Saturday, February 22, 2014

Sketch Dailies

The other day I stumbled on a perfectly wonderful time-waster/procrastination-enabler called Sketch Dailies. The artists that contribute are waaaayyy out of my league, but anyone can participate.
Every weekday they give their followers a drawing prompt on Twitter. Here is my submission for #mermaid:
She's an angelfish!

Update: This image was so fun the first time I thought I would make a more complete piece of artwork!

Friday, February 21, 2014

How I Became a Plotter: Working out Plot

It's time to plot out PLOT!

I'm not talking about a plot outline exactly, more of just brainstorming and getting down on paper the crucial events and interactions that need to happen in the plot. Okay, I suppose it could be called an initial outline. I say "initial" because there is another more in depth outline that involves sticky notes and obsessive detail*.

I used this article from "How to Write a Book Now" pretty much exclusively to work out basic plot points, but before I send you off to glean everything you can, here are a couple tips I learned along the way:

1. The article wraps up your outline into a nice neat little paragraph that reads like back cover copy.
While this is fantastic for a query or synopsis I wanted more of a numbered/lettered outline that I could scan quickly for info. It's easy to do this by simply leaving the 8 different elements numbered and writing your info below each title.

2.The article suggests just plugging in one thing at a time.
For instance, number one is "Story Goal" and the article suggests you simply write one main goal. I think for the back-cover-copy result this is fine, but for a laying out all your plot details, not so much. Obviously, there will be a main goal (or problem to solve) in your story, but there may also be subplots or a secondary goal for your character. I added everything and my initial outline ended up laid out something like this:

Story Goal
1. (main goal)
2. (subplot)
1. (consequence of not reaching main goal)
2. (consequence of not reaching subplot goal)
1. Main goal
   a (requirement to reach main goal)
   b (another requirement to reach main goal)
   c "
2. Subplot
   a (requirement to reach subplot goal)
   b "
   c "

*As a plotter-in-training I have may be approaching neurotic levels of plotting and planning but I don't care. Go big or go home, right?

Next time: Sticky Notes and the Big Outline!
Previous Post: Characters (part 2)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

How I became a plotter: Characters (part 2)

As promised, HERE is the character sheet to end all character sheets.

So maybe that's a teensy exaggeration, but it is helpful. I created it to help establish ways that my MC could drive the plot while I was still in the novel idea stage. It is not full of things like height and eye color. Instead, it has questions about weaknesses, strengths, and backstory. Check it out and feel free to download.*

In addition to this, I'd like to touch on a couple things extra things in regards to plotting character:

1. Villians.
Give your villain a backstory. In my research, numerous articles and blog posts state that villains should not exist merely to stop/challenge your MC. If you take your MC out of the story, your villain should be able to fill his role. He must have strengths and weaknesses. He must have motivations that make sense. So while you are happily filling out character sheets (I've provided some more of my favorites below) fill one out for your villain as well.

2. Character Drives Plot.
Yes, I know I already harped on this last time but I found a fantastic article about this writing tip that you absolutely must read. It not only talks about how and why to make sure your MC drives the plot, but it gives a Plotter-in-Training a wonderful outline for how and WHEN to do this in a novel!

Here's my quick and dirty summary:

Act 1: MC's flaw.
Showcase your MC's major weakness in an early scene through his/her reaction to a situation.
Act 2 (early): Moral Opposite.
If your MC is logical, have him/her meet someone highly emotional. This will challenge your MC and force change.
Act 2 (middle): Training.
Have your MC start encountering situations where his weaknesses are challenged so he can start growing or 'training' for a new strength.
Act 2 (end): Fail.
Create a situation where the MC must choose to either stick with his newly learned strengths or fall back on his old weakness. Have him backslide into his old weakness.
Act 3: Final Choice.
This is the big scene when the stakes are high and your character must perform or all is lost. If you are writing a 'comedy' your character will stick to his new strengths and prevail.

Here is the article with the invaluable details for this glorious outline.

And here are links to a few of my favorite (and detailed) character sheets:
Character Traits on deviantArt
Categorized Characteristics
Character Interview
Perceptions of your Character

Next Time: Plotting out plot.
Previous Post: Characters (part 1)

*If you share, credit back to me? Thanks! *hugs*

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

How I became a Plotter: Characters

Art by Me

Protagonist drives Plot. NOT the other way around. Take note of the illustration. Memorize it.

In my recent quest to become a plotter, I have done a bit of online researching and learning. This character-driving-the-plot thing may be the single most important thing I've learned so far.

Sooo I may be a little late to the party on this crucial writing tip* but at least I'm here and I brought a party gift**. Apparently, many beginning writers (myself included) come up with a fantastic idea or situation and a likeable character and put that character into the situation like a game piece to be moved around, experiencing all sorts of interesting things.

While the character may indeed be interesting and the situations unique and entertaining, if your character is not in the driver's seat, your story will not be believable or keep your readers hooked.

Here's the big question: HOW do your get your character in the driver's seat??

Give your character weaknesses.
For serious. It's so simple I want to slap myself.

Your character's weakness give them reasons to be in specific plot situations. Situations that will challenge him and help him grow into the true hero you want him to be at the end of your story***.

So how does this apply to plotting? I found an exercise for you!

1. Because it is often easier to make a list of your hero's strengths, follow this link to a list of strengths.
2.Take those strengths and exaggerate them to the point that they become weaknesses.
3. Think up a few situations that might help a person overcome those weaknesses.
4.Map out ALL of your characters weaknesses in a mad plotting frenzy!
(Tip: Try this for your Antagonist too! Even villains have strengths, they are simply masked by how exaggerated they've become)

For a details about this exercise and to read more about why it's important for characters to have weaknesses, check out the blog post I learned from here.

Next Time: Tying your characters weaknesses into your plot. (Also - the character sheet to end all character sheets!)
Previous Post: Getting your Novel Idea

*As a pantser I kind of made this happen through lots of trial, error, and revising until a situation made sense for my character. This, of course, required much deleting of scenes that were 'cool' but served no purpose.

** Right-click approved. Save and share my illustration with your writerly friends!

***Unless you are writing a tragedy, in which case your MC will not grow and overcome his weaknesses.