI Diary: Profiles of Evil.” It’s one of several cases in the book.

2. What is the one thing you cannot work without? What is your creative vice?

I need two things: Privacy and mornings. The creative juices flow for me between about 8 am and 2 pm. My wife has learned to not engage me in conversation when she sees I’m writing.

3. If you could 'revive' any literary figure from the past for a one hour conversation, who would you choose?

He’s not truly a ‘literary figure,’ but Joseph Wambaugh who was a prolific writer of true crime stories and produced such shows as “Police Story,” in the 70’s and 80’s would be my guy. I’m also partial to Ann Rule who does extensive research into her true crime stories.

4. What is one of your more notable or unusual conference or convention experiences?

I’ve only attended two, the Public Safety Writer’s Ass’n, held in Las Vegas every year. Those have given me so many contacts and friends, plus being critical in getting FBI Diary published, so I think I’ll always be a member. I am really excited about this year’s PPW conference, both as a presenter and attendee. I’ve gotten to know some members and will be thrilled to meet others. I think authors have an immediate bond formed. Sorta' like cops!

5. If we asked your friends and family to compare you to a cartoon character, which would they choose, and why?

We just did some internet research on this, including a ‘cartoon character personality test,’ and the only thing that fit me was Tweety Bird. I thought it would be some type of a big cuddly bear, but it turns out Tweety was a perfect fit. Surprise.

6. What is one thing would you like aspiring authors to know about the road to success?

What is success? For me, it was finally getting a book published. That was a life-long dream. But, it involved failure along the way, writer’s block and finally a lot of persistence. It’s going to take some time. I wrote my first book about 30 years ago, and it was an egg. I attended a couple of writer’s workshops and found out ‘how’ to write. I was good at writing narrative police reports, but that didn’t translate into books. I had to learn how to make that paradigm shift.

About the Expert/Author: Thirty years ago, a small cadre of FBI agents were hand-picked by the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit (BSU) to receive training in what was then a highly-controversial and ground breaking concept, “Psychological Profiling.”  Pete was fortunate enough to have been chosen to become one of the original FBI ‘profilers.’  Before his retirement from the FBI in 1999, Pete received additional training, was temporarily assigned to work with the BSU in Quantico, Virginia, and put that training and experience to work in assisting state, federal and local law enforcement agencies in investigating violent crimes.  Pete served two tours in Vietnam on submarines.  (Submarines in Vietnam?  It’s the title of a chapter in his newly-released, award-winning book “FBI Diary: Profiles of Evil.”)  After completing college in Denver, Pete served as a police officer in Ventura, California for nearly ten years.  During that time, he earned two Master’s degrees from universities in California, and part of a third. He was named the 1999 National Law Enforcement Officer of the Year, and retired that year. For the next 13 years, he taught in colleges, and is now retired as a professor emeritus. He and his wife Nancy live in Colorado Springs.  He plans to release ‘a couple more books’ in 2014.

PPWC 2014 Q&A - Sarah Peed

Sarah Peed, Editor, Del Rey Spectra & Hydra

1. What was the defining moment that made you realize you wanted to be an editor?  
When I was in 4th grade, I wrote a novella about a Navy captain, based loosely on my grandfather. It was full of adventure and mystery and, as I recall it, one very inconveniently-timed kitchen fire. I was so proud of it that I took it to my teacher and asked her to edit it for me, thus initiating my first real publishing experience. She and I went back-and-forth on the novella, doing major scene reworks and nitpicky line edits, until we agreed that it was in the best shape it could possibly be. I forced friends and family members to read it, and the praise I received was quite heady. I knew from that moment on that I wanted to work with books, and everything I’ve done since then has been working toward that goal. Becoming an editor is a dream come true.

2. What is the one thing you cannot work without? What is your creative vice?

I always have to listen to music while I’m editing, but it can’t be anything with words. I listen to a lot of Andy McKee, Cloudkicker, and Vitamin String Quartet while I’m working.

