This month we had a bonus meeting (5th Friday of the month). But you may have missed us at the library today. It was a chilly morning and buses were running late so we took a detour, holed up at my house, wrapped up in blankies, drank cups of tea and had a hot lunch. With out brains thawed, we spent our bonus meeting day on critiquing, discussing upcoming writing courses and events. Next week is back to our normal schedule.
In recent months there has been changes in our group. Sadly, one of our members has moved on. We will miss her input and critiques.
We now are returning to our scheduled toolbox meetings and to members sharing new insights gleaned from upcoming writing courses and workshops. (There is always more to learn.)
Currently members are working on their own projects and short stories for our anthology. We look forward to sharing our progress with you.
Our next critique is this Friday.
The Character and his journey. That’s what story is about, isn’t it? A character in conflict who struggles to find resolution. The journey implies an arc, something that aligns with the concept and theme and context of the setting and background and turmoils. Because a character has an arc, the story has an arc, and the lesson learned is something aligned with one or two or three bits of ‘the six things’ (which we’ll discuss later).
The story shows us how the character begins his life in this story. We see the first dimension things like how he looks, dresses, what language he uses when he speaks and thinks, the things he likes to surround himself with – all 1D elements of this character.
Then we see the second dimension things: the reasons or excuses for some of the 1D characterisations. Sounds simple, but understanding why a person does something, applying backstory to try to understand a 1D practice, is harder than it first appears. A person can be in a given situation and react in a particular manner – a practiced manner or an instinctive manner (instinct =3D, later). 2D can be the reason they do something a particular way, but the character chooses – it is choice that matters. One person may respond with a response that is reasonable based on the backstory, and the next person may react in a completely different manner. They have chosen to respond to the life-incidents that form 2D characterisation in different ways (but it better conform to the known psychological patterns [unless an alien learning how we operate, of course] and human needs).
And third dimension? This is the core of a person. Their inner beliefs and innate responses to situations. A scream when the snake runs over the path barely one step in front of them versus the other who freezes in the same circumstance. 3D is not the same for all. But it is the core of that person. This is the part of character that needs to be demonstrated as part of the character arc. In Part 1, the 3D is the weaker response, the unlearned innate or instinctive reaction. Part 2 shows the learning process and how hard it is; Part 3 shows the beginning of the fight back (and the losses and scars incurred in the process); Part 4 shows the changes at the core of the character. 3D is different in Part 4, and it should be obvious, through the whole of the story, that this is the true journey. The change.
However, that change may be limited. If a person does the whole gamut, gets to the end, does the heroic thing, and then falls back into ‘life as it was’ – is this the wrong journey? No. People are varied in how they learn and grow. Sometimes the lesson sticks, sometimes not.
Life is like a character arc. Change is hard. We may work up to making the change for the moment it’s required, and then, and then, and then we go back to what’s expected of us, or what we’re comfortable with, or ….
Character arc is the person in the story learning, being burned, relearning, struggling, and coming through for something or someone. Or not. The underlying theme is discovered through the journey he takes through the context of his story.
Remember the auto-responses: fight, flight, freeze. Show the change in character by the use of these auto (core) responses. Does learning or training change one or more? Does the fight to retain or regain something cause a change in how these auto-responses are managed?
Story is: a character in conflict who struggles to find resolution. Characterisation is where the story shows the struggle (internal and external – and the crossover).
Good luck with that!
Two pieces were presented for review this week, both part of ongoing W’sIP. [I like that – wees in pee!]
The first critique focussed on the presentation of the power moments of the scene/s and the character in action and the placement of things and people – you guessed it: the whole gamut of how to get the right feel in the right place at the right time. And clearing up the repetitions.
The second critique focussed on trying to find the reaction to the [where did they go?] character actions. And the repetitions. And the placement of power moments and the placement of people and things – oh, hey! You guessed it: first/second drafts that need to focus on the purpose and progression.
But it was fun and a great learning process.
