edmonds arts

Did You Know a Denouement is a Literary Device?

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No matter how long you’ve been a writer, how many craft books you’ve read, studied and made part of your writerly DNA, a refresher never hurts. I firmly believe that if you choose to be a writer you’ve chosen a life-long apprenticeship. And if you stop learning, changing and growing, your writing will likely go stale, fall flat on the page and die there unnoticed.

So, I get excited when I learn something new – which in my life is pretty much every day.

Yesterday, at the EPIC Writer’s Group that I often lead, we had a guest speaker, Elena Hartwell author of the Eddie Shoes Mystery Series. Elena spoke to our group about story structure. In her talk she used a term I had heard but didn’t really appreciate. The word was Denouement.

A quick Google search gives us a definition; ‘Denouement is a literary device that can be defined as the resolution of the issue of a complicated plot in fiction. The majority of examples of denouement show the resolution in the final part or chapter, often in an epilogue. Denouement is usually driven by the climax.’

The difference between Resolution and Denouement is that Resolution is when the main problem or conflict is resolved. The Denouement is the very ending.

In class we used the example of one of my favorite ‘I’m home sick today’ movies, Notting Hill. You know, boy (Hugh Grant) gets girl (Julia Roberts), loses girl, girl wants boy back. Boy is an idiot and loses girl again. Then finally BOY GETS GIRL. Anyway, if you know the movie you remember the scene at the very end where Hugh Grant sits on a bench in the park and Julia Roberts lovingly reclines her pregnant self at his side. This revealing of the happy couple in their happy world is the characters in their new world order. This is the Denouement, this is him (our hero) after his hero’s journey, returned to his normal world, but forever changed.

I love learning new writing terms, how to apply them, and where they belong in the story structure.

I’m looking forward to Elena Hartwell’s 4 hour workshop in May. Class description; How to Build Tension with Objectives, Obstacles and Stakes

Stories require tension. From memoir to mystery, sci-fi to romance, comedy or   tragedy, tension keeps readers turning pages with a need to know what happens next. So what can writers do to increase tension? One way is to focus on characters’ wants and needs. Investing each character with something they want, putting something in the way, and having high stakes for the outcome, makes stories compelling. Clear objectives, obstacles, and stakes make your stories the kind readers can’t put down. This workshop will help writers of all levels put these concepts into practice.


May 18th 2019                                               

EPIC Writer’s Workshop  9am – 1 pm $70.00 for EPIC members   $85.00 for non-members – Frances Anderson Center  700 Main St. Edmonds, WA.

Join Elena Hartwell for a 4 hour writing workshop,  How to Build Tension with Objectives, Obstacles and Stakes. 

Space is limited, so sign up TODAY at www.EpicGroupWriters.com

Elena Hartwell

About Elena; In addition to her work as a novelist, Elena teaches writing workshops. She also does developmental editing, working one-on-one with authors on novels, short stories, and plays. If you’re interested in working with Elena on a project, please contact her.

When she’s not writing or coaching, her favorite place to be is at the farm with her horses, Jasper and Radar, or at her home, on the middle fork of the Snoqualmie River in North Bend, Washington, with her husband, their dog, Polar, and their cats, Coal Train and Luna, aka, “the other cat upstairs.” Elena holds a B.A. from the University of San Diego, a M.Ed. from the University of Washington, Tacoma, and a Ph.D. from the University of Georgia.


(Photo credit: Mark Perlstein)

So, About Last Night…

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UW snowy night

Last night I had the pleasure of guest lecturing at the University of Washington again, in the Fiction writing class. One young man asked me a question toward the end of the evening that I felt I left unanswered, and it bothered me all night. He asked how a writer can keep from being overwhelmed by the amount of work it takes to write a novel and how much there is to learn. I’ve been there!

Anyway, I half way answered before other students chimed in with other great ideas, but I felt I never fully addressed his sincere concern. What I did say was to stay connected to your passion, remember why you wanted to be a writer in the first place, because that part of you can get SO lost in all the work. Have artist/writer’s dates with yourself, I told him. Go to coffee shops or sit on a mountain or go to the beach with a pad and pen and write (old school) because the actual act of writing taps into your subconscious and connects you with your desires, and can connect you to a deeper level of storytelling. I reminded him about what I said early in my talk; that writing is a lifelong apprenticeship and that it’s critical to remember that, and to give yourself some grace. But I didn’t’ get much further than that as it was the end of the evening and we all had to go drive in the snow.

What I’d like to add is this…

By grasping the reality that writing is a lifelong apprenticeship you can lessen the burden of the pursuit of perfection because it’s unachievable for the vast majority of writers, especially in the beginning. You can only learn so much at a time, but keep learning, keep growing, keep expanding your writerly pursuits, knowledge and craft tools, and just get better with every new project, and remember (and cherish) the writing tools (and mentors) that aid you in the journey.

