Posted in Fiction

Types of Conflict (Part 3)

Person vs. Nature
This type of conflict would be any story with a plot where a person or people are going up against nature. What immediately comes to mind is a story with a husband and wife who go hiking up into the mountains and an unexpected snow storm hits. They are prepared for cold weather but not for a storm. They try to get back down the mountain to safety before it’s impossible to do so. But they continue to run up against set back after set back…..

Books with Person vs. Nature Conflict:
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
To Build a Fire by Jack London
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
Deliverance by James Dickey

Movies with Person vs. Nature Conflict
Cast Away (2000)
Life of Pi (2012)
Meek’s Cutoff (2010)
The Call of the Wild (1972)
Grizzly Man (2005)

Posted in Fiction

New Information

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I’ve read that, when you get to Act III of writing your novel, you are not supposed to add any new information. But I’ve also read that it’s ok to break the rules of writing if it’s done well. So, do you add new information after Act III or not? I say, if it works use it. Then again, before you use it, run it by some beta readers (those who critique your work before you publish it) and get their feedback first. After all, you don’t want to push your reader fans away by disappointing them.

Posted in Fiction

The Middle Pieces

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Have you ever put together a jigsaw puzzle? What do you start with? The side pieces? The middle pieces? Usually one works with the edges first, then the middle, and the center (or near there) is the ending where the last and final piece of the puzzle gets put down and it all comes together. Usually, that is. Maybe you’re the kind of puzzler that works from the center to the outer edges (shoulder shrug here). It really is what you’re comfortable with. I like putting the edges together first and work my way to the center.

I write much the same way. I start with the beginning (edges) and work my way to the center (ending). (Laughing here) Sometimes I have my beginning and ending and work the middle last to bring it all together. But…what if your middle is in pieces. You have lots of ideas but you just are not able to bring them together and make them fit so that there’s a flow to your story. What are you going to make them fit?

IDEA BOARD

  1. Go back to your writing journal if you have one (or whatever you use to write your ideas in/on) and read through what you have in way of ideas. Write each one on a separate note card.
  2. Get a bulletin board, a white board, or your floor if that’s what you prefer.
  3. Lay out your ideas in an order to your liking.
  4. Now, play connect the dots. How do these ideas connect to each other? Many scenarios will jump into your head as far as connections go. Why? Because here you’re taking a step back and looking at the big picture. If you’re an auditory learner, read each idea a loud off the board as you are trying to come up with a way to connect them.

Posted in Fiction

Writing That Stings

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What is it about a piece of writing that keeps you glued to the pages? Is it just one particular writing element that does the job, or is it more than one? I’m currently reading a mystery thriller series by Jeff Carson. It’s the David Wolf series. If you haven’t checked out these books, I highly recommend them. In less than a week I’ve finished the first five books and am on book six right now. What is it that keeps me reading them?

  1. Characters–The characters are unique and lifelike. Each of them have their own set of problems, likes/dislikes, habits and quirks, etc. You don’t end up liking or disliking them because you’re supposed to. You do that because these characters are very three dimensional. They jump off the page. They are real. You want to be ‘around’ them.
  2. Description–The setting is richly described and also jumps off the page. The reader is able to see the environment and be a part of the story. The author does this though without being too descriptive. It doesn’t take away from the story. If you read these books, you’ll find that the descriptions add to the story and provides clues.
  3. The Story–YES, the story itself is extremely compelling. You’re eyes/brain will be glued to the pages. The cause and effect of the plot structure is expertly done. Everything happens for a reason, whether you the reader thinks so or not.

So, you see, drawing a reader into your story is done with various tools, not just one. But, essentially, how you do that is up to you. After all, it’s your story.

Posted in Writing

The Jigsaw Puzzle

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I like to think of writing a novel much like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. There are so many pieces and there is so much to think about. Placement of each piece/part is key if it’s going to fit with the rest of the ‘picture’. One wrong placement can make the rest of the story appear out of place. So, where do you start? Better yet, what do you start with? That really is up to you. As long as all the pieces fit together and the ‘picture’ at the end fits together, how you get there doesn’t matter. After all, we’re all different.

