5 Things To Avoid When Writing Romantic Relationships

writing-romantic-relationships-3

Image via Pixabay

Ahh, romance. Not only is it a massively popular genre of its own, it’s also an extremely common element in countless other genres and categories – from literary fiction right through to sci-fi, fantasy and young adult fiction. However, writing romantic relationships isn’t easy. Just because it’s done often, doesn’t mean it’s always done right.

If you’ve ever struggled to write romantic elements, don’t worry, because you definitely aren’t alone. Many authors have trouble crafting authentic relationships between their characters. Even the most seasoned writers are at risk of falling prey to clichés, stereotypical character tropes, and love stories that don’t quite ring true…

So whether you’re writing a romance novel or a book in any other genre that contains elements of romance, read on for five key things to avoid when writing romantic relationships.

1. Forgetting about conflict and tension

Conflict and tension are the elements that keep all stories moving. They draw readers in, get them invested in the story and the characters, and keep them turning pages.

This is no different when it comes to writing romantic relationships. The build-up of tension, and even outright initial conflict, between two people who are attracted to each other is a huge part of what many readers love about romance.

However, there are actually two potential mistakes to be made here:

  • Not maintaining conflict and tension in other aspects of the story apart from the romance.
  • Not keeping conflict and tension present after characters end up together.

In the first instance, you might be writing a story in which there’s a great amount of plot-pushing conflict and sizzling tension between your two romantically inclined characters. But in putting so much effort into the romantic conflict and tension, you might have forgotten to inject these elements anywhere else in the story.

Now, this can be more easily forgivable if you’re writing strictly within the romance genre. After all, the relationship, its development and all its ups and downs are what romance readers are here for. But do keep in mind that there needs to be other story elements as well, and that they should involve some measure of conflict to keep the story moving.

If you’re writing romantic relationships within genres other than romance, however, you need to be especially careful to keep up the conflict and tension in your story’s other areas.

Always remember which genre you’re primarily writing in, and who your target market is.

If you’re writing fantasy or one of its subgenres, for example, by all means weave a romantic element throughout. But keep in mind that the majority of your conflict and tension should come from the other aspects of your story, such as magic, politics or a character’s quest.

(If you find yourself focusing more and more on the romantic aspects of your writing to the detriment of other plot points, perhaps it’s time to reconsider which genre you really want to be writing in after all!)

The second potential mistake to be made is building up to the climactic point in which two characters finally end up together – and then instantly forgetting about conflict and tension altogether.

It’s all well and good to get caught up in developing the build-up to a romantic relationship; as we said before, that’s a favourite aspect of romance for many readers. However, it’s important to keep that all-important conflict and tension running through your story even after your characters get together.

Remember that in real life, no relationship is perfect. No fictional relationship should be perfect, either.

And even if your characters are pretty damn happy now they’re together, there still has to be some type of conflict throughout the story that will affect them – both individually and as a couple.

2. Creating stereotypical characters

Stereotypical characters are found in every genre and style of book. But unfortunately, they’re a little more likely to appear wherever romance is involved.

You’ve no doubt come across some pretty unbelieveable, cringeworthy or two-dimensional characters in a romance novel, romantic comedy movie, or any other story with romantic elements.

Whether it’s the broody, sulking man with a troubled past and a soft heart, the manic pixie dream girl, or simply a ‘Mary Sue’-style character, there are countless stereotypes and overdone character tropes perpetuated through romance in literature.

Luckily, there’s an easy way to avoid this. You just need to keep the following in mind at all times:

When writing romantic relationships, each character needs to be developed individually as well as in terms of their relationship.

Crafting believable characters is one of the most important aspects of fiction writing. If you can’t make each character authentic on their own, the relationship they share won’t be authentic either.

To create great romantic relationships, you first need to create great individual characters. They need to be flawed, complex and real in order to resonate with readers. So none of these perfect cookie-cutter characters who lack any real substance, or who exist primarily for the sake of a romantic story element.

