24 June 2014

Emotional Elements of Plot: Stories that Last Evoke Emotion

Dramatic action creates the pace of a story and determines the level of story excitement. The thematic significance reveals the meaning of the piece.
An emotional connection is fused between the reader and the story through the character emotional development. Not simply how a character develops and transforms physically and intellectually, outfoxing and out-thinking and out-performing an antagonist, readers feel an emotional connection through the development of a character’s emotional maturity. In other words, how a character develops emotionally and spiritually provides connection, identification and interest.

Emotion and Emotional Development 
How do the following two lists differ and how are they the same?

  • Honest
  • Courageous
  • Deceitful
  • Stingy
  • Fugal
  • Shy

Versus

  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Pensive
  • Apologetic
  • Defensive
  • Happy


Each of the examples originates in the character. How they differ is one is a list of character traits. The second list is of emotions.

Character emotional development and emotional change are each an essential scene element. They both: sound alike are related are often confused

Character Emotional Development 
Showing how the character’s traits change and/or transform over the course of the entire story defines the character emotional development plot and the development of such is an essential element in every scene. The protagonist’s emotional development takes place over time and culminates at the end of the story in a lasting transformation. The character’s emotional development can be plotted from the beginning to the end of the story.

Emotional Change 
In every scene, the protagonist displays a range of emotion reactions to the dramatic action. How she reacts often is reflective of the burden she carries from her backstory. These emotions, which fluctuate within each scene, are usually transitory and fleeting. Showing your character’s emotions shift and change is an essential element in every scene.

Plot is how the events in a story directly impact the main character. Always, in the best-written stories, characters are emotionally affected by the events of the story. In great stories, the dramatic action transforms characters. This transformation makes a story meaningful. The dramatic action demands a goal. The character emotional development demands growth.

Steps toward Transformation 
Each obstacle and antagonist in the dramatic action plot provides the protagonist with opportunities to learn about herself and thus advance her character emotional development plot. Before she can transform, she first must become conscious of her strengths and weaknesses. Stories show a character changing, at the least, and transforming at the most profound. Often you can accomplish this by creating a flawed character. Eventually, she will have to face that flaw and overcome it in order to achieve her ultimate goal.

Examples of Character Flaws

  • Always the victim and unable to take responsibility for actions           
  • Control freak
  • Argumentative and short-tempered 
  • Liar and a cheat 
  • Stubborn 
  • Always has to be right 
  • Perfectionist 
  • Procrastinator 
  • Sits in judgment

The main character’s flaw establishes the protagonist’s level of emotional maturity and points to the potential for growth or transformation. Her flaw interferes with achieving her goal and riles up her emotions.

How to Use a Character Flaw 
A character flaw is a coping mechanism that arises from the loss of an original state of perfection that occurred in the character’s backstory. The character stores the emotion created by what happened in the backstory. Her flaw is designed to compensate for a perceived vulnerability, sense of insecurity, and feeling threatened.

No matter how confident, every major character demonstrates lessons learned from the wound inflicted in her backstory that now is lodged in her core belief system. In reaction, she often surrenders some or all of the authority over her own life to someone or something else.

Emotion in the Beginning 
The beginning of your story establishes who the character is, flaws and all. Your readers can look back to this portrait and compare it to who she becomes as she undergoes a transformation after the crisis. The portrait also foreshadows who she will be at the climax.

At the beginning of a story, the character’s emotional reactions help identify and introduce her. By the end of the beginning scene at the one-quarter mark of a story, all of the protagonist’s most defining traits, positive and negative have been introduced. This turning point scene reveals the most defining character trait of all.

What emotion does your protagonist communicate about entering the middle of the story?

  • eager 
  • reluctant 
  • resistant 

This choice of hers shows her defining character trait starting out the story:

  • courageous 
  • timid 
  • afraid 

Emotions Intensify in the Middle
The emotions the protagonist managed to keep in check in the beginning of the story begin to unravel in the chaos and uncertainty of the unfamiliar world in the middle of a story. Overwhelmed and fearful, challenged and hurt, the protagonist becomes vulner­able. Most importantly, the middle deepens the audience’s appreciation for the protagonist’s emotional maturity, or lack thereof, by her emotional reactions as the obstacles become more difficult to surmount.

