Welcome to Friday. Today will be the last post in this series on developing story ideas. Thank you for sticking it out to the end of these posts. If you're just joining in, you can catch up to the previous posts here:
You've made it through this week; you deserve a pat on the back. Sometimes weeks are hard, so be sure to indulge in a little, go me time. But first, time to do some more work! I also must apologize as this will be a long post.
My last post was about free writing for the situation of your story. If you pulled out your trusty notebook, you should have a whole list of situations that might work for your novel, and after you finished that chore you were probably thinking, now what? Right? Now we're going to test whether or not our character, setting, and situation can support a full-length novel. We do that by plotting out the five major plot points for a novel using the ideas we've already formed. (DON'T PANIC!)
I know when I first tried this I was thinking, five plot points?!? How can I work through that with this measly little list of things? Relax, it's not as hard as it sounds. In fact, I'll give you examples along the way. Everyone loves examples right?
If you're not familiar with the five major plot points, I'll briefly go over what they entail, but will not be giving this a lot of in-depth discussions. If you'd like to see something like that, or have any other questions, comments or ideas that you'd like me to go over, please leave them below.
Our first plot point is the Inciting Incident: This is an unusual thing that happens that might pose a question to your character such as: Will you step into this world?
Example Shawshank Redemption: A new bus of fresh fish arrive at the prison. Andy Dufresne is on that bus having been convicted of the murder of his wife, and her lover. Red takes bets on which will break down and cry first. He bets cigarettes on Andy, but later that night when the inmates go "fishing" the head guard drags a newbie into the open area and beats him to death. Andy doesn't make a sound, thus costing Red two packs of cigarettes.
Go ahead and brainstorm this for your WIP. Don't worry; these plot points may change as you write. The whole goal is to see if the work we've done so far will support a novel. My WIP: Aisly Dalton is incarcerated for a small-time crime. She's approached her arresting officer to act as an informant for a case he's currently working. She refuses because, in prison, snitches get stitches, and Aisly is already having a tough enough time dealing with her reality. But this Detective offers Aisly something that's very hard to turn down, a chance to get out of jail sooner, rather than later. She's adamant that she can't help this Detective.
But Korbyn! She didn't say she would come into the story! How can this be your inciting incident?
Which brings me to the next plot point. The Lock In: The lock-in answers the question posed by your inciting incident. Will your character come into the story? This answer is always yes, it may be a begrudging yes, but it is always yes. This plot point typically happens at the end of your novels first act as well.
Example Shawshank Redemption: While tarring the prison roof, Andy overhears the head guard Hadley complain about taxes from an inheritance. Andy listens intently before finally getting up the courage to tell the guard that he can help him shelter the money so that the guard gets to keep more of it. He offers to set this up for three beers a piece for his "co-workers."
Again, don't worry when you brainstorm your lock-in. You already know that your character will be stepping into the story, and the exact points may change a bit as you sit down to write. My WIP: Upset about recent events in prison, and having realized that the person responsible for much of her troubles (a local coven leader) is not only not in jail, but thriving puts Aisly in a foul mood. She mouths off to the leader of a prison gang and is subsequently jumped- since hurt prisoners can't take work detail shifts she loses her privileges, and her life inside becomes more unbearable. She realizes she might not be able to finish out her time, and opts to take the deal offered to her by the Detective after an unpleasant conversation with the warden.
Third, we have the Midpoint Climax: This is the second biggest moment of your whole story. It's the big win for your hero. Or if you're writing a tragedy, it's your characters lowest low.
Example Shawshank Redemption: Andy receives book donations from the state. Inside he finds a Mozart record. He locks a guard in the restroom and plays the record over the PA system. Warden Norton arrives and is furious. He orders the head guard to break the door down and gives Andy two weeks in solitary for the stunt.
My WIP: Aisly turns up an important piece of evidence on the location of the magic user who's eluding the Detective. Because of this, she's allowed to sit in on the conversation between the Detective and her old coven leader(OCL). Because of this conversation, the OCL is forced to save face and aid the police in the investigation or risk admitting wrongdoing and face legal action. Which threatens to topple the power-hoarding the OCL has been doing to gain prominence in public. This is important because it's the first time Aisly feels empowered, in control of her life, and she gets to stick it to the man.
Hang in there; we're almost done! Take a break, stretch, eat a taco (feed your muse chocolate) whatever you need to do!
Next up, the Main Climax: This is sometimes called the Dark Night of the soul. It usually happens at the end of your second act. It's your characters lowest low, their most harrowing moment. If you're writing a tragedy, this is your characters highest high.
