20 February 2008

Do Characters Talk to You?

Hi Martha,

Here's a question that I'm almost too embarrassed to ask.

My SceneTracker is strong from Chapter 1 Scene 1 through Chapter 3 Scene 7.

I have the big scene for Chapter 5 Scene 15.

It's the empty 7 scenes between that is making me anxious and doubt myself. I could develop characters in each scene and provide their POVs but I feel like I should know the flow and what will happen next "because she did this ...."

Does this happen to others?

And what would be the best way to prime the muse to have the characters tell me the rest of the story?

Do your characters "talk" to you? I've heard writers say this.

What do you honestly think?

Writing in North Carolina

Dear Writing in North Carolina,

One technique would be to leave the scenes empty for now and forge ahead.

If you believe that the Climax -- the final big scene before the Resolution at the End -- determines what comes before, the sooner you reach the Climax the better.

Sounds like creating Dramatic Action filled with conflict, tension, suspense and curiosity is intuitive for you and Character Emotional Development less so. Why do I say that? You wrote first that "I could develop characters in each scene" and followed with your gut feeling: "I feel like I should know the flow and what will happen next "because she did this ...."

Stay in your strength while keeping the goal of writing your first draft all the way through. The important thing is whatever keeps you writing.

My characters seem to take up residency in every aspect of my life for as long as it takes me to finish a project, which can be a long time. I usually know the end before I begin. I take it draft by draft by draft, knowing each draft will deepen my vision of the project as I sink deeper into the story and spend more and more time with my characters.

Look to research to help dream up and develop scenes. Once you know:
1) what the character wants
2) what stands in her way
3( What she stands to lose
4) The character's flaw

Find inspiration and ideas in researching the unusual world you'll develop in the Middle, any major historical, political, spiritual, scientific events during the time period including contemporary.

I'll put the word out for input from other writers.

Good luck.


12 February 2008

Plot Tip ~~ THE END

Writing scenes for The End can be more uplifting than writing scenes in The Middle.

Think of the Middle as the tunnel of darkness, fraught with antagonists of all sorts. The Crisis, the high-point of the Middle, is the dark night of the soul, hitting bottom, when the protagonist becomes conscious of who she really is, or what she has been avoiding or denying. A light snaps on, and thus begins the process of transformation.

In the End, the protagonist still has foes to confront and overcome. Only now, she is armed with a new understanding of herself. For the first time, her goal comes into focus.

The Climax at the End (1/4) serves as the light at the end of the tunnel. The protagonist moves toward the light -- one step forward toward the ultimate transformation, three steps back, a fight for a couple of steps, being beat backwards.

The Climax spotlights the character in full transformation demonstrating the necessary new skill or personality, gift or action.

The Climax is the crowning glory of the entire project. The Climax is where protagonist "shows" in scene her acting in a transformed way -- in a way she could not have acted in any other part of the story because she first needed to experience everything she does in the book to get to the final stage.

Ask yourself what scene will most dramatically show her demonstrating her transformed self?

The Resolution ties everything up. If the story resonates with thematic significance the reader is left to ponder the deeper meaning.

07 February 2008

Flashback versus Prologue

HI Martha!

I've been reading all the information available on Flashback and why it may not be the recommended route to begin a novel. Then I suddenly realized, by golly, this isn't a flashback, it's a prologue! My story starts back in history to provide a backdrop for the current story. My question ... how to you plot a prologue when it's the first "scene" in your book? Is it a chapter unto itself called Prologue? Can it be scene 1 in Chapter 1?

Thanks so very much!

Writing in North Carolina,

Dear Nancy,

The Prologue is a chapter unto itself, comes first, and is generally very short -- 2 to 3 pages. Chapter One follows the Prologue.

Or, you could make it scene 1 in Chapter 1.

The pros of one are the cons of the other, and visa versa.

For instance, readers sometimes ignore the Prologue. Changes in time right off the bat can confuse readers.

Best way to plot this first "scene", be it the Prologue or Chapter One is to make sure the scene introduces one or more of the three major plot lines -- dramatic action, character emotional development, or most likely, provide thematic significance and foreshadow what is to come.

I'll put out a request to some of my writer friends for more input and their take on the issue.

Hope this helps.

Great good luck with your project. Let me know how it goes.