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A blog about story, character and plot structure. A writer by night, by day I help other writers achieve their dreams of completing a worthy project.
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1. How to Write a Story Concept for More than One Point-of-View Character

To give you an idea of the sort of help and support every writer needs, a writer watching the PlotWriMo: Revise Your Novel in a Month videos asks on A Path to Publishing FB group: How do you write a concept for more than one pov?


Concept
Who Wants What?
Antagonist Stopping her?
Motivation?

Concept extraordinaire Jill Corcoran answers with this example:

SHOE STUD is a romantic comedy told from alternating pov of the descendants of rivaling shoe dynasties in which Steve, a kleptomaniac with a fetish for shoes, and Marnie, a shy college senior with only one foot, must be the first to find a pair of diamond-studded Blanka wedges or lose their chance at inheriting a sparkling new shoe manufacturing plant.

That one line says enough to intrigue and includes all three plot lines (with a hint of possibility for the fourth).

Dramatic Action:
Will the wedges be found?
Who will find them first?
Ticking clock: who finds the shoes first and wins?

Character Emotional Development:
Steve: kleptomaniac with a fetish for shoes (gives a clear sense of his strength, flaw, love)
Marnie: shy college senior with only one foot (gives a clear sense of her flaw, backstory wound, strength)

Thematic Significance:
At this point the story hinges more on the quirky characterizations of the point-of-view characters and less on a higher calling. If one of them have a goal of winning the plant that includes a higher purpose the thematic significance heightens.

Romance: Any story about a girl and a boy | a woman and a man always offers the possibility of a heart connection between them.

As the concept is written here, the whimsy of the tale is enough for your family, friends, agents, editors, readers to ask for more and thus satisfy the basic demand of a story concept.

(If you haven't already, join us at the A Path to Publishing FB group. Jill and I created the Facebook group as safe, smart, fun alcove for writers and illustrators to share and learn about the craft of writing and the book biz. This is NOT a place to sell your books but a forum for us all to advance our skills, our creativity and our dreams plus learn about what we are up to at A PATH TO PUBLISHING. All genres for all ages Welcome!)

Today I write!
~~~~~~~~
For more: Read my Plot Whisperer and Blockbuster Plots books for writers.
~~~~
Need more help with your story? 
  • Looking for tips to prop up your middle with excitement? 
  • Wish you understood how to show don't tell what your character is feeling? 
  • Are even you sometimes bored with your own story?
  • Long to form your concept into words? 
We can help you with all of that and so much more! View your story in an entirely new light. Recharge your energy and enthusiasm for your writing.


PlotWwiMo: REVISE YOUR NOVEL IN A MONTH - Trailer PlotWriMo: Revise Your Novel in a Month includes 8 videos  (5.5 hours)  + 30 exercises total

0 Comments on How to Write a Story Concept for More than One Point-of-View Character as of 8/21/2014 12:49:00 PM
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2. Dramatic Action Inciting Incident and Character Emotional Development Dark Night

At last weekend's Writer's Digest Novel Writing Conference, an exhilarating success, I presented Deep Scenes: Choosing Just the Right Scene to Plot Your Novel with my co-author of Deep Scenes (Fall 2015) and co-founder of WriterPath Retreats, the fabulous Jordan Rosenfeld.

A writer asks: isn't the inciting incident of the example I used -- the Pulitizer Prize winning The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt -- when he steals the painting?

Yes, the dramatic action inciting incident is when he steals The Goldfinch in the museum. His action energizes the external action, changing the ordinary to the dramatic -- thus inciting the dramatic action plot.

I was describing just prior to her question the scene that occupies the all important 1st Energetic Marker: the End of the Beginning. Rather than the scene where he steals the painting earning the marker moment, the scene that steals the coveted spot is when his father arrives. His father's arrival is a pivotal no-turning-back moment that earns this honor because at its heart, this story is primarily character-driven. Long before his mother dies in the explosion, his father inflicted the protagonist's backstory wound when he walked out on them.

Yes, the dramatic action makes this a page-turning novel -- will he or won't he succeed? The answer we come to care about more deeply is will he or won't he find peace?

After that presentation and especially so after presenting solo Plot and Character Transformation in Novels: Character Goals versus Character Traits, I find I don't even try to resist throwing in what negative reviewers seem to hate in The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master -- the Universal Story, especially how it applies beyond stories to us in the human realm. I come home energized about my up-coming: Transform Your Creative Life through the Universal Story: Seize the Life of Your Dreams online personal transformation workshop. Join me and move from where you currently are in the Universal Story to your heart's desire.

Today I write!
~~~~~~~~
For more: Read my Plot Whisperer and Blockbuster Plots books for writers.
~~~~
Need more help with your story? 
  • Looking for tips to prop up your middle with excitement? 
  • Wish you understood how to show don't tell what your character is feeling? 
  • Are even you sometimes bored with your own story?
  • Long to form your concept into words? 
We can help you with all of that and so much more! View your story in an entirely new light. Recharge your energy and enthusiasm for your writing.


PlotWwiMo: REVISE YOUR NOVEL IN A MONTH - TrailerPlotWriMo: Revise Your Novel in a Month includes 8 videos  (5.5 hours)  + 30 exercises total

0 Comments on Dramatic Action Inciting Incident and Character Emotional Development Dark Night as of 8/18/2014 1:21:00 PM
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3. Plot Tips for Introverts: How to Survive a Writers Conference

I muse out loud why the heck I ever agreed to leave my tiny paradise for a crowded plane ride smack into hundreds of anxious, eager, confident, quaking writers. Quaking myself in anticipation of my presentation, I question the emotional cost of forcing oneself to be something we're not inherently disposed to be.


Quietly listening to me moan, the serenely beautiful and thoughtful literary agent Danielle Smith from Red Fox Literary Agency recommends Susan Cain's Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking.

I'd never thought of myself as an introvert until I started reading this captivating book and saw me staring back at myself.

"Quiet and cerebral people who know how to turn in to their inner world and the treasures to be found there."

Love that. Check.

"Highly sensitive."

Huh, huh. Check.

And the list goes on. Pair all that with being shy in a family and at a time that believed that being shy was selfish, I'm not surprised I willed myself to be extroverted. That painful journey out of silence I've talked about, thanks to Cain, I finally understand.

If you, too, are shy and not comfortable with putting yourself out there, being confident about your abilities and proclaiming proudly your worthiness as a writer, writer's conferences tend to be grueling, excruciating even. One writer passes out in the pitch-an-agent/editor line. Another runs to the bathroom to hurl. Others turn away before their turn materializes. You sit next to an agent while the writer on her other side wows her with a pithy pitch and outrageous concept as you wither and wait until enough time has elapsed to leave the table.

