Tag Archives: storytelling

Don’t Forget to Write (Creatively)

SignatureWhen I first started out as a freelance writer, my stories were mainly observational essays based upon things I’d witnessed or experienced in my travels. The story that opened the freelancing door for me was titled The Fox and the Foreigner, a humorous little anecdote about ordering a bowl of kitsune soba in an off-the-beaten-path noodle shop in Kyoto. Since then, my work has expanded to include interviews, film and book reviews, various forms of service journalism, and most recently, international recipes.

In a span of fifteen years, I’ve gone from: “The days were clear and polished, with enormous banks of snow-white cumulus clouds hovering on the horizon’s blue-purple hills.  At day’s end, in the long rays of the October sun, these cloud banks were transformed into glorious kaleidoscopes of color, soon to be subdued and soothed by the onset of twilight, sparked by the twinkle of the evening star.”

To: “In this age of global connectivity, telecommuting is a rapidly-growing option for businesses of all types and sizes. Some companies allow their staff to telecommute on certain days of the week, and work on-site the rest of the time. Others, especially web-based businesses, may operate with a staff comprised mainly of telecommuting employees. Although telecommuting has its pros and cons, it’s certainly worth considering whether it is a good idea for your business. So take a look at your staff and ask yourself how many of them could be working from home.”

And now: “Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté quickly. Add shrimp and sauté until just pink. Add wine and bring to a simmer. Add tomatoes, scallions and herbs and continue simmering for about 5 minutes, until tomatoes are just tender and sauce thickens. Season with salt and pepper. Add lemon juice and gently stir in feta cheese. Serve immediately. Serves 4.”

Regardless of its subject and content, freelance writing pays the bills; and for that, I am endlessly grateful. But lately, I find myself longing to return to my flowing narratives, creative imagery, engaging dialogue, and pithy conclusions. The only cure for that…is to tell a story. And I think I know just the story I want to tell.

CelesteHeiterFZBioCeleste Heiter is the author of Turn Your PC into a Lean Mean Freelancing Machine, the creator of the LoveBites Cookbook Series for Kindle Fire, and the author of Potty Pals , a potty-training book for children. She has also written ten books published by ThingsAsian Press; and spent eight years posting her recipes, food photographs, and film reviews on ChopstickCinema .

Visit her website, and her Amazon Author Page.








Where Should I Start My Story? (the truth)

by Diane Holmes, (a) Chief Alchemist of Pitch University, (b) lover of learning, and (c) writer of fiction, non-fiction, and the occasional manifesto.


Where to begin: Isn’t this the worst question ever? 

questions It’s so important (readers won’t read on unless you nail the opening), so frustrating (why isn’t it right yet?), and so "unprovable" (this one is 93% right, woohoo!). 

And heck, even if you do happen to stumble upon the right place to start, you’ll never know it. 

It’ll still look like lame words on a page.  You’ll rewrite it into something worse. (Oh, the agony.  The shame.  The total irony of being a writer and finding out that Words. Are. The. Enemy.)


The idea that there’s a perfect place to start at story is wrong.  There are many perfect places to start a story.

We writers get confused, because we study stories that are already written, and we talk about how opening X is the perfect opening for a specific book.  As if it’s the only opening that could ever exist.

But in truth, what we’re really noticing is that a particular opening did work very well, and the writer avoided a sucky opening.

So, if there are many perfect openings and many sucky openings, how do you find at least ONE perfect opening?  How do you know where to start your story?

And this, my friend, is where all the advice fails us.


Pretty much all the advice out there falls into this category for me.

Example 1:  Open "in medias res." 

You mean “anywhere” anywhere, as long as it’s in the middle of things will do? Boring things, violent things, things that don’t matter? 

Of course it is Latin, so it sounds smart. 

Example 2: When things change!  (Or at the Inciting Incident or In The Ordinary World of the protagonist, etc.)

There’re lots of changes, so which one?  But more importantly, doing this doesn’t make it a "right" opening.  You’re not guaranteed an opening that works for the reader.  There’s nothing here about quality, nothing about the needs of your story or the hopes of the reader.

Example 3: Open with the character and setting, and make sure to get across everything we need to know, plus a really good hook!"

Thanks for the laundry list.

But isn’t this advice sort of like telling a chef to make sure to use food, probably a protein and a carb?  Oh, and vegetables are nice, too?


Open any place where you can…

(a) enter with a JUICY piece of story information (character, plot, setting, anything!)…

(b) that captures the reader’s IMAGINATION and…

(c) ultimately PULLS her into a story JOURNEY…

(d) that SPANS the book or script or whatever.


Gone Girl‘ By Gillian Flynn

When I think of my wife, I always think of her head. The shape of it, to begin with. The very ?rst time I saw her, it was the back of the head I saw, and there was something lovely about it, the angles of it. Like a shiny, hard corn kernel or a riverbed fossil. She had what the Victorians would call a ?nely shaped head.You could imagine the skull quite easily.

I’d know her head anywhere.


(a) Whoa, a husband who obsesses about his wife’s head and can imagine the skull quite easily.  Now that’s a creepy-interesting character.

(b) This isn’t going to turn out well, is it?  I’m already imagining stuff that could happen.  Bad stuff.  Oh, noes.  Maybe it’s already happened….

(c) I’ve got to find out where this goes, because I know this links directly to the story I was hoping for (when I read the back blurb):

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick Dunne’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River.

(d) I’m being pulled into the story question that matters, the one that will be resolved by the time the book is over:  What happened to the wife?

Plus there’s all that mighty fine prose.  That’s a bonus for sure.

Put it all together and bam!  The reader and the story are well served.  And they’re joined together for all the pages to come.

And that’s how you start a story.

clip_image004Diane writes two alternating columns for Freelance-Zone:Fiction-Zone: Leaps in Fiction Mastery and Marketing-Zone:Marketing-Zone: Marketing Yourself and Your Book.