All the outer events, ordeals, successes, and failures of the character constitute the dramatic action of a story and provide the catalyst for change. The farther the protagonist penetrates into the new world of the middle and the more obstacles she confronts, the character’s emotional defenses begin to break down and her emotions turn bleaker and darker. Unable to function at a superficial level any longer, she begins to experience heightened emotions, ones that touch the core of her being. When she is prevented from reaching her goal, her emotional reaction changes subtly over time, flicking back and forth in the scene like a trapped fly.

Emotional Maturity 
One of the defining elements of the final quarter of a story are the number of complications the protagonist is slapped the nearer she moves toward achieving her goal. With each complication, the protagonist suffers some sort of reversal. Yet, unlike the reversals in the middle of the story, the protago­nist no longer loses power even if she is physically, mentally or emotionally restrained or injured. As the character emotional development changes, her emotional expression changes, too. What begins with the display of emotional upheaval transforms into emotional maturity.

At the end of a story, as a result of the action on the page, the character’s transformation is revealed through the change in her choices and in her emotional responses from how she acted in the beginning and in the middle. 

The plot of a story is about a character faced with a series of conflicts and obstacles while in pursuit of a goal, which, over time, inspire her to change her choices. In the end, she is transformed, and her ultimate transformation creates her anew with a different understanding of herself and her existence.
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For more: Read my Plot Whisperer and Blockbuster Plots books for writers
~~~~~~~~~
Time to rewrite your story? 
  • Ready for a massive rewrite? Re-vision first!
  • Confused about what you're really trying to convey in your story?
  • Lots of action, no character development? Lots of character development and no action?
  • Looking for tips to prop up your middle with excitement? 
  • Wishing you understood how to show don't tell what your character is feeling? 
  • Are even you sometimes bored with your own story?
  • Long to form your concept into words? 
We can help you with all of that and so much more! View your story in an entirely new light. Recharge your energy and enthusiasm for your writing.

PlotWriMo: Revise Your Novel in a Month includes 8 videos  (5.5 hours)  + 30 exercises total

20 June 2014

17 Steps to Becoming an Effective Communicator with the Muse

A romance writer awakens with her right eye swollen. I suggest that a male in her life wants her to open-up to something she’s refusing or unable to see (issues on the right side of the body often have to do with male energy. The right is female. Eyes = sight).

Her eyes widen and she quickly mumbles that she needs to get to know her male protagonist better as if she knows what I’m talking about. I don't need to know what's going on. Only she does and she did.

How real are the muses that have been credited throughout history for all that writers and musicians and artists create? Does something outside of ourselves truly “sing through” us when we write? What if that same energy or spirit communicates with us in other ways, too? Messages sent through our bodies and through the natural world at large to help guide us from one success to the next with clues and signals how to by-pass negative emotions and reside in a place of emotional maturity?

If you knew the muse to be true, would you listen? Could you be open? Should you be trusting? 

17 Steps to Becoming an Effective Communicator with the Muse
  • Give yourself the time needed to daydream and doodle, take quiet walks in nature and quiet your mind enough to truly listen
  • Be open to all different expressions of inspiration and ideas 
  • Ask the muse for specific help in solving problems creatively and for real understanding 
  • Invite the muse in and feel understood
  • Create an environment where the muse feels safe to open up 
  • Rid yourself of negative emotions 
  • Avoid interrupting the muse 
  • Avoid judging what comes 
  • Watch for signs from the muse
  • Ask for signs
  • Jot down what you see and hear and intuit
  • Become aware of nature around you
  • Look for meaning in what you come across, notice, are drawn to
  • Relinquish your opinions and control over what you think you need or want to provide space and acceptance for new ideas and opportunities 
  • Show you’re interested and open to inspiration 
  • Accept the communication that comes to you without criticism or judgment
  • Show interest in what the muse is sharing with you by taking notes, writing furiously, giving thanks 

18 June 2014

Character Emotional Development: Transformation and Emotional Maturity

The emotional steadiness your protagonist develops in a story (character emotional development plot) from all that happens to her (dramatic action plot), I call change, maturity, transformation, transcendence (your genre and your story -- action-driven | character-driven -- define the level of character development that fits the underlying meaning of your own individual story).

The lessons she learns in the middle, having suffered greatly and paid dearly, lead to this change at the end of the story. All of the lessons and wisdom and skills and abilities she learns are critical for her ultimate success at the Climax.

Some abilities and skills are external and necessary to complete the dramatic action plot. Others are internal. All of the internal lessons and wisdom gained point directly to emotional maturity as shown by the protagonist's ability to understand and manage at the end those same emotions that continually tripped her up in the beginning and then felled her in the middle of the story.

Characters who have endured trauma, deception, abandonment, betrayal, abuse, pain, loss, sadness either before the story begins or during the story and are left unhealed (backstory wound) typically become emotionally stuck at the time and place of the trauma. For her to achieve her goal, she must first become conscious of her backstory wound and then move towards healing the past in order to successfully move into the future.

The following are some traits that point to emotional immaturity (as shown in the beginning and deepened in the middle of the story) compared to emotional maturity (as shown at the end of the story):
  • Own Desires versus Delayed Gratification = Ability to keep long-term commitments
  • Blaming versus Responsible = Acceptance of current life circumstances as a result of personal decisions
  • Intellect versus Intuition = "See" a solution and research best course of action
  • Reactive versus Proactive = Value-based decision-making
  • All the Answers versus Open-Minded = Desire to learn and seek counsel
  • Rigid versus Adaptable = Willing to be flexible. Open to change
  • Self-conscious versus We are All One = Possesses a spirit of humility
  • Narrow-minded versus Alternative Views = Open to others' opinions and views
  • Critical versus Non-judgemental = Respect for others' right to their beliefs
  • Entitled versus Grateful = Appreciative
  • Shutdown versus Resilient = Express disappointments, plot a plan, move on
  • Erratic Mood Swings versus Emotional Steadiness = Peaceful state of mind
  • Uncooperative versus Realistic Optimism = Willingness to seek out opportunities
  • Removed and Shutdown versus Approachable = Actively building relationships
  • Shaken versus Steady = Secure in who you are
  • Intense versus Humor = Not taking oneself too seriously
~~~~
Need more help with your story? 
  • Ready for a massive rewrite? Re-vision first!
  • Confused about what you're really trying to convey in your story?
  • Lots of action, no character development? Lots of character development and no action?
  • Looking for tips to prop up your middle with excitement? 
  • Wishing you understood how to show don't tell what your character is feeling? 
  • Are even you sometimes bored with your own story?
  • Long to form your concept into words? 
We can help you with all of that and so much more! View your story in an entirely new light. Recharge your energy and enthusiasm for your writing.