To survive, you're going to have to conjure up a strategy how to don the personality of an extrovert for the weekend, because you do have to sell yourself in this business. Don't fool yourself that you're there to enjoy the company of other like-minded writers. That's true, as is the list of workshops that will serve you well. Your primary reason for leaving the safely of your writer's cave to attend a writer's conference is find an agent who loves your writing and wants more.

Be brave. Try it. Take the risk. Open your mouth and blurt out something. Then open your mouth again and again until something coherent and compelling comes out. Perhaps in that moment -- right agent, right time -- magic happens… Worth the risk? A resounding Yes!

Be sure to schedule an entire week off after you return home from the writer's conference to gather yourself hung-over from anxiety, fear and the exhilaration of stepping into the arena in belief of yourself and your story.

Take the leap this weekend, August 15, 16, 17th and join me at the Writer's Digest Novel Writing Conference in L. A. For my followers, register with the promotional code WDSPEAKER. Today I write!
~~~~~~~~
For more: Read my Plot Whisperer and Blockbuster Plots books for writers.
~~~~
Need more help with your story? 
  • Looking for tips to prop up your middle with excitement? 
  • Wish you understood how to show don't tell what your character is feeling? 
  • Are even you sometimes bored with your own story?
  • Long to form your concept into words? 
We can help you with all of that and so much more! View your story in an entirely new light. Recharge your energy and enthusiasm for your writing.


PlotWwiMo: REVISE YOUR NOVEL IN A MONTH - TrailerPlotWriMo: Revise Your Novel in a Month includes 8 videos  (5.5 hours)  + 30 exercises total

0 Comments on Plot Tips for Introverts: How to Survive a Writers Conference as of 1/1/1900
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4. How to Show Character Mastery and Transformation through both the Internal and External Plots

The final quarter of your story bears the burden of getting your characters to the right place at the right time for one final confrontation and facilitate the final play that leads to success and ultimate transformation.

The scenes that comprise the final quarter of your story are filled with the tension of not knowing whether protagonist will win or fail at the climax.

Writing to the end of your story may very well be filling you with tension. Will I ever finish this thing???

Not just with your writing, you may find that with other parts of your life that somehow when your back was turned (though if you retraced scene by scene, you'd note the clear path) your antagonists have grown stronger and more determined and the stakes rise in intensity as you become more and more aware of all the ways you sabotage yourself from finishing and seizing that which you most desire (because, ultimately, no one else can fell us. We--us personally--are the only ones who give up).

Writers make symbolic gestures, like writing down specific daily writing goal and turning off the cable and removing the TV from the premises, as promises to their writing lives and living proof of their commitment to themselves to write. Such dedication and willingness to do what's demanded to succeed at your goal!

You've been making good progress and then Bam! Blindsided by a familiar antagonist you'd mistakenly believed was sleeping, the backstory wound you've patiently been been nursing to health activates. This time, rather than touch off your transformed emotional maturity, the blow sends you spiraling all the way back to your old ways of dealing with hurt and betrayal or whatever your backstory wound oozes by beating yourself up and/or raging. Even so, slowly, you find yourself recovering more quickly after each hit and back to writing or whatever your passion as you continue to internally incorporate the you that you are becoming. New strategies and actions you learned during the hard times now serve you well.

Each time you take positive, conscious steps toward your goal, you find yourself acting with more and more emotional maturity than at any other time in your life. You take responsibility for the pain you've suffered and inflicted to get to where you are now and suddenly delight, finding gifts awaiting you and gaining confidence as you prove to yourself and everyone around you that you're passionate about growing and changing. You begin to see how you yourself influence the action around you at your weakest and now through your new strength and determination and maturity.

In this last quarter proving ground on the way to mastery and your prize -- finishing your story, making peace with the past, falling in love again for the first time -- even as you fall back, you pick yourself up, learn, remind yourself of your goals and take the next step needed to move forward.

Today I write!
~~~~~~~~
For more: Read my Plot Whisperer and Blockbuster Plots books for writers.
~~~~
Need more help with your story? 
  • Looking for tips to prop up your middle with excitement? 
  • Wish you understood how to show don't tell what your character is feeling? 
  • Are even you sometimes bored with your own story?
  • Long to form your concept into words? 
We can help you with all of that and so much more! View your story in an entirely new light. Recharge your energy and enthusiasm for your writing.

1st video (43 minutes of direct instruction + exercises for your own individual story) FREE
PlotWwiMo: REVISE YOUR NOVEL IN A MONTH - TrailerPlotWriMo: Revise Your Novel in a Month includes 8 videos  (5.5 hours)  + 30 exercises total

0 Comments on How to Show Character Mastery and Transformation through both the Internal and External Plots as of 8/10/2014 5:05:00 PM
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5. A Compelling Concept Elicits: Tell Me More!

A writer asks about what concept to bring forward in the Concept, Logline, Pitch Workshop this weekend (8/9/14). She has several novels in-progress and complete (are our stories ever really complete? The longer we take to finish, the more time we have to grow and change which ultimately servers to deepen and enrich our work).


Her heart's desire speaks of something else entirely.

I explain about Saturday's workshop, you'll have 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes in the afternoon. You want to have a concept ready to go (watch the free Video #1 and also helpful is Video #3 in PlotWriMo: Revise Your Novel in a Month video series) so you can spend as much of the time allotted to you listening to Jill's feedback without feeling the need to defend yourself -- simply to listen and absorb what she says. She's really quite amazing at this. 

You'll be listening to so many other pitches that you'll begin to glean the method to creating them. So, I don't think it matters which story you pick as much as really perfecting your concept before pitching it to Jill Saturday.

About choosing which story to pitch, I share a painful learning experience from some pretty nasty reviews on Amazon for the Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master book. You have to buck up and take it when you write outside the norm. I actually wasn't prepared for some of the more personal attacks and the lesson has been a tough one and very valuable for me to learn.

If we let our fear of exposure limit us and we back down, new ideas can't take flight. If not by you, the story goes unwritten.

A compelling concept elicits from your friends, readers, agents, editors, reviewers, audiences and fans: Tell me more!

Today I write.
~~~~~~~~

For more: Read my Plot Whisperer and Blockbuster Plots books for writers.

~~~~
Need more help with your story? 
  • Looking for tips to prop up your middle with excitement? 
  • Wish you understood how to show don't tell what your character is feeling? 
  • Are even you sometimes bored with your own story?
  • Long to form your concept into words? 
We can help you with all of that and so much more! View your story in an entirely new light. Recharge your energy and enthusiasm for your writing.

1st video (43 minutes of direct instruction + exercises for your own individual story) FREE
PlotWwiMo: REVISE YOUR NOVEL IN A MONTH - TrailerPlotWriMo: Revise Your Novel in a Month includes 8 videos  (5.5 hours)  + 30 exercises total

0 Comments on A Compelling Concept Elicits: Tell Me More! as of 8/4/2014 12:50:00 PM
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6. The Exact Right Beginning of Your Story -- How Do You Know for Sure?

