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1. Pre-Plot for NaNoWriMo -- Step 2

SPECIAL NOTE: I'll be at Writer Unboxed all day today with more tips about pre-plotting for NaNoWriMo.

Stop and comment to win a free copy of The Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories.

(Click to read Pre-Plot for NaNoWriMo - Step 1)

Coming Soon! 
The Plot Whisperer Book of Writing Prompts: Easy Exercises to Get You Writing . Available for pre-order now. Ships 12/12.

More Plot Tips: 

1) Plot your story step-by-step with the help of The Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories 

2) Read
The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master


3) Watch the Plot Series: How Do I Plot a Novel, Memoir, Screenplay? on YouTube. Scroll down on the left of this post for a directory of all the steps to the series. 27-step tutorial on Youtube

4) Watch the Monday Morning Plot Book Group Series on YouTube. Scroll down on the right of this post for a directory the book examples and plot elements discussed.

For additional tips and information about the Universal Story and plotting a novel, memoir or screenplay, visit:
Blockbuster Plots for Writers
Plot Whisperer on Facebook
Plot Whisperer on Twitter


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2. Crisis versus Climax

The latest video up on the Plot Tips Youtube channel is all about the difference between a crisis in a story and the climax of a story.

I write up a summary here for those of you who have not yet discovered the wonder of youtube.

Crisis and Climax are often confused.

Basically:
1) Crisis
At the Crisis (around the 3/4 mark of a novel, memoir, screenplay), the energy of the story is at its highest so far and the protagonist is at her very worst, both internally and externally.

The crisis forces the protagonist to see herself and her situation in a completely new light. She has been living her live thematically one way. After what happens at the crisis, she must re-evaluate everything.

2) Climax
At the Climax (the chapter or scene before the last one at the very end), the energy is at the very highest of the entire story and the protagonist is at her very best and acting in her true power.

Crisis = disaster (both for the protagonist and the action)
Climax = success


More Plot Tips: 
1) Plot your story step-by-step with the help of The Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories 

2) Read
The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master

3) Watch the Plot Series: How Do I Plot a Novel, Memoir, Screenplay? on YouTube. Scroll down on the left of this post for a directory of all the steps to the series. 27-step tutorial on Youtube

4) Watch the Monday Morning Plot Book Group Series on YouTube. Scroll down on the right of this post for a directory the book examples and plot elements discussed.

For additional tips and information about the Universal Story and plotting a novel, memoir or screenplay, visit:
Blockbuster Plots for Writers
Plot Whisperer on Facebook
Plot Whisperer on Twitter


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3. Turning Points

Turning points keep your story moving in surprising and organic directions to more fully engage the reader and audience and satisfy universal expectations.


I spoke about Turning Points in Step 11 of the wacky Plot Series posted on YouTube. 

I move with less resistance and greater joy if I follow the energy. The energy has taken me to presenting the information caught on the video camera rather than post the words here. 

So, rather than read plot tips, stop by and watch them.

The steps are presented in an organized format from Step One to Step Thirty-Two. We film Step 12 tomorrow.

Feel free to randomly click on any video. The 5 to 8 minute presentation will leave you energizes and with a new sensibility of your story.

This is all new to me. Hope you'll follow me into the great unknown...

Plot Series: How Do I Plot a Novel, Memoir, Screenplay?

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4. Follow the Energy

A couple of months ago in a plot interview, Brenda Novak, author of nearly forty romance novels and more than 3 million books in print and multiple honors, shared a trick she uses when she gets "...stumped. Some people call this writer's block. I loose steam, the tension leaks out of the story and my productivity grinds to a halt. When this happens, I have to retrench to a point when I know the story was working and branch off in a new direction. Every time this happens, however, I find a better way and get excited and start churning out pages again. So I believe it's a good thing, a compass, of sorts."

Follow the energy...

The more energetically charged, passionate, excited, filled with possibility we are, the more energetically charged, passionate, excited and filled with possibilities our writing and writing lives are. A loss of energy is a great time to check in with yourself.

What we desire never comes from pushing. Yes, I appreciate all the examples that prove the opposite is true. However, when we are in the flow of life, there is always enough time, enough support, enough imagination, enough stamina available for whatever we put our minds to.

