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  1. As you explore the nooks and literary crannies here, you'll find considerable words devoted to warning you away from foolish and terrible advice. But what about professional, tested, and proven advice? Below are ten bullet points for aspiring authors designed to help them overcome any confusion or misdirection when it comes to starting the novel. However, before you investigate, make certain you've already prepared by reading this sensible prologue. Note: the list below makes a base assumption that the writer is a relative novice and currently searching for direction and focus--the same stage we've all endured. For those in the second stage, or higher, the list might well begin further down. Nonetheless, we cannot stress enough how important it is to fully understand your genre. Eat and breathe it. Know the currents in the market, what makes for a "high concept" story in this context. You'll never be published otherwise. KEY CONCEPTS: genre, high concept, Publisher's Marketplace, self-editing, readers, core development strategies, craft and research, story premise, SATG Novel, novel hook, first draft outline, inciting incident, plot point. Choose Your Genre Historical, thriller, women's fiction, mystery cozy, etc. Focus on one that will consume you, one you have passion for. Passionless choice never bodes well (can you guess why?). If on the fence, consider what kind of author do you wish to be known as five years from now? A thriller author? Horror author? Mystery?... Makes a difference, no? So be specific and take a slot (no "slot" shaming). You are attempting to break into a crowded and tough marketplace with a breakout novel. As of this point, you have no real idea how difficult it will really be in a country as big as America. Best to begin wisely. WARNING: failing to locate yourself firmly in one genre will only result in failure. And believe us when we tell you that agents and publishers will be merciless in their demand that you understand and obey the rules of that genre. From the heart, but smart. One last thing--you cannot invent your own genre. Don't try. Don't even ask. For the love of all that is holy! Mercilessly Immerse Read the classics in your genre combined with the latest and hottest. Look up "best book" lists, read reviews on Amazon, dive into review journals dedicated to your genre, and obtain a membership at Publisher's Marketplace. It's never too early to familiarize yourself with who is publishing what in your genre. At PM it's all there. And no, we don't get a kickback. As a bonus, you get to review expertly written hook lines for new novels bought by publishers, thereby also getting a chance to note the type of high concept stories in the works. Invaluable! Truly. Via obsessive immersing, you'll also get an idea which authors and novels might compare favorably with you and your own work. Strongly consider analyzing story progression, character introduction, and scene development in three to five of the best in your genre. Take notes. Compare what you've learned to what you read here at NWOE. Avoid Writer Groups Do not join a local or online writer group, however socially alluring it may be, and regardless of what its apostles tell you. Don't fall for it. We know, it feels like the right thing because so many recommend it, but it's the wrong thing by a mile. You *might* consider it a year or two from now once you've developed enough novel writing savvy to actually know the difference between an amateur group that *might* be somewhat productive and one that could be potentially ruinous or time wasting at a minimum. Review carefully our notes on this crucial and controversial subject. Begin the Reader Hunt Following on above, attempt to engage upwards of five good readers, if humanly possible. It will take time to ID the right ones, so begin the hunt early. Take note, they will not be in a group. They will not meet to discuss your work. If possible, best they do not interact or know each other. This condition will disallow the inevitable evolution of group politics, groupthink, imagined slights, false flattery, etc. Yes, it can happen. Regardless, can your picks be reasonably trusted to provide generally intelligent reaction to your narrative? You might have to jettison a few. Be prepared. Additionally, serving as a reader for them will provide you with a form of editorial experience that might prove invaluable. IMPORTANT: utilize "beta readers" for narrative purposes only (prose style, clarity, imagery, dynamic motion, dialogue quality--that sort of thing), NEVER for novel development, i.e., premise, plot, character roles, important setting details, etc. Engaging in the latter imperiling act will only threaten your progress with those insidious major flaws inherent in 98% of writer groups. Study Self-editing Technique Do it carefully, it's an art form, even if you're not onto your second draft yet. No reason to delay. It takes experimentation and practice. Relying exclusively on your readers or future freelance editors is a mistake. Ultimately, you are responsible for the final product. Faith should not be necessary. Also, keep in mind, the more refined your fiction narrative waxes, the more productive the future editorial professionals engaged to review your work can be, i.e., if you've already ascended to level 8, they can bump you to level 10. Now, what about that contract? Craft Until Your Head Hurts While researching your genre, immerse simultaneously into your core novel development strategy. Don't rush it or fret over it. You will inevitably revise. Meanwhile, utilize NWOE as a staging platform for the illuminating pursuit of obligatory craft technique. This is NOT an option. Devour every single article or essay on development, drama, plotting, prose, and viewpoints. Set aside a space for experimentation. Practice writing scenes, dialogue, complex descriptions for starters. Additionally, consume only the best books on novel