We quickly cover the BIG Energetic Marker, nearly at the end, the Climax and I know already from the character profile and thematic statement that she's got a whopper of a story. (Is that even a word anymore? a whopper. Was it ever?) Her story is so timely, I want to nudge her to finish faster, go the distance, see her story with a plot all the way to the end. She's committed. And she's already done so much work.

When she finally settles on memoir rather than fiction (pros and cons on both sides) and gets to the start of the story, she grapples, which we all do -- where to begin. Having always

heard
heard and
heard 

start with a bang, an inciting incident, something big and dramatic to dazzle the agent, the editor, the reader, she begins with the biggest scene of all, an outrageously dramatic event and… seriously flawed.

For the reader to care about a death on the first page, she has to feel an immediate emotional tie and that bond is generally formed with the character. That's not to say that there aren't plenty of stories that work quite well with death on page one. Murder mysteries in particular demand it.

However, in other stories, why give away a huge scene fraught with conflicting emotions at the very beginning before the reader is settled and beginning to truly care about the characters and intrigued with the story and wanting more? The only way forward after that is to resort to flashbacks to fill in the missing pieces. Again, perfect for a murder mystery--the reader learns the clues as the protagonist solving the mystery.

Memoirs use lots of flashbacks and memories. In her case, that she can go linear by thematically and tightly linked cause and effect, the dream she weaves the reader into becomes more real and immediate and powerfully moving.

Readers don't always remember details at the very beginning of a story because they're scrambling to decide if they like the characters, can follow the plot and are ready to commit to reading forward.

Give them the huge scene at the 1st Energetic Marker; the End of the Beginning when the reader feels a part of the story, the characters more familiar to her than family and impatient to know what happens next. A death here means something. That it evokes anger pulls a very committed reader smack into the writer's exotic world of the middle.
(For more tips about where to begin your beginning: The Plot Whisperer Workbook Step-by-Step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories)
~~~~
Need more help revising your story? 
  • Looking for tips to prop up your middle with excitement? 
  • Wish you understood how to show don't tell what your character is feeling? 
  • Are even you sometimes bored with your own story?
  • Long to form your concept into words? 
We can help you with all of that and so much more! View your story in an entirely new light. Recharge your energy and enthusiasm for your writing. NEW and IMPROVED (including new and improved price!)

**Includes 8 videos  (5.5 hours)  + 30 exercises total
 ~~~~~~~~
For more: Read my Plot Whisperer and Blockbuster Plots books for writers.

0 Comments on The Exact Right Beginning of Your Story -- How Do You Know for Sure? as of 7/28/2014 7:36:00 PM
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7. How to Turn a Lackluster Middle into Page-turning Excitement

A writer revising the rough draft of a novel stalls in the middle where he finds some quirky, secondary characters, one of whom is a potential "romance plot" suitor, a couple of magical and mystical settings, several subplots of enchantment, various minor characters and… not much excitement. Appraising the long, dull corridor spanning the entire Middle, the writer despairs both at how to keep his revision ideas organized and, more importantly, how to amp up the tension and excitement.

Each secondary character and setting, subplot and minor character holds the potential for tension and excitement especially when paired against what the protagonist wants. This takes stepping back from the rough draft to dig deeper into the other characters individually, discovering their importance to the overall meaning of the story beyond helping the protagonist get to where she needs to go and devising goals and aspirations that interfere with the protagonist's goals and aspirations. This means you need to get to know these other characters as well as you know your protagonist.

In the rough draft, these secondary and minor cardboard characters served you while writing the protagonist's storyline. Now, in the revision, is their time to shine. Antagonists rule the middle and are there to teach the protagonist what she needs to know in order to prevail at the climax at the end. This learning is not easy and is fraught with dangerous and often unkind challenges.

Fill out a Character Profile for each character, defining goals in direct opposition to what the protagonist wants while also mirroring traits the protagonist is oblivious of and needs to confront and overcome over the course of the entire story.

(For more: Plot Whisperer and Blockbuster Plots books for writers and PlotWriMo: Revise Your Novel in a Month video series.)

0 Comments on How to Turn a Lackluster Middle into Page-turning Excitement as of 7/15/2014 3:23:00 PM
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8. Benefits of a Solid Concept and the Art of Pitching Your Story

Summer means Writers Conferences and pitching your story. You find yourself sitting at lunch next to a literary agent. How quickly and compellingly do you draw her into your story? How intriguing is your concept?

When friends ask what your story is about, rather than drone on about every single plot point, learn how to rattle off a pithy pitch that sends even people overhearing you begging for more.

Think of the concept and pitch as the seeds out of which grow action and characters interacting in a meaningful way.

Some writers won't write a word until they come up with a concept that renders them eager for more. Others don't tackle the task until they've finished writing and editing and are ready to query.

Wherever you are with your story, the time is never too early to ask yourself: What is your story about really? Brainstorm. Keep a notebook. Narrow down what your story is about to one or two lines and you're ready to pitch.

Concept, Logline, Pitch Workshop is the next workshop for all ages and all genres at A Path to Publishing.


Join literary agent and publishing insider Jill Corcoran and me and 22 other writers for the opportunity to refine your story concept, develop a log line and perfect your pitch.

0 Comments on Benefits of a Solid Concept and the Art of Pitching Your Story as of 7/11/2014 1:09:00 PM
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9. Pre-Plotting Made Simple

How to Pre-Plot:

1. Brainstorm ideas: Rough Sketch the 4 Energetic Markers on a Plot Planner

2. Test Concept Ideas for Feedback

3. Interview Your Main Characters

4. Write a Transformational Statement for Protagonist

5. Fill in Scene Ideas on your Plot Planner
  • Contrast Beginning and End
  • Exotic Middle World of the Antagonists
6. Write

~~~~~~~~

For more: Read my Plot Whisperer and Blockbuster Plots books for writers.

~~~~
Need more help with your story? 
  • Looking for tips to prop up your middle with excitement? 
  • Wish you understood how to show don't tell what your character is feeling? 
  • Are even you sometimes bored with your own story?
  • Long to form your concept into words? 
We can help you with all of that and so much more! View your story in an entirely new light. Recharge your energy and enthusiasm for your writing.

1st video (43 minutes of direct instruction + exercises for your own individual story) FREE
PlotWriMo: Revise Your Novel in a Month includes 8 videos  (5.5 hours)  + 30 exercises total

0 Comments on Pre-Plotting Made Simple as of 1/1/1900
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10. Cause and Effect Scene by Scene

Cause and effect within and between scenes allows you to seamlessly lead the reader to each major turning point by linking the cause in one scene to the effect in the next scene. This sequencing allows the energy of the story to rise smoothly.

If the sequence breaks down, scenes come out of the blue, and your story turns episodic. The reader, in turn, becomes disconcerted.

