Tag Archives: michelle jefferies

Highlighting your works—Michelle Jefferies review

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Thanks to everyone who offered encouragement yesterday! And now, oh frabjous day! We’re starting our latest series of website reviews by me, Jordan McCollum, of here and Marketing Pilgrim, and Kathleen MacIver of KatieDid Designtoday with C. Michelle Jefferies’s website.

michelle

Kathleen’s comments

Dear Ms. Jefferies,

I like this site! It clearly portrays the idea of stories and words, and the use of quotes establishes the genre, to a small extent. Your navigation is also clear and easy to follow.

Here are some suggestions that might help bring your site to life just a bit more:

  • If you want to improve your site, I would try to add just a bit more color, perhaps, just to make the site not feel so cold.
  • The Japanese/Chinese (I’m not sure which) characters effective hint at the genre, but it might be nice to know a little more. Are these YA? Adult? Romance? Adventure? Children’s? If you can find a way to portray that so your visitors can know if the first 3-5 seconds on your site (without looking for it), that might help.
  • However, the “hit man” quote on the top of the Why Butterflies page didn’t fit the whole idea of Asian fantasy that I got from the front. That leads me to think that my Asian fantasy perception is not accurate…which means that you DO need to clarify your genre better.
  • How about a great author photo? 🙂
  • Your My Books page is hard to follow. Some paragraph breaks dividing each book and series would help. Some book covers would be great as well.
  • Your Why Butterflies page confused me. Also, at the bottom you have the word, “Meramorphosis.” Is this a word I don’t know, or a typo?

I hope this helps, and God bless!

Kathleen MacIver, KatieDid Design

Jordan’s comments

Hi Michelle! I do like your site design (though I’d like the gradient background on the right to repeat down the length of the page).

As always, I recommend getting a domain of your own, and putting your Blogger blog and website on that domain. Both michellejefferies.com and cmichellejefferies.com are both currently available—I’d tend toward the one without an initial since it’s that much easier to remember and get it right. But either are better than your current URL—all people would have to do is remember your name, not your name and a domain.

Search engine presence

Now, I do assume that many people won’t remember your first initial when searching for your name. Without the C, there is some bingsadcompetition for your name, and Bing can’t find you at all (not terribly surprising). Google ranks your site as #5 and your blog as 8 (your Twitter profile is between those). Yahoo ranks your blog as #1 and your site at the 8th and 9th positions.

Now, with the C, your presence is better. Google and Yahoo have your blog and your site in the top 3. Even Bing finds your blog—putting it in the #3 and 4 slots. Other relevant results include your Twitter, Facebook and Listorious profiles.

This shows that you could probably work some more to build links to your blog and especially your site, but you have a decent start.

Pages

I agree with Kathleen on your My Books page—your site could be working harder to show off your works and your writing. The list of titles and statuses doesn’t tell us a whole lot about the stories you’re writing. I agree that book covers will liven the page up (although I think designing one’s own covers for an unpublished site is hokey, I did it because a page of text is boring).

I also agree that a paragraph format would be helpful—but with that many WIPs, it could easily be overwhelming. In fact, it already is—fifteen novels in various stages of planning, writing and revising is simply too many for most people to wrap their heads around.

I think the best strategy would be to select the best works—the ones you’re actively pursuing publication on now, plus a few to show depth—to give a quick summary of and put together mock covers for. Also, while you have a very short excerpt on the front page, I think adding one or two short (up to 5-7 MS page) excerpts from your edited and polished works (on separate sub-pages) would let visitors get an even better taste of your works.

On your Biography page, I would add your awards. You use “Award winning author” as your tagline, but you only have an award mention buried in the My Books page. I would recommend highlighting that award prominently in your Biography page. That award will set you apart for readers and more importantly publishers. Finally, as always, I recommend adding some more social networking info—promoting at least your Twitter profile (probably on the Blog & Email page, which you might then rename Blog & Contact).

We hope that helps!

What do you think? How does your site highlight your works and your writing?

Photo credit: highlight&dmash;Daniël Cohen

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The Hero’s Journey with Story Structure

This entry is part 18 of 24 in the series The plot thickens (Mwahahaha)
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by C. Michelle Jefferies

Brooks’ Story Structure is, in my opinion, the best prescribed formula for how to place a story together. However, I originally used The Hero’s Journey (hereafter referred to as HJ) to plot out my current WIP. A lot of what is also called “The Mythic Structure”, within the HJ, makes sense as a template as to where to place each item the story needs. One thing I disliked about HJ was the common opinion that you could move items around to your liking, therefore maybe putting certain things in the wrong place.

I have found, however, that HJ is a good characterization tool for creating a proper arc. It can also add understanding to Brooks’ Structure if applied properly. Used together I find that I have a more, well-rounded picture of the story.

