Thursday, October 18, 2012

Guest Post: The natural order of writing

Today I have the lovely Jocelyn Adams visiting. She is the author of The Glass Man and Shadowborn, which is a new release. Take it away, Jocelyn:

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Writing a story is complicated. What, you ask? Just slap down a bunch of words onto a page and voila!

If only it were that simple, we’d all be J.K. Rowling and be rolling in the dough, right? :)

There are certain rules that often—not always—should be followed to make a story work. The one I’m going to talk about is how to create a scene—which is an event that takes place within a book. A novel is a collection of scenes that progress the story from beginning to climax.

Scenes need a natural order. In life we do things in a certain sequence, and we usually have a reason for doing them.

First, our character—let’s call her Jane—needs a goal in this scene. It makes for a more compelling story when there are obstacles making it hard for her to reach that goal.

Goal: Jane is trying to get to work on time. Simple, right? Goals don’t need to be complicated, and one goal can span multiple scenes.

Conflict: The phone rings. Without thinking, she answers it.

Disaster: It’s a woman who asks for Jane’s husband, and when Jane asks who’s calling, the woman hangs up.

Here’s where we get into the natural order.

In real life, when faced with a crisis, we tend to follow this sequence:

Emotion: Perhaps Jane cries or whips the phone against the wall because she assumes her husband is having an affair. Her stomach clenches, maybe she rants.

Thought: Maybe she overreacted? Maybe it was the florist confirming a delivery her husband had arranged for Jane’s birthday? Or maybe it’s that floozy two doors down who’s always making eyes at him? Jane could *69 the call to find out who she is. Or call and confront her husband. Either one would make her late for work, and she’d probably end up fired since she was late every day this week.

Decision: Although Jane is furious, she decides work comes first, and she’ll worry about the mystery woman later.

Action: She gets her butt to work. The next scene begins with a new goal, to find out who the woman is.

Even though each of these elements may not appear in every scene, the ones that do should be in order, creating a magical ebb and flow in the story.

Back of the Book, Shadowborn:
Why me?
That’s the question Lila Gray asks every time yet another bad guy tries to destroy the earth, and she learns she’s the only one who can stop it. Once again, something’s on the prowl, leaving hundreds of comatose, soulless victims in its wake.
Couldn’t the deadliest assassins of the Otherworld go after someone else instead of the brand new Queen of the Seelie? One who still hasn’t adapted to her new role.
Lila would ask Liam Kane, King of the Unseelie, for advice, but something’s off with him, too. He’s holding back. In some way. About some thing. In fact, he refuses to tell her what’s going on.
The truth holds Lila back from the greatness of her role—the people she was born to lead—the man who she desperately loves—and the solution to the latest war raging around her.
To find the answers, she’ll need to fight through her own darkness and embark on a journey through her psyche.
If she doesn’t succeed, the Shadowborn will claim not only her world, but her soul.

Connect with Jocelyn Adams:
Facebook
Goodreads
Twitter
Website
Blog

 
Shadowborn: Amazon, Barnes & Noble
The Glass Man: Amazon, Barnes & Noble


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44 comments:

  1. Great advice, and well met, Jocelyn :) Breaking the story down into these smaller goals will make for a more interesting read; I like it :)

    Jamie

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    1. Thanks, Jamie. I'm happy you found my ramblings useful. :)

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  2. I like this simple, understandable and achievable method of how to create that "magical ebb and flow" in a story!
    Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks, Michelle. Most of us do this naturally, but sometimes when a scene isn't working, knowing to look at this structure can be helpful.

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  3. I like things simple! And there could be any number of reactions and decisions made from that one scene.
    Thanks, Jocelyn!

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    1. That's the beauty of writing, isn't it? There are limitless possibilities, and sometimes the characters will take the author places they never thought to go.

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  4. Great breakdown of a scene. I'm afraid I haven't usually thought of the structure of each scene. I'm going to have to start applying that when I write.

