Tag Archives: Protagonist

Different Strokes for Different Folks

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Different Strokes for Different Folks

Hello, everyone. I hope all of you experienced a great week. Today I’m giving you a blog that discusses how you can broaden your story and your readership from an article by Bharti Kirchner. This was originally published in the Writer magazine.

Why venture into unaccustomed territory when it comes to characters? In a globalized world, re regularly meet people.e very different from us in race, class, ethnicity, religion, politics or ideology.  Modern novels and memoirs, as mirrors of a society, increasingly depict this heterogeneity.

In addition to expanding our readership, a diverse character, whether the protagonist or a secondary character brings a broader voice to a story. In the case of the novel Tulip Season, protagonist Mitra meets a mysterious German man, and the contrast between the two adds an element of tension.  With dissimilar actions, attitudes and world views, backgrounds and upbringings, their interactions spark a great exploration of Mitra’s world.

Creating Authenticity: How do you get started writing about a person foreign to you? By immersing yourself in that particular culture of community through direct contact and by building relationships.  Armchair travel can also help, as can books, videos, movies, art, and the Web. Remember, in the end, it’s your story and it’s fiction.  You’re facing challenges no matter what.  “If you’re going to write fiction, you’re going to write about people who aren’t you,” says David Guterson, author of 10 books, including Snow Falling on Cedars.  “You should feel some healthy trepidation about that.”

Respect, openness, and empathy are keys to depicting an unfamiliar culture or perspective.  Here are additional tips and techniques.

First Impressions: What a reader first notices is how the character looks, dresses, sounds and behaves.  Bring the character alive with physical descriptions, but not too much and not all at once.  Allow readers to use their imagination to fill in the blanks.  Pay special attention to the rhythm of the spoken language.  A foreign born person might speak with an accent and fall back on native words as necessary.

A Character from Inside Out: You’re writing about individuals, and the methods you usually employ to develop a character of any kind still applies. Remember that all cultures have hopes, fears, and dreams, and it’s your job to portray that.

Does a diverse character have to be sympathetic?  Peter Mountford, the author of two novels, including A Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism, says no.  “Actually, I’m not sure he is very sympathetic because of the choices he makes,” Mountford says of Gabriel do Boys, the 26-year-old, biracial protagonist in his novel.  “He builds a lucrative career instead of abandoning it for love.  I feel for him, definitely, but a lot of readers struggle with him, and I suppose that is the key to writing “the other,” for me.”

Beliefs and Conflicts: Every culture or community holds common beliefs about marriage, family, money, status and friendship.  A character is likely to suffer moth internal and external conflicts when going against these beliefs and sometimes even when conforming to them.

Showing Universality: By wrestling with choices and obstacles, a diverse character, like any other, grows and changes.  In the process, he or she displays common human characteristics as fear, anger, joy and love.  Although I’m different, I’d feel much the same in the same situation, the reader realizes, and perhaps gets more involved in the book.

You can make a character accessible in other ways.  Show how he or she relates to friends.  Let him or her grapple with everyday issues like traffic.  An element of humor can also help.  We gravitate toward people who lighten our days with a joke or a funny situation.  It is in those moments that we let go of our differences and embrace our common humanity.

 

I hope this article helps to make your writing this week easier. The more knowledge we have the better writers we are.  Blessings to all.

The 5 C’s of Writing a Great Thriller Novel

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Writing Project

This article by James Scott Bell was first published in the Writer’s Digest. I read it this morning on Books Go Social Authors Group ( https://www.facebook.com/groups/booksgosocialauthors/?fref=nf ) and thought it was worth sharing.  Even if were not writing a thriller we may want to add a touch into whatever we’re writing.  Enjoy.   Shirley

Remember when Tommy Lee Jones holds up the empty shackles in The Fugitive and says, “You know, we’re always fascinated when we find leg irons with no legs in ’em”? It makes me think of readers who pick up thrillers and find no thrills in them. Or at least not as many as there could be.

I’m not just talking about plot here. It’s possible to have guns and bombs and hit men and terrorists and black helicopters and still not have a novel that grips the reader in the gut.

For a healthy, fully functioning thriller, try some literary vitamin C. Dose your book with these five Cs and it will stand strong, chest out, ready to give your reader a run for the money.

  1. Complex Characterizations

The first place to fortify a thriller is its cast of characters. A critical mistake made here can undermine even the best story concept.

Is your protagonist all good? That’s boring. Instead, the thriller hero needs to struggle with issues inside as well as outside. She’s got to be a carrier of flaws as well as virtues. These roiling conflicts make her survival an open question.

