I Did It

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Well, I Did It

23I did another first in my life.  I actually finished a novel.  Well, it was really just a first draft.  It took me 101 days, and is nearly 170,000 words.  If you want to read about it, you can read about, if you wish.

Following the advice of people I trust, I put it away.  I will take it out, probably after the first of the year, and see what I think of it.

In the mean time, I will go off and do fun stuff for a while.  For one, I’m picking back up with studying James Scott Bell’s book, Plot and Structure.

Go to my stories.

See my favorites.

Read about me.

Contact me.

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Plotting To Be Scene – Part Seven

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Plotting To Be Scene – Part Seven

I am studying how to plot, and the relationship of plots to scenes.  I recently completed my first draft of Scepter’s Sacrifice, and know that, once I start revising and editing my story, I will have much work to do.  I am using James Scott Bell’s Plot and Structure to help me learn to write more professionally.   In Bell’s seventh chapter, Scenes, he includes three exercises.

You can see my answers to Part Six.
01 consideringEXERCISE ONE – Pull a novel at random from your shelf. Open to any scene and read it. Now identify the places where you learn about the character’s objectives in the scene.and the conflict. How does the scene end? Do you want to read on?

I love Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, so I turned to The Dragon Reborn and picked Chapter 29. Then, I typed it all in, by hand. It was about 3,200 words. As I typed it in, I immersed myself in it, absorbing as much as I could.

Robert Jordan constructed his action scene with two bookends wrapping around an inner scene. As we start and end our scene, our POV battles her antagonist, the Head Cook. She seeks to avoid knuckling under, while serving out her punishment, performing kitchen drudgery. Inside, our author takes us into an altogether different realm, where our POV struggles to understand her sponsor before she begins her own perilous journey into uncharted dangers.

Our POV’s immediate goal is to endure until she finishes her shift, waiting for her punishment tour to end. Her larger goal is to escape her sponsor’s benign confinement, and chase bad guys. Her second goal does not emerge until we are well into the second scene.

Our POV is already in conflict, her personality clashing with her chief tormentor. Their ping-pong match uses few words, and Action and Reaction are clear.

When her sponsor arrives, our POV finds herself in another contest of wills. This conflict revolves around being put into dangerous situation without explanation or disclosure by her sponsor. Our POV is irritable by nature, and duplicity does not increase her comfort level or build trust.

Finally, our POV receives permission to hunt bad guys. However, her sponsor won’t sanction her activities, or acknowledge ordering her to do it if she runs into trouble. She also explains added dangers, and raises the stakes beyond simply searching for bad guys. She is now also charged with keeping super weapons out of the hands of her bad guys.

This makes me want to read on, to see if our POV and her friends escape unhampered, and begin their hunt. Knowing so little, how can they ever complete their mission, and safeguard their friends?

EXERCISE TWO – Now find an action scene and chart its intensity using the blank intensity scale that is provided above.

tensionSince my scene was action oriented, I went ahead and used it again. Then I hit my first snag. How do I know when tension goes up, or down. So, I invented my way. I read each paragraph. When I read tension words, I marked it as increasing tension. When I read words which were calming, I marked it as lowering tension. When I found nothing, I left it alone. I’m sure geeks have better ways of doing this. I might ask on Scribophile what they suggest.

EXERCISE THREE:  Look at one of your chapters and analyze the hook, intensity level, and prompt at the end. Can you strengthen each aspect?

Now, it was time for me to look at my work. If I’d had to start with my scene, I would have freaked out. But, now that I had already looked at Robert Jordan’s scene, I was ready for my own. My random pick was Part Two, Scene Nineteen. I wrote it from my MC’s POV.

But, before I start, some background, which will help explain problems I found. My MC learned, just before this scene, that her husband and father had both been assassinated. When I wrote her character arc, I decided to fold in five stages of grief. And, when we see her here, she is still numb and in denial. She is just starting to break into anger. So I wrote her as nonreactive, while everything goes on around her. I succeeded. And I’m sure readers would feel pretty uninvolved, too.

So, let’s see how well I did.

Hook

I didn’t set my hook for some time. Readers would have to wade through four paragraphs of description or POV introspection before anything starts to happen. I think paragraphs five, six and eight could become my hook, with work. Paragraph seven weakens everything, so it needs to move.

I should move or drop paragraphs one through four, and paragraph seven.

