What I Learned from Almost Dying this Week

This past week has been really enlightening for me and I thought I would share the lesson(s) I learned.

I got really sick, and I still am – I’m like patient zero over here, don’t come near me! I started feeling unwell last Wednesday and by Friday I was convinced something was seriously wrong. I went to the doctor and got a blood test (haven’t heard back yet), and then spent the better part of a week in bed.

Each day I would awake with the sun at 5:30 and watch it set at night. It was like Groundhog Day. I re-lived the same day over and over and over. On several occasions I contemplated taking my own life to stop the madness (not serious considerations, but if I felt this way on a camping trip and I had a gun, I’d probably shoot myself in the face and let the river take me out to sea).

What I felt was like someone with giant hands had magically slipped their way under my skin, through the back of my skull and was now cradling my brain, and then with their big-ass banana-fingers, they would squeeze my puny brain. Then I had massively swollen lymph nodes, which I learned are not just in your neck. I was like, ‘Yo fam, I think I have armpit cancer!’ I have these massive lumps in my armpits (thanks Google for talking me off a ledge with the armpit cancer). I felt weak, tired, sore, and sweaty. I would fluctuate between high fever and bone-chilling shakes.

Mealtimes were interesting. I would routinely have to coax myself into eating the smallest of portions. I’d be like, ‘Come on man, just eat one piece of carrot. Can you do that for me?’ Spoon shaking as I lift it to my mouth. ‘Good. You’re doing so good. Okay bro, listen, I need you to do the same thing, this time why don’t we go for one of those big-ass potato pieces. Great. Perfect. Now slurp up some of this high-sodium bullshit Campbells calls a broth…’ This was my internal dialogue for each meal – a quarter of a can of soup. I could never figure out why I was always hungry.

The desire to eat was often, but the opportunities to eat were rare. Occasionally the clouds would part and the sun would shine down on me and I would have these brief hour-long windows (usually twice a day, almost like clockwork), where I would feel reasonably decent (I could stand and walk without wanting to die!) and I would take advantage of these opportunities. I would wash dishes, do meal prep, bathe, etc. Out of necessity, I even ventured outside (in the rain mind you) on one crazy occasion to re-up on supplies (meds and soup). While these windows were brief and few, they were the only thing that helped me stay alive since I don’t have the luxury to hire a live-in nurse or caretaker. But inevitably, the darkness would return and I would be in a state of head-splitting agony, sweat-drenched clothes, and mind-numbing delirium.

Sometimes during these hour-long windows I would feel so good that I would eat a steak sandwich and down a fruit smoothie. Kind of like I stole a base in baseball. It was my way of giving the middle finger to the virus, which I could feel pulsating through my body. But the virus would have the last laugh.

You know how when you get sick and each day that passes you usually feel slightly better than you did the day before? Well, not with this virus. It kept me down like an oppressive master. I felt like shit for seven days straight and I wasn’t getting any better. And if you’re thinking that seven days off from work is awesome, it’s not. It’s not like I was watching GoT all day. I was ‘sleeping’ for 20 hours per day. I learned to sleep on towels, and to have a change of clothes already laid out for me to change into in the middle of the night because I would soak everything with sweat and then shake violently to stay warm. I recalled a line from Les Stroud Survivor man, ‘You sweat, you die’. Well, Les, you lied – I sweated and did not die!

Anyways, this went on and on until yesterday something was different. During one of my brief windows of feeling decent, the darkness never returned. I was so happy. I still felt like shit, but I was very happy. I got a little ambitious and even did 2 chin-ups followed up by mandatory flexing in the mirror. This was the first sign in a week that my health was trending upward.

I had been cooped up in isolation for so long that I was desperate to get out and interact with the world. But in this solitude I discovered the first of many truths. Namely, I was essentially living my cat’s life – sleep all day, eat shitty food, and have no female visitors. What the fuck kind of life is this? What kind of cruel existence have I created for this poor creature? So perhaps when I’m thinking more soberly I will consider getting Socrates a girlfriend or a playmate. I may also consider taking him on adventures. I don’t know.