A story is made up of scenes with a clear dependence on each other. Conflict in a scene represents the motivating cause that sets a series of events in motion. As you test for cause and effect notice how some features of your story are more important than others. Look for patterns and see what elements lead to the thematic significance and which do not.

Scenes with No Cause and Effect 
As important as it is to study how scenes are linked by cause and effect, it’s just as important to analyze scenes with no line(s) linking them to others. Note any unexpected objects, locations, and actions in and between scenes deserve foreshadowing and earlier mentions and hints.

The reader (and the protagonist) doesn’t have an outline of the story and thus can only anticipate what is coming by discerning the clues given along the way by the use of foreshadowing. The life of the story takes on its own particular shape, and its sequence seems inevitable to the reader and audience because of foreshadowing.

Emotional Cause and Effect 
Use cause and effect to convey emotion in the protagonist. In one scene, a character responds emotionally to an event. In the next scene, we see the outcome of that emotional response, which, in turn, becomes the cause for another emotional effect. Each scene is organic; seeds planted in the first scene create the effect in the next.

Your Turn
Once again, push aside the words of your story. This time, stand back from it to determine the causality between scenes and the overall coherence of your story. View your story as a whole. With such an insight, you are better able to turn scenes with emotionally rich characters who are experiencing conflict into the driving force behind an exceptional story. Link scenes by cause and effect and each scene becomes organic = from the seeds you plant in the first scene grow the fruit of the next scene.
(Taken from: The Plot Whisperer Workbook Step-by-Step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories)
~~~~

Need more help with your story? 
  • Looking for tips to prop up your middle with excitement? 
  • Wish you understood how to show don't tell what your character is feeling? 
  • Are even you sometimes bored with your own story?
  • Long to form your concept into words? 
We can help you with all of that and so much more! View your story in an entirely new light. Recharge your energy and enthusiasm for your writing.

1st video (43 minutes of direct instruction + exercises for your own individual story) FREE
PlotWriMo: Revise Your Novel in a Month includes 8 videos  (5.5 hours)  + 30 exercises total

 ~~~~~~~~
For more: Read my Plot Whisperer and Blockbuster Plots books for writers.

0 Comments on Cause and Effect Scene by Scene as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
11. Emotional Elements of Plot: Stories that Last Evoke Emotion

Dramatic action creates the pace of a story and determines the level of story excitement. The thematic significance reveals the meaning of the piece.
An emotional connection is fused between the reader and the story through the character emotional development. Not simply how a character develops and transforms physically and intellectually, outfoxing and out-thinking and out-performing an antagonist, readers feel an emotional connection through the development of a character’s emotional maturity. In other words, how a character develops emotionally and spiritually provides connection, identification and interest.

Emotion and Emotional Development 
How do the following two lists differ and how are they the same?

  • Honest
  • Courageous
  • Deceitful
  • Stingy
  • Fugal
  • Shy

Versus

  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Pensive
  • Apologetic
  • Defensive
  • Happy


Each of the examples originates in the character. How they differ is one is a list of character traits. The second list is of emotions.

Character emotional development and emotional change are each an essential scene element. They both: sound alike are related are often confused

Character Emotional Development 
Showing how the character’s traits change and/or transform over the course of the entire story defines the character emotional development plot and the development of such is an essential element in every scene. The protagonist’s emotional development takes place over time and culminates at the end of the story in a lasting transformation. The character’s emotional development can be plotted from the beginning to the end of the story.

Emotional Change 
In every scene, the protagonist displays a range of emotion reactions to the dramatic action. How she reacts often is reflective of the burden she carries from her backstory. These emotions, which fluctuate within each scene, are usually transitory and fleeting. Showing your character’s emotions shift and change is an essential element in every scene.

Plot is how the events in a story directly impact the main character. Always, in the best-written stories, characters are emotionally affected by the events of the story. In great stories, the dramatic action transforms characters. This transformation makes a story meaningful. The dramatic action demands a goal. The character emotional development demands growth.

Steps toward Transformation 
Each obstacle and antagonist in the dramatic action plot provides the protagonist with opportunities to learn about herself and thus advance her character emotional development plot. Before she can transform, she first must become conscious of her strengths and weaknesses. Stories show a character changing, at the least, and transforming at the most profound. Often you can accomplish this by creating a flawed character. Eventually, she will have to face that flaw and overcome it in order to achieve her ultimate goal.

Examples of Character Flaws

  • Always the victim and unable to take responsibility for actions           
  • Control freak
  • Argumentative and short-tempered 
  • Liar and a cheat 
  • Stubborn 
  • Always has to be right 
  • Perfectionist 
  • Procrastinator 
  • Sits in judgment

The main character’s flaw establishes the protagonist’s level of emotional maturity and points to the potential for growth or transformation. Her flaw interferes with achieving her goal and riles up her emotions.

How to Use a Character Flaw 
A character flaw is a coping mechanism that arises from the loss of an original state of perfection that occurred in the character’s backstory. The character stores the emotion created by what happened in the backstory. Her flaw is designed to compensate for a perceived vulnerability, sense of insecurity, and feeling threatened.

No matter how confident, every major character demonstrates lessons learned from the wound inflicted in her backstory that now is lodged in her core belief system. In reaction, she often surrenders some or all of the authority over her own life to someone or something else.

Emotion in the Beginning 
The beginning of your story establishes who the character is, flaws and all. Your readers can look back to this portrait and compare it to who she becomes as she undergoes a transformation after the crisis. The portrait also foreshadows who she will be at the climax.

At the beginning of a story, the character’s emotional reactions help identify and introduce her. By the end of the beginning scene at the one-quarter mark of a story, all of the protagonist’s most defining traits, positive and negative have been introduced. This turning point scene reveals the most defining character trait of all.

What emotion does your protagonist communicate about entering the middle of the story?

  • eager 
  • reluctant 
  • resistant 

This choice of hers shows her defining character trait starting out the story:

  • courageous 
  • timid 
  • afraid 

Emotions Intensify in the Middle
The emotions the protagonist managed to keep in check in the beginning of the story begin to unravel in the chaos and uncertainty of the unfamiliar world in the middle of a story. Overwhelmed and fearful, challenged and hurt, the protagonist becomes vulner­able. Most importantly, the middle deepens the audience’s appreciation for the protagonist’s emotional maturity, or lack thereof, by her emotional reactions as the obstacles become more difficult to surmount.

All the outer events, ordeals, successes, and failures of the character constitute the dramatic action of a story and provide the catalyst for change. The farther the protagonist penetrates into the new world of the middle and the more obstacles she confronts, the character’s emotional defenses begin to break down and her emotions turn bleaker and darker. Unable to function at a superficial level any longer, she begins to experience heightened emotions, ones that touch the core of her being. When she is prevented from reaching her goal, her emotional reaction changes subtly over time, flicking back and forth in the scene like a trapped fly.