If you develop fully rounded, engaging and believable characters, it’s much easier to develop fully rounded, engaging and believable relationships between them. Simple.

3. Writing ‘love at first sight’

This is, of course, one of the biggest no-nos when writing romantic relationships. ‘Instalove’ is one of the most common mistakes to avoid when writing YA fiction, and it’s no different when it comes to writing for adults.

In real life, nobody meets (or even just looks at) someone for the first time and immediately falls in love. Yes, there can be instant attraction – but this shouldn’t be confused with instant love.

Even if your romantic relationship is just a subplot in your story, that’s no excuse for it not to be developed properly. And besides, doesn’t establishing the romance instantly take all the fun, tension and anticipation out of the build-up we talked about above.

No matter which genre you write in, your readers want to go on a journey with your characters, and this includes the building of their relationships.

There’s no faster way to make readers’ eyes roll than two characters falling instantly in love without any real interaction or meaningful connection. So be sure to avoid this trope at all costs.

4. Romanticising harmful relationship elements

When writing romantic relationships in your novels, it’s extremely important to distinguish between what’s healthy in a relationship, and what’s harmful.

We’re not saying every relationship you write has to be a perfectly healthy and happy one. (See the notes on conflict and tension above!) We’re simply saying that you need to be aware when you’re writing romantic elements that are actually harmful, and that you need to avoid romanticising these elements at all costs.

So what do we mean when we refer to ‘harmful’ relationship elements? Basically, we’re talking about any aspects of a relationship that are portrayed as ‘romantic’ or even an expression of ‘true love’, but are actually unhealthy or even abusive.

Think about some of the romance stories portrayed in books, films and TV today. How many emotionally, verbally or even physically abusive characters are out there masquerading as romantic ‘heroes’? How many unhealthy relationship aspects and negative character traits have been passed off as ‘sexy’ or ‘desirable’? (Yes, Fifty Shades of Grey, we’re looking at you.)

Common character traits along these lines include:

  • Jealousy
  • Possessiveness/overprotectiveness
  • Dominant/controlling personality
  • Obsessiveness/desperation

Again, we’re not saying you can’t create characters who have these traits, or that you can’t write about an abusive or toxic relationship.

We’re saying that if you do, you need to avoid romanticising those aspects, and always make it clear that this is not what a normal, healthy relationship actually looks like.

5. Using clichéd language and descriptions

If any element of fiction is in the most danger of being rife with clichés, it has to be romance.

Just like the stereotypical character tropes we talked about above, the language and descriptions you use when writing romantic relationships are at risk of falling into clichéd territory.

Whether you’re writing sex scenes, or simply describing the way characters see each other or feel when they’re around each other, there’s a lot of language that tends to be overused in romance writing. This includes things like:

  • Describing eyes in great detail (especially their colour and depth)
  • Pulses racing/hearts beating faster
  • Gazes/intense stares
  • Clichéd comparisons, especially to nature/celestial bodies – ‘Her eyes were like stars’, ‘She shone like the sun’, and so on
  • Words like ‘love’, ‘passion’, ‘desire’ etc.

Try to think outside the box a little when it comes to describing your characters’ feelings. What fresh or unusual imagery can you use to evoke the nuances of their relationship? How can you tie this imagery in with who they are as a character?

Experiment with words, but also remember that sometimes keeping things simple can be the most effective way of writing romantic relationships.

Good luck!

***

Via: https://writersedit.com/fiction-writing/5-things-avoid-writing-romantic-relationships/

5 Key Questions To Ask About Character Motivations

Character-motivations

Image via Unsplash

Creating compelling characters is perhaps the most important aspect of fiction writing. So what about your characters’ motivations?

The decisions and actions of characters drive the plot of every story. And each of your story’s players – whether hero, villain, or supporting character – should have reasons for making those choices, and for carrying out those actions.

Clear, strong, and realistic motivations are essential for every round character in every story. But why exactly are these motivations so important?