Anyways, back to me. So if any of you woke up feeling as I did today, it would be an easy decision to call in sick. I feel like shit. However, compared to the past week, I feel markedly better. So I went into work today with a fresh haircut, clean shave, and a smile. Big mistake. I pissed off the virus and he’s like, ‘what the fuck, bro. You think this is over? You think you won?’ I only lasted a couple hours before I went home with my tail tucked. I did notice that being in public during rush hour in downtown Vancouver was really shocking to my system. I had been operating on a sloth-like pace for a week. Then I get thrown into the maddening beehive of commerce and I was like, ‘Yo, why are you people walking so fast?’

The important lesson (aside from my new perspective on my cat’s life) was that life is very temporary. I’m healthy as shit, and I felt like I almost died. And that could happen any time, any day, to any one of us. Some bullshit virus could come along and snuff you out of existence like nothing. And the world will keep on moving.

So my plea to you is this – and I know you’ve heard it before. If you are one of those cheeto-finger, mouth-breathers who doesn’t take your health seriously and only exists to sit in front of your TV and go to work, stop and ask yourself – what are we doing? Life is worth living. We are only on this planet a short amount of time. Pay no mind to gossip, or get consumed with time-wasting endeavours that don’t push progress. Don’t allocate large portions of your day to people who do not enhance you or believe in you. Don’t live in the past with regret.

EM

The 7 Elements of Great Storytelling

book-863418_1280What are the elements that make a story great? Recently, I sat down and decided to write the core elements that I feel make a story great, and I came up with seven.

1.      Writing

Writing a great story naturally involves great writing. This is why I put this as the very first element. If you’re thinking about having a career in writing, your writing must be good – a base level of proficiency should consist of:

  • Fluidity
  • Clarity
  • Purpose
  • Proper spelling and grammar
  • Expansive vocabulary
  • Appropriate word choice
  • Logical coherence

The good news is that almost anyone can reach this level with practice, which is actually encouraging. Unlike other disciplines such as singing or playing in the NBA, writing well has less to do with natural talent or physical attributes, it’s just a matter of putting in the effort. Stephen King wrote in his book ‘On Writing’, “the first million words are practice,” and I believe this to be more or less true. If you put in the work and show up every day, your writing will eventually improve.

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2.      Originality

Your idea or story has to be somewhat original and interesting. I say ‘somewhat original’ because it’s very difficult to come up with a completely original and interesting idea. Most great storytellers borrow ideas from others. It’s okay to be inspired by others and borrow ideas – I borrow ideas all the time, but I make reference of them to give credit where it’s due. In my Prodigy book, I use themes from Plato’s Republic, but I make sure to reference them to let the reader know that I’m not trying to steal Plato’s ideas and pass them off as my own. Instead, I’m paying homage to something that inspired me.

To improve originality, it’s important to be well-rounded in terms of your interests and your scope of knowledge. So try to be very broad with your understanding of things, especially areas where you have relatively no knowledge, whether it’s science, religion, cultures, economics, history, geography… It’s also helpful to be:

  • World travelled
  • Read books
  • Hang out with different types of people
  • Listen to podcasts
  • Watch documentaries
  • Challenge your opinions and assumptions – be critical and objective about your thoughts
  • Be observant about the world
  • Develop a new hobby such as archery, yoga, ballet, rock climbing…

Over time, you will uncover things, learn new truths, and develop original thinking in areas where you would otherwise not have gone down if you just stayed in this narrow lane of topics that interest you.