When we first meet Detective Carol Starkey in Robert Crais’ Demolition Angel, she’s flicking her cigarette ash on the floor of a therapist’s office, “pissed off” because it’s been three years and her demons are still alive and well. Quite an introduction, especially for someone on the LAPD bomb detail. We know she has a short fuse. And we want to watch to see if it goes off.

Brainstorm a list of at least 10 inner demons your hero has to fight. Ten. Get creative. Then choose the best one. Work that demon into your hero’s backstory, and show how it is affecting him in the present—and could hinder him even further in the future. Give him actions that demonstrate the flaw.

Move on to the rest of your cast. Avoid the “stock character” trap, which can be especially perilous in this genre—e.g., the cold, buttoned-down FBI agent; the police detective with a drinking problem. Here’s a good habit: Reject the first image you come up with when creating a character. Entertain several possibilities, always looking for a fresh take.

Then, give each character a point of potential conflict with your hero as well as with the other characters—especially those who are allies. Look for ways friends can become enemies or betrayers. Short of that, create more arguments.

To help you add complexity, make a character grid like this:

Mary                        Steve                  Cody                     Brenda                Julio

Mary

x

Steve                            x

Cody                                               x

Brenda                                                              x

Julio                                                                                   x

Now, fill in the blank boxes with possible relationships, secrets and areas of conflict. For example:

Mary     Steve

Mary

Hates him because he abused her sister

Steve     Knows that Mary had a child by Julio

If possible connections are eluding you, try running this exercise for each of your main characters: The police come to the character’s residence with a search warrant. In his closet is something he does not want anyone to find, ever.

What is it?

What does this reveal about the inner life of the character? Use the secrets and passions you discover to add another point of conflict within the cast.

Standout thrillers need complexity and webs of conflict, so that every page hums with tension.

  1. Confrontation

I call the main action of a novel the confrontation. This is where the hero and antagonist battle over the high stakes a thriller demands.

When it comes to the antagonist, writers can easily make the opposite of the “all-good protagonist” mistake: They make their bad guy all bad. Worse, they make him all bad because he’s crazy.

More interesting confrontations come from a villain who is justified in what he does.

You mean, in doing evil things?

Yes, that’s exactly what I mean—in his own mind, that is. How much more chilling is the bad guy who has a strong argument for his actions, or who even engenders a bit of sympathy? The crosscurrents of emotion this will create in your readers will deepen your thriller in ways that virtually no other technique can accomplish. The trick is not to overdo it—if you stack the deck against your villain, readers will feel manipulated.

Start by giving your antagonist just as rich a backstory as your hero. What hopes and dreams did he have? How were they dashed? What life-altering hurt did he suffer? Who betrayed him? How did all of this affect him over the course of his life?

Write out a closing argument for him. If he were in court, arguing to a jury about why he did the things he did in the novel, what would he say? Make it as persuasive as possible:

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, my name is Hannibal Lecter. You’ve heard a lot of lurid tales about me from the prosecutor. Now you will hear my side of the story. You will hear about a world that is better off without some people being in it. And you will hear about the conditions I endured inside the horror of a place called the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane …”

It can feel a bit disturbing to try to understand someone you might hate in real life. Good. You are a writer. You go where angels fear to tread.

Now take all of that material and use it to strengthen the antagonist’s position in the story. A stronger confrontation can only result.

  1. Careening

There’s nothing like a stunning twist or shock to keep readers flipping, clicking or swiping pages. Part of the fun for readers is thinking a story is going one way, and getting taken completely by surprise.

Harlan Coben is one of the reigning kings of the art of surprise. “I’ve rarely met a twist I didn’t like,” he has said. His method, if it can be called that, is to write himself “into a lot of corners” and see how things work out.

That’s one way to go. Forcing your writer’s mind to deal with conundrums is a great practice.

But there is another way. Pause after every scene and ask yourself: “What would a reader expect to happen next?” Create a list of at least three directions the story might take.

Then discard those three and do something different. I call this unanticipation.

Another method is the old Raymond Chandler advice: When things slow down, bring in a man with a gun. It doesn’t have to be an actual man with an actual gun, of course. It can be anything that bursts into a scene and shakes things up. Here’s the key: Get your imagination to give you the surprise without justification.

Make a quick list of at least 10 things that just pop into your mind. For example:

  1. A woman runs in screaming.
  2. The lights go out.
  3. A car crashes through the wall.
  4. Heart attack.
  5. SWAT team outside.
  6. Marching band outside.
  7. TV announcer mentions character’s name.
  8. A baby cries (what baby?).
  9. Blood drips down the wall.
  10. Justin Bieber comes in with a gun.

Some things on your list will seem silly. That’s OK. Don’t judge. Look back and find the most original item, and only then find a reason for it. In this case, No. 8 creates the most interest for me. I have no idea where that came from or what it means. But I can make it mean something.

