Storytelling Lessons: Stranger Things Edition

My husband and I just finished binge watching the second season of Stranger Things this weekend. Let me rephrase, it only took us 24 hours. He had minor surgery so it was the perfect excuse to stay in and not move off the couch, except to get more chips and dip. Because, priorities and all that.

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Man, what a show. What an incredible lesson in storytelling. There are several things I learned while watching this show, and here are just a few of them.

  • You don’t have to write elaborately to write meaningful emotion. Stranger Things does this in such a special way. I won’t include spoilers because the show just got released on Netflix, but there is a highly emotional scene towards the end of the season where people are just sitting in a bare room, telling stories about a specific character. It’s moving and important, and even better, simple. It’s about timing and placing those scenes in the right places.

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  • The visual picture matters. The only thing movies and TV have over books is beautiful cinematography. There is a moment in the show when you see something scary, something evil from one of the main characters perspective. More specifically, from right behind him, and able to actually witness the goosebumps rise on the back of his neck. It was a freaking incredible shot. We may not be able to give our readers that moment, but we can come pretty dang close. The point? The picture you paint is super important, and even though we may not be able to move the camera behind the character’s head to create that amazing shot, we should do our best to give our reader’s their own goosebumps.

 

  • We love feelings of nostalgia. Between Stranger Things and Guardians of the Galaxy, I think it’s obvious we all have a thing for the 80s. Considering I was born in 1981, I’m one of those people. We love being reminded of how life used to be, especially the pop culture we obsessed over as kids. The music, the hair, the clothes. And just FYI, this season of Stranger Things does NOT disappoint in that area. We like remembering what life was like pre-internet, and teaching those kiddies born in this millennia what childhood was like for us. How can use this as writers? Reminding readers about the past is not only an effect story-telling tool, it’s also a way to engage our readers by using their own past experiences and eliciting those feelings in our own story.

 

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  • Write like your reader will not be able to put your book down. One of the things I love about this show is their absolute audacity in assuming I was going to binge watch this entire season this weekend. They shot and edited these episodes in such a way that it was practically impossible not to! Every episode was such a beautifully frustrating cliff hanger, you’d think they planned it or something. I think it’s okay for us to write the same way. Don’t tie bows at the end of chapters. Just assume your readers don’t need to pee, or eat dinner. Write only the important things and be relentless! Don’t give your reader the opportunity to put your book down.

 

  • It’s okay to let your character make dumb decisions. I lost count how many times I groaned into my hands in frustration or yelled at the TV to a character for something stupid they were doing. “Don’t go into the hole you igit!!!” “Why are you doing this alone?” “How can you possibly think this is a good idea?!” I’m not sure when I decided all my characters had to be smart and strategic in everything they did, but Stranger Things reminded me that sometimes people do dumb stuff, and it’s okay for that to be reflected in my stories. Besides, reckless decisions lead to danger, great tension, and high intensity scenes, so why not?

 

Have you watched Stranger things yet? What show are you currently binge watching? If you have a show you think I should watch and could learn from, let me know!

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I have made a decision!

I’m so fortunate to have people in my life who are willing to answer questions and have conversations with me that loop around and around in circles. I am so grateful the people around me are so patient.

I spoke with several author friends this past week, some of which are self published and still working hard to find their groove, and some who are a published through traditional publishers ,and still working hard to keep their groove.

I think the important thing to notice is no matter what avenue you take, you have to work hard. The good news, is that I am willing and ready to do that.

So that being said, I have decided to self publish The Door Keeper so I don’t lose momentum.

The good news is there will be no lapse of time the book isn’t for sale on Amazon. I’ve already uploaded it to Kindle and Kindle Unlimited and this week will transfer the paperback to Createspace. (Who was already printing the book.) If anything, the only difference you should see is the price decreasing a bit. (With no middle man, you save money!)

For the sequel, I will most likely attempt to sign with an agent and try to sell it to a traditional publisher once it’s completed. But I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.

Thank you all SO much for your support and kind words about The Door Keeper. I hope you continue to buy it, read it, and recommend it to your friends. 🙂 Thank you specifically to Bonnie Clark, Melanie Dale, Jennifer Blaske, and Jennifer Schuchmann for listening to my rambling and speaking wisdom and truth into my situation.

You can continue to buy the book HERE, and it is now available on Kindle Unlimited. Thanks again, and if you’ve read the book and haven’t left a review yet, don’t forget to do that.

I’m so excited to move forward in this direction! Cheers to the many possibilities. *clinking coffee mugs

If at first you don’t succeed…

I’ve been dreading writing this post. A week has passed since I woke up to some upsetting news. My publisher, Royal James Publishing, closed it’s doors last Tuesday.

After being available for purchase for 2 months, The Door Keeper will be pulled from Amazon and Barnes and Noble effective immediately. The good news is that the publisher was very happy with TDK and how it was selling. Her decision to close had more to do with how the overall business was doing. But still, a big time bummer.

So, I’m back to square one. Well, not completely at square one at least. I have a beautiful cover, the writing went through a round of editing (although, I think it could use some more), I got some great reviews, the book is formatted for e-version, and all rights remain with me.

I don’t have any regrets. I knew signing with Royal James was a risk, and I have learned SO much since signing my contract. Lessons that I will absolutely use moving forward. It’s just difficult when you have been building momentum and suddenly have to halt everything. So the big question is, what am I going to do now? What’s my next step?