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3.      Characters

Your characters have to be well-defined and relatable. Part of having well-defined characters means they should each have their own distinct voice and unique set of characteristics that separate them from other characters in your story. Here are some things to consider:

  • Your characters shouldn’t all sound alike
  • Each character should have their own point of view
  • Your reader should be able to tell who’s talking without you telling them
  • Your characters should generally behave in a consistent manner

One method I use, and a lot of other writers use, is character profiles. These are simply one or two page summaries of each of your main characters. Start by selecting an image of what your character looks like (you can draw it if you like or find an image online). Next, write down the answers to the following questions:

  • What are their beliefs or values?
  • What is their background?
  • What motivates them?
  • What are their goals?
  • What are their interests or hobbies?
  • What are their opinions?

You can then have a few quotables, something like, “I’m working part-time and going to school to become a doctor,” “My girlfriend is a painter,” “I really don’t like how lazy I am, I want to change.” This will help cement the idea of their true nature in your head.

When you take the time to write character profiles, you can put your characters in any situation and have very good understanding of what they would do and how they would behave in that situation.

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4.      Pace

The pacing of your story has to be such that the reader does not get bored easily. Make them want to keep reading. I often use the metaphor of a monkey swinging from vine to vine – when it swings from one vine, and that vine has reached its maximum extension, there should be another vine within reach, ready to be grabbed and allow the monkey to carry its momentum forward.

So if you have a really lengthy and verbose opening that describes the house the person grew up in, the colour of the carpet, their lovely neighbours… and you go on and on and on about minutia, then it’s going to be boring for many readers – it’d be like starting a race with your feet in mud. Why have your readers slog through mud at all. They should be able to take off with your story and maintain that momentum (or have the momentum increase) until the very last page.

If you want your book to hit with a lot of people, you need to hook them in immediately and maintain a steady pace. This may not come easy to you in the first draft, but it can be done in the editing process. For instance, maybe in the revision you decide that the first three chapters can be combined into one chapter, or better yet, one paragraph. This gets the story started as deep into the story as possible.

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5.      Story Arc

The story arc must be suspenseful. By nature, human beings are really attracted to suspense. In most stories, the hero always wins, and yet despite knowing this, we still love watching movies and reading books. That’s because it’s not necessarily the payoff at the end that we live for, even though that is satisfying. What we truly crave is the uncertainly of the drama.

In his book called, ‘The Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature and Purpose of Drama’, David Mamet talks about this hypothetically perfect ball game in which he does a very good job of describing the kind of natural tension that we love.

He says, “The perfect ball game – what do we wish for in the perfect ball game? Do we wish for our team to take the field in thrash the opposition from the first moment to the final gun? No, we wish for a closely fought match that contains many satisfying reversals, but which can be seen retroactively to always tend toward a satisfying and inevitable conclusion. We wish, in effect, for a three act structure.

“In act one, our team takes the field and indeed prevails over its opponents, and we, its participants feel pride. But before the pride can mature into arrogance, this new thing occurs – our team makes an error. The other side is inspired and pushes forward with previously unsuspected strength and imagination. Our team weakens and retreats.

“In act two of this perfect game, our team is shaken and confused. They forget the rudiments of cohesion and strategy and address that made them strong. They fall deeper and deeper into a slew of despond. All contrary efforts seem naught and just when we think that the tide may have turned back the other way, a penalty or adverse decision is rendered, nullifying their gains. What could be worse?

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“But wait. Just when all else seems irredeemably lost, help comes, which is act three. A player, previously believe to be second rate, emerges with a block, a throw, a run, and offers a glimmer of that possibility of victory. Yes, only a glimmer. But it is sufficient to rouse the team to something approaching its best efforts and the team indeed rallies. Our team brings the score back even and makes the play that would put them ahead, only to have it called back yet again by fate, or by its lieutenant, a wrong-headed, ignorant or malicious official.