writing. You will ALWAYS be an apprentice to your craft. Let Truman Capote be an inspiration. Conceive Primary Premise Given that you've chosen your genre and you're well on your way to possessing a true literary skill set (it's not easy, so don't be impatient), and given you've taken careful note of the quality of new novels coming to life at Publisher's Marketplace (have you?), you may now begin to formulate your own novel premise, the "high concept" story that will form the development, writing, and marketing basis of your genre novel from title to last sentence. Uncertain on how to go about it? One way to initiate a bit of productive pondering is to visit the High Concept page first, followed by the Loglines and Core Wounds page. Read carefully. Note the three "hook line" examples. Consider WHAT WILL BE YOUR CORE CONFLICT, AND WHAT WILL BE THE CORE WOUND? (all caps for emphasis). Play with it. Write down options. Choose wisely. Seek discreet professional advice if necessary. Begin the Planning Process Engage in a careful examination of the Six Act Two-Goal Novel. With your embryonic story concept nearing the birth canal, use the SATG Novel outline to assist with beginning to conceive smaller parts of the bigger picture. At each separate stage, from Act to Act, take a deep breath and sketch ideas, circumstances, characters into your electronic notebook. Be free and easy with the process. Jot down everything that comes to mind. Keep in mind it's all in dynamic flux. It can change. Just as importantly, attempt to finalize insofar as possible your novel's major setting. Extremely important. Organize your thoughts, questions, commentary, and scenarios as needed. Have fun with it. Imagination is truly your best friend (even if you don't like the original Willy Wonka). Sketch a Draft Outline No need to engage in overmuch detail. Make certain your story premise is commercially viable and your chosen setting is simmering. Have on hand sketches of your major and secondary characters. Use the SATG to locate and ruminate over your major plot points. Sketch your inciting incident and first major plot point. Go from there to your first major reversal, pinch point, etc., all the way to climax. Keep in mind this is all a draft, yes, however it should reflect your efforts to date at fleshing out your genre story. Consider also, not just your basic plot but those special points, twists, and turns demanded by your chosen genre, e.g., if writing a cozy mystery you best get that body on the first page (or pretty close). Refer to steps 1 and 2 above. Draft Your Hook Scenes Don't think of the novel in units of chapter. Think of it as units of scene, each scene dedicated to a particular task, and each driving the plot forward (a must) in one way or another. I use the term "hook scenes" to refer to that combination of opening scenes that will lead us through the initial set-up to the inciting incident and from there to the first major plot point that begins the next Act of the novel--30 to 50 pages into the novel, roughly. There are always exceptions. Download the Algonkian Study Guide for necessary additional references and a breakdown of hook scenes up to and beyond the first major plot point in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (a favorite for the application of classic dramatic technique in the novel). _______________ [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  2. You will discover below a series of scholarly, researchable, frank and indispensable guides to conceiving and writing the commercial genre novel, as well as the plot-driven literary novel - all derived from our sister site, Novel Writing on Edge. However, the nature of the developmental peels and prods as presented makes an initial big assumption, namely, that you are honestly desirous of true publication either by a classic publisher or traditional literary press, and therefore, willing to birth the most dynamic and can't-put-it-down novel you possibly can. Further, you are also naturally desirous of great sets, mind-altering theme, unforgettable characters, and cinematic scenes, among other things. Does that go without saying? Perhaps, but you must know, it won't be easy. First of all, the method-based assertions and information we've gathered and elevated before your eyes below will shiver many of you like a 6.5 on the literary Richter scale because it will contradict some or much of what you've been told about novel writing elsewhere - at writer conferences, for example, by your writer's group, or by various content-marketing websites operated by amateurs (75%+) playing to their demographic. Second of all, we don't cut corners or hold back to simplify matters for off-track or rank beginners who might be driven away (starting right about now) by the realization of just how much needs to be learned and applied. And though more of you might be driven away immediately following the forthcoming assertion, it is nonetheless true: there are no "SEVEN EASY STEPS" or other shortcut gimmicks that will catapult you into becoming the author of an authentically fine novel. Anyone who believes otherwise is sadly ignorant. Nonetheless, if you are astute and mature enough to know there are many things about novel writing you don't know, but must learn, you've come to the right place. And yes, there is a whole mass of matter to absorb. We make no apologies. Our mission is to take you from A to Z. You should consider all that follows to be a kind of master primer, i.e., whatever is necessary to sufficiently comprehend the novel writing universe. We divide the exploration into three sections, each with their own rubrics. Just know, it makes no sense to begin writing a novel you plan on selling to publishers or even smaller presses without first having a relatively good idea whether they'll want to buy it in the first place. This concept is radical to many beginners, but it shouldn't be. And the concept that you can't balance an artistic approach with pragmatic