And in the middle of the discussion, one of our members (the one with the broken wrist and the great story about subterranean beasties that lift the pavement in heaves of discomfort (see the real thing at the museum – yes, they’re real! Diprotodons[?]!) when they try to scratch that itch) had to get the help of the trauma nurse who noticed how we couldn’t help get the funny-looking not-quite-cotton thing – oh, a sling! – around her neck and arm to hold it in place with a small measure of comfort. Thanks, Danielle, it was wonderful to see the character Adelaide come forth again.
Which started another conversation. ‘Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.’ No, Danielle didn’t look funny – it was the issue of how people in Adelaide are really helpful and how much they go out of their way to offer assistance.
And the conversation moved onto the people we’d met, or heard about, who were not what you would expect an angel to look like, but were nevertheless, angels who helped people in trouble. It’s people who can’t be judged by the covers, not the books, because if a book can’t be judged by its cover, how is the reader going to figure out what it’s about?
The words of the story introduce the reader to the broad sweeps of the story, just like a painting. They get a view into the world of the story. They see a picture. Or they should. And the cover is part of that introduction to story; it should allow itself to be judged by the way the writer dresses it for presentation to the world. When it comes to people, the saying (adage) may ring true, but for the book and story, it is the opposite – it will always be judged by the first few flickers of the picture that is generated.
Yes, I’m still talking about story with words. Story creates a world for the reader to become part of, to live in, to breathe and sing and dance – it’s real, and it only becomes real when the word-pictures are deep, compelling; when the reader is drawn into the spell (your) story creates for them.
Anyway, next meeting is all about people: Character, how things change, how the person grows and learns though the things they suffer (what we put them through, but it’s alright – we don’t feel a thing). See you then.
Structure – sounds easy, sounds good, and we have an understanding of all the little words strung together to make it sound very ‘writerly’ and vague.
It’s not. Vague, that is. And it can be very simple – but only once you work out which method, which form, works best for the way you work.
So, let’s have a look, shall we?
Structure – from Concept to Storyboard
The first thing to do is find an idea, and from the idea we build a concept of a story and then we turn it into a premise (read Larry Brooks for examples).
Idea: travel to Darwin; concept: travel to Darwin by camel and stop at Rainbow Desert [etc.]; premise: harassed daughter travels with mother [to find a good spot to bury her where no one will find the body!] to Darwin by camel, stopping at Rainbow Desert, etc.
Some people do log-lines for this purpose (see Save the Cat by Snyder), some people like to write out the ‘initial idea’ scenario, some people do other things – what do you do with your idea?
In order to do the ‘Good Story Well Told’ the critical things to know are:
Does the title and cover tell you what it is? If not, why would a reader go further? And if they get the wrong idea about what it is and go in, will they be disappointed? Very important.
What is it? It’s the hero’s story – who he is, who/what he’s up against, and what’s at stake. The premise with the most conflict, the baddest bad guy, the clearest goal – that’s a winner concept. So, it’s about a guy … who is someone we can learn from, want to follow because we are connected to him by empathy, deserves to get what he needs/wants, has the best reason for the stakes at risk. Choose the most suitable character and premise for the genre of the story.
A scene is one event in one place/time from one POV where something happens.
A beat is an action-reaction – a movement.
And we come to a Beat Sheet. There are lots of examples out there; some are very complex, some are very simple. Some have only five beats, some have nine, some have fifteen. Choose the one that works for you (I like Snyder, but have amended to suit the way I work – you can too).
Fill in the main beats: the Inciting Incident, the First Plot Point (1PP), the MidPoint (MP), the Second Plot Point (2PP) – then go back to fill in the bits in each Part.