And so can you.

  1. Coronary

The best thrillers stab the heart, throughout. They do it by getting readers to experience the emotions of the scenes.

How can you do that? First, by experiencing them yourself. Sense memory is a technique used by many serious actors. Here’s how it works: You concentrate on recalling an emotional moment in your life, and recreate each of the senses in your memory (sight, smell, touch, sound, etc.) until you begin to feel the emotion again. And you will. The actor transfers that to her role; the writer, to the page.

When I was getting to the heart of one of my own thrillers-in-progress, a story of two brothers, I needed to feel what the younger one was experiencing when the bad guys came. I recalled a time when I was 6 or 7, and some bullies were holding me hostage on a hill. Terrified, I finally made a break for home and sobbed to my big brother about what had happened. He left me at the house.

I never saw those bullies in our neighborhood again.

When I wrote the scenes with the younger brother, I focused on feeling those moments again, and transferred those emotions to the page.

They’re going to kill Chuck and they’re going to do the same thing to me. That’s why they have me tied up and they put another thing in my mouth and they won’t let me talk. … They hit me. I’m in the back of some truck. They’re taking me somewhere. I hope they take me where Chuck is. If they do anything to Chuck I will bite them. I will do anything I can to hurt them. Maybe I’m going to die but I will not die until I hurt them because of what they’re going to do to Chuck.

Another way to tap into your character’s heartbeat is the run-on sentence. Interview the character at the height of an emotion. Write down his reaction for at least 200 words without using a period. Then explore that text to find gems of emotional description. You might actually use some of it, as Horace McCoy did in his 1938 noir thriller, I Should Have Stayed Home:

All Dorothy’s fault, I thought, cursing her in my mind with all the dirty words I could think of, all the filthy ones I could remember the kids in my old gang used to yell at white women as they passed through the neighborhood on their way to work in the whore houses, these are what you are, Dorothy, turning off Vine on to the boulevard, feeling awful and alone, even worse than that time my dog was killed by the Dixie Flyer, but telling myself in a very faint voice that even like this I was better off than the fellows I grew up with back in Georgia who were married and had kids and regular jobs and regular salaries and were doing the same old thing in the same old way and would go on doing it forever.

  1. Communication

The original storytellers spun thrillers. When heroes went out into the dark world to confront monsters and demons and great beasts, the tribe vicariously lived the tale. But there was something more—they learned how to fight, act courageously and survive.

The first thrillers carried a message and helped bring a local community together.

Readers still seek that kind of story. So you ought to spend some time asking yourself what your thriller is really about. Does it offer hope for justice? Does it end with justice denied?

In short, what will the reader take away from your book?

Many aspiring thriller writers, perhaps seeing the genre as action-driven, avoid thinking about theme (or meaning, or premise). They prefer to let the characters duke it out, and leave it at that. There’s nothing wrong with this approach, as long as you realize that you will be saying something. Why not be intentional about it?

Here’s an exercise I call “The Dickens” (named for Charles and his time-traveling story A Christmas Carol): Go forward in time 20 years after your story ends. Your lead character is now 20 years older and has had time to reflect on all that happened in the story you told. You’re now a reporter, and you track down the character and ask, “Looking back at everything that happened to you, why do you think you had to go through that? What life lesson did you learn that you can pass on to the rest of us?”

Let the character answer in a free-form way, for as long as possible, until you sense that it’s right.

Now use all your skills to demonstrate that lesson at the end of the story itself, without necessarily using words. Give us Clarice Starling sleeping at last, the lambs of her nightmares silenced. Or Harry Bosch in Lost Light, holding for the first time the hands of the daughter he never knew he had.

Those are the moments that will take your thriller from entertaining to unforgettable.

Here’s to the health of your thrillers.

—By James Scott Bell

Creating Your Protagonist

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Writer2From story to story, from novel to novel, protagonists vary widely in psychological make-up, goals and dreams, in the types of conflicts they face and in the way they resolve these conflicts.  Among all these differences, compelling characters may have some common qualities as well.

Catherine Ryan Hyde, author of Pay It Forward and 24 other novels, believes compelling protagonists share two chief traits.  “I think he or she needs to be someone with a strong will to move through adversity, and someone readers can relate to,” she says, adding that relatable characters also require vulnerability. “We’re all vulnerable on the inside, so our hearts go out to anyone enduring struggles we understand.”

Authors are often told that readers must be able to root for their characters, yet Hyde believes that protagonists don’t necessarily have to be likable or sympathetic.  They do need to be human, or readers won’t be able to relate to them.  To accomplish that, says Hyde, you have to get inside your character’s head, and thats when the “humanity will begin to shine through.”