story considerations is not only indefensible but contradictory. The first category approaches the reality of novel writing vs. the myths and the source of those myths. For many of you, it will create emotional responses up and down the spectrum from humor to melancholy and back, depending of course on your mood and experience thus far with the aforementioned universe. Regardless, the overall point is to make a valiant attempt to filter out the many falsehoods and misperceptions with extreme prejudice in order to begin the journey of novel writing with a clear head and a view towards realistic expectation. The second two categories are relatively self-explanatory. Just know, it makes no sense to begin writing a novel you plan on selling to publishers or even smaller presses without first having a relatively good idea whether they'll want to buy it in the first place. This concept is radical to many beginners, but it shouldn't be. And the concept that you can't balance an artistic approach with pragmatic story considerations is not only indefensible but contradictory. Btw, you might wonder if it's advisable to pass on any of the articles below, but it isn't. Everything we've included is considered vital. Even if you believe you have a certain element pretty well covered, don't believe you know it all. Most likely, you don't. Also, the potential exists that you've read or received advice that is counter productive. The advice featured here, however, is based on decades of experience in the business (e.g., hundreds of sessions at the New York Pitch Conference and many more hundreds in writer workshops across the U.S.), as well as lessons learned from great novel authors, playwrights, and screenplay writers - more about this model-and-context methodology found here (feel free to leave comments on any of the items that follow). Before we begin, a favorite quote from one of America's greatest authors, Truman Capote: As certain young people practice the piano or the violin four and five hours a day, so I played with my papers and pens... My literary tasks kept me fully occupied; my apprenticeship at the altar of technique, craft; the devilish intricacies of paragraphing, punctuation, dialogue placement. Not to mention the grand overall design, the great demanding arc of middle-beginning-end. One had to learn so much, and from so many sources. NOVEL WRITING TRIP WIRES, CHECKLISTS, EGO, AND VITAL FIRST STEPS The Author Dawn - Rise and Blink (tell us why) https://www.novelwritingonedge.com/2020/11/the-author-dawn-rise-and-blink.html Ten Carefully Chosen First Steps For Starting the Novel (immerse, prep, reflect) https://www.novelwritingonedge.com/2020/11/best-10-steps-for-starting-novel-all.html The Epiphany Light You Must Enter (major vision adjustment) https://www.novelwritingonedge.com/2020/11/aspiring-authors-must-cross-epiphany.html Top Ten Worst Pieces of Writing Advice (and it gets worse) https://www.novelwritingonedge.com/2015/04/top-ten-worst-pieces-of-writing-advice.html Top Worst "Worst Writer Advice" - Outrageous and Mind Boggling https://www.novelwritingonedge.com/2020/11/top-worst-worst-writer-advice-advice.html Avoid Bad Writing by Name Authors! https://www.novelwritingonedge.com/2008/10/new-writers-must-be-careful-of.html Bullet Point Reasons Why Editors Reject https://www.novelwritingonedge.com/2017/02/timeless-and-valuable-editors-rejection.html Writer Groups - More Harm Than Good? https://www.novelwritingonedge.com/2020/10/problems-with-writer-groups-where-to.html Seven Critical Novel Rejection Sins https://www.novelwritingonedge.com/2020/10/seven-narrative-rejection-sins-bad.html Novel-Into-Film Checklist https://www.novelwritingonedge.com/2019/07/check-points-to-turn-novel-into-film.html Important: Coverage Checklist for Aspiring Authors https://www.novelwritingonedge.com/2020/11/important-coverage-checklist-for.html Top Seven Reasons Passionate Writers Fail https://www.novelwritingonedge.com/2015/05/top-seven-reasons-why-aspiring-authors.html Writer Ego and the Imaginary Bob (Could this be you?) https://www.novelwritingonedge.com/2020/11/writer-ego-and-imaginary-bob.html DEVELOPMENT REALITY - MAJOR POINTS OF PLOT AND MUCH MORE We endeavor to list the points below in the order they should be read, however, it isn't a perfect arrangement due to overlapping. Ideally, the high-concept premise must come first in any case. What is Your High-Concept Premise? https://www.novelwritingonedge.com/2020/12/high-concept-sufficiently-unique-what.html The Need For Human Drama in the Novel https://www.novelwritingonedge.com/2020/11/theme-plot-strong-character.html Loglines and Core Wounds as Development Tool https://www.novelwritingonedge.com/2020/10/hook-lines-with-core-wounds.html The Novel's "Agon" - Vital Core Conflict https://www.novelwritingonedge.com/2020/11/the-novels-agon-primary-conflict.html A Statement of Theme From the Dark Classics https://www.novelwritingonedge.com/2020/10/cuckoos-rhinoceri-and-miss-l-i-admit.html Can You Choose a Great Title? Will You? https://www.novelwritingonedge.com/2020/10/choosing-great-title-before-publication.html Setting is 60% - Maximizing Opportunities For Verve https://www.novelwritingonedge.com/2020/11/great-settings-maximize-opportunity.html A Clever Dose of Antagonistic Force https://www.novelwritingonedge.com/2020/10/antagonists-in-novel-most-important.html The Six Act Two-Goal Novel (premise, reversals, complications, major points) https://www.novelwritingonedge.com/2020/11/the-six-act-two-goal-novel.html Classics Deliver the Key to Exposition https://www.novelwritingonedge.com/2020/11/learning-exposition-from-classics.html Sympathy Factors in the Hook (protagonist or major character) https://www.novelwritingonedge.com/2020/11/protagonist-sympathy-factors-in-hook.html Deep and Fresh Traits for Secondary Characters https://www.novelwritingonedge.com/2020/10/deep-and-fresh-traits-for-majors.html ADVANCED NARRATIVE TECHNIQUE, SCENES, AND PROSE STYLE Dialogue - Never a Gratuitous