Emotional Maturity 
One of the defining elements of the final quarter of a story are the number of complications the protagonist is slapped the nearer she moves toward achieving her goal. With each complication, the protagonist suffers some sort of reversal. Yet, unlike the reversals in the middle of the story, the protago­nist no longer loses power even if she is physically, mentally or emotionally restrained or injured. As the character emotional development changes, her emotional expression changes, too. What begins with the display of emotional upheaval transforms into emotional maturity.

At the end of a story, as a result of the action on the page, the character’s transformation is revealed through the change in her choices and in her emotional responses from how she acted in the beginning and in the middle. 

The plot of a story is about a character faced with a series of conflicts and obstacles while in pursuit of a goal, which, over time, inspire her to change her choices. In the end, she is transformed, and her ultimate transformation creates her anew with a different understanding of herself and her existence.
 ~~~~~~~~
For more: Read my Plot Whisperer and Blockbuster Plots books for writers
~~~~~~~~~
Time to rewrite your story? 
  • Ready for a massive rewrite? Re-vision first!
  • Confused about what you're really trying to convey in your story?
  • Lots of action, no character development? Lots of character development and no action?
  • Looking for tips to prop up your middle with excitement? 
  • Wishing you understood how to show don't tell what your character is feeling? 
  • Are even you sometimes bored with your own story?
  • Long to form your concept into words? 
We can help you with all of that and so much more! View your story in an entirely new light. Recharge your energy and enthusiasm for your writing.

1st video (43 minutes of direct instruction + exercises for your own individual story) FREE
PlotWriMo: Revise Your Novel in a Month includes 8 videos  (5.5 hours)  + 30 exercises total

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12. 17 Steps to Becoming an Effective Communicator with the Muse

A romance writer awakens with her right eye swollen. I suggest that a male in her life wants her to open-up to something she’s refusing or unable to see (issues on the right side of the body often have to do with male energy. The right is female. Eyes = sight).


Her eyes widen and she quickly mumbles that she needs to get to know her male protagonist better as if she knows what I’m talking about. I don't need to know what's going on. Only she does and she did.

How real are the muses that have been credited throughout history for all that writers and musicians and artists create? Does something outside of ourselves truly “sing through” us when we write? What if that same energy or spirit communicates with us in other ways, too? Messages sent through our bodies and through the natural world at large to help guide us from one success to the next with clues and signals how to by-pass negative emotions and reside in a place of emotional maturity?

If you knew the muse to be true, would you listen? Could you be open? Should you be trusting? 

17 Steps to Becoming an Effective Communicator with the Muse
  • Give yourself the time needed to daydream and doodle, take quiet walks in nature and quiet your mind enough to truly listen
  • Be open to all different expressions of inspiration and ideas 
  • Ask for specific help in solving problems creatively and for real understanding 
  • Invite the muse in and feel understood
  • Create an environment where the muse feels safe to open up 
  • Rid yourself of negative emotions 
  • Avoid interrupting the muse 
  • Avoid judging what comes 
  • Watch for signs from the muse
  • Ask for signs
  • Jot down what you see and hear and intuit
  • Become aware of nature around you
  • Look for meaning in what you come across, notice, are drawn to
  • Relinquish your opinions and control over what you think you need or want to provide space and acceptance for new ideas and opportunities 
  • Show you’re interested and open to inspiration 
  • Accept the communication that comes to you without criticism or judgment
  • Show interest in what the muse is sharing with you by taking notes, writing furiously, giving thanks 

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13. Character Emotional Development: Transformation and Emotional Maturity

The emotional steadiness your protagonist develops in a story (character emotional development plot) from all that happens to her (dramatic action plot), I call change, maturity, transformation, transcendence (your genre and your story -- action-driven | character-driven -- define the level of character development that fits the underlying meaning of your own individual story).

The lessons she learns in the middle, having suffered greatly and paid dearly, lead to this change at the end of the story. All of the lessons and wisdom and skills and abilities she learns are critical for her ultimate success at the Climax.

Some abilities and skills are external and necessary to complete the dramatic action plot. Others are internal. All of the internal lessons and wisdom gained point directly to emotional maturity as shown by the protagonist's ability to understand and manage at the end those same emotions that continually tripped her up in the beginning and then felled her in the middle of the story.

Characters who have endured trauma, deception, abandonment, betrayal, abuse, pain, loss, sadness either before the story begins or during the story and are left unhealed (backstory wound) typically become emotionally stuck at the time and place of the trauma. For her to achieve her goal, she must first become conscious of her backstory wound and then move towards healing the past in order to successfully move into the future.

The following are some traits that point to emotional immaturity (as shown in the beginning and deepened in the middle of the story) compared to emotional maturity (as shown at the end of the story):

  • Rigid versus Flexible = Willing to adapt. Open to change
  • Own Desires versus Delayed Gratification = Ability to keep long-term commitments
  • Blaming versus Responsible = Acceptance of current life circumstances as a result of personal decisions
  • Knowledge versus Vision = Visualize a solution and research best course of action
  • Reactive versus Proactive = Value-based decision-making
  • All the Answers versus Personal Growth = Desire to learn and seek counsel
  • Self-conscious versus We are All One = Possesses a spirit of humility
  • Narrow-minded versus Alternative Views = Open to others' opinions and views
  • Critical versus Non-judgemental = Respect for others' right to their beliefs
  • Entitled versus Grateful = Appreciative
  • Shutdown versus Resilient = Express disappointments, plot a plan, move on
  • Erratic Mood Swings versus Calm Demeanor = Peaceful state of mind
  • Uncooperative versus Realistic Optimism = Willingness to seek out opportunities
  • Removed & Shutdown versus Approachable = Actively building relationships
  • Shaken versus Steady = Secure in who you are
  • Intense versus Humor = Don't take yourself too seriously
~~~~
Need more help with your story? 
  • Ready for a massive rewrite? Re-vision first!
  • Confused about what you're really trying to convey in your story?
  • Lots of action, no character development? Lots of character development and no action?
  • Looking for tips to prop up your middle with excitement? 
  • Wishing you understood how to show don't tell what your character is feeling? 
  • Are even you sometimes bored with your own story?
  • Long to form your concept into words? 
We can help you with all of that and so much more! View your story in an entirely new light. Recharge your energy and enthusiasm for your writing.

1st video (43 minutes of direct instruction + exercises for your own individual story) FREE
PlotWriMo: Revise Your Novel in a Month includes 8 videos  (5.5 hours)  + 30 exercises total
 ~~~~~~~~
For more: Read my Plot Whisperer and Blockbuster Plots books for writers

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14. Writer Path Retreat Photo Montage





Friday, May 30th, 2014,







Jordan Rosenfeld

and I meet up at Mt. Madonna

before the 18 intrepid writers who signed up for our weekend writers retreat. Our spacious cabin greets us. Anticipation envelopes us. The first writer arrives.