Here’s how Ishmael Reed gets inside of Paul Blessings, a character in his 10th novel, Juice!

I’m a survivor all right.  After generations of ancestors working in the fields, factories, cleaning homes and offices, my generation had a chance to go to school, read books, attend plays, and do desk work just like W.E. B. wanted it.  Like an old time Talented Tenther, I even had a season ticket to the opera. Only falling asleep once.  During Wagners’s Die Meistersinger, I think it was the droning, lumbering trombone score that did it.  Besides, like millions of my contemporaries, I’m fond of gazing and staring.  This “sedentary” lifestyle got me in trouble with glucose, which one geneticist has said we should avoid more than the snakes we were originally programmed to fear.  A bakery display of cake, muffins, and cookies is like a nest of cobras to me.  They should invent a candy bar for diabetics called the Grim Reaper.  How did I know that sugar had a dark side.

Blessings comes fully alive for readers with his open, frank self-revelation: regarding his roots, his generation’s opportunities, his drifting off during the Wagner opera, his sedentary style and his health crisis.  Wryly, Reed situates diabetes in a framework that surprises us by an utterly bizarre comparison: snakes and sugar.  We want to learn more about this intriguing character.

Of course, it’s one thing to know what a compelling protagonist and still another to create one.  Should you begin with notes for a fully fleshed out character, or should you discover your protagonist as you write.  Virgil Suarez, author of several novels and short story collection, plans out his protagonist in advance of writing.  “I love to create an entire biography and history for a character,” he says, even though only 10 percent of what I imagine about a character actually makes it into the story or chapter.”

While Suarez does a lot of initial planning, much of his characterization happens as he writes.  Intutive discovery of character may be key to solid character development. Instead of engineering or controlling characters, let their own voices take action. “I’m on the lookout for a fictinal person with a good story to tell me,” says Hyde.  “After I make that connection, it feels more like a process of sitting back and listening.”  This act of listening worked well fro Grissom, who says her two first-person narrators spoke clearly to her. “I wrote down what they were saying.” She had to edit later, but through attentive listening, she came to know her characters well.

Excerpt from Returning To The Elements by Jack Smith

Leaving Out the Plot

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Have you ever run up to a friend and said, “I have the most amazing story to tell you.  Nothing just happened!” Probably not and yet there are stories all the time in which nothing happens. A mother sits at home with her kids and thinks about how difficult her life is.  A man goes to work and things his job is boring. A kid thinks about how much homework he has. I’m sure we’ve all read variations of these stories countless times.  These are all potentially great stories, but they need to be jumpstarted.  They need to have a plot.  Something has to happen.

Let’s go back to that harassed mother at home with her kids.  Her name is Carrie.  What could happen that would set a story in motion for her?  What if Carrie gets an email from a friend inviting her to meet for tea? Carrie would love to meet her. In fact, she’s desperate to get our of the house and have a normal conversation. But her toddlers are going through a difficult stage, and the babysitter just quit, and her mother has an important business meeting and can’t cancel it to help out Carrie.

Now we’ve got Carrie in motion.  We’ve made her want something.  To get out of the house.  We’ve given her an obstacle.  Motherhood.  She’s going to have to figure out a way to get a babysitter, or bundle those toddlers out of the house, or keep them quiet.  The story could be funny, tragic or somewhere in between.  But something’s going to happen.

Notice, Carrie’s story is about a small thing: meeting for tea.  There’s no tornado coming or asteroid about to hit. There’s plenty of drama in everyday life.  Just make sure you ask your character what she wants, and then make sure she has to work to get it.

There are eight basic elements to a plot and each of them are explained below.

1. Story Goal 2K+ The first element to include in your plot outline is the Story Goal, which we covered in detail in the previous article, The Key to a Solid Plot: Choosing a Story Goal. To summarize, the plot of any story is a sequence of events that revolve around an attempt to solve a problem or attain a goal. The Story Goal is, generally speaking, what your protagonist wants to achieve or the problem he/she wants to resolve. It is also the goal/problem that involves or affects most, if not all the other characters in the story. It is “what the story is all about. “For instance, let’s say we want to write a story about a 38-year-old female executive who has always put off having a family for the sake of her career and now finds herself lonely and regretting her choices. In this case, we might choose to make the Story Goal for her to find true love before it’s too late. There are many ways we could involve other characters in this goal. For instance, we could give our protagonist …… a mother who wants her to be happier. … friends and colleagues at her company who are also unmarried and lonely (so that her success might inspire them). … a jealous ex-boyfriend who tries to sabotage her love life. … an elderly, lonely spinster of an aunt who doesn’t want the protagonist to make the same mistake she did. … a happy young family who give her an example of what she has missed…. a friend who married and divorced, and is now down on marriage. (Forcing the protagonist to work out whether her friend’s experience really applies to her – or whether it was just a case of choosing the wrong partner, or bad luck.) We could even make the company where the protagonist works in danger of failing because it doesn’t appreciate the importance of family. It could be losing good employees to other companies that do. In other words, after we have chosen a Story Goal, we will build a world around our protagonist that includes many perspectives on the problem and makes the goal important to everyone in that world. That’s why choosing the Story Goal is the most important first step in building a plot outline. If you haven’t chosen a goal for your novel yet, do so now. Make a list of potential goals that fits the idea you are working on. Then choose one goal to base your plot outline on.

