Before we begin today’s post:

There are still a few opening left for this Post-NaNo offer for coaching and edit work.

So contact me for your January 2013 re-writing help.

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Now, about writing in a newer way to know your characters better.

Novices are encouraged to build Character Templates to get to know their characters better.These tools help novices get a grip on the facts about who they are writing about.

They help a lot, but they aren’t the end-all of knowing your character, because lot of times when you are working with a character template, you’re basically looking at the story-facts about them.

(thanks www.epiguide.com/ep101/writing/charchart.html

Nickname, if any
(if so, explain its origin – e.g. who created it?):
Does s/he like the nickname?
Birth date:
Place of birth:
Ethnic background:
Religion:
Degree of religious practice
(e.g. orthodox, casual, lapsed):
Current address:
Does s/he rent or own?
Brief description of home
(apartment, house, trailer, etc.):

While this type of knowledge about your character might help you know who they are. Can it help you see them in action? Does it help you to see them in scenes that tell a story?

Do you think that after beginning with templates there’s more to figure out?

Consider this new way of knowing your characters to take you deeper into their lives. I made this up a long time ago, it’s cool Because no 2 lists are ever the same.

It works like this:

Some of the best writing uses the character, with her actions and her reactions, her motivations, and her emotions to tell a tale.  Unless the story-facts on a Character template are an integral part of the story, where can these story-facts take us, your reader? How do they story-facts about character become the scenes you are building?

All those template answers can be used but as ‘story-facts’, but they’re not always what gets the story going.

So, once you finish with character templates, consider building yourself a Question template: questions about your character’s “what-ifs?”– the things that are going to get you from one scene to the next. The things that will brng something concrete to your story telling

Here’s some samples “What if?” questions to get your scenes going:
1. What if this character who never cries is suddenly faced with a situation where tears come, What will she do?
2. What if this character knows she’s been awful but can’t stop herself, how would she feel about not stopping, knowing she’s wrong?
3. What if this character loves somebody – how can she show it never using words?
4. What if this character has stood up for herself, but because of it all hell’s broken loose– How would she now react to this new dire situation?

You can create as many of these as you can figure out.
You can also build them for writing buddy and each of you share each others’ list so that you’re not writing from your own “what-ifs?”.

So, What actions or reactions would your characters have to these situations:

Someone refused to make any more eye-contact.

A female giggles high, the way some ladies’ do.

While walking on a city street, the new smell wafts up from an open car window.

A dog trots up and sniffs at a character’s leg.

A waiter drops a coffee pot or tray.

The smell of chili cheese fries invades a space.

The radio/TV suddenly dies, and the room is silent.

Where do you think this kind of character template will take your story?
Hope these helps someone, somewhere.

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The End of A Story

December 8, 2012

I’m still posting to the 2012 NaNo forum boards,

And a participant asked this question about first drafts; not the after NaNo editing itself but, a deeper question about when can you tell a novel is done:

 “If you have written all the way through to the end of your story, how can you tell if you’ve really finished? Surely there could always be more character development or other scenes or other scenarios. How do you know when to stop adding and that your novel is complete? I’m really struggling!”

NaNo planning endI thought about that a bit and I thought about all the novels I’ve wanted to continuing writing because I was in love with the characters, when, really, I had finished what needed to be written.

So I thought about what made it ‘The End” and how it was clear to me that I was done writing. I broke down my process and thought about the craft elements that go into a finished work. And after I posted this response, I went over it and added a few things – Here it is for you guys:

You have to know what you want the story to be about. And that has to be a finite thing – the story isn’t about a character.
It’s about what the character will do in a set amount of time.
So you need to decide: What set amount of time are you writing about?
Because anything beyond that story’s set amount of time is just another story about your characters.

A set time for a story might be a summer. It might be a school year. It might be the time it takes a young girl to follow her dream across the world to be part of the famous motion picture industry, but it has to be a set amount of time.

So try to decide on that and then ask if you’ve set your story within those time/length parameters.

