fiction · Uncategorized

Switching Between Storylines: The Irresistible Novel

The thirteenth chapter in The Irresistible Novel by Jeff Gerke was succinct and to-the-point. As always, Gerke wrote about a “rule” and examined that rule from multiple perspectives.

**Disclaimer: The usual preferences he explores pertain to those opposed to the “rule”, those in favor of the “rule”, and The Gatekeepers, or publishers. All of this is done not to create prescriptive writing for his readers, but rather to help writers develop their own unique voice.

So here is a look at the very short chapter written about switching between storylines and viewpoint characters:


Switching Between Storylines

The “rule”- You shouldn’t introduce a lot of viewpoint characters and storylines very early on in a novel.

Before diving into this rule it is important to clarify that a viewpoint character is one through whose eyes or voice a story is told. It is expected in the writing industry that multiple characters will be introduced early in a novel, but the jumping from perspectives is the idea held in question. A storyline refers to the problems or situations unique to the viewpoint character.

Those who disagree with the “rule” generally argue that introducing multiple viewpoint characters within the first fifty pages of a novel builds reader engagement. Starting a story is oftentimes the hardest part  of the whole writing process. Engagement is the goal. And each author reaches the point of engagement in a different way. That’s what makes each book and author unique. If every book started the same way it would get pretty dull. If you ask me, whatever avenue you use to engage your reader (if done effectively) is never bound to any rule. Show off your unique voice and engage, engage, engage!

However, there is something to be said about the “rule” above. Part of engaging your reader involves forging connections to your main character. If jumping around viewpoints creates an unclear view of who the protagonist is in your story then it is definitely hindering your reader’s engagement. It should be clear from the first several pages who your reader should support as the main character. You want them to feel like part of your character’s team. Readers need to know who to root for and what they want them to accomplish in order to feel like part of the story.

I would be extremely cautious with switching between storylines or viewpoint characters in the first quarter of your novel. It can be done, but it’s difficult. Be sure to align your reader with the protagonist and build that relationship before giving them a new vantage point.

My Current Project…

My book (which I hope to name very soon) is written with two viewpoint characters who happen to also be father and son. I alternate chapter perspectives, but in the beginning I make it clear the protagonist is the father by giving him longer chapters and more of a transparent voice. The son’s story is told in broken pieces and short chapters. From chapter one the reader is left rooting for the father despite his bad luck and poor judgment.

**Side note: My recent trip to Chicago was not only a trip planned for vacation purposes, but also served in furthering research for my novel. The novel is set in downtown Chicago in 2015. I spent much of my trip traveling to locations mentioned in the novel to create more vivid details and verifying other portions of the plot. I’m really excited to add to my original manuscript and to continue my progress of making my baby a real, published book. Stay tuned for more details in future!

The Ameri Brit Mom



fiction · Uncategorized

Begin With Action: The Irresistible Novel

It’s unreal to me how quickly life can become unbalanced. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve focused more of my time in preparation for the quarter marathon I ran last Saturday. With excessive energy spent on running (which is time consuming) I’ve felt like I’ve allotted less time to writing. All of this has been unintentional of course, but I’m ready to get back into some of my current projects. I’ve even found a contest that I may submit to this week. With the end of the school year in view I’m bound to be busy over the next few weeks, but I’m promising myself to make time for my books and writing.

Today is my eighth week reading from The Irresistible Novel by Jeff Gerke. This has been a great journey which has inspired me to think critically about my own writing. Jeff is helping me find my passions and voice in writing as I read through each chapter. Today the focus is on action and its placement within a story.


Begin With Action

According to Jeff Gerke, “Your novel has about ten seconds to hook [the reader] and maybe two minutes to set the hook. If it doesn’t happen yet you may lose her [the reader.]” (Gerke 62)

In order for a reader to feel engaged enough to buy into your story they must be drawn in from the earliest moments of the book. Not all writers or publishers agree on how this is to be done correctly, but they do agree that your story should begin with action or something interesting. It doesn’t have to be the main action of your book found in the opening paragraphs, but you should consider passing on the information dump at the beginning of the story and instead introduce your character through a series of actions.

Some people who are opposed to mandating action in the beginning of a story root their argument in evidence from best sellers both young and old. If you pull out some of the classics like Moby Dick, Anna Karenina, A Tale of Two Cities, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Pride and Prejudice you will find that they all share a common opening. All of these famous stories are void of action in the first several pages. They all begin with a unique voice of a protagonist informing the reader of all they need to know before jumping into the action. Those who favor the classics deem this as evidence enough to forget about the requirement of beginning with action.

