Tuesday, November 8, 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011 - Day 8

"I like to think of what happens to characters in good novels and stories as knots -- things keep knotting up. And by the end of the story -- readers see an "unknotting" of sorts. Not what they expect, not the easy answers you get on TV, not wash and wear philosophies but a reproduction of believable emotional experiences." 
-Terry McMillan
...which was only slightly larger than my ego this afternoon.

For those of you doubters, quibblers, and overly picky people from yesterday...

Welcome to week two!

(I consider myself a member of the above groups.)

How's it going everyone? For you NaNo-ers, are you on track? Do you know where your story is going? Have you gotten a grasp of who your chief characters are?

I think it's time to have another structural discussion, because at this point, you should begin seeing it unfold.

This is week two, everyone. This is the end of Act 1. This is the beginning of the end, er, middle...

I hate middles. I really do. I'm getting better at them, but I'm really bad at filling in all the fun, connective complications that eventually lead to a satisfying resolution. I don't want to drag myself through all the muck of developing a character and a plot and a world. I just want to show you where the world and its people are at, then show you where they all end up, and then watch you marvel at all the amazing twists.


Except...that doesn't really work very well, for one. And...in the end, it's definitely not what I want to do.

But it's easier than writing a middle! *sigh*

So, what are our goals?

Well, as I said before (referring back to my structural notes from Day 1), this is the end of the first act. Where should we be at this point?

Well, adding to the internal conflicts inherent in our protagonist and his relationships, we should be introducing the external conflicts that will serve as a crucible or catalyst for the eventual resolution of those internal conflicts (also known as catharsis, in some circles).

More specifically, our protagonist should be making the choice that, for better or worse, decides his fate and purpose for the remainder of the book. This is the call to action. The body under the stairs. The inciting event. The ignition that gets the engine started.

Everything up to this point has been setup. You're done now. It's time to get the story moving. The core relationships should be established, the bad guy should be visible (though not necessarily known), the good guys should have a clearly definable goal. This is it. The momentum of this moment needs to propel your reader through the rest of the book, because if they aren't hooked now, they aren't going to suddenly become interested in the complications later on.

That's probably the best way to look at it really:

The reader should have an end in sight. Whether that's "Heroine marries the nice guy," or "Hero catches the villain," or "The Rebels defeat the Empire," or whatever. The reader should be able to visualize an ending that satisfies the goals of your protagonist.

And now the rest of your story, the entirety of Act 2, should simply serve to weave complications into the journey between visualization and realization of that goal. It's Murphy's law incarnate in narrative form: anything that can go wrong for the protagonist, should. It makes his eventual triumph over the trials that much more admirable and meaningful.

(Caveat: As with all "rules," particularly when it comes to writing, there are times when these principles can be, should be, and are broken. But oftentimes they're broken in ways that still draw upon the core principle, so focus on learning the rules before you go about trying out new ones.)

Hopefully you're at this point. If not, try to get there soon. If you reached the point of "concrete goals" a while ago. Good for you, you're writing a much faster-paced story, so you'll catch your readers' attention that much sooner. Now make sure you don't let up on the pressure until you're ready to begin the resolution in Act 3.

Go forth and make life difficult for your characters, folks. I'll see you tomorrow.

Until then...
-josh k.

NaNoWriMo 2011 Progress
Today: 2,807/1,666 words.
So far: 14,266/13,333 words.
Total: 14,266/50,000 words.

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