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PLOTS #19 and #20

ASCENSION AND DESCENSION

The Godfather

The Elephant Man

Elmer Gantry

Citizen Cane

Poster showing two women in the bottom left of the picture looking up towards a man in a white suit in the top right of the picture. "Everybody's talking about it. It's terrific!" appears in the top right of the picture. "Orson Welles" appears in block letters between the women and the man in the white suit. "Citizen Kane" appears in red and yellow block letters tipped 60° to the right. The remaining credits are listed in fine print in the bottom right.

Poster photo compliments of Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizen_Kane)

We’ve finally gotten to the last two of twenty fiction plots from which writers may choose. If you’re interested in writing about a main character who either

  1. The focus of your story should be about a single character.
  2. That character should be strong-willed, charismatic, and seemingly unique. All of your other characters will revolve around this one.
  3. At the heart of your story should be a moral dilemma. This dilemma tests the character of your protagonist/ antagonist, and it is the foundation for the catalyst of change in 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. (This isn’t to say that events can’t affect your main character; however, we are more interested in how he/she acts upon the world than how the world acts upon him/her.)
  5. Try to show your character as he/she was before the major change that altered his/her life so we have a basis of comparison.
  6. Show your character progressing through successive changes as a result of events. If it is 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 us how events change his/her nature during the course of the story. Don’t “jump” from one character state to another; that is, show how your character moves from one state to another by giving us his/her motivation and intent.
  7. If your story 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 (the character wins $ 27 million in LottoAmerica) but not the reasons for his/her fall. The reasons for a character’s ability to overcome adversity should also be the result of his/her character, not some contrivance.
  8. 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, too. 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. After several setbacks, the character finally breaks through (as a result of her tenacity, courage, belief, etc.).
  9. Always focus on your main character. Relate all events and characters to your main character. Show us the character before, during, and after the change.

A FINAL CHECKLIST Give yourself a little quiz to see if you’re ready to write your best-selling novel:

As you develop your plot, consider the following questions. If you can answer all of them, you have a grasp of what your story is about. But if you can’t answer any of them, you still don’t know what your story is and what you want to do with it.

1. In fifty words, what is the basic idea for your story?

2. What is the central aim of the story? State your answer as a question. For example, “Will Othello believe Iago about his wife?”

3. What is your protagonist’s intent? (What does she want?)

4. What is your protagonist’s motivation? (Why does she want what she is seeking?)

5. Who and/ or what stands in the way of your protagonist?

6. What is your protagonist’s plan of action to accomplish her intent?

7. What is the story’s main conflict? Internal? External?

8. What is the nature of your protagonist’s change during the course of the story?

9. Is your plot character-driven or action-driven?

10. What is the point of attack of the story? Where will you begin?

11. How do you plan to maintain tension throughout the story?

12. How does your protagonist complete the climax of the story?

So, there you have it. The wrap-up of about 16 of my blogs over the last year, blogs dedicated to writing good fiction. I want to again remind you that all the information has been taken from:

Tobias, Ronald B (2011-12-15). 20 Master Plots (p. 273). F+W Media, Inc. Kindle Edition.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in writing good fiction.

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PLOT # 13

MATURATION

Flight (J. Steinbeck)

Nick Adams’ Stories (E. Hemingway)

Huckleberry Finn

Hansel and Gretel

What does it take to write a page-turning maturation fiction plot? Whether for adults or children, there are certain steps to take. Let’s see:

  1. Create a protagonist who is on the cusp of adulthood, whose goals are either confused or not yet clarified.
  2. Make sure the audience understands who the character is and how she feels and thinks that begins the process of change.
  3. Contrast the protagonist’s naive childhood against the reality of an unprotected life (adulthood).
  4. Focus your story on your protagonist’s moral and psychological growth.
  5. Once you’ve established your protagonist as he/she was before the change, create an incident that challenges her beliefs and her understanding of how the world works.
  6. Does your character reject or accept change? Perhaps both? Does he/she resist the lesson? How does he/she act?
  7. Show your protagonist undergoing the process of gradual change.
  8. Make sure your young protagonist is convincing; don’t give him/her adult values and perceptions until he/she is ready to portray them.
  9. Don’t have that protagonist accomplish adulthood all at once. Small lessons often represent major upheavals in the process of growing up.
  10. Decide at what psychological price this lesson comes, and establish how your protagonist copes with it.

