When Disaster Strikes

We all know the feeling, right? That little moment of panic when something doesn’t work right or… you know… at all.

Guys, I have to tell you because I promised to be open and honest. I totally panicked last night. Why, you ask? Let me tell you a little story.

It was a normal Monday evening. I had prepared myself to head downstairs to fetch dinner, and everything was going swimmingly. I had written 1,500 words (my goal for the day) and clicked save on the 53,000 words (or so) of my current WIP.

Then, it happened. I set the computer down and it slid from the edge of the bed. With a cry of “No!” That would have made Luke Skywalker proud, I snatched for it. But, alas, it was too late.

This would not have distressed me so, except for one little detail. When the computer landed on the floor (mind you, it did not fall more than six inches, the bed is just a mattress on the floor), it landed on the side I keep my flashdrive in. Yes, folks, that’s right. The drive I use to hold ALL MY WORK bent.

It isn’t funny, and it isn’t fixable. When I plugged it back in, it would not pull up. At. All. That’s when I panicked. Years of work, all my finished projects, everything I need for my upcoming Kindle projects (more on that later), all reside on that drive.

There is exactly a 50/50 shot that the computer tech will be able to pull the data off of it.

In normal writerly fashion, after I freaked out for a good hour to two hours, I sat back and thought about how I felt at the moment of panic. “Not good” was the first thought that zipped through my brain, but then I took the time to psychoanalyze myself. (Yeah, I do that. Blame the writer thing.)

I realized that, if I ever get the data back (and I’m praying fervently I will), I will possibly be able to accurately write a moment of disaster even better than my previous attempts.

Why?

I’m so glad you asked.

Writing is all about the emotion, and any writer will tell you that in order to write emotion well, you have to experience it. Loss, panic, fear. Take your minuscule situation and amp it up a hundred-fold.

That, folks, is how you make a reader feel the story. How you make your readers cry. Honestly, who doesn’t dream of writing something that will evoke emotion from their fans? I know I do.

Emotion comes from experience and, sadly, experience happened to me yesterday. I need that data back, guys. When the story is complete and I have my answer, I will be in touch with the (hopefully) good news. Thanks for listening to my rant, all!

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UPDATE!!! We were able to retrieve the data from my flash drive. WIPs not lost. Praise Jesus!

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Biggest disaster and panic moment you’ve ever had. I want to hear about it!

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

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Why I LOVE NaNoWriMo

Okay, I admit, this is not one of my typical posts. And yet it is, in a way. Whatever, it’s confusing, moving on.

I’ve read both good and bad things about NaNoWriMo. Some people say it’s a horrible idea to try to write a complete novel in only 30 days. Others say it’s the ONLY way to write a novel. Some hesitant, on-the-fence people say they can see it either way.

I think NaNoWriMo rocks.

Why?

Because it’s actually a really good idea, and there are multiple reasons why.

Reason 1: Writing a novel in 30 days is the best thing that ever happened to me.

And why is that, you ask? Because I stopped second-guessing myself. I stopped over-analyzing. I stopped telling myself that there was “no way” I’d ever write something good enough. I just wrote. And wrote. And wrote.

Because I had to write so many words per day and had so few days to write it all down, my inner editor shut up and let my creative genius shine through. My first NaNoWriMo was 2014, and that novel – the one that came out of my creative side, not my formula side – is still one of the best pieces of work I’ve ever done.

Reason 2: Writing a novel in 30 days stretched all my creative muscles.

The first five (or so) days were awesome. I wrote and wrote and wrote. Finished a few chapters. And then it happened. I got stuck. Suddenly, I had no idea where the plot was headed. I had no idea what happened next. I was only about 5,000 words in. No! I couldn’t fail! This couldn’t be happening!

Needless to say, I didn’t have weeks to ponder and work through my writer’s block. I had hours. Maybe.

So I did what any self-respecting novelist would do.

I freaked out. I ate half a pan of cookies. And some chocolate. And a couple caramels. I paced my room for a while.

