10 Tips for Page-Turning Plots

by @AnnieDaylon


At the Surrey International Writers’ Conference a while back, I introduced, and took notes on, a workshop facilitated by New York Times Best Selling Author and dynamic speaker, Robert Dugoni. The session, Creating Plots for Page Turners, was a combination of lecture and writing exercises designed to give participants a better understanding of classic story structure. Here are 10 tips:


  1. A story is dialogue in action.

  2. The purpose of a story is to entertain. The characters, not the authors, are the entertainers.

  3. A story is a journey—beginning, middle, end—and is both physical and emotional.

  4. The tone is set right away. What kind of story is it? (Make a promise.)

  5. Interesting character should appear at the onset.

  6. The beginning introduces the story problem. (Who, where, what does main character want, what stands in the way?)

  7. The middle develops the problem through obstacles.

  8. Stories should move! Excessive narrative—opinion, bio, flashbacks, info dumps, anything that can be presumed—should be cut.

  9. The end must be satisfying (Keep the promise you made at the beginning.)

  10. The 1st sentence in every chapter should hook the reader.

shutterstock_48236599Many thanks to Robert for an excellent workshop. To learn more about Robert and his writing visit: www.Robertdugoni.com.

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Short Story: A Canadian Man’s Heart


by @ AnnieDaylon



 I love to enter short story contests (see previous post: Why Enter Story Contests?) In my 2014 goals, I listed that I would enter a few. (One done in January… Yay!)
I enter to learn, not to win. I enter for the fun and for the feeling of accomplishment that the marathon of the novel does not provide.

Here is an example of a non-winning entry (See below for learning experience):


A Canadian Man’s Heart

According to my boss, Zeta Thompson, there is only one sure-fire way to a Canadian man’s heart, and it has nothing to do with his stomach.

“Believe it or not, Betty,” Zeta announced one morning after she had tolerated my litany of loneliness one too many times, “the main flaw in your dating strategy lies in your complete dismissal of this country’s national pastime. Canadian men live and die for hockey! Don’t you get that? Ever consider just buying a big-screen TV and asking a guy over to watch a game on a Saturday night?

“Forget it,” I huffed. “Gawking at a TV set and trying to keep track of a flying rubber disk is not my idea of entertainment. Hockey! It’s loud, obnoxious and violent, and I absolutely refuse to take part in anything that celebrates the idea of grown men clobbering each other with long sticks.”

Judiciously, Zeta threw her hands up in defeat, but the fates were not so easily dissuaded; they countered immediately with a loud knock at the office door. Kevin Mason, the new architect we had been expecting, flung the door wide and hovered there, filling the frame with his six-foot splendor.

Lust at first sight!

Many scenarios flitted through my mind, all of them reminiscent of the fiery pictures that grace the covers of my Harlequin romance collection. Never in my life have I been one to ignore a golden-haired, blue-eyed opportunity such as this one and I sure wasn’t going to start now.

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see that Zeta was grinning like an idiot, but she was also staying in the background, generously giving me carte blanche. Possibilities abounded as I stepped forward and extended my hand to greet the newcomer. Quick to respond, Kevin strode across the room. Relationship redemption which, just seconds ago, had seemed light years away, was now viable and I felt hope soar.

 Suddenly, time slowed down, becoming a teasing tyrant, extending milliseconds into eons. The only thing I could do was try to maintain my composure as I watched our hands inch toward each other.

Ultimately, time relented and allowed our hands to meet, but then it stood back and laughed as a huge ring jabbed my palm and punctured my dreams. Visions of victory oozed away the instant I glanced at the ring’s proven symbol of relationship demise—the blue-and-white insignia of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

What the heck was I to do now?

X-rated images—all golden-haired and blue-eyed—pummeled my brain, urging me onward.

“You want to come by my place on Saturday, Kevin?” I blurted before I could stop myself. “Zeta and I were just talking about watching the Leafs game on my brand new fifty-inch, high-definition, plasma TV.”


The above story was written a few years ago for an Alphabet Acrostic contest. The opening, “According to my boss,” was given. The criteria? “Complete your story in 26 sentences, each beginning with words in the sequence of the English alphabet.”

The learning? I expanded my vocabulary by reading the dictionary. (Yes, X is limiting, but there are ways around it.) The fun? Enjoyed it so much that I entered again this year! (This particular contest is available annually through The Brucedale Press. It’s a long wait until the next one but the fee is only $5/entry!)

My questions for you: Did you notice as you read the story that I was progressing through the alphabet? If not, did you go back to check? 🙂


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My best to you,

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From Poetry Line to Headline: 7 Stellar Titles and their Origins

by @Annie Daylon

Ever wondered how an author came up with a stunning title? Many have come from poetry.

In an earlier post, What’s in a Pen Name, I mentioned Annie Murphy, my grade eight teacher from whom I learned to appreciate poetry. My love of poetry continues and, over time, I have discovered many phrases which have made their way from poetry line to headline. Here are seven stellar examples:


1) Novel: No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy.
Poem: Sailing to Byzantium by William Butler Yeats
That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
—Those dying generations—at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.

2) Novel: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Poem: To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough by Robert Burns
But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

3) Novel: The Crimson Petal and the WHITE by Michel Faber.
Poem: Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal by Alfred Lord Tennyson
Now sleeps the crimson petal, now the white;
Nor waves the cypress in the palace walk;
Nor winks the gold fin in the porphyry font;
The firefly wakens, waken thou with me.

