Friday, April 29, 2011

An Impromptu Question For Brandon Mull. Yahoo!

Brandon Mull and LC Piper
 I received a last minute tweet that Brandon Mull was going to be at the BYU bookstore today (4/29/2011) at 5:15, coincidentally we were visiting Provo. So unprepared and without a book to sign I went shamelessly to ask a writing question.
Gracious as ever he took a moment to answer. Here's how it went.

Do you outline your stories and if so how do you do it? (Insert incomplete sentences, mumbling and stutters here.)

Brandon: We'll actually I think about my stories for a long time. Then when the movie is complete in my head I start writing it. I do write things down just before I start, but it's all worked out before I begin. Outlined in my head.

That of course isn't a verbatim quote.

Brandon, thank you for your time in line.  To all those behind me in line.  Thank you for waiting so patiently!  It was just one question.  :-)
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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

8 Elements of Plot

I recently read this article on plot that speaks of 8 elements you need.  Although it's all common sense or so it seems it was rather eye opening to see it spelled out so clearly.  I thought I'd mirror it here in brief.  Here's a link to the page if you'd like to read the article in full.  I suggest you do.  It's from:  How to write a book now.

Why I think this is important.

Building on my study of Aprilynne's comments on outlining, I've been world building in a new way that puts the focus of my world building on character and plot.  Before it was open book.   I'd open my composition pad and just free write.  Which was fun at times, but I'd end up with 7+ full comp pads and fragments of a story.  This new way I'm paying attention to the elements of plot that I need to develop and I'm asking questions along them to get the answers I need to really focus on my plot.
I think it's making a difference and I feel that I'm gaining confidence.

  • Story Goal -
The plot of any story is a sequence of events that constitute an attempt to solve a problem or attain a goal. The Story Goal is, generally speaking, what your protagonist wants to achieve or the problem he/she wants to resolve. It is also the goal/problem that involves or affects most, if not all the other characters in the story. It is “what the story is all about.”
  • Consequence -
Take your goal and ask, “What would happen if the goal is not achieved? What is my protagonist afraid will happen if he/she doesn't achieve the goal or solve the problem?”

The answer to these questions is the Consequence of the story. The Consequence is the negative situation or event that will result if the Goal is not achieved. Avoiding the Consequence justifies the effort required in pursuing the Story Goal, both to the characters in your novel and the reader, and that makes it an important part of your plot outline.
  • Requirements -
These describe what must be accomplished in order to achieve the goal. You can think of this as a checklist of one or more events. As the Requirements are met in the course of the novel, the reader will feel the characters are getting closer to the attainment of the goal.

Requirements create a state of excited anticipation in the reader's mind, as he looks forward to the protagonist's success.

  • Forewarnings -
Forewarnings are the counterpart to requirements. While requirements show that the story is progressing towards the achievement of the goal, forewarnings are events that show the consequence is getting closer. Forewarnings make the reader anxious that the consequence will occur before the protagonist can succeed.
  • Costs -
Good plots are about problems that mean a lot to the characters. If a problem is trivial, then neither the protagonist nor the reader has a reason to get worked up about it. You want your readers to get worked up about your novel. So you must give your protagonist a goal that matters.
One sign that a problem or goal matters to the protagonist is that he/she is willing to make sacrifices or suffer pain in order to achieve it. Such sacrifices are called Costs.
  • Dividends -
The element that balances Costs in your plot outline is Dividends. Dividends are rewards that characters receive along the journey towards the Story Goal. Unlike Requirements, Dividends are not necessary for the goal to be achieved. They may be unrelated to the goal entirely. But they are something that would never have occurred if the characters hadn't made the effort to achieve the goal.
  • Prerequisites -
Prerequisites are events that must happen in order for the Requirements to happen. They are an added layer of challenges to your plot outline. Like Requirements, as Prerequisites are met, the reader feels progress is being made towards the goal.
  • Preconditions -
The last element to balance your plot outline, Preconditions, is a junior version of Forewarning. Preconditions are small impediments in the plot. They are stipulations laid down by certain characters that make it more difficult for the Story Goal to be achieved.

If you're having trouble getting your plot figured out, I suggest reading this article and learning about all the parts.  Even if you have, you might find a few points that you can strengthen.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Aprilynne Pike Interview and Questions

Interview and questions with Aprilynne Pike, author of Wings.