Still, there is so much to think about. Please see the list below.

  • Characterization
  • Setting
  • Story Structure
  • Scene structure
  • Theme
  • Voice
  • Point of View

Generally speaking, these are the biggest elements that go into the creation of a novel. It’s quite a bit to keep track of while you’re writing. For the first time author writing their first book it can be daunting. One might ask, “How do you work with all of them as you’re writing?” It’s simple. You don’t. Yup, I said it. You don’t. What you do instead is this:

  • Write the first draft to get your story down. Start from the beginning and work toward the end. Start from the middle and work your way to the end then write the beginning. Write the end then the beginning and then the end. Whichever way you go about getting that first draft done is up to you. Just get that done first without worrying about the particulars listed above. Put if away for a few weeks when you finish the first draft. This will keep your mind fresh when you go back to write draft two.
  • In draft two look at the story structure. Make sure make sure each Act has the appropriate information in it (Please see my post from July 17, 2020 entitled Story Structure in Three Acts). Story Engineering by Larry Brooks is a wealth of information. I highly recommend it.
  • Go through each scene. Is the structure of each what it should be? There are two types: 1. Action 2. Reaction (Please stay tuned for a later post on this topic).
  • Here is where I would go through and look at the character development of your Main Character. There must be character growth from the beginning to the end. Here is where their character flaw comes into play. Remember, by the end of the book they will overcome their flaw. How they do that is part of their growth.
  • Setting is huge. Readers need to get a good idea/picture of where your story takes place, what it looks like, and how it’s connected.
  • Point of View is a huge one. You don’t want to confuse your readers by accidentally moving from first to third person or vice versa. So, choose a point of view and stick with it. Go back and make sure it’s consistent throughout.
  • Voice encompasses more than one thing. It incudes diction, detail, imagery (through description or use of simile or metaphor), dialogue, tone, and syntax (the way words are arranged). As you read through your manuscript looking for these elements as it relates to voice, you might find you need to add something here or there or change the way a character said something.
  • Theme goes along with the main message you are trying to convey to your reader. What is it you want them to learn by the end of the book? Do you accomplish this?
  • PLOT HOLES. This is huge. After all is said and done, please read through your whole manuscript and look for those pesky inconsistencies. Readers will find them and you don’t want them to. Keep a style sheet where you keep track of details you need to remember throughout your story. Your 31 year old MC can NOT be 42 in the last half of the book (unless they’ve been lied to and that’s part of the story). Her/his birthday you had mentioned on page 20 as being January 8, 1972 can’t be mentioned later on page 245 as being March 23, 1974. I just won’t work.
  • The editing is the very last thing that’s done. Grammar, spelling, sentence structure, etc. This comes last before publishing.

As you can tell, these tasks are not done in one swoop. They are done one at a time (generally). Hey, if you are able to focus on one or more at once that’s fine too. The point is take your time. Focus, do not rush. The story won’t grow legs and walk away. It’s yours, so take your time and make it the best YOU you can make it. By doing this, all of the pieces will fit together, so that when someone else looks at it (reads it), they will be looking at something that will stay with them and make them come back for more.

Posted in Fiction

An Eerie Scent of Roses (Part III)

When I got home, I called both phone companies and had my landline phone number changed and my cellphone number changed. Unfortunately, my new landline number wouldn’t take effect until tomorrow afternoon. I couldn’t bear the thought of another night like last night, so I unplugged the phone again, and kept my cellphone off.