2. Consequence Once you have decided on a Story Goal, your next step is to ask yourself, “What disaster will happen if the goal is not achieved? What is my protagonist afraid will happen if he/she doesn’t achieve the goal or solve the problem?”The answer to these questions is the Consequence of the story. The Consequence is the negative situation or event that will result if the Goal is not achieved. Avoiding the Consequence justifies the effort required in pursuing the Story Goal, both to the characters in your novel and the reader, and that makes it an important part of your plot outline. The combination of goal and consequence creates the main dramatic tension in your plot. It’s a carrot and stick approach that makes the plot meaningful. In some stories, the protagonist may begin by deciding to resolve a problem or pursue a goal. Later, that goal becomes more meaningful when he discovers that a terrible consequence will occur if he fails. Other times, the protagonist may start off threatened by a terrible event, which thus motivates him/her to find way to avoid it.As Melanie Anne Phillips points out, in some stories the consequence seems to be in effect when the story opens. Perhaps the evil despot is already on the throne and the Story Goal is to depose him. In that case, the consequence, if the protagonist fails, is that things will stay the way they are.In our novel plot about the female executive, we’ve already come up with one possible Consequence – that she could end up like her spinster aunt. We could make the Consequence worse (perhaps the aunt dies of starvation because she is feeble and has no immediate family looking after her). Or we could create a different Consequence. Her employer may go bankrupt unless it becomes more family-friendly. Write a list of possible Consequences you could have in your plot outline. Then choose one to be the counterpoint to your chosen Story Goal. All We Need

3. Requirements The third element of your plot outline, Requirements, describes what must be accomplished in order to achieve the goal. You can think of this as a checklist of one or more events. As the Requirements are met in the course of the novel, the reader will feel the characters are getting closer to the attainment of the goal. Requirements create a state of excited anticipation in the reader’s mind, as he looks forward to the protagonist’s success. What could the Requirements be in our executive story? Well, if the goal is for our protagonist to find true love, perhaps she will need to join a singles club or dating service so she can meet single men. Perhaps she will need to take a holiday or leave of absence from her job. Ask yourself what event(s) might need to happen for the goal in your novel to be achieved. List as many possibilities as you can think of. To keep things simple for the moment, just choose one requirement for now to include in your plot outline.

4. Forewarnings are the counterpart to requirements. While requirements show that the story is progressing towards the achievement of the goal, forewarnings are events that show the consequence is getting closer. Forewarnings make the reader anxious that the consequence will occur before the protagonist can succeed.In the plot outline for our story, events that could constitute Forewarnings might be…the company loses one of its key employees to another firm that was more family-friendly.the protagonist has a series of bad dates that make it seem like she will never find the right guy.the protagonist meets a woman at a singles club who tells her that at their age all the good men are already married.one of the protagonist’s friends goes through a messy divorce, showing that marriage may not be the source of happiness it’s purported to be.While the Story Goal and Consequences create dramatic tension, Requirements and Forewarnings take the reader through an emotional roller coaster that oscillates between hope and fear. There will be places in the plot where it seems the protagonist is making progress, and others where it seems that everything is going wrong. Structure these well, and you will keep your reader turning pages non-stop. For example, here’s how our plot outline might look so far …”A female executive in her late 30s has been married to her job. But she has a wake-up call when her elderly, spinster aunt dies alone and neglected (consequence). The executive decides that she needs to have a family before she suffers the same fate (goal). In order to do this, she hires a dating service and arranges to go on several dates (requirements). But each date ends in disaster (forewarnings).” As you can see, using just these four elements, a story plot is starting to emerge that will take the reader on a series of emotional twists and turns. And we’re only halfway through our 8 plot elements! (Of course, we started with the four most important ones.) Notice too that these elements come in pairs that balance each other. This is an important secret for creating tension and momentum in your plot.Before moving on to the remaining elements, list some possible events that could serve as Forewarnings in your story. For now, just choose one. See if you can create a brief plot outline like the example above using just the first four elements.