“But see, the lessons of the second act were not lost on our team. People might say that it’s too late or the clock is too far run down, our heroes are too tired… yet they rouse themselves for one last effort, one last try, and do they prevail? Do they triumph with scant seconds left on the clock? Oh, they do. They all but prevail. As the final seconds of the play, the outcome rests on the lone warrior – that hero, that champion, that person upon whom in the final moment all our hopes devolve. That final play, run, pass, penalty kick. But wait. That hero that would have been chosen for the task, that champion is injured. No one is left on the bench…”

There is the perfect game as described by David Mamet. It’s very interesting and obviously points to these kinds of ebbs and flows, this tide, this yin this yang, this push pull tension where they’re up, they’re down, they’re up again, they’re down again. And just when it appears there is no hope, somehow by all odds stacked against them, they come back and become triumphant in the most unsuspecting way in the final seconds of the game. So if you can, your story could follow a similar arc as well.

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6.      Conclusion

Your story must have a satisfying ending, which is indeed difficult. When I write, a lot of times I don’t know how the story will end. I may have an idea, but I usually discover it when I get there. I just wing it and hope for the best. It’s difficult to have a satisfying, original, and unpredictable ending that pays off for the reader. If you build up the story adequately, the ending must deliver so that the previous efforts are not lost. You want your reader to finish the book with a smile, unable to contain their joy – they can’t wait to tell their friends, read the sequel, learn everything they can about you… A good ending can also save, or make up for a lackluster climax. An average story with an amazing twist ending can bolster the story in ways that no other part of the book can.

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7.      *Bonus* — Timing

If you incorporate the first six elements of storytelling into your book, you may come close to creating a masterpiece. However, I think one bonus element could be included in the list that may elevate a great book to a nearly perfect book – and that is well-timed comedy or drama in appropriate places. By this I mean, if you’re writing a really dramatic scene with lots of tension, a great way to keep the reader engaged is to inject some comedic relief (or if your book is funny, inject some drama in certain places). Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is an excellent example of this. And if done well, it could really take your book to the next level.

So there they are, the 7 elements of great storytelling. If you have any other insights or feel I missed some, please let me know in the comments below.

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The Perception of Publishing

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It’s no secret the publishing industry is undergoing a radical change, but what still needs to change is people’s perception.

Traditionally, for an author to gain exposure, they needed to be published with a major publishing house (which only accepts manuscripts solicited by literary agents). Therefore, literary agents acted as gatekeepers, determining which books are worthy of being published.

However, with the advent of digital books, the marketplace and channels of distribution are open to everyone. While it has never been easier to get a book into the hands of readers, there are still some major hurdles authors need to overcome.

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If publishing were a true meritocracy, then the best books would also be the ones that sell the most. Currently, that is not the way it works. I’m sure we can all think of bestselling books that are terribly written.

The reason this happens is because publishers spend a lot of money to promote a book. The promotion generates interest, which can translate into sales. If enough books are sold within a certain time period, the book will become a bestseller. Once it makes the bestseller’s list, it will convince people it’s good, when it may not be.

Most bestseller lists are reported weekly, based on total units sold. To make the list, a book usually needs to sell between 7,000 and 12,000 copies. That means a book that sells heavily for one week will be on the same list as a book that sells heavily all year round. So a book that sells 7,000 copies in one week and then zero the remainder of the year may be perceived to be better than a book that sells over 100,000 copies per year (but never more than 7,000 per week).

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Since there are many subsequent benefits of being on a bestseller list, many authors and publishers manipulate the sales by purchasing a large volume of their own books. Once they make the list, they can forever claim the bestseller title, which then connotes quality, credibility, and prestige. Being on the list, even in this artificial way, allows a title or author to gain exposure and sales that are perhaps undeserved.

Considering how much emphasis is placed on this list, it does two things:

a.) reinforces people’s perception of books, and;

b.) funnels the herd of book buyers to buy bestsellers over non-bestsellers.

My concern is that given the financial limitations many authors face, it discourages authors from writing, and instead encourages them to pursue a more financially worthwhile career. In effect, robbing society of great storytellers and reduces our cultural enrichment. Therefore, the perception of publishing needs to change.