ALL INFORMATION COMPLIMENTS OF

Tobias, Ronald B. 20 Master Plots: And How to Build Them (Kindle Locations 1185-1207). F+W Media, Inc. Kindle Edition.

I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in writing fiction of any kind.

*****************************************************88

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August 14, 2017

Writers’ Tips for the Fiction Genre

TWENTY MASTER PLOTS AND HOW TO BUILD THEM by Ronald Tobias http://www.amazon.com/20-Master-Plots-Build-Them/dp/1599635372/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1373314000&sr=1-1  is one of the best books I’ve ever read to help understand the fiction genre and to improve my own writing. This book by Tobias is packed with useful information for any writer of fiction, who desires to improve his skills for writing an appealing, can’t-put-the-book-down manuscript. All the tips in the next series of blog posts come from this book.

Today we’re going to start by reviewing the definition of plot, a plot-driven book, and a character-driven book. So if you’re been wanting to write good fiction, regardless of the age of your readership, take special note of the helpful tips in my next 20 or so blog posts.

DEFINITION OF PLOT:

  1. A plot is organic, the skeleton that holds the story together, the scaffold, the superstructure, the chassis, the frame, a force, a process.
  2. Every plot is different, but each has its roots in a pattern of unified behavior and action.
  3. It’s a blueprint of human behavior.
  4. It’s more than a chronicle of events. It answers WHY! (It has to be more than “Johnny hit his sister Susie.” WHY did he hit her?)
  5. TENSION fuels the plot.
  6. PLOT asks the question; the CLIMAX answers it.

DEFINITION OF A PLOT-DRIVEN BOOK: the mechanism of the story that is more important than the characters. The characters are there to make the plot happen.

DEFINITION OF A CHARACTER-DRIVEN BOOK: the mechanism of the story is less important than the characters.

  1. Don’t have a STATIC character. He/she must be different at the end than he/she was in the beginning.
  2. Put your character in a SITUATION.
  3. Use TRIANGLES: the relationship between character and plot. They make the strongest character combinations and are most common. Events happen in threes. (Example: the hero tries three times to overcome an obstacle.)
  4. MOTIVATION: explaining why the major characters to what they do: ACTION VS. REACTION

So…there are some introductory tips from Ronald Tobias’s excellent book for you to ponder as you plan your work of fiction. Next time, we’ll share with you some pointers to help you write a plot that focuses on a quest or a goal the protagonist is aiming to achieve.

Happy writing!

Marsha

 

Interested in Amish/Mennonite fiction?

Eli and Louellen Friesen’s marriage is on the rocks, and at the same time, both question their ordnung’s teachings of the way of salvation.

https://www.amazon.com/Louellen-Finds-True-Love-Snyder-ebook/dp/B01N18WW1C/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1502653855&sr=1-1&keywords=Louellen+Finds+True+Love

PLEASE POST A REVIEW. A FAVORABLE REVIEW IS AS GOOD AS A SALE FOR US AUTHORS.

 

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The Montrose Christian Writers Conference

Faculty Spotlight

HAS GOD CALLED ME TO WRITE?

scott-barbara-photo-mcwc-2017

Barbara Scott

 

Are writers made or born with their gift? What is a Christian writer? Is it too late for me to start writing? I’ve asked and pondered every one of those questions at some point in my life.