And then I sat back down at my computer, re-read the last few sentences, and pushed on. It was painful, not knowing where the story would go next. And some characters died in the process. But I did it. I stretched that creative muscle and overcame writer’s block in record time. And, as much as I loved them, I see now those character deaths were necessary to progress the plot.

Reason 3: NaNoWriMo is just plain fun!

Who cares if anyone else ever reads your NaNo Novel? The journey from blank page to 50,000+ words is FUN!

Whether it’s hanging out with the Word Sprinters on Twitter, joining a virtual write in on Youtube (via Google hangouts), or actually meeting up with fellow WriMo’s in your area, it’s nice to know that there’s an entire community of writers around the globe backing you up.

If for nothing else, join the NaNo community for one month and get some advice from writers around the world. You never know if they’ll have a different perspective on writing that you’ve never thought of before. It could be the best experience of your life. But you’ll never know unless you try.

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So… Are you planning on joining NaNoWriMo this year? Why or why not?

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You.

Writers are Weirdoes

Is it just me, or do people think writers are really weird?

Point and case:

“…and then, (insert character name here) just turned on him. And I was like ‘whaaat’?!”

“Wait, who’s (character name)? I don’t know anyone by that name.”

“Oh, s/he’s my newest character.”

“…But don’t you control what they do?”

Silly normal person! They should know better, right? Which is why we have friends that are also writers because we can talk like that with them and they UNDERSTAND! This is why it is important to have those friends. (Also point and case, my friend Amy L. Sauder has a blog where she is asking her characters how to solve life’s problems. You should check it out.)

Another dilemma: our overexuberant love for notebooks and pens. We see the aisle, we get distracted, we come home with fourteen sacks full of writing tools. It’s a thing, and I know I’m not the only one who does it. I have it narrowed down to the best kind of pen and the perfect width of lined paper.

Still more writerly quirks: Our excessive and often unfettered adoration for all things both lyrical and well-writ.

To be honest, I can probably blame Shakespeare for this one. I love to write with big words and in Old English. I understand the meaning of words such as “anon”, “Heretofore”, and “wherewithal”. Seriously, I sometimes read Shakespeare’s plays for fun. Because I love them. Call me crazy, do what you will, but it’s true. (Shout out to “Much Ado About Nothing”, especially Beatrice’s “if I were a man” speech. And the “dear lady disdain” argument! Anyway, moving on.)

I’ll write about one more insane quirk. Here it comes… The things we’ll do for research.

“Why are you jumping out of a plane with a parachute full of holes?”

“… … … -shrug- Research.”

OR

“Is that a leech in your refrigerator?”

“No, don’t touch that!”

“Why?”

“Research.”

We are worse than Sherlock Holmes when it comes to research experiments. We will subjugate ourselves to terrible pain and sorrow to find out what it’s going to be like for the characters we love so dearly. Oh, and did I mention that the more you love that character, the more you torture them (and, by proxy, yourself)?

Some wacky (not as bad as the examples) things I’ve done for research:

1. Googled “how to make a bomb”, “how to make poison look like an accident”, “how to commit the perfect crime”… seriously, if anyone looks at my Google history, it will be questionable.

2. Stood on the edge of a table to see how it feels to be on the edge of a roof.

3. Used Nerf guns to try out a theory I had for a fight scene. (My brother was the guinea pig)

4. Played with knives in the kitchen.

5. Other extraneous questionable methods.

So, writers are weirdoes. So what? Be weird. Do the zany stuff that makes you stand out. One day people will speak of your genius! (Again, I’ve been watching Shakespeare)

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What crazy things have you done in the name of research?

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You

38 Questions to Ask Every Character

You’ve probably seen a TON of lists of questions that demand “These questions NEED to be asked”. And what’s on them? Mostly stuff that you don’t really need to know to unfold a great character. (NO offense, seriously. I just wish people would stop telling me I need to know what kind of underwear my character wears.)

This list is different.

I know because I read all those other lists out there and picked the things that (I think) every writer should know about their character. Some of them are just for fun, but most really help me narrow down how I’m going to write a specific character. I thought it would be nice, while we’re working with character development, to share these with you.