5. Costs Generally speaking, good plots are about problems that mean a lot to the characters. If a problem is trivial, then neither the protagonist nor the reader has a reason to get worked up about it. You want your readers to get worked up about your novel. So you must give your protagonist a goal that matters.One sign that a problem or goal matters to the protagonist is that he/she is willing to make sacrifices or suffer pain in order to achieve it. Such sacrifices are called Costs. Classic examples of Costs include the hard-boiled detective who gets beaten up at some point in his investigation, or the heroic tales in which the hero must suffer pain or injury or give up a cherished possession to reach his goal. However, Costs can come in many other ways. Protagonists can be asked to give up their pride, self-respect, money, security, an attitude, an idealized memory, the life of a friend, or anything else they hold dear. If you make the costs steep and illustrate how hard the sacrifice is for the protagonist, the reader will feel that the protagonist deserves to achieve the goal. In the case of our female executive, perhaps she must give up a promotion she has worked hard for because it would require her to travel so much that she would have no chance of settling down and raising a family.Make a list of possible Costs your protagonist might be forced to endure in order to achieve the Story Goal. Again, just choose one idea to include in your plot outline for now.

6. Dividends The element that balances Costs in your plot outline is Dividends. Dividends are rewards that characters receive along the journey towards the Story Goal. Unlike Requirements, Dividends are not necessary for the goal to be achieved. They may be unrelated to the goal entirely. But they are something that would never have occurred if the characters hadn’t made the effort to achieve the goal.In the case of our executive, perhaps her efforts to meet men give her an idea for creating a business of her own – a kind of executive dating service, for instance, that will lead her to a happier career. Or perhaps the quest for love and family forces her to become more compassionate towards her co-workers when their family responsibilities interfere with work. List possible ways to reward your characters and choose one that feels appropriate for your plot outline. Then move on to our final pair of elements.

7. Prerequisites Prerequisites are events that must happen in order for the Requirements to happen. They are an added layer of challenges to your plot outline. Like Requirements, as Prerequisites are met, the reader feels progress is being made towards the goal. For instance, in order to free the Princess, the hero must recovery the key from its hiding place, but first (Prerequisite) he must defeat the dragon guarding it. In order to win the maiden’s hand, the gallant suitor must show he would not risk losing her for anything. But before he has a chance to do that, he must show he is willing to risk everything to win her (Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice).If the Requirement for our novel about the executive is that she must go out on several dates, perhaps the Prerequisite is that she must sign up at a dating service, buy a new wardrobe, or get a make-over. Take a look at your chosen Requirement and make a list of possible Prerequisites that must be accomplished before the requirement can be met. Choose one.

8. Preconditions The last element to balance your plot outline, Preconditions, is a junior version of Forewarnings. Preconditions are small impediments in the plot. They are stipulations laid down by certain characters that make it more difficult for the Story Goal to be achieved.A classic example is Pride and Prejudice in which Elizabeth’s quest for happiness is made more difficult by the terms of her grandfather’s will, which state that the family property can only be inherited by males. This means that, upon her father’s death, Elizabeth and her sisters will be penniless unless they find good husbands first.However there are many other ways characters can impose conditions that impede the attainment of the Story Goal. They can make their help conditional on favours, insist on arduous rules, or negotiate tough terms.For instance, perhaps the company where our female executive works has a rule that executives must attend meetings very early in the day – say 6AM on Saturdays. This rule makes it very hard for her to go on Friday night dates and be alert in the meetings. Or perhaps the singles club she joins has some seemingly unfair rules that cause her problems.You know what to do by now. List possible Preconditions your characters might encounter, and choose one you like. Once you have chosen your eight elements, the next step is to arrange them into a brief plot summary. It doesn’t matter what order you put them in, so long as all eight are included. In fact, most of the elements can be repeated or included in more than one way. For example, here’s how we might put together all eight elements for our executive story together into a one-paragraph plot outline…“A female executive in her late 30s has been married to her job. But she has a wake-up call when her elderly, spinster aunt dies alone and neglected (consequence). The executive decides that she needs to have a family before she suffers the same fate (goal). So she buys a new wardrobe and signs on with a dating service (prerequisites). Her boss offers her a promotion that would involve a lot of travel, but she turns it down, so that she will have time to meet some men (cost). She goes on several dates (requirements). But each one ends in disaster (forewarnings). On top of that, because the agency arranges all her dates for Friday nights, she ends up arriving tired and late for the company’s mandatory 6AM Saturday morning meetings (preconditions). Along the way, however, she starts to realize how the company’s policies are very unfair to people with families or social lives outside work, and she begins to develop compassion for some of her co-workers that leads to improved relationships in the office.