Viewpoints differ as to whether a writer is made or born. Not that I’m in any way holding up Jack Kerouac, a twentieth-century novelist and poet, as someone to emulate. Quite the contrary. But he did answer the first question above rather succinctly in an essay published in 1962 in Writer’s Digest. He wrote, “Writers are made, for anybody who isn’t illiterate can write; but geniuses of the writing art like Melville, Whitman or Thoreau are born.”

You may sigh and take your hands off the keyboard at this point. Your internal dialogue might go something like this: “I’m not illiterate, but I’m certainly no genius. Who do I think I am? Maybe I should quit right now if that’s what it takes. Maybe I just thought God called me to write. I don’t even know where to start.”

Well, as Julie Andrews once sang to her young charges in The Sound of Music, “Let’s start at the very beginning. It’s a very good place to start.”

Most of the people God called in Scripture were quite ordinary. God’s Holy Spirit wrote the Scriptures by using the minds, the hands, the writing implements of ordinary, obedient people. God still works the same way today. Some writers are young. Some are old. Some are educated. Some can barely spell.

That’s why Marsha Hubler asked me to teach a series of workshops for novice writers in July at the Montrose Christian Writers Conference. No writing experience necessary. Following are descriptions of the major morning workshops I plan to teach beginners who believe God has called them to write:

Lingo Lessons

In a comfortable, non-judgmental session, I’ll explain the basics and answer any questions about the language of writing, editing, and publishing to help you navigate these new waters. If you bring the first paragraph of any project, I’ll critique your work during the third major morning session on editing.

The Write Stuff

Think of this session as Writing 101. Learn about proper formatting, margins, and fonts; how to write a synopsis, proposal, and query letter; and how to use more than the spell-check feature on your computer. Bring a pen and paper or your laptop to class.

What’s an Edit?

Not every word you write is golden. That’s why every writer needs an editor. Editing is more than proofreading for spelling mistakes. This session will explain the various types of edits and when, why, and how each is used.

Graduation Time

We’ll tackle issues such as how to build a network of writing friends, finding a critique group, attending conferences, pitching your ideas, and how to know when you’re ready for the next step. Do you want to remain a hobbyist or take a leap of faith and seek publication?

I’ll also teach a few short afternoon classes:

The Power of Storytelling

In an interactive session, I’ll discuss the role and importance of writers—fiction and nonfiction—in God’s plan, from your calling to how to change lives with stories that touch the heart. Learn the elements of a great story, even if you write nonfiction.

Pick a Genre

Is God calling you to write? Don’t know what to write? In this workshop, learn the characteristics of each genre (type of writing) and how to discover your “sweet spot.”

Please join me in July and let’s start at the very beginning.

Barbara’s Bio:

An inspirational book editor for more almost twenty years, Barbara Scott has recently returned to her first love—writing. In the fall of 2016, Gilead Publishing released her novella “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” in an inspirational collection titled Sleigh Bells Ring. Barbara is the coauthor of two bestselling novels and wrote numerous gift books and devotionals before her long stint as a senior acquisitions editor for several Christian publishers.

 

Today’s Book Feature:

Keystone Stables Book Five

LEADING THE WAY

Can Skye help Katie Thomas, a blind foster girl, learn to barrel race a horse?

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Keystone Stables Book 5

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12.26.16

Today’s Writers’ Tip: What a Difference a Comma Makes! (Part 2)

4-wise-men-still-seek-him-glass

Which Isaiah 9:6 verse is correct?

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”

Do you see the difference?

Depending on the translation, you might find either version, although the King James Version (verse one) is accepted by Bible scholars as the most accurate translation of the early scriptures. So what’s the difference?

One little comma. And that makes a big difference.

In the first verse, a comma follows the word “Wonderful.” In the second verse, the comma is missing. How does that affect the meaning of the verse?

