A Story Within a Story – Crafting Chapters

Who knew that this simple realization would come in the middle of the night, as I walked along with McFadden’s Easter on the streets of Harlem and stood shoulder to shoulder under a night sky just as dark as Garvey’s skin, who spoke just a short distance from us. Though I’ve always written in such a way, it was right here on 135th Street and Lenox Avenue when it became a conscious thought and it occurred to me that I can now  implement this revelation into my writing in a much more conscious manner. And as Easter’s future husband approached us, I knew that I had to freeze the moment and write this down. She was smitten anyhow and I doubt she’d notice my absence. Surely I can put the book down for a quick, and anxious writing fix.

The words came quickly and rushed to the tips of my fingers after the sun drifted into a heavy slumber last night and the wind whispered just as calm and peaceful as my husband’s breath heaving in and out of his nostrils. I was up, of course, reading when after thirteen straight chapters of Glorious I stumbled upon a revelation I’d be more than selfish not to share.

girl-book-light-dark-reading-collage-lying-night-grass-giantI’ve personally fallen in love with short stories. It could just be the impatience of the creative mind that’s got me savoring a quick fix, but I love the fragment of writing time as compared to a full fledged novel. It’s not easier, its just the simplicity of it all I suppose. Nonetheless, whatever the urge I’ve found it tasteful to write short and to the point; where the story is over before it’s left your palette. Not in a way that’s disappointing but too delicious not to crave. A refreshing snack of literature if you will that’s got you begging for more and at the same time offended for not having been given enough. Nonetheless, I was up reading this novel when it hit me: chapters are like short stories within a story.

Though my eyes were heavy, my mind was eager and I noticed that in the best of books we are strung along by string from one point to the next in a series of small revelations all leading to one grand finale. I was reminded in that moment that more than the first sentence, the first paragraph, or the first chapter is the need to keep the story moving in a consistent thread of mini stories wrapped into one large fabric by making sure that each chapter ends as if it alone was a short story within itself. Like a cliff hanger carefully composed to force the reader on to the next chapter. That moment right before Gillespie’s cheeks explode into handfuls of balloons.

I realized that writing is like configuring one grand puzzle by crafting the pieces and deciding which shape belongs where. It is a series of steps, body parts if you will, where each member does it’s part and yet contributes to the completion of the whole. By focusing on the purpose of each chapter, what it sets out to achieve alone and how it ties into the story as a whole, I think this may in fact help us writers to make sure that our books too move along with the same grace and elegance of a McFadden, Ellison, or McMillan.

Re-post: Author Tips on Writing Historical Fiction

This is a re-post from M.K. Tod who writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her recent post included a list of tips on writing Historical Fiction as acquired from around the web. Instead of re-blogging I decided to re-post some of those tips here, they are just too good to let pass us by so I organized them in the list below so we can see them all. Please visit A Writer of History for author source and to comment on her blog. I would also suggest you follow her (especially if your a historical fiction writer), she is always on point with her guest authors, links, and advice:

  • Let the characters engage with the historical details – a variation on show don’t tell


  • Allow your characters to question and explore their place in society – doing so reveals the context of the times


  • Love the process, because readers will still find errors


  • Sweat the Small Stuff – small details allow readers to engage all senses in the past world you are building


  • Dump the Ballast – too much detail is a killer


  • Read historical fiction – sounds obvious doesn’t it but you have to appreciate excellent historical fiction in order to be successful


  • Know when to stop researching – cautions about falling down the proverbial rabbit hole


  • Research comes before writing – get the facts right to ensure a good foundation for your novel


  • Inhabit the mind and skin of your characters – you have to understand the sensibilities of the time so your readers can feel immersed in it


  • Pick a universal theme if you can – the concerns of your novel need to resonate with modern readers


  • Choose a time and place that really intrigues you – passion will make your story more compelling