Tag Archives: mwahahaha

Free PDF guide for the Plot Thickens

This entry is part 21 of 24 in the series The plot thickens (Mwahahaha)
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plotthickensOur blog series on plotting was well-timed to get us prepared for NaNo (even though I’m not participating).

Ready to review our whirlwind tour through the hows and whys of plotting, as well as several different methods? Good news—the free PDF of The Plot Thickens is ready!

I know several readers are doing NaNo, but many aren’t. Any votes on what we should look at next?

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Share your favorite plotting resources

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I’m getting ready to make our series on plotting into a free PDF. In one of my free writing guides, I included some “bonus features”—resources that weren’t posted on my blog in the original series, but that are pretty darn awesome.

I’ve been collecting bonus features again this time around, and I have a few. But I’d love to see your favorite resources and methods for plotting.

What do you use to plot? Share your favorite resources in the comments and I’ll include an attribution link for you in the free PDF version of the plotting series!

Photo credits: question—Svilen Mushkatov

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The End

This entry is part 20 of 24 in the series The plot thickens (Mwahahaha)
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Well, that wraps up our series on plotting. It’s been fun, hasn’t it? We’ve learned about the three act structure, the snowflake method, the Hero’s Journey and Larry Brooks’s story structure. We’ve seen them applied to fellow writers’ works.

plotthickensWe started off talking about the need for plotting—and of course, there are still going to be some of us that don’t believe in plotting. The arguments are the same (and I used to make them myself)—plotting kills our creative drive. Plotting is boring. Plotting is stifling.

And no, there’s no plotting method out there that will manufacture ideas for us, but there are lots that help us imagine the types of ideas that will move our stories forward. And yes, the joy of writing is in creating and discovering the twists and turns—but knowing what landmarks we’re shooting for can make sure we don’t end up going in circles, or remodeling a Winchester Mystery story, where two thirds of it will have to be jettisoned before we could ever hope to create a livable structure.

Plotting doesn’t have to mean you write out a scene-by-scene outline. When I plotted my most recent MS (using Story Structure), I had the beginning, five landmarks, a twist and the end in mind, plus a freewrite brainstorm of backstory/ideas/plot (about 3 pages). Right now, a lot of the transitions need work, but I never felt lost, never got stuck because I wasn’t sure where I was going and finished the first draft in about 55 days. I know it has a solid backbone, even if some of the stuff in between is a little flabby—and that’s not bad shape to be in after the first draft (not to mention eight weeks, and I took a couple weeks off in there, too).

When we plot, we have to do what works for us. So many of the writers we had guest posts from over the last few weeks mentioned how they customized that plotting method to meet their needs.

If you’ve never plotted before, or if you’ve never successfully plotted before, why not give it a try?

What do you think? What’s keeping you from plotting? Or are there any other plotting methods you like?

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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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Overview of Larry Brooks’s Story Structure

This entry is part 16 of 24 in the series The plot thickens (Mwahahaha)
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This is the most recent plotting method I’ve come across. Simply called “Story Structure,” this method gives great advice for partitioning your story as well as the major events and turning points. I used it in my most recent WIP (which I reached the end of late Saturday night 😀 ), and it was really helpful to pace myself (though I ended up short on word count, I know I’ll add more in revisions).

Larry Brooks, author of many, many scripts, four published novels, and the blog StoryFix, published this in a blog series. It’s very much worth it to read the Story Structure full series, but I’ll give a quick overview here.

The structure is in four parts with three turning points separating them (plus two “pinch points”). Each part of the story should be about one quarter of the story.

Part one is the Set-up. In this part of the story, we meet the characters and are introduced to the story question. (If you’re reading this and thinking “Oh, the Ordinary World,” you’re not alone.) Here we also establish what’s at stake, but most of all, we’re working up to the turning point at the end of this part: Plot Point 1 (what we commonly call the Inciting Incident).

Brooks says that First Plot Point is the most important moment in your story. Located 20-25% of the way into your story, it’s

the moment when the story’s primary conflict makes its initial center-stage appearance. It may be the first full frontal view of it, or it may be the escalation and shifting of something already present.