What we recognize as Concept and Theme in Structure, is the Story Question in the HJ. The question I asked is: Can the MC survive being dumped by the man she thought was her life, and move on? A secondary plot question is: Which guy is right for my MC? These questions begin the thought process of how my character is going to grow in this story—the beginning of that character arc.

The Ordinary World in HJ is the equivalent of Part one: Introduction in Structure. We see the main character, who is at a fancy restaurant, unknowingly waiting for her date to dump her. As character arc, we are finding out what her ordinary world is: what she is thinking, what she is wearing, whether she likes the restaurant and how excited she is about getting married. This is the place for us to start identifying with the MC and establish emotions and rapport with her. Because, when that devastating information comes, we want our reader to be emotionally invested in the MC, enough that they don’t put the book down.

We introduce theme and set things in action by ‘calling the MC to action’, or reaction on her part. The Call to Action in HJ is not plot point #1. Although the event is important, the MC or Heroine, refuses to act. The Call is the boyfriend dumping her in public, which leads us to the Refusal of the Call. My MC goes home and cries, thinking her world is over. She locks herself in her room with a half gallon of ice cream. These actions are giving us more depth into the characters’ personality.

At this point in time we also have what is called Meeting with the Mentor. Sometimes the mentor is the one delivering the call. Sometimes it is the person the MC goes to for advice and help. My MC doesn’t have a “mentor.” She has her friend, who just happens to be a guy, who she goes to for advice and safe friendship after the disastrous date. The relationship between the MC and the mentor is another way that we develop character. How they relate reveals a lot about the MC.

Next, we experience what HJ calls Crossing the First Threshold or plot point #1. The MC is at work, and her friend talks her into going out with his brother. By accepting the date with her friend’s brother, she has accepted that the ex is a jerk and she needs to move on, thus figuratively putting the ice cream securely in the freezer. She moves from what we saw as her ordinary world into the new reality. This area is often a point where our MC struggles to become better and braver, and to take that step into the post-First Threshold world.

Now we enter Part two: reaction, the Tests, Enemies, and Allies stage of the book. This is where the MC adjusts to her new reality—post ex. She begins down a road of new possibilities. Characters, enemies, and trials are introduced during this part. This is where in the “tree” theory after you put your character in the tree, (Crossing the Threshold), you begin to throw small rocks at her. The MC reacts to what her life has dealt her.

As we Approach the Innermost Cave which is Structure’s Mid-point the plot begins to get serious and the “rocks” get a lot bigger. This point is often a place where the writer reveals information to the reader that opens up whole new possibilities. Sometimes the reader knows something that the MC doesn’t even know. My MC finds that she has feelings for both of the brothers. The guy friend finds that he has feelings for the MC too and hates that he has introduced her to his brother. By his “code,” he should back off and let the older brother have his chance with her.

This “reaction” from both the friend and the MC leads us to Part three, proactive stage. This is a time of trials for the MC. She finds out who her real friends are and what she is made of, the previous trials proving her mettle.

As we near The Ordeal, we can have either the “lull moment” where the characters think all is lost and there is no hope, or a “I’ve finally succeeded and this is the end, only to find out it isn’t” moment. My MC has an all is lost moment, and feels that she will never know who is right for her, and she will be single her whole life. This point in the story is a place where we again feel sympathy for the MC and deepens our concern for what happens to her.

The Ordeal or Plot point #2 comes at about [3/4s or] 4/5s way through the book. This is the huge crisis moment, the event that changes everything. After this point in time, no new characters or information may be allowed into the story. The MC is at Thanksgiving with the brother and has had a heated moment with the friend who she thought wasn’t interested. The spark is still there and it has grown stronger. The brother proposes and she has to make a decision—to live a relatively happy life with a good guy, or take a chance with the friend and truly love someone. She says no and runs. The friend follows her at the brother’s request, oblivious to the attraction between them. This is the refining fire for our MC, the culmination of all previous actions. This is where the reader is cheering for the MC to succeed.

Her decision is the Reward. She has proven herself, and has demonstrated to everyone that she has grown and is stronger for it. We are still cheering for her and her success.

What Structure calls Part four, resolution, HJ calls Return With Elixir. The Ordeal brings us massive change in the MC’s life. Now that everything has changed for my MC, she makes decisions that bring about resolution. She confesses her feelings and they finally kiss. They live happily ever after, or at least until the book ends. This is where the MC moves into the new ordinary world and we see not only the comparison to the old world but we see the Story Question answered. We tie up all the loose ends for the reader as well.

What do you think? How would you line up the Hero’s Journey and Story Structure?

About the author
C. Michelle Jefferies practically grew up in a library. When she was ten, she realized she wanted to write stories like the science fiction books she loved to read. A mother of six, she put her writing on the back burner while she focused on raising her young children. When her children were old enough for her to spend a few hours on the computer, without them burning the house down, she returned to writing and hasn’t stopped since. She blogs at My life in a laptop.