So begins the 1st even Writer Path Plot and Scene Retreat.
 









Sign-ups now available for next year's Writer Path Retreat May 1st - 3rd, 2015!

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15. Beginnings Hook Readers. Endings Create Fans

Some reasons why I nearly always begin a plot workshop, consultation, presentation at the Climax:

  • Fresh start 
  • Shakes things up
  • Pulls writers out of their comfort zone
  • Forces writers to move beyond the character's backstory into the real story
  • Key elements reveal themselves at the end&nbsp
  • Beginning emerge from the end
  • When you know how your story ends, you are better able to determine where to begin
  • Most writers write the beginning 100 times and are lucky if they write the climax even once
  • Writing the end seals the promise you can write from the beginning and get there
  • The climax becomes the beacon that guides you to finish
~~~~
Need more help with your story? 
  • Ready for a massive rewrite? Re-vision first!
  • Confused about what you're really trying to convey in your story?
  • Lots of action, no character development? Lots of character development and no action?
  • Looking for tips to prop up your middle with excitement? 
  • Wish you understood how to show don't tell what your character is feeling? 
  • Are even you sometimes bored with your own story?
  • Long to form your concept into words? 
We can help you with all of that and so much more! View your story in an entirely new light. Recharge your energy and enthusiasm for your writing.

1st video (43 minutes of direct instruction + exercises for your own individual story) FREE
PlotWriMo: Revise Your Novel in a Month includes 8 videos  (5.5 hours)  + 30 exercises total


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16. A Soul Shattering Tip How to Plot the End of Your Novel, Memoir, Screenplay

October 17, 1989, at 5:04:15 p.m. (PDT), the epicenter of a magnitude 6.9 earthquake hit nearly smack in my garden. The doorframe I clutched shifted erratically, the floor beneath me shook, the house creaked and moaned and all water in the little neighborhood pool rose up into the air and broke over the side. As Robert Page, U.S. Geological Survey writes of the event:


"It was a wakeup call to prepare for the potentially even more devastating shocks that are inevitable in the future."

That's sort of like what happens to the protagonist when hit by the Crisis around the three quarter mark of your story. The ground shakes, uncovering all illusions about herself and the world around her, leaving her blinded by the truth of her own insignificance.

What truly defines the protagonist is what she does after the crisis. From one extreme of intense vulnerability to another of shame and discomfort WHILE also knowing she had a part to play in her own demise AND that the crisis is merely a wakeup call to prepare her for the potentially even more devastating shocks that are inevitable in the future.

Her motivation must be strong and meaningful to go forward in the face of such torment. So much easier to get lost in the haze of addictions and self-loathing… oh, that's the human condition. For your protagonist, there is no stopping beyond a spell of reflection, gathering resources and allies and letting go of everything that no longer serves her.

At the point she steps over into the last quarter of the story to gain her true freedom, the End begins. 

Along the way on her ascent to the Climax, quake your story with some of those inevitable and more devastating aftershocks. Entering the End she's wobbly, uncertain, and highly vulnerable. Her emotions are at their peak. The hits give her chances to stretch beyond who she was beforethe crisis, come into mastery or at least a firm grip of all the lessons and knowledge she's gained and prepare her for the Climax where she demonstrates who she is becoming.

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17. Thematic Significance Statement Defines Every Story Decision

Writers toss out story themes. Theme words grow into what one romance writer aptly labels as tropes = common or overused themes or devises. Tropes typically become overused or cliched because they squarely connect with a universal truth.


A thematic significance statement intended to embody the heart and meaning of your own particular story often begins with a trope. After writing a couple of drafts and with a better understanding of what all the words in your story add up to, now tack on at either the beginning or the end of the trope a qualifying phrase that turns a common theme specific to your story and your story alone.

During a plot consultation, having plotted out all the scenes, we reach the re-development, deepening and refining of that ever elusive thematic significance statement phase. Having starred and circled theme words that popped out during the consultation, I add them to the list he rattles off that his critique group, quite familiar with his story, helped generate (and seem to breath through the speaker at the other end of the phone).

He articulates a thematic statement that is character-centric. Yet his story is so much broader and more meaningful than simply the change to the character. Yes, dramatic action that changes and transforms a character over time makes a story meaningful. However, what that change or character transformation brings to the culture and the community and the family at large is the true thematic significance statement in a story that revolves around the culture and the community and the family and brings thematic significance to the story as a whole.

A thematic significance statement attempts to unite broad universal truths with the specific words you choose for your own individual story. Suddenly, characters snap to attention finally with a clear intent of their own unique contribution to the overall story, confusing subplots crystalize with meaning and symbolism, random incidents become deliberate, minor moments grow sublime.

Write a couple of drafts, smooth the thematic significance into a coherent and meaning statement and then let the real fun begin. A thematic significance statement for your overall story turns the challenge of making every word perfect attainable.

For specific exercises to develop your own individual Thematic Significance Statement: The Plot Whisperer Workbook Step-by-Step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories)
~~~~
Need more help with your story? 
  • Looking for tips to prop up your middle with excitement? 
  • Wish you understood how to show don't tell what your character is feeling? 
  • Are even you sometimes bored with your own story?
  • Long to form your concept into words? 
We can help you with all of that and so much more! View your story in an entirely new light. Recharge your energy and enthusiasm for your writing.

1st video (43 minutes of direct instruction + exercises for your own individual story) FREE
PlotWriMo: Revise Your Novel in a Month includes 8 videos  (5.5 hours)  + 30 exercises total

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18. A Love Letter to Writers

1) She asks if her ideas, her story is silly. I can't answer that for her. Only she can. I see her as a miracle, a jewel, a divine creation. How can anything silly come out of that?

 What I hear? Self-doubt and limiting self-beliefs likely based in criticism heard and internalized along the way? When you ask if your story is silly, dumb, stupid, say it out loud. My story is silly. How does that feel? Sound to you? Truth? I am silly. Really? Are you sure about that? Be careful what you say about yourself. Your spirit hears your every word.

2) She asks if she should waste her time on the story -- is it worthy? What I hear? Should I waste my time showing up for myself and my story? Am I worthy? Again, only she can answer that. When you're visited by the muse and the story won't leave you alone, there are mighty forces beyond simply you wanting this story manifested. If not by you, the story goes unwritten.

3) A meltdown around the Recommitment phase. This is too hard. I don't get it. I can't do it. When I grab her by the shoulders to help ground her back in the here-and-now and out of the past of other difficult times in her life, I encourage her to view what is happening to her in the light of the Universal Story. She's being called to show up and do the work. Internal antagonists block her way. I ask her to reclaim her own individual power. Suddenly shining out from hiding and fear, the light of her spirit flickers and hope seems to fill her body as she shakes her head and straightens her shoulders. She looks at me as if I'm not there as the truth of who she truly is reawakens. She exclaims how she's never heard of such things. In her smile, I know she's tapped into a truth she's always know and only now is beginning to remember again what once she knew for sure.

