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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Write Your Novel Step by Step (15) "Outlandish Characters"

In the last step you added some unusual characters to your story, but not so unusual that they couldn’t easily be explained.
In this step we’ll pull out all the stops and list some completely inappropriate characters that would take a heap of explaining to your readers if they showed up in your story.
In our example story set in an old western town, such characters might be:
Richard Nixon
Ghost of Julius Caesar
Pretty “out there,” right? Although you'll likely discard these characters in our pruning step down the line, the process of coming up with outlandish characters can lead to new ideas and directions for your story.
For example, the town Marshall might become more interesting if he was a history buff, specifically reading about the Roman Empire. In his first run-in with the gang, he is knocked out cold with a concussion. For the rest of the story, he keeps imagining the Ghost of Julius Caesar, giving him unwanted advice.
Now’s the time to let you Muse run wild and drag some truly outlandish characters into your story. Don’t hold back, you can always axe them later, but you might just discover the most memorable character you’ve ever created and perhaps a truly original way to use them as well.
In the next step, we’ll begin the process of transforming your characters, even the outlandish ones, into real people, preliminary to deciding which ones stay and which ones go.
Excerpted from the book, Write Your Novel Step by Step

Monday, August 25, 2014

Write Your Novel Step by Step (14) "Unusual Characters"

In the previous step you added to your cast list some characters who would not raise an eyebrow if they showed up in your story’s world.
Now, let yourself go a bit (but just a bit) and list a number of characters that might seem somewhat out of place but would still be fairly easily explainable in such a story as yours.
In our example story of a small town in the old west, these “unusual characters” might include:
A troupe of traveling acrobats
Ulysses S. Grant
A Prussian Duke
A bird watcher
You may be wondering why you’d want to have such odd characters in an otherwise normal story. The reason is to prevent your story from being too normal.
Neither reader nor publisher will want to waste time or money on a book that is just a rehash of the same tired material they’ve read over and over again.
What they are looking for is something with a unique personality – something that sets itself apart from the usual run of the mill.
Adding one or two somewhat unexpected characters to a story can liven up the cast and make it seem original, rather than derivative.
Once again, you won’t be married to all these characters. They are just a gene pool from which to select your actual cast in a later step.
So, add to your list some slightly odd, offbeat, unexpected or quirky characters – no one too unusual, mind you – just folks who would not immediately come to mind in a story such as yours but could be explained with a little effort – folks to add a little color and interest to your story.
In the next step we’ll pull out all the stops!
Excerpted from the book, Write Your Novel Step by Step

Friday, August 22, 2014

Dramatica Theory (Annotated) Part 3 "Grand Argument Stories"

Excerpted from the book, Dramatica: A New Theory of Story
The question arises: Is telling a story better than telling a non-story? No. Stories are not "better" than any other form of communication — just different. To see this difference we need to define "story" so we can tell what a story is and what it is not. Herein lies a political problem. No matter how one defines "story," there will be an author someplace who finds his favorite work has been defined out, and feels it is somehow diminished by not being classified as a story. Rather than risk the ire of countless creative authors, we have limited our definition to a very special kind of story: the Grand Argument Story.
As its name indicates, a Grand Argument Story presents an argument. To be Grand, the argument must be a complete one, covering all the ways the human mind might consider a problem and showing that only one approach is appropriate to solving it. Obviously, this limits out a lot of creative, artistic, important works — but not out of being stories, just out of being Grand Argument Stories. So, is a Grand Argument Story better than any other kind? No. It is just a specific kind.
Ever since we wrote this section, It's bugged the hell out of me.  Here's why we wrote it, and then why it bothers me:
Dramatica is the first comprehensive model of the underlying components of story structure and how they hang together.  Those components are WAY below the level of what most people think story is.  We're talking about the pre-conscious level of story - the  deep-dive framework that resonates with the minds of the readers or audience right in the operating system.
So forget about writing about topics or people or events - structure, really DEEP structure bears no resemblance to anything anybody thinks about, any more than we consciously query out neurons when we are trying to decide between chocolate and vanilla.
Now to fully describe how a decision is made, you'd have to have a map of each neuron and the state it is in.  But how far away from story is that?  Still, that's structure - a description of the nuts and bolts and pulleys and gears of the mind - a mechanical take on the organic flow of our thoughts and feelings, explored and made manifest in a tidy package called a story.
When you just blurt out a thought, is that a story?  Not hardly; it's just a notion.  And when you follow a stream of consciousness from one notion to another, is that a story?  Again, no.  It is just a train of thought.  A story is a complete examination of a problem, inequity or issues from every conceivable side and to as much depth as you can keep in your head at one time.  THAT's a story.  And the list of all the angles and all the components from the largest concept to the smallest illumination - that's story structure, and we call it a Grand Argument Story because it makes  not just an argument, but the biggest most complete argument about the best (or worst) way of looking at or responding to the core consideration we're trying to get a grip on.
That means that any work of clever word play or one that simply meanders through the subject matter, picking little thought daisies and turning over experiential stones may be the most magnificent read every created.  But it isn't a story.
And this is why we wrote the section of the original theory book quoted above - we knew if we precisely defined story (which you kinda hafta do if you are outlining a theory of story) writers in all genres and media would rise up in arms to drive us from the village because we defined their favorite works as non-stories.
Heck, we were just scared of the blow-back which, in fact, did not happen.  And so all that "Oh, please don't hurt us - we aren't saying anything bad about your darlings - we're just redefining what the whole world thinks story is, so its okay if your candidate didn't make the cut," all that self-protective crap - well, it's so whiny and pandering.  Makes me feel all smarmy that we put this section in there, which is why I hate it.
So here's the god awful truth in straight talk, all these years later:  Call it story or call it a dog with a fluffy tail - fact is, the most complex form of structure is when an issues is explored all the way from the biggest perspective on it to the smallest; when every yardstick in a human being's mental arsenal is brought to bear in course of that exploration, and when the way all that stuff is arranged matches the way we put it together in our own heads, as thinking, feeling creatures, regardless of culture, race religion, age, gender or smarts.  A complete Lego-set of all of our mental marbles, excluding any subject matter, just the building blocks of pondering that is so foundational, so elemental and so invisible to the naked mind that you can't see it unless someone holds a microscope to it (like this book) and makes you stare at it: that's story and, specifically, that's a Grand Argument Story.  Take it or leave it.
--Melanie Anne Phillips

