FREE Lesson Helps & Assignments
This is a new segment to this site to further our education and our learning process.
Lessons or Assignments - Writing Rules
1. 1. Plot: Does the story have one of the four basic plot types?
a - goal achieved
b - misunderstanding/discovery/reversal
c - journey (series of events)
d - wish granted
2. Appealing Main Character: Will the reader care about him/her? Does the child or main character solve the problem?
3. Emotion: Is there love/Felicity/Passion in the Story? It must resonate emotionally.
4. Engaging: Is there a "promise" made to the reader within the first few pages? Is that "promise" kept? Is the story fun to read aloud?
5. Intensity: Will readers feel strong emotions?
6. Theme: Does the story have depth, greater meaning or life lesson (without being didactic)?
7. Ending: Is there a twist or special pay-off at the end to delight the reader?
8. Re-readability: Will the reader want to read the story again?
9. Length: Keep the story to about 2 or 3 pages. (I don’t want to get overwhelmed)
10. The stories may be fiction or they may be an experience(s) you’ve had. (please change the names if they are experiences).
11. A new lesson will be available roughly at the beginning of the month and be due roughly at the end of the month. Each of us learns and writes on our own schedule, not mine. Please send your work to me at dalanbinder AT gmail DOT com for a kind and thoughtful review.
Helps for the writer:
I’ve paid for an editor twice and found them to be in a range sorta useful to not useful at all and some of them ask for outrageous amounts of money; use them at your discretion.
(Note: I am advocating for the writer to learn as much as possible about the parts of a story-NOT pay for any of the other information. If you chose to do that, then that is your choice.)
Shawn Coyne’s’s Story Grid is by far the best for free and also very useful information, podcasts, spreadsheets and helping one understand the elements of story and tools for easier story writing.
Go to Robert McKee’s website and subscribe to his informative emails (I know, he sends lots of pitches and wants you to sign up for his seminars, but just read the emails and glean and learn interesting story elements.) https://mckeestory.com/newsletter/subscribe/
Lesson Number 1
Write a story about 3 sisters or brothers. Incorporate how individuals can change and evolve. Show how people may seem to be one dimensional and then have more and more depth as they change or evolve.
Lesson Number 2
Siblings are the meat of our existence if not ours then someone else's. It can be bane or boom.
Write a story about 2 children and the sibling they wish they had or never had, your choice. Maybe it is both?
Let me reiterate that each of these lessons may be taken in any order, but it is extremely important that you write each and every day. This is what the excellent writers do and what we must do in order to continue to grow and learn and progress.
Lesson Number 3
Relationships are also the side dishes (maybe even main dishes) of our existence if not ours then someone else's.
Write a story about a relationship that is meaningful to you and that has impact in your life or someone that you know.
Lesson Number 4
People profess to have certain qualities and we have preconceived conceptions about those qualities, when a person bends or breaks those preconceptions then it can damage us and maybe them.
This will help you to delve into different types of characters who may not be like you and help you get to understand them better through your writing about them and the insights that you gain or lose during the interaction.
We have conceptions about people who profess to be Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, Catholic, Budhist, or Confucianists.
Write a story about a time when two or more people professed to belong to a certain faction named above and then did not follow your preconceptions or more importantly did not follow what you understand to be the teachings of that certain faction.
Lesson Number 5
Your story this month will have to flip the script sometime at the midway point; your protagonist becomes the antagonist and vice versa.
Learning to flip the script is becoming more normal in a few scripts that I”ve seen within this last year. It will be interesting to see the developments and progression that leads to this change.
Lesson Number 6
Your story this month involves no characters. It will be a fictional depiction or story about non-human participants. It may be aliens, trees, animals but something that does not involve humans. It must be interesting and compelling and inventive.
Lesson Number 7
Heartbeat of a _________
This is the title of your story. You insert what the blank is and then begin to tell a story. Ideas to get you started…
Heartbeat of a Tree
Heartbeat of a Town
Heartbeat of the Mountain
Give it a shot and see where it goes. It will be very interesting to see what context and direction is chosen by each of you.
