I want to thank Feddy MacKay for writing this wonderful guest post on what makes a story.
The hardest part of a story isn’t the idea. Ideas happen all the time. But there is a different between an interesting idea and what makes a story. Ideas can lead to stories, help form them (or inform them), and be the spark of creativeness a story needs. Still, ideas aren’t stories. How often have you read something and said, “That was a great idea, but…” or “There were some great ideas in the story, but…”, and the end result is that it feels like the story is unfinished or rushed or unsatisfactory.
So the question is: what makes a story?
A story is a narrative of connected events or experiences designed to interest or instruct the reader.
Okay. Well that’s wonderful. *pats definition*
When we pick up a book, or watch a movie, or listen to a podcast we are investing our time into a story. There are things we need to get out of it as a consumer of stories.
An emotional investment, a satisfying story, and characters that experienced a journey we shared with them.
How do we do this?
There are certain things most successful stories have besides good ideas. It lies in their story structure. The structure helps pull those ideas together to make sense and weave a believable story for us as a reader.
In the beginning we start with a character—who may or may not be sympathetic—but we are introduced to someone who engages us. Our protagonist is experiencing something in his life that leaves him questioning and/or motivated. Change needs to happen.
An incident incites that change—another important factor in our story. It must be going in a direction. Whether it’s the degradation of character or putting them back together, this story is important because change is happening. Change that will affect our character and make their lives move in a new direction.
Of course, change is never easy, so obstacles are put in our protagonist’s way. These can be internal, external, or both. But achieving their goal without some kind of problems to overcome doesn’t allow us as a reader to develop an attachment or sympathy for the character. The conflict will fall flat for us.
When those obstacles are faced, our protagonist must make a change in their life. They must make choices, and those choices with inform us as a reader what kind of journey our character will take. Basically, everything needs to change, otherwise why are we investing ourselves in this story?
Then we have our climax. Something in which draws us in and make us worry about the outcome. The choices our protagonist has made may make this very difficult, which if they have, good. The harder our character has to work for their goals, the more we want them to achieve them.
Once the climax gets resolved then we have our ending. This helps wrap up the story, any lingering plot issues and show us where our protagonist has ended up. Hopefully change has happened. Though change is a relative term. Maybe the world changed around our character but they are the same as ever. Or maybe our character has changed—found deeper meaning, more satisfying life. But something must be their to resolve the story. Otherwise it doesn’t feel finished.
Now a little something that doesn’t have to do with story structure but is important all they same is “why?” Why is this happening? What makes it important that it’s happening now? And what does it mean? Most authors have a theme or message they’re trying to convey when they write the story, even if they weren’t sure what it was to start with. And it’s the kind of stories that do this kind of thing that are the most successful.
The ideas we have as a writer give the story something to work with, but without direction or meaning those ideas are a jumbled mess on paper. We can’t connect as readers or enjoy the story because it doesn’t mean something to us.
And isn’t that why we’re reading? To feel. To find meaning. To take a journey.
AUTHOR: Toni Griffin, J. Scott Coatsworth, Angel Martinez, Freddy MacKay
COVER ARTIST: Freddy MacKay
LENGTH: 475 Pages
RELEASE DATE: November 18, 2015
BLURB: The Autumnal equinox—when the trees dress in their formal scarlet and gold and the crisp air whispers of chance and change, when bright days turn into sudden storms and the veil between reality and imagination thins. Join the Mischief Corner authors as they share stories evoking this often unpredictable time of year.
A Bear’s Bear by Toni Griffin
Matthew Warner’s been a Chicago Bears fan as far back as he can remember. What other team was a young bear shifter from the Smokey Mountains supposed to root for? When his college friend gets tickets to the next home game, Matthew jumps at the chance for a holiday. It’s his favorite time of year and Nic promises him pumpkin carving and a visit to the world’s largest corn maze, what more could he want?
What Matthew doesn’t expect is finding out the defensive tackle for the Bears is his mate. Between fainting at the realization, meeting family, and dealing with the media fallout of his mate’s coming out Matthew is in for a hell of a rocky Halloween.
The Autumn Lands by J. Scott Coatsworth
Jerrith is running. Kissed by an elf, he can’t remain in his hometown of Althos anymore. Not that he wanted to stay.
Caspian still hasn’t figured out why he kissed Jerrith, but he’s running too. Since he was exiled from the Autumn Lands, his past has been hazy, and his future uncertain. But when a stray memory brings things into focus, the two decide to run toward something together. What they uncover will change how they see the world, and themselves, forever.
Beside a Black Tarn by Angel Martinez
When Shax stumbles across rumors of an experimental house that responds to the occupant’s brain functions, creating scenarios to please and delight, naturally he wants to steal it. But with the return of a troubled and hunted Julian Parallax and an overabundance of Poe references, even Shax’s scheming may not be enough to get the Brimstone crew out alive this time.
