Saturday, November 23, 2013

On Writing: Cheryl St John on her new writing book



The Pink Heart Society is very pleased to welcome award winning author Cheryl St John who has just written Writing with Emotional Tension and Conflict,  a book about adding emotion to your writing. It is sure to become a must-read classic!

Peeling back the layers of a splendid plot is like taking the back off a perfectly synchronized watch and seeing all the tiny gears and springs working in unison. One piece can’t work without the others, but each has its own specific and vital function. When we understand why certain stories work so well, we can understand the beauty and harmony of characters and plot. I’ve always been fascinated by revealing those mysteries, and a big part of the discovery is understanding and appreciating human nature.

I googled “most popular television series” and got a partial list of Sopranos, Seinfeld, All in the Family, M*A*S*H, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Mad Men, Cheers, The West Wing, I Love Lucy, The Dick Van Dyke Show and Hill Street Blues. Just looking at these I can tell you the common denominators are the diverse and interesting casts of characters. Right now the most popular show in IMDb is The Walking Dead. I get some strange looks when I mention that The Walking Dead is one of my favorite shows, but I can tell you why the ratings are up there. The show is not about zombies.

It’s about a cast of everyday characters assembled in a world gone crazy, who fight for their lives and each other’s lives every day. It’s about survival. It’s the epitome of taking ordinary people and putting them in extraordinary circumstances, then watching heroes and villains develop. I’ve also just described The Hunger Games, Downton Abbey, Glee, Under the Dome, Revolution, and any number of hits.

It took me years to figure out some of this stuff. Maybe I’m a slow learner, but to give myself some slack, there wasn’t always an information super highway. I was a hungry beginner, attending workshops, hanging on every word of advice, collecting handouts, and eventually figuring out which advice was sound and which didn’t work for me. I had great teachers, for whom I’m thankful, and from them I learned to show other writers how to apply techniques to their own writing. For years I gave workshops, critiqued, and wrote articles, not actually thinking that one day I might put it all into a book.

It wasn’t until after I’d been teaching online classes for a few years that I figured out it was time to collect my material in one place. Writers Digest was my dream publisher for this project, so when my agent called with an offer for Writing With Emotion Tension and Conflict, I was delighted to set to work with a great editor, who helped focus the book and get the project into shape. My hope is that writers of all experience will be able to use my examples and suggestions to create synchronized plots featuring characters with universal appeal. The chapters contain exercises that help writers understand why specific themes appeal to them and how to work those storylines to their advantage by utilizing their specific skills. Zombies are optional.

You can learn more about Cheryl and her wonderfully emotional books at her website  http://www.cherylstjohn.net/

14 comments:

  1. Hi Cher - I've always loved your workshops! And now I have your book in my hand...well on my Kindle! I can't wait to dive in. I know I'll learn a whole lot from you! Congrats on the book! I'm spreading the word on FB and Twitter

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    1. Thank you so much, sweetie! This book was a challenge, but I really enjoyed the research and putting it together. I do have an option book! :-)

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  2. Cheryl, I love the book!! Congrats again!

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    1. I appreciate your help and review, dear friend!

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  3. I wish I had this book years ago. Would have saved me so much time. But...so glad I had you! This is going to help so many writers. What a special gift. You will be a supportive, driving force in every writer's head.

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  4. You have always been so generous and supportive, MK. Your motivation and optimism are an inspiration. Hugs.

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  5. I bought it in print. Figured I would want to scribble notes in the margins. (Grin.)

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  6. This is an absolute must-have for writers, no matter their level of expertise. I've learned so much from this book! Thank you so much for your special insight. I've bought so many how-to books over the years but they just sit on the shelf. This one I'll use many, many times. Congrats on writing such a much-needed book. Wishing you much success.

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    1. That is high praise from a GREAT writer! Thank you, Linda. xoxo

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  7. Oh, I think I'll ask Santa for this book. I can always use a good refresher course and this sounds perfect!

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    1. I am like you, Lenora. I like writing books, too, and I add a writing improvement (or at least something to double check) goal to my goals list each year. Hope Santa is good to you. ;-)

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