Super Structure. And I bought note cards and pens.

I’ve read Super Structure: The Key to Unleashing the Power of Story by James Scott Bell.

This tied together character arc in a huge way for me. Bell has another book called “write your book from the middle” which has the same essence as I understand it, though I haven’t read that book. The idea of super structure is that the plot adheres to a 3 act structure. And within the three acts, certain things happen at certain points. Thus, the point where the character questions his self and whether to go on hits the 50% mark. He calls this the mirror/mirror moment.

A year ago when I was researching good plot, I found something that was along the same lines, only it was describing a screen play. In it, they said something along the same lines as Bell’s book, except they didn’t have the character arc ensconced in it in such a clear way. Write the character right, and then the rest of your plot is mere child’s play. It will fall in place around the character’s arc, that whole Lie the Character Believes but won’t by the end of the book, the thing that bonds us emotionally to the work so closely and meaningfully.

In the meantime, I bought index cards and pens. I’ll give this a go. Those of you I mocked for using notecards, don’t mock me. 😀

Everybody Arcs: How do you apply specifically, and to which characters?

Kristen did a fabulous post on character arcs here. Come back when you’re finished reading for further discussion.

Okay, you done?

Now, this post from me a few days ago, discussing what I found on K.M. Weiland’s ebook on characterization which can be found on her site by subscribing with an email address. Specifically, she says that character arc is about the character believing the Big Lie, and then arcing by finding out the Truth that confronts the Big Lie and either overcoming it (positive character arc) or not (negative character arc).

Back to Kristen. Her take on character arcs relates to the character traits, both negative and positive. Her application is that the example character is too trusting and innocent in the first book, and must go through a change to do something that breaks that reality and flips it on its head. I’d say that the character’s Big Lie is that the Universe is Okay, Really, and Doesn’t Want to Hurt Me (these are characters who have never been in space, obviously).  The character arc, then, are the events change the character.

Here’s my two questions for you experts:

  1. When you are plotting a book, say you’re doing cards or what have you, some sort of modular unit to organize ideas, how do you track character arc? Is it simply embedded in the event itself, say, “Remi finds out from Joe that he’s been lying to her and she tries to throw him off a cliff,” might relate to the big moment where Remi’s trust is irrevocably broken and now she must embrace a new reality. Or do you have some separate system for character arc? Or go with a vague statement, say you write up the character’s information on a nice sheet and you have their stated goal, unstated goal, and what happens to them in the story, but you throw in the character arc deal of “character believes xyz and will have that challenged in the end when they become negative xyz”?
  2. If you have a good system for doing the character arc for your protagonist, do you also do an arc for your antagonist and apply it across the entire story ? To the supporting characters? I mean, yeah, “Everybody arcs” but how many people do the work to arc every character of importance? HOW REAL IS THIS?!  I must know.  Examples, and whether you do this yourself or not.

Your thoughts, please. I need to understand this character arc once and for all so I can move on with my life. Argh! [Shakes fist at character arcs]

I found something. Character Arcs

K.M. Weiland has a very nice site entitled Helping Writers Become Authors. Like many sites that help writers, there is a certain monetization of the site with craft books available. I decided to get the free eBook on characterization (PDF). I read that thing, and it was illuminating on character arcs… because that part was unclear to me. How do you do that? “Your character changes an essential aspect of themselves through the events in the book,” say some folks.  Yeah, but how does that work, exactly?

Naturally, all you established authors know the secret, and are nodding casually. “Bout time you figured out that elephant in the room, Pontius,” you say. Such sagacity contained in an authorial body! I am humbled that you are here in my blog. Please comment below, I welcome your input. For real.

Anyway,  the rest of us are still learning this writer craft stuff, and character arc is a Big Deal. K.M. says there’s three arcs- positive arc, negative arc, and flat arc. The last arc is sort of an oxymoron, right? Can an arc be flat? These are. Some of them.

The character essentially believes the Big Lie about something in their life, and the character arc is them learning the Truth and either changing to accept it (Positive character arc) or not changing and rejecting it (negative CA). The flat arc is the character who doesn’t change either way due to the Big Lie being presented to them.

I like how she put that, and the eBook gives considerably more detail to the positive character arc (about 12 paragraphs) so you get a good understanding of the concept. Character arc drives the story. Without it, it’s like mashed potatoes without gravy, or Wagner, harmony without melody. Nobody likes that. It’s the spice that makes the novel interesting, and intertwines with Theme.