Keep in mind, Brenda's advice is not permission to go back and rewrite the beginning again.


Instead, give her method at try -- "retrench to a point where you know the story was working and branch off in a new direction" from there. 

Let me know how it works for you.

4 Comments on Follow the Energy, last added: 8/3/2010
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5. 2nd Annual International Plot Writing Month -- Day Fourteen

If you are just now joining us on this month-long journey of analyzing the plot and structure of the Dramatic Action, Character Emotional Development, and Thematic Significance of a draft of your screenplay, memoir, or novel, Welcome! 

To gain the most out of this month, please follow along day-by-day, beginning at Day One (scroll down to find Day One and get started).

The Beginning

The work you did yesterday -- Day Thirteen -- creating a Plot Planner for the Beginning (1/4) of your story -- comes in handy today.

Every writer faces a multitude of choices, two of which are:
1) Deciding where to begin your story
2) Which Point of View to use.

Today we'll go over #1 -- Deciding where to begin your story.

One of the many benefits of NaNoWriMo is that it forces a writer to keep writing all the way through the first draft to the end. Without this sort of discipline, many writers end up creating a horrible habit for themselves -- the going-back-to-the-beginning syndrome. 

NaNoWriMo writers often have less trouble cutting the typical 35-100 pages from their WIP because they haven't invested hundreds of hours of going back to the beginning and starting over again and again and again. That is not to say that cutting any of our work is ever easy, but it's easier if you have not invested umpteen hours and perfected every single word and sentence.

In other words, deciding which scene best starts the story often includes the realization that major cuts are in order.

Once the shock and resistance fades, look over the Beginning scenes you plotted out yesterday. Compare those Beginning scenes to the End scenes you plotted on Day Eight.

The fact you have completed at least one draft of your story gives you an advantage. You know what the Climax of the story is.

The dramatic action in any story forces the character to transform over time. At the Climax of the story, the character is able to do something she was unable to do at the Beginning of the story. She needed to go through every other scene in or

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6. Apostrophe Poem: To My Backup Disk

Driving home from a meeting today, I decided to jump into Miss Rumphius' Poetry Stretch for the week. I decided to write my poem to a necessity of life: the backup disk.




To My Backup Disk

Small silver circle
You are the storage shed
in the back yard of my mind

filled with seeds of ideas
well-fertilized cover letters
weeds and blooms in equal measure

Your shiny plastic roof
protects my garden
from the sad storm of
accidental deletion,
the blue sky of death,
and the barren winter
of forgetfulness

Thank you

---Laura Purdie Salas, all rights reserved

It's not too late to join in. Check out Miss Rumphius' post from Monday!

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7. 2 Plot Tips for the Middle

Two recent plot consultations revealed the same dilemma -- both writers were faltering as they made the approach to the Crisis, which occurs about 3/4, give or take, through the entire project.

The Problem
Characters, setting, set-up, premise, and action move from the superficial, introductory mode of the Beginning to the gritty, challenging world of the Middle, the heart of the story world itself.

In the middle, masks fall away and the characters reveal themselves for who they truly are, warts, flaws, fears, prejudices, and all. At this point in the relationship, just like in life, the story tends to get messy. Fights can ensue. Feelings can get hurt. Because of that, writers often back away, afraid of what the characters will reveal about themselves, doubting their ability to manage the dark side of the characters.

Writers tend to want to back off when they approach the Crisis. And why not? We shy away from disaster, drastic upheaval, or deep loss in our own lives. Why would we want to do any differently for our characters? Yet, that is exactly what the Crisis is -- the suffering that occurs when the protagonist's whole world shatters and doesn't make sense anymore. Because only out of the ashes of the old self can a new self come into being -- the beginning of the character's ultimate transformation.

When things get messy, writers often long for the good old days at the Beginning of the relationship when things were smooth and happy, and superficial. Don’t give into the urge to go back and start over again. The truth of the relationship and the characters emerge in the Middle.


Plot Tips and Tricks
1) Use of Antagonists
Writers who make friends with as many antagonists as they can create seem to slog their way through the Middle without as much mishap as those who have not fostered such relationships.

The six basic antagonists are: other people, nature, God, machines, society and the characters themselves.