Put simply, if you don’t establish your characters’ motivations, you run the risk of writing characters who fall flat. Characters who readers just can’t understand or connect with; characters who exist only to further the story; characters who are inconsistent, or who perpetuate lazy tropes and stereotypes.

Obviously, none of these types of characters are ones you want in your story! So it’s absolutely vital that you fully understand your characters’ motivations – and that your readers do, too.

Here are five key questions to ask yourself when establishing your characters’ motivations.

1. Are your characters’ motivations internal or external?

There are two key types of motivations your characters might experience: internal and external. (Bear in mind that they may experience both at the same time – more on that below.)

Internal motivations are those that come from within the character. The character is motivated to act by a choice they have made within themselves – a personal goal, perhaps, or a desire to achieve some outcome or reward.

External motivations are outside factors that motivate the character to act. Other characters, or situations outside the character’s control, may influence or even force them to make certain decisions and actions.

Often, a combination of both these types of motivations makes for interesting storytelling – especially if the two happen to be conflicting.

Example

Let’s consider an example from an old favourite, the Harry Potter series. The character of Albus Dumbledore is a great exhibitor of both internal and external motivations, and a great example of how such motivations can also be conflicting.

The majority of Dumbledore’s decisions and actions are motivated by a desire to see the series’ antagonist, Voldemort, defeated. These are primarily external motivations, and they lead Dumbledore to formulate a plan using Harry Potter himself to defeat Voldemort – even though this means that Harry’s life will eventually be sacrificed.

However, Dumbledore also experiences a conflicting internal motivation: the desire to protect Harry, to see him lead a safe and happy life. This motivation leads Dumbledore to keep the details of the plan from Harry, and to delay the plan’s consequences until the last possible moment. As Dumbledore himself puts it…

I cared more for your happiness than your knowing the truth, more for your peace of mind than my plan, more for your life than the lives that might be lost if the plan failed.”

Now, not all of your characters’ motivations need to be this complex or conflicted. But it’s important to consider whether their motivations are internal, external, or both, and how these differing sets of motivations will affect your characters’ actions and the outcomes of the story.

2. Are your characters’ motivations realistic and believable?

How many times have you come across a villainous character who’s evil simply for the sake of being evil? Or a hero whose every action is completely altruistic and selfless?

These kinds of characters tend to fall rather flat – all because their motivations are unrealistic.

Very few real people do terrible things simply for the sake of it, and even fewer act selflessly 100% of the time. If you want your characters to read like living, breathing people, their motivations are going to have to be much more believable.

Unrealistic motivations tend to come into play most often with antagonistic characters. Sure, antagonists are required to create conflict in stories, but there need to be reasons for their antagonistic actions.

If you can’t explain why your antagonist wants what they want – if you can’t give them interesting and believable motivations – they’ll simply become a plot device rather than a fully fleshed-out character.

We think author Michelle Hodkin sums it up best:

The villain is the hero of her own story. Everyone has reasons for what they do.”

It’s a similar situation with protagonists. Everyone loves to read about a hero – but no one really connects with a protagonist who has no flaws in their personality or their motivations.

Remember that your characters should not be black-and-white – no real person is. Humans are complex creatures. Good people can be motivated by ‘bad’ or selfish reasoning, and bad people are often motivated by what they believe to be good or right.

3. What do your characters’ motivations reveal about them?

Your characters’ reasons for doing what they do can say a lot about who they are. Exploring their various motivations is a great method of character development.

Your characters’ motivations can provide important insight into:

  • Their values, morals and beliefs.
  • Their hopes, dreams and fears.
  • Their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Events in their past that have influenced who they are today.

When you’re determining what drives each of your characters, consider what those motivations might reveal about them, and how this might help you to paint a more detailed, nuanced character portrait.

A note of caution, though: when revealing character through motivations, actions and reactions, it’s better to be subtle rather than blatant.

There’s no need to directly unpack and explain your characters’ every decision or action. Sometimes, it pays to let readers work out characters’ motivations for themselves, with only a little subtle guidance from you.

