Driving the Plot

Thursday, July 30

"Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." -- E.L. Doctorow

A big misconception is that every book has to have a main character. Believe it or not, it’s possible to write a book without having a main character (be forewarned, this could get a trifle long.)

There are two driving forces; CHARACTER DRIVEN and EVENT DRIVEN.

Character driven just means that the focus is on your main character. They make things worse through his/her actions, they struggle, they struggle, makes it worse again, until he/she finally triumphs at the end. (Example: HARRY POTTER)

Event Driven is a about a series of events that gets worse and worse though various characters’ actions until at the end good wins over evil, or whatever they’re trying to accomplish. (Example: LORD OF THE RINGS)

I started a book once about this boy. I had the hardest time writing about him. And then I realized; I really didn’t like him! I didn’t want to write about him. I tried changing his name and personality but to no avail. Yet, in order to do the book as a character-driven one it was vital to leave him in.  So I did event driven and cut the blasted character out.  True, that story is one of the many rough drafts I never completed. But at least I want to write it. And even if it never does get finished, I learned something… by failing.

1. Who’s the main character?
2. What does he/she do?
3. How does his/her actions get them into trouble?
4. What do they plan to do about it?
5. What forces are working against them? (It can include several smaller problems.)
6. How do they overcome these forces?
7. What happens when they’ve overcome the forces and reached their goal?
8. The End

1. What’s the big problem?
2. How does it affect the majority of the world?
3. Who does it affect in particular?
4. Who wants to help stop it?
5. What happens as they try to stop it?
6. What opposing forces do all of them face?
7. What struggles does each character go through?
8. How do they succeed?
9. Do they fix the big picture, or just protect a good group of people from the problem? (For example, they could help people escape a war.)
10. What happens?
11. The End

Realize that this is not a seamless set of directions but an outline to get you started.


Naming your Character

Wednesday, July 29

I'm a HUGE believer in names and the power of names. Yea, it sounds dumb. But what I mean that I think names help shape your personality.

Finding your character's name can be tough. Some writers say that they wait until the end of the book to name them, so that the names don't affect how they'd imagined him/her.

Me, I name them beforehand for the exact same reason.
I actually enjoy naming. I like finding fierce names for fierce characters and soft names for the meek ones. Unless you're trying to be funny or make a point, you're probably not going to name an evil tyrant CHARITY. But maybe your adding that for a reason.

I choose names mostly on intuition. I have to actually feel like it's the right name before I slap it on them.

YOU are the author. YOU choose the name. What do YOU want them to be named?

As a quick exercise; what would you name the above gargoyle? Is it a boy or a girl? A normal name? A fantasy name? A name that's too hard to pronounce in human speech so he/she just has a nickname? Are they lonely or evil? Daydreaming or plotting? I'm sure whatever name you pick will reflect their personality that YOU think they have.

To sum up, their names reflect they're personalities, unless you're trying to add humor, symbolism, or make a point.


Writing at Night

Tuesday, July 28

I LOVE to sleep.
So why oh why do my creative juices always begin to flow around 9:00pm?
I declare, writers must be the closest thing to vampires this world knows.
We go to bed late scrawling furiously in notebooks and then wake up early, determined to get something done. (Or we're blogging.)

Maybe you're one of the lucky few who have brilliant ideas follow you around and strike in the middle of the day.
But I stayed awake last night writing, ignoring how warm and comfy the bed looked and ignoring its sweet, beckoning whispers.
At least I got something done. And reading what I wrote last night (or rather this morning) makes sleep seem such a small price to pay.


Setting Part 2

Saturday, July 25

So I've explained how setting can create mood and how the setting can add to your story.


If you're creating a setting to form a nonexistent world, is it based on a certain time period? (The middle ages for example?)(Ancient Roman culture?)

Or, is the world itself unique? Is there quicksand (for lack of a better example) every five yards, making it almost impossible to live on?
Does the terrain vary from these sinkholes to more hospitable ground?

One of the most original worlds I've ever come a cross was in Atherton by Patrick Carman. Basically, it's compromised of three stories, one on top of the other. But each story is round, and smaller than the one under it.

When you're creating a world, you shape it to fit your needs.
Patrick carman's world wouldn't make a good setting for any of the books I'm writing.
You can be original, but don't force it. You've got to actually like the world you've created, feel satisfied about it. If you find yourself hating the world you've created, what's stopping you from revising?


If you're writing a story about characters in this world it becomes a little harder. Mainly because *groan* you have to research.
You may like research. I don't.