or Boring Word https://www.novelwritingonedge.com/2020/10/dialogue-never-gratuitous-word-or.html Writing Novel Scenes - Drama, Sex, and Sass https://www.novelwritingonedge.com/2020/12/scenes-to-z-glue-drama-sex-sass.html Storyboard Considerations for Producing Effective Scenes https://www.novelwritingonedge.com/2013/02/algonkian-writer-conferences-michael.html Four Levels of Third Person Point of View https://novelwritingonedge.com/2020/08/four-levels-of-third-person-pov.html Experiments in High Impact Narrative https://www.novelwritingonedge.com/2020/12/experiments-in-high-impact-narrative.html A Great Damp Loaf of Description https://www.novelwritingonedge.com/2020/12/a-great-damp-loaf-of-description.html Prose Narrative Enhancement https://www.novelwritingonedge.com/2020/09/the-prose-description-questionnaire.html Brilliant Fiction Narrative in Four Stages https://www.novelwritingonedge.com/2020/11/writing-brilliant-fiction-narrative-in.html Narrative Enhancement Via Nabokov https://www.novelwritingonedge.com/2020/09/narrative-enhancement-via-nabokov.html "To Be" or Not? Too Much "Was" Will Hurt Your MS https://www.novelwritingonedge.com/2020/10/boot-was-for-more-verve.html The Sublime Inner Voice of Godwin https://www.novelwritingonedge.com/2020/10/interior-monologue-by-gail-godwin.html ________________________________
  3. What makes for good drama is a constant. To begin, we combine Siegal's "nine act structure - two goal" screenplay (very much like the Syd Field three act except that the "reversal" from Field's structure joins "Act 5" in Siegal's version) with the Field classic three act. The Two-Goal Structure, Siegal maintains, creates more dynamic plot tension due to the insertion of PLOT REVERSAL later in the story. We concur. NOTE: "Plot Point" is defined here as a major occurrence that emphatically changes the course of the story. In the genre novel as a whole, we see three to five major plot points depending on various factors: a first PP that begins the rising action, second PP defined by the first major reversal, a third PP defined by a possible second major reversal, a climax PP, and a theoretical PP residing in the denouement, i.e., we think the story is going to resolve a certain way after climax, but a surprise happens that resolves it in a way not expected. Algonkian Writer Conferences developed the Six Act Two-Goal novel planning outline for all writers of novel-length dramatic fiction, regardless of genre, as well as narrative non-fiction. The point is to utilize a tightly plotted act structure, similar to that used by screenplay writers, to effectively brainstorm and produce competitive, suspenseful plots for the genre novel (fantasy, SF, YA/MG, mystery, thriller, crime, historical, women's fiction, etc.). Upmarket or literary fiction utilizing strong plot lines also benefit (see examples below). We do not dismiss other forms of novel outlining out of hand, simply recommend this one as being a strong and tested framework not only for breaking into mainstream publishing, but for later translating the novel into a film as efficiently as possible. In the opening of a story ignited directly or indirectly by the antagonist, the protagonist(s) are focused to embark on their primary task, challenge, journey, or struggle (first major plot point), and thus follows a "first major goal" to win that struggle, thereby initiating the second act of the story (Syd Field model); however, by the middle of the second act or later, the protagonist(s) realize they have pursued the wrong goal. A second goal is now needed. The protagonist(s) are therefore forced to alter their course and struggle to accomplish a new and presumably more productive means-to-an-end. To put it simply, storming the walls didn't work and now the Trojan Horse solution is needed. Finding the wizard wasn't sufficient, now the little band of heroes must steal the Wicked Witch's broom. Acquiring a reasonably priced rest home for her mentally unstable father failed, now the impoverished daughter must prepare a room in her basement. Attempting to flee got his knees pulped by a sledge hammer, now the captive author must connive a more subtle and deceptive means of escape. The fusion of the Siegal and Field models we outline below thus becomes a tighter six act model for the novel or narrative nonfiction. However, before you begin using the SATG, take note that your most important elements to sketch and produce from the onset are your: High Concept Story Protagonist Hook and Core Wound Defined (+ General "P" Definition ) Antagonist The Novel "Agon" Rich and Potent Setting BTW, keep in mind that you construct your novel in units of scene, and every scene drives the plot line(s) forward. NOTE: we use examples of novels, stories and films below that will likely be familiar to the widest range of readers. These include ANTIGONE, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, THE HUNGER GAMES, HUCKLEBERRY FINN, ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST, GLADIATOR, THE GREAT GATSBY, WAR OF THE WORLDS, CATCHER IN THE RYE, CITIZEN KANE, HARRY POTTER, DA VINCI CODE, THE MALTESE FALCON, THE SUN ALSO RISES, COLD MOUNTAIN, THE WIZARD OF OZ, and MISERY. But make no mistake, the rules governing the art of fiction, or good storytelling, remain steady regardless of genre, and have pretty much been fixed since Apollonius of Rhodes wrote about the Argonauts. And if you happen to be one of those writers who believes that writing a novel "your way" or simply "from the heart" or "only with my character's direction" means avoiding or denying the critical elements of commercial fiction and good storytelling found below, it‘s best to move on quickly from this page and seek the Elysium of your desire. All best wishes to you. ACT ZERO Backstory to Set Up the Tale You must carefully forge your backstory before you begin. Understand the issues below. This does not directly appear in the story except by use of flashback and via other methods to DELIVER