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Angie Hoke

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    I'm a multiple-award winning author of women's fiction, but this is my first psychological suspense. I am a CPA and a finance executive at a Fortune 500 public company in Nashville, TN, the mom of a teenage son and the wife of a filmmaker.

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  1. Just watched this -- I didn't take it that he was trashing plotting, but just speaking as to how he views and applies his own process. That said, he has written so prolifically, I feel confident in saying that he subconsciously plots in his mind to some degree, whether he realizes it or not. Also, when he starts a project, he writes every day consecutively until it's done. So he gets into the flow and doesn't really disrupt it -- I think having 50 years of craft and also the ability, and the privilege, to write day after day, continuously, can create an optimization point - melding of subconscious, deeply understood knowledge about craft and right-brained creation magic that comes from a long career and a successful one (meaning he constructs good stories consistently). I for one write in spurts, between major deadlines at work. I may have to put my project down for a few months at a time. It certainly interrupts my creative flow. I wrote my first book a little bit more under the pantsing method, and it was extremely inefficient. I eventually cut 35k words from it. But then again, I was learning my way, and beginning to understand what it was to write. Much, much study of craft (which, btw, was more meaningful to me having written a novel than when it was theoretical), and subsequently writing three more novels have taught me much. In particular, my last two novels were very plotted in terms of what scenes I wanted to present, even though creativity still took me in a few unexpected directions. This plotting left me with significantly less waste from the process. Also, having an outline allowed me to jump around if I got stuck (which is my way of breaking writer's block -- sometimes my right brain wants to create a particular scene now, even if I'm not quite to it yet in the linear progression, and it nearly always unsticks me). But the final selling point for me (especially since I have very little time to write) came from a book about how a writer got to where she could write 10k words a day. She did it by plotting. So she always knew where she was going. I found this to be true for met as well. Not that I have ever written 10k words a day, but that my writing has gotten so much more efficient. My first novel took me 10 years to write, my second one four years, the third and fourth took one year each to write a really solid first draft, which then left me with plenty of story energy remaining for revisions. Also, after extensively studying craft for the past 12 years (now that I have context in which to apply it), I have naturally formed an aesthetic and discipline for plotting that, surprisingly enough (or not, depending on how you view it) follows/lines up with most touted plotting structures. This was confirmed in the last couple of years as my husband and I have been writing an original screenplay (he's a filmmaker). In preparation, I read multiple books on screenplay writing for that purpose, as well as several screenplays, and it reinforced the plotting structure I had been gravitating and growing towards. And it's because it works -- it is designed to keep a reader's attention, to have them invest in a story, and to ultimately provide satisfaction, if executed well. So back to Stephen King, I think he is a subsconscious-plotting pantser, whether he acknowledges it or not, and I appreciate the passion in which he speaks about writing because I find inspiration in that. And no writer's advice should be taken as gospel. A writer's individual process has to be what works best for him or her, AND also what best serves the novel. Period. In my mind, that includes a well-structured plot.