I buried, somewhere early on, my MC’s goal. But I’m having trouble finding it. I think I wanted to emphasize her hope for unity between her People and her adopted country. If that is so, it isn’t very clear. When I rewrite, I must slip this in, whether my MC says it, or someone else does.

Prompt

My best chance for my prompt comes five paragraphs before my scene ends, when she bemoans her lack of power, and being other people’s pawn to manipulate.

I should reconsider how much value my last paragraphs add, if any.

Tension

wip tension imageI confess to having trouble defining when tension increases or decreases. I finally decided that, if I put tension words in paragraphs, tension goes up. If calming words show up, tension goes down.

I numbered my paragraphs. Using Excel, I marked tension increases and decreases. When I built my graph, I got numbers from -1 to 12. And, since I didn’t think my scene was more tense than five, or lower than zero, I squeeze my numbers down until they fit.

And this feels right. We come in on my MC and her escort creeping through heavy forest, trying to avoid their enemy. Tempers flair among her men, and escalates into brawls. Officers restore order, and explain how desperate their situation is. My MC can’t take it any more, and vents her grief and anger, only making things worse.

So, what does this mean?

I loved this exercise.  Having written 83 scenes for my WIP, I knew I didn’t know very much about.  Over time, I forgot about setting hooks, and making my prompts compelling.  I can fix those things.  And, having glimpsed tension, I can work on making my scenes rise and fall as I need to, I hope.

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Grandma Knows Their Names

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Please accept my submission for Friday Fictioneers.

Grandma Knows Their Names

white swans“Please, Aunt Mary, let me out, please?” Amy tugged her seatbelt.  She couldn’t wait.

Cold air whipped Amy’s face as she slid out of Grandma’s car.  Amy giggled and skipped to see the white birds.  Grandma knew their names.  What could she feed them? Grandma had always brought bread.

Amy stopped and put her hands in her pockets.

Grandma wasn’t in her house, which always smelled like baked bread.  Grandma was in that other place, with funny smells.  Daddy told Amy to be good and not make noise.  Mommy cried.

Aunt Mary picked Amy up.  They held each other tightly.

Plotting To Be Scene – Part Six

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Plotting To Be Scene – Part Six

I am studying how to plot, and the relationship of plots to scenes.  I recently completed my first draft of Scepter’s Sacrifice, and know that, once I start revising and editing my story, I will have much work to do.  I am using James Scott Bell’s Plot and Structure to help me learn to write more professionally.   In Bell’s fifth chapter, Endings, he includes four exercises.

You can see my answers to Part Five.
01 considering1 – Reread the last couple of chapters from five novels you love. Analyze each of them. Is it closed-ended? Does it have a twist? Why does it work for you? This will help you understand your own writing preferences.

I read three or four chapters of Board Stiff by Elaine Viets, Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan, Far Gone by Lauara Griffin, The Double Game by Dan Fesperman, The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J K Rowlings.

Board Stiff closed in positive fashion. It had no twist, and it’s epilog was clumsy. Closure relied on tricking two uncooperative junior villains into betraying their boss. In both cases, our MC resorted to bluffs and bullying to gain junior villain confessions. Our MC took physical risks to get closure. She resolves her personal issues and gets her guy back. I thought the ending was average.

Sweet Tooth’s story ending was positive, but our MC’s personal life remained unresolved. Our author achieved tension when he created situations where our MC betraying her lover. She then waits, with dread, until her role in suborning her lover comes out. Two twists came at the end. Our MC thinks she has suborned her lover. But, he knows what she has done and intends to punish her. Only, when his chance comes to exact revenge, having fallen back in love with her. The ah ha moment might have worked, but it went on far too long. I didn’t like this ending. Continue reading

Butterflies and Tingling Skin – Bench Pressing Strong Verbs

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Butterflies and Tingling Skin

I intend to become a better writer, using strong verbs, making a little game out of it.  Today’s strong word are assume, consider, deepen, demand, diminish, develop, control, comprise, complicate, and demolish.

Click here to read about Tammy’s mixed feelings.

tammy3a5Tammy paused, and assumed her conscientious and polite employee demeanor.  She took deep breaths to calm her thoughts. But they were still roiled by yesterday’s events.  Rebecca had been no help.  She tried to consider only today’s duties.  Herds of butterflies swirled in her tummy, deepening her anxiety.

