I’ve been thinking a lot about structure recently and more specifically about outlining. This is not something I’m used to doing — I’ve never been much of an outliner, but over the past several months I’ve been forced to become one. For me, outlining is the first step to drafting a synopsis and I had several synopses to write in order to send various projects out on proposal.
In the past, whenever I’ve had to outline something I’ve turned to my favorite structure guru, Michael Hague. He uses a classic three-act structure and a fairly straightforward set of stages and turning points that a story moves through. Late last year, an author friend turned me on to Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat which lays out 16 plot beats at the heart of any story and I’ve found his approach to be super helpful as well (plus it meshes well [...]
Continue reading Plot Structure Chart
Hey y’all – so sorry for being late with a post today! I’m out of town in a cabin that’s supposed to have internet access but it’s broken – d’oh! So, I’m sorry this post is (a) late and (b) short, but I wanted to at least give y’all something to be thinking about with your writing.
One of the things it’s easy to forget about when structuring a plot is the agency of your character. Put simply: your character needs to be driving the plot. They need to be the one tripping the inciting incident and making the active decision to move into the story. Even if their actions are just in reaction to external forces, they need to be taking the steps forward.
Think about the movie Romancing the Stone: Joan Wilder hears that her sister has been kidnapped and is being held ransom and she makes the [...]
Continue reading Making sure your character has agency
Okay, I’m going to steal one of the questions from Kalayna’s recent post asking what y’all would like to hear more about and I’m going to talk about endings (thanks Hepseba!). I figure this is the kind of broad topic that each of us approaches with a different perspective and having more than one of us discuss it might be interesting.
First off, Hepseba commented with the common advice that, “you’re not even *supposed* to start the story unless you know how it ends.” I disagree. I very rarely know how my stories are going to end when I start them — I may have a vague idea, but it always feels like it’s way out there in the clouds and I won’t be able to see it until I’m much much closer (which is why I tend to spend a lot of time revising rather than outlining). There are some [...]
Continue reading On endings
At the outset of my career I read a lot of books and articles on the hero’s journey and the three act structure and while I found them interesting, I had a difficult time really internalizing the information. I could objectively see what the authors were talking about, but I couldn’t apply it to my own stories. I just didn’t get it.
Then, I attended a workshop with Michael Hague and he blew my mind. His background is in movies which have a fairly rigid structure that’s fairly easily translatable to writing novels (where the structure doesn’t need to be as rigid). Something about Hague’s explanation of the 3 Act structure just made sense to me (you can find an overview of his approach here).
Except that I still struggled with one part: the stretch between the second turning point (25% of the way into the story) and the midpoint [...]
Continue reading Promise of the Premise
Every year I like to write up a recap/resolution post. While I know that not everyone is into New Year’s Resolutions, I like taking at least one time a year when I reflect on where I am, where I’ve been, and where I’m going. Originally my yearly reflection was limited to me figuring out how many words I’d written the previous year. This started in 2006 when I started my ten year plan to become published, which was a fairly straightforward plan that consisted of writing, revising, and submitting a book a year.
I’d reached the end of the 2006 without finishing a book (much less revising and submitting it) and I was feeling down because I’d failed in my goal my first year out. So I sat down and counted up how many words I’d written in order to prove to myself that I was actively working toward my [...]
Continue reading Recap/Resolution post, 2013 edition
I completed my first manuscript in the year 2000 — it was a western historical romance titled Pledged to a Stranger. I revised it, queried a few agents, and then put it in a drawer. Here’s the long story why: when I was a kid, it never occurred to me I could be an author. Authors were like rock stars to me and I was a normal kid and thought normal kids from South Carolina don’t grow up to be rockstars or authors.
And then I read an interview with Jude Deveraux who said she started writing her first book when she finished reading a book and thought, “I could do that.” I had this total moment of shock — really? It’s that easy? Becoming an author is nothing more than… deciding to do it? (The answer is no, it’s not that easy but this was pre-internet days when [...]
Continue reading On branding
Like Misty, I’ve been thinking a lot about dialogue this week and I wanted to add to her excellent points. On Monday I was on a flight listening to people talk around me and I remembered a manuscript I read a while ago that began with two characters on a plane. They were strangers and we watched as the hero walked down the aisle (dealing with people in the way, looking for overhead space — the usual stuff) and then him sitting, getting comfortable, and striking up a conversation with his seat-mate. They talked about what you’d expect: wondering if they’d have the middle seat between them free or if someone would snag it at the last minute, where each was headed, was the plane going to take off on time, what were they doing in the departure city and what waited for them in the destination city.
It was [...]
Continue reading Real dialogue isn’t really real