‘Pick a Number, Start a Story’ is write stuff

Veteran writing teacher’s new book gives authors how-to guidance


Sue Viders of Lone Tree has recently published “Pick A Number, Start a Story,” subtitled: “Your ticket to the wonders of storytelling.”

A workbook, with spaces for a prospective author’s notes, it is certain to be a real help to many aspiring writers who just can’t get moving on that first paragraph. She says she has been a writing teacher for more than 40 years and published a number of books, including her co-authored “Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes and Heroines, Sixteen Master Archetypes,” which is used in university creative writing and screenwriting courses.

She also has written a series of “cozies,” under the name D.B. Humel, and is currently working on another with a co-author. The name describes a type of mystery with a more gentle scene than some violent titles comes across.

Viders begins the new book by listing nine components to any story: Genre, Main Character, Plot, Setting, Goal and Motivation, Secondary Characters, Conflict, Theme, and Ending, then offers a discussion of each component and a nudge to make some choices.

Accompanying each listing is a selection of related movies — and here, I knew some and not others, which did not make much difference in using the suggested structure for organizing a story. She said there are references to 576 movies and TV shows to illustrate her suggested process.

Possibilities for combinations are pretty much endless.

A character starts out with a problem, which may or may not be solvable, due perhaps to the setting ...

Or with a romance, “be sure to choose two main characters that either complement or are direct opposites of each other.” Think of: Bad Boy, Swashbuckler, Nurturer. A plot takes characters through a series of events in one or more locations/settings, where they encounter secondary characters, some of which could be animals ... or robots, young or old ... (I picture her saying: “just choose and move on...”).

A conflict or problem arises which may or may not be resolved. Viders writes: “To make your character more interesting, you need to give him or her an internal conflict. Perhaps the character has a lifelong flaw or fault.

“Plot is the action, while Theme is underlying meaning or moral aspect of the story.” Revenge may be a theme — think about “Count of Monte Cristo,” or consider Love and Revenge: “The Other Woman.”

“Cinderella” provides an example for the Ending category. Viders writes: “Cindy has two conflicts: one with her stepmother for keeping her away from the prince and with her own emotional feelings knowing she will never get to the ball.

“Therefore the ending has to resolve both conflicts, one that the stepmother will get her comeuppance and two that Cindy will end up with the prince.” Hence the ending has to be where they live Happy Ever After (HEA).

“Nicely fits the guideline of the `romance’ genre in that the couple at the end of the story will have achieved a HEA.”

I get the impression that there will be others in this “Pick a Number” series. Stay tuned.

This new title is available from Amazon, Viders said.


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