1st video (43 minutes of direct instruction + exercises for your own individual story) FREE
PlotWriMo: Revise Your Novel in a Month includes 8 videos  (5.5 hours)  + 30 exercises total
 ~~~~~~~~
For more: Read my Plot Whisperer and Blockbuster Plots books for writers

17 June 2014

Writer Path Retreat Photo Montage





Friday, May 30th, 2014,







Jordan Rosenfeld

and I meet up at Mt. Madonna

before the 18 intrepid writers who signed up for our weekend writers retreat. Our spacious cabin greets us. Anticipation envelopes us. The first writer arrives.

So begins the 1st ever Writer Path Plot and Scene Retreat.
 









Sign-ups now available for next year's Writer Path Retreat May 1st - 3rd, 2015!

13 June 2014

Beginnings Hook Readers. Endings Create Fans

Ten reasons why I nearly always begin a plot workshop, consultation, presentation at the Climax and why you should begin with ideas about what happens at the end of your story and plot your way to the beginning:
  1. Fresh start 
  2. Shakes things up
  3. Pulls writers out of their comfort zone
  4. Forces writers to move beyond the character's backstory into the real story
  5. Key elements reveal themselves at the end
  6. How to portray the character in the beginning emerges from how the character acts at the end
  7. When you know how your story ends, you are better able to determine where to begin your story
  8. Most writers write the beginning 100 times and are lucky if they write the climax even once
  9. Writing the end seals the promise you can write from the beginning and get there
  10. The climax becomes the beacon that guides you to finish
~~~~
Need more help with your story? 
  • Ready for a massive rewrite? Re-vision first!
  • Confused about what you're really trying to convey in your story?
  • Lots of action, no character development? Lots of character development and no action?
  • Looking for tips to prop up your middle with excitement? 
  • Wish you understood how to show don't tell what your character is feeling? 
  • Are even you sometimes bored with your own story?
  • Long to form your concept into words? 
We can help you with all of that and so much more! View your story in an entirely new light. Recharge your energy and enthusiasm for your writing.