They’ve helped me build characters, as well as stories. They dig deep into the character’s psyche, so you know where s/he is coming from. And they SERIOUSLY reveal character.

I will also share some of my favorite answers, after the list. So, without further ado, let’s begin.

38 QUESTIONS TO ASK EVERY CHARACTER

1. How old is s/he (physically AND mentally)?

2. Did s/he have a happy childhood? Why or why not?

3. What are their past and present relationships and how do they affect him/her?

4. What does s/he care about?

5. What is s/he obsessed with?

6. What is his/her biggest fear?

7. What is the best thing that ever happened to them? Worst?

8. What is their most embarrassing moment?

9. What is his/her biggest secret?

10. What is the 1 word that defines him/her?

11. What do you know about him/her that s/he doesn’t?

12. What music does s/he sing when no one else is around?

13. What is his/her favorite movie?

14. What is his/her favorite piece of clothing? Shoes?

15. Who is his/her favorite person?

16. What calms him/her?

17. Does s/he play any instruments?

18. What is his/her catchphrase?

19. What is his/her favorite excuse?

20. What is his/her favorite song?

21. What annoys him/her?

22. What is the most beautiful thing s/he has ever seen?

23. What is the worst injury s/he has ever sustained? (in the past)

24. Has anyone close to him/her died?

25. What would s/he wish for if s/he found a genie?

26. What is the most frightening handicap s/he could sustain? (in the present or future)

27. When and where was s/he happiest?

28. What is something s/he can’t resist?

29. What is something people misunderstand about him/her?

30. What is his/her favorite holiday?

31. What are his/her hopes and dreams?

32. What would s/he die for?

33. What would mentally destroy him/her?

34. Why would s/he defend a stranger?

35. What does s/he lie about?

36. Does s/he have a positive or negative body image?

37. What object will s/he never give up?

38. What can s/he do at the end that s/he can’t do at the beginning?

A lot to take in, I know. Let me explain how this works.

It’s OK to think outside the box. Sometimes the answer will just pop out of nowhere, sometimes you’ll really have to think hard to get to the heart of the issue. (P.S. This list is also great to help create backstory).

I’ll give you some examples of some of my characters’ answers. They’re…. interesting, to say the least.

We’ll start with a question where my character dropped a quote in my lap that completely answered the question.

Q: What is his biggest fear?

A: “I am in the desert… This. This right here is my biggest fear.” (He’s afraid of dirt.)

Sometimes, the way your character thinks about something will come out in their answer, or even the way they talk. Like this answer from a Texas boy character.

Q: What is the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen?

A: A Texas sunset by the Gulf beach.

Not how I would have put it, but characters do that sometimes.

Sometimes an answer can be as simple as…

Q: What is one thing she can’t resist?

A: A good churro.

Sometimes, your character’s answer will be symbolic. Usually of something in their own life. LIke…

Q: What is her favorite holiday?

A: New Year’s. New beginnings.

(Talk about backstory!)

Lastly, sometimes your character will give an answer that completely shapes how they see themselves, other people, or even the world.

Like this fragile flower:

Q: What was her most embarrassing moment?

A: Found boyfriend with her best friend. On date night.

Ouch. That probably shaped how she views guys and herself. Because of this, she doesn’t have great self-worth. Think about those kinds of experiences. Why the character is who they are.

Do that, and your characters will end up pretty amazing.

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You.

Blah, Blah, Blah… (a guide to writing dialogue that won’t put your readers to sleep)

What makes good dialogue? When do you know you’ve spent too much time telling people things they never needed to know? Have you ever read a passage of dialogue and thought to yourself, “Oh, come on! That is so fake!”?

I know how you feel. Dialogue like this often suffers from a lack of studious editing. When it comes to writing dialogue, you should write from your heart and edit from your head. (This is also called “write hot, edit cool” and you’ll see it mentioned in a TON of creative writing courses, books, and blogs. It’s good advice.)

Dialogue writers also tend to give too much exposition, all at once. It’s an illness that is common among writers, but I am starting (right here, right now) a campaign to end it.

Overexposition sounds a lot like this:

“Who are you?”

