31 May 2011

Thematic Significance for Writers

As corny as it sounds, I'm wild about thematic significance. I mean if the Universal Story longs to manifest, what better way than through a story's deeper themes?

There are writers who excel at writing character-driven stories and those who prefer action-driven stories. Also, though I've found rarer, are writers who lean toward theme-driven stories

Jodi Picoult in Change of Heart, shows the affects the dramatic action has on the characters' emotional development in order to bring to the fore themes about the life sentence, abuse, loss, redemption and love.

When the Killing's Done by T. S. Boyle is another thematic significance plot driven novel. 

Interestingly, both of the two theme-driven writers, use multiple viewpoint characters, each with their own chapters, with a clear first line for each switch in point-of-view and creates a minimum of confusion. When readers are immediately pulled into the next character’s mind and body, readers they have little reason to feel they will miss the character they just were connected to. And, each character has a very definite point of view about the issues at hand though the protagonist's change overtime to fulfill the role of the protagonist -- the character who changes the most in the story by the dramatic action

In the first quarter of When the Killing’s Done by T.C. Boyle, two characters alternate chapters told from their own points of view. The beginning chapters of the story are Alma’s introduction told through her grandmother’s story. The third chapter focuses on Alma herself and begins by firmly grounding the reader.

"Though Alma is trying her hardest to suppress it, the noise of the freeway is getting to her. She can’t think to slice the cherry tomatoes and dice the baby carrots, can’t clear her head, can barely hear Micah Stroud riding the tide of his emotions through the big speakers in the front room."

These two sentences immediately thrust the reader into the scene. They, showing who is doing what, how the action is emotionally affecting her, and a general idea where she is. and They also offering specific details that define herAlma: living near a noisy freeway, knowing how to cook, listening to music that rides the tide of the singer’s emotions, and a love ofloving music that is strong enough that she owns big speakers.

The next chapter switches to the male character’s point of view. 

"If there is one thing he hates, it’s a runny yolk."

That’s about all the reader needs to read in order to know the main character in this chapter. He’s opinionated and narrow-minded.

By including a reference to the stereo speakers in the female point of view ties these two major viewpoint characters together long before the reader is given any other clues of other connections, one of which Alma prefers stay a secret.

The speakers also foreshadow both character's propensity to want to broadcast, get on a soap box to proclaim their point of view about the right of eradicating invasive species to bring an island back to the balance of the past versus the right of animals to life.

Though the themes that drive you to write play out more subtly in your stories, still the search for the meaning beneath our actions and into a universal truth serves the Universal Story well.

For tips about the Universal Story and writing a novel, memoir or screenplay, visit Plot Series: How Do I Plot a Novel, Memoir, Screenplay? on YouTube. A directory of all the steps to the series is to the right of this post. Enjoy!

27 May 2011

Plot Your Writer's Life

A client and friend is near completing the rough draft of her project. Rather than jump in and write the end, she moans about all the work still left to be done to finish and then in the rewriting (I'll include another one or two or three or more of those -- and rewriting), and then all that comes after that.

Early-on she decided when the book is finished, she wants to self-publish. Now that I am going the traditional route after having self-published my first book, she asked me my opinion.

I share with you here what I shared with her. The following is based on first-hand experience having:
1) self-published Blockbuster Plots Pure & Simple, my first book, and on what I have observed of clients and friends who have gone that route

2) having been invited into the traditional realm and now, working with Adam's Media a traditional, east coast publisher who will release The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of the Universal Story Structure Any Writer Can Master (which is now available for pre-order!) this October and on what I have observed of clients and friends who have been published by a traditional publisher

Self-publishing: the book can be written and published in a day.
Traditional publishing: the process takes longer

Self-publishing: you make all the choices about content
Traditional publishing: you work in partnership with an editor who keeps in mind the publisher's style

Self-publishing: you make all the choices about the layout and the cover design
(This is only as far as I am in the process with Adam's Media so the rest of my points are based solely on what I have gleaned through friends and family and clients who have been published through the traditional route)
Traditional: a team approach where your choices are based on a contractual agreement and respect

Self-publishing: you make all the choices about printing and distribution
Traditional publishing: this is your time to begin writing your next book

Self-publishing: you send out review copies
Traditional publishing: this is your time to fully walk into you part of the promotional, marketing and pr for the book

Self-publishing: you incur all the costs up front
Traditional publishing: you pay no expenses

Self-publishing: you earn all the profits
Traditional publishing: you earn royalties based on a contractual agreement

For my client: The sudden idea to perhaps query agents instead of self-publishing her book as she has had planned all along is simply another form of procrastination and sure to yank her off course. 

I say, finish writing your book!

For tips about the Universal Story and writing a novel, memoir or screenplay, visit Plot Series: How Do I Plot a Novel, Memoir, Screenplay? on YouTube. A directory of all the steps to the series is to the right of this post. Enjoy!

25 May 2011

Transformation and the Universal Story

From the hundreds of novels, memoirs and screenplays I have analyzed for plot workshops and plot retreats for more than twenty years and as I complete the final, final edit -- well, there is still the galleys to come, but still..., on the Plot Whisperer book (the cover is up on Amazon and the book available for pre-order!), I have come to appreciate that beneath every great story beats the Universal Story.

Creative writers hate to be reined in and limited by an imposed set of generally accepted plot standards on their stories, crying out that they will be come stifled and their stories cookie-cutter.

Might I suggest instead, to see that in writing with the Universal Story, your creativity and own unique voice has a place to light, to flow into, and you will more likely stay focused and achieve that long-term goal of yours to finish your story. 

For more tips about the Universal Story, visit Plot Series: How Do I Plot a Novel, Memoir, Screenplay?  on YouTube. A directory of all the steps to the series is to the right of this post. Enjoy!

15 May 2011

What's Stopping You?

I am always fascinated when one writer curls up in a ball and gives up and, when faced with the exact same problem, another writer is empowered to persevere. 

Discovery that everything you've written sounds trite and infantile, frustration over how to get across what you are truly trying to say, a negative critique, a rejection from a query, poor reviews... we all experience a crisis, a dark night of the soul . Yet for some writers, these beliefs, limitations, judgments strip her of all her power whereas another writer listens and learns and moves on. 

You can spend all your time wallowing in your backstory -- that moment when you first lost your way and relinquished a bit or all of your own personal power to an antagonist(s), be it internal or external, or you can stay in your front story of putting one foot in front of the other or one word after another on the page toward completion of your goal and hold tight to your own power -- not in resentment and revenge but in the loving embrace that all antagonists are simply in your life to challenge you to grow and stretch.

Shrivel and die
Seize your power and move forward

You decide...

Click on green highlighted plot concepts for further explanations via vlog. Each time a concept is referenced you are directed to new information.

To watch the entire Plot Series: How Do I Plot a Novel, Memoir, Screenplay? go to my YouTube channel. A directory of all the steps to the series is to the right of this post. Enjoy!