Individual Arcs

I’ve recently explained the main story arc and it’s components. I touched on the smaller arcs within the main story. I thought I’d go a bit further into the little bits that make a story juicy, that make the characters real and seemingly come to life.

The individual story arc.

Each character with purpose in a story should have their own story. The closer to the protagonist or antagonist the characters are; the better the story they should have. Or they should have more influence at least.

This doesn’t mean every character in a story needs a full on arc of their own, that would be dreadful to write (IMO) let alone read.

This can feel daunting to think about but I’ll try to explain how I go about keeping it from becoming overwhelming.

The Main:  Sasha
The Secondary Main : Cal
Sub Characters:
Valery
Anne
Scott
Amber
Dale
Mr. Clifton (Boss)
Baylor (Antagonist)
Mystery character yet to be revealed (Main antagonist)

Sasha and Cal will have the interactive story arc. They are the main characters. Side characters with major influence will get bigger parts to teh story and a much richer story arc. Others will likely just fall within other story arcs as influential but not instrumental.

Sasha

Beginning: Pushover/victim – Gets attacked at work by bully, gets attacked by Baylor
Middle: Baylor pursues her as does another antagonist – she learns to stand up and save herself
End: (This part is not up for discussion yet)

Sub Beginning: Resistant to romantic relationships due to bad experience
Sub Middle: Slowly gives into Cal’s advances 
Sub End: (Cant let you in on that just yet)

Cal 

Beginning: Homicide detective moved to new precinct in search of Baylor
Middle: Keeps Baylor’s recent interest(Sasha) from him, then loses her
End: (A secret)

Sub Beginning: Is interested in Sasha romantically
Sub Middle: pushes her to face her past and move on
Sub End: (Hmm… a secret)

Valery

Beginning: Sasha’s pushy best friend/ boss that nudges her into the dangerous situation
Middle: Provides nervous and worrisome reactions to illustrate the seriousness of Sasha’s situation
End: Helps give big clue to help Cal… (The rest is a secret)

Sub Beginning: party girl with no desire for steady relationship
Sub Middle: Finds a man that keeps her interest and listens to her rant about Sasha being in trouble.
Sub End: (Still a secret)

Scott 

Beginning: Tries to get Sasha to have sex with him constantly
Middle: Gives Sasha a weird vibe. Also picks up on the fact she’s in trouble and helps Valery. Goes off the deep end over Dale and Amber and also Sasha’s rejection.
End:  Causes trouble.

Sub Beginning: He’s up to something
Sub Middle: Jealousy eats him alive. He’s definitely up to something
Sub End: (A secret too)

Baylor

Beginning: Attacks Sasha
Middle: Keeps attacking until he gets her – but is kept from harming her and is forced to hand her over to his boss (who is worse)
End: (This is a secret for now) 

Sub Beginning: na
Sub Middle: na
Sub End: na

I didn’t go through them all, and I didn’t actually give much away.  For my own notes its all filled in but with A LOT more detail. with interactions listed, what they specifically do to influence the story etc.

Now Sometimes I don’t have a sub-plot for a character or they don’t have much impact so they don’t get a lot of face time. Or I haven’t figured out how or if they will impact the story. I have gone back and added situations and scenarios after the story is written. This list is a guideline and not set in stone for me. Sometimes an arc falls flat and needs to be removed or changed to make it work again. For me keeping this stuff straight is just cautionary, I already know what’s going to happen, and sometimes even that can change if I’m inspired. There are times when I have a character that has a purpose but I still need to work them in… if they can fit.  I like to think of my stories as malleable so my mind is always open to possibilities. I often sit and ruminate, playing out what will and will not work.

My advice about individual story arcs.
Super necessary, it is so much more fun to read a story that has the supporting and sub characters actually influencing and interacting in the main arc than for them to be the ‘cheer’ section or the background noise.