Lesson Number 8
Adventures are the soul of our lives. Write about an adventure that you had, ensure that it meets the story criteria, i.e., Theme. A theme is something important the story tries to tell us—something that might help us in our own lives.
Plot. Plot is most often about a conflict or struggle that the main character goes through.
Style and Tone.
Lesson Number 9
It's not a crime until you're caught.
Write a story about a crime. Did they get caught? What type of crime is it? A crime against humanity? A crime of the heart? What were the ramifications of this crime? What difference does it make in the characters' lives? How does the crime affect the perpetrator and the victim?
Is the perpetrator someone justified in the crime or how does the perp justify committing the crime? All interesting questions that you the writer get to decide whether to answer any or all of those questions.
Lesson Number 10
Writing is writing and getting into something offbeat and different from your usual style is very important in order to learn different patterns and voices and cadences. Write an article for this site. Your research will be to read previous articles and gain insight into what this site promotes and how it goes about it with that approach. After writing the article then submit it to me in order to get your article published on this site with all credits to you. It is an important step to be accepted by another site and become published. Good luck and I look forward to hearing from each of you. Send your article to dalanbinder AT gmail DOT com
Lesson Number 11
Write something! If you are a writer then write! Free style writing is also writing. This lesson is that your writing can take many forms. Journaling, your memoirs, an email (texting not allowed in this one) to someone that is special and important to you and letting them know you are glad to have them in your life and why. Other types of writing are also acceptable, verse, prose, story, poetry (there is so much poetry that gets written and ALL of it is great for the writer). Any writing you do is important and do AT LEAST one sentence a day for a week, a paragraph would enhance and exponentiate your learning and habit. That is the whole point. Habit. Habit outshines everything. Even the worst writing will incrementally improve with habit, with time, with abundance, with diligence.
Lesson Number 12
Background. Nuff said. LOL, no not nuff said there’s always more to be said. Write some background for a story you want to write. Background fills in the gaps, voids and YET, avoid saying too much. Make the background interesting and ensure your readers want more and find it interesting too. One thing about Stephen King is even if you don’t like his stories or some of his endings (I find myself in that category) the man can write and it is interesting and COMPELLING writing. You get immersed in it and his cadence is without question. You get immersed in it and his cadence is without question. When you read, study the writer you are reading and ensure that you are learning while you write; otherwise it is just entertainment.
Lesson Number 13
All plots follow a logical organization with a beginning, middle, and end.
Beginning: Exposition, conflict
Middle: Rising action, climax
End: Falling action, resolution
Use a paragraph for the beginning which captures and intros the characters, setting, and the central conflict.
Use a paragraph for the middle which are the events that directly impact the story. Use crisis points and obstacles to keep it interesting.
Use a paragraph for the end to conclude and resolve the conflict and give a sense of satisfaction, definitely value, and perhaps an understanding of the characters and their motivations.
Lesson Number 14
What is your plan? Develop a story from inciting incident, to the middle build and then the end. Using all you’ve learned in previous lessons, just make an outline.
Some people use the pantsy-ing method where they just start writing and see what comes out. This is the opposite of that method, where you plan it all out in an outline.
See what happens and what results that you get.
Lesson Number 15
All good stories have an inciting incident that really kicks things off. This is an explanation from MasterClass: “The inciting incident of a story is the event that sets the main character or characters on the journey that will occupy them throughout the narrative. Typically, this incident will upset the balance within the main character's world.” Write an inciting incident. Write one with punch. At this time you do not have to write anymore of the story; however, you may find that this propels you along and entices you to write more.
Lesson Number 16
Joshua Fields Milburn writes in his 15 Tips for Better Writing “A sure sign of amateur writing is the overuse of adverbs, especially -ly adverbs. The woman in the story isn’t incredibly pretty—she’s beautiful; the sky isn’t very blue—it’s azure. Find the perfect words to avoid using adverbs as crutches.”
Change a few sentences from telling to showing:
It was a beautiful day.
It was a rainy day.
He was tired.
She is feeling weakened.
Yes, these are simple basics but it sets you up and actually teaches you HOW to show not tell. I don’t know how many times I heard the words, “show not tell” but did NOT know HOW to show not tell. Now we do.
