poetry and prose about place

writing a novel – expressing the story in a single sentence

with 4 comments

 Title: unknown

Working Title: ‘Crossing at a Walk’

Setting: a writers’ retreat – the renovated Landing Church, the hall and the rectory now used as a Learning Center, a Sleeping Hall and a home and base of operations for Sadie and Tom

Characters: main character Sadie, a writer; her husband Tom, a retired welder; Alexandra, a young woman who works at the retreat; other people from the community; writers participating in the first weekend of the writers’ retreat

Plot: The ongoing history of an old covered bridge keeps getting in the way of discovering the story of a woman who once lived in the community.



one of the 59 covered bridges remaining in New Brunswick



When I think about the story I want to tell in my book, I quickly get in a tangle of characters and subplots and action.  All of this can be quite confusing to the writer and end up befuddling the story and taking the writing in the wrong direction.

To avoid this tangle, it is a good idea to try to express the plot and story in single sentences as soon as possible in the writing process.


The plot is the cause-and-effect relationship between events in a story.

A story is a series of events, related in their chronological order.


I am currently taking a course from Deborah Carr, an excellent writing coach (her website ‘Nature of Words’ is at  She puts it this way: a story follows the pattern of Desire, Struggle, and Resolution.  Every good story is about someone who wants something, how the someone sets about achieving the goal, and the consequences of achieving the goal.

The earlier in the process I can write my story in a single sentence that includes these three elements, the less ‘wheel-spinning’ I will do.


My novel will be the story of how a young staff member at a writers’ retreat discovers the name of a woman carved on the beams of a covered bridge, sets out to discover the woman’s story by asking questions and learning the history of the bridge, and reveals truths about love and loss.



names and initials are often carved on the wood beams within a covered bridge


The story is different from the plot in that it expresses a series of actions in time.  A plot expresses the logical relationship between elements of the story.  The story and plot complement one another.


Before you get much further in your novel, try writing the story as a simple sentence describing Desire, Struggle, and Resolution.


Copyright  2015  Jane Tims



Written by jane tims

March 30, 2015 at 7:14 am

4 Responses

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  1. This sounds intriguing, Jane. I love anything that links the past into the present and covered bridges are fascinating – I saw some in New England I think on one of my North American visits.

    Liked by 1 person


    April 2, 2015 at 6:40 am

    • Hi Diana. There are covered bridges throughout the Maritimes, Quebec, Ontario, New England and the mid-west. It seems to be a North American phenomenon…. They are fun to visit … We have one in our community and I drive through it every day! Jane


      jane tims

      April 2, 2015 at 8:12 am

  2. I’ve heard a writer should have an elevator speech that succinctly describes his or her project. The one-sentence description is a similar idea.

    Liked by 1 person


    March 31, 2015 at 11:53 pm

    • Hi Sheryl … Ha! Never heard of that but guess what I’ll be doing now … Writing my elevator speech! Jane


      jane tims

      April 1, 2015 at 7:38 am

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