1st video (43 minutes of direct instruction + exercises for your own individual story) FREE
PlotWriMo: Revise Your Novel in a Month includes 8 videos  (5.5 hours)  + 30 exercises total
 ~~~~~~~~
For more: Read my Plot Whisperer and Blockbuster Plots books for writers.

10 June 2014

A Soul Shattering Tip How to Plot the End of Your Novel, Memoir, Screenplay

October 17, 1989, at 5:04:15 p.m. (PDT), the epicenter of a magnitude 6.9 earthquake hit nearly smack in my garden. The doorframe I clutched shifted erratically, the floor beneath me shook, the house creaked and moaned and all water in the little neighborhood pool rose up into the air and broke over the side. As Robert Page, U.S. Geological Survey writes of the event:

"It was a wakeup call to prepare for the potentially even more devastating shocks that are inevitable in the future."

That's sort of like what happens to the protagonist when hit by the Crisis around the three quarter mark of your story. The ground shakes, uncovering all illusions about herself and the world around her, leaving her blinded by the truth of her own insignificance.

What truly defines the protagonist is what she does after the crisis. From one extreme of intense vulnerability to another of shame and discomfort WHILE also knowing she had a part to play in her own demise AND that the crisis is merely a wakeup call to prepare her for the potentially even more devastating shocks that are inevitable in the future.

Her motivation must be strong and meaningful to go forward in the face of such torment. So much easier to get lost in the haze of addictions and self-loathing… oh, that's the human condition. For your protagonist, there is no stopping beyond a spell of reflection, gathering resources and allies and letting go of everything that no longer serves her.

At the point she steps over into the last quarter of the story to gain her true freedom, the End begins. 

Along the way on her ascent to the Climax, quake your story with some of those inevitable and more devastating aftershocks. Entering the End she's wobbly, uncertain, and highly vulnerable. Her emotions are at their peak. The hits give her chances to stretch beyond who she was beforethe crisis, come into mastery or at least a firm grip of all the lessons and knowledge she's gained and prepare her for the Climax where she demonstrates who she is becoming.
~~~~
Need more help with your adult, young adult, middle grade, picture grade story? 
  • Ready for a massive rewrite? Re-vision first!
  • Confused about what you're really trying to convey in your story?
  • Lots of action, no character development? Lots of character development and no action?
  • Looking for tips to prop up your middle with excitement? 
  • Wish you understood how to show don't tell what your character is feeling? 
  • Are even you sometimes bored with your own story?
  • Long to form your concept into words? 
"I didn't know what I didn't know," says one cozy mystery writer after watching the videos (more reviews on Vimeo). View your story in an entirely new light. Recharge your energy and enthusiasm for your writing.