It was superfun (new word!) and I hope you all join in on the next call.  Wednesday, April 27th. 7pm MDT.
Farland's Authors' Advisory Conference Calls (link here) hosts an original and rare opportunity for you to meet, listen and ask professional authors questions live from anywhere in the world that you can get your hands on a phone.

Aprilynne Pike
 Last night I joined in for the first time live and was given the opportunity to ask Aprilynne Pike several questions of my own.  Listen to it here.
Being that I was slightly less nervous than the others on the line, I had the fortune to ask several.  No points for my performance, but Aprilynne answered them all. 

She spoke primarily on Outlines, which was unbelievably perfect as I've decided that I won't proceed onto my third novel until after I've fully outlined it.  And this time I really mean it!  Currently the Snowflake method, which is actually simple, just isn't working for me.  The method she shared with us was so simple and as of tomorrow morning I'll be starting over just to give it a try.  I won't try to explain it at this time, but give the call a listen and hear a #1 New York Times Best Selling Author explain how she outlines her stories.

I will say that the method is visual and that visual works for me.

Aprilynne also discussed inciting incident, turning points, plot points, sub plots, emotional stakes, love triangles and other elements that are a part of or heavily tie into the outline.

I've listened to all the calls posted on Farland's Authors' Advisory Conference Calls and they are priceless.  If you're an aspiring writer, you need to listen to all of these.  After finding out about the calls I passed up the opportunity for listening to two calls live.  I hope to not make that mistake again.  Join in the fun and ask a few questions.

***Also, for an undetermined length of time you can get Wings (Aprilynne's Debut Novel) for free on Amazon, B&N, Kobo and Sony.  Check that out here, but act fast, this is a limited time thing.  It's my opinion that even if you don't have the time to read it now, or don't have an e-reader now you can still get it and read on-line until you do, then it can port over to your device when you get one.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


You've felt it before.  Chances are you feel it all the time, but do you pay attention to it?  Likely you don't especially if you're unsure what to do with it. 
No, I'm not talking about that extra zip in Mayo that makes it miracle whip... I'm talking about the rush or flash of inspiration that enters our mind and sends it on the ubber roller coaster of coolness.  How long the ride lasts and how thrilling the dips and twirls are depends up on our situation, the inspiration and the time we have to stay on.  Regardless of the definition, we all zing.

John Brown
 Author John Brown gives excellent clarity to Zing on his website.  Link here.  I think understanding what Zing is and knowing how to 'hunt' for it will change a new writer forever.  Once you latch on to it, your stories will change for the better.  It is possible to pass your zing on to others.  (Assuming they're compatible to it.)

How does it work?  I don't know, but it does. 
Example:  Trailer Park Elves.
Did that buzz you?  It buzzed me when I read Larry Correia's Monster Hunter International.  When we have a cool idea, it resonates not just in us, but in everyone who's compatible with it.

Larry Correia
 It's taking these idea's and putting them in our writing that takes our stories to a new level.  We all know that the whole point of telling a story is to get an emotional response from the reader. Why?  Because that's why they're reading.  To be emotionally moved.

John Brown suggests listing out all the Zing idea's that we're implementing in our story, then twist them.  Back to our example.  Elves... zing.  Trailer Parks... zing.  Trailer Park Elves... Zing Zing Zing. 

For me, I'm outlining my 2nd quarter novel and I took the idea of sorcerers and energy and I'm twisting them together.  Author Michael Crichton takes technology that Zings his interest, then asks,  "What can make this go wrong/be abused?"

I took Sorcery and Energies and asked, how can science make sorcery real?  It grew from there.

Taking our Zings, twisting/combining them and then asking questions... the obvious or just plain off the wall questions will grow our appeal and magnify the Zing to us and our readers.

I've have a weak novel I'm editing now.  The first one I've ever written.  It has problems... huh, go figure?  I've had to ask my self.  What could make this stronger?  I've decided that I need to go scene by scene and evaluate the Zing it has.  I'm going to review what is there, then twist it and start asking questions.  The deeper it gets (as long as it's not distracting from the story) the better the story will get.  I'm looking at this as re-animating the corpse.  Yeah, it's a body, but does it have a soul?  Is there any life in there?