On Episode 16 of The Edward Mullen Podcast, I discuss the many different publishing options for writers. I will briefly recap that list:

  1. Major Publisher: (Hatchette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, Simon & Shuster)
  2. Medium Publisher
  3. Small and Vanity Publisher
  4. Self-publish

In the podcast, I discuss the various pros and cons of different publishing options and concluded that self-publishing was the right avenue for me. However, what I’m finding is that I often have to defend that choice to people, as if my books are in some way inferior to books published under the traditional route.

In many other creative outlets such as music, movies, and art… the term independent does not carry the same stigma. In fact, in many cases it is worn proudly like a badge of honour since it represents hustle and a willingness to forgo the corporate world to keep the art pure. It’s also a viable way to earn a living and garner respect. Many independent musicians and movie makers have won the highest awards in their fields. Sadly, this has not caught on in the publishing industry.

As I have discovered, there are many restrictions to being a self-published author, even if your books are read by millions of people around the world. Some of them include:

  1. You may not gain credibility
  2. You may be restricted from entering book contests
  3. Your book will not be distributed in certain stores (including some ebook stores)
  4. Your government may not give you a writing grant

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With music, a song can be uploaded to the Internet and listened to with ease. If your song is good, it can be shared, played on radio and in clubs, and be featured in movie soundtracks. Radio stations will want to play your tune and invite you into the station for an interview. Once you develop a fan base, you have multiple revenue streams available to you such as album sales, touring, selling merchandise, and YouTube revenue. It is by no means easy to make a living and develop a fan base as a musician, but hear me out. If you are an aspiring stand-up comedian, you can follow the same formula as the musician, and eventually find your way into movies, television, and various hosting gigs. The major money-making opportunity available is live shows. A comedian or musician can earn millions by performing at clubs and venues around the world. Movies are similar in that they require a minimal investment of the audience’s time and money.

However, none of these options are available to authors, even the most successful ones. When was the last time you saw somewhere wearing a Stephen King shirt? When was the last time an author hosted anything on television? Yes, writers can earn a living in various ways, but the point I’m trying to make is that authors upload their content for free, but do not have secondary avenues to make money like touring comedians and musicians. Books require more of a time commitment, cannot be shared easily in venues, television, or radio. Due to these financial limitations, an aspiring author may give up to pursue a career that is a more worthwhile use of their time.

In the interest of brevity, I will reiterate two points. First, a self-published book can be just as good as a bestseller, and even outsell a bestseller, but is prohibited of many of the benefits of a bestseller. Second, due to this perception in society, we are stifling the creative potential of our best writers and storytellers, and thereby robbing society of the great benefit of entertainment.

Prodigy Returns Coming Soon!!

Prodigy Returns Cover

The highly anticipated trilogy to the cult-classic Prodigy series is coming soon to eBook stores!

When Earth’s prodigy finds herself alone and afraid, she must quickly pull herself together and face a new trial. Her mission: locate her father and bring him home. With new threats and challenges emerging at every turn, Alex must rely on her fast-thinking and bravery while attempting to survive in a completely foreign environment. Of course, she is game for this new test as she stands defiantly in the face of adversity. This time, she calls upon some unfamiliar faces to aid her in her quest.

The Secret Origins of Prodigy

Prodigy - Edward MullenRecently I was asked: “Where did you come up with the idea for Prodigy?”

I thought it was an interesting question and that others would like to know, so here is the tale of how Prodigy came to be.

When I started writing my debut novel The Art of the Hustle, it was just a side project, something to keep me busy. I had no idea at the time that I wanted to be a writer and hadn’t really written fiction. In fact, I kind of stumbled into writing. The Art of the Hustle originally began as an inspirational email I wrote to a friend who was suicidal. I told him a story from my past and highlighted some of the troubled emotions I had gone through in hopes it would help him get through whatever he was dealing with.

When I was done the email, I realized I had written a huge amount of text, and I wanted to do something with it, turn it into a story perhaps that others could read. I sent the short story out to a few other people and the response was really positive. They all wanted to know more.

I kept writing my story, which followed my life pretty closely. I had so much fun writing the book that I completely re-evaluated my life choices. At the time, I was studying for the LSAT and was trying to get into law school. I decided that maybe a career in writing would better suit my personality.

