Friday, December 28, 2012

Story and Plot: What’s the Difference?

Thinkin1986Some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity…”
Gilda Radner

In my last post, I mentioned how literary fiction focuses on the Story but doesn’t have to worry much about plot. Since I was asked what I meant, and since story and plot are often used interchangeably, I thought I’d address the question in long form instead of in a comment. I know, real surprise that I’d write something in long form. ;-)

peartree2Plot is an outline. Whether an author uses an actual outline while writing a novel, the outline is inferred. It’s what happens and in what order it happens. It’s the bones of the book, the base characters start with and the bends and curves they use to develop. If someone asks you what a book you just read is about, you’re likely to give them the plot (hopefully you won’t reveal the ending).

Commercial fiction, or genre fiction, is plot insistent. Readers used to a certain genre expect each book in that genre to do certain things. For instance, in romance, readers expect two characters to meet and see an attraction, to get together, to have an obstacle that tears them apart or threatens to tear them apart, and then to get back together for the happily ever after. That is the base plot of the romance genre. Stretch it too far with too many other aspects, and readers will say the plot was slow or not tight enough. The plot must follow the genre demands. Writers have to know what those demands are and not following them precisely enough can lead to unhappy reviews.

Story, on the other hand, is a far larger concept.

“In striving to make sense of life, persons face the task of arranging their experiences of events in sequences across time in such a way as to arrive at a coherent account of themselves and the world around them.”
Michael White and David Epstein

Story is not only what happens but the ‘why’ it happens and the ‘what’ that happens because it happened. Story has depth. It has feeling. It has history. (In fact, “story” comes from the Latin “historia” meaning an event that has happened.)

Stories tell us who we are and why we react as we do.

Trees at Mom's”Our identity is constituted by what we ‘know’ about ourselves, how we describe ourselves and how others describe us through story.
“We are implicitly grounded in and guided by stories.
“Power and knowledge is inextricably interrelated in story.”
”Self is a Story, a collection of stories.”

Dee Preston Dillon, PhD

Story is far more powerful and encompassing than plot because it has depth of emotion, it has feeling and understanding and questioning. In the same way that when we give someone our biography, we give them where we were born and how many siblings we had and where we went to school and what we studied and when we married, had children, etc., we are giving them the plot of our lives, when we tell them of our dreams and plans and thoughts and wishes and regrets and fears, we give them our Story.

All fiction has Story. Some of it is broad, some narrow, some of it focuses on a couple of main factors of life and ignores the rest, some of it is long and winding and brings in family backgrounds and social issues. It all has story of some extent. The more Story that’s involved, the more understanding and empathy and reach a novel has.

treesinback-withclouds4All fiction has plot of some kind, as well. Some of it is tight and fast, some of it is meandering and picks up streams and ponds at every opportunity, some is a mix of mostly tight but with some meanders. Every kind has its loyal readers.

Just as no one hero would be right for every heroine, no one kind of novel is right for every reader. Some of us like to test all kinds of waters before we settle on one kind. Some find the one they like and stay right there. Others never settle on one. To each his own. ;-)

“The evolution of lives is akin to the process of reauthoring, the process of persons’ entering into stories, taking them over and making them their own.”
Michael White and David Epstein

[quotes taken from a presentation by Dr. Preston-Dillon: Grounding Sandplay Therapy- Narrative and Active Imagination, Sep 2009]

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Books (and other things) to Talk About


The past couple of nights, I’ve had dreams about writing things – very vivid concrete dreams I was taking as memories and trying to figure out where I was when they happened.
Both were about my direction and doubts about whether it’s the right direction.

What triggered the memory of the latest dream was the NOOK Pinterest folder titled “Books to Talk About.” Their page has several folders for different genres and categories. I found it interesting that the Books to Talk About are all literary fiction (Cutting For Stone, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Sarah’s Key, The Art of Racing in the Rain…). I think part of the reason for the dreams is due to a conversation with a fellow author. He asked my genre and I told him it’s a cross between literary fiction and romance. After the strange look I’m used to getting, he said he wasn’t sure why people wrote lit fic since it doesn’t sell.