Others believe that those books are classics and not contemporary for a reason.  Today’s reader differs greatly from the readers of the last century due to all of the media that competes for their attention. If you can’t hook a reader in the first paragraph of your book they are likely to turn their attention elsewhere. Movies, video games, and television have truly changed the writing world whether we like to admit it or not. In order to gain a reader’ investment into our story we have to give them a reason to read from the very beginning by engaging them in action or something intriguing. If they don’t feel engaged in your story they will turn to something else that vies for their attention.

Find Your Voice…

When it comes to how you should write take a moment to consider some of your favorite books. Grab them off your shelf or look them up on Amazon. Read through the first paragraphs and see how many of your favorites begin with immediate action. Based on your results, determine what type of writing you prefer and write that way. It would be useless for you to choose to write in a way that you don’t like. We are the best writers we can be when we write according to our tastes.

My Current Project

If I’m being honest I’ve re-written my first few pages of my novel half a dozen times. My earlier drafts lacked action. At that point I didn’t know my character and so I used those pages to hash out who he was and what he wanted to accomplish. However, now that I’ve finished my story I’ve been able to tweak and change the opening to make it more appealing to the reader. I still have a lot of work to do on my manuscript, but here is a sneak peek into my first book.

He pulled the last of his change from his squalid pocket. Laying the coins on the wood slab in front of him, Kurt leaned over the bar and glanced at the tap offerings. In the mass of change heaped before him he spotted a silver coin larger than the rest. His dirt-lined fingernails picked up the large coin turning it over repeatedly in his hands. The “12 months” engraved on its face had not yet begun to wear. Remembering the newness of his coin and then recognizing his current position caused Kurt to recognize a moment of irony.

“What’ll it be?” The young bartender asked.

“Pint of the cheapest thing you got.” Kurt’s hands pushed the pile of coins toward the man behind the bar. Except for the sobriety coin which he concealed and stuffed back into his pocket.

It was noon on this mid-May day, but the bar was nearly full. Men lined the stools on either side of Kurt as they sipped away at pints of lager. The lights were dim and a flat screen television behind the bar showed coverage from a professional basketball game.  It had been a while since Kurt found himself behind an old wooden bar placing a drink order. Thirteen months to be exact.

In these opening sentences there is action. Not car-chase or explosive action, but it doesn’t open with Kurt spilling his entire life story in the first chapter (which happened in my first draft! What was I thinking?) To me, beginning with action doesn’t mean that you always have to start with the major plot line, although in my story Kurt’s sobriety is a huge factor into the plot. When I think of beginning with action I tend to favor seeing a character doing something out of the ordinary for themselves which will eventually become a larger part of the story down the road.

Just curious, how many of you would keep reading my story if I did indeed choose to begin it as it appears above? Any suggestions?

The Ameri Brit Mom



Future Novelist

Welcome to my very own Creative Writing Month where each day of the month I am focusing on a topic and spending fifteen minutes reflecting and writing as inspired by the topic. For more information about why and how check out my post, Writing Down the Bones.

*This weekend I spent some time away at the annual FCA Fall Retreat which I organize along with other local FCA Leaders and volunteers. Due to my lack of wifi I will be posting twice today to get caught up. 

Today’s topic: Visualize a place where you would like to be and give a detailed description.

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In my sweaty hands I am clinging to a copy of my first novel. A crowd has emerged in a small local bookstore. Rows of metal chairs have been filled with readers eager to hear from the author of their new favorite novel. Each of them armed with questions and details to bring to the forum. My heart is thudding as a woman at the podium introduces me and the crowd begins to clap lightly. My family is in the back of the room cheering me on.

My heels drag in the padded carpet of the bookstore on my way to podium. I place my copy of the novel and my note cards on the podium. For the first time in my life I am about to open up to a crowd of strangers about my newly released novel. Public speaking isn’t really my thing, but it’s expected in this line of work. I’m about to answer questions about a book that I spent over two years of my life on. Eagerness to hear the thoughts and questions from the dedicated readers fills my heart. I am thankful for the opportunity. It moves me to tears to see so many people who were touched in some way by the story I had crafted by divine intervention. I open with a short reading from mid-novel. A sentence that stood out to me as the author and helped me to determine the title of this first book. Then the floor is opened for questions and comments and hands are thrown up all across the room.

“Where did you get the ideas?”

“Why did you decided to…?”

“To you, what was the most important part of this novel?”

Each question proving that others had put time and thought into this work. That every minute spent struggling my way through the story was returned by readers. The message resonating with those who made the trek through the pages themselves. And in the midst of all of the newness and excitement I am reminded that none of this is because of my doing. That through it all God had been there giving me the words and perseverance to make this happen. He had put the story on my heart and given it life. He had inspired this dream and this moment and led me to fulfill his purposes.