4) She's writing today because I asked her to commit to writing everyday. If her commitment to me helps her show up for herself, so be it. When we commit to others, our spirits are listening. When we let down ourselves by not valuing our commitment to ourselves, we hurt our own spirit.

5) She apologizes before she begins reading. It's not very good. I haven't written forever. This is my first stab at writing again after years of doubt. It's rough. Not very good. Don't ever apologize for yourself, for your writing. You're showing up, doing the work. Hold tight to your own personal power. Don't let the demons of doubt and poor self-worth overpower your deepest beliefs. Sure they may be hiding in the muck and gore of your backstory wound. The belief in your splendor lies there, too. You know it. At least your spirit does and is patiently, heartbreakingly patiently waiting for the day you remember it, too.

What I understand now after having spent more than a year painstakingly healing my own backstory wound is how wrong I've been. I write in the Plot Whisperer books about the protagonist (and thus, the writer, too) reclaiming her own personal power that she'd relinquished along to way to a false belief system, betrayal, hurt, pain, criticism, judgment.

Yet, seizing your own personal power often leads to a crisis because the use and development of your own personal power belies the real truth. Standing in your own personal power puts you in direct opposition to someone else's power and ends up perpetuating duality = struggle.

The real strength lies, not in your own personal power. Rather, your real strength and the source of all strength lies at the heart of the Universal Story -- in the power of love.

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19. Transformation and The Universal Story: How Your Inner Stories Influence Your Choices & Decisions in Life

The Universal Story is a pattern, a rhythm all life cycles through and is made up of beginnings, middles and ends. All of nature, all plants, animals, humans are born, live and die. This cycle can loosely be broken into:

  • Comfort and Separation
  • Expansion and Struggle
  • Transformation and Triumph
In the place of comfort, change and evolution come only as quickly as the slowest member of the group. To expand ourselves and the world around us, we are asked to separate from what is known and familiar and comfortable (relatively speaking) to change, toss off all that no longer serves us and triumph for the greatest good.

Always in the past, those who successfully passed through the universal markers in life helped to evolve the planet, our species, life around us. Now, many are expanding without reaching a triumphant end. The expansion in the middle creates enormous stress, challenges, obstacles, antagonists which ultimately leads to the death of the old and opens up space for the new. Without letting go and the subsequent release the pressure, tension builds.

Can one move from beginning to triumph without passing through the deadly middle? Sure. Anyone who has learned all the life lessons needed to evolve move effortlessly from one triumph to the next.

More typically, often, before the true road appears, we suffer failure, brokenness, fear, emptiness, and alienation and loss. The only way to re-creation lies through death. First, before we can triumph, the repetitious stories we tell ourselves that limit and hold us back must be destroyed.

We all love stories. Most of us are unaware of the influence the stories we tell ourselves have on the choices and decisions we make in our lives. Understanding the significance of our inner stories releases negative emotions. Connect to new stories that inspire and uplift rather than burden and depress our energy. Once released from the power old stories hold over us, we are free to create peace in every moment of our lives.

Most of us are ruled by our egos which perpetuate stories in our minds that keep us off-balance, angry, frustrated, blaming, sad, fearful, unworthy, striving, grabbing, hurting and locked in dark emotions. To move beyond the limiting thoughts and behaviors and stories we tell ourselves and clear the way to triumph, first we're slapped in the face, slammed to our knees, betrayed, abandoned, ostracized, demoralized and confronted with a moment when we become aware of life's deeper meaning and our place in the world. Life takes us by the shoulders and shakes us until we sees life and ourselves as we really are and jolts us into a new acceptance, one in which transformation flourishes.

Life is about each of surrendering our own personal power to an authority outside ourselves either willingly or by force in exchange for comfort, and then being confronted with challenges that force us to reclaim our own personal power through learning, awakening and consciousness. The moment consciousness slays the ego, we seize back our own power and instantaneously our behavior and thoughts and beliefs and the stories in our mind begin to transform.

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20. Plot Ideas to Write through the Middle: How to Advance the Thematic Significance throughout the Middle and Create Tension

Middle slowing you down?

A Twitter friend refers to the theme bubble exercise I use in The Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-Step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories as theme clouds, a term I prefer ever so much better. (NOTE: I wish my publisher would change all theme bubble references - never did much like bubbles anyway - in both The Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-Step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories and The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master.)

You've filled in scene clouds, perhaps all of them including the big one in the middle with your thematic significance statement or perhaps that cloud is empty as you continue to explore (experiment with ideas - use pencil).


Say your story deals with taking risks for the one you love. You introduce the concepts of both love and of risk-taking in the beginning.

Ideas for the Middle:
Use the middle as the place to deepen the reader's understanding of risk-taking and love in all the various forms you wish to portray of your theme.

Show us a character(s) who embodies the opposite -- too safe. Reveal the positive effects of caution in a relationship(s) thereby seemingly to disprove the theme. Interacting with someone who challenges his belief system creates tension in your protagonist who believes risk-taking is necessary to seize the one you desire.

Let us see what safety and caution in dating looks and feels like. Let us feel his emotion - not told about how he feels. Shown how his confusion, doubt, uncertainty shows itself through him, his actions, dialogue, attitude, posture, habits.

Characters who embody the ideal reveal a unexpected shadow-side the protagonist has failed to consider thereby seemingly to disprove the theme. Again, tension is created in scene as the protagonist's belief system is challenged.

The middle of any story is the place to deepen the readers understanding of all aspects of all plot lines through creating conflicts and challenges for your protagonist as she suffers the trickery of antagonists in their exotic world while also moving steadily, or so she hopes, toward her goal.

For tips how to plot and revise your novel, watch the free Video #1 of PlotWriMo: Revise Your Novel in a Month

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21. The Universal Story and the Sea

Where I live, the tide determines whether I walk on the beach with sand between my toes or high atop cliffs following the shoreline. At high water, the tide builds to 6 feet with waves crashing against the cliffs and the beach under water. At low water or low tide, waves ebb all the way back to zero feet, exposing the sand and revealing tide pools in a rock plate that juts out into the bay.

The waves ebb and flow in much the same way every day. Two low tides in a 24 hour period. Two high tides. Waves come in an hour later today than they did yesterday. Waves go out. The parameters remain the same. The difference is the interaction or relationship between our moon, sun and the planets  we travel with through space.

You can physically feel the difference in the energy created at low tide compared to high water. As the tide builds and waves begin crashing against the cliffs, the energy all along East Cliff builds right along with it.  At low water, the energy wanes as waves gently lap and then altogether disappear.

Low tide holds the same sort of energy as do scenes of reflection before a story begins and then again after a trauma or a crisis, a major turning point -- more introspective, contemplative scenes without much external conflict and where the protagonist is not feeling threatened = below the line scenes.