In verse one, Wonderful is a predicative nominative, (a noun form capitalized), which refers directly to our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior, who was to come. Because of that comma, we can attribute the word “Wonderful” to Jesus as a title. He is wonderful (adjective), and He is Wonderful! (noun)

In verse two, the missing comma changes the word “Wonderful” to an adjective (capped) describing Counsellor. Of course, Christ is a “wonderful counselor;” in fact, He’s a perfect counselor for anyone who needs godly advice to live a successful life that’s pleasing to God. So, indeed, He’s a wonderful counselor.

My personal opinion is that the comma in the KJV verse makes the verse so much more meaningful. Of the many names attributed to the Savior, I think “Wonderful” is one of the most poignant descriptions of our God, who is wonderful beyond description.

You might differ in your opinion. That doesn’t make you wrong. Either translation presents our Savior as WONDERFUL!

Blessings for the rest of the holiday season and a profitable new year to you!

Marsha

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Let’s Talk Punctuation for a While

(Post Number Eleven)

MANGER08

Perky Parentheses and Bold Brackets

If you’re like me with your writing, you sometimes might be confused concerning when to use parentheses. Should you use em dashes instead? Or how about commas?

Let’s first define “parentheses” so we understand what in the world these little smiley face lines are used for.

Definition One: “Parentheses usually set off material that is less closely related to the rest of the sentence than that enclosed in em dashes or commas.” (The CMOS, 15th edition, The University of Chicago Press, 2003, p. 265)

Instead of going in to detailed descriptions of how to use the parentheses, I’m going to list some examples for you:

Example One: The judge decided that all the dogs (collies, etc.) in that division were worthy of a blue ribbon.

Example Two: The championship soccer game the Stallions won (under difficult conditions of freezing rain) was a thriller.

Example Three: The Book of John (see chapter 3) mentions Jesus as God’s Son and Savior who came to save us from our sin.

 Definition Two: “Parentheses are used to enclose glosses of unfamiliar terms or translations of foreign terms—or, if the term is given in English, to enclose the original word.” (The CMOS, 15th edition, The University of Chicago Press, 2003, p 266)

Example One: Downloading “Dropbox” (a free program on the web that allows you to transfer files from one computer to the other instantly without a flash drive) is a godsend for writers.

Example Two: In my Amish fiction book, I used the word “boppli” (baby) many times.

Example Three: The word for mother (mamm) in my Amish books occurs dozens of times.

In the CMOS, a few more examples of complicated uses for parentheses are listed, which most of us writers would not need to know. So for simplicity’s sake, we’ll stop with the perky parentheses plug here and move on to the bold brackets.

Bold Brackets

 To use brackets, or “square brackets,” properly, all you need to remember is that they are used to enclose words that are inserted by a second author inside a first author’s original work.

What? Say again?

You would use brackets if you inserted your own words in material from the following types of already printed material: quoted matter, reprints, anthologies, editorial interpolations, explanations, translations of foreign words, or corrections. Allow me give you some examples cited in the CMOS, 15th edition:

Example One: “They [the free-silver Democrats] asserted that the ratio could be maintained.”

Example Two: “Many CF [cystic fibrosis] patients have been helped by the new therapy.”

Example Three: Satire, Jebb tells us, “is the only [form] that has a continuous development.”

Example Four: “The differences between society [Gesellschaft] and community [Gemeinde] will now be analyzed.”

I believe the only other use of brackets that we might need to know is when they are used within a set of parentheses. Here is an example; take notice where the period is at the end:

Example: (For further explanation see Strunk and White’s Element of Style [1979] and Webster’s Dictionary [1984].)

I hope I haven’t totally confused you with this parentheses/bracket blog. These two little punctuation tips might not be of use to us every day, but once in a while, we do need to know how to use them effectively, so perhaps these tidbits today will refine your writing style a little more as you write your way to that next published piece.

Happy writing!