  2. Looking forward to the conference in two weeks! Here are my assignments: Assignment 1: Story Statement Giselle must discover why the spirit of a young girl lingers in a Civil War manor, convinced that the ghost holds the key to cure the unnamed fear that has always plagued her. Assignment 2: The Antagonist/Antagonistic Force Sketch Antagonistic Force - Giselle's unnamed fear, or the "Anxiety": Giselle doesn't remember much of her young childhood other than having abdominal attacks that still get triggered sometimes. She connects the attacks to the Anxiety, which has plagued her for years. It often starts as anxiety/fear, but then leads to obsession with some idea that she latches onto along with an amorphous belief that it means something. The Anxiety has been such a tangible presence in her life, she thinks of it as an animate object -- specifically, a mangy dog that is always following her. She can't bring herself to chase it away, but she also can't let it catch her. Antagonistic Force - Brynn Mancini (one of Giselle's best friends): Giselle met Brynn at the Nashvile-based global CPA firm they both joined after college. Brynn is fearless, strangely insightful and also aggressively spontaneous, and she becomes determined to distract Giselle from her ghost obsession by dragging her into adventures designed to show Giselle how to live "bravely" without fear. Instead, brynn's increasing recklessness feeds Giselle's Anxiety, which then further drives her need to cure it, and the corresponding obsession with Emily Ruth. Brynn's antagonistic influence is pushing Giselle, subconsciously, toward her core wounds, and the true source of the fear. Assignment 3: Create a Breakout Title THE SUNFLOWER PATCH Title selected because it represents a recurring motif in the story, one with multiple levels of significance, including to the twist in the climax. Assignment 4: Genre and Comps THE SUNFLOWER PATCH is a psychological suspense novel in the spirit of Lucinda Berry, Tana French and Liane Moriarty, with a hint of Joe Hill. It combines the complex friendship intrigue elements of The Lying Game with the slow-burning, gothic supernatural suspense of The Woman in Black. Assignment 5: Hook Line/Logline A young woman drags her best friends into her growing obsession with a haunted Civil War manor, believing a young girl's ghost holds the key to unlocking her own troubled soul. Assignment 6: Primary and Secondary Conflicts Primary Conflict: Giselle Lewis should be happy. She's got her own apartment with coordinating throw pillows, she's halfway to becoming a CPA, and she's found two amazing friends, Brynn and Crosby, at her new job in Nashville. But instead, anxiety grips her stomach, the physical manifestation of the Fear that never leaves, and a sign that an obsession is forthcoming. Previously, it was seances, and then past lives, both in search of wisdom that could help her conquer that fear. This time, she latches onto Calloway Manor, a haunted Civil War plantation nearby, compelled to find the ghost of young Emily Ruth. When Giselle investigates Calloway Manor and makes contact with Emily Ruth, she's convinced it means something, and that she'll finally find the answers she's been looking for. As her connection with Emily Ruth intensifies, Giselle becomes obsessed with finding the answers, even as she begins to question why it's so important to her. Secondary Conflict: Her friends are worried about Giselle's growing fascination, and that her interest in the dead is because she's fearful of life. So Brynn pulls her into crazy adventures designed to show Giselle how to live bravely, while Crosby challenges the scientific validity of her investigative process. But when Brynn's quest for adventure turns dangerous at a paranormal investigation, the three friends put to the test the strength of their own connection. And Giselle has a choice: face parts of herself and her past that could forever redefine what it means to be brave, or lose herself forever in the fear that is waiting to consume her. Assignment 7: Setting Principal Settings: Calloway Manor - a Civil War-era plantation in rural Tennessee, including the rutted gravel road leading into the past, the crumbling barn, an old cemetary, and a small defiant sunflower patch that doesn't quite belong Audit room where Giselle works with Brynn and Crosby Nashville bar scene Woods/bluff/waterfall (on camping trip) Giselle's apartment Giselle's dreamscapes - rural woods, not unlike the grounds of Calloway Manor, with sunflowers and a sinister pond Many of these settings are intended to be immersive and atmospheric, and all of them represent aspects of who Giselle is, as follows: the rural plantation grounds, not unlike where's she from in Kentucky; the audit room, where Giselle works with lots of young professionals, all eager to define these new adult versions of themselves; swanky Nashville bars with her friends, where Giselle feels a sense of belonging she's never quite had; the bluff and the waterfall on their camping trip, where Brynn triggers Giselle's deepest fears (and which, in turn, reinforce Giselle's Anxiety and corresponding obsessive need to cure it); Giselle's apartment, which she's decorated herself, hoping it reflects who she is and who she wants to be; the haunted house, with the little girl ghost that both fascinates Giselle and torments her, a representation of her inner psyche/suppressed past; and her dreamscapes, which reveal the missing links to uncovering her core wound.
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