Broken Brains and Where Shouldn’t You Start Your Story

May 26, 2020 00:24:45
Broken Brains and Where Shouldn’t You Start Your Story
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Broken Brains and Where Shouldn’t You Start Your Story

Hosted By

Carrie Jones Shaun Farrar

Show Notes

A lot of writing coaches talk about story structure and plots and inciting incidents, which is all well and good but Carrie is burnt-out this week. 

Carrie: I have worked too hard and my brain is broken. 

So, instead we are going to tell you what NOT to do. We are going to be the story police and harsh out the rules. 

Carrie: I don’t like rules or broken brains, but let’s do this. 

What Not To Do According To Conventional Wisdom Right Now

Do not start with dialogue.

This used to be super popular, but MySpace also used to be super popular. Things go out of style and it is not super popular anymore. 

Here’s an example: 

             “I like elephants.”

                        “Awesome. Me too.”

                        “No way?”

                        “Actually, I am lying.” 


You’ve no clue who is talking, where they are or why they do or don’t like elephants and you probably don’t care. We want readers to care from the very beginning of the story.

An alarm clock buzzing. 

Who even has an alarm clock anymore, actually? But no alarm clocks or cell phone alarms or whatever. Waking up is dull. 

            My alarm buzzed and I groaned. 

                        “Another day, another dollar,” I said to my cat, Muffin. 

                        Muffin hit me in the nose with her paw. She’s tired of my clichés. 

Another Example of Awesome

The whole IT WAS ALL A DREAM start.

Unless this is a paranormal or fantasy where the dream is a key part of the power or the threat? Then it’s okay even if people say ‘never ever.’

Cough. You don’t want to be super invested in a story and then find out that it was all crap and not real even to the character. 

Amazing thing happens. More amazing things happen. More amazing things happen for five pages. Oops. It’s all a dream. 

Example of dreamy

Being dorky without meaning to. 

This is when you accidentally make a super silly mistake or state something obvious in the very beginning of your story. Gasp! I know! You would never do that, right?

Spoiler alert: We all do this.

She knew she had to wear a mask in a pubic place.

Try to avoid the typos.

“I love to love you,” I think to myself.

This is an example. We all think to ourselves. Cut the 'to myself.'

All narrative all the time. 

There is no dialogue anywhere in the first ten pages of this story and instead everything is just a solid block of text in which I, the author, tells you exciting things – well at least they are exciting to me – about the story, but honestly it’s just a lot of navel gazing. Did you know that people get lint in their navels? Did you know that a lot of that lint is actually random fibers from your clothes, if you wear clothes, and dead skin, and then it gets stuck there and mixes all up together. I wonder if you care. I wonder if you care that I care. And so on.

Agh. Did you even read this example? It ruined our SEO readability score.

Writing Tip of the Pod

Don’t start off on the wrong writer foot. 

Dog Tip for Life

It’s okay to start over.


The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.


The podcast link if you don’t see it above. Plus, it’s everywhere like Apple Music, iTunesStitcherSpotify, and more. Just google, “DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE” then like and subscribe.

Join the 222,000 people who have downloaded episodes and marveled at our raw weirdness. You can subscribe pretty much anywhere.

This week's episode.

Link to Jose’s bonus interview. Jokes, Stuffies, And Using Your Weirdness for Good, An Interview with Jose De La Roca

Link to Caitlyn’s bonus episode. Books, Law School during Covid-19 and just being Kick Butt – Using Law to Create Lasting Change – Interview with Caitlyn Vanover

Link to last week’s episode of awesome. 


I coach, have a class, and edit things. 


I have a new book out!!!!!! It’s an adult mystery set in the town where we live, which is Bar Harbor, Maine. You can order it here. And you totally should. 

And if you click through to this link, you can read the first chapter! 

And click here to learn about the book’s inspiration and what I learned about myself when I was writing it.


My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!


It’s with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed!

Other Episodes


September 13, 2022 00:18:36
Episode Cover

Is Fear Keeping Us Dumb and Dip Your Balls in Coffee

W. Edwards wrote “Drive out fear so that everyone may work effectively for the company.” Paul Zak says, “When learners are psychologically safe, they acquire new information easily because they have the cognitive and emotional bandwidth to concentrate on course material. Anxiety takes significant metabolic energy and inhibits learning.” Join us as we talk a little bit about coffee balls, how anxiety makes it hard to learn and dog tips for life. DOG TIP FOR LIFE FROM SPARTACUS THE DOG Don’t worry about anything. Just get your treats and snack and sleep whenever you can. SOURCES Paul Zak, Immersion (releases today!) Our brand-new-amazing-creepy podcast is DUDE NO! It’s true crime with an occasional foray into the paranormal and macabre and it’s awesome. SHOUT OUT! The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License.  Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free. WE HAVE EXTRA CONTENT ALL ABOUT LIVING HAPPY OVER HERE! It's pretty awesome. AND we have a writing tips podcast called WRITE BETTER NOW! We have a podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and YouTube on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook. But she also has extra cool content focused on writing tips here. Carrie is reading one of her poems every week on CARRIE DOES POEMS. And there you go! Whew! That's a lot! ...



September 17, 2018 00:23:56
Episode Cover

What Makes A Story Memorable; Tips for Beginning Writers.

Here’s our biggest tip for beginning writers. Ask yourself this question: What makes a story memorable? It’s change. It’s how the hero of the story enters that story with something broken inside them. All the things that have happened before your story starts – the back story – has set up the hero needing to achieve something or needing to change something inside of themselves. ET was a movie about an alien, but the reason it was so amazing was because it was a movie about a family in pain, a family that needed to believe in magic and love again. ET gave them that. So, when you’re writing your book, think about the backstory of your character, what it is that put her/him/them in this place and what they need to do to change themselves or their world. That’s what the heart of a story is. That’s what makes it memorable. The internal change.   Dog Tip for Life Don’t be afraid to evolve. New places, new experiences, new life paths, are all ways to become something and someone better.   Writing Tips of the Pod Have Fun – Don’t write unless you love it or can’t live without it Remember That Your Characters and Their Journeys Matter Cut out Extra Scenes Don’t Try to Write Like Anyone Else Edit Like A God – Cast out all that doesn’t belong Don’t Worry About Being Successful – Worry about the story. SHOUT OUT The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website.Who is this artist and ...



July 26, 2022 00:17:09
Episode Cover

Sometimes a robot breaks your finger-Live Happy Anyway

In “Behind Our Anxiety, the Fear of Being Unneeded,” a 2016 New York Times op-ed, the Dalai Lama and Harvard professor and president of the American Enterprise Institute Arthur C. Brooks join together to write: “How strange, then, to see such anger and great discontent in some of the world’s richest nations. In the United States, Britain and across the European Continent, people are convulsed with political frustration and anxiety about the future. Refugees and migrants clamor for the chance to live in these safe, prosperous countries, but those who already live in those promised lands report great uneasiness about their own futures that seems to border on hopelessness.Why?” This was an interesting op-ed for me to read a day after I talked with twelve students in my Write! Submit! Support! class out of the Writing Barn in Austin. The students are spread out all over the country and so many of them had difficult Julys when it came to getting words on the page and one eloquently asked, “How do you write when you’re so worried about the world?” To my sort of brain that’s the perfect time to write because I’m one of those “write your way through it” kind of people, but obviously not all brains are wired like my brain. Thank God, right? It also made me think about our marriage. Shaun is a wicked caretaker and I’m not used to that. He’s also severely independent and so when I try to take care of him? It doesn’t always happen because he’s also super alpha, right? And that makes me feel like . . . Well, like I don’t have as much of a purpose, that I’m not ...