|A Writers Vehicle
Henry Ford's Way
Style: What Will You Write?
Short Story, Articles/non-fiction, Essays, Autobiography,
Biography, Novels, Poetry
“Making a book is a craft, as making a clock; it takes more wit
to become an author.”
Jean de la Bruére
“Integrity has no need of rules.”
What will you write? There are several considerations:
Your purpose for writing in the first place is the first consideration.
Will you write an article explaining some how to topic? Will you write a
short story to entertain children or teenagers? Perhaps you have an in for
some very engaging person you wish to write a biography of, or perhaps
your own autobiography as a memoir for your grandchildren. There are
as many reasons to write as there are vehicles to convey the writing you
prefer to do.
Next what is your theme? Theme is a much broader term than plot. The
theme illustrates whatever idea the story puts forward. (For instance: the
theme of Stephen Crane’s The Open Boat, destiny or nature is a universal
judge. Nature doesn’t care if you win or lose, it indifferent to the plight of
the individual. Plot, on the other hand has to do with the literal events that
happen in the lives of characters in a story. In this story it would be of
them men, trapped oblivious to those on shore, their thoughts and feelings
and they way they deal with the events they encounter. A second theme
would be people banding together in times of crisis, where they may not
give each other the time of day other wise.
Theme is a central idea of the story/article/novel. A concept represented
by the characters in the plot interaction. Novels, usually have more then
Next you need to write to your ideal reader. You will be thinking in terms
of the demographics of that one person. That information will include;
gender, age, income level, educational background, and where they might
hang out. You might think your writing is for everyone and that might be
true, but …you’ve heard the saying “you can please some of the people
some of the time, but you cannot please all of the people all of the time.”
That is particularly true in writing because of the demographics of your
ideal audience as mentioned above. Chance of being well-received will
depend on how closely you target your writing to your intended reader.
Different formats, different target audiences require different type of
writing. Jane Austin, Toni Pompo writes letters to their reader. Ralph
Waldo Emerson, Hemingway, Doris Lessing write essays and poetry.
Elizabeth Keebler-Ross, Shakespeare, Carolyn Howard-Johnson or I write
If you are writing an autobiography of some one you admire, that would
vary greatly from writing your own biography. The research, your
credibility as the source of material, for either is vastly different. If you
have an in with the person in the autobiography your readers will need to
know you have an inside track.
Writing a novel is another broad topic. What genre would you write
in? To help you define that, what do you read? By reading you will pick
up the rules of the genre you hope to write. If you never read a mystery
or science fiction novel you can hardly expect to sit down and just write
one. If you say Romance, what sub genre? Contemporary Romantic
Suspense, or a historical – regency or Elizabethan? Oh a mystery, okay,
which sub category? Cozy, hard-boiled, police procedural, true crime, or
one of the other types of mysteries will need to be determined so that
your story will fit guidelines of a particular publisher that you target.
Science Fiction, Thriller, Horror all have a multitude of subgenres
you will need to consider as each has its own specific rules and reader
After you’ve decided what you are going to write you will need to
research and read to find the structure this category requires. Read more
than just your favorite author or the top ten New York bestsellers in your
chosen category to get a feel for what is acceptable and being done. Not
that you can’t bend or break the rules, but you need to know them before
you attempt to break them and you better have a good reason for doing
Some more tips:
1. Submit only your best writing no matter what the venue. You
need to establish your reliability your credibility, your ability as
2. Do not chase after trends, chances are because of the length of
the submission process that will no longer be a trend by the time
you are accepted for publication. This is particularly true of
novellas, novels, and certain non-fiction books.
