Monthly Archives: February 2017

February Critique, wherein monsters and magic reign

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.


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From Concept to Storyboard

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.





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Filed under Toolbox for Writers Craft