Example Shawshank Redemption: Andy realizes a fellow inmate, Tommy has information that could get him a new trial. Andy asks Warden Norton for help. The Warden tries to persuade Andy that it's just prison talk. Andy assures the Warden that he just wants a new fair trial and that he won't spill the beans about the Warden's money laundering. Norton throws Andy into solitary and has his head guard shoot Tommy, the only man capable of clearing Andy's name.
My WIP: Aisly receives a visit from OCL and is warned to stay out of coven business or else. OCL reminds Aisly that there are worse things than being locked in a cage. Aisly receives word from the Detective that her family has been in a horrible accident. Her mother has been hurt and is on life support. The injuries result in Aisly losing her mother, the one person she felt believed in her and was connected to.
Finally, the Third Act twist: This changes the tone of your set by the Dark night of the soul so that the story begins to mirror your midpoint climax. Also, it's worth mentioning at this point, your midpoint climax and third act twist usually hammer home your story theme as well.
Example Shawshank Redemption: Andy asks for rope. When Red finds out, he's concerned that Andy has finally lost it, and after nearly 20 years in prison, is going to hang himself. The next morning at roll call, Andy is gone. Norton is furious and orders the prison searched. As he's raging in Andy's cell, he throws a rock against a poster, revealing a man-sized hole in the wall.
My WIP: Aisly finds the missing magic user (MMU) before he can finish his ritual and slaughter two innocent girls. She's also able to link the MMU to the OCL. Because she's able to link the two, not only is she able to bring down the OCL but she's also able to receive vindication for a past tragedy.
Bonus tip: IF you haven't guessed it yet, as I mentioned before your midpoint climax and third act twist often hammer home whatever story theme you are going for. In my case, it's going to be sticking it to the man. My mc has spent most of her last few years of life as a doormat, and she's tired of it. But she doesn't want revenge, she wants justice, and maybe a little piece of mind. How did I come to this realization? By plugging my free writing into these plot points and seeing where it took me. The whole process took a few hours last night of brainstorming. But as you can see, my story idea COULD make a novel.
If you've been following along and stuck it out through this massive post, THANK YOU! You rock. I hope this helps you develop your ideas, and I hope now you're sitting there on the other side of your screen thinking, damn. I can write this.
As always, Happy writing!
In my last post, we talked about setting. If you haven't read that blog you can do so here:
I've thought about my list, character, and have decided that I should go with Michigan as the primary setting. I know you're thinking wait a minute, you said Michigan, don't you need to be more specific? Yes. I do, but also no, I don't. I won't be using the entire state, but given the nature of my story, I will need multiple locations in both an urban setting, and around the area. So, I've chosen to make up a fictional prison out of an existing building that is abandoned. If you're curious, I've chosen Michigan Central Station; it's both old and creepy. Which kind of suits my needs and mood right now. You're also probably wondering what prison has to do with magic at this point right? *Inserts evil grin here* That, you'll just have to wait to find out.
Today's post is about Situation:
If we were writing an article, we would've already nailed down the who (character) and the where (setting) of our piece. You smart cookie you, you guessed it, what is our Situation. It's what happens to entice our character into leaving their cozy world for the uncertainty of our story. Don't be fooled; cozy doesn't mean comfortable here. It just means the world as they know it when the story is opening. If it helps, you can think of these as plot bunnies. Not sure which plot bunnies work for what you're already doing? No problem.
I know, I know, you're thinking, but Korbyn. How do I know which plot bunnies are right for my character? Don't sweat it! Grab your notebook, and make another list (I know you're rolling your eyes at me and thinking, god ANOTHER list?) Trust me. Grab that book and put pen to paper. As I mentioned before, I highly recommend doing this on in an actual notebook; there is just something about putting pen to paper that you don't get from a laptop, or word program.
I'm going to share my list, but I've left it vague on purpose. If you have questions about how I came up with this list, or what they might be, ask in dm, and I'd be happy to elaborate further. Here is my list so far:
· Offered chance at redemption
· Life becomes unbearable
· Stick it to the man
Sometimes your situation can coincide with the overall theme of the plot, but it doesn't always have to. If you're not sure about themes, let me know, we can cover those later.
If there is any way I can help, or you'd like to have a topic covered, please let me know. I'm no expert, but I'm happy to share any and all resources I've stumbled across over the years. I do have a website and have posted a blog there that is different topic wise than this one.
As always, thank you for reading, and happy writing!
If you missed it, earlier this week I posted a piece on how to develop a story idea (ok, it was a lot of things and not just that.) If you haven’t checked it out, please do so here, and let me know what you think.
If you did the work from that post, you should have your list of characters, and hopefully, you’ve done your free writing so that you know more about your character. You should’ve asked this person(character) a few tough questions to try to figure out who they are. Maybe you’ve even taken that step to find an inspirational photo.