If you are trying to deepen your skill at showing character development, of the six antagonists, the inner workings of the characters themselves offer the richest form of support. In terms of plot, three basic character traits have the potential to create scenes with the most conflict, tension and suspense or curiosity: the character’s flaw, fear, and hatred.

For example, in the Beginning of To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee introduces Scout, the protagonist, with the flaw, among others, of being insensitive to other people’s feelings. In the Middle, Lee turns the tables on Scout. Now, rather than continue to see all the ways Scout demonstrates her insensitivity to others, the reader sees how Scout suffers the effects of others’ insensitivity, from her cousin acts of cruelty towards her to how a white townsperson married to a black woman deals with the insensitivity of the community around him.

Scout’s flaw is not the only antagonist that creates more conflict, tension and suspense in very scene. The Middle is fraught with antagonists of every sort. Her father serves as an antagonist when he asks Scout to control her temper and her fists. Because of scenes in the Beginning showing Scout’s impulsive fits of anger, the reader knows as well as Scout and her father just how hard it will be for the eight-year-old to control these two shadow aspects of herself.

Lee employs other antagonists in the Middle: an old mad dog down yonder; Mrs. Dubose, a neighbor who symbolizes the collective consciousness of the town folk or society at large; Aunt Alexandra; grown men of the community; etc.


2) Unusual world
The Plot Planner mimics the universal story form with a line that moves steadily upward to denote the necessity of giving each scene more significance to the character and more conflict, tension and suspense in the dramatic action than the scene that came before it.

A trick that can help you over the roughest territory of all: the middle of the Middle is to create an unusual world. So long as you keep a measure of conflict, tension and suspense alive, the actual dramatic action can flatten out a bit in the middle of the Middle. Here, the writer can take time to deepen the readers’ appreciation of an unusual job, setting, lifestyle, custom, ritual, sport, belief or whatever your imagination dreams up.

This world, whether real or imagined, comes alive with authentic details most relevant to the unusual world, specific details the average reader does not yet know or appreciate.

For example, in the Middle of Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden shows the world of the geisha as the protagonist herself learns about the expectations, dance steps, joke making, dress and hair.

In the Middle of Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak shows us through six pages of illustrations the unusual world of wild things making rumpus.

In the Middle of My Half of the Sky, Jana McBurney Lin shows the everyday life of a tea seller in China.

The next time you find yourself bogged down in the Middle, don’t resort to going back and starting again. You will only end up finding yourself in a seemingly never-ending cycle. Instead, make a list of all the antagonists you can think of that are relevant to the overall plot or thematic significance. Add the development of an unusual world, and see if you don’t find yourself jumping from one scene to the next, and bypassing the quicksand of the Middle all together.

Do you have any tips to help writers slog their way through the middle??? Any tips about writing the build-up to and the actual Crisis??? Please do share....... Read the rest of this post

17 Comments on 2 Plot Tips for the Middle, last added: 7/30/2008
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8. Plot Tip: Creating an Illusion

Living in the present moment is difficult for most people.

Only while daydreaming or night dreaming, through mediation, under hypnosis, or while in the zone of writing or some other passion and with practice, can we stay mindful or conscious of the present moment for a sustained period of time. Usually our minds are darting into the future, whether the next 10 minutes or 10 years from now, or into the past, what just happened or what happened long ago.

Reading is a mindful activity. When the writing is good and in scene, a reader reads the words, but rather than pay attention to them, becomes engaged with the characters. This keeps the reader in the present moment -- not real time present moment, but story time present moment. Watching a scene unfold on the screen or while reading it on the page, we experience a sense of flow.

A story written in scene creates its own time and a sense that the present moment is all that exists. As we sink into the world of the characters, we surrender even our emotions to the illusion. This strengthens as we come to know the characters and care for them, even to worry about them. Our bodies respond on a visceral level; our hearts beat faster. We laugh and weep, present and involved in the story world itself.

Elements that entice a reader or moviegoer to sink deeper into the dream:

1)      Characters who invoke interest in the reader or movie-goer

2)      Conflict, tension and suspense that sustains excitement

3)      Only enough back story to inform that particular scene and triggers in the reader or movie-goers curiosity and investment in the dream

4)      Clarity into whom and what to root for in the story

5)      Consistency in story pacing versus missteps that can jolt the reader awake

6)      Right sensory details that deepen the overall story (dream) mood

7)      Foreshadowing that offers enticement (flashbacks can create time disorientation).

