Friday, June 19, 2020

Packing Our Story “Suitcase” by JoAnn Durgin

Meme says: Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.

Packing Our Story “Suitcase”

Whether happy, sad, or anything in-between, real life-based stories make good fiction. One of the funniest things that ever happened in my life wasn’t the bit least amusing at the time and hasn’t made it into one of my books—yet. Give it time. A few years ago, our daughter drove my husband and me to the airport in advance of a trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico. After she pulled my suitcase from the car and set it on the curb, she said, “I’m impressed, Mom. You’re really traveling light this time!”

Well, I knew that wasn’t true. Oh, oh. With a racing pulse and shaking hands, I quickly unzipped my bag to discover my husband had mistakenly grabbed the wrong suitcase in the hallway. He’d brought the empty one! Our quick-thinking daughter saved the day by racing home—down the highway and over the bridge into southern Indiana—then back again to the airport in Louisville, Kentucky. Thankfully, she made it to the airport with the packed suitcase just in time. Whew!

We can laugh about that experience now, and I can’t help but see the parallels in fiction, both as a reader and a writer. Have you ever bought a book based mainly on its appealing cover? No matter how pretty on the outside, if a book doesn’t feature a solid story between the covers, with well-developed characters and a solid plot, then it’s disappointing to us as a reader.

As a writer, have you ever been stuck working on a story that somehow felt empty? Like you’ve forgotten to pack something important? If so, digging deep can turn your writing around and make it so riveting a reader won’t want to put it down! Like packing a suitcase, here are some “essentials” to include in your writing to keep readers turning the pages!

Clothes. Clothes are the most basic of necessities. In fiction, there’s something to be said for being exposed and realistic, even raw. When we’re transparent, our writing evokes strong emotion. That’s when readers respond. Whether we write lightweight or heavy, the “clothes” are the basic foundation of our story—premise, plot, and subplots. If they’re not woven together well, poor construction will cause them to quickly fall apart. Like slipping on a quality garment, we need to strive to weave depth, meaning, and biblical truths into our writing so our characters will be well-clothed for their journey.

Shoes. The “shoes” in our stories are what keep the plot moving forward—from the theme and secondary characters to the dialogue, inciting incidents, and dark moments. Whether ratty tennis shoes or designer stilettos, the “shoes” of your character reveal their backstory, fears, joys, and deeply held inner longings. And don’t forget those pesky pebbles that occasionally find their way inside our shoes to irritate us! They have their purpose.

Socks. Socks are optional for a lot of people. Likewise, the “socks” in our writing could be those things that are optional insofar as how we choose to present our story. Things like voice, sentence structure, word choice, narrative and style (first person, third person, omniscient, etc.).

Cosmetics. Cosmetics mask flaws. They also enhance our natural features, but the end goal is to help us feel better about ourselves. Our characters need flaws and imperfections, or they won’t seem real. The “cosmetics” are those aspects of your story that highlight their strengths or reveal their weaknesses. Will they embrace them or fight against them? Their response will heighten the tension in your writing and can transform bland characters into fascinating ones!

Jewelry. A watch keeps us on schedule. A wedding ring shows devotion, loyalty, fidelity. Some pieces are worn every day while others are purely ornamental or heirlooms reserved for special occasions. Our “jewelry” can reinforce values and goals, lessons learned, and remind us of what’s most important. To apply this to our writing, it can represent the outcome and takeaway for the reader. It’s the “shine” on our story as it comes full circle to reach a satisfying resolution.

Don’t leave your suitcases empty! Plan ahead and pack them with well-planned essentials for an ultimately satisfying journey. Your readers will thank you for it. Happy writing, friends.

Until His Nets Are Full, 
Matthew 5:16

As a writer, have you ever been stuck working on a story that somehow felt empty? #seriouslywrite #tipsforwriters via @Gr8tReads

In fiction, there's something to be said for being exposed and realistic, even raw. #seriouslywrite #tipsforwriters via @Gr8tReads

When we're transparent, our writing evokes strong emotion. That's when readers respond. #seriouslywrite #tipsforwriters via @Gr8tReads


Catherine "Caty" Lewis is thrilled to be home again with her family and friends. After working as a chief accountant for a multinational oil corporation in Dallas and then Lubbock the past five years, she’s been transferred to their new world headquarters in downtown Houston. Before she can even inhabit her new office, she schedules a private meeting with the reclusive founder and CEO. Someone in her division appears to be embezzling funds, and Caty prays she’s not the prime suspect.

After suffering a deeply personal loss, Caleb Reid is struggling to raise his precocious twelve-year-old daughter, Lauren, on his own. He moved to Houston for a fresh start and to escape the threats that have plagued him the past few years. Then quickly discovers he can’t outrun them.

When these two meet, romantic sparks fly. Caty stares down fear with the kind of strong faith Caleb has neglected along the way. Can he risk endangering Caty in his fight against an unseen threat? Have the walls he’s built around him and his daughter served to protect them or to keep others from getting too close to his heart? 

USA Today Bestselling Author JoAnn Durgin is the author of more than thirty novels, including the Lewis Legacy Series, Prelude, the Starlight Christmas Series, Catching Serenity, Hearts Design, Gentle Like the Rain, Whisper to My Heart, the Serendipity Christmas Series, the Treasured Vow Series, the Wondrous Love Series, If You Believe, Echoes of Edinburgh, Portrait, and The Valentine Verse. Her most recent release is Love on Assignment in Millcreek, Book 1 of The Millcreek Christmas Series. She’s also written three novels under the pen name of Julianna Desmond, her latest being Only A Whisper Away.

A former estate administration paralegal, JoAnn writes contemporary Christian romance full-time and lives with her family in her native southern Indiana.

Feel free to connect with her at or via her website at