Eternity in the Tides by Freddy MacKay
Autumn has always been Zak’s favorite season for hiking and camping. Not to mention breathing in all that crisp fall air and sitting around toasty bonfires. That all changed year and a half ago when a rich prick high on prescription pills sideswiped Zak while he was out biking.
Now his days are filled with pain and limited mobility. No more camping. No more trails. Zak’s life as he knew it is gone forever.
Back at his beloved stomping grounds, Zak is ready to say hello and goodbye one last time. But when a cry from the frigid Lake Superior waters throws him into the role of a rescuer, more than just his life hangs in the balance. Little did Zak know how much one person giving a damn mattered to him.
A Bear’s Bear by Toni Griffin
“Take a seat,” Christian said as he closed the door behind them. The Alpha was acting strangely, especially when he checked the hall just before the door closed. Christian walked over to where Matthew was sitting. Instead of taking a seat behind the desk as Matthew would have expected, Christian hiked a leg and leaned against the edge of the desk just to the side of him.
“Thank you for taking a minute to speak with me.”
“Anything you need, Alpha.” Matthew nodded. His hands were already sweating. Matthew rubbed them back and forth on his pants, hoping to dry them.
“There’s no reason to be nervous,” Christian assured him, chuckling lightly. “You’ve done nothing wrong.”
Matthew nodded as he sighed in relief.
“I know we don’t know each other very well,” Christian started and Matthew nodded again. “However, you’ve known my younger brother for years.”
“I have. He’s a good guy.”
“He is. Can be a pain in the ass sometimes, but I love him nonetheless.” Christian chuckled.
Matthew was too nervous to do anything more than smile.
“Anyway, I happened to overhear a conversation you had earlier on the phone.”
Matthew swallowed and fisted the denim of his jeans in his hands. Would Christian stop him from going on vacation? Was there a sleuth in Chicago? Did he need to notify them of his travel plans?
“Yes?” he asked quietly.
“You’re planning to travel to Chicago, is that correct?”
Matthew nodded slowly.
Matthew furrowed his brows. Why on earth would Christian think his travel plans were excellent? “I don’t understand.”
“I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind doing me a favor.”
“A favor? Me?”
Christian nodded. “I’m trying to go through the sleuth, one by one, and get to know everyone as the Alpha. But Bobby trusts you. And I was hoping I could too.”
Trust me? To do what? Matthew went back to rubbing his hands on his pants. If he could comfortably put them in his pockets sitting down, he would have, but he couldn’t. When Matthew didn’t say anything, Christian smiled kindly at him and continued. “I have an item that I plan on purchasing that I don’t feel comfortable with the postal system handling. I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind picking it up while you’re in Chicago and bringing it back for me.”
Matthew’s mind raced. What exactly was his new Alpha into? Surely it wouldn’t be anything illegal; drugs and guns were just a couple of the things that popped into his mind. Matthew shook his head. There was no way Christian would put a member of his sleuth in danger like that, but he couldn’t help but ask.
“I won’t get into trouble for doing this, will I?”
“No.” Christian laughed. “Although if Vinnie finds out, he might have a few words to say to you.
“Vincent?” Why would Christian’s mate want to talk to him if he did this?
“The item in question is from Tiffany’s,” Christian said, raising his brow. Matthew’s eyes widened as everything suddenly made sense. Oh wow!
“Yes,” he blurted. “Yes, sure, okay, I would be honored. Anything you need.”
Christian chuckled, placed a hand on his shoulder, and squeezed.
“Thank you. You can understand why I don’t want an item such as this being posted or even couriered to me.”
“I can. I’m touched that you trust me to collect it and deliver it into your hands.”
“You’re of my sleuth. I would trust you with my life.”
Matthew’s eyes teared up at the absolute sincerity he felt from his Alpha. No one before had ever had so much faith in him.
“Thank you. I won’t let you down.”
The Autumn Lands by J. Scott Coatsworth
Jerrith Ladner ran down Dyer’s Alley in Althos, winded but not daring to stop. He swung left down Chaplain’s Lane where the lanterns cast a crazy patchwork of light across cobbles, uneven enough to give even the Night Guard pause. His lungs hurt, but he didn’t slow down and didn’t dare glance back.
The occasional passerby stared at him as he flashed past, but he ignored them. Several times he stumbled and fell, and blood dripped down his bare leg from a skinned knee. The outskirts of town were silent, with almost everyone already indoors for the night.
His recent past was a blur, with snatches of it flitting by in his head like birds, flapping and confusing him with their unsteady rhythm:
The unexpected shock of it.
The glimpse of the Autumn Lands through the Nevris man’s golden eyes.