EXPOSITION: Writers set up the disaster that is coming in the story. Forces need to already be in motion in order to create conflict for the characters. Usually the emphasis for the backstory will be on the antagonist, but even protagonists carry baggage into the story. Years and years of planning might have gone into the collision course. ACT ONE (Page 1 - 30+) Issues of The Hook: Protagonist Intro - Antagonist First? - Inciting Incident - Extreme Importance of Setting - Establishment of Characters - The MacGuffin - In Media Res - Crucial Sympathy Factors - Something Bad Happens - Exposition - Theme? What needs to be done from the start? Why is the hook of Act I critical to this novel and to being taken seriously as a writer? The author showcases their BEST PROSE AND NARRATIVE SKILLS. Opening scenes clearly use show-don't-tell effects to render the protagonist and major characters as necessary. Scenes themselves have clear beginnings, middles, and ends. Point of view is rendered masterfully on both a distant and close level. Narrative and story progression don't feel overly derivative, but rather fresh and suspenseful, definitely engaging. And btw, Algonkian Writer Conferences recommend you consider utilizing the SCENE STORYBOARD GUIDE at this point to sketch important scenes ahead of time (crucial). Act I foreshadows the primary external conflict or complication (related to the protagonist goal in ACT II) to come. SYMPATHY FACTORS in the first 20 pages, or fewer, are critical for connecting the reader with your protagonist. We must see the character playing out their role in active scenes. We learn about them, their strengths and weaknesses, idiosyncrasies and flaws, and we learn these things by virtue of their actions, various internal concerns and conflict, and in the way other characters react to them in real time (vital--set up SECONDARY CHARACTERS whose role, at least in part, it is to reveal the traits and inclinations of the protagonist). Conflict begins on one or two of three levels (primary story conflict, inner conflict(s), and interpersonal conflict). THREE LEVELS OF CONFLICT. Setting is established (and it must be one that works TO CREATE VERVE AND OPPORTUNITIES). IN MEDIA RES may be employed here ("beginning in the middle"), ie, beginning where it most benefits the story, at a point of action, turmoil, or during a lively or curious event, etc. Something bad, irritating or tension-causing usually happens (Chief Bromden gets electro-shocked in the CUCKOO'S NEST or Jake debates his impotency with his ex-girlfriend in THE SUN ALSO RISES) or has just happened (murder victim found in the mayor's plum tree). An INCITING INCIDENT may take place that sets in motion events leading to the FIRST MAJOR PLOT POINT (see Act II below). In the movie, GLADIATOR, Commodus murders his Emperor father (Inciting Incident) which inevitably leads to the Emperor's general, Maximus, realizing the murder. He defies Commodus and faces execution (Plot Point) as a result. In King's MISERY, the author protagonist gets in a car accident and is rendered helpless (Inciting Incident). Kathy Bates finds him and imprisons him in her house (Plot Point). In ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST, McMurphy is sent to the asylum as a result of a fight (Inciting Incident) and later bets the inmates that he can shake up the Big Nurse and not get sent to the shock shop (Plot Point). The author cleverly PARCELS IN EXPOSITION in a variety of ways, via narrative, dialogue, characters, flashbacks, etc. NOTE that all major exposition must be delivered before or during the scene wherein the FIRST MAJOR PLOT POINT takes place. All information necessary to understand the story going forward must be known. Pardon the cliche, but exposition horse before the plot point cart at all times. In THE SUN ALSO RISES, Jake delivers the final round of exposition about his love, Brett Ashley, to his rival, Robert Cohn, just as Robert is making it known he wants Brett for himself. Jake reveals Brett's background and future plans (Exposition), and Robert indicates his plans for pursuing her (Plot Point). THE MACGUFFIN, if any, might well be introduced or foreshadowed as an object (or even goal) which catalyzes the plot line, or at least assists creates a source of mystery or tension (THE MALTESE FALCON or the mysterious head scar on HARRY POTTER). Something called THEME might well get a foothold here. Does the author have a message or a bigger point she or he wishes to portray in the plot, or by means of the character struggles, their conflicts and arcs, or perhaps by means of the setting itself? All the above? And theme doesn't have to be the exclusive province of literary or upmarket literature. Regardless, here are some great examples of theme from the dark classics. Please read and consider writing a "theme statement" for your own novel. It can't help but inform your work and make it richer and more relevant to the reader. The ANTAGONIST AND HIS OR HER MINIONS (if any), are introduced to a meaningful degree, along with more characters as necessary, or sidekicks of the protagonist. Note to Writer: don't create a minor or major character who doesn't somehow play a role in the development of the plot(s) and/or the protagonist arc. And they must create a presence on the stage of the page, either by virtue of their personality, position, attitude of the moment, or all of the above. You must consider and weigh and sketch each character carefully. Imagine they are all in a film. Will they seem gratuitous or vital to you? Sufficiently energetic or too quiet? The PRIMARY ANTAGONIST might remain a mystery (Lord Voldemort in HARRY POTTER), or be introduced first (the Big Nurse in CUCKOO'S NEST or the Opus Dei albino in DA VINCI CODE or the Wicked Witch in WIZARD OF OZ) to produce dramatic concern once protagonist accepts the goal. NOTE: The above is a very important dramatic effect. If you understand to a meaningful degree the power of the antagonist, whoever