Beth Barany always wanted to be a writer. Her great grandmother was a writer and she remembers asking her how to publish a story.
At 13 she realised she could do it and started a journal, which she continues to this day. It wasn't until she was 18 years old, however, that she made the conscious decision to be a writer. She just didn't know how to do it!
At that time non-fiction was easier for her to write and so she found the courage to put herself forward and submit some small pieces to magazines. She had her first submission accepted, and that gave her the confidence to carry on.
Later in life she realised she had to either stop with the dream of writing a novel, or do it. And so she spent the next five years slowly but surely making her way through The Weekend Novelist by Robert J Ray, completing the exercises and, little by little, writing her first novel.
“The point was to finish.”
Beth tells us about her Janey McCllister series, describing it as ‘CSI in space’.
Beth Barany talks about her coaching programmes, both 1:1 and small group. Her strength with coaching is that not only does she use her experienced coaching skills, but she is also a developmental editor so helps students become better writers as they go through the programme.
We then talk about her book for writers, Plan Your Novel Like Like A Pro. Beth talks me through each of the stages of the book, which are divided into weeks.
Week one is all about the elevator pitch, because it's a great way to start planning your book.
Week two is all about getting to know your characters. Beth talks us through the many ways you can do this, including the Empathy Formula:
Beth goes into each of these in more detail in our conversation.
Week three is about structure, but rather than tackle it in the usual way, Beth Barany encourages her students to examine the genre they write in.
This is a great way of approaching your story because it teaches you to include those expected scenes ahead of time, rather than fitting them in when it’s time to market the book.
Something I wish I’d thought of before I wrote my first book!
Week four is about outlining and we discuss how this can be used by both detailed planners, and intuitive writers like Bethany.
The key is to think of each scene having a problem and a solution. She describes it as a daisy chain of problems and solutions, one scene leading seamlessly onto the next.
We finish the conversation with Beth telling me what she's working on now, and where you can find more about her online.
Connect with Beth:
Fiction Coaching for Novelists (bethbarany.com)
Book Editing Blueprint
Hello, I'm Emma Dhesi and welcome to another episode of turning readers into writers. If you're brand new here, welcome. And here's what you need to know. This is a community that believes you are never too old to write your first novel, no matter what you've been up to until now, if you're ready to write your book, I'm ready to help you reach the end, I focus on helping you find the time and confidence to begin your writing journey, as well as the craft and skills you need to finish the book. Each week I interview debut authors, editors and industry experts to keep you motivated, inspired, and educated on all things writing, editing, and publishing. If you want to catch up, head on over to emmadhesi.com, where you'll find a wealth of information and tools to help you get started. Before we dive in, this week's episode is brought to you by my free cheat sheet 30 Top Tips to find time to write. In this guide, I give you 30 ways that you can find time to write in the small gaps that appear between the various errands and tasks and responsibilities that you have in your day to day life. I know you might be thinking that you don't have any time to spare, but I can guarantee these top tips will give you writing time you didn't think you had. If you thought writing always involved a pen and paper or a keyboard. Think again. If you thought you needed at least an hour at a time to write your manuscript. I help you reframe that you won't be disappointed. Get your free copy of 30 Top Tips to find time to write by going to emmadhesi.com/ 30 Top Tips. Okay, let's dive in to today's episode. Beth Barany. He is an award winning science fiction and fantasy novelist. She's a master teacher, editor and certified creativity coach for writers. Through her courses. She helps fiction writers experience clarity and get writing so they can revise and proudly publish their novels to the delight of their readers. She's the award winning author of Henrietta the Dragon Slayer, the acclaimed paranormal romance author of the touchstone series, and is proud to release her series science fiction mysteries about Jeannie McAllister space station investigator. The first book in the series into the black is a page turner awards finalist and as a result, won an audio book publishing contract. She's also written books for writers including plan your novel like a pro, which was co written with her husband, Thriller writer, as Rob barony. So let's dive into Beth's world and find out how you can plan your novel like a pro. Well, wonderful, Beth, thank you so much for joining me here today.Beth Barany:
Oh, thanks so much for having me Emma.Emma Dhesi:
A pleasure, a pleasure. Now, I wonder if you wouldn't mind just sharing with us, you know, how you Your, your journey to writing how you got started, and really how you got to where you are today?Beth Barany:
Sure. Well, like, like many writers, but I know not all writers, I actually started wanting to be a writer as a child. It was a very clear desire around age eight or nine years old. And I wrote a wonderful little book with my brother about our cats. And I was so it was so much fun that I bound the edge of the book with threatened needle. Because to me, that was a book, you know, I, I not only wrote the story, but I wanted to create a book. So and my grand-grandmother was a writer. And I knew that we all knew that. And I wanted to know how to get published. So from a young age, I was wanting to ask her and in fact, I want I wanted to, I don't know if I actually did. I wanted to write her letter, Grandma, how did you get published? So I was already thinking about that, because to me a book was a physical thing and I loved books and from then on, you know, I dabbled, I made up silly limericks. I remember doing that when I was 11 I and then you know, school kind of took over and I got really involved in being a good student starting around middle middle school and writing essays but then also in eighth grade our