Tag Archives: The writing life.

Moving Your Story Forward

Today I’d like to talk a little bit about forward movement in fiction. A good story starts at the beginning, moves through the middle, and ends at the end. But this isn’t as simple as it may sound because without forward movement, even good characters get stuck in dull stories. If your characters are reflecting, wondering and thinking a lot, be wary. Odds are all that thinking and wondering aren’t getting them from point a to point b.

Characters must do things, say things, go places, and interact with other people. A young man thinking about death isn’t a story. A young man digging his own grave is. Don’t ask who your character is; ask what your character does. Trust in your skills as a writer. Your character will reveal who he/she is once you’ve undertaken the task of describing him/her through their words or deeds. This happened to me while I was writing my first book, All You Need Is Love. A secondary character I created, the heroine’s Gram, wound up becoming the real life Gram I wished I had while growing up. Reviewers even mention the quirky senior citizen as endearing and memorable. Go Gram!

When your character’s personality and motivations emerge, this revelation may be so deep you might have to make changes to your plot when you’re done with your first draft. Gram’s constant knudging, made me change her from a one scene character to a six scene character. Quite a difference.

Our characters often reveal themselves to us when we least expect it and this is what makes being a writer, at least for me, so much fun ☺ These aren’t just voices we hear in our heads urging us to write their story down, they become real people we can relate to through the process of writing their story, and in some instances we hate to say goodbye to when the story is over.

Plot turns into story when we convey emotional information to the reader. A woman discovers the end of her marriage. A young man is left at the altar by the love of his life, a child realizes his mother isn’t coming back. Use these emotional discoveries that make real life interesting, horrifying, and beautiful.

Once you entwine them into your story, you begin to mesh plot and character together. Your reader will experience real heart break, loss or joy. Through this process of meshing you’ll feel the difference because the emotional information you convey will create a memorable three-dimensional character that might just grow his/her own fan base : )


Cathy Tully

Write What You Know

About seven years ago at an RWA conference, I sat in on a workshop. In this workshop, attendees were asked to list every job we’ve ever had and the roles we’ve played in life throughout the years. I listed: Administrative Assistant to NY Fortune 500 Executive, Secretary in a pool of thirty, College student/graduate, receptionist at a veterinarian hospital, retail associate at a design store, owner of my own Interior Design business, Substitute teacher grades K-12, Girl Scout Leader, mother, sister, wife, daughter, godmother and aunt.

The speaker asked us to think about how we could use the professions we’ve spent time in as part of our books. Can our hero/heroine work in a field we’ve worked in? Can he/she be a parent? A scout leader? A teacher? An Admin? The speaker then went on to explain that if we took what we know and incorporated it into our books, not only would our writing voice be more genuine, but our hero/heroine would be more relatable.

Long after this workshop was over, I thought about what the speaker had said and something clicked. Yup. It was my light bulb moment. So, I took the speaker’s advice and incorporated a part of who I am into my next book, and like they say, the rest is history : )

My first book, All You Need Is Love features, Little Man, my family dog, who we lost to illness. By filling the pages of this book with his cuteness and adorable ways, he literally jumps off every page. I love dogs, always have, and through no planning of my own, a dog pops up in every book I write. It’s funny how the subconscious works, isn’t it? My critique partner says having a dog in all my books is part of my ‘brand’ and I suppose she’s right. All I know is that dog’s allow us to be vulnerable. We’re allowed to be our true selves around them without judgment and their unconditional love brightens the darkest day.

Marrying Mr. Right’s heroine, Missy Modesto, is similar to a good friend I’ve known my whole life. Missy is a strong woman with a heart of gold and although years may pass between visits, when my old friend and I that based Missy on, do meet, it feels like days not years have passed: )

Training Travis is about a divorced dad who gains custody of his fifteen year old daughter after his ex-wife’s untimely death. And even though I can’t relate to divorce, I am the mother of two girls, so I can relate to Travis’ daughter and the mood swings of a teenage girl : )

My first woman’s fiction, Pieces Of Candy, is about a menopausal, mother of two. Candy is a substitute teacher and decides she’s fed up and wants a career of her own. So begins her journey into interior design.

All of these characters/stories parallel my life in one way or another, and it isn’t by coincidence. I took the speaker’s advice at that conference long ago, and I didn’t just find my writing voice, I found out who I am as a writer because I write what I know.

Do you write what you know? And if so, how do you think your writing process has changed since you’ve started to write what you know?


Cathy Tully