To recap, I chose to use the woman who cut herself off from magic. When I started this process, I quickly realized one question caught my attention and drew me to that character specifically. Why would someone willingly cut themselves off from something like magic? Reasons:
*tragedy, depression, misery, fear, loss,
I knew I didn’t want to go the usual route, blaming it solely on a tragedy. Yes, something bad would’ve happened to drive my character to that point, but it had to be more than that. After all, car accidents happen, but people still muster the courage to get into vehicles. So, what if the thing that happened made her so scared that she was afraid she might hurt someone else again and was something she was lead to believe that she couldn’t control?
I also realized I didn’t want to write a young character. I’m tired of reading about twenty-somethings doing things in fictional versions of our world. Who says a woman can’t still kick ass in her thirties or forties? So, here is a brief account of what I have so far:
Character name: Aisly Dalton Age: 34
Family: Mother and father divorced after a tragedy happened, both are still living, and character is close to them in a way. She keeps things bottled up and doesn’t talk much about what she goes through, has been institutionalized (mental health possibly) for some time on an unrelated matter, and only talks to the family once a week or through letters.
Of course, this left me with many many more questions, but this will at least give a general idea, this process can be pretty lengthy, but it brings me to the real meat of today's post, part 2: Setting.
I primarily write urban fantasy. So, in some ways, my setting is already sort of a done deal. Thanks to my character building I also already know that I’m going to need multiple places in the real world that this stories scenes will take place. (More on how I came to that realization in my next blog.)
So, much as I did for the character, I brainstormed several places where I might like to write a story. These could be towns, cities, or even states depending on what you’ve come up with so far. Heck, if you were writing a space opera, they could even be space stations, ports- you get the picture.
Here’s my list:
Colorado Denver Aurora
Texas Dallas San Antonio
Michigan Detroit Upper P
New Mexico Ruidosa Albuquerque Santa Fe
I'll be picking one for my next post and sharing that then. If there is some way I can better help you, please let me know. I'll be posting more frequently over the next two weeks or so, I'd like to really get the ball rolling with this story.
Also, a big THANK YOU to everyone who reads these. If you'd like free content, check out my website, it's in my signature. Anyone who does and signs up for my email list will be receiving free material, like how to get a jump start on platform building (I've learned some cool things in the last few weeks which I haven't covered here.) And how to DIY materials to save yourself some money as an Indie.
As always I hope these posts help some of you and happy writing!
Fake it until you make it: I never understood this statement. It always seemed a little counterproductive to me. But one thing I've learned over the years is to try to see things from a different perspective than my usual one. So that's what I'm doing with this little gem.
What does "Fake it until you make it" mean to me?
Well, it means showing up every day to do the work for one thing. No excuses. No, but my muse isn't talking to me. No, but the words just won't come. I've been there and done that for several years, languishing and annoyed with the fact that the words. Still. Would not. Come.
Fake it until you make it can also mean, do the work until you find your confidence. Usually, it's there all along, just hiding way down deep. You know, so deep you can't see it, and it might as well be non-existent. (No really, it's there, I swear.)
Part of my year of doing is showing up to do the work, even when I get in my way, and the words just aren't there. It's hard. Real hard. But if it were easy, more people would do it, right?
Because of this, I've decided to share my entire writing process here. How I get my ideas, what I do with them, but most importantly, how I'm going to decide if my current thought will make a novel. Yes, you can do that. You can test your ideas to make sure that they will carry you through to your end goal, a rough draft. That doesn't mean that this "test" will tell you if you've got a good idea, it just helps you flush that concept out so that you hopefully avoid writing yourself into a corner, or worse... write several thousand words to realize you don't have a novel.
I wish I could say that I discovered this trick to testing out novel ideas, but I didn't. It came to me in the form of another writers tutorial. If you'd like a copy of the text that I use, I'd be happy to send it to you, and a copy of her plotting course which I received for members of my rl writing group. Just message me, let me know you read this, and of course, supply your email, and I'd be happy to pass it along.
Now, the good stuff.
Part one of how to develop and test a story idea is Character:
You're to free write a vague list of possible characters until you find one that speaks to you on some level. This is my list it doesn't have to be long:
Woman has magically neutered herself
Man's love interest curses him in an attempt to save her own life
Man must make amends to the descendant of a woman he crossed
Woman dies and must ferry the dead to keep out of hell
For the purposes of this exercise, I'll be using woman has magically neutered herself. Now that I have my base character, I'll be freewriting basics about this person like age, name, occupation. If you prefer to use character sheets that's fine too. Typically before I freewrite, I look for a photo that I feel like could represent what I think this person might look like. I'll be posting the results of that in my next post, and maybe the photo as well before I move onto the next step.
As always, I hope this helps some of you and happy writing.