After seeking some counsel from author friends, I’ve decided to restart my search for an agent. An agent would be able to help me know where to go from here. An agent could answer the questions that I have: Do I self publish TDK and work on selling the sequel? Do I shelf it and attempt to sell the first and second together? Or do I just start over and re-sell the TDK before doing anything else with the sequel?

For friends of mine, I have about 30 copies left I can sell you from the trunk of my car. 🙂 To those of you I’ve already talked to, thank you so much for your kind words and support. It means so much.

I’d love any input you guys may have for me. As in most of my short writing career, I’m in unchartered territories here…

What do y’all think? What would you do if you were in my position? How do I move forward from here?

Anxiety comes before Vulnerability.

I am normally a confident person. But something about the process of writing, editing, and publishing has brought out some interesting insecurities in me. I couldn’t nail it down, or where it was coming from, until I finally realized it. I’ve been reaching out to reviewers and trying to prepare myself for my first negative review, (because let’s be honest, it’s gonna happen,) when I figured out why I was feeling this anxiety.

Vulnerability.

Even though this is a fictitious story that takes place in some fictitious places, I put so much of myself in this story. In some weird way, I feel like I’m laid bare on these pages. And the idea that someone might not like it… or like me… makes me feel a bit anxious. But that is what happens when we create art of any kind, right? We put little pieces of our soul in our work, that is what makes it good. At least that is what I hope makes it good. 🙂

I know this is a part of the process, but it’s new territory for me. Thankfully, I came across a quote on an Instagram feed.

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It’s so true, and it’s a great reminder. Because we were not made to do nothing, say nothing, or be nothing. We were made to create, so we must be able to handle criticism.

I would love to hear how you guys are feeling about the things you are working on. What are you creating or doing that makes you feel vulnerable? Is this something that you struggle with from time to time as well?

How you can help!

For the first time, I have been a small part in helping a friend launch a book, and am genuinely invested in wanting it to be successful. I’ve seen first hand just how important friends and family are to getting books out there. (And how much fun it is to see someone buy it that otherwise might not have!)

I guess the one thing I never thought about is how authors are just someone’s friend or family member. It’s easy for me to think about all of the big name authors and how they just write a book and BAM it’s a bestseller, but that’s not how it works; and it’s especially not how it started. They had a ton of help, which is why I have so much hope.

Because you guys are flipping amazing.

I have already had so much encouragement and support surrounding my upcoming book release and it’s still 5 months away! But just in case you want some tangible steps to help me, or any other of your author friends, here are 5 ways you can help us!

  1. Buy our books. Buy on pre-sale, Amazon, or at the bookstore. If it’s not in your local bookstore, feel free to pitch a hissy fit because they don’t carry it. Even better, have someone film it so it can go viral, like that poor lady wanting to find Paul Sheldon’s new book. “How can you not know Steen Jones?!” 😉
  2. Review our books. Reviews are super important, especially on Amazon (although, you can’t review books on Amazon until they are released…so you will need to wait until The Door Keeper comes out. Also, you can’t say you are my friend or they will pull the review.) But you can review it on Barnes and Noble, or Goodreads if you have an account. Just copy and paste that junk, easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy.
  3. Follow us on social media and Share! I will tell you right now, I plan on doing some fun things involving social media, giveaways, and special offers leading up to the book launch. So if you want your friends to have the opportunity to win some free stuff, you will need to share it all with all of them.
  4. Recommend us. If you have a Goodreads account, a blog, or you’re part of a book club, or your small group at church. Recommend our books to your friends. I’m way more likely to buy a book because my friend told me I’d love it, than any other reason. Well, that or I saw the movie, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. 😉
  5. Offer to help! Most all of you have done this already, so thank you! I will most likely put together a launch team to help plan and execute my Book Launch Party and help promote for my blog tour, etc. If you would want to be a part of that team, shoot me an email at steen@thedoorkeepertrilogy.com

I’ll make a deal with you, if you complete all 5 tasks on this list, I’ll make sure you have the opportunity to be an extra in the movie when it comes to film in Woodstock.

Now who’s getting ahead of herself?! Lol

Author interview w/ The Salonniere’s Apartments

Thank you so much to Marilyn for featuring an interview with me in her “Writing Room” part of her online apartment. She has curated an interesting, and quite frankly, awesome new online environment. (At least new to me!) She has created a space for you to browse, learn, and simply enjoy reading about everything from writing, art, health, food, and her favorite subject; books.

I encourage you to check out other parts of her blog after reading our interview! The link to the interview is here!

Interview pic with Salonniere

 

Writing: Always be reading.

Of all of the books and articles I’ve read on writing, from many different types of authors/bloggers, the ONE piece of advice that has come from all of them are: If you want to be a great writer; you must read, read, and then read some more.

This is so freeing! Having loved to read to my whole life, it has always been a hobby or a extracurricular activity. Now, I actually consider it a way to improve my writing and as an investment. Now, a book just isn’t an escape or pastime, but a lesson. A lesson in grammar, character developement, prose, dialogue, world building, and plot. Reading is now a part of my work and nothing makes me happier!

In an attempt to really take this task seriously and learn as much as possible, I joined a Goodreads group “50 books to read before you die.” You can check out the group here. This list ranges from Tolkien, to Jane Austen, to J.K. Rowling, to Shakespeare to everything in between. I’m super excited to take on this list, although it will definitely take years to accomplish.

I just bought Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and Alice in Wonderland to start. I also picked up Little Women (not on the list but it was Rachael’s favorite book in Friends, so why not? Don’t worry, it won’t end up in the freezer.)

I’d love to know what books you would put on that Goodreads list! What book have you loved that is missing???

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