I decided to write a second book, but if I was going to be serious about being a novelist, I should be able to write about anything. Sure, I could write a story about my life, but what about something I’ve never experienced? I accepted the challenge and deliberately wrote a story from a female perspective, set 100 years in the future, and who has a form of autism that makes her exceptionally brilliant.

At the time, I had just got my iPhone and was blown away by the technology. I had never seen anything like it and it captured my imagination. I particularly found the iBooks app of interest. I couldn’t believe I could access nearly any book ever printed on a such a small piece of metal and glass that could sit in my hand.

Naturally, I asked myself, ‘What’s the iPhone 100 going to be like?’ In other words, what would be better than this? I then thought, instead of reading any book, wouldn’t it be cool if you could just download any book you ever wanted into your brain and it would forever be in your memory. And if that’s possible, you could do that with any piece of information. What if everyone did this, what would that do to society? What if we all became enlightened, rational, and kind?

And so the story began to swirl around in my head. I had some concept of perfect civilizations from political science and philosophy classes I had taken, so I set out to theorize my own version. This was also fueled by my frustration at home stupid us humans can be. So my society had no crime, no poverty, no corruption… The only problem was, there was no conflict for our hero to go through. I then created a controversial law called The Child Rearing Act and opened with scene that suggested society wasn’t so perfect.

To pay homage to Plato — an ancient Greek philosopher — I reference his masterful work, ‘The Republic’. Milo finds a paperback copy at one point and reads from it. Some others have pointed out that there are a lot of Greek references in the book. Yes, I know! This is deliberate. I borrowed (stole) the concept of the guardians from Plato, called a character Archimedes, and made about two dozen other references.

So there it is, that’s how Prodigy became a real story. I’m so glad it resonates with so many people. I really enjoy the characters, especially Alex, and would love to see her on the big screen one day!

Thanks for reading, I appreciate you.

Edward

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How to Introduce Backstory Without Boring Readers

How to introduce backstory without boring readersI get a lot of questions regarding writing advice. While I’m no expert, I certainly have some opinions that I’m more than happy to share. Recently, I was asked:

“How should I go about adding background information about characters, setting, and whatnot, while making it seamless and natural to the storyline, and engaging for the reader?”

I would advise not to go too crazy in the beginning. In other words, it may be best to keep the backstory to a minimum in the first couple of chapters. Offer as little backstory as necessary, just enough to provide context, but not enough to make it a slog to get through.

Reading an entire novel requires a huge time commitment and a lot of effort, and there are a ton of other forms of entertainment competing for the reader’s precious time. What a lot of readers do is read the first couple of chapters and see if the book is heading in a direction that will entice them to continue reading. If not, they abandon it and pick up something else. So more than any other time, the opening must be awesome, and backstories are generally not awesome, so save it for later, if at all.

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In my book Prodigy, I have an intro, which I was not a fan of, but I just found it to be the best way. I basically set up the entire context of the story in one go. This is the point of an intro so I don’t think the reader minds as much. It’s when you begin your story, introduce your character, and then ‘info dump’ by stating everything about her.

An example of bad background info would be, “Amy sat quietly in class, listening to her teacher drone on. She was reserved ever since the accident last summer, where her and her friends went camping and accidentally killed a guy…” this may be okay, but not in chapter 1.

I consider it bad because upon first mention of Amy, it’s ‘dumping’ the backstory onto the reader. Your reader doesn’t care about Amy yet and at this point has nothing invested in her, so why would they care about her backstory? If you were to ask me, I’d say have Amy do something interesting, make the reader care about her, and then fill them in on some other details piece by piece – definitely not all at once, and definitely not in the first chapter.