Characters have arcs
A boy is neglected and abused where he lives, he finds out he is special, he’s put into a new environment, he manages some deed, and finds a new sense of home.

That’s the end of that story about that boy. Even when there will be six more stories about this boy. That is the end of the arc of this single story. A novel is about a character’s story.

A series is about the continuing adventures of your character.

Scenes also have these arcs: the state of things for your character at the opening of the scene is different at the end of the scene. Or at least it should be.

Chapters are scenes strung together, and again there is an arc – the first scene through the last should show some shifts and changes for the character’s state of being –

  • A shift their way of thinking
  • A change to their circumstances
  • Some new appearance or presentation of their new opportunities

Think about these shifts in movement the writer has caused for the reader, the writer taking the reader someplace: going from the reader seeing him as a boy living under a staircase to the reader finding out he’s the ‘Boy who Lived’, whatever that may lead to.

Many chapters use all those scenes to string together all the Characters’ arcs in the entire book. Everyone has changes in some way due to the choices they made along the way.
One kid makes a new friend. One kid makes a life long enemy. Three kids become a team. A family must accept the changes one person makes to their ‘stable lives’. At the end, all these arcs have happened; they began and they ended.

You asked: Surely there could always be more character development or other scenes or other scenarios.
Yes, there always can be. However, the first story has an ending to it.
Something is achieved. Something is let go. Something is realized. And those things happen between the beginning and the end of the set amount of time.

So, any further character development or other scenes or other scenarios, are stories you write later.
Look for your arcs in what you have now. If you don’t find them, them go back and see where they can be added. This doesn’t mean tacking things onto the end of what you have now. It means fixing the interior of the story.
But– if they are there– then a single story for this character of yours has been told. And you are finished (for now).

Hope this helps you.
ej

Do We Have A Deal For You!

November 30, 2012

I'm Published!!! WOOT!

As the end of this year comes sailing towards us,  I’m offering the first 7 Deadly Serious Nano’ers who contact me, wanting to work on their stuff, a Post-NaNoWriMo-Deal.

Five 90 minute coaching sessions at my hourly lesson rate.  That’s like two and a half hours of free coaching work. I work on content edits, story structure and writing craft.

How can you not decide to try this offer?  I’m very serious about coaching novices to become the best writers they can be.  You can check the Bridge to Story site for my coaching style. Read the rest of this entry »

I know I shouldn’t be telling you this trick about Chapter Breaks yet, but I couldn’t wait.

I’m bad that way.

Before I do though, let’s back up a second and I’ll show you my plan to date. If you remember, I decided this year to take some short stories and deconstruct them, to find my way into my own writings. I blogged about it HERE

I used the whole NaNo pre-work month reading a slew of short stories. Taking each one and deconstructing what was done in them craft-wise. So I came away with a set of notes, about 20 stories were picked over. Read the rest of this entry »

As I’ve said in the Nanowrimo threads, plenty of times in plenty of places, I’m a pantser…not a plotter.

Cat at laptop, writing fiction

Mitten’s 2012 NaNo effort

 

I’m working without an outline and very little pre-planning.

Essentially, in order to gear up for 2012 Nanowrimo, I just started talking to myself. Well actually, talking to myself and listening.

Basically, it went like this:

“So, what you want to write about?”

Me: “People. I think this should be character driven.”

“Okay. How many people do you want be writing about?”

Me: “Three’s a nice uncomfortable number let’s do 3.”

“3. Good, so um, how many men, how many women?”

Me: “That’s ah, one woman, older, and then, uh, a guy and another woman, yeah.”

“This isn’t, ah, going be like a Lifetime movie triangle thing is?”

Me: “I beg your pardon?”

“Just kidding, ha ha h– oww! You punch hard. So tell me about the lady, older?”

Me: “Let’s make her a writer. Older than the guy… [Spoilers].”

“Okay, I can accept that in a non-Lifetime-movie, elevated kind of way. And the guy? How about him?”