Comparing our different writing vehicles to what Henry Ford had in
mind – I could categorize these vehicles for your writing by vehicles in
the automobile industry as:
A. Articles – Sports Car
B. Short Story – SUV
C. Essays/Letters – Sedan
D. Autobiography/biography – Station Wagons
E. Poetry – 4-door hard top convertible
F. Novel – A 4-wheel drive, heavy duty pickup truck.
STRUCTURES OF THE VARIOUS WRITING VEHICLES
There is a different writing style and structure for every writing
project. If you choose to write an article what should you do? What
magazines are you targeting? First off get at least 6 or 8 copies of their
magazine. If it looks like your idea will fit with the magazine write for
guidelines. No matter what you write or who you try to write for you will
need to get guidelines for wherever you plan to publish, be it magazine
or book publisher.
b. The Body
c. The Conclusion
Short Story Structure:
A short story is a dramatic segment of a character’s growth or
life taken out of context. Structure includes:
a. Beginning - situation
b. Middle- complication
c. End – climax
d. View point
“The classical elements of the short story may not always arrive in such a
neat arrangement, although this is the natural order, because it is the
order in which the reader naturally becomes involved in the story
through caring what happens to the characters.” This says James Gunn in
“The Anatomy of a Short Story” (found in The Writer’s Digest
Handbook of Short Story Writing Volume II, Edited by Jean M.
Fredette) though, he cautions, it may not always be the structure of the
short story you are reading.
NONFICTION: MEMOIRS, PERSON ESSAYS
a. A Powerful Opening scene
b. Save Flashbacks for later, not your opening chapter
c. Separate flashback, from within a flashback, give it it’s own
d. Stay close to present action
e. Show don’t tell – if there is anger let the words show us that
person’s anger, if there is love let the words spoken be of love.
f. End each chapter with a compelling reason for the reader to turn
the page – a moment of truth perhaps.
g. Each chapter should have an emotion that you can state in one
h. Try to have your setting help establish the emotional tone of the
i. Emotional Tension – is it right for the chapter
j. Keep your end goal in mind – where are you going, how will
your story end? Each chapter should build to that.
Personal Essay Structure:
a. State the goal of your piece.
b. Being with an inciting incident – What makes this a story worth
c. Reveal your inner thoughts to your reader, if you don’t your
story will be underdeveloped, flat, devoid of meaning.
d. Readers want to know about the writer’s progression in terms of
inner and external happenings. Tell/Show them.
e. Be certain your conclusion matches the tone of your essay. Don’t
just restate the beginning – what did we learn?
There are too many type of poetry to address in a book of this size
and scope. You can find books, courses, online and University
Extension courses that can help you discover how to design poetry
that is you.
A few things to watch for are:
a. Gerunds can become repetitive and unpleasant to the readers ear.
b. Breaking up stanza’s can increase motion or tension
c. sensory images carry meaning
d. watch for clichéd phrase and padded line
e. rewriting lines sometimes makes the poetry flow better and
f. Concrete images by the number – a longer poem can support more
of them. Be aware of your poem length in relation to this.
a. Opening Hook - Beginning
d. Places in-between
1. View Point
2. Narrative Voice
11. Climax and denouement believable and satisfying – loose ends
Some advice on writing from Rachel Friedman Ballon in her book
Blue Print For Writing, a Writer’s Guide to Creativity Craft &
1. Read fairy tales to learn what makes a good story
2. Read Greek tragedies to study structure
3. Whose point-of-view is the most compelling – whose story is it?
4. Write scene by connected scene rather than episodic-like.
We have not touched on writing movie, television or play scripts here
they have their own unique attributes and structures. The rule, one page
per one minute of view time, is standard. The set up of the script, there
are programs that will do that for you. The rest is a study all itself. If you
are interested I urge you to check out my bibliography in the appendix
for some outstanding help in this direction.
What ever the story, style, and structure you are interested in using,
there are books that help you discover on your own, at your own pace,
just what you need to know to successfully write in that form. Find
writer’s groups or courses that will help you in your endeavor. The
writing life is quite solitary and having a critique partner or group, a
writer’s group, a mentor or coach sometimes is exactly the prescription
to hit the top.