Theme is a little harder for me to grok in a meaningful way. I’ll go back and review this concept, but K.M. seems to be going with the idea that an organic unforced theme is good, and if you force it, it’ll just be like cracking an egg with too much force. Eggshell everywhere, and nobody likes your work.

I’ve found that if I regurgitate the material I just read, I can often remember it far better.

Anyway, so, what are your thoughts? How did you handle the character arc thing? And theme? (How did you plan the theme if you were adding it?)

Scrivener remains out of use for now, since I didn’t watch a useful video on plotting, but this is on my mind right now as I attempt to plot. Those index cards are looking pretty good as an option right now, Jaime– scrivener is kind of a mess.

 

I went to help those poor Indie Authors with a well-needed review, but they didn’t need it

Yeah, so I’ve been beating the “Leave a review” drum in the past few posts, and I decided to go back and review some of those free books I’d read a few years back. After all, free = Indie and they were clearly self-published from the errors and editing mistakes I saw.

I pull up the first one, and its got 1200 reviews.

Okay… guess they don’t need my oar after all. They appear to be doing very well. Plus, reviewing the book to do a review would take a bit of time, and I don’t want to do that. I go on to the next author. This one definitely would need my help, his stuff was simply sloppy and needed a lot of help, and some developmental editing, and… had 900 reviews.

And the people reviewing it loved it. Not a critical review to be seen. (scene?) No mention of the homophone problems, or the amateurish content, nothing.

I guess… I don’t need to review this one, either.

And then I concluded that these people had managed to hop on wagon during the 15 minutes when free books garnered lots of readers, before they would have been subsumed into the slush-pile of barely adequate books. The free-wheeling wild west of e-books is… well, it’s changed. Used to be, you could put out a free eBook and the masses would consume it. Nowadays, your free eBook is just one of many, and it has no reviews. Why would I bother?

Another thing I concluded was that they’d done well with their sequels, which they charged for.  The entry book was just the hook, and the the sequels were the money makers. This is a standard business model, but for them it worked, and I was surprised at the bare adequateness of it all. The books were not elegant examples of awesome craft. Yet, thousands of sales. Go figure.

My wife says maybe the readers are just easy, and not used to quality, and give easy 5 stars to a book because they don’t care about spelling and grammar and plot.

She might be right. If she is, can I get them to buy my books?

10,000 words a day isn’t too much to ask

Brandy Kraine, who is either dead or not using her WordPress lately (come back, Brandy, come back!) had a post on finish what you start. In it, she mentioned the book 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love by Rachel Aaron. So I bought that book and started reading. On the stuff about how to write faster, most of it is common sense, but I think if you don’t treat this in a scientific manner to test when you are the fastest and best at what you do, you’ll never see that you’re more productive in certain environments and times of day.  Beyond that, there’s some fantastic information. Rachel decided to test her new knowledge by creating a new book in a new genre, and reports she outlined the book & series in three days, and completed the entire book in the next 10 days.

But her outlining method is what I’m looking at, here. I’m trying Scrivener because of this book, and the outlining is the part I haven’t made sense out of. It would help if I didn’t have to overcome the learning curve on the program, but once I do, I should be ready to pump out three books a month, or so. Yeah!

Adventures in Scrivener: 30 days of trial

I did it. Yes, I downloaded the much touted/hated/beloved Scrivener. I’ll give it a whirl. At the end of 30 days, I either need to pony up forty smackers or cart my beloved novel back into Word, I hope, successfully.

I’m not worried. I have a sufficient command of Word that it doesn’t daunt me at all to fix the styles and formatting of something that may just be messed up.

Which brings me around to the integral spellchecker on Scrivener: I think I need to find all the close quotes, because there seems to be a lot of doubled close quotes that look like: “”

They’re only at the end of paragraphs, but it looks like the word –>Scrivener port may have had a few small issues. I’m not mad, I expect that Scrivener may not get everything from Word in perfect order. That’s no big deal, though going back to fix all that is mildly annoying.