I can’t argue. Lit fic is a hard sell. It is. They tend to be fairly long. The plots (or stories, since plot isn’t an essential element in lit fic) tends to be complex and wide. The characters tend to have, and reveal, their backgrounds and family history to the extent it affected their personal development, plus or rather, their societal history that does the same. You know, like real life.

The trouble is a lot of people just aren’t that enthralled with real life and would rather escape when they read. I don’t blame them for that at all. Real life is tough. At least for most of us it is. Now, during the Christmas season, it seems to be more tough than normal for a lot of people. I think the biggest reason for that is, just like we think we need things because the almighty TV says we are supposed to want them, during the Christmas season, we think we are supposed to be joyful and all is supposed to be right and we can see it’s not and it bothers us more than usual that it’s not.

Well, right. There are always things that aren’t “right” in the world and in our small areas. We are all struggling with something or the other. Granted. Still, I read literary fiction0420lkh100 for the same reason that during the struggles, I can still feel the joy there is in Christmas and in daily life, also. I choose to see potential for better. I choose to see the good things, such as the beauty of trees in fog even though it’s scary to drive in fog, and the beauty of swirling snow against a black sky even though it makes roads less safe and threatens power outages.

I read literary fiction because it helps me to understand what I don’t go through myself. I see the world in a much larger perspective. Yes, I see people struggling. I also see them get through it, or if they don’t, I can see that they could have if they had chosen to do so. I see choice. I see growth. I see potential. And I see the “why” instead of just the “what” and that enthralls me.

My personal opinion is that all lit fic should hold uplifting potential and should have light through the dark. I tend to do that with humor and with natural beauty and with a helping hand offered at the right time and such. I will rate a book low if it is too dark with not enough light added. I see no point in focusing on the bad without enough good to balance it. It’s my choice.

I also choose to add plenty of romance because, let’s be honest, romance/love/lust/passion are the center of our lives. Everything revolves around that. Romance is always the best-selling genre. People want it. [Unfortunately, “romance” is often equated with sex and lust. There should be a whole different category for sex and lust and they should be firmly separated, since sex is a whole different thing than romance and people should understand that, as well. What I write, along with my lit fic, is actual romance, the development of the relationship.] Plus, a good romance in a story helps dispel the dark just as it does in real life. We all know this.

In my dreams, I understand the opposing viewpoint, the one telling me I won’t get anywhere by bucking the tide. Well, maybe not, but I do hope my books will end up in a “Books To Talk About” list at some point. Conversation is good. It’s necessary. I’ve seen so many comments where people tell others, “This isn’t the time to talk about…” this or that. Well, I have to disagree. If it’s something someone needs to talk about, then it is the time to talk about it. Talk is good. Thinking and pondering are good. Understanding what you don’t live through yourself is very good. We need to do more of that.

So, as in my dreams, I will stick to my guns (so to speak) and keep writing about real life and real people and real events because these things are necessary to talk about. If my only success is that I get a handful of people to think about or talk about something they wouldn’t otherwise, that’s success enough … at least for my lit fic.

A little side project in the meantime doesn’t hurt. More on that later.

I hope all of you find the joy and happiness you wish for this Christmas season and always. 0385lkh

[Balloon photo ©K. Hawkins]

Friday, December 21, 2012


0387-lkh100So we’ve bridged past another doomsday prediction date. Should I not speak so soon since there’s part of a day left?

I don’t quite understand the penchant of so many wanting or choosing to believe in any or every one of these things that come and go. What is it in people that makes them continue to look for the last days of earth? Me, I’d rather focus on how much I can get out of every day I have, however many that happens to be, without worrying too much about ‘that’ day, whatever that day is.

On that note, I have Rehearsal: Of Chaotic Currents released. Congrats to Anna, the Goodreads giveaway winner out of over 200 who entered!  Also, congrats to Lorraine who won the gift basket at my local Book Release party!

How about I throw in another last minute giveaway? I have 2 ebooks of Chaotic Currents I’ll give away either from Smashwords in the format of your choice, or in pdf version via email. Just reply to this with a quick comment to say what you’d do if you thought it was your last day on earth.