Part 1 (Act 1 for some) 25% of the story – contains the Setup, Catalyst (or Inciting Incident), and ends (after the Debate) when the DECISION is made to step forward (this is the 1PP);
Part 2 (Act 2, part 1) 25% of the story – contains the response: running, learning, hiding, challenging; mistakes happen; initial attempts at attack don’t produce the results expected; losses happen (Snyder calls it the Fun ‘n Games section); this is the place for a pinch point (which is ‘see the baddy’), ends with the MidPoint;
Part 3 (Act 2, part 2) 25% of the story – contains the Attack, by them and hero (MC) using new info, new knowledge of tools, courage, etc. in an attempt to overcome the (committed and powerful and complex and cunning) enemy/bad guy/antagonist. Several bits here: another pinch point in the middle somewhere, an All is Lost moment, the Dark Night moment, and ends with the 2PP;
Part 4 (Act 3) 25% of the story (no new info in this part) – contains the resolution and finale, the lessons learned can be used in more effective way, the lessons learned put to good use, better equipped to move on, change and growth into the hero – evolved from coward to courageous, from isolated to engaged, inner demons conquered. Now prepared to act, to apply learning to implement heroic decisions – even to the point of martyrdom. This is where the six things (see Snyder) are shown as proved or disproved or irrelevant.
That’s what the four parts are, the four q’s. Find a beat sheet to put the right things in each of the four q’s and you’re well on the way. Oh, and don’t forget – for every sub-story within the main story, do another beat sheet and board (the board if the story is complex), and it’s a good idea to do one for the antagonist as well.
The structure of the four q’s can be used with Aristotle’s Incline – just put the pieces along the line instead of in the picture of four parts.
And what do we have:
An Idea is developed into Beat Sheet, which evolves into Story Board (the 4q’s), which becomes your Story.
With the beats written out, filled in on the 4q board by the scenes that set up the main beats, scenes that respond to the beats – oh, my – there are so many scenes – I could write a whole novel from that! Yes, because structure is 80% of the work of story. Now it’s up to you to put the best effort into laying out the words that pull your reader in so far they don’t want to come out until … The End.
January, and we’re all here – the whole lot of us! From poet to pastry chef, from dancer to singer to high-flier to cat-whisperer. Okay, enough of that! What did we do? What did we discuss? Where are we going for this new (and better) year?
- Radio plays (PBA-FM 89.7) and who’d like to do one for the host
- Chuck Wendig, Agatha Christie, Terry Pratchett (know what they have in common?)
- the word tailor within our group, and the new site
- the new collaborator (Rose, of the tawny eyes)
- the Anthology (yes, yes, yes – it will be good, better, the greatest) of Speculative Fiction Stories from Hell to High Victorian and everything in between
- the list of things to discuss and learn and use in our work as professional writers – the toolbox, now updated
- And (tah dah)
- Goals for 2017
What are some of those goals? To write more, of course, but the big one is to learn enough to be able to share that knowledge with someone else. People who teach understand this: the teacher learns as they show others how to learn. This is what we want for each member of the group – learn and relearn when showing others what was learned. It works – try it! The only time to truly understand the level of [craft] knowledge is when it’s put down in a plan to show others how to incorporate what the teacher knows and uses into how the student can use and learn and incorporate into their own knowledge base, their own skill-set. That’s what we want!
Oh, and to write more – or did I already say that? Doesn’t matter – repeat the goal enough times that it becomes a mantra, and repeat the mantra enough times that it becomes a life meaning (and meaningful).
As this was the first meeting for the new (and better) year, the post is short, and it’s no reflection on the amount of time we spent discussing issues and items and responsibilities, but next post will be full of bones, full of sustenance and fibre; it will be solid and . . . [there I go, off on the fairy-trail again – so goodbye from her, and goodbye from him – see you next time!].
Things are happening. Three short stories, destined for our upcoming anthology, were critiqued this month. Prepare yourselves for dragons, gadgets and a dalliance with the Fae.
We discussed description, show/not tell, the origins of words and symbolism. Altering one word can change the meaning of a paragraph, or clarify the intent of a scene.
The quote for the day:
“Other languages borrow words. English lures people down a dark alley, knocks them on the head and goes through their pockets looking for loose grammar.” (unknown meme).