Marsha

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SOUTHERN BELLE’S SPECIAL GIFT

Keystone Stables Book 3

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Let’s Talk Grammar and Punctuation for a While 

(Post Number Seven) 

The Flippant Ellipsis

 The little ellipsis, that is, three little periods in a row … is a quirky little punctuation form that tricks many a good writer, mainly because the writer might be confusing its use with other punctuation marks that would be more effective.

Let’s take a look at the most common uses for the ellipsis and some examples of how to use it properly. By the way, the plural of ellipsis is ellipses.

A Beginning and End of a Quote

Since it is assumed that you are taking a quote from a larger context in most cases, the ellipsis points should NOT be placed before or after a scripture verse or quoted passage unless the quote is a sentence fragment:

Example One:   “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9  (No ellipsis is placed anywhere because the verse is quoted in its entirety.)

Example Two:  “For by grace are ye saved through faith ….” Ephesians 2:8a  (Ellipsis WITH a period)

Yes that’s right. When you use an ellipsis at the end of a sentence fragment, and it is followed by either a reference, another complete sentence or verse, add a period to the ellipsis.

Fragmented Speech

This is probably the most popular use for the ellipsis. The three little dots should be used to indicate faltering or fragmented speech that implies uncertainty, confusion, distress, and the like:

Example One: “The horse … it’s running away … with the child on its back!” yelled Tom.

Example Two: “Oh, dear, … my new glasses … where did I put them?” Bill asked his wife.

Example Three: When Sue woke up she asked, “Where am I … huh … was I dreaming?”

Omissions

Use an ellipsis anytime you are writing a sentence, passage, or Bible verse that you’ve purposely omitted part. The ellipsis in this structure is used most often with scripture verses:

Example One: Psalm 30:5 states, “For his anger endureth but a moment; … weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

Example Two: “… but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation ….”   (1 Timothy 4:12b)

 

When to Use the Period at the End of the Ellipsis (Known as the Four-dot Ellipsis)

Besides using the four-dot ellipsis at the end of a quoted scripture verse as in the previous example, remember to use it when you have another complete sentence following the fragment and ellipsis:

Example One: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for …. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”   (Hebrews 11:1, 3)

Example Two: Jerry couldn’t help wondering why Jane was so late for her rendezvous with him at the restaurant. I hope she didn’t forget …. No, she didn’t forget, he told himself.  She’s just running a little late, as usual.

Spacing with an Ellipsis

Although I’ve seen differences with this rule at different publishing houses, I believe the most popular rule is whenever using an ellipsis in the middle of a sentence, put a space before and after it:

Example: “You may go out for recess … if you’ve finished your seatwork,” the teacher told her class.

Whenever using an ellipsis at the beginning or ending of a quote, do NOT insert a space between the ellipsis and the quotation mark:

Example One: “Well, I believe so ….”

Example Two: “… as I said before.”

So, there you have examples of the most common uses for the ellipsis. Just remember that when using it at the end of a sentence or a quote, the ellipsis indicates confusion or uncertainty. If you’re trying to portray a character’s speech abruptly interrupting another character’s speech, then use an em dash, not an ellipsis:

Example: Fred chased after his little brother Tommy in the yard and yelled, “You little brat! I’m going to—”

“You’re going to what?” Tommy sassed back.

(And remember to put your quotation mark at the end first then backspace to insert the em dash or your quotation mark will be backwards.)

Using an ellipsis at the end of Fred’s dialogue would indicate that he was thinking about something else to say and had time to do so. But that’s not the implication here. We want to imply that Tommy cut Fred’s words right off.

I trust this will help you to decide to be a little more daring in your writing and use an ellipsis once in a while. Different punctuation marks do make a difference. They bring your writing style to life and keep your readers hooked!

Next time we’ll look at the itinerant italics.

More shameless promotion:

KEYSTONE STABLES SERIES BOOK 7

WHISPERING HOPE

Skye must train a wild Mustang and befriend a wild foster kid who hates everyone… all at the same time.

 Book 7. Keystone Stables

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