Thursday, March 31, 2011

Spotlight Author with Pam McCutcheon

THE WRITER’S BRAINSTORMING KIT: THINKING IN NEW DIRECTONS and WRITING THE FICTION SYNOPSIS: A STEP BY STEP APPROACH, are two of Pam McCutcheon’s books on the writing craft. I am excited to share my interview with Pam with all of you. Both books are great so if you are looking for a way to brainstorm your next plot or write a selling synopsis she’s your girl!


I came up with this book primarily because I need it! The need for brainstorming strikes me at odd times, usually late at night. My friends wouldn’t appreciate it if I called and insisted they drop everything to help me with a plotting or characterization problem. So, I created this to help me brainstorm. Luckily, it helps others as well. :-)

As for how I came up with it, I have a friend who does tarot reading for characters. So, I wondered…what would it be like to have something similar to a tarot deck but designed specifically for writers? I contacted Michael Waite to help me with it because he’s fabulous at graphics. He designed the book as well as the cards.

I have this book. It is awesome, and very simple to use. Can you explain to us a little bit about how to use it?

There are fifty cards, each with a single word on it such as “Build,” “Faith” and “Rescue,” plus a book that goes along with it, hence the “kit.” Let’s say you want to create a character. You would draw at least seven cards. The first would be for Role/Pursuit and you’d look up the word in the book to get a list of potential occupations or a “Role/Pursuit” that might go along with that word (or its opposite) for your character (protagonist, antagonist, or secondary character—it doesn’t matter). For the “Build” card, some of the options are architect, construction worker, demolition expert, designer, mad scientist, raider, etc. Choose one or let the word spur your imagination to come up with something different. Next, choose one card (or more) for character traits. The card’s options will give you a list of character traits, from positive to negative, that may be associated with that word. You can then choose cards for goal, motivation, internal conflict, external conflict, and the character’s growth or realization at the end of the story. Each aspect of character development has five choices to go along with it. Plotting works the same way. You would draw cards to help determine the Ordinary World, Trigger Event, Turning Points, Black Moment, and Resolution.

Even if two people draw the same cards, they won’t come up with the same story. I conducted a workshop with a writer’s group in Denver, and separated them into groups. Each small group drew five cards and came up with a story using this system. One came up with a dark, angsty historical romance. When I commented on how dark the story was, they blamed it on the cards they drew. But in my experience, it wasn’t just the cards, it was the mindset they brought to it. With the same cards, I came up with a contemporary romantic comedy. And if the card(s) you draw don’t work for you, just draw again.

What is your favorite part about the brainstorming kit?

I love the fact that it can help you create a story from scratch or just draw one card to help with a story problem. It doesn’t matter what genre, what kind of plot, or what kind of character you’re writing, it can help anyone. Most of us have a few different kinds of stories we write and go to those standards again and again. This kit helps us break out of our ruts and think in new and exciting directions. It helps me all the time.

You have also written a book called WRITING THE FICTION SYNOPSIS: A STEP BY STEP APPROACH. Can you tell us a little bit about this book?

As the title suggests, this is a step by step approach to help you figure out to put into your synopsis and, what’s sometimes more important, what to leave out. I use movies as examples and provide several sample synopses at the end of the book so you can see what one looks like.

Why is writing a synopsis important?

Because editors and agents want them. Seriously, the synopsis is your chance to tell your story in a compelling manner that will make the agent want to represent it or an editor want to buy it. Even if they don’t read your whole story at first, they will want to see a synopsis so they know you have a good grasp of story structure. They will also want to know how the story ends. NEVER tell them they have to buy the book to read the ending. Your manuscript will be rejected so fast you’ll get whiplash.

How do you think your book can help aspiring authors to get their work published?

Every writer needs to know how to write a synopsis. If you don’t have a clue where to start, or what should go into one, this can help you figure that out. In fact, I’m always surprised by how many published authors attend my workshop on writing synopses.

What is the best advice on writing, getting published, or trying to find an agent?

The best piece of advice is the one that works for you. That can be different things for different people. Sure, it’s important to learn the mechanics and the market, but the advice that worked for me is to write what you love. Don’t just write what you know, what you think is popular, or what you think will sell. Write about something you feel passionate about. That will shine through in your writing, and that’s the best thing you can do to increase your chances of selling.

Where can we find out more about you and your books as well as how can we purchase these books?

My website ( has more information about my writing books and my fiction (under this name and my two pseudonyms). You can purchase my writing books through my publisher ( Thanks!

Pam McCutcheon

Besides writing books on craft Pam writes romance, young adult, and fantasy.

Look for her latest book as

Parker Blue

Author of the Demon Underground Series, edgy urban fantasy that spans the gap between YA and adult fiction.


The vampires want it. The demons want it too. And someone is willing to kill Val for it.

Val and Fang have to find the powerful Encyclopedia Magicka before either of San Antonio’s warring underworld factions locate it, or the consequences will be deadly for the entire city. As usual, Val’s vampire enemies (they still call her The Slayer), want her dead, and even some of her fellow demons may be less than trustworthy, since they'd like to grab the legendary book of spells before she does. Val has a personal claim to the Encyclopedia--her demon father left it to her when he died--but someone stole it recently. And that can’t be good.

Battling vamps and dodging demons, Val struggles to unravel the mystery and find the thief. At the same time, she's fighting her attraction to sweet, sexy Shade, her favorite shadow demon. Rumor has it that Val will lose her part-demon, vampire-fighting powers if she gives herself to him.

With a crowd of vamps and demons out to trick her or kill her, it’s not a good time for her to risk her job as the city's best vampire hunter by falling in love. The stakes are high and aimed right at her heart. But Lola, Val's hungry little lust demon, doesn't like being denied. Will Lola finally get her way?

What’s a part-lust-demon-teen supposed to do? Whatever it takes.

Thanks to Pam and to all of my readers. Make sure to check out Pam’s books. See you back here on Tuesday when I have, Barbara Silkstone as my guest.




Rachel Firasek said...

Wow, Fang ME sounds fantastic. Has two elements, I love. Vamps and Demons! Great post!!!!

Donna O'Brien said...

Very interesting! Your fiction and craft books are going into my cart. Thanks for unique outlook on story building. Another great interview Micole!

Eleyne Presley said...

Both of these books look like something I could use. Thanks for spotlighting them, Micole.

Sheri Humphreys said...

Your Brainstorming Kit really piques my interest. Sounds like it would be a great raffle for a Yosemite Romance Writers meeting. And a great addition to my craft library, too! Sheri

Pam McCutcheon said...

Thanks, everyone!