As the folks over at Now Novel point out…

It feels stagy when characters announce their motivations explicitly. Showing what drives them as a building arrangement of memories, fears, beliefs and ongoing experiences will make it easier for readers to draw their own conclusions about characters’ behaviour and what it means.”

4. How do your characters’ motivations change throughout the story?

People change. Whether through the natural process of growing older, through certain events and circumstances, or a combination of all of the above, no one remains the exact same person throughout their entire life.

Demonstrating this change through evolving and transforming motivations can help you create truly realistic, complex, and convincing characters.

Let’s go back to our example of Professor Dumbledore. A complex character with a compelling backstory, Dumbledore’s motivations change throughout the course of his life and the course of the Harry Potter story.

When we learn about a younger Dumbledore’s affiliation with the dark wizard, Grindelwald, we get an insight into his key motivation as a young man: power. This motivation led him to make plans with Grindelwald to place wizards in a place of supremacy above non-magic folk, supposedly ‘for the greater good’.

However, by the time we meet Dumbledore in the present, his motivations have changed entirely.

He now leads the fight against Lord Voldemort, who is following in Grindelwald’s footsteps and seeking domination over wizards and Muggles alike. There are numerous motivations leading Dumbledore to these actions: primarily, atonement for his past mistakes, and a desire for peace and harmony in the wizarding world (and the Muggle one).

This is a great example of how a character’s motivations can change drastically throughout a story, and how you can use these motivations to develop more interesting and realistic characters.

5. Are your characters’ motivations really theirs – or are they yours?

When examining your characters’ actions and decisions, it can be all too easy to justify them using your own authorial motivations, rather than the actual motivations of the characters. It’s important to distinguish between the two.

To do this, you must be honest with yourself. Question whether you’re steering the story in a particular direction because that’s where the characters are naturally taking you – or simply because that’s where you want the story to go.

We’re not saying there’s anything wrong with having a plan and a direction for your story. We’re simply encouraging you to recognise when you may be forcing your characters’ motivations to suit you.

One way to avoid doing this is to make sure you know your characters inside out. If you know everything about them, you’re better able to understand how they would naturally act and react in certain situations. This will help you determine whether the path you’ve set them on is a believable one.

If you’re having trouble becoming an expert on your characters, there are a few things you can do to get to know them better. Try writing out some background in the form of a short story or a biography/life history. Complete a questionnaire from their perspective, or just answer some key questions about their past. See my previous post on writing round characters for more ideas if you need them.

The better you know your characters, the better you’re able to ensure you’re presenting their motivations, actions and decisions in a convincing and compelling way.

***

When it comes down to it, your characters’ motivations are the central driving force behind your story. That’s why it’s so important to get them right!

Via: https://writersedit.com/fiction-writing/5-key-questions-to-ask-about-character-motivations/

Guide To World-Building: How To Write Fantasy, Sci-Fi And Real-Life Worlds

SciFi-Worlds

World-building is so much more than just a framing device. It’s the very essence of any good fantasy or science fiction story, and the basis of a sense of place in other genres. Good world-building lends an immersive richness to your writing, while also giving readers the information they need to understand characters and plot lines.

So, how exactly should writers go about building worlds in their fiction? To find out, we’ll break down the concept of world-building into three main categories:

  • Imaginary worlds – the construction of entirely fictional universes, found primarily in fantasy genres.
  • Alternate reality – re-imaginings of the details of our existing world; popular with writers of science fiction.
  • Actual locations – the invocation of a real place in the world, utilised in novels with no elements of the fantastic.

Let’s begin by entering the wondrous realm of fantasy fiction.

IMAGINARY WORLDS

Creating an imaginary world is one of the most complex types of world-building. It’s most often utilised in fantasy and science fiction, where a writer conjures up from scratch every detail of a world: geography, history, language, lore, characters, social customs, politics, religion…

Understandably, the thought of creating all these elements to form an entire fictional world can be very daunting – and deciding where to start can seem almost impossible! For inspiration, we recommend turning to some of the great world-builders of our time to see how they’ve built up whole universes from nothing.