At last, exhausted, Jerrith ducked behind a low wall that ran along the fields just outside of town and looked back.
It was quiet. There was nothing but blackness crisscrossed by lamplight at even intervals.
Almost sobbing, he sat down with his back to the wall and curled up into himself, scarcely noticing the pain that traced the lines of his rib cage or even the bright line of red on his leg.
Ever so slowly, his heavy breathing eased and his jumbled mind began to sort things out.
He had been walking to the Smithy in the early morning when the Nevris caravan had passed him by, six wagons of merchandise from the Autumn Lands covered with heavy tarps, crossing through town on its way to the stables on the far side of the village. A stranger had drawn his attention—an outrider for the caravan.
Tall and slender where Jerrith was stocky and muscled, he was a young man, more or less Jerrith’s own age. His blond hair had been pulled back behind his pointed ears, the mark of the Nevris. He moved with a quiet and restrained grace.
His eyes were wide and golden, and they’d met his as Jerrith crossed the town square on the way to ‘prentice to the blacksmith. The man’s gaze had filled Jerrith with something hot and impulsive, a sense of anticipation. Something that he had no name for.
Then he’d been gone.
Jerrith had spent the long, dizzying hours of work in the Smithy, hammering out heated metal into a new plowshare for Farmer Angus, the hot breath of the bellows tempered only by the cool springtime air from outside. Trying to forget those eyes.
The heat of the oven only served to fuel the heat he felt inside, until he thought he might explode.
Sent home at last well after nightfall, he’d heard a whispered voice from the dark alleyway between the Alchemist’s shop and the Rutting Crow. Jerrith had looked around to see if anyone was watching, then slipped into the alley, his heart beating faster and the bulge in his pants stiffening.
The man had kissed him hard and rough, and he’d returned the kiss passionately as the Nevris man pulled him close.
Beside a Black Tarn by Angel Martinez
“Do you have your route planned?” Shax asked Leopold as he tucked the field glasses into his jacket.
“Up the long drainpipe. On the side without windows. The master suite first.”
“That’s my boy. Remember, only what’s out in the open tonight. No looking for safes, trapdoors, or hidden rooms.”
An irritated peep followed his advice, accompanied by what Shax was beginning to recognize as a hedgehog glare. “I have it, Captain. You gave simple instructions. I am not Heckle.”
“Now, now. None of that.” Shax ran a hand through his hair to complete his artful mussing. “Heckle’s not stupid. Just… easily distracted.”
“And impetuous. And clumsy and so twitchy. Curious fingers.”
“He did apologize and has orders not to enter your burrow again. Please let it go.” Shax unfastened the first three buttons of his shirt. “Here we go, then. I’ll do the best I can to give you time, but when you hear me leaving or when I call for you, it’s time to go.”
With a last pat to Shax’s leg, Leopold dropped to all fours and scurried off through the vegetation. This would be classic accomplice distraction technique, nothing fancy. Start with the basics. He tapped in the code for the Brimstone‘s pilot pod where Ness was monitoring. “We’re going in, cupcake. Radio silence, please. I’ll yell if we need you.”
“Please be careful, my love.” Ness’s soft voice caressed his nerves.
“Easy job. Nothing to worry about.”
“You do know you’ve said that before.”
“Hush. No more. I’ll see you soon.”
He started for the front door, keeping in plain sight, dragging his right foot a bit in case anyone was watching. Tonight, Leopold was the second-story man while Shax was just the diversion.
He waited until Leopold had made it around the side of the house before he lifted the handle on the gargoyle knocker and hammered on the door. “Hello! Is anyone home? Please, please help! There’s been a terrible accident!”
A thin, terrified wail seeped through the heavy door. Shax tilted his head to listen. No, this was getting too ridiculous. A clank of chains accompanied heavy footfalls toward the door. Something on the other side let out an eerie moan. Then the door swung open on creaking hinges to reveal a dim, cobweb-festooned chandelier in a much-neglected front hall.
Oh, for all the sulfurous pits’ sakes. Shax decided to play along and performed the requisite action by calling “Hello?” at the dark and sinister interior.
He jerked back when a face suddenly popped up before him. Pale, cadaverous, sunken eyes wide, the apparition regarded him openmouthed for a single instant.
“Bells and whiskers!” the apparition whispered in obvious horror. “What in all elements are you doing out there? You’re supposed to be in here. Oh my goodness.”
A skeletal hand closed around Shax’s wrist and he blinked in confusion as he was dragged inside. “Pardon?”
“It’s really rather rude of you. If you’re going to answer the summons, you should at least do it properly.”
