Inspiration From a Hurricane

Inspiration From a Hurricane

I live in Houston, and we were hit by hurricane Beryl on Monday. Much of the city is still without power. Downed trees block major roads. Hurricanes always bring a lot of gratitude. Gratitude that my loved ones are safe; gratitude for power, especially air conditioning; and gratitude for the lineman who are working 24 hours a day to restore power.

Most of all, hurricanes leave me optimistic. Houstonians are resilient and caring. The minute the storm had passed, everyone was out in their yard picking up debris. Neighbors checked on each other. Folks with chainsaws chopped up everyone’s branches. People took care of their elderly neighbors’ yards first. Houstonians fed each other and those with power open their doors to people needing to cool down and charge their phones.

We are at our very best when things are at their worst.

This incredible resilience got me thinking about our stories. For stories to be compelling we must put our characters through the worst to see them triumph by being the best. Look at your current project. Are you torturing your characters enough? Are they going through challenging, tough experiences that will keep audiences on the edge of their seat to see if they can overcome? What can you do to multiply your characters’ obstacles? Think of an extreme situation and make it worse. Is it time to put your hero in the middle of a hurricane, blizzard, or in a burning building?

What is the worst thing that could happen? Let me know what you come up with.


Excited to share the logo for my new publishing imprint, Pitch Master Press!

Stay tuned for news about my upcoming book!


This gadget, the Jackery Explorer, was a life saver for my three days without power. It is a giant charger. I keep it plugged in in case of emergency. I charged two cell phones twice and a computer and the power was only down to 72%!


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Prioritizing Freedom in Your Career

Prioritizing Freedom in Your Career

Happy 4th of July! I hope you are having a fun day filled with family, friends, and fireworks. As we celebrate the birthday of our wonderful country, freedom is on my mind. We are so lucky here in the United States that we live our lives in freedom. Freedom of thought, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press are all integral parts of our lives as creatives.

What Does Freedom Mean in Your Career?

How does freedom figure in your idea of success? When we understand our priorities, our decisions become more focused and more productive to get us to our goals more quickly.

There are three areas of your life that intersect when we talk about success: fame, fortune, and freedom.

There is no right or wrong answer. Each of us must decide which of the three is the most important to us. Once we have a focus, fame, fortune, or freedom becomes our north star by which we make all our career and life decisions.

These three things intersect and overlap. Fame brings fortune, and fortune brings freedom. Dig deep within yourself to figure out which of the three is your most important value. The answer is different for everyone.

Fame

​Andy Warhol​ said everyone is famous for 15 minutes. With social media and the Internet, fame can come quickly. You can go from a nobody to an Internet famous video star in a few minutes. If fame is your guiding value, you will make decisions differently than other people. Fame doesn’t just mean going viral. It can mean winning an Academy Award. Hitting the bestseller list. Being interviewed by the New York Times or a guesting as a pundit on Fox News.

Fortune

It is human nature to want money. While money can’t buy happiness, it makes life much easier. And there is nothing wrong with making money your priority. Wanting to be financially successful differs from being greedy. If your definition of success is making money, you are going to make decisions differently than someone whose leading value is fame. For example, producing a viral video doesn’t always make you money. But there are ways to make money from videos whether or not they are viral.

In American culture, we have lots of judgment around wealth. But we all need money in our current system and there is nothing wrong with wanting to live a comfortable life.

Freedom

People who value freedom above everything else build a life where they have choices and feel in charge of their destiny. Freedom people usually want to be their own boss, set their own schedule, and travel. Freedom leading people are usually not nine to fivers and they’re bigger risk takers. They also make compromises in their life, giving up some things like the security of a corporate job for the freedom of being able to go where they want and do what they want.

How Will You Structure Your Life?

I can’t believe we are halfway through the year. When you are planning out the rest of your year, think about these three values and which is most important to you. Then make your plans accordingly. The direction your life takes with this new perspective might surprise you.

Fame, fortune, and freedom are all fabulous. Go for it!


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​Three Hats for Your Creative Career: The Maker, the Manager, and the Marketer

Unlocking the Power of Universal Fantasy

Unlocking the Power of Universal Fantasy

Ever wonder why some movies, TV shows, and books have rabid fans that make them huge hits and others fall flat? While there are lots of different factors that go into making a hit, successful stories connect with audiences’ emotions.

How do you make your stories emotional? Give people an experience they’re craving but can’t experience in real life.

Today, we’re diving into a transformative concept that can elevate your storytelling: ​T. Taylor’s​ theory of Universal Fantasy, from her book Seven Figure Fiction: How to use Universal Fantasy to Sell Your Books to Anyone. Taylor is a romance novelist, but universal fantasy works for any genre in movies, TV, and books.

Using universal fantasy can make your stories irresistible, helping you create dedicated fans. It adds zing to your pitches, getting the audience to buy your project.

What is Universal Fantasy?