Deciding on a starting point

J. R. R. Tolkien, author of Lord of the RingsThe Hobbit and countless other classic works, began the development of Middle-earth in an unusual way: by first creating an entire fictional language to be spoken by his characters. A professional philologist and talented linguist, Tolkien developed the Elvish language of Quenya, using it as a base for expanding his imaginary world into the vast, detailed, lore-rich Middle-earth we know today.

Of course, not all writers will be capable of (or interested in) creating a functional, fictional language – but budding world-builders can still follow Tolkien’s lead in order to get started. By pinpointing one aspect of your imaginary world that you’re most interested in or most apt at developing, you’ve got yourself a great starting point. Work hard on this element first, and then concentrate on building up and fleshing out from there. You’ll find that the pieces of your world fall much more easily into place once you have a solid foundation from which to expand.

Asking questions about your world

After you’ve got the ball rolling by establishing a starting point, you’ll need to begin working out the details that make up a convincing, consistent imaginary world. A great way to start doing this is to ask (and answer) a set of questions pertaining to the different aspects of your world.

Approach this exercise as if you were describing your home country to someone who knows nothing about it – or, on a larger scale, as if you were introducing Earth to someone from an alien race. How would you explain:

  • What it looks and feels like – its landscapes, its climate?
  • Its people – their appearance, customs, ethics and values?
  • The dominant forces that shape change and development?

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the potential details you need to cover, it’s advisable to start by creating a list of fundamental questions you need to answer about your world. Many online resources, such as this list from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America website, contain suggested questions about everything from social organisation and government to the rules of magic and technology. (The latter of these is particularly important to keep in mind. Even though your world may be an entirely imaginary one filled with magic or made-up technology, it must still be governed consistently and carefully by the internal logic and laws you set up for it. Its fantastical nature cannot be used as an excuse for lapses in continuity.)

After devising your list, you may feel even more overwhelmed now you have such an expansive range of questions to answer! If this is the case, take a step back and make sure that all the questions you’ve listed really need to be covered. It’s likely that some questions may not apply to or directly affect your characters and narrative, so decide which aspects are most crucial to the stories you want to tell within your world, and focus on answering the most relevant questions.

While you’re answering these world-building questions largely for the benefit of your readers, it’s imperative to keep in mind the age-old advice about showing, not telling. You don’t want readers to feel like they’re simply being spoon-fed a bunch of facts, details and history. The most successful storytelling comes from a subtle, nuanced approach to building your world through narrative detail, description and development.

Drawing inspiration from real life

Even though imagining an entirely new world is one of the most creative processes a writer can undertake, it’s almost impossible to create something entirely from nothing. Naturally – even if only subconsciously – you will adapt and incorporate some real-world elements into your imaginary setting and story, using them as a base of inspiration.

A well-known fantasy epic with strong undertones of historical influence is George R. R. Martin’s series, A Song of Ice and Fire. Martin openly acknowledges the fact that many elements of ASOIAF are inspired by real historical events and locations: the Wars of the Roses, the Glencoe Massacre and Hadrian’s Wall, to name just a few.

If you feel your world is lacking in depth or credibility, perhaps take a leaf from Mr. Martin’s (extremely long) book and delve into some real-world history for inspiration. You may be able to flesh out your world by moulding, adapting or drawing parallels with real-life locations, landmarks, pivotal events, or even historical personalities.

Where reality and fantasy collide

An interesting way to provide contrast or conflict within your story is by developing your fictional world alongside, or within, an established location – for example, right here on Earth. Perhaps the most famous example of this reality/fantasy cross-over is J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, which involves an entirely made-up world of magic that’s hidden away on modern-day Earth. Harry himself, as the main character from whose point of view the story is presented, is as much a stranger to this world as readers are in the beginning. We’re introduced firsthand to every person, place, detail and experience right alongside Harry; as he journeys into this magical new world and has his questions answered, so, too, do we as readers.