“My name is Jane. I’m new around here, so you probably haven’t seen me before. I just moved in from Texas, but I must say I’m really enjoying this weather. I haven’t been in weather so nice in a long time, ever since my (brother/cousin/sister/parent) died in a car crash. It was raining that night, I remember that much. I almost lost it after that. Depression, suicidal tendencies, the works. Thankfully, I’m better now and looking forward to my new job. Did I mention I’m going to work at (insert local company)?”

First of all, all the first character asked was “who are you?” People usually aren’t so gushy around people they don’t know. And, depending on the situation, they may not want the other person to know who they are. There are 3 correct responses to the first question.

#1 = “I’m Jane.”

#2 = “Who wants to know?”

#3 = “You don’t need to know.”

So much simpler.

The second thing I saw in this generous amount of exposition (that’s putting it nicely) is that it’s too much, too soon. Where’s the characterization? Why aren’t we revealing this tragic backstory in bits and pieces, forcing the reader to keep reading to find out what really happened? Things to keep in mind as we move forward.

Okay, so you have the overexposition illness. Don’t worry, there are things you can do to fix it. So breathe, put down the cake you’re gorging yourself on, and listen to the rest of what I have to say.

Dialogue is a learned craft. A craft that takes time to perfect. However, I can give you a kick start.

People who aren’t good at dialogue can learn a lot from movie/screenplay writers. For examples:

“Are you giving me attitude, Spock?”

“I am relaying many attitudes. To which are you referring?”

or…

“I am a god, you dull creature!”

or…

“What was that?”

“You gave me the nod.”

“Yeah, the punch him in the face nod. Not the ‘throw him off the building’ nod. At most… at most that was a break his fingers nod.”

or…

“Do you know what the preservation room is for?”

“Delicious jams and jellies?”

Okay, so now that we’ve seen these golden gems of Hollywood genius, let’s talk about why screenwriting dialogue works and what we can learn from it.

Point #1 – Dialogue should expose true character

What?!?

Let me break it down.

Whenever someone talks, they tell us a little more about themselves, even when they don’t mean to. It’s the same with your characters. They’re people, right? So whatever they say should give some insight into what they’re all about. The “I am a god, you dull creature!” example (from Marvel’s The Avengers) is a prime example of this. Obviously, this guy is full of himself and that’s why he thinks that.

So, what can your character say that points to what they’re really like?

Point #2 – Dialogue should NEVER be “on the nose”

Unless you are writing a character who only says what they really think (like Spock, and even he isn’t “on the nose”) then you shouldn’t write what that character is actually feeling. Real people lie all the time. “How are you?” “I’m fine.” Things like that.

Characters lie too. They avoid questions. “Do you know what the preservation room is for?” (National Treasure)

Instead of answering “no”, Riley avoids the question with sarcasm of his own. People do this in real life, which makes it so much more believable on screen or in print.

Point #3 – Dialogue should elude to backstory

You’ll find that I am a HUGE fan of backstory. Dialogue is my favorite way to elude to an interesting story in the character’s past. Example:

“I’m not going to hurt you.”

“Why?”

“Because I won’t be like him.”

Him? Who is him? Why doesn’t he want to be like him? WHYYYYYY?!? (I know, of course, because I wrote it. Sorry to leave you hanging.)

When writing dialogue, ask yourself this: What happened in this character’s past and how does it apply to what he’s doing now?

Point #4 – SUBTEXT

I admit, subtext is a lot like backstory, but it IS different. Trust me.

Subtext is a helpful tool to help you avoid saying something too bluntly. Subtext is when you say something without really saying something. It’s difficult to master, but once you do you’ll find that it’s totally worth it.

Let me just say: “You were my new dream” (instead of plain old “I love you”) in Tangled. So much subtext! And then, tears. Okay, I’m done gushing now.

(Hint: classic lines are usually full of subtext)

I hope you found this helpful to help you craft dialogue for your character. It’s really important that they say what they mean, but in an interesting way. Never forget, they are your creation and your friend, so give them the treatment they deserve.

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Stay tuned for next week’s exciting conclusion to the 4-part character series!

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You.

