Useful Story Writing Skills

Revising our stories so that a reader will be entranced has several stages. And as I continue to revise my story to make it more enticing for a reader, I am grateful for many writing blogs that help me along the way. 

For crafting a story is like the thrill of discovering the lives of many-faceted villages.

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5 Stages of Writing

It was helpful to read Mary Carroll Moore's blog on the five stages of writing. 

  1. Gathering
  2. Structuring
  3. First Draft
  4. Revision
  5. Submission

I'm still in revision, a stage she calls a huge gateway. She writes, "Most writers aren't trained in revision. They need to hire an editor or a coach. Revision is a LOT more than just refining sentences." 

One of the consistent critiques I have received from my crit partners and beta readers is their desire to get inside the feelings of my protagonists. I'm good at getting the physical choreography and dialogue of a scene down. And many times, I can get good descriptions in of the scene setting. But...feelings?! And to show feelings rather than tell? Well, that's been a toughie. 

But I've discovered a writer tool!

Motivation Reaction Units (MRU)

 I learned about MRUs from Randy Ingermanson, the Snowflake Method writing guy.  He has a blog titled "Writing the Perfect Scene." The MRUs comes from the book by Dwight Swain. 

  • Motivation is external, objective.
  • Reaction is internal, subjective AND composed of FEELINGS, reflex, rational action and speech.  And reactions are to be written in this order.

Sounds very prescriptive, doesn't it? But it was my lightbulb moment and it helps me get more of the story out of my head and onto the pages. 

How?

Applying the MRU

I started with Chapter 1. I saved it as Chapter 1 MRU. Throughout the pages, I separated the Motivations from Reactions.

I typed M in front of the sentence(s) or paragraph(s) that were external, objective. 

I typed R in front of the sentence(s) that were subjective, internal.

Once I completed this for the chapter, I went through and highlighted the Rs in yellow. Because my problem area is getting protagonists feelings on the pages. 

After each R (Reaction), I added specifically what it was.

  • R-Feeling
  • R-Reflex
  • R-Rational Action
  • R-Speech (which included internal speech) 
  • or any of the above combined

I found many times when my protagonist did not express any feelings in many of her  interactions. This method was also helpful for finding chapters where she is quiet and other characters carry the scene. 

Have you found specific crafting-your-story-techniques that have helped you with a troublesome area?  What was the method and how did it help?