29 May 2009

Writing Inspiration

Daily, I gain strength from a quote of Goethe's: 

"What you can do or dream you can, begin it

Boldness has genius power and magic in it." 

He also said, 

"It is almost impossible in the present day to find a situation which is thoroughly new. 

Only the matter of looking at it can be new, and the art of treating it and representing it." 


Your unique voice comes from how you: 

  • Look at your story
  • Treat your story
  • Choose to represent your story 

Listen for it. 

Hone it. 

Trust the process.


23 May 2009

Creating Curiosity

Writers, especially beginning writers, often find themselves wanting to blurt out everything up front. This often shows up as a flashback early on in the story to show the back story or event that first sent the protagonist off kilter. 


Keep in mind throughout to pace the info you share with the reader. In each scene, only put in as much as is needed to inform that particular scene (this can include foreshadowing clues of what is to come, but don't overload the scenes.) Invite the reader in slowly, but with a bang. Keep curiosity high = creates a page-turner book!

Don't tease the reader, but don't give them everything. Allude to problems, tension, conflict, who the character truly is, but hold back from revealing the details. Curiosity is one of the most powerful ways to pull the reader deeper into the story. 

Hold off with flashback and even memories, if you can get away with doing so, until the Middle (1/2). 

Also, be careful how many characters you introduce at a time. Introduce slowly and keep names to a minimum -- make sure we meet the protagonist first and get a clear idea who she is and that this is her story before moving on to the secondary characters. 

08 May 2009

Character Transformation

The moment the protagonist is hit with the decision whether to change or remain the same either comes at the:
  • 1/2 way point (based on the page or scene count) or
  • 3/4 mark or the Crisis 
In some stories, the character emotional development plot line (CED) "wake-up call" occurs at the 1/2 way point. 

In other stories, the CED plot hits simultaneously with the dramatic action (DA) plot line at the 3/4 mark or the Crisis, the moment of greatest energetic impact in the story so far .

Either way, after the Crisis, the character is left to decide whether to take the hit to heart or not.

If the character understands the part she plays in her inability to achieve her long term goals and is willing to change, thus begins her conscious move toward transformation.

Keep in mind this forward movement is not smooth.

The best way I can explain how this path unfolds is to use an example from my life before I started writing and helping other writers develop the plot and structure of their stories. 

Years ago I had a clinic for kids with speech, language, and learning disabilities. When working with kids to master a new skill, I found they generally pass through three distinct stages:

1) Emergence -- in other words, the "new" behavior reveals itself only intermittently and when the child is consciously aware and trying. However, in play and when the child is not concentrating, the predominate behavior continues to be the "old" way.

This is also true of the protagonist after they decide to banish their inappropriate behavior or try to change a deeply entrenched negative habit. 

2) Regression -- in most cases, when the "new" behavior becomes more and more habituated, the time come when the child slides back to the "old" behavior. This set-back can be caused by stress or change. However, often, it is merely a time when the "old" behavior gives one last great gasp in its attempt to hold the child back. 

If the CED plot line Crisis hits at the 1/2 way point, then the regression or set-back takes place at the 3/4 mark and usually has a direct influence on the DA Crisis. If the CED plot line crisis hits at the Crisis at the 3/4 mark then the regression will come closer to the Climax at the end.

3) Mastery -- most of us do not come to mastery over an old habit without some struggle. Eventually, if effort is put forth and the "new" behavior is consciously worked on, mastery will come. Parents do not always understand this. They expect that with consciousness of how to perform the "new" behavior mastery is automatic. In the classroom, I often found that teachers shared the same expectations. Kids are tested on the information at a mastery level rather than as an emerging behavior 1st and mastery over time.

Lots of writers I work with operate under the same assumption. The Crisis hits. The protagonist's eyes are open as to how their flaw interferes with them attaining their life goal. Automatic mastery. Wrong!

This is almost never the case in real life or in stories. Try it yourself. Decide to change a behavior that has been habituated over time. See how many mistakes you make and revert back to the "old" behavior before you find yourself at a mastery level.

Mastery for the protagonist is shown in all its glory at the Climax at the end of the book where the character shows their true and ultimate transformation.

05 May 2009

Cause and Effect / Character Emotion

Recent plot consultation:

Literary Fiction
Many POVs

Does my story have too many scenes?

(We did not get to the end of his story during our session so I cannot answer the question.)
My comment however is to do what you can to make the scenes feel linked.

The tighter the story, the easier for the reader to follow. Every element of every scene contributes to the scene that follows and to the overall story itself.

Link scenes through the use of:
  • Cause and effect
  • The transitions you create using:
Thematic significance of the overall story
Similar themes in the scenes to be linked 
Similar authentic details in scenes to be linked

Also, be clear about the structure you're going for and be consistent. This is especially true for the POV. Each time there is a change in POV, you risk the reader putting down the book. 

We connect to one character and resist and resent leaving that POV. Moving into another can be off-putting. 

Be careful and make sure the first line in every POV switch is compelling in order to pull the reader immediately into the next character and not feel like they are missing the character they were just connected to.