What’s In A Name?

Hi again, and welcome to week 1 of a 4-part, February-length series on building characters. Yes, I said it. BUILDING characters.

“But, don’t characters just come to you?” you ask. The answer is simple. No. And yes. Some characters just appear, fully built, and all you have to do is write down what they’re doing at the moment. Others take some work, and let me fill you in on a little secret. You’ll have to work to build people more than you’ll have to watch already built characters. Confusing enough for you? Good!

So, topic of this week: What’s In A Name?

Great question, right? (It is. The answer is yes.)

In my experience, people (and characters) either live up to or live down their name. Examples:

Mother TERESA = harvester. What did she do? She harvested people for the Kingdom of God through her kindness and all around good nature.

Mr. DARCY (Pride and Prejudice) = dark one. And who was he? The tall, brooding one.

Get the gist? Good, let’s move on.

Your character’s name is just as important as — if not more important than — their quirks, dialogue, and action. A character’s name is our very first introduction to who they really are. Before your character ever says a word, we get to know their name. A name reflects a promise of what is to come. Ever seen an action hero named Hubert? There’s a good reason for that. Hubert just doesn’t fit an action hero, and obviously writers recognize that.

“How do I know what the right name is for my character?”

Well, my friends, that’s a tricky one.

Generally, the answer is “When you know, you know”, but I realize that may not suffice here. So let me explain.

I keep a notebook specifically for “Name Searches”. When I need a new character, out comes the notebook and the baby names book. (Don’t worry writers, people will always freak out that you have a baby names book. They are to be ignored. One day, when they need a name, they won’t have anything to guide them.)

Anywho… 

I write a list of names that I like either for the meaning or the sound of them. Anything that stands out. Right now I’m just gathering ideas. I write all of them — and their definitions — in the notebook. List form, it’s easier to read.

After I’ve done this, I star the ones that REALLY stand out. The ones that just fit the character. And it will. The name you pick will fit your character, because you already subconsciously know what this character is going to be like. From these ones, I choose the first one to grab me by the hand and take me on a journey with the character, the one that says “Hi there, my name is…”

Having said all that, there are other days when I just know what the character’s name is. In a recent novel I wrote, I searched for three days to find the perfect name for one of the main characters, while the other main character stepped right up and announced, “Hi, my name is Brooke.”

So, really, when people say “when you know, you know”, they’re being honest. Sometimes you do just know. For those of us who don’t, there are baby names.

A lot rides on what you name your character, so be careful how you go about it. Don’t just flippantly toss a name on them. Give it the time and consideration they deserve. There’s nothing better than knowing that your character is going to have a long and memorable career, and you spent the time to really get to know them. Including giving them the right name.

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Tune in next week for part 2 of Character Month

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You.

From Your Mind to the Page

You see a writing prompt (or, for those with a SERIOUS writer’s mind, any given picture) and a scene instantly plays out in your head. Characters leap into action, and suddenly you have an idea for your next book.

But, how do you get that idea from your head onto a piece of paper without totally mutilating it?

And what if you don’t have anything nearby to write on?

1 – Write it down AS SOON AS YOU THINK IT

These days, even if you don’t have paper nearby, chances are there’s a phone or computer. Phones have these lovely things called “notes” that are basically an electronic notebook. Use them. I do. In fact, I had to clean out my notes the other day because my phone told me there was no room for more. Point being: remember to write them on something solid that ISN’T electronic at a future date.

If you write things down as soon as you think them, you’re more likely to get it down on paper without destroying how you see it in your head. It still may not be pretty, but at least you’ll have the idea on something where you won’t forget it.

2 – Write it down EXACTLY HOW YOU THINK IT

Be literal. If you see something, write it down, no matter how small the detail. Don’t tell yourself that you’ll “remember it”, because chances are you won’t. I’ve done that. “And then, I know that she gets kidnapped by (insert character name here) and he says ‘_____’, but I’ll definitely remember that.”

Spoilers: I didn’t.

So, take a long look at the scene in your head. Study the characters. See their quirks. Study the setting, notice the details. Find noises and smells and tastes.