Me:  “He’s some kind of editor, or agent, maybe… [ more Spoilers].”

“And this is nothing like a Lifetime movie?”

Me:  “Oh ye of little faith.”

“Fine. So what’s going on with the young lady?”

Me:  “Ah! Here’s where it gets good, see,…[Even better Spoilers]…

At this point I open up Scrivener, and try to get down a few ideas of how I want all this to look. It’s pretty basic. I don’t actually write plot points– that stuff stays in my head fermenting. It’s the only way to get that yeasty batch of ideas to rise.

I firmly resist putting them down until they just come spilling over the edge of the bowl. Nearly full-formed in the struggle to be noticed.

So, What I get down in Scrivener, are craft elements. Here are a few of my cards so you can see what I’m talking about.

I run a short Q/A card to remind myself quickly about what I eed to keep in mind.

But then I write out a longer version of it too, with examples of what I mean – for the moments I’m too weary to figure out my own shorthand notes:

Scrivener's Corkboard/ index card view As you can see, I also set up the Chapter cards  with the same info–

so each one will help me keep pace on the craft elements the story requires.

 

 

I don’t really need precise outlining.

For me, the ideas really will never stop coming. I’m never paranoid that I’ll run out of them. What does worry me from time to time is that I’ll forget that better writing doesn’t come accidentally. That there is a craft behind it. And I keep reminding myself about those craft elements.

The gift of storytelling is there, I was born with that. It’s the skill of writing stories that preoccupies me the most, for many of us this has to be learned.  And I learn and re-learn that each and every time I start up, edit, refine, and send out something.

Let’s hear from you, how are you pantsing it this November?

AS I INTRODUCED last week, I read an online story by my guest, Samuel Snoek-Brown recently.  And it touched me so much, I re-blogged it on my site here.

Here’s a link to it: Lightning My Pilot.   I really thought so highly of it that, as a ramp up to National Novel Writing Month,  I’ve invited the author to engage in a three-part talk about the how’s and why’s that went into creating this small gem. Here’s the second blog, the next one will show up in the 28th of October.

Read the rest of this entry »

Work Hard Quote

 

 

Spent late last night coming up with a skeleton for my expected 20 chapters for November 2012 NaNoWriMo’s Literary Fiction effort. I’m going for 80K.

So I’m planning on writing up some Scrivener cards like this:

Which level of a five-part structure is this scene, chapter or character at?

  • Inciting incident,
  • rising complication,
  • crisis,
  • climax, or
  • resolution.

This goes for the character’s arc too, not just the story’s arc. So maybe there will be more like three cards here:

  • scene,
  • chapter,
  • character(s).

Subtext info
I figure each chapter will need some sub-textual imperative – a reason why folks are doing what they are doing – but that reason will go unspoken, by narration or in dialogue, Still, it’ll be understood by the reader.
So, I’ll want to know it to write towards it. There’ll be its own card to track that

This current action will lead to…
How does this action at the scene or chapter’s end lead to the next reaction by a character?
I figure each action should have a good strong reaction to keep the plot moving forward. Like knowing how a pool shot will move the ball it hits.
This will be good for motivations and reactions from

  • one character to another,
  • a character to self, or
  • a character to circumstances.

So that’s my plan, not really an outline,
more like a journal of my NaNo journey as I’m writing it.

I think all this will keep the background concerns of writing a good, strongly structured Novel on notes, while I’m busy clicking and clacking on that higher plane of immediate creating.

 

Here’s to Beautiful Writing

September 15, 2012

Here’s to beautiful writing because we’ve worked so dammed hard to make it beautiful.

~ e.j. runyon

Bridge in fog

 

 

This summer, having finished

a)   my Graduate Certification in Online Teaching & Learning, and

 b)   my manuscript for my upcoming how to write fiction book, and

c)   my Camp NaNo June & August effort: first draft of ‘All Soul’s Day’, a new WIP

I decided to treat myself to a software program called Scrivener for the upcoming November 2012 NaNo effort – Read the rest of this entry »