Eternity in the Tides by Freddy MacKay
Crimson, hot pink, burnt orange, and a dark purple lit the sky and splashed over the calm waters of Lake Superior. Dusk had fallen in all its beauty, gracing Zak with the perfect moment at his favorite stomping grounds. If he had to go, and well… yeah, he couldn’t ask for anything better than this. Tonight was the night. Had to be.
Water lapped at the boat, rocking it gently. A breeze wafted over Zak. He shivered, then hugged himself as he looked over the lake, back at Madeline Island. Like each night over the past few days, a pang of longing hit him. Zak had said his goodbyes, accepted the fate handed to him, knew better than to hold on to dreams he could never have. He should have been able to take the next step.
But he couldn’t.
Each night he rowed back to his rental cabin, Quiet Bequest, in defeat. What the hell he held on for, Zak didn’t have a clue. His heart thumped heavily, his palms slipped over the oars, and the hair on his arms stood up —goose bumps everywhere—as if something big were about to happen.
Well, yeah, something huge if Zak could get his head on straight. Well, maybe not straight—his plan was utter ridiculousness to the outside observer. Made sense to him, though. But then it would.
Anticipation rode Zak hard. He knew what he had to do. Planned it. Came determined. This trip, the two-week cabin retreat he could never afford, the rowboat—my accident—had been in the works for months. And now… now Zak cowered in his waterlogged rowboat.
About Toni Griffin
Toni Griffin lives in Darwin, the smallest of Australia’s capital cities. Born and raised in the state she’s a Territorian through and through. Growing up Toni hated English with a passion (as her editors can probably attest to) and found her strength lies with numbers.
Now, though, she loves escaping to the worlds she creates and hopes to continue to do so for many years to come. She’s a single mother of one and works full time. When she’s not writing you can just about guarantee that she will be reading one of the many MM authors she loves.
For a complete list of books, go to: http://tonigriffin.net/Current_Books.html
About J. Scott Coatsworth
Scott is the admin for the Queer Sci Fi site. He has been writing since ele- mentary school, when he and won a University of Arizona writing contest in 4th grade for his first sci fi story (with illustrations!). He finished his first novel in his mid twenties, but after seeing it rejected by ten publishers, he gave up on writing for a while.
Over the ensuing years, he came back to it periodically, but it never stuck. Then one day, he was complaining to Mark, his husband, about how he had been derailed yet again by the death of a family member, and Mark said to him “the only one stopping you from writing is you.”
Since then, Scott has gone back to writing in a big way, finishing more than a dozen short stories—some new, some that he had started years be- fore—and seeing his first sale. He’s embarking on a new trilogy, and also runs QSF, a support group for writers of gay sci fi, fantasy, and supernatu- ral fiction.
About Freddy MacKay
Freddy grew up in the Midwest, playing sports and running around outside. And honestly, that much has not changed since Freddy was small and throwing worms at other kids, expect worm throwing has been replaced with a healthy geocaching addiction. Freddy enjoys traveling and holds the view a person should continually to learn about new things and people whenever possible.
Freddy’s contemporary LGBTQ book, Incubation: Finding Peace 2, won 3rd Place – Best Gay Erotic Fiction in the 2012 Rainbow Awards. In 2013, Freddy’s story, Internment, tied for 3rd Place – Best Gay Fantasy in the Rainbow Awards. Freddy’s steampunk/SF story, Feel Me, was a finalist and honorable mention in the 2014 Rainbow Awards for SF. You can email Freddy at: firstname.lastname@example.org
About Angel Martinez
While Angel Martinez is the erotic fiction pen name of a writer of several genres, she writes both kinds of gay romance – Science Fiction and Fantasy. Currently living part time in the hectic sprawl of northern Delaware, (and full time inside the author’s head) Angel has one husband, one son, two cats, a changing variety of other furred and scaled companions, a love of all things beautiful and a terrible addiction to the consumption of both knowledge and chocolate.
Winner’s Prize: $20 Amazon/ARe Gift Card
Second Winner’s Prize: Mischief Corner Books Swag From RedBubble.com
November 18 – The Purple Rose Tea House
November 19 – Drops of Ink
November 20 – The Land of Make Believe
November 23 – Cia’s Stories, Prism Book Alliance
November 24 – Carly’s Book Reviews
November 25 – Fangirl Moments and My Two Cents, Elisa – My Reviews and Ramblings
November 27 – Loving Without Limits
November 30 – Divine Magazine
December 1 – Scattered Thoughts And Rogue Words
December 2 – Hearts on Fire Reviews
December 3 – Foxylutely Books
December 4 – Wicked Faeries Tales and Reviews
December 7 – Sue Brown
December 8 – Eyes on Books
December 9 – Jessie G Books
December 10 – Bayou Book Junkie
December 11 – BFD Book Blog, Gay Media Reviews
December 12 – Love Bytes Reviews