Example: Stale air. You can both taste and smell that.

Be sure you get down EVERYTHING you see in your head. Everything.

3 – Keep a Writing Journal

I call mine my “Inspiration Notebook”. It’s a simple composition notebook that my sister decoupaged for my birthday, and it goes everywhere with me. If I’m on the move (even from upstairs to downstairs) that book is in my hand. Why? Because then I can write down every single little idea that comes to me. I’m talking everything from “Something about a girl/guy that does _____” to a very intricate detailed scene from my latest endeavor.

I found this tip in a writing article a few years back, and let me tell you this has been one of the most helpful things I have ever done. I find myself thinking farther into a story before sitting down to write it. I write down one idea, and others present themselves. It has increased my efficiency 100 fold. You should really try it.

4 – Don’t delete anything

I know people say this a lot, but it’s true. If a scene (or name or action or settings) doesn’t work for your immediate story/script just set it aside. Don’t discount it as unusable. Maybe it doesn’t fit now, but maybe it will fit in your next work of art.

I know, personally, I have a list of names I want to use, and some of them I haven’t had the gut feeling that they FIT yet. But they will. One day. Same with settings and scenes. I have some things I want to do that sound really cool, but the scene doesn’t fit the story yet.

Don’t give up. You can write better than you believe you can. Get those ideas from the movie screen in your head onto a blank piece of paper. Say it after me: “Blank page, I thwart thee!”

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You.

A Place of Their Own

How important is setting to your story? Let’s take a look at some very famous tales, in which the setting is vital.

“…so Little Red Riding Hood set out through the woods to take provisions to her grandmother. Along the way, she came across a wolf…” (“Little Red Riding Rood”, my paraphrase)

Think about it. What if Little Red Riding Hood had come across a wolf in a town? The outcome of this story would have been very different. If the Big Bad Wolf had ambled into town to speak with Little Red, don’t you think the townspeople would have backed her up and taken the wolf down? They have to have some weaponry somewhere in Little Red’s town, right? I think so.

“…A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…”

A LOT of people know this intro. Star Wars, right? And what would Star Wars be without Outer Space? A lot more boring, let me tell you.

So, why do we need good settings? Why are they so important?

Setting targets genres

This may seem a little bit confusing, but trust me, it isn’t. Oftentimes, genre is determined by where you decide to set your story. Post-apocalyptic, Science-Fiction, Historical, etc. They all have to do with your setting.

Choose your setting wisely, and let the readers in that genre KNOW you chose well. Make it fit.

Setting sets the mood

Some settings, like the “post-apocalyptic-but-still-eerily-familiar” world in Lois Lowry’s The Giver, give a quirky, strange feel to the story. You can use a setting to enhance your characters, lending a mood of change. Settings are diverse, nearly unlimited, and they are as important to your story and mood as your characters and plot.

How do I know where to set my story?

Usually, your setting should be the one that feels right. An epic swordfight in the middle of New York City is highly improbable, unless your New York has backslidden and now has no way to make modern weapons. (Or if your character is Henry from ABC’s Forever, but that is highly unlikely)

So, take a long look at your characters and ask yourself where they would fit. Where they would seem natural. Look at their talents and fears and throw them into a world where their story makes sense.

One last tip

Your characters deserve the perfect setting. And I believe you’ll know if your setting is “off”. If you find yourself in a story that you love, but it seems like something is wrong, look at your setting. Maybe it should change.

Be creative with your setting. Underwater fist fight (James Bond). A giant, villainous home base under the Polar Icecap (G.I. Joe). Someone came up with these, and people loved them. You can come up with something just as good, probably better! Let your creativity roam. Expand your horizons. Think outside the box.

Are your characters in Boston? Did you know there are underground tunnels beneath that city?

Are they in space? How about some wacky, new-fangled spaceship?

Settings are as vast as your imagination. So go out there and write some crazy awesome stories!

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

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Let’s Talk Plot…

Plot. The heart of story. The lifeblood of any good book. Or movie. Plot is vitally important to the forward propulsion of the known universe. Without plot, the entire entertainment world would cease to exist. Books, movies, songs…

You get the point. Plot is important. Very important. But, what makes up plot?