she or he may be, then instinctive concern for the protagonist enters the reader's mind as soon as she or he accepts the goal in ACT TWO (see below). ACT TWO (Page 10+ - 50+) More Hook: Write the Story Statement - Establishment of Major Goal - Primary External Conflict or Complication Begins - First Major Plot Point and Plot Line - Protagonist Psychology - Rising Action What's the mission? The goal? What must be done? Created? Accomplished? Defeated? Defy the dictator of the city and bury brother's body (ANTIGONE)? Place a bet that will shake up the asylum (ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST)? Do whatever it takes to recover lost love (THE GREAT GATSBY)? Save the farm and live to tell the story (COLD MOUNTAIN)? Find the wizard and a way home to Kansas (WIZARD OF OZ)? Note that all of these are books with strong antagonists who drive or catalyze the plot line going forward. Note to Writer: If you can't write a simple story statement like above (which builds into your hook/log line) then you don't have a work of commercial fiction. Keep in mind that the PLOT LINE is an elaboration of the statement, of the primary complication. Also, look over the brief summaries of films and novels in the SAMPLE LOG LINES PDF. These contain the simple statement, but more elaborated into a short hook. Necessary Preparation Steps for the Author: (members utilize the AAS technique guides) Write the story statement. Make it clear. Brainstorm necessary complications, reversals, and conflicts on all levels. Write a short synopsis to reveal the major elements and clarify. Sketch the plot line(s) with notes on the proper settings. Write the hook/log line and listen to how it sounds. The FIRST MAJOR PLOT POINT therefore takes place that establishes your protagonist‘s overall goal. In other words, the course of the action or plot changes, often drastically, and usually with a change of setting. Success seems possible. The RISING ACTION of the story truly begins with the launch of the primary external conflict or complication. A means to achieve the goal is decided. The work begins, the war begins, the feet hit the bricks, the plan to reunite the lovers is initiated. The graph has begun to rise and it won't stop until after the CLIMAX. In other words, the protagonist commits to the goal(s). But why? What is the motivation? What are the internal and external issues involved? She or he may go willingly into the situation because the alternative is worse, or to help an apparent victim. She or he may undertake the task not realizing the true dangers or complications ahead, out of ignorance. Another character might trick or push the protagonist into situation. ACT THREE (Page 50+ - 250+) Plot Line Evolution: Minor Reversals - Complications - Thee Levels of Conflict - Major Reversal Time - Plot Points - The Martians are Winning The dramatic pursuit of the goal evolves. The FIRST GOAL (the means to the end) within the master goal (the final desired result) is pursued (see STORY STATEMENT above), but this will eventually lead your protagonist to a firewall or dead end, or what is known as the MAJOR REVERSAL in the parlance of our times (Dorothy gets to Oz, but no Kansas until the broomstick is fetched). Members should utilize the AAS craft and technique guide modules. NOTE: This act pulls out all the stops to create tension, angst, conflict, and issues for the protagonist and appropriate characters to resolve: MINOR REVERSALS TAKE PLACE: protagonist(s) struggle, perhaps score small victories of one sort or another, but these are almost always reversed. For example, McMurphy organizes the inmates and theatrically pretends to watch the World Series in defiance of the Big Nurse, but she makes her will known later and punishes him (ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST). The Wicked witch makes Dorothy and company take a poppy snooze right on the verge of OZ, and later, the Guard at OZ tells them no one gets in, no way, no how! MINOR COMPLICATIONS TAKE PLACE: in other words, things happen that have a notable negative physical or emotional impact on the protagonist or those he/she cares about. These are not as strong as minor reversals, but action must be taken to overcome them. McMurphy takes the inmates out for a boat ride, but conflict at the dock with the boat captain and a need to make a quick escape takes place (ONE FLEW OVER). Meanwhile, Scarecrow hassles with crows, Tin Man is rusted, Lion overcompensates for cowardice, and Witch throws fireball. And know that "minor complications" can be fairly serious. In WAR OF THE WORLDS the major character had to bludgeon an insane curate to prevent him from giving away their hiding place to the Martians. You get the picture. But how many of them? Good question. Assignment: open up and read three of the best novels in your genre that you can find. Analyze the scenes and pick out the reversals and complications. Make a list. Report back. Whether upmarket or genre, MINOR COMPLICATIONS combine with MINOR REVERSALS to continually spike the narrative and story. It can't be easy for the protagonist and/or her companions. If too easy, you inevitably build to classic mid-novel sag. Tension runs out, wheels spin, and an inexperienced writer pads the middle with lumps of dull narrative and quiet situation. Ugh. "Best Wishes" rejection letter on the way. Off to a minor eBook publisher who will publish you if you have more than 100 Facebook members. Note: as a bonus, complications and reversals also assist greatly in maintaining all three levels of conflict (see above). Also, prior to climax, we may have a smart and strong reversal or complication which serves to introduce a twist or an unexpected event in the story (sometimes called a MIDPOINT CLIMAX).o Pinch Points Reveal and Reinforce the Antagonist Aims Pinch Points: an example or reminder of the nature and implications of the antagonistic force that is not filtered by the hero's experience. We see it for ourselves in a direct way as