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Write Your Novel Step by Step (13) "The Usual Characters"

In the previous step, you added characters implied by your synopsis to your potential cast list. Range a little wider now, and jot down some characters that aren't explicitly mentioned or even implied but wouldn't seem particularly out of place in such a story.
In the example story we’ve been using, no one would be surprised at all to encounter a saloon girl, a bartender, blacksmith, rancher, preacher, schoolteacher, etc.
There is no specific limit to how many or how few “usual characters” you can or should add to your growing cast list. So just add the ones that appeal to you.
Don’t be worried if any of your additions seem stereotypical of too predictable. By the time we’re through a few more steps your list will be so large we’ll need to pare it down.
So for now, beef up your cast with any additional characters that would fit right in your novel as described in your synopsis.
Excerpted f rom the book, Write Your Novel Step by Step

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Dramatica Theory (Annotated) Part 2 "Communication"

Excerpted from Dramatica: A New Theory of Story
The process of communication requires at least two parties: the originator and the recipient. In addition, for communication to take place, the originator must be aware of the information or feelings he wishes to transmit, and the recipient must be able to determine that meaning.
Similarly, storytelling requires an author and an audience. And, to tell a story, one must have a story to tell. Only when an author is aware of the message he wishes to impart can he determine how to couch that message so it will be accurately received.
It should be noted that an audience is more than a passive participant in the storytelling process. When we write the phrase, "It was a dark and stormy night," we have communicated a message, albeit a nebulous one. In addition to the words, an- other force is at work creating meaning in the reader's mind. The readers themselves may have conjured up memories of the fragrance of fresh rain on dry straw, the trem- bling fear of blinding explosions of lightning, or a feeling of contentment that recalls a soft fur rug in front of a raging fire. But all we wrote was, "It was a dark and stormy night." We mentioned nothing in that phrase of straw or lightning or fireside memories. In fact, once the mood is set, the less said, the more the audience can imagine. Did the audience imagine what we, the authors, had in mind? Not likely. Did we communicate? Some. We communicated the idea of a dark and stormy night. The audience, however, did a lot of creating on its own. Did we tell a story? Definitely not!
One of the early questions we grappled with was the relationship between author and audience (or reader).  When you stop to think about it, not just superficially but deeply, the fact that we can communicate at all is something of a miracle.
Consider:  Two creatures, each with completely different life experiences can experience essentially the exact same understandings and passions as each other across a medium through abstract patterns of ink on a page or moving patterns of light, shadow and sound on a screen.
It was not long into our investigation of the nature of story structure that we realized the only way such communication could exist was if the underlying mechanisms of our minds were identical, as a species, regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, culture or personal experience.
Story structure itself an artificial mind - a model, a replica of all the elements that make up this foundational mechanism we all share that form the framework upon which we hang specific information and particular emotions.
That framework is just a skeleton, however.  And though it can be created in any language and through any medium, it is the development of commonly understood symbols that allows for communication between author and audience.
Still, while each symbol has a denotative meaning, it will differ in connotation from other symbols that might have been used to convey the same information.  Further, each reader or audience member will expand upon each symbol and especially upon a continuing stream of symbols, seeking patterns not only in the order in which the symbols were received, but also in the potential manners in which they might be assembled into an overall understanding, much as one might follow the instructions on a kit step by step and end up with an assembled piece of furniture.
Pattern making is a survival trait.  It allows us to note, "where there's smoke, there's fire" in a spatial sense (when this, also that) and also allows us to project, "one bad apple spoils the bunch" in a temporal sense (if this, then this).  As a result of pattern making, we are able to see dangers and opportunities that are co-existant with indicators in the here and now and also to anticipate the same in the future.
And so, when we write, "It was a dark and stormy might," we not only convey the facts, but provide the seeds for our readers or audience members to create patterns that enrich the communication process, and immerse them into a world that is partially of their own creation.
--Melanie Anne Phillips

