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Archive for May, 2014

May 26, 2014

Today’s Writers’ Tip

DEVELOPING A GOOD STORY ARC

 pen and quill

If you’re interested in writing any kind of fiction—short stories, novels, or a book series—you must be aware of the fundamental elements of a story arc, the progression of action the characters take through the story.

The basic story arc is quite simple, which includes just four elements:

  1. Introduction of the characters and plot
  2. Conflict: the progression of plot toward the climax
  3. Climax: the turning point in the main character’s life that changes his/her behavior
  4. Resolution: usually a positive or satisfying conclusion that pleases the reader (but can be a negative resolution that prompts the reader to evaluate his/her own life.)

    Now, how simple is that?

    However, if you need more depth to developing a best-selling novel, let’s take a look at eight points developed by author Nigel Watts in his helps book, Writing a Novel and Getting Published.

    The eight points Watts develops are:

  1. Stasis
  2. Trigger
  3. The quest
  4. Surprise
  5. Critical choice
  6. Climax
  7. Reversal
  8. Resolution

As we take a look at these eight points, evaluate which of them you need to incorporate into your fiction.

Can you write a good story or book manuscript without incorporating all of these points? Sure, but if you want to improve your writing skills to produce that best-seller, it might be worth your while to use these elements as you write. Let’s have a look at the eight points:

Stasis

This is everyday life in which the story is set. Think of Meg Ryan putting books on her shelves in her little shop around the corner in YOU’VE GOT MAIL or Jo in her cozy home with her mother and other sisters in LITTLE WOMEN.

Trigger

The trigger is the event out of the main character’s control that sets the story in motion. Tom Hanks is putting all the ma-and-pa bookstores in NYC out of business with his FOX mega-stores OR Jo’s dad’s away for a long period of time, so the mother and four girls must make it on their own.

The Quest

The trigger results in a quest. An unpleasant trigger: Meg Ryan does everything to keep her little bookstore open, but she knows she’s going under; a pleasant trigger: Jo and her sisters find love along the way as they strive to mature into responsible young ladies

Surprise

This element may involve not one but several points and comprises most of the middle of the story. Surprise may include pleasant events but more often means obstacles, complications, and conflict for the main character.

Watts insists that surprises shouldn’t be too random or too predictable. They need to be unexpected but still explainable. The reader should be able to say, “I should have seen that coming!” Tom finds out that Meg’s his email buddy or Jo and Laurie part their ways.

Critical choice

At some stage, the hero needs to make a crucial decision: the critical choice. At this point in the story, the reader finds out what kind of a person (or animal or alien), the hero is, revealed at moments of high stress. Watts stresses that this has to be a decision by the character to take a particular path, not just something that happens by chance. In many classic stories, this critical choice involves choosing between a good but hard path and a bad but easy one. Meg chooses to forgive Tom; Jo continues writing but comes home and then finds love.

In tragedies, the sad resolution often stems from a character making the wrong choice at this point, such as Romeo poisoning himself on seeing Juliet supposedly dead.

Climax

The critical choice(s) made by the hero need to result in the climax, the highest peak of tension. In YOU’VE GOT MAIL, this climax comes with only one minute left in the entire story, that of Meg discovering that Tom had been her “e-mail buddy” the whole time. In LITTLE WOMEN, you could point to several climaxes: when Dad returns home, when the younger sister dies, or when Jo’s true love shows up at her doorstep.

Reversal

The reversal is the consequence of the critical choice and the climax, changing the status of the characters, especially the hero. Although Meg starts changing her feelings about Tom about half way through the story, she doesn’t admit to anyone, including herself, that she really loves him until that last minute. And Jo? All the way through the story, the reader is led to believe that she and Laurie will hook up, but both fall for someone else.

An important note here: The story reversals should be inevitable and probable. There has to be a reason, and changes in status should not fall out of the sky. The story unfolds as life unfolds: relentlessly, implacably, and plausibly.

Resolution

The resolution is the start of a new life, one in which the characters should be changed, wiser, and enlightened but where the story is finally complete.

And…if you’re working on a series? You can always start off a new story, a sequel, with another trigger.