As well as adding depth and relatability to your story, such a setting also poses questions about the concept of an alternate reality. Let’s now look at this concept in more detail.

ALTERNATE REALITY

Similar to the creation of an imaginary world, but slightly less demanding due to the existing base you have to work with, the construction of an alternate reality is a type of world-building often found in dystopian, speculative and science fiction. By creating an alternate reality, you are developing an alternative version of our own Earth, imagining how things could be different and posing questions about what these differences would mean for humanity. Authors often use this style of writing to express their thoughts about the flaws of humanity and today’s world, exploring the consequences these flaws may have to potential to produce.

What if?

As a writer imagining an alternate reality, the most important question you can ask is ‘What if?’ This is the base-level query on which your story’s entire premise should be founded, and upon which you will build the individual elements of your world. For example:

  • What if a particular, important historical event had never happened?
  • What if our planet and its inhabitants had evolved differently?
  • What if a fundamental aspect of life as we know it was to change suddenly?
  • What if we invented new technology that could accomplish wonderful/terrible things?
  • What if we could visit or communicate with other life forms (or vice versa)?

These are the type of questions you should be asking as you develop the differences between your world and the real world. They are the essence of the changes, challenges and consequences you should examine through your alternate setting, its characters and their narrative.

Belief and disbelief

A key difference between creating an alternate reality and creating an imaginary world is the suspension of disbelief you can expect from your readers. The imaginary worlds of fantasy and science fiction we examined above – Westeros and Essos, the kingdoms of Middle-earth – imagine an entirely new world, quite unrelated to our own. Due to this complete removal from reality, readers automatically enter with a higher level of tolerance for things that may otherwise have jarred the story’s logic or lifted them out of the moment. Readers would never think to question, for example, the fact that a single magic ring has the power to rule the world; they’re also less likely to query the fact that a teenage girl is slowly conquering a kingdom when there are dragons involved in the equation!

In alternate reality fiction, however, you may have to work a little harder to draw readers deep into your world – and keep them there. The slightly familiar settings, warped realities and semi-relatable human scenarios presented in this type of storytelling will heighten readers’ senses of what’s believable and what’s not. Therefore, you’ll need to convince them that everything happening in your story is a realistic possibility for the Earth on which it is based. Let’s look at some of the best ways to achieve this.

Past, present or future?

One of the best ways to begin establishing your alternate reality is by clarifying the time period in which you want it to be set. When will your story take place in relation to the real world? Is it:

Each of these approaches has its own advantages and benefits, and each lends itself well to different purposes. You’ll need to decide which of these settings best serves the particular story you want to tell.

If you choose to rewrite the past, you are employing the gift of hindsight to imagine what could have been; think of it as alternate reality historical fiction, if you will. A well-known example is sci-fi author Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, which explores our world ‘as it might have been’ if the outcome of World War II had been different. Likewise, the majority of volumes in Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series take place in an alternative 1985, where England and Russia have been fighting the Crimean War for over a century. Not restricted to reimaginings of definitive wartime conflicts, however, this method of storytelling is also a popular vehicle for stories about time travel; H. G. Wells’ pivotal novel The Time Machine and more recent books such as Stephen King’s 11/22/63 are great examples of time-travel tropes used effectively to explore alternate realities.

Stories set in the present, on the other hand, have an element of immediacy and can be more easily related to by the reader. This type of story can often be considered similar to those that rewrite the past, as it often imagines drastically altered historical events preceding its own setting. However, the main difference is that present-day stories focus solely on portraying of an alternate version of today’s world, rather than rewriting the history that has come before. As we mentioned above, the Harry Potter series, while primarily a fantasy, might also be considered an alternate reality; it takes place on Earth, in the modern-day U.K., but is largely set within a magical world that lies hidden within our own. Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia employ similar settings of an unknown world-within-a-world.