Once I had my manuscript in the editor, I began dividing it by using Ctrl-K. I renamed each synopsis, but wish there was a key press to do that. I had to click on the synopsis card and then hit Ctrl-A to delete the current wrong synopsis and put the correct one in. One of the big deals about getting higher word counts is that you want to use key press shortcuts to do everything. The more often your right hand has to move over to move the mouse, click, then type, then click again, those are all time waster moves. Hands never leave the keyboard. That’s why you learn the shortcuts in Word, because time is money, right? The mouse represents an inefficient and wasteful way to create written content.

I watched the nifty video on how to use the program, but I need to go back and re watch the section on outlining, since that’s what I need the most. Outlining… and then associate current text with the outline when I’m done. This is also the moment where I need to do 9 acts, and outline three books so this can be a proper series.

How to write a book review without making the writer cry

Hey, saw this and it’s totally on point for the recent discussion we’ve been having about reviews, and my admonishments to all y’all to leave a blinkin’ review for all the books you read, good or bad.

And D.E. is so right about being… well, not cruel. Be nice. Review the book, not the author.

For me, it’s a bit harder, because I think that if a book has been out for a while, the cosmetic stuff should have been fixed– typos and homophones, for one thing–and such like that. I think it reflects on an author if they choose to issue revisions to fix junk that is just errors. Then we can move on to looking at the content, not the stuff that keeps annoying me enough to stop my mental process of reading.

Also, that stuff your law prof said about written/typed/recorded stuff is spot on. Those private emails? Aren’t. Those notes in the file for personal use? Aren’t. Everything is discoverable, some is more discoverable than others.

D.E. Haggerty

A while back I wrote a blog about how to request a review which led to an avalanche of review requests in my inbox (I’m still sorting through those!). But what about the other side of the coin? How do you write a review? And who cares anyway? It’s your opinion so why do there have to be any rules? I don’t think we need to have hard and fast rules, but there should definitely be some guidelines. In this age of instant communication, feelings get hurt because everyone is hurrying, hurrying, hurrying. People shoot off text messages, Facebook posts, and tweets without thinking about grammar let alone how their writing may affect others. Common courtesy doesn’t seem to matter in the digital world.

I had a law professor who I didn’t like one tiny bit, but I always remember his advice. It sounded something like this: Everything you write…

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Heal thyself, Physician

Yanno that last post, the one where I said it’s your responsibility to go write reviews on everything you read?

Yeah. Um.

Confession time: I need to go write a few reviews. I just looked at my kindle device list of books, and there’s a lot I’ve read and didn’t do the right thing. I will do that. Maybe I’ll post the reviews here, or link to them.

Yo, readers. Not authors. You authors, go away. This isn’t for you. But readers…

Okay. You read books. Excellent. And some of you seem to have opinions about those books. Also good. If it’s a new book by a new author, not a household name, THEN WRITE A REVIEW ON AMAZON.  Take the time and do it.

Why? Do I need to go into great wodges of detail? No. The reason is this:
David W. from Grand Rapids, Michigan once read a book which had no review, and he left a review, and received $1000 in the mail.

Claire M., from Salem, Oregon, however, read a book with no review and did not leave a review, and she was, that very day, hit by a carload of social justice warriors and killed.

Clearly, it’s better to leave a review than get run over. Claire might have left a review, and thus by being a moment later, wouldn’t have become roadkill.

Therefore, if you read a book, leave a review. Good or bad, leave a review. Hated it? Leave a review. But leave a review. You want cheap books by the bucketload to read? Leave a review. Want to help winnow out the crappy books no one else should ever read because they’re unreadable? Contact Amazon and complain, but also leave a review. Do it.

If you do not leave a review, you are a bad person.

If you wish to use the comments on this blog as anonymous confession, please do. Tell us the times you didn’t leave a review and why you think that it was justified. Then go back and leave a review for the book. Only you can prevent apathy and the slushpile. Only you can help new authors be discovered.

Shared Universe – Collaboration or no?

What are your thoughts on sharing your story world with other writers? Would you be willing to have another writer co-write a book with you?

If you have a shared story world, would you want separate authors to collaborate or not? Use each other’s characters?

Back in the 80s, Robert Lynn Asprin did a shared universe of Thieves’ World. It was a fantastic bit of writing, and each short story could and did use characters from other writers in the anthologies. The only deal was you couldn’t kill or alter someone else’s character, but other than that, have fun. I recall the names of many of the characters decades later.

That was a collaboration that worked especially well and I’d love to see something similar be published. Shared universe? Sure. Collaborated universe? Yes!