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Writer's Digest presents an excerpt from my webinar, "Three Secrets of the Greats: Structure Your Story for Ultimate Reader Addiction."

Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn, one of the Top 10 Blogs for Writers, interviews me about storytelling, writing, independent editing, and the difference between literary fiction and genre, with an impromptu exercise on her own Work-in-Progress.

Editing client Stu Wakefield, author of the Kindle #1 Best Seller Body of Water, talks about our work together on Memory of Water, the second novel of his Water trilogy.

  • By Victoria Mixon

    The uninhabited island lay thirty meters to port, and somewhere beyond the white sand beach an ambush. In the star-filled blackness of night neither were visible to the man standing alone on the bow of the ship, but the sound of the waves rolling across the wide, shallow reef placed the island, and the Captain had warned of Fuentes’ presence. Unfortunately, both were more apparent than the family’s destiny the old woman on Haiti had seen when she threw the bones.
    —Sean O’Mordha

    Developmental Edit

    This is a good, vivid image of a cool-headed man in danger, using description and exposition very nicely to communicate the tension. I love the throwing of the bones!

    Tense? check
    Specific? check
    Raises a question? check What’s he going to do about the ambush?
    Drop-kicks us off the end? check WHAT destiny?

    What does this paragraph tell us about the book we’re starting? A male character on a ship at night faces an island where an ambush waits for him. He’s not the Captain of the ship. But he’s recently been in Haiti, where a fortuneteller gave him a cryptic reading on the destiny of a family—possibly his own.

    Do I want to follow this character through a whole novel? He’s level-headed, in danger, and thinking deep thoughts. I like him!

    Genre? Historical fiction, maybe? Adventure. Mystery?

    Do we need to know who the character is, how they got here, where they were before? He’s been to Haiti to see the fortuneteller, and now he’s gotten a warning from his Captain. This guy’s stage is set.

    Does this paragraph drop us right smack in a specific moment in this character’s story? No question. He’s facing some real decisions here, with Big Mean Consequences.

    So let’s talk about the structure of it. This is a terrific example of using description and exposition, rather than action and dialog, to dump this character’s quite serious problems in our laps. This piece has obviously been worked over carefully, extra words removed, the tone sculpted. I’m going to suggest this is one of those situations where you’ve lavished such care on these lines, they’ve begun to lose their flow. It happens to all of us. I’m going to simplify the language slightly to keep the focus on the moment and let the imagery come through as clearly as possible.

    Copy & Line Edit

    The uninhabited island lay thirty meters to port, and somewhere beyond its white sand beach lay an ambush. Neither was visible, in the star-filled night, to the man alone on the bow of the ship, but the sound of waves rolling across the wide, shallow reef placed the island, and the Captain had warned him about Fuentes.

    Unfortunately, both the island and Fuentes were more apparent at this moment than the family destiny the old woman on Haiti had seen, when she threw the bones.


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No Responses to “Free HOOK Edit: The uninhabited island—”

  1. I really like the whole “threw the bones” part. The mystique of the islands!

  2. Oooh…uninhabited island, white sand, starry night…what a great place to start!


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