-Sheryl

Other posts I wrote

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Sound and selfish advice

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Ruminate

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Hey! Its’ Interjection

When I’m writing conversation I try to make it flow and express emotion the situation clearly. Conversation is not meant to be filler, nor should it ever be. It must be part of the story, what keeps it moving forward while developing characters and their relationships.

I have learned that a simple statement can be read out of context very easily(I’ve experienced this). The reader isn’t necessarily on the same page as I am, and cant possibly be on the same page if I don’t make my writing and intent clear. This leaves the reader to jump to voicing conclusions and set the tone themselves. This can be influenced by their own mood. You hope that they get it right in their minds voice, that it sounds appropriate. Chances are, if you’re hoping and they’re guessing, it will be wrong. This can lead to a frustrated reader when they find out you meant something different than what they interoperated. Bad writer, now go have a time out!

One word can make all the difference. Without action tags these can still express the feeling or emotion. When I’m trying to dress up a lame statement for a night out on the conversation, I’ll try a few approaches to find the winning outfit.
One simple interjection at the beginning dramatically change the statement.
An interjection in grammar is:

1.    Any member of a class of words expressing emotion, distinguished in most languages by their use in grammatical isolation, as Hey! Oh! Ouch! Ugh!

2.    Any other word or expression so used, as Good grief! Indeed! *source: dictionary.com

I’ll start with this.
“I have so much to learn.”
Yawn… Let’s interject some style.

“Ugh! I have so much to learn.”

“Yay! I have so much to learn.”

“Oh no! I have so much to learn.”

“Damn! I have so much to learn.”

That cleared it up a bit. If I read any one of those I would give it the right tone or expression.

Now changing the tone can be as easy as changing the action tag. Like swapping flats for heels. Or a suit for a tuxedo.

Dressed to under-impress:
“Come on, it’s time to go.” Sasha opened the door.
Sweatpants and t-shirt effort. Lame. How did she open the door? What was she doing? What tone did she have in her voice? How can I expect a reader to know what’s in my head? Back to the dressing room we go. Let’s try it with an action tag then with the tag and the added word.

Frustration or impatience
“Come on, it’s time to go.” Sasha tilted her head back rolling her eyes to the ceiling as she opened the door.
“Ugh! Come on, it’s time to go.” Sasha tilted her head back rolling her eyes to the ceiling as she opened the door.

Excitement
“Come on, it’s time to go.” Sasha grinned as she opened the door.
“Yay! Come on, it’s time to go.” Sasha grinned as she opened the door.

Urgency
Sasha glanced at her watch. “Come on, it’s time to go.” She opened the door quickly.
Sasha glanced at her watch. “Oh no! Come on, it’s time to go.” She opened the door quickly.

Annoyance
“Come on, it’s time to go.” Sasha furrowed her brow as she opened the door.
“Damn! Come on, it’s time to go.” Sasha furrowed her brow as she opened the door.

Anger
“Come on, it’s time to go.” Sasha stomped her foot as she opened the door.
“Argh! Come on, it’s time to go.” Sasha stomped her foot as she opened the door.

I try to make each sentence or statement count. I may not succeed but if I address most of them I happy.

My advice about Interjections
I generally use them sparingly because they often come with the mighty over used exclamation point. If the situation is intense or needs a strong reaction, try them. Don’t forget  to try an action tag.

-Sheryl

Related posts worth checking out:
Unidentified Fervent Outburst!

Show and tell

Tag! You’re it.

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Jump

Sensible sensation

Immersing the reader into the story is something I still strive to achieve. When writing it’s important to use all five senses. Smell, sight, taste, hear and touch. Now it’s not imperative every scenario have all five, but it can help plump up a drab sentence.

For example

Joe picked up the book from the desk. It was heavy and bound in black leather, it crackled when he opened it.

Yawn. I need to make this book more important, to focus on it and make Joe experience the book. To do this I use a technique explained in The FAB pencil to describe the book better. This is not going to decrease word count by any means, but is a great way to add words if that’s the goal.