3. If you could 'revive' any literary figure from the past for a one hour conversation, who would you choose?

I’d have to go with Jane Austen. I’ve been rereading her books once a year for a long, long time, and the idea of sitting down to tea with Ms. Austen and discussing her works is just overwhelmingly wonderful to me.

4. What is one of your more notable or unusual conference or convention experiences?

I went to the Del Rey party at San Diego Comic Con last year, and the staff were all dressed as different characters from A Song of Ice and Fire. I ended up sitting next to George R. R. Martin while being served a drink by a Khal Drogo look alike. It was one of the oddest and most hilarious moments at that particular convention.

5. If we asked your friends and family to compare you to a cartoon character, which would they choose, and why?

Wow, I have no idea. Probably Velma from Scooby Doo; I’m a bookworm who loses my glasses constantly.

6. What is one thing would you like aspiring authors to know about the road to success?

You aren’t going to please everyone, and accepting that will make your life easier. Even the most famous authors were rejected by a ton of agents and publishers, and the most fantastic books all have negative reviews. Try not to take it too personally; you will, of course, but after that initial sting wears off, remember that you’ve written a book that you’re happy with and proud of, and that’s what really matters.

About the Editor: Sarah Peed is an Associate Editor with Del Rey Spectra, and the Acquisitions Editor for Hydra, a division of the Random House Publishing Group. She is looking for fast-paced, character-driven science fiction, fantasy, and horror. She tends toward pieces with a strong voice and dry wit, and she blames The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Good Omens for that.”I’m looking for dark fantasy, supernatural horror, urban fantasy, and post-apocalyptic sci-fi.  I’m not looking for YA submissions, graphic novels, short story collections, or erotica. I’d like to see pieces that fall in either the novella range of 15,000-30,000 words, or in the novel range of 60,000-100,000 words, although those limits are flexible.Stories that are more character-driven and have a strong voice are very appealing. I’m also looking for fast-paced pieces with enough action to keep the reader engaged and enthralled. Witty, dry, and/or dark humor is also appreciated!”

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Sex, Money, and Angst Behind Hugh Howey’s Graphs and Data Spiders

By Aaron Michael Ritchey

Okay, the writerly world has been topsy-flippin'-turvy over Hugh Howey and his analysis of the sales, customer satisfactions, and general informations (plural) taken from Amazon's database. Mostly, it concerns the Indie pub revolution and all the different kinds of authors out there. You can google it. I’ll wait. You’ve read it now, right? Well, most of the graphs I don’t understand, so I skip them and read Howey’s thoughts. I’m more of a word person than a graph person. But basically, Indie authors are doing better and taking more market share than ever before.
It’s a lot to take in. I wish I were better at graphs because I like graphs, I really do. So I decided that in my blog post this month on PPW, that I will break down the economic picture and give you graphs that I do understand.
Are you ready? Okay, this is going to get technical very fast.

Mr. Howey has an anonymous data collector which he refers to as his data spider.  I don’t have a data spider collecting the data for my analysis.  I have data aphids. They don’t spin webs, but they do flit about and live very short lives. Like my attention span.
Okay, let’s get to it.

This first graph is an easy one. It shows which kind of writers get published, and I lump both traditionally and independently published together.

I know. The graph is startling. Writers who don’t write have published 0 books. 100% of the books written are written by writers who write. I was shocked. I asked the data aphids to check the statistics again, but most of them died before they could.
Let’s look at the money and sex behind the numbers. I mean, most people are obsessed with either sex or money, finances or romances.  That’s what drives most people.  We’ll do money first, then sex.

