Can You Hear The Bell Of Clarity?

It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous.- Robert Benchley


A year ago I wrote an article for Muse Tracks called The First Five Minutes With James Scott Bell from my notes at the Story Masters’ Conference.

I was amazed at the amount of information and how I could directly apply his advice to my own writing. This year I will attend The Lone Star Conference where he will be the teacher once again. Since the date, October 13, is fast approaching, I’ve gone back over my notes to see where I’ve used some of his advice in my own writing.

Do you remember when Dorothy states that there’s no place like home? This is one of the main themes from The Wizard of Oz. Now, who remembers how she started the movie? If you will recall, she bursts into song about how great life is somewhere over the rainbow and she’s sure there’s a place behind the moon that’s beyond wonderful.

Who remembers that great classic film, Casablanca? Rick, played by Humphrey Bogart, is a bar owner who claims that he sticks his neck out for nobody! He only makes a move if it benefits him in some way. By the time the story is told, not only does he stick his neck out, he sticks it WAY out risking imprisonment and losing everything.

Theme. That’s a big scary topic when you’re trying to develop your story line. Sometimes it feels like the 800 pound gorilla sitting on top of your computer screen. How do you know what it is? Should you have it all tied up before you start? Mr. Bell says that answer lies within you and your style of writing, but at some point you should be able to answer this question for your hero or heroine. Twenty years after your novel is over, your lead character has had all that time to look back over their shoulder, someone asks, “Why did you have to go through that? What did you learn?”

I was blown away. That’s it? That’s how you finally figure out what the main theme is to your book? After the initial shock, I was relieved. I actually had a concrete way to figure out what my book was truly about! Rick and Dorothy were interviewed and we discovered that there’s no place like home and sometimes you have to live beyond your own needs. Once the author learned that, they made it a point to begin the story with the leads absolutely on the opposite side of the coin. They HAD to go through the journey to discover a truth.

This may be remedial writing for some of you, but for me, I discovered a new depth to my main character. I also found two key components to my story that were there, but now I knew how important they were to her development. My heroine thought she had lost all of her family to a natural disaster and was then adopted out. Piper discovers, as an adult, she has a blood brother. Not only that, she discovers that he’s known about her all along and has kept tabs on her. However, he doesn’t contact Piper until he desperately needs something from her. She also discovers that her adopted father, whom she adored, played a key role in keeping her and her brother apart. Feeling betrayed by both of her families, the journey leads her to the realisation that family is more than simply blood connections and true courage is more than fighting, sometimes it is a complete surrender.

All of this was discovered is less than one page of my notes with James Scott Bell. Can you imagine what I learned after listening for a whole day? My pen is ready, my conference ticket bought and I can’t wait to see what I discover about my characters this year with the story master.


For more information on The Lone Star Conference:

4 Responses to Can You Hear The Bell Of Clarity?

  1. jbrayweber says:

    Great post, Stacey.
    I know what you mean about discovering your theme. In all honesty, I don’t even entertain what my themes are about until the books are finished. 🙂 Sshh…don’t tell anyone.
    I can’t wait for you to finish that book. Hear that? It’s the crack of a whip. Get after it!


  2. Good stuff, Stacey! And it sounds sooooooo easy, doesn’t it? (laughing) We just keep plugging away until it all comes together…:)


  3. Calisa Rhose says:

    This is a topic I still have to work on but your tips will make it easier. Thanks for sharing and I’ll be watching to see what you leak to us who can’t go next month. 🙂


  4. I’ll be sure to share some of his pearls of wisdom. I’m looking forward to it as my notebook was chock full last time! So sorry you can’t make it.


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