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    1. I have to admit this didn't come naturally to me when someone first explained this to me. While editing, I had to go through the sequence and rearrange, and now I do it on the fly without thinking about it. My writing has improved immensely because of it. At least, I think it has. :)

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  5. I like the breakdown of a scene into these subject headings!! I'm too much of a panster and really need to think a little more carefully about what and how I write, thank you!

    Take care
    x

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    1. I hear you on the pantser thing. I don't plan anything, ever, and it took a bit of brain-training to wrap my head around this concept.

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    1. *rubs hands together* Excellent! :) Nice to meet you, Libby.

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  7. I wish someone would write a book called SUNBORN or LIGHTBORN....

    Greetings to lady Adams!

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    1. Aw, but without some darkness there wouldn't be any story!

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    2. And without darkness, the dawn isn't as sweet.

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  8. I don't plan, and I rarely write scenes in order, so my natural flow gets a bit skewed sometimes!

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    1. I'm impressed. I do plan and I still need to write scenes in order.

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    2. I do this too. Sometimes I have to fix the flow in editing now that I know what to look for. Great to meet you, Annalisa.

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  9. Love this advice, thanks so much! Need to give it thought in light of my WIP.

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    1. Good luck with your WIP, Karen. I hope my ramblings are of some help to you. :)

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  10. When you break a scene down to something that simple, well, it makes the scene writing that much more intriguing. Following the natural order. Actin, reaction and repeat.

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    1. It can get even more reaction when before the character decides what to do, you throw in another disaster and the process starts over again. :) Same goal, just another set of problems, maybe another set of emotions/thoughts and actions. It really is endless where you can go and how you can get there.

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  11. Thanks for hosting Jocelyn, Lynda. Her tips on building scenes are great, and her book looks awesome!

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  12. Great advice and important to remember it doesn't have to happen each and every moment of the book.

    Thank you both!

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    1. That's absolutely right. It would be overwhelming to have every element in every single scene, especially when some overlap, throwing a new crisis on top of another. Just have the ones that are there in the appropriate order.

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  13. Wonderful tips! There's definitely a natural order to things. :) Congrats on the release for SHADOWBORN! I can't wait to read the next one.

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    1. Thanks, Cherie! Rise of the Magi will be out in June. :) Thanks for the encouragement, it means a lot to me.

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  14. Great post. And the book sounds awesome!

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  15. Terrific post! I think sometimes people forget that every day life has goals even if they are mundane and how quickly those goals can change.

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    1. Absolutely. Zig instead of zag, and suddenly instead of picking up your kid from dance class, you're car-jacked and on the way to Florida with a gun to your head. It's pretty neat how badly an author can screw up some poor character's day with a flick of the pen, isn't it?

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  16. You don't know how many time I have to head-slap myself to remember to put the conflict in the scene. I'm always letting my character get her way and it has to stop!

    Nice post. :))

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  17. Well said! I'm bookmarking this one. :)

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  18. Great post. Lynda. It can be helpful to many. Keep sharing such tips here. Looking forward for more. :)

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  19. Learning about writing in scenes was the most useful tip I'd ever received, it helped me structure my stories with more hooks and climaxes. Shadowborn looks suitably creepy, will have to check out Jocelyn's links :)

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  20. excellent lesson! and love the fluid tale spun in the blurb!

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  21. Great advice, Jocelyn. I like the advice on how to create a scene. I am book marking this one.

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  22. I'll try and keep these in mind if I ever decide to write a novel of my own. :P

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  23. I think I better re-read this a few times, to make sure I don't forget it! Thanks.

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  24. Great guest post, Jocelyn. Clear and concise.

    Jai

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  25. I like that! Emotion, thought, decision, action. I've got to remember for my next drafting session.

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  26. Cause and effect emotion chains with a healthy dollop of reality. Great post.

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  27. Shadowborn sounds fantastic.

    This is a great guest post on scene building.

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