a scene that provides a glimpse into the villain's mind. The antagonist reaffirms his or her goal to delay, injure, stop, crush, or kill the protagonist. The intent is manifest and the concern for the protagonist is elevated. There should be two and situated near the 3/8 mark and the 3/5 mark in the manuscript. In ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST a pinch point takes place at the 3/5 mark when the Big Nurse informs the assembled hospital staff just what kind of cruel fate is in store for McMurphy. Crisis Point or MAJOR REVERSAL = Second Major Plot Point We've already noted what happened to Dorothy. In Stephen King's MISERY, after the captive author protagonist has his knees sledge-hammered by Kathy Bates (God, that hurt!) to prevent him from trying to escape again, he knows he's been using the wrong means to pursue the master goal (ie, to escape). He must now reboot and choose another path, a second goal to achieve the master goal (escape). To accomplish, the author conceives a new plan of theatrical cooperation with his captor, the new goal within the master goal being to trick her into passivity and lure her into a trap whereupon he can knock her senseless. In general, at this point, backstory issues, mysterious strangers, twists and turns and events all point out that your protagonist is on the wrong track, and the antagonist graph is rising. The Martians are conquering Earth and the Big Nurse is slowly tightening a noose around McMurphy's neck. Once more, success seems possible. INTERNAL CONFLICT IS ON THE INCREASE ALSO. Of course, and so is interpersonal conflict. All three levels of conflict are rising! But back to the protagonist for a moment ... Why should she or he turn back now? Why doesn't he/she? What's at stake? Is there a DILEMMA? What makes your protagonist realize the unavoidable importance of her/his original goal? What gives it new meaning? Does someone die? Do the stakes raise? Does reputation suffer or threaten to diminish? We must have a answer. This is true drama. Storytelling at its finest. ACT FOUR (Page 200+ - 375+) Second Major Plot Point - New Rising Action and Suspense - Conflict Levels - Climax - Victory at a Cost Opens with the SECOND MAJOR PLOT POINT as protagonist pursues the new and truly productive goal (the author of MISERY decides to write the novel Kathy wants in order to enact his new scheme to escape). The characters get that final clue, the missing piece to the puzzle, which allows them to make the necessary changes to successfully complete the plot line. Success seems more possible than ever despite MINOR REVERSALS OR COMPLICATIONS which may continue to take place. The final clue or missing piece to the puzzle is found. Possible surprise or twist takes place (the traitor is revealed--or this is reserved for CLIMAX or DENOUEMENT) All three conflict levels continue to build, however, some interpersonal conflicts may be resolved by this point. This builds to CLIMAX, and the protagonist will usually win out over the antagonist, but victory or success must come at a price (such as the death of a favorite character: the sheriff in MISERY is killed by Kathy just before climax). Climax should be the most intense plot point in the story, but the intensity and nature of that intensity depends on the needs of the genre and the nature of the story. While the climax is the moment when the decisive event occurs, plot development is a process that occurs throughout your novel (see above). As we've noted, the reader must see how main character behaves at the start of the novel, and understand how her/his nature is challenged by the main goal. In HUCKLEBERRY FINN, Huck thinks about going against morality of the day and writing Miss Watson where the Phelps family is holding Jim. Instead, he follows his conscience and he and Tom free Jim, and Tom is shot in the leg in the attempt (victory at a cost). You can also have a double climax. For example, in HARRY POTTER, when the heroes find and escape with a magical hoarcrux, that's a climax, but a climax is when Harry finally defeats the chief antagonist, Lord Voldemort. After the climax, you must show the reader the outcome, and how it is good or bad for the main character. Important! ACT FIVE (Page 300+ - 400+) Denouement - Loose Ends Wrapped - Theme Wrap - Conclusions - Resolutions - A Final Surprise? Denouement wherein all loose ends resolved, a final surprise perhaps, hint of the sequel perhaps, but readers on their way with the emotions the writer wants them to feel (Fitzgerald actually saved final exposition regarding Gatsby for the denouement following Gatsby's death). Internal Resolution and With Theme or No What does the protagonist and possibly other characters learn as a result of climax? How does this manifest itself going forward? How are things different? How are they changed, especially the protagonist? In CATCHER IN THE RYE, Holden leaves it ambiguous as to whether he's "better" or not, and many would say there is no "better" anyway; he just has to grow up, painfully and with a lot of depression thrown in for good measure. On the other hand, we look to the last line of the novel for another take on the conclusion: "Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody." Perhaps then, the conclusion to Holden's initial conflict (the tension between wanting to connect but hating everyone) is that he did in fact connect – in one way or another – with everyone he met. The new question isn't whether or not one should connect, but whether or not the pain of inevitable loss is worth the initial gain. From SPARKNOTES, we have a slice of theme from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD: The most important theme of this novel is the book's exploration of the moral nature of human beings--that is, whether people are essentially good or essentially evil. The novel approaches this question by dramatizing Scout and Jem's transition from a perspective of childhood innocence, in which they assume that people