Now for fun, I’m going to add all five senses to this interaction and bring Joe and the book together like lovers on a moonlit night, instead of strangers on an awkward blind date.

Hear

Joe picked up the heavy black book from the desk. The satisfying crackle of the leather floated to his ears as he opened the cover.

Touch

Joe picked up the heavy black book from the desk and ran his fingers over the hard smooth surface. The satisfying crackle of the leather floated to his ears as he opened the cover.

Smell

Joe picked up the heavy leather bound book from the desk. He ran his fingers over the hard smooth surface. The satisfying sound of crackling leather filled the room as he opened the cover. He inhaled the musty scent of old paper and ink as it wafted to his nose.

Sight – this isn’t always necessary since he is clearly looking at the book. Depending on how important the book is, will depend on how much time I put into describing it and the interaction. This book is important so it warrants a better description. At this point I have decided that picking the book up doesn’t make sense. It’s unnecessary.

Joe peered down at the heavy black book on the desk. He ran his fingers over the hard smooth surface and opened the cover. The satisfying sound of crackling leather filled the small room, as the musty scent of old paper and ink wafted to his nose.

Taste – I’m not likely to have him lick or eat the book, that would be weird. Maybe if this was a totally different scenario or he had a paper eating problem it would fit, however for this I’ll keep taste subtle.

Joe licked his salty lips as he peered down at the heavy black book on the desk. He ran his fingers over the hard smooth surface and opened the cover. The satisfying sound of crackling leather filled the small room, as the musty scent of old paper and ink wafted to his nose.

Voila. Now Joe fully interacted with the book. Making him lick his lips also added emotion, depending on what came before this interaction it might be excitement, anticipation or nervousness maybe even fear.

My advice about senseless writing.
Take some time to make important objects blend into the story, make them become part of the experience and not a foreign object explained coldly.

-Sheryl

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Related posts

The FAB pencil

Read, revise and repeat. The shampoo process of editing.

 

Together

Where did it go?

I have found myself stumped more than once while on my writing journey. A stumper of a moment that stands out the most is the loss of a prominent object. Where did it go?

In chapter two, I introduce a characters vice, an object she carries with her always. Let’s say it’s a pocket knife, her security blanket and foreshadow for other conversations. All of a sudden, I realized two chapters later that the knife disappeared and was completely forgotten. Oops.

I need to write it back in, but now the story has progressed without it and I prefer that it’s gone. It was awkward and held her back.  What to do, what to do? Write it out? Change the story? I thought about it and realized it needs to stay, but clearly not for long. Then it struck me, kill the knife off like a beloved, but useless character. This could be fun.

I went back with a sly grin on my face, made a point to have another character remove it from her presence subtly. Later he presents it to her in a humorous way, both embarrassing her and making her realize just how useless it is and that she needed to let it go. By doing this I killed off the object that started off with meaning, but it’s purpose petered out. An added bonus is that it was a great way to kick-start her character development. Her journey to be less dependent on others and things now out of the gates, her race has just begun. Thanks to the ‘security blanket’ knife being let go, it also symbolized her leaving her old self behind as she leaves it behind as well.

Opportunity can knock in the most unexpected ways. A forgotten object remembered, can shift the story or characters development in a tangible way. She didn’t ever need the knife, just some confidence and a dose of reality. That I was able to make it more important to her growth as a person, while removing it from the story, was an amazing and unexpected outcome.

My advice about being stumped.
Look at the problem from another point of view, perhaps your plan or direction isn’t the only possible outcome.

-Sheryl

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Stump

The FAB pencil

What’s so FAB about it? It’s just a lame pencil.

Or is it? I have gone through some nifty retail sales training. You know the kind that teaches you to sell your soul to the devil to make the sale. Up-sell, up-sell, up-sell.