This is a huge turning point—where the whole world gets turned on its head. (If you like, you can say this is where we formally pose the story question.)

PP1 bridges into Part 2—the Response. The hero/heroine responds to the first plot point. This response can be a refusal, shock, denial, etc., etc. That doesn’t mean they have to do nothing—they have to do something, and something more than sitting and stewing—but their reactions are going to be . . . well, reactive. The hero(ine) isn’t ready to go on the offensive to save the day quite yet—they’re still trying to preserve the status quo.

In the middle of this part (about 3/8s of the way through your story), comes Pinch Point 1. Brooks defines a pinch point as “an example, or a reminder, of the nature and implications of the antagonistic force, that is not filtered by the hero’s experience. We see it for ourselves in a direct form.” So it’s something bad that we get to see happen, showing us how bad the bad guy is, raising the stakes.

At the end of the Response comes the Mid-Point. As the name suggests, this is halfway through the story. And here, the hero and/or the reader receives some new bit of information. It’s pretty important, though—this is the kind of revelation that changes how we view the story world, changing the context for all the scenes that come after it.

Then we swing into Part Three, the Attack. Now our hero(ine) is ready to go on the offensive. He’s not going to operate on the bad guy’s terms anymore—he’s taking matters into his own hands, and he’s going after the bad guy. This is the proactive hero’s playing field now.

In the middle of this part (5/8s of the way through the story), comes Pinch Point 2, which is just like PP1—a show of how bad the bad guy is.

Part Three ends with a lull before the Second Plot Point, our last new information in the story. This last revelation is often the key to solving the mystery or fixing the problem—it’s the last piece of info the hero needs to make his world right. This comes 75% of the way into the story.

And now we’re ready for Part Four, the Resolution. Our hero steps up and takes the lead for the final chases, the last showdowns. Here we get to see how much of a hero he really is—he passes his final tests, proves he’s changed and finally, saves the day.

Simple, right? Uh, kind of. Since examples always help me, we’re going to have a guest post this week talking about how this author is applying this structure to her story. And of course, I need to give credit to the person that pointed out Larry Brooks’s story structure to me, Jaime Theler.

What do you think? Can you see this in place in your writing, or in other works? What advantages do you see to this method?

Photo credits: structure—Christopher Holland; gasp—Becka Spence; attack—D. B. King

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The Hero (and Heroine)’s Journey–Hero’s Journey in romance

This entry is part 14 of 24 in the series The plot thickens (Mwahahaha)
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by Faye Hughes

Thanks, Jordan, for allowing me to join you on your blog today. It’s such a pleasure to be here.

I’m going to be talking about plotting a romance novel using the hero’s journey paradigm. Now, first, a disclaimer: This approach works for a lot of romance novelists but it may not work for you. We’re all individuals so we all approach the plotting process from a different viewpoint . . . and you know what? That’s just fine.

The hero’s journey is based on the work of screenwriter Christopher Vogler, whose book The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers was in turn based upon his interpretation of the archetypes described by Joseph Campbell in his seminal work on mythology, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Romance author and lecturer Debra Dixon used Vogler’s interpretations in her fabulous—and when I say, “fabulous,” I mean you REALLY need to get a copy of this if you’re writing a romance novel—book, Goal, Motivation, and Conflict.

everythingguideBasically, Vogler suggested that all fictional heroes—whether in a novel or a screenplay—would follow a similar path during the course of the story. When Vogler’s insights regarding the hero’s journey are applied to the traditional three-act paradigm for writing a romance novel, the result can flesh out the plot and give insight into character.

It can also ensure that you’ll avoid the saggy middle and other plot pitfalls.

The hero’s journey paradigm includes:

I. Act One

a. Ordinary World: The H/H (hero and heroine) are in their normal world before story begins.
b. Call to Adventure: The H/H learn of the problem, receive a challenge or the call to adventure that can lead to their romance.
c. Refusal of the Call: The hero or heroine (or both) refuses the call (due to their respective internal conflicts).
d. Meeting with the Mentor: The H/H meet with a mentor who offers advice or training.
e. Crossing the First Threshold: The H/H take the first step toward the romance (the first kiss, perhaps).