Let’s give it a week. I’ll have someone draw a name on the 28th, sometime eastern standard time.


Rehearsal: Of Chaotic Currents
LK Hunsaker

The Raucous crew is on the road moving along toward the end of the Seventies. With several number one hits and a UK tour, the band is set for bigger things and larger adventures. Along the route, false rumors and relationship strains abound, and a dangerous curve threatens to overturn their journey.

When a sudden explosion rocks them to their cores, the band members, management, and fans question their future.

Elucidate Publishing
December 2012
ISBN 978-0-9887120-3-4

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12-12-12 and other numbers

FBprofileDec2012Water and numbers.

Doesn’t it seem as though we live our entire lives around those two things?

Of course we need water to survive physically. I suppose numbers help us survive mentally just the same. After all, we are creatures of needed organization. We can’t function without it. Calendars. Rooms. Neighborhoods. States. Pencil holders. Our brains even group those we meet into where we meet them and are used to seeing them for the sake of organization and recall.

Some of us, even with every kind of organization in the world available to us, don’t seem to grasp it well. I say this as I realize it was October when I last posted here.

Yesterday I met with the very kind lady who is hosting my newest book release party at her coffee shop. The release is for the third book of the Rehearsal series. I happened to mention I was in editing for book 2 of the series. She gave me a strange look and said, “How can you be editing book 2 when you’re selling book 3?” (not exact, but that meaning)

Right. Well. My response: “When you’re an indie author, you can do what you want with your books.”

Book 3 has a much different cover than the first 2. And, I’m several years more experienced than when I put out the first 2. I’m re-editing both 1 & 2 and they will come out again with new covers to match book 3. Confused yet? Wait till you read book 3, which you could read first if you like but you’d miss some good stuff in 1 & 2. But hey, read outside the numbers. Grab #3 first! I threw in enough background you shouldn’t be lost and you can always go back and read #1 later if you want more detailed background. #1 is re-edited and back online as an ebook. As soon as #2 is done (again), it’ll be back as an ebook, and I predict that will be soon (hopefully before the end of the year, but not a promise, and it’ll take that long to read #1 if you do want to start at the beginning).

Yes, it’s a very long series. It starts in 1974 and goes through 1986, with a sequel already in the works, and I have the germ of an idea for a prequel, as well. I happen to think it’s worth the time to read, but what do I know? I’m the author. I adore my characters. And I’ve spent … oh, about … 30 years with them in development by now. There’s a number for you. I think it’s an impressive number.

I started writing it seriously in 1996. Wonder if I can get the last of the series (#6) done and out by 2016. Hey, there’s a goal. We’ll see how it works. I like goals. I need goals the way most need water and numbers.

Book #4 is close to finished, as well. It’ll be out next year. In the meantime, I plan to re-release #1 & #2 in print format and finish my lit fic. Yikes. Maybe too much of a goal.. but then, there’s another nearly ready to release, as well. If you click on that image at the top of this post, you can get a preview of my new sidetrack project. (Sidetrack should be my middle name.)

I sure hope 12-21-12 is not the last day of earth. I have too many things to do yet!

Happy 12-12-12!

If you expect to be around and kicking with the rest of us after 12-21, go sign up for my Goodreads Giveaway for book 3 – Rehearsal: Of Chaotic Currents.

It’s not a quick read. It’s a heck of a lot of story in 612 pages with some incredible character development and very close third person POV. That’s the way I write. Eventually I’ll get the page for it put up on my site. Yikes, this year has flown by like a blue whale in the Atlantic.

Reh-OfChaoticCurrents-100medRehearsal: Of Chaotic Currents
LK Hunsaker
Elucidate Publishing
December 2012
ISBN 978-0-9887120-3-4

[Have a Pinterest site?? Pin this image! Many, many thanks!]

My Pinterest page has it up there already if you’d rather find it and REPIN instead.

By the way, I’m selling my stock of the first 2 Rehearsal books at clearance price to make way for the new editions. Interested? Email me!