8)      No hint of the author in the story versus author intrusion

9)      The right balance between Scene and Summary

10)  Payoffs in the dramatic action and the character emotional development at just the right moments.

Once the lights go on in the theater or we put the book down, it takes a moment or two to remember that the people in the story were an illusion. Often, it is necessary to consciously detach from the world on the screen or the page in order to return to real life and regain a sense of real time.

The best stories are when we are with the characters and so in the trance of the moment that there never seems to be a good reason to put the book down or to pause the DVD. Lured deeper and deeper into the dream, we are unable to stop watching or stop reading until we find out if what we fear will happen does indeed happen, or not.

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9. International Plot Writing Month -- Day Three

If you are just joining us, welcome! Begin at Day One and work your way here.

Today, make a list in order of all the major scenes or events you remember writing (don't go back into the manuscript to locate the scenes and/or events. Remember: no reading yet).


That's it for today. We are complying the materials we need for the rest of the month.

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10. 2nd Annual International Plot Writing Month -- Day Four

If you are just joining us, welcome! Begin at Day One (you have to scroll down) and work your way here.

Draft #1 represents a leap of faith; you write without worrying about the outcome. Well, perhaps you worry, but if you're following us here, nonetheless you persevered. Congratulations!

In the Native American tradition, mouse medicine focuses on the attention to detail and runs in about 5- to 6-week cycles. NaNoWriMo writers devote fastidious attention to writing at highly concentrated levels. Like the mouse, when we're in the flow of getting the words on paper, we often neglect other areas.

As you begin winding down, let the words subside and your body return to rest.

Last year at this time, on my approach to the Santa Cruz mountains, I spotted a red-tailed hawk at the tip of a redwood tree, like an angel atop a giant's Christmas tree. Halfway over the mountain, I cringed when a hawk flew into my peripheral vision. Rather than crash, in a swirl of feathers, the hawk steered clear.

Hawks embody visionary powers and guardianship. I invite you to enter into the realm of expressing a higher vision of your story beyond the word level itself. Stand back. See the bigger picture and allow for new ideas.

Today:

  • Continue listing the major events or scenes of your story -- it's not necessary to remember every single scene, just the big plot points for now. Remember, no reading the manuscript itself. The big, important scenes should pop out at you. Later when we work with these events in comparison to what you actually wrote, you'll have a better sense of what to cut. Cutting, trimming, paring down the insignificant makes room for the scenes and events that truly drive the story. 

  • Start a second list. Write down any and all themes that pop up in each event. (Don't strain for these theme ideas. If something comes to you, write it down.) Examples like: 
abandonment
poverty
violence
trust
injustice
prejudice

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11. 2nd Annual International Plot Writing Month -- Day Five

If you do not have a draft of a story written, follow the steps outlined this month to generate ideas for one now. (You'll have to use your imagination and fill in the missing blanks, but you're good at that, right? After all, you're a writer.....

I appreciate how we each desire to be heard and at the same time fear that what we have to say has no meaning. Desire and fear drown out the muse. Do what you must to silence your ego. Listen to your story instead.

Every story has its own unique energy. At the same time, everything around us follows a similar path. We are born, challenged, come to fullness, and die to who we were. Within the greater pattern, a similar version repeats itself innumerable times throughout our lives.

Today, using the scenes/events you generated on Day Three, let the energy of your story alight on the pattern itself with the help of the Universal Story Form (below is the template. On the site is further info)














Plot:

Try for all 7 of the following
or
3 scenes/events At the Least (*)
(Do NOT refer to your manuscript. Use the scenes you generated yesterday. No more than 7.)
  • Scene, moment, conflict, dilemma, loss, fear, etc. that forces protagonist to take immediate action -- Inciting Incident
  • Scene or event that symbolizes the end of what was. The protagonist's goal shifts or takes on greater meaning and turns the story in a new direction, launching the character into the actual story world itself -- End of the Beginning (*)
  • The moment the protagonist consciously make

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