Monday, August 18, 2014

Write Your Novel Step by Step (12) "Expected Characters"

In Step 11 you made a list of all the characters explicitly named in your revised synopsis. Now list all the characters that your synopsis doesn't specifically name, but that would almost be expected in such a story. Include any additional characters you intend to employ but didn’t actually spell out in your synopsis. Again, list them by role and name if one comes to mind.
Suppose a story is described as the tribulations of a town Marshall trying to fend off a gang of outlaws who bleed the town dry.
The only specifically called for characters are the Marshall and the gang, which you would have listed in Step 10. But, you'd also expect the gang to have a leader and the town to have a mayor. The Marshall might have a deputy. And, if the town is being bled dry, then some businessmen and shopkeepers would be in order as well.
So, you would list these additional implied characters as:
Gang Leader
Deputy (John Justice)
Don’t list every character you can possibly imagine – we’ll expand our cast in other areas in steps to come. The task here is no more than to list all those characters most strongly implied – the ones that the plot or situation virtually calls for but doesn’t actually name.
Add these new characters below those in you listed in Step 11. Then, in the next step we’ll add some more!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Dramatica Theory Annotated (Part 1) "A Place to Start"

Excerpted from Dramatica: A New Theory of Story (Annotated)
Mastering the craft of writing requires a skill in communication and a flair for style. Through communication, an audience receives meaning. Through style, an author achieves impact. The Dramatica theory of story explores both aspects of the writing process providing structural guidelines for clarifying communication and artistic techniques for enhancing style.
Accordingly, this book is divided into two principal sections: The Elements of Structure and The Art of Storytelling. Separating these two aspects of the writing craft allows us to see more deeply into each. This arrangement also splits the experience of writing into two parts, when in practice, they are usually blended in a simultaneous effort.
Many other books have been written which explore the blended creative process. In contrast, this is a book of theory, and is designed more to educate, than to inspire. Still, the motivation to write is one of inspiration. So, before we rush headlong into a detailed, accurate, and revolutionary explanation of story, let us put everything in context by describing the relationship of Dramatica with the Creative Writer.
In the twenty years since we first published Dramatica: A New Theory of Story, the concepts we described have not only changed the landscape of how story structure is seen, but have provided a new conceptualization of narrative itself.
Today, Dramatica Theory is applied not only to fiction but is also employed to analyze people and organizations in the real world.  We have now come to recognize that the underlying structure and dynamics of outlined in the original book are an accurate model of how individuals and groups actually function beneath all the passion and pageantry.
In light of this growing appreciation of the connection between fictional and real narratives, I am publishing this new annotated edition of the theory book with additional thoughts and insights into how narrative both shapes and reflects our minds, and how when we come together we self-organize into a collective mind.
--Melanie Anne Phillips

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Write Your Novel Step by Step (11) "Who's There"

Congratulations! You’ve completed the first part of your journey toward a completed novel. It was a heck of a lot of work, but it is all about to pay off.
From here on out, we’ll be drawing on material you’ve already created. What’s more, each step from this point forward is far less complicated, requires far less effort and is shorter to boot!
In this step, for example, we’re going to look for characters in the material you’ve already created. You don’t have to invent anything new. In fact, it is important that you don’t!
Read through your revised synopsis from Step 10 while asking yourself “who’s there?” Make a list of all the characters explicitly called for in your story, as it is worded.
To be clear, don’t list any characters you have in mind but didn’t actually spell out in your work – just the ones who actually appear in the text.
You may have given some of these characters names. Others, you may have described simply by their roles in the story, such as Mercenary, John's Wife, Village Idiot, etc.
If a character does not yet have a role, give them one as a place-holder that more or less describes what they do, who they are related to, or what their situation is.
If a character does not yet have a name, don’t hold yourself up trying to think of one now. Well have a whole step devoted to inventing interesting character names down the line.
For now, just list the characters actually spelled out specifically in your synopsis as it stands.
John - The Mercenary
An Archeologist
Painless Pete - A Dentist
A Clown
A Freelance Birdwatcher
Do NOT include any characters you have in mind but didn’t actually mention. Do NOT include any characters who may be inferred but aren’t actually identified. All those other characters will be dealt with in the next few steps.
So, get on with it and answer the burning question, “Who’s There?”
Excerpted from the book, Write Your Novel Step by Step

