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Johne

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About Johne

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  1. I can't think of a single example where the climax occurs in the middle. The reason climaxes occur toward the end is simple - that's when everything that leads you to that moment all comes together and leads to the resolution, which generally is comparatively brief. (Resolutions that go on and on feel weird - RETURN OF THE KING with your five endings, I'm lookin' at you.) https://storygrid.com/commandment-number-four/
  2. Either. Both. There's a new Beta version for Windows and Scrivener 3.0 for Mac is the current industry standard. The Windows 3.0 version should be out by the end of October, although it has slid from the end of August and might slide a tad more before release, but it's very close. I'm using the Beta right now for all my writing. It's come a long way from the beginning.
  3. No. I tend to be more of a Pantser but I'm finding the structure suggested or provided by others can be helpful as I'm learning about how stories work under-the-hood.
  4. I've heard before that Owen and Beru's deaths were Luke's Inciting Incident, but I think an argument could be made that finding them dead is his Lock In moment, his Crossing the Threshold moment.
  5. Here's more about the Inciting Incident. I asked what happened to that relationship. Bill no longer works with an agent, he just sort of lets people find him and offer him stuff to work on. If he likes the idea of it, the What if? he’ll do it. If he doesn’t, he won’t. Bill explained to me that Ovitz called him one day and told him that he’d met with a studio and pitched an idea to them that they loved. They were willing to write Bill a big check if he signed on to the project. Bill asked Ovitz what the idea was and he simply said “Bill Murray and an Elephant.” While not even close to half-baked, that five-word phrase inspired an inciting incident that Bill found attractive. All they needed now was for someone to bang on a word processor for a few months and they’d be ready to go. Roy Blount Jr., a wonderful writer and author of my favorite sports nonfiction About Three Bricks Shy of a Load was given that impossible task. Blount took that single phrase and spinned it into the far more fleshed out conceit “a down on his luck motivational speaker finds out that his father has left him a huge inheritance…the twist is that his father was a circus promoter and the son’s inheritance is an elephant…” They did make that movie. It was called Larger than Life and unfortunately, it bombed. Soon after that experience, Bill decided he could make those kinds of mistakes himself. He didn’t need an agent to do it for him. From that point forward Bill decided to only talk to the creators of material directly. If he gets a good feeling about the writer/director and their commitment to the story (and of course what they’ve put down on actual paper) not just the inciting incident but the whole story, he’ll do it. If he doesn’t, he won’t. But getting Bill to talk to you is a whole other story. I left a message for him about five years ago and I’m still waiting for him to return the call. So Bill, if you’re reading this, could you mail me back that laptop I lent you before you left for Tokyo? Again, global inciting incidents are most often determined by the genre the writer chooses. But what about the great American novels? What were their inciting incidents? The Great Gatsby—The cousin of a man’s long lost love moves next door to him. Moby Dick—a young man gets a job on a monomaniac’s whale ship Catch-22—fighter pilot can’t get grounded for being crazy because he says he’s crazy and crazy people don’t know they’re crazy. These are examples of global inciting incidents. Like the peanut butter that lures a mouse into a mousetrap, the global inciting incident must be irresistible to the writer’s intended audience. And yes, even the big literary writers have an intended audience. But alas, a fantastic global inciting incident does not make for a slam-dunk commercial success. You must load every beat, scene, sequence, and act with tantalizing inciting incidents to keep the reader turning pages or to keep the viewer in their seat. Creating these kinds of inciting incidents are all about zigging when the reader expects a zag. They require singular imagination. Ideally, the writer fulfills the conventions of a particular genre’s obligatory inciting incidents in a completely unique way. A way that the reader never sees coming. Here’s some advice… Mix up your inciting incidents. Don’t make them all causal or all coincidental. When the reader is expecting a causal event, swap in a coincidence and vice versa.
  6. I think the Inciting Incident must occur on the page. It is the place on the page which separates backstory from the problem to be solved, the rest of the novel. In Story Grid terms...