Universal fantasy is the idea that certain scenarios resonate universally. These fantasies tap into our deepest desires, fears, and dreams, evoking powerful emotions. Of course, everyone does not have each fantasy, but they are common enough to hit a large swathe of readers and viewers.

According to Taylor, universal fantasy is not about escapism or whimsical worlds, but core emotional beats that draw readers into a story. It’s the secret sauce (or as she says butter, because butter makes everything taste better) that makes a story pop.

Key Elements of Universal Fantasy

1. Desire for Belonging: Stories that revolve around the protagonist finding their place in the world, discovering their tribe, or becoming part of a community tap into our innate need for connection.

2. Power and Control: People like stories where characters gain power, overcome adversity, or take control of their destiny. These stories provide a vicarious thrill and a sense of empowerment.

3. Moral Clarity: Tales of good versus evil, where justice prevails and wrongs are righted, resonate deeply. They fulfill our desire for fairness and moral order.

4. Transformation and Growth: Stories featuring characters who undergo significant personal growth appeal to our aspirations for change.

5. Love and Acceptance: At the heart of many favorite stories is the pursuit of love and acceptance. Whether it’s romantic love, familial bonds, or friendships, these themes are universal.

Examples of Universal Fantasy

· Removal from a Boring Life

· The Most Popular/Richest Guy Chooses You

· Love Triangle – More Than One Person Wants You

· Love at First Sight – Instalove

· Comeback Kids & Underdogs

· Makeovers

Tropes vs. Universal Fantasy

Trope is your story’s what it is. Universal fantasy is your trope’s why it’s good.

T. Taylor

What is the difference between a universal fantasy and a trope? They can be the same thing but aren’t always.

· In the romance genre, enemies to lovers is a trope, not a universal fantasy. People don’t fantasize about falling in love with their enemy.

· Cinderella is both a trope and a universal fantasy. Some women fantasize about what it would be like to fall in love with a wealthy man who can whisk them away to a new life.

· Driving fast cool cars is a universal fantasy, not a trope. This universal fantasy has driven (pun intended) the Fast and Furious franchise to 10 movies.

· Wearing beautiful clothes and living in stunning houses is a universal fantasy, not a trope that is an important part of lots of stories. Clothes and houses are central to Sex and the City, Nancy Myers movies, and The Devil Wears Prada, to name a few.

Examples of Universal Fantasy in Popular Culture

· Harry Potter: The desire for belonging, finding a family, and the triumph of good over evil resonate universally.

· The Hunger Games: Power, control, rebellion against injustice, and protecting your family tap into universal fantasies of empowerment and moral clarity.

· Marvel Cinematic Universe: Being the hero, fitting in, finding a family, and justice contribute to the movies’ immense popularity.

Using Universal Fantasy in Your Writing

1. Your Concept: Look at your big idea. What universal fantasies does it tap into? Design your story to take advantage of and emphasize these fantasies. If a fantasy doesn’t easily come to mind, think about which ones fit your story and how to integrate them into your idea.

2. Write Your Cocktail Pitch First: Taylor advises writing your book blurb (​short pitch​) before you start writing. This will help you hone your concept and give you a story map, even if you are a ​pantser​. As you write, refer to your cocktail pitch often. Are your core universal fantasies coming through in your story?

3. Your Scenes: Taylor suggests each scene should include an individual fantasy of its own. Your scene fantasies don’t have to be your story fantasy. For instance, a character getting a makeover taps into the universal fantasies of transformation and cool clothes that may not be the story’s main universal fantasy.


More About Universal Fantasy

​Seven Figure Fiction Website ​

Listen:


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From Funk to Flow: How to Reignite Your Creativity

From Funk to Flow: How to Reignite Your Creativity

I have had a terrible couple of days. A fender bender that was my fault. My dad’s car that I was lucky enough to borrow had a dead battery. A nasty HOA meeting, an incompetent doctor’s office, and family drama. Whew! As I was stomping around my kitchen yesterday morning because my coffee pot had inexplicably not turned on, I thought of the children’s book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. Yep, that’s what was happening.

In life, it seems like when one thing goes wrong, often it is the start of a tsunami of bad luck. I find it very hard to be productive and creative when I am in a bad mood. How do you shift your attitude when things are not going your way? Whether you are having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day like me and Alexander or dealing with a tragedy like the death of a loved one, how can you get out of your funk (even temporarily) so that you can create?

Finding Solace in Goofing Off

If everything is going wrong, sometimes the simplest thing to do is stop. Stop your day and change your plans. Give yourself grace and recognize today may not be the day to start that new project, write that scene, or paint that painting. Instead, do something that fills your creative well.

What are your favorite things to do? Walking always helps me recenter. Maybe you sneak away to the movies. Or play video games for a few minutes. Try soaking in a bubble bath. Changing your routine or changing your location will help your emotions reset. You will feel better, and it will be easy to get back on track.