I've never visited Brazil. I doubt if I wrote a story about a Brazil explorer, it wouldn't be that credible unless I reasearched.

If it's set in this day and age that might make things easier.
Or maybe you'll have to reaserch *shudder* the time period and events.
If you wrote a book about the french revoulution you'd have to look up names, dates, places, and culture.

I am currently writing a story in San Francisco. Never been there. In. My. life.
So I...procrastinate. I write what I think SanFrancisco would look like (and thank heavens for zoomable google maps) and when the second draft comes along, I check my facts and fix my somewhat romantic view of things.

I'll sum it up; research.


Readers Around the World

Friday, July 24

Proof that Writers will always be needed.
Photos are collected from trekearth.com
















This one isn't from trekearth.com











The Anatomy of a Story

Wednesday, July 22

Last night I saw HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE. I enjoyed it. However it was waaay darker than the other movies but terribly funny.
On the way home we discussed how J.K. Rowling plotted all the books before even writing the first one.
"Well," I said. "I suppose she just got the main skeletal structure of the plot and just packed the meat on as she went."
They asked me, "Where'd you read that analogy?"
A tad miffed I explained I'd come up with it myself. Their response was heartening; "Put it on you blog."

Really, when we write a rough draft, we don't need to include details. At that point, we're just trying to figure out what the heck the characters' goals are, where the story is headed, and what problems could arise.
If we're going to compare the plot to bones, then let's compare the search for the plot as a sort of archaeology dig. Each draft after draft brings us closer to what the final draft's plot will look like.

It's during these drafts that we can also build around the bones. 'Pack the meat on'. Add details and twists.

I can assure you 100% that your first draft will suck. (How's that for inspirational advice?)
BUT it will get better.

Every new 'Bone' you uncover will provide a bigger picture of what your looking for.
Every sinew and muscle you add to give details will strengthen that plot.
Wow. Am I in an anatomy mood or what?


Tired writer

Monday, July 13

I set my alarm for 5:30am last night so I could wake up and write. To tell you how that went I'll just say; I'M NOT A MORNING PERSON.

I dragged myself out of bed and attempted get something done, but I just stared groggily at the computer screen.

I was so dedicated last night when I set the alarm. Funny how easily dedication slips away at 5 in the morning.

So here it is, 9am and I haven't written a word.
(Why do my best ideas come to me just before I'm going to bed?)


Loving what you do

Friday, July 10

Do you love to write? Do you enjoy it? Or does it happen that most of the time you are too busy worrying, stressing, and slogging through your rough draft to actually enjoy doing it?
Me too.
So, I've been trying to remember the thrill I felt when I first came up with my book idea. The feel that I could do whatever I wanted.
It's hard. But not half as hard as writing a book when you don't enjoy doing it.


You know you're a writer when...

Thursday, July 9

I've had a few of these things happen to me so I thought I'd make a list;

  • Your hands are stained with ink
  • You constantly have to wash pencil marks off your wrists
  • You find book receipts in your clothing
  • You find eraser shavings on your pillow and
  • pens in your sheets
  • Though you have a perfectly good desk, you prefer the kitchen table
  • You jot down notes on napkins and happy meal bags
  • When you have free time, you find yourself either worrying about your book or writing it
  • You buy notebooks in bulk
  • Every time you turn on your computer you go to Microsoft Word
  • You think of yorself as a writer 



Tuesday, July 7

Stared at a blank page once again. Tried the quote; “Don't get it right, just get it written” but I made false start after false start.

Crumpled papers, sulked, ate chocolate.

After another attempt I decided "To heck with it,' and wrote whatever crap entered my mind. Actually turned out to be very good crap.

"To heck with it" is officially my motto.


How to write a novel

Wednesday, July 1

The Question "What If?" is a writer's best friend. You can ask yourself this question at any stage of your novel. If your stuck, if you can't think of a book to write, if the ending isn't to your satisfaction; "What if...?"

Starting a novel: "What if a boy receives a letter telling him he's a wizard?"

Moving the plot along: "What if he defeated an evil wizard as a baby?'
"What if a troll goes into the girl's bathroom?"
"What if he becomes a seeker?"
"What if he gets past the three-headed dog?" (Hopefully this is starting to sound familiar to you.)

Ending: "What if he defeats the evil wizard? What are the consequences?"

Look at your book. Are there some plot points you could improve? ("What if my hero does_________instead?")

Are you stuck? ("What if the hero does ________?")

Another good question to ask yourself after "what if" is "What are the consequences?"
How does your character's actions affect what happens next?

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