<div style=”font-size: 8px;”>Original by Breen and Strathy</div>

Angie’s Secret 400 word Flash Fiction)

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This is a story that I’ve entered into a flash fiction contest. Tell me what you think about it or how I can improve it. Remember you have to get a beginning, climax and ending within 400 words.  The instructions were to write no more than 400 words concerning a secret. I hope you enjoy.

Angie’s Secret

“Are you going to tell him?” Mattie asked.

“Heavens no, this is my secret. I told you because you’re my best friend, and I know I can trust you.” Angie sat at the table with her cup of tea.

She was pale around the eyes and mouth. “I am doing this on my own. I’m thirty-four years old, and I know this is the right thing for me.”

“It may be right for you, but girl you look like crap. Do you want another cup of tea?”

“Sure”.

Mattie went to the stove and brought the teapot back to the table. She asked Angie if she eats enough food.

Angie replied, “Yes, I am. I can take care of myself. Stop worrying about me.”

“How do you think you’re going to pull off leaving, when he barely lets you out of his sight?”

Angie thought of the days ahead with John, as she sipped her tea. Her excitement showed.

Mattie looked at her, seeing the smile, said, “Ok, girlfriend, spill the beans. I want to know what’s making you smile.”

“I have to go home.”

“Angie, remember, no matter what, I’m your friend.” Mattie grabbed Angie hugging her tightly.

“I’ll be in touch, and don’t worry,” Angie said as they broke apart. She walked back to her house. Her bedroom light was on. Crap, he must know I’m not in my room. I’ll walk through the front door as the grown woman I am.

After she entered the house, she almost made it to the stairs before she heard her father’s harsh voice.

“Angie, is that you?”

“Yes, father, it’s me.”

“Come here immediately,” her father bellowed.

Angie walked into the library ready for battle. Her father, kicked back in the recliner with a drink in his hand, asked “Where have you been?”

“I went to Mattie’s for tea. I left your dinner on the table.”

“It was cold. You are one lousy cook.”

“Yes, Father. I’m going  to my room, goodnight, Father.”

***

The clock advanced slowly, but two a.m. arrived. She pulled her suitcase from beneath her bed, took one last look at her room and left. Her father appeared to be asleep when she opened the front door. As she stepped out into the night air, she took her first deep breath of freedom.

She whispered “John, are you here?”

“He’s not here,” her father whispered back.

Keep Talking, Andy…..

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I started a new book yesterday.  Now every time my mind is not specifically thinking about something else, plots and scenes keep running through my brain.  I find the creative process very interesting.  My muse, (I’m going to call him Andy,) works overtime when I’m writing.  Most of the time it is a very good thing, but sometimes I would like for Andy to stop talking to me.  I like being quiet at times, but not Andy. I can safely call him a motor mouth.

I have an advantage this go around that I didn’t have before.  I know my main characters very well since they were in The Tower.  Sam (shortened from Samantha ,) has a twin brother, Allan.  They share a psychic connection and are very close.  Sam works for Allan at IDEA (International Diagnostic Environmental Agency). Allan’s company investigates and recommends fixes for any environmental problem that affects people anywhere in the world.

Right now Andy is helping me to decide on what kind of character I want my protagonist to be. It is being said today that publishers are not only wanting a book with good, strong characters and strong plots but they also want a story with a hook (Whatever that means.) I will have to do some reading and find out more about that hook business.

I want to write the best book I can,  which means Andy and I will be spending a lot of time together of the next few months. Hopefully he will continue to talk to me as much as he does now because if he doesn’t, I may be in trouble. I may gripe about his constant talking but I know I need him to help me accomplish what I want to do.

How To Pick A Point of View (POV)

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Writing

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The POV for me is fairly daunting.  I seem to favor first person in my writing, but that could be because I’m still fairly new at writing.  The POV chosen affects everything we write.  There are questions to ask yourself before making a final choice on the POV:

1.  Whose story is this?  Most of the time it belongs to the protagonist.

2.  What kind of stories do I like to read?  Do you want to read how one person prevailed in the trials and tribulation of whatever they are facing, or do you want someone to tell you everything going on in the story.  The example given by “Writing Fiction” by Gotham Writers Workshop was, Do you like Rocky, or a League of Their Own?

Sadly, sometimes you will get almost done with your story and determine the voice you used was not working as well as it should.  Then you have to start over with a different point of view.

Video:  How To Write, Point of view

What Is Your POV II?

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This blog continues the blog I started yesterday on POV in your writing.  I discussed the POV of “First Person.”  I am going to the store next to the house where I grew up.  It’s all about the main character who is doing the talking.  Today we are going to do the Third Person POV (point of view).

Just as with the first person POV, the third person POV divides into several types.

1.  Third Person: Single Vision

2.  Third Person:  Multiple Vision

3.  Third Person:  Omniscient

4.  Third Person: Objective

Third Person, Single Vision is not told by a character in the story.  It is a voice which is created by the writer and the reader hears what is coming from his mind.