Lesson Number 17
How many times have you heard that if you can’t do it correctly then don’t do it at all!
I know I have; however, this is really not true. The first time I tied my shoelaces it was a disaster. Also the next time as well. Turns out that it took weeks of practice and I was not always doing it correctly. Also just ties a knot rather than a bow that can hold then easily be taken out also works. Correctly is in the eyes of the doer not the beholder. Someone else is applying standards to you. You apply the standards and you decide if your house is clean enough, you decide if you want to wash dishes now, tomorrow or when you run out of dishes. Which way is correct? Answer: The one you choose. This is the same with writing. The first draft is NEVER pristine and without any errors. Wait, is this an exercise, a lesson or a pep talk? You decide. Now write a paragraph and just write. No outline or destination required or even an end story. That is how you progress and progression is an incremental thing. Progress is almost never doing it exactly right the first time. Incrementally is the way to go. Now go!
Lesson Number 18
Rejections happen. It is a tragedy and yet a growth lesson. How many times have you submitted and been rejected? Are you keeping track? You should have a tracking file with the submittal date, where and when and what material. Always track, this is your progress. One author I just interviewed, Silvia Foti, submitted for 20 years. Yeah, be prepared to go the distance.
Your assignment is simple, submit your material once more today. Then again next week and keep following it up every week. I do. Happy submissions.
Lesson Number 19
Here’s a fantastic lesson take a story you’ve written and answer the six questions a writer must be able to answer about their story:
What's the genre?
What are the conventions and obligatory scenes for that genre?
What's the Point of View?
What are the objects of desire?
What's the controlling idea/theme?
Lesson Number 20
What if? Hmmmm, this can lead to so many things, when we put aside assumptions and knowns then we are left with many directions to choose from. What if humans were smaller than ants, would they be predators? What if our sun only had the brightness of the moon all day, what would happen, how would that affect us, how would that affect plants, what about how it affects moods, etc? Those assumptions, those physical attributes that we take for granted, in stories can be changed any way we want. Animals can talk, plants and trees can walk, insects can grow gigantic, and all the knowns we know becomes a new world. Of course, one has to explain why this is, or one may simply say “it is a different world and something changed but we don’t know why”. Good fodder for stories. Change the known assumptions and physical limitations and then write a great story.
Lesson Number 21
Bread crumb lesson. Write four paragraphs with three bread crumbs in each. (Bread crumbs are hints that may come.) Ensure the last paragraph culminates in at least the use of 3 or 4 of those previous bread crumbs.
Lesson Number 22
Description lesson. Freedom, sweet freedom, but what does it smell like? What does freedom taste like? Please describe it in a paragraph or two and ensure that it is enticing and compelling. It can be in a story or just a stand alone.
Lesson Number 23
Query Letter: Write your query letter for an editor, a publisher, an agent, whomever you desire. This is THE most important writing you will ever do, for if you can’t get accepted then you will not progress.
Lesson Number 24
Define Kaleidoscopic: Use your imagination and be so descriptive that others take notice and can see and feel your writing skills.
Please note: If you’d like any of your efforts published just send them to me to include on my site under articles and interviews.
Lesson Number 25
What is the scariest moment of your life? Describe it, yet make it have the nuances of a story, inciting incident, etc. Let’s see how it turns out.
Lesson Number 26
Observe and what do you see? Look out the window and take the people, animals, birds, etc. and observe them. What behaviors do you see? What are they doing and what do you think they will do based upon your observations? Writers are good observers and can recall details that others might miss or do not see. Take those experiences and embellish and empower yourself.
Lesson Number 27
What’s the difference between cute, pretty, beautiful, handsome, good looking and other adjectives that we assign to humans? This is part of your skills at description and also your discernment between very similar descriptions and yet quite different.
Lesson Number 28
The assignment this month is to write a paragraph that leaves a cliffhanger ending. One in which it leaves the reader wondering, I wonder what happened, or what will happen next, one that fully engages the reader. When you learn how to do this on a small scale then you can apply it to future longer writings.