High tide is like high action, movement, noise, chaos in the middle of a story where anything and everything can happen and does and then again in the build-up to the climax -- all above the line scenes on the Plot Planner. (For examples of working Plot Planners and The Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-Step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories has all the planners and trackers you need -- one workbook per story.)


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22. How Do I Revise My Novel, Memoir, Screenplay? A Simple 30-Step Revision Process

In every story's life, there comes a time when an assessment of what you're doing with all those words is needed. What is the whole of your creation? Rather push words around on the page, spend time revising instead. Identify, cut, add, organize, deepen, refine the concept, characters, action and meaning of the scenes of your story at the design level before you actually undertake a major rewrite.

Learn your story's strengths and weaknesses in the revision process. No writing required. Instead, step back and consider the overall concept and design, characters, plot and meaning of your story. Push aside the words and analyze the characters and dramatic action and thematic significance you've written to craft the project into a coherent piece worthy of publication.

Follow the 1st 4 steps towards a complete revision on this free trailer for PlotWriMo: Revise Your Novel in a Month:

Brainstorm for an effortless rewrite. 

The first draft of any writing project is considered the generative phase. The muse is often responsible for much of the generative phase. The writer acts as a conduit and allows the inspiration to come through onto the page. The generative phase is all about getting the words on the page. At the end of the generative phase, a writer is often faced with a manuscript full of holes and missteps, confusion and chaos. Editing in the generative phase risks stifling the muse, which often results in stagnation.

When a writer completes the generative phase the real work begins—crafting the words into a coherent story. This is where International Plot Writing Month comes into play. Many writers, when left with pages and pages of words, are often at a loss as to how to take their writing to the next level. Rather than shove the words about on the page, follow the step-by-step exercises and craft what you have into a viable story.

PlotWriMo: Revise Your Novel in a Month is designed for writers preparing for major rewrite, interested in seeing your novel, memoir, screenplay in a new light, needing a boost and a restored belief in your story to once again be productive and for writers passionate about to deepening your craft of writing and creating a story made up of dramatic action, compelling characters and thematic significance.

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23. The Importance of Your Character's Emotional State Changing within Each Scene

Change is essential for keeping your reader’s interest locked on your story. A character and her emotional state should be constantly changing. If you write a scene where this is missing, chances are the scene will fall flat and turn your story stagnant. The emotional change the character experiences within each scene does not have to be monumental, but she does have to feel and experience some sort of emotional reaction to the dramatic action in the scene. If not, you’ve done nothing to develop the character, which raises the question: why not?


For example, in the first scene of The Sea-Wolf by Jack London, Humphrey van Weyden, the protagonist, begins the book in a positive state; he is traveling on a ferryboat from San Francisco to Sausalito confident and eager to work on a projected essay he has thought of calling “The Necessity of Freedom: A Plea for the Artist.” Some paragraphs later, in the same scene, a red-faced stranger appears. (This is a clever technique for creating tension and suspense because a stranger inevitably evokes curiosity in the reader. Who is this person? A messenger of doom (an antagonist)? Or an agent of reward (an ally)?)

The stranger hints to van Weyden that because of all the fog in the San Francisco Bay, things are amiss.

Soon after, the ferry bearing the two men crashes into another vessel. As chaos ensues, fear grips van Weyden.

This is a satisfying scene because, as tension builds, the protagonist's display of fluctuating emotions intensifies, pulling at our emotional feelings to mirror his and thus effectively connecting us to the protagonist and the story both. Not only that, the scene ends with our protagonist in horrible shape compared to where he was in the beginning of the scene and we've seen first-hand how he expresses a range of emotions.
(Taken from: The Plot Whisperer Workbook Step-by-Step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories)

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24. Refilling the Well of Creativity

Yesterday, final day of our incredible retreat with my incredible partner-in-teaching Jordan Rosenfeld and 18 incredibly intrepid writers, I found myself rushing faster and faster to the finish-line, my vision narrowing to one thing and one thing only -- escape!! Well, not really escape. The weekend was filled with heart-felt memories and deep learning. Rather… solitude… space… freedom…

Finding more and more of a struggle to reconcile the outer me as teacher and presenter to who I am finally able to re-embrace as the shy, silent backwards daughter wrapped in a cloud of cotton candy. I'm left to wonder about that journey out of silence into the exotic world of words -- damn, who knew there could be so many words generated at once?

Have you ever considered how many words are being written across the world at this very instant? How many being said? We're all worried, and rightly so, about over-population of humans. What about over-population of words?

After the yapping excitement of returning home calmed, I settled in to revel in Maya Angelou on Oprah's OWN Super Soul Sunday. She spoke of the pieces stolen from you when slung slights, criticisms, cruelty, discomfit. Makes you wonder how any pieces are left at a ripe old age. Fortunately, love and acceptance for exactly who you are go far toward filling in those missing pieces.

Can't help but think of how many little pieces I lost this weekend, not stolen in meanness but offered with joy. Whole chunks of my thoughts and beliefs and knowledge and experience and magical thinking left me to grow and multiple. I'm left feeling a bit like Swiss cheese.

The darkness of scarcity lifts as the light of abundance sweeps in.

Blessed time to go inward, refill, allow for space and the reconnection to that which sustains me -- the sea.

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25. Expand Your Creativity through the Universal Story

None of us were born yesterday. If you believe the past shapes the future, then the life we live right now was decided a long time ago.


We make up stories in our imaginations about each other to explain what causes people to act and say what they do. We make up stories about our own lives and behavior, too, stories that motivate us to do what we do.

Memories of the past, whether five minutes ago or fifty years, come to us in the form of stories. The stories we tell ourselves define the emotional stakes of our lives. In storytelling, a character’s backstory refers to events and emotions that take place earlier than when the action of the story is taking place.

Understanding your own backstory allows you a glimpse into why you act the way you do, what prevents you from reaching your goals and better appreciate the road you took to get here.

If you've ever looked at your life and wondered how you got to this point and how ever will you get back to where you truly want to be, if, that is, you knew where exactly that might be, by shedding the stories you tell yourself decides what happens next in your life.

Every backward-glance in our lives is an invitation to add to or subtract from the general narrative we tell ourselves, often obsessively, until our mind believes the story as the truth and becomes the story we live by. Some stories we make up about events in our lives have beginnings, middles and ends. Other stories we listen to are fragments. Sometimes we become so close to the stories of the past that any little reminder: a crude gesture, a withering glance, the whiff of perfume, and we again relive a past that is always present.

We can go back in time and fix and change what haunts us today. Turn to the Universal Story and create a new story. Discover the stories you tell yourself and rediscover emotions and pieces of yourself you’ve forgotten or thought were lost forever. Lift yourself out of the past. Seize the life you've always dreamed.

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