Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Wednesday Writers Tips - Finding the core of your story

For me, and maybe for some of you, I jump into a story not really knowing what it's about. I guess that's a casualty of being a pantster (someone who writes by the seat of their pants), which is why I'm trying to edge my way toward the potter end of the scale. Somewhere in between would be fine with me. And probably good for my books.

In her book Novel Shortcuts - Ten Techniques That Ensure A Great First Draft, Laura Whitcomb starts right off with in Chapter 1 with Finding the Core of Your Novel

This chapter includes Clarifying the Premise, Who, Where and What's Wrong. What's Wrong is the central problem of the story. The problem needs to be real and not confused with the character's drive or goal, though they are connected. Whitcomb gives the following example:

Scarlett wants Ashely is a goal. Scarlet wants Ashely, but he's happily married is a problem. A character's goal is only a problem if something is blocking her success. 

A Problem Checklist includes the following guidelines (each with a generous paragraph of explaniations and examples):
  • Make your problem serious
  • Make sure the problem doesn't have a logical solution that your character is ignoring.
  • Make sure your problem can be streteched over a whole manuscript
  • Make sure your problem fits your character.
  • Make sure your subplots are connected to your problem. 
Following is: Beefing Up Your Problem (also with explanations and examples):
  • Add an additional obstacle.
  • Raise the stakes.
  • Make the protagonist more emotionally vulnerable about the situation.
  • Give your antagonist a boost.
  • Provide the situation with a ticking clock.
Just this far into the book (I've actually read it through and am now going back making notes with a specific WIP in mind) gets me excited about my story and how many ways I can make it stronger.

If you're feeling uncertain about your story, or experiencing a mid-story slump, you may find answers in this How To book.

I own a paperback version of this book, which I bought with an armload of writers' craft books when Borders closed. I miss Borders. Other than a used book store in town, the next big book store is 45 miles away. Although I buy most of my book online nowadays, I do miss browsing a brick and mortar store.

Do you shop mostly on line or in a store? 

More books on my How To Bookshelf, some with reviews.

1 comment:

  1. I'm a panster too, Christy, but I've come to realize the next novel I'm planning is going to require a great deal of plotting in advance. I've never been able to do that before, but I'm determined to give it a go!

    Borders! I was DEVASTATED when my local Borders closed. It was a regular hangout for me and my mom. Today I buy most of my books online, although every now and then I visit BAM which took over Borders. Somehow, it's just not the same. I miss Borders terribly!