Most importantly, if writing is your passion, keep writing. Find mentors like your instructor, Scott Driscoll. Find your tribe, I wish I had told him that. Find a group of like-minded writers to meet up with every so often, either just for coffee and story talk or to write with. Finding your tribe helps you stay connected. Go to writing conferences. Read great works of literature (however you define them) and get inspired to do the same. Emulate other authors who you admire. Peruse bookstore shelves, read the first sentence of ten best sellers (in your genre) and go sit in the bookstore coffee shop (or wherever you like) and write.

Also, if you love language don’t forget to play with words. I love the sounds and meanings of certain words and try to use them in my writing when I can. Or concepts, like how an object can be metaphor in a story, that’s what I was playing with when I took a break from working on my novel a couple years ago and wrote a 700 word story that won the Writer’s Digest fiction contest. So play with words, who knows where it may lead. Then, if stuck, take a break from what you’re working on and work on something else. If you’re writing a dark, difficult piece, take a break and write something funny. Play with your words, they are your tools.

Write free hand, old school like Natalie Goldberg talks about in Writing Down the Bones. Pen and paper. It’s a transformational writing tool that connects you to your work on a deeper level than imagined.

A couple of my favorite writer’s dates with myself are; I love to go to coffee shops where I never go, in different parts of the city or take the ferry over to the islands and go to coffee shops there, and write. The fresh air on the ferry, the water and the change of scene reawakens my writing mind. I also go to art museums and sit on those couches in the middle of the room – where no one really ever sits – and gaze at great paintings, this stirs something inside me to write. Don’t know why, it just does.  Last week I went to Portland, stayed in a hotel, wrote till late night, got up early went to the corner café for coffee, wrote for a couple more hours and the went on with an exhilarating day (at the art museum) culminating in a writing session back at the same café where my day started, but this time with wine instead of coffee. I needed the time alone, in the city where my next novel takes place – my story world. I was completely recharged within 24 hours of alone time. Thankfully, I have a wonderful husband who encourages these needs in my life. So whatever your life permits, create writer’s dates (no matter how grand or how small), find companions on this life-long journey of learning, and never forget to restore, inspire and encourage yourself.

What stirs your muse? Figure that out and reconnect with it frequently.  For every unique writer there is a unique path. Find yours.

I am teaching The Artists Way for Writers at Edmonds Community College if you’d like to explore this further. Be well, keep writing. Cheers, Mindy

What a Great Honor…

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Me, as photographed by Mary Wastman Photography

Last month I had the honor of being selected as the featured author and keynote speaker for the Mukilteo Schools Foundation fundraiser breakfast at Boeing’s Museum of Flight.

But before I get to that amazing morning, the night before the breakfast the foundation arranged for a local restaurant, The Red Cork Bistro to close for a private Author hosting party with me, the donors and other local school supporters. The Red Cork was gracious, and provided a lovely place for a private event with great food, wine, ambiance and lively conversations. What a way to kick off the week. Thank you Mukilteo Chamber of Commerce, especially Emma Leedy who initially suggested me to the board.

The next morning was the main event at the museum. Talented student chefs made a delicious breakfast akin to what you would be served at any 5 star restaurant, and the school jazz band harkened in the event, filling the (closed to the public) museum with enticing smells and invigorating music.


Senator Liias

When Senator Marco Liias introduced “Mukilteo’s literary treasure” I actually looked around the room wondering what other author would be speaking. Then my friend Judy Gratton tapped my leg and said, “That’s you.” So I got up and went on stage. It was a surreal moment. NEVER in all the public speaking I have done has there been a plane hanging over my head and a fuselage to the right of the stage. I couldn’t help myself, the first words out of my mouth were not from my planned speech, but instead, “WOW! What a venue. Is that a fuselage?”  Of course I said that because ‘fuselage’ was the only word I knew for an immense airplane part.

Judy Gratton and me

Anyway, I quickly pulled myself together and spoke to the crowd about the importance, no, the life- saving magic that books are to children. In my troubled childhood of which I spoke about my soldier father’s PTSD and ultimate alcoholism, books gave me refuge, inspired me to be brave, be kind, be curious.

Me on HUGE stage


Here’s a short excerpt from my speech titled, Literacy is a Superpower;

“Ernest Hemingway said, ‘There is no friend as loyal as a book’. And that certainly has always been true for me. I can honestly say Books saved my life. Well, books and a neighbor, a retired school teacher, Mrs. Gordon, who recognized a traumatized child when she saw one. I was about 6 years old when she invited me into her kitchen to learn to read. I recall on the pages of those books was another world, a world of raccoon mothers who fiercely protected their young and even carried their babies in their mouths on incredible adventures, and dogs and cats who loved one another despite their obvious differences.

In every story there was peril, but Mrs. Gordon assured me everything would soon be alright if I could hang in there and remember that soon I would turn the page.

And when she said, maybe you’ll grow up to write a book someday, she altered the potential trajectory of my life. Because she knew then that I may have challenges, obstacles to overcome, and that I would need a quest, hope, something to aspire to, as do all protagonist on all long journeys, and she knew that for a child, literacy was a superpower. And it was.

Those books she gifted me became my companions, my loyal friends, as Hemmingway said.

Because to read, at any age opens a window into other worlds previously unimagined….”

