Monthly Archives: September 2015

September Critique Meeting

Three pieces were submitted for critique: one almost complete short story, one excerpt (4 scenes) from a WIP novel, and two chapters from a WIP novel.

The short story is almost complete, and most of the discussion centred on the concept of ‘conflict’ in story.

Story is character in conflict who struggles towards resolution (basic definition). This story is almost finished, but the lack of clarity in the role of conflict, the who and how and why, is a little limp at the moment – implied, but not dramatised. It will be a great story when complete, and is a likely candidate for the anthology.

The four scenes of the WIP showed a weakness in setting that was separate from character. To stay in character when in a setting means seeing the setting from the POV character, not just describing (it turns into exposition – bad). It was also missing a vital element when the POV char was confronted – action, reaction: why wasn’t the most important reaction there, at that moment in the story, when that is what a reader would expect? Do not disappoint your reader!

The two chapters were in an early draft stage and will be resubmitted when more work has been completed.

We welcomed a new member this month, who contributed clarity and vision – new eyes are always a good thing!

See you next month for the Toolbox Meeting: Plot and Conflict.


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Toolbox Topic September: Starting & Ending (story, scenes, chapters)

Reprise – to return to the beginning; the repetition of the exposition preceding the development (musical, but also applies to story). A recapitulation.

Beginnings and Endings: to take back to the beginning the lessons of the journey; to see the old world with new eyes.

Beginning: the hook, what draws the reader into the story? How close is the reader to the character? Why should the reader care about this character?

There are dozens, hundreds, possibly thousands, of sites out there that espouse the best first lines of novels, etc. How is your first line? Is it an immediate deep connection to character? Is there an immediate concern that drags the reader to the next line? The next scene? The next chapter?

The first line, the first sentence, the first page – critical elements must hit the reader immediately: the close connection to the character, the depth of POV, the point of interest/intrigue that keeps them going. The full emotional impact of the story starts here – do it well, or lose the reader at this point. Keep the connection, feel the emotion, build on the emotional escalation – capture their hearts and minds by making the reader FEEL the full emotional range of the character.

End: (of story) the reprise; how does the end reflect the beginning? Why does it matter to the character? How is the view different now?

End: (scene, chapter) the hook (or hanger/barb), the change, the reflection of what has already gone. At the end of scenes/chapters, plant a hook, something to intrigue/haunt/taunt the reader into continuing with the story of this character. Sometimes this is done by ending at a point of tension in the scene/story/arc; a question; a forecast (vague) of things (that couldn’t possibly be true); a casual comment that the reader knows means more than it says; the entry of a provocateur, a threat, the beginning moment of a flashback.

Once again, something that sounds so easy – you just write from the beginning to the end, right? – is not as simple as it sounds. Why do we need the end to reflect the beginning? Why do we need to see the old view through the new eyes?

Remember when you went to school or studied something? How would you feel if you got to the end of that process and found you had no more knowledge at the end than you had at the beginning? That you were the same on the inside as you were when you started? Why did you do it if there was no benefit?

The way we see the benefit of the journey (from story POV) is to view where we came from through the eyes of where we came back from (yeah, yeah, yeah – bad England, but writers break rules to make impact, and some of those pernickety rules apply to Latin, which is not my language). So the reprise of the story is in the music of repetition, of recapitulation, of seeing the summary of the effect of the journey. Go for it.


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