Friday, August 15, 2014

Write Your Novel Step by Step (10)

Smoothing Out the Bumps
In Step 9 you integrated all your new material into your existing synopsis to create an all-inclusive description of your story’s world. In this step you’ll move things around and reword them so that your revised synopsis reads like butter.
You’ve come a long way. And, you’ve just completed a lot of hard work messing around with intangible ideas. Time to get literary again for a refreshing break.
Your job in this step is to reread your synopsis as it stands, not for content but from the standpoint of word play. For a moment, put story aside and think about how things are said rather than what is said. See if you can come up with a more interesting way to express the very same thing.
Don’t feel you have to get too stylistic or come up with memorable ways of phrasing things – brilliant lines of soaring prose that sweep the reader off their mundane little feet.
Nobody is going to see this final plot revision but you. The purpose is not yet to create a finished work. Rather, you just want to iron out the wrinkles, trim the jagged edges, and smooth out the bumps for a pleasant flowing read.
So, crank open the stop-cocks of verbiage and pave a way through the telling of your story.
In Step 11, we’ll fluff up your newly washed and folded story synopsis and see if we can shake some characters out of it.
Excerpted from the book, Write Your Novel Step by Step

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Advancements in Narrative Communication

A tale is a simple linear path that the author promotes as being either a good or bad one, depending on the outcome.
There’s a certain amount of power in that.  Still, it wouldn’t take our early author long to realize that if he didn’t have to limit himself to relating events that actually happened he might wield even more power over his audience.
Rather, he might carry things a step farther and create a fictional tale to illustrate his belief in the benefits or dangers of following a particular course.  That is the concept behind Fairy Tales and Cautionary Tales – to encourage certain behaviors and inhibit other behaviors based on the author’s belief as to the most efficacious courses of action in life.
But what kind of power might you garner if you went beyond merely stating, “This conclusion is true for this particular case,” but rather boldly stated “This conclusion is true for all cases?”
In other words, you tell your audience, “If you begin here, then no matter what path you might take from that given starting point, it wouldn’t be as good (or as bad) as the one I’m promoting.”
Rather than saying that the approach you have described to your audience is simply good or bad in and of itself, you are now inferring that of all the approaches that might have been taken, yours is the best (or worst) way to go.
Clearly that has a lot more power to it because you are telling everyone, “If you find yourself in this situation, exclude any other paths; take only this one,” or, “If you find yourself in this situation, no matter what you do, don’t do this!”
Still, because you’ve only shown the one path, even though you are saying it is better than any others, you have not illustrated the others.  Therefore, you are making a blanket statement.
Now, an audience simply won’t sit still for a blanket statement. They’ll cry, “Foul!” They will be thinking of the other paths they might personally have taken and will at least question you.
So, if our early author sitting around a fire says, “Hey, this is the best of all possible paths,” his audience is going to say , “What about this other case? What if we tried this, this or this?”
If the author had a sound case he would respond to all the solutions the audience might suggest, compare them to the one he was touting and conclusively show that the promoted path was, indeed, the best (or worst). But if a solution suggested by the audience proves better than the author’s, his blanket statement loses all credibility.
In a nutshell, for every rebuttal the audience voices, the author can attempt to counter the rebuttal until he has proven his case or at least exhausted their interest in arguing with him.  Since he is there in person, he won’t necessarily have to argue every conceivable alternative solution – just the ones the audience brings up. And if he is successful, he’ll eventually satisfy everyone’s concerns or simply tire them out to the point they are willing to accept his conclusions.
But what happens if the author isn’t there when the story is related?  The moment a story is recorded and replayed as a poem, a song ballad, a stage play, or a motion picture (for example), then the original author is no longer present to counter any rebuttals the audience might have to his blanket statement.
So if someone in the audience thinks of a method of resolving the problem and it hasn’t been addressed it in the blanket statement, they will feel there is a hole in the argument and that the author hasn’t made his case.
Therefore, in a recorded art form, a successful communicator needs to include all the other reasonable approaches that might be suggested in order to “sell” his approach as the best or the worst.
He needs to show how each alternative is not as good (or as bad) as the one he is promoting thereby proving that his blanket statement is correct.
A narrative, then, becomes a far more complex proposition than a simple tale.  Now the author must anticipate all the other ways the audience might consider solving the problem in question. In effect, he has to include all the ways anyone might reasonably think of solving that problem.
Essentially, he has to include all the ways any human mind might go about solving that problem. In so doing, as an accidental by-product, generations of communicators have arrived at our modern conventions of narrative structure: a model of the mind’s problem-solving process encoded in the framework itself.
Excerpted from the book, A Few Words About Communication

Write Your Novel Step by Step (9)