I’m so glad you asked!

Plot can technically be broken down into 2 parts: Rising action and falling action. However, I never did like to fit into the cookie-cutter writing mold, so my favorite way to explain it contains several key points in the story. 5 to be exact.

Inciting incident. Turning Point. Point of no return. Crisis. Showdown. (Bonus 6th: Wrap-up.)

So, what I plan on doing today is to walk you through a successful plot piece by piece. Don’t worry, I’ll explain how each piece of the puzzle fits.

Inciting Incident:

First, let me tell you what this literally means. Incite = to encourage or stir up. Incident = an event or occurrence.

So, the Inciting Incident is literally an event that stirs things up. It’s the part of the story (generally very, very close to the beginning) where everything is tipped off balance. It is what makes the character(s) have to go on that quest. The event that changes everything.

The inciting incident in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is introduced in the first pages. “My dear Mr. Bennett, have you heard the Netherfield Hall is let at last?” (It’s paragraph 3, people. That woman knew how to throw you in at the exact moment everything changes.)

This is most definitely the inciting incident because it is the moment we know something different happened in their life. Before this sentence, they were just minding their own business, going about their own life. After this sentence, Mrs. Bennett spends the entire book talking about Netherfield and Mr. Bingley. (Anyone who doesn’t know what happens at the end of this book is not a true book nerd.)

In the hilarious and widely popular movie The Princess Bride, the inciting incident is a little farther in, but not much. Did you guess it? Yep, the inciting incident is when Buttercup hears that Westley has been killed by the Dread Pirate Roberts. (Eek! Not the Dread Pirate Roberts! No, he can’t die! Is this a tragedy? But, I digress…)

Turning Point

 This is usually my favorite part (I will say this a lot, don’t pay attention. My favorite part changes from hour to hour) of the story. This is when everything turns upside down. The unthinkable happens! Suddenly, there is no choice but to set out on the journey that will propel us to the end of the story. Something has to be done.

A good example of an epic turning point can be found in the movie National Treasure. The turning point comes the instant Ian declares he is going to “borrow” the Declaration of Independence and then proceeds to accidentally blow up the Charlotte.

Turning point? I think yes. That is the very moment that Ben Gates knows he has to do something. He can’t let Ian steal the Declaration! It propels him to begin his epic journey/continue his treasure hunt. It ups the stakes. That, my friends, is what a turning point does.

Point of No Return

Sounds pretty ominous, right? It is.

The Point of No Return comes usually about halfway through the story. This is literally what it says it is. A point where something happens that won’t allow the character to go back to where he/she was before. It makes them change and forces them to finish what they’ve started, even if they don’t want to. They no longer have a choice.

In my novel, Rose-Colored Glasses, the point of no return is when someone starts to meticulously target the main character (Rosie Callahan). The second main character/love interest knows that he can’t back out. He has to help her. He no longer has an option to leave or to let it go.

Same thing with one of my favorite movies, Next. The instant the government and the villains pull the love of his life into their twisted schemes is the instant that Cris Johnson decides he can’t NOT help the government. His point of no return is that he refuses to endanger the woman he loves.

Crisis

Pretty self-explanatory. Crisis. A point when all is lost.

This is usually achieved when everything has gone wrong. The plan has backfired, the bad guys are hot on the main character’s trail, and the love interest usually hates him. The world seems upside down and you’re actually afraid this character might not come out of this.

Then, right as that first tear builds in your left eye, something else terrible happens. Something that you never expected. Yet another aspect of the story goes completely berserk! Someone dies, or is kidnapped. The main character has an emotional break. SOMETHING! And you just want to scream at the page. Or the screen.

This is a crisis.

Showdown

Showdown is what people usually call a climax. The final battle.

This is when Thor faces Loki in Thor. It’s when Emma and Mr. Knightley finally communicate in Jane Austen’s Emma. Any time someone is finally getting somewhere, through words or fisticuffs, and it’s the most intense part of the book or movie, it is definitely the showdown. This is where everything will be resolved. Where someone determines whether this story is a tragedy, or if it has a happy ending.