II. Act Two

a. Tests, Allies, Enemies: The H/H face and resolve their numerous non-primary conflicts and meet the secondary characters who will hinder or help them on their path to true love.
b. Approach to the Inmost Cave: The H/H encounter numerous obstacles while pursuing their primary goal (an HEA [Happily Ever After]).
c. Supreme Ordeal: A major plot point where an important secondary conflict seems to doom the romance (could also include the primary conflict peripherally, though not always).
d. Reward: The H/H overcome their secondary conflict.

III. Act Three

a. The Road Back: The H/H begin the return to their ordinary world, although the primary conflict is still unresolved.
b. Resurrection: The Dark Moment where the H/H face the loss of their romance and must use every lesson they have learned along their journey to resurrect their love.
c. Return with Elixir: The H/H return from their journey with the “elixir”—their HEA.

The reason I like using The Hero’s Journey paradigm for writing a romance is that it ensures we have all of the elements needed for a successful romance novel in our book.

One final thing, I’m offering a copy of mine and Christie’s book, The Everything Guide to Writing a Romance Novel, to one commenter, so please leave a comment. [Update: we have a winner, thanks everyone for commenting!]

Happy Writing!

About the author
Faye Hughes, a Mississippi native currently living in New York, is the award-winning author of seven highly-acclaimed novels of romantic fiction published by Bantam, Zebra and Meteor. Heralded as one of the rising stars of contemporary romantic fiction during the 1990s, Faye received two W.I.S.H. (Women In Search of a Hero) awards for her work from Romantic Times BOOKLovers Magazine. Two of her romance novels have been optioned for television movies. Her website is at www.FayeHughes.net. She and nonfiction co-author Christie Craig have a joint website at www.WritewithUs.net.

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Applying the Hero’s Journey

This entry is part 11 of 24 in the series The plot thickens (Mwahahaha)
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The Hero’s Journey is one of the more useful plotting methods we’ve looked at so far, because of the specific nature of most of the steps. And I can say this from experience—I’ve used the Hero’s Journey (both Vogler’s and Jung’s versions) to plot at least six books. Of those, I’ve actually written two of them (one with Vogler’s outline and the other with Jung’s).

The Hero’s Journey is a fun method to use for plotting, because it gives a great structure that we instinctively recognize (since it’s based on archetypes from fairy tales and all those myths we had to study in high school). It has some very specific steps to follow, so you have clear suggestions on the types of events to include.

However, sometimes I’ve been disappointed by the Hero’s Journey as a plotting method—when I expect to look at a list of steps and magically have the list tell me exactly how I should handle each of those scenes. That’s not really what it’s for—we still have to use our imagination.

And, as with all plotting methods, we have to be flexible. Not all books require all steps. A murder mystery, for example, may open after the hero has finally accepted the call—when he arrives on the crime scene. He may have another call to adventure, though—something that makes the case personal, if it isn’t already. And, of course, in writing, we have to stay flexible, too. My Hero’s Journey outlines bear only a passing resemblance to the finished products—in fact, I’m not totally sure I even have all the steps left in the manuscripts.

Sometimes it’s tough to see how the Hero’s Journey applies to different genres. Like I said, sometimes in mysteries, we jump in in the middle of the Journey. At Annette’s presentation a few months ago, someone asked about applying the Hero’s Journey to a romance. I was actually convinced to use the Hero’s Journey by The Everything Guide to Writing a Romance Novel, which I won on the Romance Writers’ Revenge blog—and tomorrow, we’ll have co-author Faye Hughes here to discuss how the Hero’s Journey plays out in a romance!

Now the Hero’s Journey is one of my favorite methods of plotting. Have you used the Hero’s Journey? How have you seen it applied in your works or in others’?

Image credit: Svilen Mushkatov

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