Your Inspired Plot
In Step 8 you made a list of all the new material you’ve created that you’d like to include in your novel to fill holes and fix inconsistencies.  In this step, you’ll weave those concepts into your existing synopsis to fashion an all-inclusive and enriched version.
The first thing to do is re-read your synopsis from Step 5 to re-familiarize yourself with your novel as you originally saw it.  Then, look over your list of the new story elements to be added to the mix.
Begin with the notion you’d most enjoy seeing in your story and, scanning your synopsis from top to bottom, locate the best place or places to insert it so that it will seamlessly integrate into your existing material.  When you know where it is going to show up, re-write just that section (or sections) of your synopsis to include it.
After each inclusion of new material, scan over the rest of your synopsis to see if the changes conflict with any other sections.  If so, make any additional alterations required to resolve those conflicts.
Repeat this process for all the concepts you wish to weave into your evolving story.  Some new material may slip right in.  Other times you may have to scratch your head a bit to see how you can wedge it in there.  At times, you may have to reword a section you’ve already rewritten to add another concept or two in the same place.
Don’t spend too much time on your exact wording.  This isn’t the time to be literary.  That will happen in the next step when we wrap up the Inspiration: Plot section so we can move into Inspiration: Characters.
If there are some things you just can’t find a home for, fret not, for that just indicates they probably don’t belong in the same story with all the others.
When you have woven in as many of your new ideas as you can (again, within reason, without head-busting, face palms or the gnashing of teeth) move on to Step 10 so we can wrap up inspiration for your plot and get on with your characters!
Excerpted from the book, Write Your Novel Step by Step

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Origins of Communication

When an animal screams in pain, others notice, yet this is not communication as there was no intention involved. But when an animal calls out in alarm at an approaching predator it is more likely to be an intended communication.
Meaning may come from patterns recognized from previous experience or by translating the actions or sounds produced by others into what they would mean if one did those things oneself. But communication requires the intentional accurate transmission of information and/or passion from the author to the audience.
Communication likely emerged through raising an alarm, then quickly evolved to pointing at items to get the attention of others and direct it in particular direction or at a particular place.
Following these lines, continued progress would likely center on making sounds or movements to indicate issues about oneself, such as rubbing one’s stomach and pointing at one’s mouth to indicate hunger.
Success in achieving communication would illustrate its value and drive a fairly quick expansion of conventions of symbolic language that would be taught to the young and sustained (with gradual morphing) from generation to generation.
Once a sufficient collection of symbols had been developed, it would be natural that the more inspired communicators would come up with the notion of stringing two or more symbols together in linear form to communicate a succession of events or concepts.
In this manner, the foundational form of sentence structure and grammar would coalesce while simultaneously the beginnings of narrative structure would emerge as a byproduct.
For example, an early communicator might relate how to get to a place where there are berries or how to avoid a place where there are bears. He would use sign language to outline his journey and to depict the things and events he encountered along the way.
When our communicator became able to string together a series of events and experiences he has created a tale. Simply put, the definition of a tale is an unbroken linear progression of symbols that communicates meaning through sequence.
We call this kind of tale a "head-line" because it focuses on a chain of logical connections without emotive content. But you can also have a "heart-line" – an unbroken progression of feelings. For example, our communicator might have related a series of emotions he had experienced in a flow of feelings not connected to of any logistic progression.
Tales can be just a head-line or a heart-line, or can be more complex by combining both. In such a case, the tale might begin with a particular situation in which the communicator (henceforth author) relates his feelings at the time. Then, the author might proceed to the next step, which made him feel differently, and so on until he arrives at a final destination as well as a concluding emotional state.
In a more complex form, emotions and logic drive each other, fully intertwining both the head-line and hear-line. So, starting from a particular place in a particular mood, driven by that mood, the author acted to arrive at a second point, which then made him feel differently.
The tale might be driven by logic with feelings passively responded to each step, or it might be driven completely by feelings in which each logic progression is a result of one’s mood.
And, in the most complex form of all, logic and feelings take turns in driving the other, so that feelings may cause the journey to start, then a logical event causes a feeling to change and also the next step to occur. Then, feelings change again and alter the course of the journey to a completely illogical step.
In this way, our early author can "break" logic with a bridge of feeling, or violate a natural progression of feelings with a logical event that alters the mood. Very powerful techniques wrapped up in a very simple form of communication!
We know that the human heart cannot just jump from one emotion to another without going through essential emotional states in between. However, if you start with any given emotion, you might be able to jump to any one of a number of emotions next, and from any of those jump to others. But you can’t jump to all of them. If you could, then we all just be bobbing about from one feeling to another. There would be no growth and no emotional development.
As an analogy, look at the stages of grief. You have to go through them in a particular order. You can’t skip over any. If you do, there’s an emotional mis-step. It has an untrue feeling to the heart.
A narrative that has a character that skips an emotional step or jumps to a step he couldn’t really get to from his previous mood, it will feel uncomfortable to the audience. It will feel as if the character started developing in a manner the audience members cannot follow with their own hearts. It will pop your audience right out of the story and cause it to see the character as someone with whom it simply can’t identify.
So in tales the idea is to create linearity. But doesn’t that linearity create a formula as well? Well it would if you could only go from a given emotion to just one particular emotion next. But, from any given emotion there are several you might jump to – not all, but several. And from whichever one you select as storyteller, there are several more you might go to next.
Similarly with logic, from any given situation there might be any one of a number of things that would make sense if they happened next. But you couldn’t have anything happen next because some things would simply be impossible to occur if the initial situation had happened first.
Now you can start from any place and eventually get to anywhere else, but you have to go through the in-betweens. So as long as you have a head-line and/or a heart-line and it is an unbroken chain that doesn’t skip any steps, that constitutes a complete tale.
Excerpted from the book, A Few Words About Communication