  7. https://thewritepractice.com/menacing-antagonist/ (Feel free to read “competitive” as “building giant robots” and “discussions” as “razing New York.”) This really applies to your characters. Sure, the trope of “bad guys” who switch sides at the last moment makes an effective redemption arc (e.g. Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi). But the thing is, that makes the character less scary. When you have a bad guy who’s unsure whether their behavior is right, they waver. They hesitate. You can count on them not to go for the killing blow. An antagonist without conviction won’t press the “Start World War III” button. An antagonist with conviction will—and that is considerably more menacing. Your job as a writer is to see how your antagonist believes what they’re doing is justified no matter what social mores, common sense, or “morality” says. Three Examples of Menacing Antagonists I think it’s time for examples. 1. Stephen King’s Misery Plot in a sentence: a bestselling author crashes his car and wakes up not in a hospital, but in the home of a rabid fan—who tortures him until he writes the ending she wants. Annie Wilkes (portrayed brilliantly by Kathy Bates) is a nurse. She doesn’t have superpowers. What she does have is a payoff (emotional completion via a character through whom she’s been vicariously living) and conviction (the full, unwavering belief that she has the right—if not the duty—to force the author to do this). These two things together make her terrifying. She kidnaps him. She breaks his bones. She drugs him. She nearly takes his life, all over a fictional character—which only makes sense if you consider her payoff and her conviction. (If you haven’t read Misery or seen the movie, I’d advise it, but only if you have a strong stomach. Side effects may include deciding to use a pen name and/or avoidance of all public appearances.) Payoff + conviction = actual menace. 2. The Underminer from The Incredibles Pixar created both a menacing antagonist and an intentionally silly one in The Incredibles—an animated film which, if you have not seen, you must. Plot in a sentence: Under the burden of secrecy, a superhero family struggles for unity while facing a foe who seems hellbent on murdering every single superhero in the world. The first antagonist from The Incredibles I want to look at, The Underminer, was created as a joke. You may not remember him. (Here’s a refresher clip, just in case.) He shows up at the end of The Incredibles, serving the dual purpose of lightening the mood and emphasizing that the Incredibles are now fighting together as a family (a major plot point). Initially, he looks like a credible threat. His heavy machines come crashing up through the ground, causing massive damage and major panic. He’s strong, armed, and very dangerous. He’s frightening. Until he opens his mouth. “Behold, the Underminer! I hereby declare war on peace and happiness!” Yeah. That happened. (The delivery from John Ratzenberger makes it funnier. Seriously, go watch that clip.) Why is he so funny? Because who the frick-frack paddywhack would declare war on peace and happiness? It’s an absurd motivation. There’s no real payoff. He may have conviction, but his goal is so silly that his credibility goes right out the window. Now contrast that with this guy: 3. Syndrome from The Incredibles For context, in this picture, Syndrome is threatening the protagonist’s baby. Yes, his baby. This guy just went after somebody’s infant. Here’s why he’s so menacing: As a child, this character idolized the movie’s main protagonist, Mr. Incredible. Syndrome was a brilliant kid, an inventor, and felt that Mr. Incredible’s powers and position as superhero gave Mr. Incredible worth. Value. Meaning. Happiness. But when Mr. Incredible refused to take him on as a sidekick, Syndrome went from wanting to be good (because of the accolades, worth, meaning) to being “bad” (where he felt he could find accolades, worth, and meaning). He felt that Mr. Incredible had denied him happiness. “If we idolize, we must also demonize,” said Jonathan Edwards, and it was never truer than in this movie. Syndrome is a bitter, complicated, empathetic, yet dangerous villain. He wants money and fame; he wants acknowledgment and praise; he wants revenge on the idol who failed him; he wants to have what matters, all while taking what matters away from the one who hurt him. (That linked video clip is pretty self-explanatory.) That’s why he’s murdering superheroes. That’s why he’s building an army. That’s why he’s doing everything. Talk about a payoff. Combine that with the full conviction that what he’s doing is right (that he deserves it, that he’s earned it, that the world owes him all these things), and you have a genuinely menacing villain who won’t hesitate to go after an innocent child. Say it with me: payoff + conviction = menace.
  8. Interesting that you mention this - I JUST returned from a Plotting Madness Boot Camp in Lake Tahoe where we worked through the LAYERING YOUR NOVEL book by our own C.S. (Susanne) Lakin. (Susanne, like K.M. (Katie) Weiland, got her start right here in these forums before breaking out and making it big.) On day one I identified ten plot points for my second novel. On day two I identified ten more using the action / reaction motif and layered them in around the first ten. On day three I identified then more subplot points, etc. (It was a busy three days.)