I no longer wonder how they do it, how they smoothly transition you from buying the watch to including the warranty, the battery replacement program, the matching belt and shiny new car. I don’t wonder, because I know.

FAB Feature Advantage Benefit. Oddly, this applies nicely to describing something in writing. The lesson is to take an ordinary item say… a super lame ordinary No.2 pencil and show the customer something they can see, touch or smell about it. Then explain the advantage of the feature and smoothly move into how it benefits the customer.

The feature: it has No.2 lead
The advantage: No.2 writes smoothly
The benefit: consistent writing

Feature: built-in eraser
Advantage: erases efficiently
Benefit: saves time having to search for an eraser

F: seamless wood design
A: easy to sharpen
B: no slivers or sharp bits

F: bright yellow paint
A: easy to see
B: hard to lose

These things seem obvious right? Maybe, but now they are clearly stuck in your head. How does this apply to describing items in a story? If you give a purpose to an item then it makes sense. If it’s horribly random then its distracting to the reader. If anything, it will help give an object depth. Even a yawn worthy pencil. I do this with items my characters interact with that are important or interesting.

Sasha plopped the yellow pencil’s end in her mouth. Scrunching her face she removed it instantly. The rubbed-rubber taste reminding her of the party she went to instead of studying. She set the flattened tip to the paper to mark her answer. Only to rub it out second-guessing herself again.

Sasha jumped when the bell rang. She stared wide-eyed at the paper, a test failed before it was marked. Less than half the questions answered. Gripping the pencil in her hands, she tightened her grip, snapping the light wood easily.

My advice about describing things.
Instead of just blurting out what it is with a standard ‘it’s blue’ description, dig deeper and see what it has to offer the user then the interaction between the object and user is more fluid. Be cautious that you don’t go overboard describing an item to the point of excess. Less is more.

-Sheryl

 

Other posts

More is less, and vice versa.

It’s funny you said that…

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Obvious

Plop

Over used and oft abused.

Ah, the word shiver. Over used and oft abused. This is on my personal list of filter words. One that is injected into a sentence to replace showing an emotion. I find it in plethora among the words of a romance, horror or mystery. Or just dumped in to lazy writing, like I’m guilty of. 😉

At first I used this word freely, it’s a great way to express an obvious feeling right? Well yes and no. People shiver for different reasons, it’s those reasons that suggest this blanket word can be stretched out or removed altogether.

Example 1.

Billy’s fingers gently brushed the back of her arm sending pleasant shivers across her body. (15)

Not a bad sentence really. A few unnecessary words. If I’m also worried about (word count) I would remove gently and pleasant, they are implied anyway. Three words doesn’t seem like much, but it adds up quickly.

Her skin tingled as Billy’s fingers brushed the back of her arm. (12)

Example 2.

Elouise shivered suddenly for no reason whatsoever. “Someone must have walked across my grave.” She muttered to herself. (18)

Meh, it could use a little trimming and rewording.

Elouise frowned and rubbed her arms. “Someone must have walked across my grave.” (13)

Example 3. (I still write like this.)

Tod had never felt so bone achingly cold in his life. He was shivering so hard his teeth chattered loudly. (20)

Now I know enough to rewrite it to this. FYI the word felt is a super filter word.

Tod wrapped his arms around his aching body, unable to stop his chattering teeth. (14)

Do I never use the word shiver? No, it’s a fun word that evokes a personal response. I do use it sparingly or try to anyway. Sometimes a plain ole shiver is just what the story needs, especially if there is no established reason for it.

My advice about overuse.
Overuse can happen with any word, shiver is just an example. Make a list of ‘important’ words you see too often in your writing and then see how often you actually use them. Then see if you can switch it up or swap it out, but don’t jeopardize the story or the flow if you can’t think of a way to change it.

-Sheryl

 

Other related Posts.

No “Filter Word” Parking Here

Show and tell

Tag! You’re it.