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Write Your Novel Step by Step (8)

Putting It Back Together
If you’ve been diligent in the last step and generated a lot of answers, you probably have a huge number of potential story points. But which ones to use?
Usually, you won’t be able to select two answers for the same question, as they would conflict. What’s more, some answers for one question might conflict with several from other questions.
The time has come to make some hard choices. In preparation for this, you need to get a good feel for all the potential directions your story might take depending upon which answers your choose to include.
When you came up with your answers, you were probably focusing on each question, one at a time, not on your story as a whole. So, the first thing is to stand back again, read over all the questions and answers from top to bottom straight through at least once or until you have a really good sense of what this grab back has to offer.
Now answer just one more essential question – how married are you to the original story concept you started with? If you really want to tell that original story, then go through your list of questions and answers and eliminate any that aren’t compatible with your initial concept.
Once you’ve completed this task, you can move on to Step 9.
But, if you are falling in love with some of the new potentials that have opened up, then go through your list and mark all the answers that you’d really like to include. Next, prioritize them as to which ones you are most excited about.
What you now have is a list of your very best and most interesting new creative concepts. Problem is, though they all have the same roots, they have diverged and may no longer be able to fit in the same story.
And this is where the hard choices come in. You need to pick one of all possible combinations of these new story points that is compatible both with your story concept and with each other.
There’s no easy way to do this. If you really like one new idea so much that you’d rather have it than any combination of others, then choose it first. Next, add your second most favorite new concept that is not incompatible with the first, and so on, until you have selected as many of your favorites as you can.
On the other hand, if there are many new concepts that are all top priority but can’t reasonably co-exist, then you need to try several, perhaps many, combinations until you find the one that has the greatest combined benefit for your story.
Though this takes time and is labor intensive, it is well worth it in the end, for your story will not only be far richer, but will excite you more in the writing of it, and therefore your work will be filled with far more passion, and your writing will progress more quickly.
The best way to try many different combinations is to use good old-fashioned index cards. Put each concept you’d like to include on its own card. Then, just like playing Scrabble, keep rearranging them, trying different groupings until your find the one that is the best for you.
Finally, organize that grouping into a list of its story elements that you can easily reference as preparation for Step 9, where you will weave them into your original synopsis in an all-inclusive revision.
Excerpted from the book, Write Your Novel Step by Step

Monday, August 11, 2014

How to make StoryWeaver fonts larger in windows

For most monitors, StoryWeaver text is a good, readable size in Windows.  But, on some higher resolution monitors, it can be hard to read.  While there is no font size adjustment in StoryWeaver, here is a work-around that really works!
Read all the following before trying it:
1.  Go to your control panel and in the search box, type "magnify."
This will bring up an option to magnify the screen.  Click it and you go to a window that has windows accessibility options.  (If you hear a voice reading the screen, you can uncheck the narrator voice at the top where it says "always read this screen."
2.  Select the box to turn magnifier on.
This will open a magnifier control window that allows you to set what will be magnified and by how much.
3.  In the "Views" menu in the magnifier box, select "full screen."
When you do, your entire screen will magnify and you can move around by scrolling to the sides, top and bottom with your mouse.
4.  Use the "-" and "+" symbols in the magnifier box to make zoom greater or smaller.
5.  To exit magnification hold down the key with the Windows icon and the ESC key at the same time.
6.  You can pin the magnify function to your icon bar for easy access if you like.
The best part of this work-around is that you can magnify anything on your screen, not just StoryWeaver.  Give it a try and get into the details!