Example: “He walked across the street, while is wife sat in the car.”

Using third person single vision lets the writer use language which may not be appropriate speech for the character being talked about.  Example would be if your main character were a deaf-mute person.

POV character is the character who’s POV is being recognized by the author.*The point of view character must be present for everything that takes place in the story, just as with a first-person narrator.  If your POVcharacter overhears a conversation, he/she may report that to the reader.  If the conversation takes place in a health-food store across town, the discussion is off-limits.

Third person: Multiple vision allows are writer to show a story’s events from different angles.  You must have the room in your writing to use this POV.  It’s most used in Novellas and Novels because they have the space to have multiple visions.  You may have a story with four characters each giving their own version of the story.  Using this type of POV can cause your reader not to be as focused on the story as with a single POV.

Third Person:  Omniscient  The writer is all-knowing, they know everything going on with the story and their characters.  The writer can enter the mind of any or all of the characters.  This is the POV which gives you the greatest freedom.  This POV can seem impersonal to the reader.  It can be overwhelming to the writer.  If you have four characters in a story you have to pay attention to each one of them because you know everything.

Third Person: Objective .   This POV is the hardest, I think, because you don’t have access to anyone’s mind.  You have to narrate in the third person of background, characterization, conflict theme and so forth through dialogue and action.  “It is giving the facts, and only the facts, ma’am.”

Video: Writing in Third Person

http://youtu.be/dwH62_5sXMo

 

What Is Your POV?

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This is my downfall in the world of writing.  Maybe I should have said, one of my downfalls.  POV or point of view, has been such a headache to me.  I have  people review my writing and they can immediately tell me the where and when I have changed POV in the story.  Poor pitiful me, I am such a failure, NOT!!!

The point of view you choose for your story will affect the way your readers respond to your characters and actions.  The tone and theme of your story is also affected by the POV.

To determine your point of view, you may ask yourself the following questions.

1.  Who will be speaking:  the narrator or the character?

2.  Whose eyes are seeing the events of the story happen?

3.  Whose thoughts do the reader have access to?

4.  From what distance are the events being viewed?

 

The first person POV is a story narrated by the character in the story.  Usually it is the main character or the protagonist.  The story is from the I point of view.  I went, I saw, I felt, so forth.  The reader gets into the story through the narrators eye’s, touch, smell, action.  You write in the voice, words and tone of your character.

An example of first person POV:  I had to find out where Sam was headed, so I hid behind the shrubs next to the house.  I thought Sam would head for his car, but he fooled me.  He took off, on foot, heading south towards the graveyard.

You may also use three other first person POV’s: (1. Multiple vision, which lets multiple narrators tell the story.  (2. Peripheral would be having another character tell the story.  (3.  The unreliable first person is a person telling the story, has all the facts, but can’t be trusted.  It might be a schizophrenic, or a compulsive liar.

I am going to be dividing POV into parts to make it a little easier to digest.  I am posting a video on writing in first person.  Content is good, but the speaker doesn’t speak well, um, you know, um.  I like it, um, but, um, you um, will have to um look over um her bad speaking um. 🙂     http://youtu.be/ydlOjhkgr74

 

Plotting for the Protagonist

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Plotting does seem to be for your main character.  Your plot is based around what your protagonist wants.  His/her needs, dreams, obstacles, feelings, any thing that affects your protagonist can contribute to your plot.

The plot has three main parts;  The beginning, the middle and the end.  The  structure of a plot hasn’t changed for a couple thousand years.  Each section of the plot has its own role in the telling of a story.

The beginning of your story has to produce three things: 1.) The reader must be in the middle of action 2.) It has to establish the background information, and 3.) establish the major dramatic question.

The major dramatic question is one which can be answered by the end of the story.  “Does the three little pigs escape from the big bad wolf?”  “Does Harry Potter kill Valdamort?”  “Does Sleeping Beauty wake up?”.  As you can see from my examples, it is the question that will drive your story telling.

The middle section of the plot take most of the space, because it is where you expand your story.  The characters grow, and where most of the problems arise for your protagonist. The middle is also where the core action takes place and your struggles grow.

The final section is the end section.  This is the section where everything comes together. ** “The end generally follows a pattern that could be called the three C”s”–Crisis, climax and consequences.  The crisis is the point where tension hits its maximum, and the climax is where the tension breaks and where we get the answer to our major dramatic question.  Then, the consequences , are alluded to at the very end of the piece.”

Enjoy the video for today from Anne Rice: Developing Plot  http://youtu.be/xJX8uX_mjwM

 

** Writing Fiction by Gotham Writers Workshop