teacher had us writing stories she gave us a bunch of prompts and go read a risk mystery go right it's comical piece scope, that also nonfiction go write a how to and then she'd have us do speeches. And she taught us how to do essays of all kinds and so that the writing bug really took them more prominence spot at that age, and I was very clear of wanting, I knew I already wanted to be a writer, but at 13 I was like, I can do this. There was a sense of ability and confidence and then again, at Academics took took me, you know, high through high school and through into college and but I also started writing a journal at age 13. That was sparked by a very powerful dream. And and so my journal became a place where I could doodle and dabble and write down my dreams, and talk to myself and so that, you know, I have boxes and boxes and books and books, of journals. Even today, I still use a journal because my latest journal, little cat. And I like putting stickers on my journal, my mom gave me that cute image. So, and then I went to college, I went to UC Berkeley, and at around 18, 19 years old, it came into clear focus, I want to be a novelist. But I but laid out before me was a big, huge fat question mark. Like, how do I do that? And I didn't know. So I put my attention back on to academics, and kind of Stoke that fire by, you know, remaining an avid reader, I'd always been an avid reader. And then I dropped out of college at age 22. When I went to Paris, to figure out my life and work as an au pair, you know, and learn French, I'd already spent a year in Quebec when I was 16. So I already was pretty fluent to dove into that. And then I decided, you know, I want to be a writer, why don't I start? And I tried to get a freelance writing. I tried to get some articles published and on the fifth try, I got my first article published in the Paris free voice. Yeah.Emma Dhesi:
And were you writing in French at that time?Beth Barany:
No, I was writing in English. My friends wasn't that good yet for that? And no, I wrote a little article. And it only happened because I finally got up the courage to walk into the editor's office and pitch him face to face. And and then he gave, he said yes to me and I wrote the article and had me rewrite it multiple times and I think I wrote one other article for them and that was a huge confidence boost for me in terms of like, not only am I a writer, but now I'm a published writer. Now I can write for publication. I've done it a few times and when I got back home I, I took one journalism class, and I moved toward nonfiction writing, because that was a lot easier. Fiction was still a big mystery. So I did some freelance writing and I got some training and working on a monthly newspaper, the Berkeley psychic reader, I got trained by the editor, I even became associate editor or assistant editor, I did book reviews and a ton of short pieces all the way up from 500 words to 2000 words, and I started getting more comfortable with that. But then, I was turning 30. And I decided, Well, you know, what am I gonna do with my life? I'm single, I'm going to go to journalism school. So I applied to journalism school. And I didn't get in and that was a huge, yeah, that was a huge blow to my confidence, huge and when I kind of picked myself off the floor, after a few months, I realized that my true dream of being a novelist had actually I'd actually written it in the application essay, and actually said, well, the real reason I want to be a journalist is so I can get close to people. So I could be a novelist. And I was like, Oh, my God, no wonder they rejected me. And yeah, I was 30. And I was like, wow, I better stop with this dream, or do something about it and that was a big moment where I really, I really chose and decided, I'm like, Okay, what is it going to take to learn how to be a fiction writer, because obviously, that my subconscious told a whole bunch of strangers. That wouldn't be a novelist and I knew it was true. I knew that was my ultimate dream. So I found a little writer's group and started writing with the writing prompt that he gave us at that first meeting. And then just decide what chose arbitrarily to pursue that idea that I generated and made a bunch of sort of arbitrary choices, and that this would be the novel. I'm going to get to the end. The whole point is to finish this book. It doesn't matter if it's great or good or whatever. It just matters that it's done and I use the wonderful book called The Weekend Novelist as my guide. Oh my goodness, it's such a mine is in tatters somewhere here on the shelf. It's a really use now speak, coming back to this whole thing about time. I was working I was an English as a foreign language teacher by then I was, I was engaged that was, you know, going to get married. I was going to we were talking about going overseas again. You know, I had a life but I still wanted to be a novelist. So this book called The Weekend novelists by Ray will find it for you. Actually, I mentioned it a lot. I mentioned it in my book, plan your novel like a pro because it's such a turning point for me. I would go once a week I would go to the local cafe. I would buy myself lunch, I would use his book and I would do the next exercise, whatever it was. And that is how I plan the book and then slowly slowly finish the book over five years.Emma Dhesi:
I think that's kind of normal, isn't it? That first book, it can take a not a long time to just eat and then finally get finished. Yeah.Beth Barany:
Exactly. Yeah. So that, you know that, that took me into my mid 30s. And as soon as I felt that book was done, even though I'd written it out of order, and only the first three chapters were actually polished, I immediately sat down and wrote an outline for my next book, because it was like, all this energy was released. And I could totally now understand something that I hadn't hadn't been able to understand up until that point, which was, write a story how to get from beginning idea to to the end, and you know, how to get my characters from here to there. And I would say that that second book, it also is unpublished, and unfortunately, I lost much of it, although the idea of it still lives in me and the first three chapters I did do still have it, and it was, it was and then the next book I wrote, but I wrote that first draft in six weeks, instead of five years. Yeah.Emma Dhesi:
It's amazing, isn't it? How once you've done it once, not that it becomes easy, but you suddenly realize, oh, okay, I know, I can do it, first of all, and suddenly, the ways in which you do it become a little bit clearer. And even if that second look isn't great, it kind of doesn't matter, you're still learning art, you're still kind of building your process, and working towards Malcolm Gladwell. 10,000 hours, you know, of expertise and learning how to do stuff that even though you lost it, I'm so sorry to hear that. It's never a waste, is it?Beth Barany:
No, and it's kind of in my head, and it comes back around as like, how do I how do I rewrite that book? Because it was also a learning book and I had, by that time, discovered the hero's journey. Well, through Christopher Vogler, his book The writers journey, I, it really started opening up my own knowing around story, and what are the elements of story and story structure and, and I really allowed myself to like journal for an hour, and then write for an hour and that dialogue with myself and really come back into like, what does it mean, you know, the call to action? What does that mean? What could it mean, in my story, what does it mean? What's the definition? But then what does it mean in my story, you know, so every every writing session was sort of this dialogue between trying to understand that little piece of the hero's journey and then relating it to my current book and allowing it to popcorn a bunch of ideas and make some decisions about what next? And that I could write. Yeah.Emma Dhesi:
And you haven't stopped since have you because you have a number of books now, a number of series now and, and I wonder if you could tell us about your latest series, The JD McAllister series.Beth Barany:
Yes. Oh, I'm so so happy to tell you about the JD McAllister mystery series. So this series actually evolved out of a dream, a real dream I had of a woman on a space station with talking to a charming man and sort of their tug of something like she was the investigator, and he was the thief and, and that was pretty much all I had, you know, over martinis in a casino, something like that, you know. So that idea probably came to me about, gosh, 10 plus years ago, not even sure. But it was a dream and then about, let's see 2006. So now about five years ago, I was trying to decide what to write next. I had just written a batch of stories and I have a bunch of stories always in sort of in the backburner and I was at a screenplay conference, a screenwriters conference and, and this teacher was asking us to pitch him. So I just pitched him this idea because I was at this conference going, which of my mini stories do I want to focus on for NaNoWriMo? And, and so I said, CSI in space, and he's like, very good. Are you gonna write that? I'm like, Yes, I'm gonna write that like, right then I'm like, okay, that's the story I'm gonna write. You know, and Jamie McAllister was maybe going to be a security guard and then she evolved into being an investigator, the space station investigator, and then I knew it was futuristic. And I knew that she would be solving mysteries on a high end hotel, casino space station, and then from there, kind of built the world. And I've built this, this fellow who's who comes on who's a spy. And I just kind of everything kind of came out of these two characters. And, and it said about 100 years in the future, a little over 100 years. I've set a date 2130 the Hotel Casino was, was built by a very rich guy who made his bazillions in asteroid mining. And the world has changed. I hinted that and here she is, she's got a job because she's caring for her sick, sick mother. And in the first book, she has to prove herself to her new team. She's only been there a month so far and she needs to catch this pickpocket who has been stealing bracelets off of people and bracelets in this world have not only do they are they pretty, but they have your money, and they have your ID and they have everything. So right. So I had so much fun with all the high tech gadgetry in this book, and then I make my mysteries really hard, because they can't be easy for her to solve, they certainly couldn't be easy for us to solve. So yeah, that's the backdrop of my book, each book is a standalone mystery into the black is the first and yeah, Lord by light is the second came out last fall, and then gone, green just came out in May. And then there's gonna be a fourth book that's already written, I'm putting it into final edits, now called Red running deep, which is the end of the four book series, but I may be writing more I have more ideas.Emma Dhesi:
If you can see from your face and the way you talk about the series, you love it, it's like really close to your heart.Beth Barany:
Very much very much I love you know, what part of the hobby aspect of being a novelist is, you get to dive into all these topics you love and so I'm, I'm reading about science all the time, I get a lot of information about what's coming out of university laboratories and so I'm reading what is being discovered, you know, oh, the law of physics is being pushed the boundaries, you know, and, or, you know, some cool metal material or graphene, for me, it's amazing. My world, my futuristic world rests on on graphene. It's an incredible technology, you know, advances in medical science, advances in you know, jet propulsion, space travel, all this I just love. Like, writing a science fiction series, a futuristic series allows me to just geek out like nobody's business on all this stuff, all the science, I just love it.Emma Dhesi:
Well, not only do you write these great series, and readers, but you also help writers. And we're going to talk about one of your books, plan your novel like a pro in just a minute. But I'd love you to talk to us a little bit about the coaching that you offer, because I think you do one to one coaching, but you also have small group program too. So I wanted you to tell us about that.Beth Barany:
Absolutely. So I generally work with one to one with people who have a partial manuscript or a full manuscript. And they want support around various things. And I also talked to authors who are already published. So sometimes I'm talking to authors, because they have a lot of doubt about whether or not their manuscript is any good. And so they want some evaluation on that. And then they want advice on how to make it better. And my strength is coaching and developmental editing. So teaching people how to be better writers. So really, the craft of writing alongside the handling, built the building of confidence, and helping them really trust their story, instincts. Because a lot of people come to me with raw manuscripts that are it could be any kind of thing some of them come with, it's very raw, they have good story instincts, they know what they like, but the craft is not there. Or they have really good writing chops, and actually really good story instincts, but they're stuck and so they need a partner someone to, to bounce ideas off of someone to ask them lots of interesting questions and and spark them. And then sometimes people come to me with like, how do I market my book, I don't really like marketing, but I want to get comfortable with it and I want to I want to give these books life, I want people out there to know about them and I need to find a way to do it. So and how do I do that in a way that is supportive of who I am instead of feeling like you know, you're stripping off parts of your soul so that you can mark it you know, so how do you mark it with integrity? How do you mark it with with heart and in complete alignment and and joy? And so those are some of the kinds of people come to me, I also am a master NLP practitioner. So that means I can help people sometimes deal with some of these more unconscious blocks around confidence or around a lot a lot with confidence. Or, or clarity. Often it's like, how do I figure out what I really want to do now. And so I might give them an NLP session which is really helping them find that clarity. find, find what's really real for themEmma Dhesi:
And Is that clarity within the story in their writing or actually clarity about the writing life or their life as a whole?Beth Barany:
It's usually about the writing life, and less so about the story itself. It's really about their own, like what they really want, what is it, they really want to do with their creative energy? Yeah, and those are dedicated sessions. Because NLP, neuro linguistic programming it, it needs space. So that might be a 90 minute session out there.Emma Dhesi:
Gosh, you offer package. This is amazing. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Well, sorry, go ahead.Beth Barany:
Well, I just I want to jump to the group coaching program as it is right now, it's for people who absolutely have finished a first draft. And now their focus is editing and they're looking at the horizon of marketing and publishing as well. So with them, we really work on craft, we work on mindset as well. And, and in the group coaching program, I expose them to as many parts as I can, about marketing and publishing as well and, and we, we sometimes review all the parts of story as well, so that their craft is can be stronger and we come together on zoom, and we do little edits and, and some of those folks also have one on one work with me where we do developmental edits or coaching sessions. And then that's a 12 month program so people can know that they're supported as they take the long journey to finalize their books, get them out there.Emma Dhesi:
Yeah. This is such a such benefit that comes from being in a small group. I think people other people will ask questions that you didn't even know your hand. And I think they can often be better even than the one on one because it's opens up whole new possibilities and areas of inquiry for you to come to.Beth Barany:
Absolutely, yeah. And then I'm not doing all the heavy lifting. And plus, I teach it with CO teach it with my husband, who's also a novelist. And we have different styles and different ways of explaining things and different energies. And he's very funny and you know, and it's fun to work with him and we've been writing buddies since we met. So if we bring that to everyone and and show different perspectives so people can find, find their way through, you know, it's not just my answers. It's his and it's also the group's you know, everyone's sharing with each other. Yeah.Emma Dhesi:
Well, no talking of your husband, and he, I think that you co wrote the book Plan your novel like a PRO is that right.Beth Barany:
Yes, yes, yes. Yeah, he because he had, I'm more of an intuitive organic writer. And he's more of a left brain linear writer and he sees things differently than I. And so I wanted to be able to have a book that allows both kinds of thinkers are trying to create across the spectrum, because the main message is, there is no one way. There's no one way to write a book, or to plan a book, it's the right way for you and by having different kinds of having options, allows the beginning writer to try things to experiment to have fun.Emma Dhesi:
Yeah, yeah, I think that's, that's something I think we forget about. And not even just at the beginning of we're writing loads, but throughout it can be that you forget, this is meant to be fun. We do this because we love it. And we get very anxiously and very, very uptight about getting it perfect, but your thank you for that reminder is meant to be fun. One of the things I like about the book is that you have divided it up into kind of weekly sections, which makes it really feel very compact and manageable and, and you started with week one with the elevator pitch and I wondered why you started started there.Beth Barany:
Yeah, well, a little story when I was having to write an elevator pitch to for my first novel that I was planning to publish, which is Henry edit the Dragon Slayer, which I ended up self publishing, I found that the the elevator pitch just so so emotionally daunting, and scary and it was like a betrayal to the book to have to condense the book into, you know, two or three sentences after the books over 200 pages, you know. So I realized from that experience, and I got help, it was an older workshop and I got help. And it got demystified. For me what is an elevator pitch? I realized that the elevator pitch is an incredible tool to be able to think about a story in a very brief space. So instead of having to go oh my god, I have to write a book. How do I write a book? You're like, No, no, you don't have to write a book. You just have to answer these questions. And then write two or three sentences. So this is very much for people who are like, Oh, I have an idea. What do I do with that idea? And because it's very daunting right to go from idea to finished finished draft. Oh, my goodness. So I realized that the elevator pitch, if we just looked at it as a writing exercise and not as a pitch, yes, it's a it's it comes from elevator pitch. But actually, it's really an incredible way to start the story planning process. Because it asks some very simple questions and it gets you thinking about your book, if you and I start there now as a planning tool. And then yeah, there's the bonus of when you're, when it comes time to write a short book description, you have some building blocks, you've actually run through the exercise already, and your brain is like, Oh, yeah, I've done that. That's not so hard. So it's also embedded in this planning book is a ton of marketing, that we that is just part of the planning process. So by the time you reconnect with marketing, when you're ready to market, you're like, Oh, yeah, this is all familiar to me. I've already thought through all these things, because that's kind of my bigger stance around book marketing is like, why does book marketing have to be scary? Why can't we start thinking about book marketing, not as a market market research, like thinking of your readers, but just actually, though, the tools of marketing are really designed to help us think about story in these wonderful like little bite sized ways. So that's why it's all throughout this book and I'm not I tell people, okay, here it is, you know?Emma Dhesi:
