- by Gitabushi
I *think* I have it all put together now.
I’m not sure how I got here, exactly. Big influences were Lawrence Block’s books on writing, “Telling Lies for Fun and Profit” and “Spider, Spin Me a Web,” and Orson Scott Card’s “How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy.” So maybe you need those as background to find the following advice helpful. I hope not, or else this post will be a waste of your time.
The first key was The Plot Machine.
Oh, boy, does it make plotting machine-like. The heart of a good story is a person overcoming obstacles to succeed. Or, if you want to write a cautionary tale, a person failing to overcome obstacles (most likely personal flaws) and failing horribly.
I used to think that once I thought of an interesting starting point, that I had a story idea.
But my failure point was always getting to the climax of the book. And I’d read something like CJ Cherryh’s Morgaine Cycle, and see someone go against their demonstrated character to do something heroic, and get ALL THE FEELZ, and I’d wonder how I could ever write something equally surprising-yet-plausible-in-hindsight that could move someone.
So the Plot Machine recommends starting with the climax of the book, and then writing backwards from there, adding in the obstacles, then setting up the problem, then writing the final resolution.
And to heighten the tension to make the climax of the story better, you make sure you have a a false climax where it looks like everything is going to work out, and then everything goes wrong and it looks everything is going to fail. But then the hero resolves their fatal flaw, and succeeds. It makes the story seem worthwhile to read and enjoy and remember.
It makes sense.
But then a friend (who will hopefully be soon joining the blog) pointed out something else in a story idea I was explaining: what is the emotional conflict between the characters I had?
They were in opposition, so of course there was some inherent emotional conflict, but I had described them as friends, so how did the main character feel about winning the conflict?
Boom. That’s a great point. That’s one of the ways you can give your reader ALL the feelz.
I dunno. I claim to have it figured out now, but I have no time/energy to write. So you can take all that with grain of salt. Or we can talk it out in the comment section.
But if nothing else, I thought I’d point out a few books that I’m considering buying next. But I need to finish two stories before I do, because the point will be to make my writing better. If I buy them and read them before writing anything, I’m just finding another excuse to put off writing.
Still, here are the ones I’m considering:
“How to Write Pulp Fiction,” by James Scott Bell (who has a number of How to Write books).
“Elements of Fiction Writing: Conflict and Suspense,” also by James Scott Bell. This one seems interesting based on the “start writing from the Second Act” recommendation of the Plot Machine.
And finally, a book I’ve purchased but haven’t read yet, “Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere).”
If you have writing figured out, or if you merely think you have writing figured out, what are the key elements for you?