  9. Heh. And this is just for the Internal Genre - my External Genre is even more complicated (which just means that I have even more data to lean on when writing my scenes, which ironically makes it much easier). I've said before that the Marketing genre for my book is Fantasy / Noir, but the foundation is straight Thriller. This makes my life easier because I can look at the Conventions and Obligatory Scenes and make sure everything is there which should be there. (I was missed a crime in the first scene, I added a murder, and voila!, instant narrative drive!) I knew this was right when I realized I had a MacGuffin (both the hero and the villain are looking for the Great Wand), a Speech in Praise of the Villain, and a False Ending. https://storygrid.com/secrets-of-the-thriller-genre-part-one/
  10. I'm learning a new tool, Friedman’s Framework for identifying Internal Genre https://storygrid.com/internal-genres-part-1/ 1. Identify the protagonist. (The person who undergoes the major change in the story, the one whose welfare is our chief focus and interest, the one whom all else in the plot revolves.) 2. Identify the protagonist’s situation at the opening of the story. a. What is their character (willpower and motives), and do we find them sympathetic? (Morality) b. What is their level of thought? Are they able to adapt their mindset to new information? Do they sufficiently understand their situation and the consequences of their actions, to be held accountable? (Worldview) c. What is their social standing (external situation), and do we fear it will get worse or hope it will better? (Status) 3. Identify the protagonist’s situation at the end the of story and how the three internal elements have changed. a. What is their character and how has it changed? b. What is their level of thought and how has it changed? c. What is their social standing and how has it changed? 4. What does the audience experience in light of this change? (This experience relates to the genre’s core emotion that the life value change evokes during the core event. This is vital delivering a satisfying story.) 5. Express this change as a cause and effect statement. (When a protagonist with _____ level of character and motive and _____ state of mind, experiences ______ external forces and changes _________, their outcome will be ______.) 6. Determine which Internal Genre-Subgenre best fits this cause and effect statement. 7. Determine if this subgenre has been executed well and is the best fit for the story has a whole. (Obligatory scenes and conventions to come in Internal Genres: Part 2) https://storygrid.com/internal-genres-part-2-life-values/ So, for grins, I worked these out for my WIP, THE BLUE GOLEM, and this is how that looks:
  11. As much as NaNoWriMo can be used for literally anything, the primary virtue is in pushing through to complete a rough draft from scratch in 30 days. In 2004 my path was exactly what NaNo founder Chris Baty said it would be. I had energy in week one, it got harder in week two, I hit a wall in week three and found myself typing in Pirate Code elements just to hit word count. But then the miracle happened, a villain named The Riven showed up unannounced and took over and I finished the rest of the novel in a rush of euphoria and great relief. The confidence I felt as I typed THE END cannot be overstated - it literally changed my writing life. From that moment on I considered myself a novelist. While there are many other things one can do for NaNoWriMo, this is the emphasis, and for good reason. It works. It matters. It has meaning. And if you need this result, this is a great tool to achieve that result.
  12. I've competed - and won - NaNoWriMo twice. I think it's more about helping people punch through their doubts and give them confidence they can write a novel-sized rough draft in thirty days and that's about it. Many of the things I did to compete are things I'd never dream of doing the rest of the year. For NaNo, it's about word count above all else, throwing words on a page. The rest of the time I'm more deliberate about what I write and I'm more concerned with writing complete scenes than I am keeping track of how many words I write. Some days it's 200, some days it's 13k. It all depends on the needs of the moment. (The 13k in one day was for a short story that swelled to become a novelette for submission to a magazine that I put off for far too long.) NaNoWriMo is a tool that I use (now) for a very deliberate purpose and I don't feel compelled to compete when I have other things I'm working on. With that said, my debut novel, THE BLUE GOLEM, began as my NaNo novel in 2014. I competed in 2004, again in 2014, and have earmarked another run in 2024 just to see how my similar / different my process is over time. This year I'm taking November to finish (like, FINISH finish) the novel I began in 2014. The cool thing about NaNo is it is whatever you want / need it to be. In 2004 I just needed to know if I had what it took to finish a novel-length draft in 30 days. I took the next nine years off and focused on short stories. Then in 2014 I wanted to see if I still had what it took - I wanted to see if the first novel was a fluke. Next time around I'll be interested to see how my study of the Story Grid, the Heroes Journey, and all the other writing HOWTO content has infiltrated my process. (I've got a few years to think about how to integrate all that in such a short period of time. One hopes that by then much of this stuff will be second nature.)
  13. I agree with that sort of edit, but what I usually see is the opposite. Sometimes added richness detracts when a more direct statement keeps the narrative drive moving.
  14. I was in a room where Shawn Coyne said the Inciting Incident MUST occur on the page - it cannot occur before the book begins. It was a fun discussion. His thoughts on the II are written down and you can see most of them here. https://storygrid.com/commandment-number-one/
  15. Whenever I read one of these 'show, don't tell' articles, I think of all the great storytellers I like to read and how I hate the sort of Deep Third-Person that drones on for page after page causing story bloat without significantly improving the tale. I understand the point, I just don't value the end result as much as the adherents do.
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