Photo credits: path—Kat Gloor; path through structure (bridge)—Jo Ann Deasy

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Story structure in action

This entry is part 17 of 24 in the series The plot thickens (Mwahahaha)
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by C. Michelle Jefferies

We’ve been talking about Story Structure according to Larry Brooks’ formula. There are many single elements that, combined, make a solid structure. These include: concept, theme, the four parts of story (introduction, reactive stage, proactive stage, and the resolution), and the five points in the story that move the plot along (plot point #1, pinch point #1, mid-point, pinch point #2, all is lost moment, and plot point #2).

What I have been asked to do today is illustrate how I have used all of these individual points to make a story with a solid structure in my own work. My next post will deal with how the Hero’s Journey can be used to augment the character arc.

The first thing we need to address is Concept, as in “what is the story about?” In two words, my story concept is about second chances. Theme, on the other hand, is more detailed. My theme is: pursuing their dreams and finding happiness by making up one’s mind and taking action.

Once we have concept and theme we can concentrate on the parts and points in the story. To give you an example that flows well, I will be using both the parts and points in the order they are supposed to be in, rather than addressing them separately.

Part one: Introduction—we see the main character, who is at a fancy restaurant waiting for her date. She is dressed to the nines, expecting this to be the dinner when he proposes. Instead of proposing, he tells her it’s over—that there’s another girl. She goes home devastated and publicly humiliated. We see her life in the after effects of that action. We introduce theme and set things in action by “calling the MC to action”, or reaction on her part. However, that isn’t the first plot point. Although the event is important, it comes too soon, and doesn’t deal directly with the main plotline of the book.

Next, we experience plot point #1the MC is at work and her friend who just happens to be a guy talks her into going out with his brother. This is where the MC can either accept or decline. However, she will accept the “blind date” because the story doesn’t move forward if she chooses not to. Plot point #1 brings us to the second part of the book.

Part two: Reactive stage—this is where the MC is going to be reacting to the first plot point and in my case the introduction of the theme. The MC is feeling confused. She thought for sure that the ex was “the one” and is feeling less than pretty and very imperfect—all reactions to the theme. She has a good time with the brother and that leaves her feeling confused too, wondering if her feelings for the ex weren’t true and whether she knows what she is thinking at all.

Pinch point #1 is where the reader is reminded of the plot and the opposing forces. The MC sees the ex with the new girl. It hurts more then she thought it would. Her first line of defense is her guy friend. He comforts her and makes her feel better.

The Mid-point is when things change. This point is often a place where the writer reveals information to the reader that opens up whole new possibilities. Sometimes the reader knows something that the MC doesn’t even know. My MC finds that she has feelings for both of the brothers. The guy friend finds that he has feelings for the MC too and hates that he has introduced her to his brother. By his “code,” he should back off and let the older brother have his chance with her. This “reaction” of both the MC and the guy leads us to part three.

Part three: Proactive stage—now the MC has moved from reacting to plot point #1 to being proactive and starting to do things to remedy the situation. My MC is watching both guys carefully and assessing her feeling for each of them. She makes opportunities to talk with the friend while still dating the brother.

Pinch point #2—Another crisis point in the story, edging up the pace and arc. The MC sees her friend with another girl and her jealousy flares.

Often times at this point, Brooks suggests that there is a “lull moment” where the characters think all is lost and there is no hope. This would be the MC going home eating a pint of ice cream and crying while watching some sappy love movies.

Plot point #2 comes at about [3/4s or] 4/5s of the way through the book. This is the huge crisis moment, the event that changes everything. After this point in time, no new characters or information may be allowed into the story. The MC is at Thanksgiving with the brother and has had a heated moment with the friend, who she thought wasn’t interested. The spark is still there and it is stronger. The brother proposes and she has to make a decision—to live a relatively happy life with a good guy, or take a chance with the friend and truly love someone. She says no and runs. The friend follows her at the brother’s request, oblivious to the attraction between them.

Part four, resolution—plot point #2 brings us massive change in the MC’s life. Now that everything has changed for my MC, she makes decisions that bring about resolution. She confesses her feelings and they finally kiss. They live happily ever after, or at least until the book ends.

What do you think? Does seeing the points of the story illustrated make the application a little clearer? How would you apply the structure to a romance?

About the author
C. Michelle Jefferies practically grew up in a library. When she was ten, she realized she wanted to write stories like the science fiction books she loved to read. A mother of six, she put her writing on the back burner while she focused on raising her young children. When her children were old enough for her to spend a few hours on the computer, without them burning the house down, she returned to writing and hasn’t stopped since. She blogs at My life in a laptop.

Photo credits: house frame—Robin Frousheger; concrete house—Concrete Forms

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