Anyway, I went on about how books saved me from a troubled childhood and how literacy truly is a superpower. I got into why I wrote Return To Sender and how my dad’s PTSD inspired my protagonist, Theo Riley and his Korean War nightmares after he returned home. And how books and writing guided me through 3 tours in cancerland. “Just keep turning the page, everything will be alright.” Mrs. Gordon said. We always return to our childhood lessons, and that one has saved me time and time again.

But I circled back around to the literacy issue which is the Mukilteo Schools Organization’s mission, and I ended on this note,

“In today’s world what is more important than planting those seeds in the hearts and minds of our children? Valuing their education, their welfare and so importantly their imaginations is vital to our humanity in this otherwise chaotic and often uncaring world that can be turned topsy-turvy by a simple 140 character tweet. Well, now 280….

The Mukilteo Schools foundation literacy mission and getting books into the hands of children is one I believe in wholeheartedly. That retired teacher who put a book in my hands showed me there was a big world out there, she planted a seed of hope inside me and taught me to turn the page, everything would be alright. Books guided my future, literacy was the superpower that saved my life.”

It was a wonderful event. I hope I rose to the occasion. During the book signing SO many people came up to me and shared their stories of being the child of a soldier who struggled with PTSD or other war time traumas brought home to the families. I honor the private things they shared with me.

My delightful breakfast companions, Mr. and Mrs. Klein

Teachers, and people like Mr. and Mrs. Klein who support literacy organizations earn a special place in heaven in this once a little girl, now grown reader and writer’s mind. In a time of shrinking school budgets, cutting arts programs and an overall disrespect for literacy in America, these organizations and the people who support them are vital to our survival as a literate, competitive country. I was so happy and honored to take part in this event.


Author event at Red Cork Bistro
Red Cork Bistro
Red Cork Bistro

ALL photographs provided by Mary Wastman photography 


The Writer’s Craft part II

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In addition to the Objects class I will be teaching at Edmond’s Community College this fall I will also facilitate the eight week course, Writer’s Craft Part II this year from September 21st through November 9th. I’m excited to teach this class as it encompasses everything from the Hero’s Journey to crafting that perfect first sentence. This eight week class is for all skill levels and all storytelling genres; memoir, fiction, non-fiction, short story, and screenplay. Bring your WIP (work in progress) or get inspired in class to start a new writing project. Lots of writing time, lots of critiquing, lots of creativity.

Class time structure (each week); Q & A and writing time based on individual student’s projects as seen through the lens of class material. For example, applying the Hero’s Journey or unique plot devices, developing voice, etc., to their story in progress, or the beginning of one, regardless of genre or skill level. If students want critique, there will be a workshopping schedule set for maximum 10 pages each. Weekly recommended resources and handouts.

Brief sample of class schedule:

9/21 Week One – Every Story Begins With a Journey

Identifying and finding your HERO’S JOURNEY

9/ 28 Week Two – Page One

FIRST LINES  First sentences, of course, have different functions—to amuse, to frighten, to mystify—and the mechanics a writer uses to achieve this connection vary from genre to genre. We’ll do an exploration of great first lines and how knowing the hero’s journey empowers a writer to pen that first line of the journey to follow.

10/ 5 Week Three – Plot Devices  (see previous post)


10/12 Week Four — Individual Writing & Open Mic Night

Focus on Student Writing – critiquing/workshopping exchange, and open mic night.

10/19 Week Five – The most dreaded word in writing, EDITING

10/26 Week Six – WHY OUTLINING MATTERS (regardless of genre)

The basics of genre; memoir, romance, mystery, thriller, horror, etc.. Also, short story, flash fiction, screenwriting…outlining matters. Outlining your novel (short story or memoir) or flying by the seat of your pants (called pantsers), and why it matters. 10 steps to follow in outlining.

11/2 Week Seven – Critique Night

11/9 Week Eight – WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED 

Sign up HERE

NEW!  The Writer’s Craft Part II  
Item: C522 Mindy Halleck
6:30 PM – 8:30 PM Location: Snoqualmie Hall   205
Sessions: 8 Th 20000 68th Ave W Lynnwood, WA 98036
9/21/2017 – 11/9/2017 Fee: $175.00


Why Authors Should Be Virtual Vision Boarding

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The research aspect of writing historical fiction is a full-time job and often disregarded once the book is done. Add to that reader’s expectations have elevated, so authors are obliged to meet their escalating anticipations with additional information/entertainment. For example, with the sensitive subject matter of the holocaust in my second novel, keeping research organized and verifying facts is vital. For me that’s made easier by using virtual vision boarding on Pinterest to create story-boards, story images, park my research, and SO much more. That way I have the images and links to critical research at my fingertips for referencing later in blogging, tweeting, Facebooking and so on, utilizing my research by turning it into marketing gold. If you’re just beginning your first novel or starting your fifth novel, virtual vision boarding is a great author’s tool – for research, writing and marketing – that’s never too early or too late to utilize.

I’ll be sharing this information and more at Edmonds Community College in July. Click here to sign up for the workshop.