 

*****

Want more details about the story arc?

http://www.amazon.com/Teach-Yourself-Writing-Novel/dp/007147806X/ref=ed_oe_phttp://www.amazon.com/Writing-Novel-Getting-Published-Yourself/dp/0340648074/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1221675975&sr=1-1

Happy writing!

Marsha

 

Interested in a different kind of Amish fiction?

LOVE SONG FOR LOUELLEN

Volume 3

The Loves of Snyder County Series

LoveSong.KindleFire

Twenty-five-year-old Amish Louellen Friesen finds herself falling in love with forty-year-old Englishman Dr. David McAndrew, a widower with two children, for whom she cleans house regularly in Mapletown, Snyder County, Pennsylvania. There’s only one problem. Louellen is already married. Well past the “marrying age” at twenty-two, Louellen Bidleman had wed Amish man Eli Friesen three years prior, mostly because of pressure from her family. Eli, also in his mid-twenties and in danger of being “passed over,” had married Louellen for one main reason, to have sons. Louellen has some love for Eli, but because of her church vows, sets out to be the best wife and mother she can be, especially when God blesses them with little ones. However, after three years, there are no children. Louellen is devastated, and Eli becomes bitter, feeling trapped in a marriage that has produced no offspring even though he knows that he has the medical problem, not his wife. Although he treats Louellen civil in public, at home he ignores her needs, and their wedded life is nothing but a disappointment to both. What should Louellen do? Turn her back on her husband and her Amish Ordnung? Should she leave, become “English,” and marry Dr. McAndrew, a man who has promised her the moon?

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Meet the Author Frances Gregory Pasch

Pasch.Fran.Profile

 Frances Gregory Pasch has a unique story. She loves to share it with others to give them hope that it is never too late to be used by God.

“I have always loved God, but my life changed dramatically in 1983 at the age of fifty. It was a new beginning. One day, my teenage son, Brian, came home from school and caught me off guard with two questions.

“Why didn’t you tell us that we could have a personal relationship with Jesus?  Why didn’t you tell us that we could know for sure that we would live eternally with Him?” I didn’t know how to answer, so I asked him to explain. Brian shared that one of his teachers was a Christian and was helping some of the students with the Bible after school. He was excited and his excitement lit a spark in me. So, in addition to attending my own church, I started attending the church where he and some of his friends went.

“My husband Jim and I had taken our five boys faithfully to church throughout the years. They made their communion and confirmation, but there were no Bible studies our family could attend.

“After attending Bible study at Brian’s church and fellowshipping with other Christians, I invited Jesus into my heart in1983 and began an exciting adventure.  As a result of this new relationship with God, He gifted me with writing poems which were published in my church’s bulletin. This was surprising since I had never learned the mechanics of writing poetry in high school or college.

I eventually found a writers’ group and within a short time was appointed the leader. I have been leading the group for 22 years and love encouraging writers to submit their work. Most writers love to write but are hesitant to market their writing.”

WHAT HAS HELPED FRAN’S WRITING?

“I have also attended writers’ conferences yearly where I learned to write devotions and improve my writing skills,” she says. “For the past thirty years my poems and devotions have been regularly published in numerous Sunday school papers, magazines, and compilations.”

Fran also makes her own Christmas cards, incorporating her poetry. She has a weekly devotional e-mail ministry to over 300 people.

FRAN’S NEW BOOK

Pasch.Fran.Bk.Cover“My first book was published in December 2013, a month after my 80th birthday. Double Vision: Seeing God in Everyday Life through Devotions and Poetry is a collection of 30 devotions, each paired with a poem on the same topic. It is a double eye-opener, two ways of looking at the same spiritual truth. Each individual devotion and matching poem could be used as a short Bible study. The book’s format makes it a good gift book.”