            The next day was a typical Monday, rainy, boring, and grey, and it drug on forever. The rain made my job as bookkeeper even less exciting. I wanted the day to end. Don’t we all on days like that? I couldn’t concentrate on the numbers I was computing, and I was so tired that it looked like all the digits were jumping off the page and running into each other. I guess being frightened and worried about what will happen next can really weigh on the brain. Then, I had a break in my boring day; the inner office mail came. I rose and took it from Cindy, our inner mail clerk. Great, maybe that will take my mind off this caller. As I opened the first envelope, I noticed a sickening, sweet, smell of roses; the note read:

Amanda,

You’re mine. You belong to no one. Just me. No one will touch that golden blond hair or have the pleasure of looking into those emerald green eyes. Your heart shaped face beats to the rhythm of my soul, and always will.

            Numbness took over and I sank in my chair. My stomach turned sour. Was it someone at work? At that moment, Dan walked past my door, stopped short, and said, “You look like you just saw a ghost. I something wrong?”

            “N-no, I’m fine, really.”

            “You don’t sound fine. Are you sure you’re alright?”

            He came in, sat in the chair to the right of my desk, and gave me a creased eyebrowed look. “I’m not leaving until you tell me what’s wrong.”

            I didn’t want to tell him anything. I didn’t know who to trust.  Part of me had my reservations about him, but he had this look about him. His full lips and light gray eyes was captivating. His look of genuine concern touched me. Then I caved and unfolded the whole story from beginning to end. When I finished, I watched him carefully, hoping to see some sign of guilt on his face. But I didn’t see anything. Maybe he’s just very good at hiding his emotions. Oh, really. Now I’m grasping for straws. I sunk my face into my hands. Seconds later, I heard my office door close. Feeling a hand on my shoulder, I looked up to see Dan kneeling beside my chair.

            “Don’t worry. I’ll help you find him.”

            “But for all I know, you could be him.”

            “I’m not, and you have to trust that. Okay? I understand how you feel. It’s hard to trust anyone. But sometimes you just have to.”

            “I know,” I said. “You’re right.” But was he?

            As he got to his feet, he gave me a kiss on the cheek, squeezed my hand and said, “We’ll beat this. Don’t worry.”

            I looked after him as he turned and walked out of the room.

            I got out of my chair and stood in the doorway looking in the direction Dan was walking. From behind me, I heard Carl, the janitor, say hello. I turned to see a short, chubby faced little man smiling at me as he fumbled with his keys. I smiled back and said, “Hi, Carl. What are you doing?”

            “I’m looking for the key to get into the cleaning closet. Gee, that’s funny.”

            “What?”

            “I’m missing the key to Mr. Dodge’s office. Who would want that?”

            I walked over to him and held out my hand saying, “Maybe you just missed it. Here, let me look.”

            As he gave me the keys, I noticed a tattoo of a rose on the top of his right hand. I froze. In a shaky voice I said, “D-do you l-like r-roses?”

            “Oh yes. They’re my favorite flower. Do you?”

            “I-I-I…” Dropping the keys, I fled down the hall. When I got to the front desk, I told Sabrina, the receptionist, that I wasn’t feeling well, and that I would go home early.

Posted in Writing

Story Structure in Three Acts

In an earlier post entitled Story Organization, I touched on ways I come up with story ideas and once I am satisfied with one I like, I create the story moving from general to specifics using a one line premise and expanding on that until I have a five paragraph summary of my story. In this post I’m going to open things up a bit and introduce the three act story structure. Every novel and movie is structured this way. When I learned this method, it opened my eyes to the skeletal aspects of the story itself, and I never looked at a story in a novel or a movie quite the same way again. I can’t help but notice the transitions from one act to the next. The three act structural pattern below is what I used to write my novel. Yours might be different depending on how many scenes/chapters you have and the different types of scenes you have (action/reaction).

Act I Part 1

The Setup (Backstory)
*Create stakes, backstory, and character empathy
Reaction Scene
Reaction Scene
Create Empathy Scene
First plot point (point of no return/inciting incident)
Add however many scenes you need

Act II Part 2 (Response)

Reaction to First Plot Point
Reaction to First Plot Point
Regroup and retreat
Regroup and retreat/weighs options
Doomed attempt to take action
Setup of pinch point
Pinch point
Response to pinch point
Response to pinch point
Leading up to midpoint scene
Leading up to midpoint scene
Leading up to midpoint scene

Act two is the response. Here your main character isn’t winning. They are trying everything they can to win but they keep coming up short. Here the reader is wondering when the main character is finally going to overcome the bad guy. Feel free to insert problems and obstacles here. Yes, this is a great part of the story to show your main character’s fear(s). Trial and error run a muck in this part.