Showdown demands an element of suspense. It demands intensity. And it should always be rewarding to your readers/watchers.

Bonus 6th: Wrap-up

Where we resolve all our storylines and write “they lived happily ever after”. The wrap-up is essential for a good read. If you don’t wrap it up, people will feel like you ripped them off. Let them know what happens, and they’ll thank you.

The only exception to the rule? When you’re writing a series or sequel, it’s okay to let a few storylines hang open, so that you can use them later on. Still, wrap up as much as you can and your fans will thank you later.

And this is PLOT.

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You.

A Compelling Story

Have you ever read a book you literally CANNOT put down? How about a movie during which you refuse to budge from your seat, because you don’t want to miss something? Have you ever noticed how it seems to take so little to make a fan out of you? Books and movies like this generate tons of fans because of one very specific thing.

They have a compelling story.

If you’re a writer, you know that everything I’m about to say in this paragraph is true. You’ve read “that” book, and you’ve seen “that” movie. You know the ones I’m talking about. You think to yourself “I can never write something as good as that! Listen to that dialogue! Look at those descriptions! Nope. I’ll never be that good.”

I have good news and more good news for you. The very fact that you want to write something that good means you care. And if you care, maybe a reader will too. The second piece of good news is that you CAN write a compelling story. All you need are a few simple tools.

TOOL #1 – Strong Plotline

What is a strong plotline, you ask? Let me explain a thing.

Plot (or “plotline”) is simply your story itself. It is “Once upon a time…”, “The End”, and everything in between. It is “Fade In”, “Roll credits”, and everything in between that, too. Plot is story, and if you don’t have a strong plot, you’re in deep trouble.

A strong plot consists of a beginning, a middle, and an end. Beginning consists of your set up and inciting incident (more on this later). Middle consists of everything that moves your hero/heroine toward the climax. Middle is a freight train pushing your hero/heroine farther than they ever wanted to go and bringing them situations they should not reasonably recover from. End is your darkest point, through the climax, and into the wrap-up. I have found that the easiest way to divide these is as follows: 1/4 beginning, 2/4 middle, 3/4 end.

(NOTE: If you are writing a novel, it’s easiest to go by word count. Say you’re writing a 60,000 word novel. That makes it a 15,000 word beginning, 30,000 word middle, and another 15,000 words for the end. Screenplays go by pages. A typical Screenplay is approximately 120 pages. Therefore… 30 page beginning, 60 page middle, 30 page end. Got it? Good!)

TOOL #2 – Strong Characters

Let’s face it. If you don’t have a character that people love (or love to hate), then you’re already dead in the water. People read books because they care what happens to the people. Yes, plot is important, but without strong characters your story won’t go anywhere.

For me, strong characters are flawed characters. Also known as relatable characters.

For the sake of sanity, let’s take some notes from those crazy, wacky Tumblr groups known as FANDOMS!!! (*gasp*! NOOOO! NOT THE CRAZY PEOPLE!)

Yes, the crazy people. Think about it. Why are they crazy? Because they love those characters (or that one character) and they have to tell the world about it. They love them so much that they write their own stories to move the character forward. They literally put that character in their own life. And those villains? Oh, yeah, they have split followings. People either want to marry them or want to kill them.

So, what makes these crazy people fall in love with the characters?

They’re flawed. They have issues, and quirks, and they don’t get along with everyone, and people can relate to that.

(More of character development and how to write flawed characters is coming in the following weeks)

TOOL #3 – Passion

Honestly, this is the third and greatest essential tool you need. Without passion for your story, you’ll never finish it. You’ll start and let it die. So be sure you are passionate before you begin.

How do you know if you’re passionate about it?

Do you think about this story day and night? Does everything you see, experience, or read correlate back to it? Do you see your characters in fashion photos and your setting in travel guides?

If you answered yes to any of these, you are passionate about your story. Don’t give it up. Keep moving, keep writing, keep dreaming. The world needs more dreamers, and the world needs your book.

You are the only one who can write your book, your way. Don’t let it go.

Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You.