4) Novel: Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Poem: Ode to a Nightingale by John Keats
Already with thee! tender is the night,
And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
Cluster’d around by all her starry Fays:
But here there is no light,
Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.

5) Novel: Who Has Seen the Wind by W. O. Mitchell
Poem: Who Has Seen the Wind by Christina Rosetti
Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you.
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.

6) Novel: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Poem: Sympathy by Paul Laurence Dunbar.
I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,—
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings —
I know why the caged bird sings!

7) Novel: For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
Poem: Meditation XVII by John Donne.
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Seeking a title for your book? Check out Public Domain Poetry, a website that allows you to search for poems by author, title, first line or latest poetry added. There is no shortage of choices: nearly thirty-nine thousand listings!

Castles in the Sand Thumbnail


My best to you,

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Garage Sales and Annie Tales



I am a garage sale afficionado. So much so that I avoid scheduling classes or appointments or meetings on a Saturday morning, especially now, in spring when garage sales abound. Love hunting sales. Love having sales.

At garage sales, I have gotten not only incredible deals for household and gifts, but also great ideas for stories and novels. And today, after I had read Molly Greene ‘s blog post Yes, the Barn’s For Sale, I decided to share a few of each.

Garage Sale Finds 001

FURNITURE DEAL: One of my earliest, and perhaps one of my favorite, is my oak hall stand, bought years ago. My husband and I went garage saling very early that morning; my parents were visiting and my father was champing at the bit to get on the road. A good choice. Had we been two minutes later we would have missed this steal of a deal.

Passages Book Cover


STORY IDEA: One came from a lady who invited me in to her house to see all her wares. I followed her as she shoved the door open and “navigated her way through a four-foot high labyrinth of cardboard boxes, newspaper stacks, and clothing mounds.” She told me how the loss of a loved one had sent her on a spending spree, one in which she rapidly “amassed four hundred thousand dollars worth of place settings, ornaments, dolls, linens, and Christmas ornaments.” Her story moved me and inspired me to write  Lost Foreverwhich is now in my collection, Passages.




Garage Sale Finds 001FOUR ART DEALS:  When I see a painting or needlework that speaks to me, if the price is right, I grab it.

1) I love the depth of Light and Shadowsa print by F. Carmichael.



Garage Sale Finds 0052) I love theGarage Sale Finds 004 detail of Pinkie and Blue Boy; I have done some needlework and have great respect for the patience and talent required produce this pair. It’s difficult to see in the photos, but the work is petit pointe. I may have walked by them though, had it not been for the oval matte and the octagonal frames.


3) I love my copy of The Forest Has Eyes by Bev Doolittle; every time I run into a problem with a story line, I stare at this picture and hunt for camouflaged faces. (Apparently, there are thirteen of them although I have never counted that many.) The images remind me to look at my story from different angles.Garage Sale Finds 010

Garage Sale Finds 002



4) I love this cross stitch of mother teaching child; it evokes a sense of a roadmap through generations.






ANOTHER STORY IDEA: One day, at a flea market, I noticed a woman who was wearing “knee-high, gold leather, gladiator sandals,” a black, leather mini-skirt, and had long golden hair. Her back was turned to me, but her confident strut brought to mind the image of a femme fatale:  “A blonde Angela Jolie–minus the Brad Pitt connection and the eclectic collection of children.” As she turned, she shook her head slowly from side to side, and her blonde locks waved at passersby. When she faced my direction, my jaw dropped. Why? It’s in the story, Tall Letters. (Again, in Passages.)


Garage Sale Finds 011SPA DEAL: Okay, one more household find. Simplicity here. I like the spa quality of my bathroom; in order to enhance that, I wanted a fancy towel set, you know  what I mean: the ultra-fluffy kind you hang, never use, just throw into the dryer every now and then to get rid of the dust. But I didn’t want to mortgage the house to buy them. I am usually leary of buying any kind of linen or upholstered furniture at garage sales for obvious reasons, but in this case, I knew and trusted the seller. So I bought this set of towels which included 3 bath towels, 4 regular towels, 2 hand towels and 2 facecloths. A stunning deal.


‘NOVEL’ IDEA: And last, my best garage-sale-inspired writing idea to date, is one which arrived at a sale I was hosting. At the time, I was working on my novel, Castles in the Sand, and was seeking something that would represent Castles in the Sand Thumbnail‘forever’ to my character, Sarah. The something wasn’t readily apparent, so I decided to throw the problem out into the universe and see what would show up. Well, into my garage strolled a lady who was wearing flip flops. I noticed that she had tiny paw prints tatooed onto the instep of her right foot. When I asked, she explained that her tiny dog had a habit of parking his front paws on her foot whenever he wanted her attention. She loved that dog and wanted to keep the memory with her always so she used an ink pad to copy his pawprints and headed off to the tattoo parlor. And there, I had it. Sarah’s forever.


Gotta love garage sales!

Wait… you want to know the costs, don’t you?
Oak Hallstand: $30; Light and Shadows: $10; Pinkie and Blue Boy: $15/pair; The Forest Has Eyes: $20; Mother and Daughter Cross Stitch: $10; Towels: $7/set. (Note: All art/needlepoint came with the frames seen here.)

Can’t wait ’til Saturday so I can treasure hunt again!

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