Write Your Novel Step by Step (7)

Filling the Holes
In Step 6, you found holes and inconsistencies in your story as it stands so far by looking at it as an audience would, rather than as an author, and asking questions about what was missing or didn’t make sense.
In this step you’ll fill those holes and fix the inconsistencies by answering these questions to make your story more complete and to tune it up so it rings true.
Recalling the “Creativity Two-Step” method you employed in Step 4, you can see that the questions you’ve just asked about your synopsis are the first part of that technique. Just as before, your task in this step is to come up with as many potential answers for each question as you can (within reason).
And speaking of reason, just a reminder that the “two-step” method works because it alternates between logic and passion; between the analytical mind and the creative mind.
Asking questions about your synopsis is an analytical endeavor: you are trying to make sense of the story and noting everything that doesn’t.
Coming up with a grab bag of answers for each is a creative endeavor: you are turning your Muse loose to invent new concepts with no restrictions at all.
It is important to keep in mind that any answer is a good one, even if it is patently ridiculous. No matter: the most nonsensical idea, though it may never be used itself, can spur the inspiration of just the idea you need, which never would have occurred to you if you hobble your Muse in advance and force it to work within constraints of any kind.
The Muse hates limits, and cannot be directed any more than one can herd cats. Asking the questions is a focused and critical process, but answering them should always be completely free-form in order to achieve the best results.
So, refer to the questions about your story synopsis you just asked in the last step and see how many interesting answers you can bring forth. The more unusual the answer, the more likely your story will avoid following a cliché path and will stand out as original and intriguing.
Answers to Questions About Snow Sharks
From the synopsis:
A transport plane carrying them [the snow sharks] crashes in a storm high in the Rocky Mountains, just above a high-priced ski resort for the rich.
  1. What kind of plane?
  1. Constellation
  2. B-2 Bomber
  3. Modified 747
  4. B-17
  5. Blimp
  6. Dirigible
  7. Bi-Plane
  8. Glider
  9. Rebuilt flying saucer from Area 51
  1. How many sharks was it carrying?
  1. 1
  2. 17
  3. 300
  4. A mating pair
  1. Do they all survive?
  1. Only one survives
  2. 6 survive
  3. They all survive
  4. Just the mating pair
  5. An even dozen
  1. Where was the transport taking the sharks?
  1. Hawaii (for disposal)
  2. An arctic research station
  3. A secret base in Colorado
  4. Russia (they were being stolen)
  5. To NASA for a mapping expedition on one of Jupiter’s moons.
You may have noticed that a few of the answers actually provide more information than was asked for in the questions, for example:
Question 4 - Where was the transport taking the sharks?
Answer d. - Russia (they were being stolen)
When I answered “Russia” arbitrarily, I thought of the Russian Mob, and it occurred to me that organized crime might be trying to hijack and resell these biologic weapons.
If additional material comes to mind when answering a question, don’t be afraid to include it just because it goes beyond the expected answer. It’s all part of the creative process, and it never pays to squelch a good idea.
The more questions you answer, the fewer holes and inconsistencies in your story, and the more answers you come up with, the less cliché your story is likely to be.
Conversely, don’t feel pressured to answer everything and never – absolutely NEVER – do more work that you find interesting and pleasurable. The best way to kill a story is to kill your interest in writing it.
Though producing more answers enriches your novel, it may also deplete your drive to get your novel completed if the process becomes work and ceases to be fun.
So, let your Muse loose, without restrictions or quotas, and whatever shakes out will both add to your story and add to your motivation to tell it.
Now - spice up your story by peppering it with new material! Then, in Step 8, we’ll put it all together and integrate your original concepts and best new ideas into a revised synopsis.
Excerpted from the book, Write Your Novel Step by Step