 

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Shiver

Obvious

Jeopardize

Bam! Pow! Kaboom!

There is a part of my writing that makes me actually sit up and enter typo land as their unchallenged champion.

Violence and action. I LOVE a good action scene in a book, especially when it’s fun, interesting and Fierce. When I’m preparing to write my own, I sit and envision the scene over and over. Each persons’ actions and reactions and what’s going on around them. It’s a lot to take in let alone get out into written word.

My first action fight scene is a long one, several chapters in fact. It had to be, a lot happens. The entire story is pulled in, the whole point of it all is laid out and the villains for the next book are introduced and humanized.

That isn’t the first violent action scene in the book, but the first one I wrote. After I finished the first draft it was evident something was missing. So I wrote an intriguing and dangerous introduction for a character who is basically the reason the whole story takes place. I honed and revised that chapter so many times until I knew it flowed well and was pleasing to the imagination.

Writing violence is fun, but risky. The temptation to become melodramatic, cheesy or start telling vs showing is strong. I had oodles of tag lines, filter words and typos in the action scenes. Some of the reactions were over the top and they needed to be toned down to more realistic responses. Sure the science fiction allows for a certain amount of embellishment in the action department, but even fantastic it needed to be believable within the parameters I set throughout the story.

My advice about action and violence.
Get it out of your mind and onto paper or the screen. Once there, whip it into shape and draw the reader in by showing not telling the events. Action is exciting and violence is thrilling, it’s a great way to jolt a timid story or give a character reason to progress, regress or become someone altogether different.

-Sheryl

 

Related posts:

Show and tell

Tag! You’re it.

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 

More is less, and vice versa.

Today’s prompt made me realize something was missing from my writing tools. My arsenal of tricks, techniques and knowledge. Something forgotten and lost. Something to relearn. Not an addiction, trendy magazines, or Florida based TV show references, but a method to convey the reverse.

Vice“>Vice Versa. Simply put, it means to state the opposite of what was said.

Easy to use and easy to use incorrectly.

For example.

“Can I come?”
He smiled. “Sure, but bring your own book, and vice versa.”
She raised her eyebrow, the temptation to let him know that a book cannot bring her to the book review club on the tip of her tongue.

“If he wants to win the cooking competition, he needs to spend more time prepping the meals, and vice versa.”

Meals cannot prep a person. I have heard this used incorrectly a few times, but in the right place, it can make the point shorter, cutting word count too.

“It cannot be. Birds do not breathe under water, just as a fish cannot breathe air.”
“It cannot be. Birds do not breathe like fish, and vice versa.”

How I might use visa versa.

Billy sauntered into the café, ordered his usual and found his back corner table. Sitting comfortably with a slouch he pulled his book out to read and wait.

He hid his malicious smile behind his book as she hesitated outside the door. “Glutton for punishment.” He chuckled as she ordered. She sat with her mug of coffee three tables away, casting icy glances his way.

Halfway through her cup, he stood with his and strolled by her table.

She glared up at him. “You owe me a cup of coffee you deplorable creature.” He looked down at her abnormally tidy hair and perfect makeup. This woman snubbed him because of his clothes, she treats the baristas as inferiors and steps on others to get where she is.

“You’re right.” He looked at his mug. “I can only afford half today.” He dumped the remains of his coffee into her mug. “I’ll get you the other half next time.” He set his mug down and once again left her stunned as she watched him leave.

There was no doubt, she despised him, and vice versa.

My advice today.
Things you knew well can be forgotten and rediscovered again by something as simple as a word prompt. Just don’t overdo it when you get it back. 😉 After all more is less, and vice versa.

-Sheryl

The story that occurs before this one: That is disgusting

And another post by me.
The “word count” down.

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Doubt

The ‘been there, done that’ people

I have no illusions to the fact that I need sometimes need an expert’s advice and help.  Why? Because I am not a professional writer nor editor and there are always going to be someone that knows more or has more experience than I do. I would be a fool to pass it up for ego’s sake.

