How did this happen?


Last night I sat down and wrote up an “outline” for a story. I put outline in quotes because I don’t typically plot books ahead of time so compared to the average book outline this one is sorely lacking. It’s just over one legal pad in length and it hit all the main ideas I have for the story. I wanted to jot down the high points before I forgot them, I wasn’t trying to create a plot.

This morning I was looking at it and noticed something. I grabbed a pen and five minutes later I was staring at the page in shock. I’d written a perfect story arc. Without trying.

Let me explain. When I divided what I’d written into sections (chunks of story, building blocks) I noticed each paragraph was a section. I don’t have two sections in one paragraph, or a section that stretches over two paragraphs. All total, seven of them. Then I labeled each one by what was happening- by the role that section would play in the story. Look at the labels I ended up with:

  1. Opening/Hook
  2. Inciting incident/end act 1
  3. And then
  4. And then
  5. Until finally/end act 2
  6. Act 3/ triumph
  7. Wrap-up/happily ever after

Upon further inspection I found that Act 1 has a positive ending, Act 2 has a negative ending, and Act 3 has a positive ending, which is much higher than the positive end to Act 1. Which is also textbook (by which I mean Story, by McGee).

Somehow, somewhere, without me noticing, structure has slipped into my brain!

Sad and Dreary


I’ve noticed lately that I’ve been writing a lot of sadder stuff than is my normal. I don’t know if that’s a reflection on my life right now, or if it’s just a reaction to writing working on something so lighthearted (Raising Trouble) for so long. But all of my short stories lately have ranged from bittersweet to downright sad. Everything from a man who kills his father-in-law (who he loves deeply) because it’s the right thing to do, to a (long) short story, that felt like a Twilight Zone episode, about a man who winds up being responsible for ending mankind. I’ve had other ideas that have been even worse, I haven’t written some of them up because I didn’t want to depress myself. Or end up crying on my keyboard at McDonald’s. That would be awkward.

On that note- am I the only one who gets so emotionally caught in their work? Sometimes I wonder. I’ll laugh at the characters, get tense/grind my teeth when they are in danger, and tear-up when they get hurt. People do that while they are reading, sure, but does anyone else do that while they are writing? Or is this just another quirk in my box?

15 Minutes to Tell Your Last Story

I am participating in #Trust30, an online initiative and 30-day writing challenge that encourages you to look within and trust yourself.
Join in at

Day #1:
We are afraid of truth, afraid of fortune, afraid of death, and afraid of each other. Our age yields no great and perfect persons. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

You just discovered you have fifteen minutes to live.
1. Set a timer for fifteen minutes.
2. Write the story that has to be written.
(Author: Gwen Bell)
In the spirit of the game this has not been edited so the grammar is a bit rough. Deal with it.

There once was a little girl who didn’t know what she would be someday. She saw herself as shy and alone, not very pretty or fun to play with. The other kids agreed with her. She had a few friends but not for very long and she often would write down ways to end her life, since she wouldn’t really be missed anyway.

As she became older she quit doing that. It wasn’t healthy. But she still felt it. She was still lonely and not very pretty and not fun to play with. The boys all agreed with her.

So she focused on not needing them. She learned many hobbies and she made elaborate worlds in her head and she taught herself to not need people. To love the aloneness. She almost convinced herself that it was true.

Meanwhile, she felt a wooing from her Creator. He often spoke to her, he gave her gifts and attention. Even when she was quite rude in response. Then He started to give her gifts she did not want. He gave her pain and hurt that could not be locked away. He gave her tears she could not stop and fears she could not control. The made the girl very cross and she was unhappy with Him.

The girl looked for many ways to feel better and not think. None of them worked for very long. Meanwhile, the girl met new friends. She still not feel very pretty or fun to play with but she could not feel alone because the new friends disagreed and would not go away. Not even when the girl was very cross with them and said things to upset them.

The girl was confused. Friends were simply those who put-up with her and were not too mean. She did not understand her new friends, who thought that was a bad definition of friendship. And the girl was confused. Still, she liked her new friends and she started to imitate them and be a better friend herself.

Her Creator smiled at her. He had done this often before but she had not noticed because she was too afraid to see His face. This time she was watching and His smile made the whole world seem a bit nicer. She still felt cross about some of the gifts He had given to her but she was willing to wait and see what they turned into. *****

The girl went on many more adventures and cried many more tears. She still felt alone much of the time, and she still didn’t think she was very pretty or fun to play with. But her Creator told her she was very silly and that she should not listen to herself but to Him. And that when that was too hard she should listen to her stubborn friends who, she found out, were more of her Creator’s gifts, and not be too proud to say what was true; even if it made her feel unsafe, because He was big enough to protect her heart.

And so that is what the girl did.

(The *****’s are where the 15 minutes ran out. The entire thing actually took me about 20 minutes)

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