29 September 2011

Universal Story and the Mythic Journey

The Mythic Journey Joseph Campbell so passionately explored and shared with the rest of us and Christopher Vogler so brilliantly captures by in his book Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers is part of the Universal Story.

The Universal Story is the heartbeat of the universe. It's in the undercurrent of every breath you take, every story you tell yourself, and all the stories you write. The Universal Story represents the story of one man changing and evolving as part of the bigger story of all of nature and world around us undergoing constant change and evolution.

An understanding of the Universal Story helps you arrange a story or when, having written, you find yourself mired and lost or simply curious about where you are and where you are headed or, at least, the general direction in which you are moving.

Character transformation in a story mirrors the Universal Story of rebirth. Rebirth contributes to the evolution of us all and delights those who harbor a secret belief in miracles. A character reunited with a long lost part of herself speaks to the possibilities in our own lives. Our inner intelligence whispers of the timelessness of birth, growth, death, and rebirth.

Stand away from all the words of your story and reconnect with the core or heart of the story itself. Examine the themes and the deeper meaning of the story. In viewing your stories minus the words, you can see a story worth the time and attention it is going to take to get it right

As your story evolves, you'll be evolving, too...

For more 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.

26 September 2011

Plot Help for Weary Writers

I've encountered another example of something I've wondered about for years.

Rarely do I read a writer’s work before a plot consultation, other than the Character Emotional Development Profile for the main character(s) and the Thematic Significance Statement for the project. So, I can't prove this impression. But, I wonder if the writers who start out really verbal and attempt to tell me everything at once, write that way, too.

In other words, is the first 1/2 hour of settling down into the plot consultation process mirrored in as many pages for the writer to settle into the rhythm of their own writing? I don't know the answer; it's just something I wonder about.

Every writer is different but it’s not unusual for these same verbal writers to balk over my organized approach. I wait patiently as they dart back and forth, interjecting tidbits here and there. I sense their fear that structure surely constricts and will destroy the magic and mystery of the creative process itself. I listen to each of their words carefully as I steadily and gently corral their scenes and ideas into the Universal Story form. But, I can’t help wondering. Does this same sort of frenetic activity also show up in their writing?

Perhaps at the root of this are writers who, in surrendering completely to the whims of the muse, are uncertain as to what the project is really about. Getting to the point can be difficult, especially if you don’t know what the point is. Determining your characters’ goals and your own personal writing goals helps.

For more 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.

23 September 2011

Relinquishing a Bit of Backstory

A writer hears it from me when we do a plot consultation -- the mother needs to die at the 1/4 mark / the end of the beginning. Flash forward several years (I mean several, like four or five or six), she hears it again from her critique group. Then she starts reading The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master and unravels that old plot planner I created years before and affixes it to her wall. There it is again, at the one quarter mark -- the mother must die.

Hers is a novel based on a true story.

The writer reads on in The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master and comes to understand that she never did what she knew needed to be done for the good of her story because of a back story wound the writer carried lodged in her own heart.

In real life she had not been there when her own mother died. The writer has carried guilt and remorse in her heart ever since. Suddenly she gets it. Why she never killed the mother in the story. She believes she is, on some level in real life, already responsible for the dastardly deed.

For the good of the story and for the good of her life, she needed to revise her belief system. She needed to transform.

The writer has the tendency to catastrofize (imagine final events of dramatic action around her in real life as tragedies) about life in general, OCD or posttraumatic stress if you will, from all of her imaginings and family stress. After reading the book, rather than beat herself up for the time she's lost, she seems a bit dazed and happily confused.

Of course she also recently started taking mood enhancing prescription drugs but as I was saying...

What was I saying?

Oh... I remember this old alcoholic who used to always say during our consultations, no psychology. It was over the telephone but I always imagined him pointing his finger at me as he spit out the words.

But how can you not? Writing, especially when you lose your way is so deeply wrapped up in our own personal lives.

And, anyway, is it psychology really? I see it more through the Universal Story.

Okay. My dream. I'm putting it out there.

I see people reading to the very end of The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master. Yes, I see you a better writer because of all the plot and writerly stuff in the book. I also see the Universal Story making you more at peace and able to do that which is necessary for both the good of the story and also for yourself.

This writer's story improves as does her life when she finally puts the mother in the story to rest...

For more 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.

21 September 2011

Keep the Climax in Mind

Three plot consultations with three separate writers, all with similar strengths and the same weakness. Each story has well thought out scenes that draw the reader into the Beginning 1/4 of the project. Each one develops character emotional development through dramatic action in the Middle 1/2. In other words, for these three writers, three quarters of their projects work, at least on a structural plot level.

At the end, these same three projects falter with little or no real Climax to top off the entire work. In each case, the protagonist is reawakened by the Crisis. They are shown struggling to take full ownership of their newly discovered consciousness. This is all good.