December and now January is in the books. I'm calling a mulligan on January. We should have at least one freebie month tucked under our belt so that we can get a feel for every New Year- Who's with me?
January was tough. I've complained about it enough, and most of you know why. So, what did December and January teach me about writing and all the things I've talked about in this new year of - do more?
Lesson 1: Blogs. Blogs are a pain in the neck. I'm not a natural blogger. It takes me a while to come up with what I want to say. I know a lot of the time in the past this blog has probably come off as something I typed by the seat of my pants, and I probably did. However, I've made more of an effort to be more thoughtful about posts and better organized.
I knew Monday I was in trouble because my idea for this post wasn't coming together, and I had no backup plan. This was not the first time this month that happened. So, I learned a valuable lesson. Yes, plan out ideas for posts, but be more flexible and don't announce your thoughts ahead of time. Why? Because when they fall through you won't look like such a donkey's rear end.
Lesson 2: Limited Liability Companies (LLC's) and why you need them. From the previous job I held, I already knew doing an LLC was going to be important. Now, I understand a few of you are on the fence about this but hear me out. Each state has very different laws governing liabilities and even taxes, and in fact sometimes DBA forms (doing business as). I moved from Texas, which had no state income tax, to Michigan which taxes you on everything (literally).
In Texas, it would've cost me 20 dollars to submit a DBA form, and I would've been able to form my company Korbyn Blake Books, with little else. I wouldn't have been protected from a lawsuit either. Am I concerned about a trial? No, but it's a good idea to have that protection and not need it than to need it and not have it. Later, having an LLC (or not) could mean the difference between me getting my finances raked over the coals versus the companies on silly matters like merchandising. Do I feel like I could write things that could warrant their own merchandising? No, but if I take the steps now to protect myself, I won't regret it later, and frankly given Michigan's laws, and what a lawsuit happy world we live in its cheaper for me to just get it out of the way. Also, Because of some state laws, it's a requirement to have DBA paperwork which tied to the LLC forms. If I hadn't taken this step I would not have been able to put items up on Amazon because my state requires these types of paperwork in order to open a business account, and your business account must be in order before you can finish out your Amazon forms.
Long story short, if you aren't sure you need to do this check with your states (or countries) laws before you make a decision, and of course speak with an accountant or CPA.
Lesson 3: Writing/Editing
I was fortunate at the beginning of January to be asked to write a review for a new author who had started in a group I was still a member of down in Texas. Based on the file I received, the cover looked great, and I was excited to dig into the text. Two paragraphs in and my excitement waned. Ultimately, I had to message the writer, and apologize because I would not be able to write a fair review of the book. Why, because I couldn't finish more than five pages. I was respectful, and honest when I texted. I explained my point (the text was rife with tense problems, pov shifts, and was frankly a hot mess).
Because of my conversation with this writer, he removed the book from Amazon where it had already gone up for sale. That made me feel horrible because I know how much effort that writer put into his work. But I also know it wasn't ready.
Two days later I received a message from the author thanking me for my candor. He asked me to review the first chapter again. I agreed, but with one caveat. If I did the review, I wanted to do so as a critique and be able to suggest line by line edits. I asked for this because I realized that this author had never been to a writers group. His only feedback had been from people he knew, and free online writing software. He received an edit done by a "pro" who rarely gave him feedback. I've been in that position. It's horrible for a writer and doesn't help us grow.
I'm mentioning this as a lesson because as authors (especially newer ones) it's hard for us to know what quality feedback is. I've done posts on this before, things like show don't tell, and how frustrating it can be to get no feedback at all. Or not knowing what resources will help us improve our writing.
If you're a new author please, please, join a writing group. Look for a group of people who all share your same goal. If you want to publish, don't join a group of older people who are writing their memoir for fun. You're not going to get the critique you need to improve. Look for professionals, even if they aren't necessarily in your genre. Look for people who will rip your work to shreds, and then suggest how you could've made it better. Look for people who will give you examples.
But above all, don't be afraid to return the favor, even if you aren't sure what you should say. Be honest, and be a reader, above all else we're readers first. If you know you do something a lot, mention it to whoever your reading for so they can look for it too. My biggest pet peeve as a reader was the overuse of the word and. I started there, and now it's passive voice. I realized I talk and write in passive voice, who does that?
My point is, put yourself and your work out there. But in doing so, don't rush to throw it up on Amazon before you've had several people you consider professionals read over it first. If I've learned nothing else it's that no matter how many times you edit something, it can always be better, and someone will always catch something everyone else has missed. Does that mean you have to dig at your piece until there isn't anything left? No, but if you have more than a few small issues throughout the entire text of your work, it's just not ready yet.
As always, thank you for reading. If you have any questions, I'd love to hear them, and I hope you write on!
Separate names with a comma.