Seize Control Through Creativity

This next approach to getting out of your funk is the complete opposite from taking a break. Instead, dive into your creative work. One of the few things we can control is our writing. If you are in a bad mood or got bad news, the best way to get out of it is to write. The more we create, the better we get, the more things we have to market, and the easier it is to make a living. One of the most wonderful things about being a writer is you can do it anywhere, anytime. No one has to give you permission to write. So, if you got a no on your latest project, the best thing you can do is write another one. Escaping into your story will always make you feel better.

I hope all of you are having an easy and wonderful week. But if things are hard, try these tips and let me know what you think.


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From Bland to Grand: Creating Worlds That Jump Off the Page

From Bland to Grand: Creating Worlds That Jump Off the Page

World-building is more than just a skill—it’s an art form that transforms mere settings into vibrant, pulsating worlds teeming with life. Imagine crafting a universe so rich, detailed, and believable that your readers feel like they’ve tumbled through the pages and landed smack-dab in the middle of your story! Whether you’re penning an epic screenplay or a riveting novel, a well-crafted world can transport your audience, making your tale not just engaging, but downright unforgettable. We’re diving into a whirlwind guide of mastering the art of world-building. Get ready to create realms that dazzle, amaze, and leave your readers clamoring for more!

The Importance of World-Building

World-building is essential because it provides the context in which your story unfolds. It shapes the characters, influences the plot, and immerses the reader or viewer in a different reality. A well-constructed world can:

· Enhance the story’s authenticity: A detailed setting makes the story more believable.

· Drive the plot: Unique aspects of your world can create conflicts and challenges that propel the narrative.

· Deepen character development: The environment influences how characters think, feel, and behave.

Start with the Basics

These elements will anchor your setting and provide a consistent framework for your story, making your world unique and memorable.

1. Geography: Define the landscape of your world. Is it a sprawling metropolis, a quaint village, a dense forest, or a distant planet? Consider the climate, terrain, flora, and fauna. For example, a story set in a futuristic city will have vastly different physical attributes than one in a medieval kingdom.

2. Culture and Society: Develop the customs, traditions, social norms, and values of your world. What are the dominant religions, if any? How do people dress, eat, and celebrate? This cultural backdrop will shape your characters’ beliefs and behaviors.

3. Political and Economic Systems: Outline the government structure and economic landscape. Is your world ruled by a monarchy, a democracy, or an autocratic regime? What is the economic status of different regions or social classes? These systems create opportunities for conflict in your story.

4. History and Lore: Create a backstory for your world. What significant events have shaped its current state? Are there legends, myths, or famous historical figures? These elements add depth and can provide plot points or character motivations.

5. Technology and Magic: Define the level of technology or magic. Is your world high-tech with advanced gadgets, or is it more primitive with rudimentary tools? If magic exists, what are its rules and limitations? Make sure that the rules of your world are consistent. If you establish that a certain technology or magic can do something, it should always work that way.

6. Everyday Life: Think about the day-to-day experiences of ordinary people in your world. What are their occupations, hobbies, and routines? How do they interact with each other and their environment? These details make the world feel real and relatable.

Making Your World Come Alive

Now that you have a detailed world, it’s time to bring it to life in your writing.

1. Show, Don’t Tell: Instead of dumping information through exposition, reveal your world organically. Use descriptive language to paint vivid pictures and let characters interact with their environment naturally. For instance, instead of telling readers about a society’s caste system, show how characters from different classes interact and the tensions that arise.

2. Use All Five Senses (in screenplays use visuals and sound): Engage the reader’s senses to make the world more immersive. Describe not just what characters see, but also what they hear, smell, taste, and touch. This sensory detail can make scenes more vivid and memorable.

3. Don’t Overload the Audience: While it’s tempting to include every detail you’ve created, don’t. Unnecessary information slows down the pace. Include only the details that enhance the plot, character development, or thematic depth.

World-Building in Different Genres

No matter your genre, world-building is a crucial part of storytelling. Different genres have unique world-building requirements.

1. Fantasy: In fantasy, world-building is extensive and imaginative. Create complex magical systems, mythical creatures, and elaborate histories.

2. Science Fiction: For science fiction, focus on technological advancements, futuristic societies, and speculative elements. Consider how these innovations impact daily life, politics, and human interactions.

3. Historical Fiction: When writing historical fiction, research is key. Accurately depict the historical period’s culture, technology, and events. Authenticity is crucial to transport readers to a different time.

4. Contemporary Fiction: Even in contemporary settings, world-building matters. Capture the nuances of specific locations and cultures. This attention to detail makes the story feel grounded and relevant.

World-building is a vital skill for writers, enriching your stories and captivating your audience. By laying a solid foundation, adding specific details, and bringing your world to life through immersive writing, you can create settings that readers and viewers will remember long after they’ve finished your story. Embrace the process, let your imagination soar, and watch your worlds come alive on the page or screen.

What are your favorite kinds of worlds to create? Hit reply and let me know.


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