are good because they have never seen evil, to a more adult perspective, in which they have confronted evil and must incorporate it into their understanding of the world. As a result of this portrayal of the transition from innocence to experience, one of the book's important subthemes involves the threat that hatred, prejudice, and ignorance pose to the innocent: people such as Tom Robinson and Boo Radley are not prepared for the evil that they encounter, and, as a result, they are destroyed. Even Jem is victimized to an extent by his discovery of the evil of racism during and after the trial. Whereas Scout is able to maintain her basic faith in human nature despite Tom's conviction, Jem's faith in justice and in humanity is badly damaged, and he retreats into a state of disillusionment. So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. _______________ ________________________________ [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  4. A WATERSHED EVENT FOR SERIOUS WRITERS Whatever the stage of your project or writing life, know that all writers, if they desire to become commercially published, must see and enter the Epiphany Light. First of all, what is the "Epiphany Light"? The EL is a state of mind crucial to any aspiring author desirous of commercial or serious literary publication, and one which clearly divides the 99% from the 1% of those who've learned the hard way how challenging it is to have their expertise and projects taken seriously by professionals in the publishing business. But are the percentages so drastic as depicted here? Yes, and probably even more so. Consider the very small number of first time authors who emerge with publishing contracts from major houses, imprints, or even well-regarded traditional presses, and then compare these few hundred to the hundreds of thousands of writers in America struggling valiantly yet vainly to accomplish the same feat. Viewed from this perspective, as we near the EL, we eventually come to a knowledge of true writer pathos on a scale unimagined: instances of duress and disappointment inflicted each day on hundreds if not thousands of writers as their manuscripts are routinely rejected by agents or publishers. But how does the EL finally come about, or rather, fail to come about? Before the light can be viewed and entered, before writers can possess a state of mind that enables a forward movement towards success (by any reasonable artistic standard), they must, by one means or another, view their project through the eyes of an editorial professional in their chosen genre. So why doesn't it come easy? It isn't natural, has to be learned, and circumstances of one kind or another arise to prevent this crucial vision. Viewed from this perspective, as we near the EL, we eventually come to a knowledge of true writer pathos on a scale unimagined: instances of duress and disappointment inflicted each day on hundreds if not thousands of writers as their manuscripts are routinely rejected by agents or publishers. Whether it be a failure to properly immerse in the contemporary world of their chosen genre (reading books and interviews, studying deals at Publisher’s Marketplace, talking with publishing house editors at conferences or elsewhere), or an inability to rise above limitations imposed by their current writer’s group (consistently providing encouraging yet unproductive advice), or bad advice from those they believe possess an adequate comprehension of the current book market (e.g., freelance editors of one stripe or another who are removed from current market realities or who fail to differentiate necessary tropes from overused tropes), the writer is deprived of the consciousness necessary to make crucial edits or changes to the story. Put quite simply, if you write mysteries loved by your friends and fellow writers, and perhaps even your paid freelance editor (who most likely has never worked in the New York publishing business), but can’t produce a thing other than pale imitations of Miss Marple, no editor or agent who represents the mystery genre will ever take you or your work seriously. Regardless, the writer naturally grows frustrated and tired of unsuccessful efforts (if they‘re smart), and if determined not to fail, seeks new sources of information and inspiration. Now the question becomes, how do writers transcend life in the 99% and enter the EL to arrive in the one percent promised land? What might lead them to a cognizance of reality? It can happen in various ways, by accident or no, but always preceded by trial and error groping as false signals are received concerning the commercial viability of their writing (see above) thus leading to false confidence. Regardless, the writer naturally grows frustrated and tired of unsuccessful efforts (if they‘re smart), and if determined not to fail, seeks new sources of information and inspiration. Perhaps by happenstance the writer reads an article that clicks with them, or speaks to a professional who waves the red flag regarding what they’re doing wrong or what is specifically missing from their voice or manuscript that results in rejection after rejection--whatever the source of cognizance, the writer, perhaps for the first time, declines to fall back on old sources of corroboration. If you are nearing the Epiphany Light, or you’ve entered it already, much of what we say here will resonate with you. If you have endured months or years of rejections, perhaps you need to point your toe over the line, just to test. And don’t feel down about all this, or discouraged. Learn from it. Understand that all writers make the same mistakes, learn the same lessons, fall down and get up. The neophyte mystery writer holding her Miss Marple close and dear, as she might a mother’s warmth, must one day leave home and apply for a job with a suitable resume. ____________________ ________________________________ [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
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