1st video (43 minutes of direct instruction + exercises for your own individual story) FREE
PlotWriMo: Revise Your Novel in a Month includes 8 videos  (5.5 hours)  + 30 exercises total

 ~~~~~~~~
For more: Read my Plot Whisperer and Blockbuster Plots books for writers.

07 June 2014

Thematic Significance Statement Defines Every Story Decision

Writers toss out story themes. Theme words grow into what one romance writer aptly labels as tropes = common or overused themes or devises. Tropes typically become overused or cliched because they squarely connect with a universal truth.

A thematic significance statement intended to embody the heart and meaning of your own particular story often begins with a trope. After writing a couple of drafts and with a better understanding of what all the words in your story add up to, now tack on at either the beginning or the end of the trope a qualifying phrase that turns a common theme specific to your story and your story alone.

During a plot consultation, having plotted out all the scenes, we reach the re-development, deepening and refining of that ever elusive thematic significance statement phase. Having starred and circled theme words that popped out during the consultation, I add them to the list he rattles off that his critique group, quite familiar with his story, helped generate (and seem to breath through the speaker at the other end of the phone).

He articulates a thematic statement that is character-centric. Yet his story is so much broader and more meaningful than simply the change to the character. Yes, dramatic action that changes and transforms a character over time makes a story meaningful. However, what that change or character transformation brings to the culture and the community and the family at large is the true thematic significance statement in a story that revolves around the culture and the community and the family and brings thematic significance to the story as a whole.

A thematic significance statement attempts to unite broad universal truths with the specific words you choose for your own individual story. Suddenly, characters snap to attention finally with a clear intent of their own unique contribution to the overall story, confusing subplots crystalize with meaning and symbolism, random incidents become deliberate, minor moments grow sublime.

Write a couple of drafts, smooth the thematic significance into a coherent and meaning statement and then let the real fun begin. A thematic significance statement for your overall story turns the challenge of making every word perfect attainable.

For specific exercises to develop your own individual Thematic Significance Statement: The Plot Whisperer Workbook Step-by-Step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories)
~~~~
Need more help with your story? 
  • Looking for tips to prop up your middle with excitement? 
  • Wish you understood how to show don't tell what your character is feeling? 
  • Are even you sometimes bored with your own story?
  • Long to form your concept into words? 
We can help you with all of that and so much more! View your story in an entirely new light. Recharge your energy and enthusiasm for your writing.