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You may also do a prologue. In the Art of the Hustle for instance, I have a prologue of the main character when he is rich. He’s being interviewed on some talk show and the interviewer asks him, “How did you become a billionaire, where did it all start?” And then I open with chapter one as this young broke kid finishing high school. I think this was way more compelling because the reader knows he eventually becomes rich, but doesn’t know how. As the story unfolds, the reader is trying to guess how he becomes rich.

As the story progresses, I try to use dialogue as much as possible to introduce backstory. This seems natural since characters meeting for the first time don’t know much, if anything, about each other. So naturally they would ask questions that would reveal their backstory. Even then, I wouldn’t get too crazy with it. I may do a bit and then back off out of fear that the reader would get bored.

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photo credit: Frank Miller

So let’s say you are writing Batman and you open with an epic fight scene (usually a good way to hook the reader). Then you could have Bruce back at the bat cave, looking at a photograph of his dead parents and Alfred come in and say something like, “Today’s the twentieth anniversary of your parents’ death,. You would have made them proud, Bruce…”

In this example, we’ve seamlessly worked it into a piece of dialogue that naturally fits the scene. It seems organic and not shoehorned in.

So to reiterate, my preference is to provide background information sparingly, work it into the story as seamlessly as possible (e.g. through dialogue), and try to avoid ‘info dumping’ at the beginning of the book.

I hope this helps. If you have any other questions, let me know.

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How to Transition Smoothly Between Chapters

How to Transition Smoothly Between Chapters I get a lot of questions regarding writing advice. While I’m no expert, I certainly have some opinions that I’m more than happy to share. Recently, I was asked:

“Are there any ‘good’ ways to have smooth transitions between chapters so that the story flows in an understandable way for the reader?”

First we need to understand that there are two different types of transitions that can occur when a chapter ends:

A.) transitioning from one scene to a completely different scene

B.) transitioning from one scene to a continuation of the same scene, but just in the next chapter

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In scenario (a) if there are large gaps of time between the end of one chapter and the beginning of the next, then I usually say something like, “The last 6 months had been rough for Joe. He kept his head down and worked hard…” This is my “establishing shot” so-to-speak. It provides context for the reader and lets them know that the scene has now jumped. The next paragraph after that, I will have Joe doing something and engaging in a new scene.

My book The Art of the Hustle does this quite a bit since I cover 10 years in the book. In one scene, there was so much of a gap (like 4 years), that it was weird to just transition from one chapter to the next so I made a new part. So the book starts out with Part 1 – Chapter 1,2,3,4…. then about halfway, I introduce Part 2 and mention that it has been 4 years later. man walkingIn some cases, it may be more fluid to not have a chapter break, but instead just have a text break. So an example would look like this:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat.

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With this technique, you don’t have to be all that smooth since the separator lets the reader know that you’ve transitioned into a different scene. If the gap in time is not that large, say the character is at work in one chapter, and then at home in the next chapter, I may just say “Joe was exhausted. He sat on the couch as he usually did after his shift and watched sports highlights…” hot air balloon at nightScenario (b) — a continuation of the same scene, but just in the next chapter — is much easier. I actually prefer this ‘cliff-hanger’ technique as much as possible to encourage people to continue reading. TV shows often end this way as well. So if a chapter ends like, “Joe turned around and was shocked by who was standing before him.” I’ll end the chapter there so the reader wants to keep reading to find out who was standing behind Joe.

Then, in the next chapter I would begin by saying something like, “Joe couldn’t believe his eyes as he was now staring at a man he long presumed dead…” So basically you just pick up where you left off. In fact, I often write the scene straight through and then later pick some moment which I feel would make a good cliff-hanger and then end my chapter there.

Some writers have an ‘A’ plot and a ‘B’ plot and they stitch it together like a zipper. So in my above example, you would say something like, “Joe turned around and was shocked by who was standing before him.” End chapter. Then the next chapter would be the ‘B’ plot — a completely different scene altogether.

Then once that chapter ends, you pick up where you left off with the ‘A’ plot. I tend not to do this, but it can add more excitement as the reader now has to read an entire chapter just to get back to where they left off in the story. Blog banner

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