My 3 Act example

To follow the last post, as an example, I’ll use my character Fred (Fred appears in many of my classes). Fred’s intense desire is to climb Mt Everest, to prove he is not an unemployed loser. He’s been out of work for a while, his dad is giving him a hard time, and his mother is, too. Mt Everest is his dream, what keeps him going on his worst days. When the story opens, we see Fred coping with all of this, looking for a job, wondering if he’ll have to sell his house. Then his father dies … [Read more...]

How Structure Will Save Your Story

Recently I’ve been teaching story structure again, and reminding myself about all the ways structure works in a story. There is a lot of talk about plotting – how to plot, how to outline, how to talk to your plot, how to pattern it like this or that. But I think if you don’t “get” structure, you won’t achieve strong plots. What’s the difference? To me, structure is the underpinning. Like when you build a house, you start with a concrete slab or foundations, and you build a frame and roof … [Read more...]

Structure in fiction: saggy middles

I'm currently reading a novel that seems endless. There appears to be plenty of action, but ... it's all pretty much the same kind of action and despite quite pacy writing, I feel as though the story is going nowhere. It's a 400 page novel and at page 350, I should be anticipating a lot of things - deeper complications in the plot, growth and change in the main character, an increasing escalation towards the climax. I'm not. Which got me thinking - what is the problem here? I think it's a … [Read more...]

The Often-disregarded Advantages of Traditional Publishing

Despite the run towards self-publishing, the ability to self-publish an ebook without huge printing costs, the opportunity to say "So there" to all those agents and publishers who have rejected your work, the necessity now for most authors to market themselves and their books ... there is one huge advantage to traditional publishing that I think is getting lost in the rush. Great editing. And I don't just mean the editor you work with when your book is accepted. I'm also including the great … [Read more...]

Day #31, Writing Challenge

31 days of writing prompts! You may not have written every day, but hopefully you've stored these away for future use. I know some people (who were receiving them by subscribing) had bought a special notebook and were keeping up, while others were keeping them handy for the next time they wrote. Here are today's writing exercises - of course, they are about endings!   Fiction:  Write a paragraph that might be the ending for a story. Then write the story that comes before … [Read more...]

Day #30, Writing Challenge

Language is the most vital tool for writers, and we use it for everything. Sound obvious? When was the last time you thought about mood and contrast? And how you could use them in your writing?   Fiction: Write a mood piece. Choose from the following: autumnal, oppressive, hopeful, terrified, impulsive (or one of your own). Search for all the different words you might use to create this mood, and have your character do something simple, such as go for a walk or cook dinner, and convey … [Read more...]

Day #29, Writing Challenge

Put your character under pressure - or yourself - in today's writing prompts.   Fiction:  Write a piece about a character who is in a place where the sun never goes down (it is always daylight) or conversely where it is dark 24 hours a day. How will it affect them? Make your character react badly to several weeks of living in this world. In other words, put them under pressure with something they have no control over!   Poetry: Write a poem that is all one sentence with no … [Read more...]

Day #28, Writing Challenge

Just four more days to go - keep writing! And think today about fighting.   Fiction:  Write a scene in which several people are waiting in a queue and a fight breaks out. Who is in the queue? What is it for? Why are they fighting?   Poetry:  Write a love poem in which each line begins “I hate you because ...” … [Read more...]

Day #27, Writing Challenge

  We've all heard stories of people receiving scam emails, but what if you received a message that was meant for someone else? And it was genuine?   Fiction:  Write a story in which your character receives a strange text message on their phone (or an email) which is obviously not for them but which upsets their life in some way.   Poetry: Write a poem that is either a series of text messages, emails or postcards (write it in short stanzas – you might want to put them on … [Read more...]

Day #26, Writing Challenge

Boxes and suitcases - anything that holds unexpected items can trigger an idea.   Fiction:  Take a quick look around your house and pick up the first box you find. Imagine that someone has knocked on your door and left the box on your doorstep, but what is in the box is not what the outside says or suggests.   Poetry: Write a poem in which your suitcase gets accidentally swapped at the airport, and you open it at home to find it is not yours. You can either write about the … [Read more...]