What starts as a twinge, in the quick build-up to the Climax, the protagonist more and more recognizes quite painfully each time her actions and speech do not align with her new understanding of herself and the world around her.

Trouble is, in none of the cases does the character show herself fully healing this schism at the Climax.

One writer wrote the Climax as the grandmother in the story dying. In this young adult novel, the protagonist is, necessarily, a young adult person and not the grandmother. The answer presented itself. In the Grandmother dying, the Climax takes on a deeper relevance as the protagonist of this young adult novel is given the opportunity to assist her grandmother's spiritual departure. Such an action demonstrates mastery at the thematic level. That death is looming sends the conflict, tension and suspense higher and the energy of the Universal Story soaring. The clock ticks. The sense of everything coalescing in the final minutes builds.

The Beginning sets up the scene of highest intensity in the story so far ~ the end of the Beginning. This scene shows the shift or reversal outside the character that sends her into the heart of the story world.

The middle sets up the scene of the highest intensity in the story so far ~ the Crisis. This scene shows the character’s consciousness of the shift or reversal inside her.

The End sets up the crowning glory of the entire story ~ the Climax. This scene shows the character fully united with her new self-knowledge, new understanding of the world, new sense of responsibility through her actions and her words.

The Climax is the crowning glory of the entire book. Once you write that most important scene all the other pieces begin to fall into place.

For more support, read Chapter 11 of:

For more 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.

18 September 2011

Plot Book Group for Writers

Each Monday, we upload the latest session of the Plot Series: How Do I Plot a Novel, Memoir, Screenplay? Plot Book Group for Writers. This month's book selection is Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson.

We chose Helen Simonson's debut novel and New York Times best-seller, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand to demonstrate some of the plot techniques she used so effectively that the story won a coveted New York Times Book Review.

Last week - 1A - you were asked to:
- Determine the basic structure of your story

This week - 1B - you are asked to:
- Begin a Plot Planner for your story with the protagonist's character emotional change from the beginning to the end of the story

For more support, check out Chapter 3 of:

For more 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.

15 September 2011

Book Blurb

The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master is for writers, readers and seekers, artists and creative people of all types.

Martha Alderson is known as the Plot Whisperer for the plot help she offers writers worldwide. The more writers she works with and the more novels, memoirs and screenplays she analyzes, the more convinced she is that every scene in every book and every moment in every life is part of a Universal Story that flows through our imaginations and in the reality that surrounds us.

The transformative energy in stories is available to everyone. After using Martha’s ideas, you begin to understand yourself better. You’ll see your writing and the work you do in a brighter light. The way you interact with your writing and with the world around you shifts.

Open up a new dimension of life you never before imagined.

Click to buy the book:

For more 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.

14 September 2011

Universal Story -- Test Your Story

The next Plot Series: How Do I Plot a Novel, Memoir, Screenplay? Plot Book Group for Writers has officially begun!

Every Monday we upload a new video with a brief plot discussion, using a new novel, memoir or screenplay selection each month -- this month is Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson.

At the end of each session, you are assigned a task to apply to your own novel, memoir, screenplay. These exercises are designed to give you the opportunity to deepen your relationship to your story's plot and structure, character development and thematic significance.


For added support regarding each week's plot discussion, you are invited to view a specific video(s) in the 1st Plot Series: How Do I Plot a Novel, Memoir, Screenplay?
and to follow along in The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of the Universal Story Structure Any Writer Can Master

For more 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.

Happy plotting,
Martha Alderson
AKA The Plot Whisperer

04 September 2011

Are You Your Own Worst Enemy?

A writer I work with grapples with a problem I often see. She loves her story SO much and thinks the plot is so cool that she is afraid she is going to ruin it by writing it. Her fear, at the least, slows down her progress toward her goal. At the most, her fear prevents her from reaching her goal.

Throughout a story and throughout your life, the energy of the Universal Story rises and falls.

Antagonists, because their role is to prevent or delay the protagonist (and you) from successfully reaching her goal, always cause the energy to rise.

Imagine a story (and your life) as a conflict between energies of light and dark. The energy shifts back and forth between the protagonist and the antagonists. The antagonists represent darkness as they strive to keep the protagonist as she currently exists. The protagonist represents the light in the struggle to evolve. Change is never easy, and a protagonist bound in the darkness of her backstory and locked in repetitive patterns dictated by her flaw will necessarily struggle. When the protagonist pushes toward her desire, she directs the energy. Internal and external forces (antagonists) push against her.

A protagonist who wants something enough to take action against all the antagonists within and without creates a story and a dramatic life.

Learn to see the antagonists as reflections of who you are now in your journey. Rather than despairing and feeling victimized, explore the meaning of the antagonists in your life. Such an exploration leads to transformation.

To read more:
The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of the Universal Story Structure Any Writer Can Master released by Adams Media October 2011. Available now for pre-order!

For immediate tips about the Universal Story and writing a novel, memoir or screenplay, visitPlot 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!