Introduction to Communication

The process of communication requires at least two parties: the originator and the recipient. In addition, for communication to take place, the originator must be aware of the information or feelings he wishes to transmit, and the recipient must be able to determine that meaning.
Similarly, storytelling requires an author and an audience. And, to tell a story, one must have a story to tell. Only when an author is aware of the message he wishes to impart can he determine how to couch that message so it will be accurately received.
It should be noted that an audience is more than a passive participant in the storytelling process. When we write the phrase, “It was a dark and stormy night,” we have communicated a message, albeit a nebulous one.
In addition to the words, another force is at work creating meaning in the reader’s mind. The readers themselves may have conjured up memories of the fragrance of fresh rain on dry straw, the trembling fear of blinding explosions of lightning, or a feeling of contentment that recalls a soft fur rug in front of a raging fire. But all we wrote was, “It was a dark and stormy night.”
We mentioned nothing in that phrase of straw or lightning or fireside memories. In fact, once the mood is set, the less said, the more the audience can imagine. Did the audience imagine what we, the authors, had in mind? Not likely. Did we communicate? Some. We communicated the idea of a dark and stormy night. The audience, however, did a lot of creating on its own.
While some authors write specifically to communicate to an audience, many others write because they wish to follow their personal Muses. Sometimes writing is a catharsis, or an exploration of self. Sometimes authoring is a sharing of experiences, fragmented images, or just of a point of view. Sometimes authoring is marking a path for an audience to follow, or perhaps just presenting emotional resources the audience can construct into its own vision.
Interactive communications question the validity of a linear story itself, and justifiably so. There are many ways to communicate, and each has just as much value as the next depending upon how one wishes to affect one’s audience.
It has been argued that perhaps the symbols we use are what create concepts, and therefore no common understanding between cultures, races, or times is possible.
On the contrary, there are common concepts: morality, for example. Morality, a common concept? Yes. While not everyone shares the same definition of morality, every culture and individual understands some concept that means “morality” to them.
In other words, the concept of “morality” may have many different meanings — depending on culture or experience — but they all qualify as different meanings of “morality.”
Thus there can be universally shared essential concepts even though they drift apart through various interpretations. It is through this framework of essential concepts that communication is possible.
To communicate a concept, an author must symbolize it, either in words, actions, juxtapositions, interactions — in some form or another. As soon as the concept is symbolized, however, it becomes culturally specific and therefore inaccessible to much of the rest of the world.
Even within a specific culture, the different experiences of each member of an audience will lead to a slightly different interpretation of the complex patterns represented by intricate symbols.
On the other hand, it is the acceptance of common symbols of communication that defines a culture. For example, when we see a child fall and cry, we do not need to know what language he speaks or what culture he comes from in order to understand logistically what has happened.
If we observe the same event in a narrative, however, it may be that in the author’s culture a child who succumbs to tears is held in low esteem. In that case, then the emotions of sadness we may feel in our culture are not at all those intended by the author.
The accuracy with which an author is able to successfully convey both concept and context defines the success of any communication. And so, communication requires both a sound narrative and an effective translation of that narrative into symbolic language.
These requirements create an immensely rich and complex form which (though often practiced intuitively) can be deconstructed, understood, and manipulated with purpose and skill.
To begin such a deconstruction, let us next examine the origins of communication and the narrative form.
Excerpted from the book, A Few Words About Communication

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Write Your Novel Step by Step (6)

Pulling It All Apart
In Step 5, you created your first comprehensive description of what your story is about – who’s in it, what happens to them, what it all means, and the story world in which it all takes place.
In this step you’ll take a new look at this synopsis to find holes in your story – dramatic elements that are either missing or inconsistent with one another.
For a moment, step out of your role as author, and put yourself in the position of your reader or audience. Read over your story synopsis from Step 5. If something doesn't make sense, is off kilter or missing, make a note of it.
List each point in the form of a question, as this tends to help you focus in on exactly what is needed to fix the problem.
When you have finished your novel, your audience will be unforgiving, so be harsh now! Don’t gloss over problems, but don’t try to solve them either. That comes later.
For now, just ask questions about everything that bothers you about your story from a reader’s perspective, as if you were reading someone else’s description of their story rather than your own.
If push comes to shove and you are just too close to your story to see many problems with it, share your synopsis with friends, family or fellow writers.
Don’t ask them what they think of it – they’ll always pull their punches to be kind. Instead, just tell them to write down any questions they have about your story that weren’t answered in the synopsis – anything they didn’t quite understand or found confusing.
Having them state these issues as questions will get you a far better result than just asking their opinion, for they would really like to know the answers.   Friends and family are especially much more likely to be frank if they are just asking questions rather than criticizing.
Using the example below (based on the Snow Sharks example synopsis provided for Step 5) pick your synopsis apart as thoroughly as you can, jotting down every question about it that comes to mind.
Questions About Snow Sharks
From the synopsis:
The government has been developing a new breed of shark that lives in snow rather than water for use as mobile land mines in places such as Siberia or the Arctic.
  1. What branch of the government is involved?
  2. Is this sanctioned or rogue?
  3. Who is/are the scientists behind this?
  4. How long has this program been going on?
  5. How close are they to a final “product?”
  6. Do the sharks breathe air?
  7. Do they require cold (can they live in heat)?
From the synopsis:
A transport plane carrying them crashes in a storm high in the Rocky Mountains.
  1. What kind of plane?
  2. How many sharks was it carrying?
  3. Do they all survive?
  4. Where was the transport taking the sharks?
  5. Why couldn’t they wait until after the storm?
  6. How many crewmembers are on board?
  7. What are their jobs?
  8. Do the crew members know what they are carrying?
  9. Do any sharks survive?
  10. If so, do the sharks kill all the survivors?
  11. Is there anything in the wreckage that reveals the cargo, its nature and who is behind it?
  12. Is the crew able to contact their command center before crashing?
  13. Are they able to convey their location?
  14. Is there a rescue beacon?
  15. Does the plane carry a “black box.”
Using this list as a guide, separate your entire Step 5 synopsis into short sections (as above) and then come up with as many questions as you can (within reason) about each section.
Next, in Step 7, we’ll take each question, one at a time, and generate several potential answers that would satisfy them, thereby expanding and enriching your evolving story, even while you fill its holes and fix its inconsistencies.
Excerpted from the book, Write Your Novel Step by Step