A “HOBBY” WORTH HAVING

Many people don’t know that in the 80s Fran was considered a Coupon Queen. She wasn’t officially crowned, but the local newspaper wrote a long article and posted a picture of her throwing handsful of coupons in the air. She did heavy duty couponing and refunding and even taught classes at two night schools. With five sons to feed and an average family income, the time spent was worthwhile. Over the years, she saved thousands of dollars by watching sales, comparing prices, and shopping at stores that offered double coupons. She even attended a coupon club, went to a coupon convention, and wrote a couponing column.Pasch.Fran.Picture.Younger.Days

A LITTLE MORE ABOUT FRAN

Fran has lived in New Jersey all of her life. She attended Georgian Court College in Lakewood, New Jersey, which is now a university. She has a B.S. in Business Administration. She married her husband, Jim, in 1958. They have five grown sons and nine grandchildren.

Follow Fran at her website: francesgregorypasch.com

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May 5, 2014

Today’s Writers’ Tip

WRITING FICTION PLOTS

Plot Numbers 19 & 20:

ASCENSION AND DESCENSION

The Godfather

The Elephant Man

Elmer Gantry

Citizen Cane

We’ve combined the last two fiction plots because they are very similar in their plot structure if you simply consider that one counteracts the other. Let’s look at the characteristics of building one of these super plots.

1. The focus of your story should be about one main protagonist.

2. That character should be strong-willed, charismatic, and seemingly unique. All other characters should revolve around this one.

3. At the heart of the story should be a moral dilemma. The dilemma tests the character of the main protagonist/ antagonist and is the foundation for the catalyst of change in his/her character.

4. Character and event are closely related to each other. Anything that happens should happen because of the main character. He/she is the force that affects events, not the reverse. (We are more interested in how the main character acts upon the world than how the world acts upon him/her.)

5. Show the main character as he/she was before the major change that altered his/her life so there’s a basis of comparison.

6. Show the character progressing through successive changes as a result of events. If it’s a story about a character who overcomes horrible circumstances, show the nature of that character while he/she still suffers under those circumstances. Then show how events change his/her nature during the course of the story.

7. Don’t “jump” from one character state to another; that is, show how the character moves from one state to another by giving us his/her motivation and intent.

8. If the plot is about the fall of a character, make certain the reasons for the fall are a result of character and not gratuitous circumstances. The reason for a rise may be gratuitous, i.e the character wins $ 5 million in the lottery, but it won’t be the reason for his/her fall.

9. The reasons for a character’s ability to overcome adversity should also be the result of his/her character, not some contrivance.

10. Try to avoid a straight dramatic rise or fall. Vary the circumstances in the character’s life: Create rises and falls along the way. Don’t just put your character on a rocket to the top and then crash. Vary intensity of the events. It may seem for a moment that your character has conquered his/her flaw, when in fact, it doesn’t last long. And vice versa.

11. After several setbacks, the character finally breaks through (as a result of his/her tenacity, courage, belief, etc.).

12. Always focus on your main character. Relate all events and characters to that main character. Show the character before, during, and after the change.

So, there you have a detailed list of how to develop a complicated plot of ascension or descension. Read books in this subgenre and study how the authors developed each point to make an exciting, nail-biting story.

Next time we’re going to review how to develop a good story arc.

All information about plots compliments of:

Tobias, Ronald B (2011-12-15). 20 Master Plots (p. 189). F+W Media, Inc. Kindle Edition.

20.Master.Plots.Cover.Ronald.B.Tobias

http://www.amazon.com/20-Master-Plots-Build-Them-ebook/dp/B006RAIXXI/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1390841564&sr=1-1&keywords=20+Master+Plots

(I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in writing good fiction in any subgenre!)

Happy writing!

Marsha

 

Please check my latest publication on Amazon:

RHONDA FINDS TRUE LOVE

Volume 5

The Snyder County Quilting Bee Series II

 

Rhonda.Finds.True.Love.Cover  http://www.amazon.com/Snyder-County-Quilting-Bee-II-ebook/dp/B00K3EQHWS/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1399306867&sr=1-1&keywords=Rhonda+Finds+True+Love

Louellen Friesen’s neice Rhonda Bidleman and Rodney Hornberger are set to be engaged. But when Rodney’s old flame, Sharon Hoffnagle from Wisconsin, shows up in Mapletown claiming her two-year-old child is Rodney’s, Rodney has a terribly hard decision to make, one that will leave someone heart-broken.

What does Rodney do? Does he follow the Mennonite church’s edicts to marry Sharon or pursue his own heart’s desire?

 

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