I'm going to give this a try.  I hope you will as well.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Good Advice I'll Have To Rely On

I think blog interviews with authors are fun, but some can be disturbing and fun I've discovered.  Check out this link to the interview with Bree Despain (Author: The Dark Devine & The Lost Saint) and The Spork of Doom.  If you think that the name kind-of says it all... we'll you'd be wrong.  The weird runs deeper, much deeper, but I'll leave that to you to explore.

Regardless there is some good advice at the end of the interview that I find very useful.  Bree gives this advice frequently, so I'm going to say if it's good enough for a very successful author, then it's got to be good for me.  Goodness knows I need it.

"Great books aren't written, they're revised."  - Bree Despain.

Aside, I just love the fact she has the word aren't in her mantra.  Although I'm not known for mantra stealing, I might have to give this one a go, because it's so perfect for me.  My first draft of Lightning Child is struggling.  O.k. it's a given that it's my novel version 1.1  (Novel 1, draft 1), so it's bound to be very imperfect, but at this point I've learned just enough to be dangerous to myself.  I see how inexperienced I write, and know where I should be and even have a lot of tools/tips/advice to help get me there, I just need to write more and figure them out.  So mean time I'm editing and it HURTS!

However, now I'll be 'Revising to Greatness', because if it ain't written, it can't be revised.  (I used ain't!  giggle.)  And now I know that all those rough draft words can be revised into something that is great.

I do actually have a mantra, and I suspect it will be mine until the end of time.  'Never give up.'  I know it's not original, but it's been real for me on so many aspects in life.  It's proven true when I adhere to it.  Now I can put another mantra under my breath.  Let's just hope no one at work hears me while I chant these during my breaks.  (That's when I write.)  That could prove to be awkward.

Link here to see the interview blog by the Spork of Doom and enter to win a copy of The Lost Saint.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Balance In All Things

It's time to talk opposition.

Understand it's a part of the fight. If you don't have it, you're probably not doing something right. Opposition to your efforts of goodness is your verification you're on the right path. If you have absolutely no opposition, you're probably not pointed the correct direction. Re-align.

Really at this point you just need to know it's there.  To be able to recognize it.
You'll see external opposition.  That's where it comes from sources other than you.  Then there is the internal type.  Which is pretty obvious, because that's you baby!

The external is pretty easy to deal with.  You recognize it, examine (study) it, develop a plan to over come it, then execute.  Off with it's head!

Internal is more challenging.  Every step is the same, only it's more difficult.  Recognizing could be a big snag.  It was for me.  In general there's a little voice in my head that tells me I'm a poser and only super scholarly types (which I'm not) or complete geeky wanna be's (which I'd rather not admit) are writers.  So how could overage Joe Me be a writer.  Maybe even a really good writer... you'd best stop now.
I've discovered that when I'm procrastinating; you know like writing a tweet, Face Book Update or a blog entry I'm having issues recognizing this internal opposition.
Does this mean I have multiple personalities.  Well yeah, maybe it does to a small degree.  That self degrading put-downer guy is speaking too loudly.  Hey, self bully Bif, where are you when I need you?  Go sock him in the face to get him to shut up.
Now, that's better.

The one surefire thing I can do to overcome opposition to my writing, is to do it anyway.  Where's that Jessie James internal self... there he is.  Rebel with a cause, this way please.  If you try to stop me, I'll just do it anyway.  In secret.  Hiding down in the laundry room, or on my lunch break when I should be in the gym doing bench presses. 

Yeah, that's me the guy who is pretentious and thinks that one day if he doesn't give up he'll be a published author.  He's a real goober and thinks that complete strangers will read his words and say, hey, that's pretty good.  What else does he have?

Hey put-downer, didn't I just have Bif over there sock you one?  Back off!  You can come out when it's time to do the chores.

I first saw this on the wall of a police officers
cubicle in my home town's police department. 
Anyway, it's got to be true.  If you don't quit, then you can't fail.  The harder you work at it, the faster it will come.  So, I'm not going to quit.  Actually I'm going to go do it right now.

Alright Bif, high five.  Let's go pick on gullible for a minute, then we'll go write something.

Word!  (That's funny because I'm a writer and I write them.)


A quote from Bree Despain's March 12th presentation at the library event I spoke of earlier. "Get your 2 plus hours in daily.  You have a right to write." 
I just love that.