Stepping inside his Chateau, she wondered if she would see the Count.  In days past, she had seldom seen him.  But, with his clear interest in her, she had become hyper aware of his presence.  Now, she expected to see him at every turn.  Where, once, she had given him little thought, now it seemed as if he demanded her attention.

Quelling her turmoil, she began her duties.  As tourists assembled, her uneasiness diminished.  Soon, her well-practiced habits, developed over countless tours, took hold. She led straggling tourists down familiar halls, pointing out tapestries and explaining painting. At first, she fielded many questions. But, as always, they became more quiet.

Yet, something was different.  On other tours, she had mingled with them, gaining their trust and affection.  Now, men eyed her.  And their wives and girlfriends watched her with hate in their eyes, or tried to show her up.  Using all her tricks, she struggled to entertain and control her charges.

Continue reading

Fairies Don’t Sweat, They Glow

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Please accept my submission for Friday Fictioneers.  It took me a while to find this one, and I am surprised at where it took me.

Fairies Don’t Sweat, They Glow

fairiesLeekah pushed. Stinging sweat dripped into her eyes.  If she closed them, she would fall asleep.  Time would start.

Other fairies had fun, like changing teeth to coins.  Instead Weenok sent her night after night to the old woman, forbidden to turn rocks to gold.

Every stone weighed more than her.  She couldn’t even fly them into place.  Once, she even walked right into glue still setting, and lost her moccasin.

Their Fair was tomorrow.  So much needed to be done.  Panting, she sat down.  She would close her eyes for—

Shuffling feet awoke her.  She could see her shadow!

That Special Time of Year – Bench Pressing Strong Verbs

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That Special Time of Year

Bench Pressing Strong Verbs

I intend to become a better writer, using strong verbs, making a little game out of it:  Today’s strong word are refute, advance, comprise, recreate, abrogate, intervene, compute, react, delineate, differentiate.

Read about Janet’s adventure with Aunt Hilda.

witch 3a

Janet, arms folded, tried not to fidget.  After all, the Ministry’s order to cease all things magical was old, and, surely they had forgotten.  When officious little Ministry bureaucrats came today, all she need do was refute  those accusations that she had…forgotten.

Her spidery senses, oh and her watch spiders, told her someone advanced up her walk.  She realized more than one person approached, a group to question her.  She wondered who comprised her would-be interrogators.

Looking in her hall mirror, she straightened her hair, checked her lips, and assumed her most tranquil visage.  Before they could ring her bell, she stepped out.  “Greetings,” she said.  No less than five people stood on her step.  Two witches, two warlocks, and a goblin.  “You honor me.  How may I help you?” Continue reading

Plotting To Be Scene – Part Five

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Plotting To Be Scene – Part Five

I am studying how to plot, and the relationship of plots to scenes.  I recently completed my first draft of Scepter’s Sacrifice, and know that, once I start revising and editing my story, I will have much work to do.  I am using James Scott Bell’s Plot and Structure to help me learn to write more professionally.   In Bell’s fifth chapter, Middles, he includes five exercises.

You can see my answers to Part Four.
01 consideringEXERCISE ONE:  Define how your Lead will die, either physically or psychologically if she does not achieve her objective.  Ask yourself if the objective is truly crucial to the Lead’s well-being.  Find a way to make it so important readers will understand why the objective must be achieved.

Deheya’s goal is to save her people. She has invested herself by marrying the leader of the nation determined to exterminate her people. Their child will succeed him, and rule both Peoples. When someone assassinates her husband, she fears her son will also be killed before he can reach his majority.

If she cannot make her son the Duke, everything she has risked will have been for nothing. She will be guilt ridden that she could not save her people, and cut off from eternity with the death of her son.

So, what does this mean for my WIP?

I need to go clearly state that her goal is to help her people survive.  And, with each scene, I need to find a way to show that unfolding events bring her people closer to extinction.  And, until sometime in Part Four, her people need to be in ever greater danger.

EXERCISE TWO:  Deepen your opposition character. Find an answer to the question, “Who do I love this character?” Have you given him justifications for what he does? Is he strong, or stronger than the Lead?

Deheya’s opposition is Christor.  Christor is Duke Ren Gar’s brother.  They have competed since childhood.  And it goes on.  Christor’s father had assumed that, when Ren Gar became Duke, Christor would become his strong right arm.  But, as is often the case, the “extra” prince isn’t content with his lot. Continue reading