1st video (43 minutes of direct instruction + exercises for your own individual story) FREE
PlotWriMo: Revise Your Novel in a Month includes 8 videos  (5.5 hours)  + 30 exercises total

 ~~~~~~~~
For more: Read my Plot Whisperer and Blockbuster Plots books for writers.

05 June 2014

A Love Letter to Writers

1) She asks if her ideas, her story is silly. I can't answer that for her. Only she can. I see her as a miracle, a jewel, a divine creation. How can anything silly come out of that?

 What I hear? Self-doubt and limiting self-beliefs likely based in criticism heard and internalized along the way? When you ask if your story is silly, dumb, stupid, say it out loud. My story is silly. How does that feel? Sound to you? Truth? I am silly. Really? Are you sure about that? Be careful what you say about yourself. Your spirit hears your every word.

2) She asks if she should waste her time on the story -- is it worthy? What I hear? Should I waste my time showing up for myself and my story? Am I worthy? Again, only she can answer that. When you're visited by the muse and the story won't leave you alone, there are mighty forces beyond simply you wanting this story manifested. If not by you, the story goes unwritten.

3) A meltdown around the Recommitment phase. This is too hard. I don't get it. I can't do it. When I grab her by the shoulders to help ground her back in the here-and-now and out of the past of other difficult times in her life, I encourage her to view what is happening to her in the light of the Universal Story. She's being called to show up and do the work. Internal antagonists block her way. I ask her to reclaim her own individual power. Suddenly shining out from hiding and fear, the light of her spirit flickers and hope seems to fill her body as she shakes her head and straightens her shoulders. She looks at me as if I'm not there as the truth of who she truly is reawakens. She exclaims how she's never heard of such things. In her smile, I know she's tapped into a truth she's always know and only now is beginning to remember again what once she knew for sure.

4) She's writing today because I asked her to commit to writing everyday. If her commitment to me helps her show up for herself, so be it. When we commit to others, our spirits are listening. When we let down ourselves by not valuing our commitment to ourselves, we hurt our own spirit.

5) She apologizes before she begins reading. It's not very good. I haven't written forever. This is my first stab at writing again after years of doubt. It's rough. Not very good. Don't ever apologize for yourself, for your writing. You're showing up, doing the work. Hold tight to your own personal power. Don't let the demons of doubt and poor self-worth overpower your deepest beliefs. Sure they may be hiding in the muck and gore of your backstory wound. The belief in your splendor lies there, too. You know it. At least your spirit does and is patiently, heartbreakingly patiently waiting for the day you remember it, too.

What I understand now after having spent more than a year painstakingly healing my own backstory wound is how wrong I've been. I write in the Plot Whisperer books about the protagonist (and thus, the writer, too) reclaiming her own personal power that she'd relinquished along to way to a false belief system, betrayal, hurt, pain, criticism, judgment.

Yet, seizing your own personal power often leads to a crisis because the use and development of your own personal power belies the real truth. Standing in your own personal power puts you in direct opposition to someone else's power and ends up perpetuating duality = struggle.

The real strength lies, not in your own personal power. Rather, your real strength and the source of all strength lies at the heart of the Universal Story -- in the power of love.

03 June 2014

Reconnect to Your Creativity through the Universal Story

None of us were born yesterday. If you believe the past shapes the future, then the life we live right now was decided a long time ago.

We make up stories in our imaginations about each other to explain what causes people to act and say what they do. We make up stories about our own lives and behavior, too, stories that motivate us to do what we do.

Memories of the past, whether five minutes ago or fifty years, come to us in the form of stories. The stories we tell ourselves define the emotional stakes of our lives. In storytelling, a character’s backstory refers to events and emotions that take place earlier than when the action of the story is taking place.

Understanding your own backstory allows you a glimpse into why you act the way you do, what prevents you from reaching your goals and better appreciate the road you took to get here.

If you've ever looked at your life and wondered how you got to this point and how ever will you get back to where you truly want to be, if, that is, you knew where exactly that might be, by shedding the stories you tell yourself decides what happens next in your life.

Every backward-glance in our lives is an invitation to add to or subtract from the general narrative we tell ourselves, often obsessively, until our mind believes the story as the truth and becomes the story we live by. Some stories we make up about events in our lives have beginnings, middles and ends. Other stories we listen to are fragments. Sometimes we become so close to the stories of the past that any little reminder: a crude gesture, a withering glance, the whiff of perfume, and we again relive a past that is always present.

We can go back in time and fix and change what haunts us today. Turn to the Universal Story and create a new story. Discover the stories you tell yourself and rediscover emotions and pieces of yourself you’ve forgotten or thought were lost forever. Lift yourself out of the past. Seize the life you've always dreamed.

For more about the Universal Story: Read The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master.
 ~~~~~
*****Coming Soon!
 Transform Your Creative Life through the Universal Story: Seize the Life of Your Dreams. Reawaken your creativity and make your life pop with possibilities in this online workshop divided into 7 weeks of videos and exercises.

02 June 2014

Refilling the Well of Creativity

Yesterday, final day of our incredible retreat with my incredible partner-in-teaching Jordan Rosenfeld and 18 incredibly intrepid writers, I found myself rushing faster and faster to the finish-line, my vision narrowing to one thing and one thing only -- escape!! Well, not really escape. The weekend was filled with heart-felt memories and deep learning. Rather… solitude… space… freedom…

Finding more and more of a struggle to reconcile the outer me as teacher and presenter to who I am finally able to re-embrace as the shy, silent backwards daughter wrapped in a cloud of cotton candy. I'm left to wonder about that journey out of silence into the exotic world of words -- damn, who knew there could be so many words generated at once?

Have you ever considered how many words are being written across the world at this very instant? How many being said? We're all worried, and rightly so, about over-population of humans. What about over-population of words?

After the yapping excitement of returning home calmed, I settled in to revel in Maya Angelou on Oprah's OWN Super Soul Sunday. She spoke of the pieces stolen from us when slung slights, criticisms, cruelty, discomfit. Makes you wonder how any pieces are left at a ripe old age. Fortunately, love and acceptance for exactly who you are go far toward filling in those missing pieces.

Can't help but think of how many little pieces I lost this weekend, not stolen in meanness but offered with joy. Whole chunks of my thoughts and beliefs and knowledge and experience and magical thinking left me to grow and multiple on their own. I'm left feeling a bit like Swiss cheese.

The darkness of scarcity lifts as the light of abundance sweeps in.

Blessed time to go inward, refill, allow for space and the reconnection to that which sustains me -- my own writing and the sea.