What I did during my holiday

I rarely get personal but since I’ve been MIA for three weeks I thought I’d share a little.

First, we went to Paris, France to visit family and celebrate the high school graduation of my beautiful granddaughter. 

The day started out a little overcast and cloudy with a chance of showers. Oh boy, do I wish I’d taken pictures during the ceremony but I was afraid my phone would be ruined. During this outside ceremony, the heavens opened and a torrential storm soaked us all. The tent canopy nearly collapsed before all diplomas were handed out. LOL This was one day no one will forget.

Must visit at least another museum while in Paris. This trip we went to the National Pantheon. Under the dome can be found the oldest paintings, frescoes begun under the First Empire. A crypt containing tombs of honored men and women.

Over the next three weeks, we visited the beach in Sete, France. I wasn’t prepared for a beach where the water could turn a person into a human popsicle. Brrr. Beautiful but too cold for this Texan. However, the best part was five days with my daughter and granddaughter. 

The best part of this trip was getting personal one-on-one time with each of our three granddaughters. We rarely have the time and this was special. 





Next, we headed to Edinburgh, Scotland.

I’d always wanted to visit Scotland, so we decided to take a quick jaunt over there this year. It is a beautiful place. I discovered a little about my roots and a lot about Scotland.

Mrs. MacIntyre's Cafe in Edinburgh Scotland
A namesake cafe!
Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle






Birds eye view of Edinburgh, Scotland
Birdseye view of Edinburgh, Scotland
Photo with Owls on Streets of Edinburgh
Photo with Owls on Streets of Edinburgh

There was Harry Potter stuff everywhere. Including live owls.

And of course, no visit to Scotland is complete without tasting a few good whiskeys.






Well, that’s what I did on my vacation. What about you? Big plans for the summer? I’d love to hear, so share.





Do you think writing is more effective with a formula?

Of course! Formulas are buried in every book, movie or play. 

Take the Pixar movies! Who doesn’t love the little train that could? Or the little fish that doesn’t quit? Our hearts go pitter-patter when boy meets girl and live happily ever after. And what about the underdog who keeps plugging along until he wins. We love to cheer for Rocky Balboa, Scarlet O’Hara, the Great Ali, Harry Potter, and yell run Forest run. The list could go on to “infinity and beyond.” buzz lightyearI think you get the idea.

So what do I need to know about formulas that are repeated over and over in books and movies?

Do they work?


Yes! They work if we understand how to apply them. How to make them ours.

Here are 22 Rules of Storytelling from Pixar to get us started.

What did I learn from these formula rules?

  • A character that I cheer across the finish line, you may boo.
  • My readers may not think basket weaving is fun.
  • Forcing a theme on my characters may not work.
  • Whatever makes my character a star, steal it for a time. hehe
  • A formula works because it is tried and true. Once upon a time….
  • KISS, (keep it simple) until I reach the end. There is always time to go back and flesh out the details second round.
  • Characters have opinions, might as well let them speak.
  • Give the readers a reason to cheer or jeer.

What do you think?

Can you spot formulas in your writing?

Is there a formula that works for you? 

When you get stuck does a formula put you back on track? 

Tell me I’d love to know!

Leave me a comment – I love comments.

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How to layer your story with secrets, mystery and illusion

DAN ALATORRE gave me a lot to think about when he asked, “…if you were going to write a story like Harry Potter, how would you do it?” 

The HP books are some of my favorites. I mean, who wouldn’t want to write like JK Rowling?

Dan’s post discussed the art of layering a story. Layers add mystery, intrigue, and magic which keeps the reader guessing.


Ms. Rowling opens her first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, adding a sense of mystery in the third paragraph with a secret.

Does the character in your WIP (work in progress) have a secret?

Do you agree that a secret, mystery or illusion gives a story layers?

Is it enough for the main protagonist to have a secret or should there be multiple secrets scattered throughout the story?

Read the rest of Dan’s post and tell me what you think about layering.

So… Not the beat this J. K. Rowling thing to death, but… You have to ask yourself: if you were going to write a story like Harry Potter, how would you do it? First you have to come up with an idea.…

Source: How To Write Better Stories: Layering

In case you’ve been in WITSEC or living underground for the last few years and haven’t read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone hop over to Amazon and grab it while it’s still available through the KU program.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by [Rowling, J.K.]

Inquiring minds want to know. Leave me a comment and tell me what you think.

But now I’m gonna go and add some layers to my WIP.

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To connect with me, click the “write me” tab or find for me on Twitter @jeancogdell, Facebook at jeanswriting and Amazon.com, stop by and say hey! The lights are on, and I’m waiting.

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How To Write Better Stories: Red Herrings and More Tension

I love how Dan is taking these books apart. If like me, you are writing a mystery this post will be invaluable.

Keep reading!

I’m using Harry Potter and the Chamber Of Secrets to show examples of great storytelling that you can use in your writing. The transition from chapter 11 to chapter 12 is a split scene really…

Source: How To Write Better Stories: Red Herrings and More Tension