Act II Part 3 (The Attack)

Midpoint scene
Plan of action
Action scene
Action scene
Action scene
Setup of 2nd pinch point
2nd pinch point
Reaction to 2nd pinch point
Action scene
Action scene
Leading up to 2nd Plot Point
Leading up to 2nd Plot Point

Okay, act two part three is the attack. Somewhere at the end of act two part two and act two part three your main character becomes fearless. What occurred in the story to allow this change in character. Make this believable or you risk losing your readers. In this part of the story your main character starts winning.

The combined nature of act two is to create that rising action that moves to a resolution. You need to create that climax by building tension. Keep in mind the character arc (growth) for your main character (That’s another blog post for a later time).

Act III Part 4 (Resolution)

Do not add new information
2nd Plot Point
Action scene
Action scene
Action scene
Resolution

Also, bear in mind that there are other characters helping your main character obtain his/her goals. In the end your main character, and others in the story as well, have a new sense of themselves. The inner growth they accomplished throughout the story has made them stronger, more confident. They now have a sense that they are able to accomplish anything. I’ll touch on character growth in a later post. For now, I hope the above outline gives you some direction of how to structure your story. Happy writing.

Posted in Fiction

Character Names

What’s in a name? When we name our kids, we want to make sure we give him or her the right name. We want it to mean something. We want it to sound right. Maybe the child will be named after someone we admire? The process can be very simple or it can be long and tedious. The same can be said for story characters. I believe this is especially true for story characters.

In my novel The Triunix of Time my main character started out with the name Amanda. The antagonist started out with the name Dominick. Yes, I still laugh at that. At the time I named my main character I didn’t have a clear focus on where exactly my story line was going. I had an idea, but it wasn’t solid. Amanda was the only name that popped in my head at the time. It seemed like a nice name, so I chose it. Then, I realized I didn’t know how to take my story and carry it through to the end. I didn’t have a road map, and, because I didn’t have a road map, I didn’t have a clear focus about what my main character’s name should be. Yes, the two should go together, but in a way that blends. You don’t want to create a stereotype, so stay away from the name Biff for a tough guy. There are better names to give him that aren’t so obvious.

Since I needed to learn about story structure, I put my manuscript down for a while and did some research. In my research, I discovered the three act structure. I won’t go into the particulars on this. That’s for another post entirely. I delved into this structure and learned everything about it. I focused on what types of information and scenes are placed into each act. Once I learned this, I had a road map for my story. THEN, I picked it back up, I wrote my ideas into a journal. I brainstormed and visualized, and right in the middle of it all I also realized my main character’s name had to change.

I deleted the name Amanda and went on Google. BUT, I didn’t just look at names to look at names. What I did was look at names and their meanings. I wanted to choose a name that meshed with my main character’s goal and who she was as a person. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without knowing what the story was going to be. I needed to have that first. As it turned out, I did something VERY unique with her name. I’d tell you but that would give away part of the story.

My antagonist I worked much the same way. I needed to know what his motivations were. He was a bad guy but that’s all I knew. At first I gave him the name of Dominick. Here again, this was before I had a clear story line, so I was stuck. Once I learned story structure, I had a name for him; a nick name. It isn’t until later in the story that I dubbed him with a regular name outside of the nick name. (Laughing) He wasn’t happy with me either. I didn’t care. It worked and he was stuck with it. Here again, his nick name and his regular name also meshes with the story line.

So, give some real thought about your character’s names. Research and know your story. Jot down notes here and there that you can refer to later if you need to. Enjoy the process.