Smoky Trudeau Zeidel
What do you think makes a good story?
Believable, flawed characters. I hate clichéd characters with chiseled jaws and perfect careers and perfect health and perfect everything else. That’s not realistic. Everyone has flaws, and flaws are what make characters interesting. I also love strong conflict with surprising twists that, in the end, make the characters changed somehow. It doesn’t have to be a huge change. But it has to be meaningful.
How do you help writers develop these things in their novels?
I coach by example. I’ll have them read examples of strong writing with believable, flawed characters. I give them writing exercises where they can practice writing scenes like the examples they have read. Then, I’ll have them pick a scene from their own novel and rewrite it, using what they’ve learned. Once they’re confident they have skills mastered, they can sit down and rewrite their weak scenes, using what they’ve learned.
Study your craft! I can’t stress this enough. People tend to think that since they can read, and they can construct a sentence, then they can write a novel. There’s so much more to it than that. You wouldn’t sit down at the piano for the very first time and try to play Chopin, would you? Nor would you pick up a paintbrush for the first time and try to paint something that rivals Picasso or Frida Kahlo. Writing is something that is not only dependent on talent, but on your willingness to work hard to learn how to do it right. I work as a freelance editor; I’ve edited hundreds of novels. I can always tell when the author has studied writing and when they have not. There are many means of doing this: you can take a class at a local community college, or an online class, or buy a book. I have two writing books: Front-Word, Back-Word, Insight Out, is basically my fiction writing workshop I taught for many years at community colleges in Illinois, condensed into book form. Left Brained, Write Brained, 366 Writing Prompts and Exercises is exactly that—enough writing exercises to get you through an entire year. Recently, my publisher made both books available in a combined form, available both at Amazon and Smashwords.
Where can readers go to learn more about your editing and coaching services, as well as your own books?
They can start at Smoky Zeidel. This is the home page of my “Smoky Talks …” blog, which is my blog on writing, and also where you’ll find information about editing and coaching services as well as my books. There are also links to my “Smoky Talks Books” and “Smoky Talks Authors” and my “Observations of an Earth Mage” blogs.
Here’s more about Smoky…
Smoky Trudeau Zeidel is the author of two novels:On the Choptank Shores and The Cabin; short stories, and two nonfiction books especially for writers: Front-Word, Back-Word, Insight Out and Left Brain, Write Brain, 366 Writing Prompts and Exercises; and a photo/essay collection about the beauty of the natural world, Observations of an Earth Mage, all from Vanilla Heart Publishing. She has published short stories and poetry in literary journals such as CALYX and online e-zines such as The Foundling Review, and was a 2003 Pushcart Prize nominee. She was the lead editor for Vanilla Heart Publishing’s 2010 Nature’s Gifts anthology.
Finally succumbing to her bohemian spirit and need to live near the mountains and the ocean, Smoky moved to Southern California in 2008, where she lives with her husband and daughter in a ramshackle cottage in the woods overlooking the San Gabriel Valley and the San Gabriel Mountains beyond. An ardent outdoorswoman with a deep reverence for nature, when she isn’t writing, she spendsher time hiking in the mountains, camping in the Sierras, splashing in tidepools, and fighting the urge to speak in haiku.