That advice and information that I’ve found has been instrumental to me getting where I am today with my book. I have seen some people shun the advice of experts for a few reasons. Ego, laziness, and even fear. Yes fear. Taking advice from someone ‘better’ than I am, can be intimidating. What if they say my work is crap? But, what if they don’t? Even if they did, I would hope that they would advise me on what is needed to un-crappify it.

Without advice I would never have turned this:

The seats were all full at the coffee shop. Abigale liked routine and needed to sit. Even though the other occupant at the table was that annoying guy she approached him.
“May I sit here?” She asked.
“I don’t think so.” He replied and put his foot on the chair.
“Jerk.” She said and walked away.

Into this:

The café was unusually busy with the patrons from the busker’s carnival outside. Abigale needed her routine, sit, drink her coffee and read blogs before work. There was only one seat at a small table; and that unpleasant lowlife was seated at it.

She hastily glanced around and swallowed her pride. “Excuse me. May I sit?”
Billy looked up from his book. “I don’t think so.” He put his sneaker-clad foot on the vacant seat.
Her mouth fell open and she furrowed her brow with a hard exhale.

A young couple nearby surveyed the area and made eye contact with Billy.
He smiled at them. “I’m done here if you two want these seats.”
“Oh thank you so much.” The young woman sat when Billy moved his foot and stood.
“You’re a first class jerk.” Abigale lowered her chin with a sneer.
Billy dunked his finger in her coffee. “You have no idea.” He stuck his finger in his mouth and left her staring after him in shock.

With some simple rules from those that have ‘been there and done that’, I was able to learn to turn a simple encounter into an annoying one.

My advice about experts.
Seek them out, take what advice you need and learn from them. You don’t have to do every single thing they say, but be open minded. Don’t forget some ‘experts’ are merely know-it-all’s with nothing constructive to say. I don’t pay them much attention.

-Sheryl

 

Related posts:

Read, revise and repeat. The shampoo process of editing.

Tag! You’re it.

Copyediting. Why I didn’t pay someone to destroy my fragile confidence.

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 

Expert

“How could you?”

Me and my first.
“Are you cheating on me?” That question was a long time coming.
I cast my eyes away. “Yes, yes I am.”
“How long has this been going on?”
I swallowed hard. “Half way through revision I took a break.”
“A break!”
I need to be honest, to come clean. “Yeah, I started another book.”
“How could you? I thought I was your one and only!”
“You are my first, and I love you, but I need to move on. I need more.”
“So it’s over?”
I smiled and tilted my head. “Oh no, it’s far from over. You and I have a big future ahead of us. I’m sorry if you don’t understand, but I’m not a one book kinda gal.”

Moving on from working on one book to another is strangely emotional experience. I’ve spent so much time with my first book, reading, revising, and editing that it feels as if I’m being unfaithful. Which is funny because it’s a continuation of the story and characters. Even so, as I sit and read through my very, very rough draft of my second book, I feel as if I should be working on the first one.

I shake my head in amusement at all the typo’s, taglines, grammar errors, filter words and so on. I have a lot of work to do and it’s not at all daunting for me. I love editing my own work, because its mine. The satisfaction of seeing it go from simple raw ingredients to a beautifully decorated cake, is unbelievably rewarding. Unless it turns out to be a nut filled fruitcake, then something went horribly wrong.

With first book is finished and in sort of limbo. I have an appointment in a week and a half with a consultant to work on my first 50 pages, synopsis and query letter. Once they are perfected, I will begin the hunt for a Literary Agent. I’m so excited.

My advice (that has nothing to do with this post).
Go ahead and let someone tell you that you can’t do something. Then prove them wrong in a spectacular way.

-Sheryl

 

Other posts related to editing.

Read, revise and repeat. The shampoo process of editing.

Show and tell

 

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Cheat