Now, you can’t just have one graph about money, you have to have two. So here’s the next one, which is a pie graph, but that’s because I like pie:

The graphs above aren’t a big surprise.  I want a whole mess of money for writing books, really, more money that can fit on this grid.  But a hundred million dollars is about right, just so I can be comfortable. Then there is the money that others are making, like J.A. Konrath, Hugh Howey, Stephen King, those kinds of people. Not sure they are making 200 million dollars, and I was going to check with my aphids, but I couldn't catch them. Anyway, the important thing is how much money I'm making. Rats! My slice of pie isn’t even a point on the Weight Watchers system! Not even on the new Points Plus system! It’s slim.
Okay, that’s the money part. What about the romance part?

As far as I can tell, I’ve split the market after my big haircut. Some women think I look younger and sexier and some pine for my lovely locks now long gone. Only a few women want me for the books I write, but then there’s my wife, who loves and adores me. I won’t do a graph on the fact that my wife is often frustrated with me and doesn't always adore me, but you get the picture.
I’ve been writing, I’ve made some money, and I have met women who wanted me, and I’ve had some successes to be sure. But I’m not where I want to be, as the next graph explains.

I’ve written sixteen manuscripts. I’ve published two. But there are a ton of other books I want to write and publish, so I’ve not even scratched the surface.
Now, what are my options for the hundred or so books I still want to write? Well, I have a graph for that.

So my options are split. I can Indie Pub, I can go with a small press, I can go for the traditional book contract, or I can sell my soul to the devil in return for a lifetime of success and awards and an eternity of burning in hell. Hey, it’s an option. I’ve read my Goethe.
Let me be clear. This graph is controversial. I don’t mean to say that I only have to choose between one of these four options, no, as Catherine Ryan Hyde’s agent Laura Rennert pointed out in a recent blog post, we live in a time where authors can decide, book by book, what they want to do. One book I might Indie Pub (I have one of those in the works), one book I want to get out into the world through a small press (I have a bunch of those), and I have a book that might appeal to the mass market, which in turn would appeal to the big publishing houses (I have one of those). Lastly, writing any book in a sense is a Faustian deal, but we’ll talk about that in the next graph. It’s all about the benefits of writing books and getting them published:

Yes, the best benefit of publishing books is that real readers are reading my work. Real readers.  Real people. Some like it. Some don’t. Some are touched by it. Some aren’t. Some cry and write me letters and get really excited because I moved them with my story.
It’s real. It’s not a fantasy. It’s real. Yes, it’s not perfect, it’s not what I had in mind when I started out, it’s gritty, imperfect, flawed, but it’s real.
And getting to be an author? I get to do all these hard, terrifying, soul-breaking things that bring me joy, meaning, and a rich, full life. It’s a hard life, but a good one. Not for sissies, definitely. Writing and publishing books is not for sissies.

Let’s do one final graph, and this is an important one. It’s as important as the first graph in this little blog post:

Yes, that’s right. If you get your book published, either traditionally, through a small press, or independently, you will have more readers. Some people will read your unpublished book, but not many. Not many.
In summary, since if you have graphs, you have to have a summary. I write books, I publish books, by any means necessary, and what I want is a lot of stupid, selfish desire, a lot of fantasies that have nothing to do with reality. I’m at my best as a writer, as an author, as a human frickin’ being when I let go of all the bullshit I think I want, and just do the next, right thing that will benefit the world. Writing books benefits the world, whether I get the huge contract including Learjet, or if I Indie Pub and become famous, or if I Indie Pub and three people read my book.  It benefits the world. And remember that first graph? If you don’t write books, you will not get published, not by anyone.
My aphids are all dead, so I’ll end here.
Writers write. Authors get published. Some make money. Others don’t. But every book adds to the world. The end and amen.

About the Author: Aaron Michael Ritchey grew up as a garbage can for stories including way too much Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Stephen King. His debut novel, The Never Prayer, was published by Crescent Moon Press in 2012.  More recently, he has two new stories in the second and third issue of a new magazine, Fictionvale. Aaron’s next novel is a happy, little suicide book for young adults and anyone just this side of hopeless.  Long Live the Suicide King is available now!  Aaron lives in Colorado with his moviestar wife and two rockstar daughters.