Yeah, no, it's a really useful tool, I come across it kind of in the last couple of years. And like you were saying, I did find it very daunting and my goodness, I hope, and I condense my whole book into into this this one idea, but it does help you just clarify what the key message, the key story, the key idea of the book is, and it you can come back to it again, and again, if you find yourself getting lost, it's very useful indeed. So let's move on to week two, and week two for you is that we're getting to know your characters and so what are the what are the things that writers need to think about when they're in this early stage of writing?Beth Barany:
Yes, oh, my goodness, people will see there's many things. I have like 18 interview questions in here. But the most important thing about getting to know your characters is really understanding. What is your character's story goal? And you can think about it in two ways. What is it that they want to have accomplished by the end of the story? That is in question, it can't be easy, has to be hard. Otherwise, you have no story, it was just like, go down to the corner, store and buy milk. Well, that's not a story. But if it was, go down the corner store to buy milk, because but but there's a ton of zombies in the way. Now we have a story. Now there's a tremendous amount of risk. And you don't know, the result is not assured. So story is about a character who wants something a goal so badly, they are willing to do what it takes and that goal is hard. It might change them, they might die, you know, one, one or the other, usually both. And then there's also a lot of stories these days and incorporate not only the inner, the outer goal, but the inner goal, like what is it they truly desire, oh, they want to be accepted by their brother, their older brother, for example, that's an inner goal. That's something that they experience that we can't necessarily see. But we as the reader, want we want it to, and they grow because of it.Emma Dhesi:
Aha, Okay!Beth Barany:
Usually, these two things are, sometimes they're linked, and sometimes they're not right, going down to the corner store to get milk in a zombie apocalypse may or may not be connected to one's getting respect from one's brother, but maybe the brother has died and the brother, you know, you feel like you're doing going to do this in honor of your brother. And if you don't, you're gonna let your brother down. I just spun the story a different direction. But so, so knowing the character goal is very important. I would say also, knowing what drives the character is also very important. That's called the motivation. And the motivation can be different. You can have characters with the same goal, but different reasons for wanting that goal. Maybe it's self respect, or maybe that motivations or that could be survival. But usually, for survival. There's usually a reason like, what why why even want to live. You know, you want it in motivation. You want to try and get down to the very, very core of what drives the character. And in brainstorming, because this class and the material is designed to be done before you write your book, but I've known lots of writers who use it when they're stuck as well. Because Yeah, and one of the biggest reasons writers gets stuck as they don't know their characters well enough. They don't know their goal. They don't know their core motivation. And also another play another. The third element, it's really important to know your characters is to understand their conflicts, not just the zombies in the way on the way to get to the grocery store, but also the inner conflicts as well. And the things they might be afraid of the things that haunt them, the ways they might be hard on themselves. It's really, for me, story opened up when I started to understand how conflict is only meaningful when it's when it's an impediment to the character, which meant I needed to understand all the things my character was upset about reluctant, sad, angry, all the things that pissed them off all the things they were scared of. And when I started that kind of brainstorming, which I actually explained in week three under plot, because it's what helped me understand plot. Then, when I do that deep dive, then I start to see what my how to make reality difficult for my character and my story, as a story is.Emma Dhesi:
Sorry, go on. No, no, you go ahead. Because then that is I guess, it's that it's that conflict that keeps things driving forward, isn't it and makes our characters more interesting. And, and we hear a lot about trying to give our characters flaws, to make them more believable, but more rounded, we don't want them to be too perfect. Because one of the things that we realized is we don't need to, not all of our character, characters need to be likable. We don't need to like all these characters, but we do have to have a degree of empathy for our character. And I know that you're using an empathy formula and I wondered if you'd be happy to share that with us to give our readers or listeners kind of something to start thinking about.Beth Barany:
Absolutely. So this is one of the lessons that my husband wrote because it is written as a formula. So for those people who are scared of formulas, all break it down for you. Alright, I had this because I am not a formula person. I have to look at it. My husband right here. Yeah. So this actually we need to credit this material because this material isn't ours. This comes from a call with a Kay Iglesias. And he presented to us at the screenplay conference back in that story of Expo in LA. And his his workshops called emotional core and he has material he has left. He has a book, he has lots of material on this. And and so as my husband was so taken by this, and we wrote this, and God has permission to have it in our book. So the emotional core, yes, you were saying now our characters don't have to be likable, but they do need to be relatable. So how do we make our villains relatable, even maybe our heroes an antihero, or our hero is a little bit rough edges. I tend to write heroines who a bit rough edged and then my job is to learn how do I make them relatable. So the very first thing is recognition. You want them to have habits or characteristics that are familiar. Even if they're, you know, like I had a big my big villain in my henryetta the dragon slayer series, he takes care of birds. He has an aviary. He takes care of birds. Like oh, okay, so he's not just that villain out there that we want to hate. But he's actually a human or we don't really know if he's human, but he's a he's a being a living being who takes care of other living beings. Oh, that's, we can relate to that. We recognize that. Oh, so that's something like me. So that's number one. Number two is is pity. Now pity is not just like, Oh, poor, poor character, but it's showing the misfortune of your character. Like this big bad villain. I I hinted at how he felt power had been taken from him by his sister. Like he was a little boy, it was it was like coming from the child space. Oh, your villains were children too, you know? Or you know, right? Or maybe you have a character who's big and tough but in there, they they have a childhood where somebody stomped on their toy, and that is maybe they know what it's like to be stomped on. Right. So, right you feel Yeah. So that it is really really important to find that part about your character. Find that when they were the little the little one, the child where they something happened to them. Or maybe they have a disability that they have to work hard to overcome. Like my heroine is Jamie McAllister. She She has i don't know i don't want to reveal it. She has something To overcome and deal with and has to constantly deal with. So it also could be that your big, strong character, male, female, whoever was abandoned at one point, and if you can show that in your story, how they, you know, and because they were abandoned, and we all can relate to that, right, we all can relate to being left at the park or mom's late picking us up and where it's like two hours later, where she right, we feel abandoned. So when you show those aspects show that aspect of your character, any character, we immediately feel something for them. So that's, and then the fourth. So there's about there's six elements. So we did recognition, pity and then humanity, humanity is actually is similar to what I was saying how my villain loved, loved his birds. So if you can show humanity, usually we show it by somebody taking care of another. But you can also show them doing. Having done something self sacrificial for others, like going out of their way to help another help someone go across the street or hold the door open, like these things, especially showed this the way we relate to others how we're, we're human too. So even a villain, maybe he, he's a villain in the boardroom. And you know, he's very, takes everybody's money, and He rules the city, but then he holds the door open for for all the ladies. So you show a moment of kindness or caring or nurturing, and that humanity is another way that shows relatability. And then the fourth characteristic is admiration. So if you have a character, even a villain, we might admire them for their strength or their cunning. Or I'm thinking of Moriarty, you know how incredibly brilliant he he is. And, and even Sherlock Holmes, I think, admires his brilliance. So that admiration, so think of heroic qualities, or maybe very strong or super smarter or very insightful. were clever or a great Tinker, you know? So it's great to think about how in what way does your character have these heroic characteristics, and just one is fine. And then the final part of really helping us relate to your character is under the umbrella of emotional stakes, we need to care that they are in danger, or could be in danger and there's usually that comes from the character's own awareness about their stakes. Like why are they going after their goal? Why are they fighting for what they're fighting for?Emma Dhesi:
Would that be would you be emotional states? Would that also be applicable to your villain characters as well, we don't usually think of as having vulnerability, I suppose.Beth Barany:
Absolutely. What would they do if they failed? Maybe they, maybe they're haunted by a domineering parent. And if they fail, they've, they've somehow proven that parent true, or right, it could be something in our, or it could be that if they fail, like I'm working on a villain who feels like what he's doing is for the good of humanity. And if he fails, in his super ambitious plan, then he's failing humanity, because he sees himself all villains see themselves as heroes. Or just ordinary people. They may not cast themselves in that huge light, but some might. And so if they fail in their big mission, which to them is grand, they're failing humanity, for example. Yeah. Maybe what they're doing. So you really need to tie what they're doing with that deeper. Carl Iglesias calls it their motivation, you know? Are they doing it to save themselves? Are they doing it to save another? Are they doing it for justice? You know, are they doing it for love? or some kind of security maybe? And when you show that to the reader, then we're like, oh, we're really engaged. Because we can relate?Emma Dhesi:
Yeah, I'd show it I think this is a lovely formula, a lovely way of kind of getting into all aspects of a 3d character 3d person who has those, those heroic moments and those great moments where they do the right thing and say the right thing. But then those other moments that we all have, which is selfishness, greed, wanting for ourselves wanting wanting the fame or wanting the money or wanting the girl or whatever it might be, we all have that interspersed in our own. So I love this formula that is just gives us all those prompts for thinking about our characters in a much kind of deeper and rounder way. So thank you for sharing that. That's super. Okay. That's why you're so welcome. So let's move on to the kind of third element which is the plot points and structure and I wonder if add Do you follow a particular structure that you teach your students? Or is this where the kind of intuitive stuff can kind of come in and have a mix of ways of closing?Beth Barany:
Yeah, well, we start with having them think about their genre, and genre expectations, and how they relate to stories structure, because every kind of genre has its reader expectations. And this material really got inspired by Shawn Coyne, the story grid material, I really found this super useful, and an incredible way to get very quickly into awareness into thinking about, oh, I'm writing a romance Well, what are the main elements of a romance? Or Oh, well, I'm writing a mystery. What are the main elements of a mystery? So before we get into, you know, the three act structure, or the hero's journey, or the five elements of storytelling, or there's a lot of different story structures, let's just think about genre structure and let's think about the expectations of the beginning, middle and end of every genre. And that tells you a lot that tells you right away what's, what kind of opening scene? What kind of middle midpoint scene what kind of end scene or two, right? We we already know. So when I was working on my junior McAllister books, I'd never written a mystery before, not a straight up mystery, not a crime, murder mystery. I mean, every book has an element of like, mystery question, answer, right? What's the question and finding the answer, but a straight up mystery. And then I had to really, really think about, okay, the beginning of mysteries, they tend to have a dead body, or they tend to have the hero showcasing their skills, or they tend, like, there's all these different kinds of openings, you'll see in mysteries, or you'll see sort of a shadow figure of the villain. And so I had from there, I made my choices. So once you know what the expectations are, you can you can spend them, you can do whatever you you know, as long as you're somehow connecting to the readers expectation of what what that, you know, what the genre has been? And and people want the same, yet they want to be surprised. You need to know what is that you know, and if you're writing, even if you're writing literary fiction, it's still gonna follow story structure, it's still going to have a certain kind of opening a certain kind of like, maybe the opening is dropping people into this weird, introspective moment. But still, you're still also doing certain things that all stories do, you still need to tell us? Who, where, why, what does this person want? You know, why am I reading? Where am I? Who is this person? And what do they want?Emma Dhesi:
I think that's such an important aspect of storytelling, I don't think it gets talked about enough until after you finish the story, and you start trying to market your story. But actually putting that up front, I think is is a genius thing to do. And although writers might not realize it is hugely helpful to think about, okay, what is my reader going to want? What are they expecting from the story, even, you know, romance, we think we know what's expected from that. And there are certain things that that are across the board of all romance stories. But within the particular type of romance book, you write what's expected there. So I think that's a really great thing to put right up front before people actually start waiting. It's that like, you're the elevator pitch, it's something that will ground your story and give it you know, then it's something to come back to so that you know you're giving your reader what they want. So I love that. That's brilliant. So if we move on a little bit, then so now we've got you know, we know our genre, we know kind of where our story is going. And then you encourage your students or your readers to kind of start outlining more kind of scene by scene. Now, is that applicable only to people who really enjoy getting down to the nitty gritty of planning and plotting? Or can that work for more intuitive writers as well? Do you think?Beth Barany:
That can absolutely work for intuitive writers? Because that's what I do. I don't do the level of detail work that my husband does. He does like serious index cards for every scene that I admit, I did that my first book I did with my historical novel, my very first five year novel. And that was a great experience. And we teach that we teach story. What do we call it in here? Sorry, my brain storyboarding, which kind of comes from that term comes from screenplay writing, but it was actually taught Oh, here it is the weekend novelist by Robert J. Ray. He taught story storyboarding in there and it was so so helpful. So but before you get to storyboarding, I really recommend Oh, actually, I teach it right before seeing my scene outline. So first of all, you need to understand what is the scene and so We teach that in this in in week four in the scene by scene outline section. And we teach a few different tools we teach that I find that I, as a more intuitive writer found really helpful. One is called problem solution, where you think you think through. So now you've thought kind of macro, you've thought about, okay, what are the genre requirements? And what could it be from my story beginning, middle and end. And that gives you a bunch of ideas for scenes. And now think about now let's think about a little bit more granular Lee. So your opening scene? So what is the problem and your opening scene? And what is your main character do to solve that problem? So now you start to think and problem solution sets? Oh, she, you know, she has to catch a pickpocket. With her team that doesn't trust her. That's my opening scene and book one. So what's the solution? Right, you're gonna assume she's gonna catch the pickpocket, of course, readers that I'm not going to reveal how she does it. But that sets up a whole new set of problems. She the pickpocket reveals something which kind of sets a new problem in motion and then that solution while she's going after that solution, a new problem comes out of that solution. And then, as she searches for the solution, you know, so you want to think of your story like, like a daisy chain like it? How does the solution generate a new problem, and then you reach for the solution, your character, which generates a new problem and when I discovered when I use this tool, to think through my stories, all of a sudden, I notice I'm basically going from beginning to end, all of a sudden, I'm now starting to line them up, like little blocks, all the ways getting you to the end and for the very first time, in my planning process, I actually start to see the whole story unfold, from start to finish. And then it's really quite thrilling. And something I do and I encourage everyone, if they if they're interested, is to take that problem solution set and read it to somebody to your trusted partner, writing partner, you know, friend who is a supporter and see how they respond, see how they're drawn in see might wear that might be confused. And that can help you figure out missing pieces, but also can kind of gauge the emotional resonance, like do you really have something that can hold from beginning to end?Emma Dhesi:
That's a great, I would have thought that Yeah. Yeah.Beth Barany:
I'm sorry. Yeah. I tend to be really like, it feels like a big, it's not the final final piece of story summary for me, but it's like, Look, what I did, you know, you want to share.Emma Dhesi:
It's nice, because then you can also see how the story shapes and that gives, I think it gives you confidence as a writer, okay, I know where this is going. And even if I didn't know exactly how to write this next thing, I can maybe jump on and do the next thing. And I can see where it's following through and one of the things I enjoy about having that kind of scene structure is it feels more organic, rather than having to come up with these random things that can appear that can feel like from nowhere, you haven't conjure up these things from nowhere. There's a logic to it, even if them even if they are a little bit out there and a little bit Well, there's still a logic as to why they're, they've made that whale decision, or what why that weld problem has occurred and so it feels much more organic and fluid, and therefore, I think, really helps the story arc build until you get to this big crescendo towards the end. So I love that. Yeah. Really, reallyBeth Barany:
Yeah, so helpful. And then from there, I teach, helpful. you know, what is the scene and we go through again, this comes from Sean coins, he calls, you know, his five elements, five essential elements of a story, which are actually the five essential elements also of a scene. And so we teach what those are. And then from that, my husband would go off and write index cards and do storyboarding. And I jump over storyboarding, because I've done it. And I know what it's, it is. And I go right into paragraph summaries of my scenes, and I, and I write them from the voice of my main character, or from the POV, I'm writing in one point of view. But when I'm writing in multiple points of view, I write each scene from a character's point of view, in short paragraphs, and sometimes dialogue starts to spill out. And it's a very organic process, we're actually now start to get very close to pros. From summary to pros, and I'm writing, I tend to just jump right into writing prose, but in the kind of a shorthand, and also in present tense, which I know I've seen a lot of other writers do. Yeah, I'm writing kind of in present tense from her point of view and then, and then then when I'm done with that, then I read it again to other people. I share it, and I watch people respond. And it's fun when there's people around who aren't who aren't necessarily just my husband, you know, one time it cousin was here. Well, I read it and she's like, wow, oh, I want to read that. You know, it was so, so thrilling.Emma Dhesi:
Brilliant. Thank you so much for taking us through the kind of how to write your novel. And obviously, when our listeners go and read the book, they're going to is getting much more detailed with it and be able to go through at their own pace and do the exercises that you've suggested. So thank you so much for sharing that with us. Oh, you're so welcome. I am conscious of time, and I'm taking up a lot of your time. But I wonder, before we go, if you could share with us what it is that you are working on at the moment?Beth Barany:
Yes, well, I am working on two projects right now. One is I'm starting the final edits for the fourth book and the Jamie McAllister series that comes out this fall called Red running deep. That's very exciting. And then the other project I'm working on, is I'm working on a script. I'm working actually on a TV pilot. For Henrietta, the Dragon Slayer, which is my young adult fantasy adventure trilogy, I bought the continuing Adventures of Henrietta and her friends. So and I'm with the, with the idea that eventually these will become graphic novels first and then possibly one day that is far in the future, at this point, actually live action TV. Yeah, that's the dream. That dream I can't quite control as easily as I can, you know, so my goal is to learn how to write a TV pilot, I'm working with a coach myself, and then translate that into graphic novels, because I have a whole bunch of ideas, a whole bunch of stories for this TV series that really is a graphic novel series right now. So it's like I'm learning two forms at the same time.Emma Dhesi:
I love to hear that you're also working with a coach, I think it's a great kind of example, to fall asleep to know that every coach needs a coach. So absolutely, yeah and so where can listeners find out more about you and what you do online?Beth Barany:
Yes, well, I am online, Bethbarany.com. everywhere on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest. And from Bethbarant.com, you'll be able to find my school, my blog, my author, material, everything. So that's that's the main hub. And I will throw out I do have a writer's blog for writers, which is also kind of a main place you can learn about what we're doing. And a lot of people write for the blog. It's called writersfunzone.com. And lots of articles, lots of freebies, lots of fun things, you can sign up for my goodies. Check out all our writing books. And that's a fun place to go to check out all the fun things we have going on.Emma Dhesi:
I'll be sure to link to those in the in the show notes. Well, Beth has wonderful, thank you so much for your time today.Beth Barany:
Oh, you're so welcome, Emma, this is so much fun. Thank you.Emma Dhesi:
Well, thank you so much for joining me today. I hope you find that helpful and inspirational. Now don't forget to come on over to facebook and join my group, Turning readers into writers. It is especially for you if you are a beginner writer who is looking to write their first novel. If you join the group, you will also find a free cheat sheet. They're called three secret hacks to write with consistency. So go to emmadhesi.com/turning readers into writers. Hit join. Can't wait to see you in there. All right. Thank you. Bye bye