Finally, imagining the future can serve as a warning or projection of what might be to come if the present-day world does not change its ways. George Orwell’s seminal work, 1984, is a classic example of this; published in 1949, it leaps almost 40 years into the future to make bold extrapolations about the potential dangers of politics and technology. Similarly, Suzanne Collins’ wildly popular Hunger Games trilogy, as well as Aldous Huxley’s esteemed 1931 novel Brave New World, both pose questions about the demoralisation of the human race, depicting the type of scenario that could be in store for our future.

Know your building blocks

In order to portray a compelling alternate version of the world, you must first be well-versed in the facts of the real version. Whether you’re setting your alternate reality in a real-world location or reimagining a history event, learn all you can about its real counterpart and incorporate your knowledge into your new interpretation.

As mentioned above, Orwell’s 1984 is perhaps the most well-known example of a novel exploring an alternate reality. On the surface, it’s a story about an alien-sounding, utilitarian nation that’s as far removed as possible from the Earth we knew in 1984. However, when we look a little deeper (as most of us were forced to do as high school English students), the meaningful real-world allegories Orwell is drawing – Soviet Union politics, life in wartime Britain – become all too clear. It’s obvious he really knew his stuff before bringing to life his alternate futuristic vision.

The end of the world as we know it

Dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction has seen a meteoric rise in recent years, especially in the young adult sub-genre. The Hunger Games trilogy, perhaps the most popular of the bunch, has spawned a plethora of YA novels set in reimagined versions of Earth, and it’s easy to see why. Imagining a global-scale apocalyptic event gives you the freedom to predict how humanity might rebuild itself after such a disaster – a meaty subject to tackle.

A key decision to be made when writing in this genre is how you will treat the apocalyptic event itself. The most common choice is to set the narrative after the event and describe its consequences (hence ‘post-apocalyptic fiction’ becoming a well-known genre in itself).

Series such as the Hunger Games and Maze Runner trilogies, as well as standalone novels like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Richard Matheson’s much-adapted I Am Legend, choose the post-apocalyptic path. I Am Legend and the Maze Runner books allude to a deadly global pandemic, while The Hunger Games and The Road both choose not to disclose the manner of the cataclysm that preceded their events. Ultimately, you’ll need to decide if clarifying the apocalyptic event is necessary by considering the ways it could benefit or detract from your story.

Despite the prevalence of the post-apocalyptic approach, remember that you also have the option to portray the actual details of the global catastrophe as it happens, as well as the series of events leading up to it. If you choose this method of storytelling, you may wish to consult some novels that handle it particularly well, including Lucifer’s Hammer by Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven, The Stand by Stephen King and Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood.

Now, if you’re not a writer of fantasy or science fiction, by this stage you’re probably wondering whether there’s any point in learning about world-building. Well, we’re here to assure you that there is – so read on!

ACTUAL LOCATIONS

In genres other than science fiction and fantasy, the practice of world-building is more commonly known as creating a sense of place. Place has an important role in every story, and is often used to great effect in literary fiction. In novels with an especially strong sense of place, the setting virtually becomes a character in itself; it embodies, reflects, supports and enhances the narrative at every turn. So how can you build and develop a deep, engrossing and original portrait of an existing location?

Pack your bags

The first piece of advice for anyone wishing to infuse their work with a sense of place is also the most obvious: go to that place! Whenever possible, spending a good amount of time ‘on location’ wherever you’re setting your story is the best thing you can do as a writer. Bonus points if you’re writing about the place in which you’ve grown up or spent the majority of your life; if you know the place inside-out, it’s going to be much easier to paint a convincing and engaging picture for your readers.

The Brontë sisters are a fantastic example of writers drawing on personal influences and surroundings to create a strong sense of place. Emily’s only novel, Wuthering Heights,interweaves a bleak landscape of English moors so powerfully into her narrative that it practically becomes a definitive character in itself. Charlotte’s best-known work, Jane Eyre, creates a compelling portrait of life at a 19th century English boarding school; along with Anne’s first novel, Agnes Grey, Jane Eyre also explores life as a governess in a noble family (and as a woman in Victorian England). However, the Brontës are by no means the be-all-and-end-all of creating a sense of place – pick up any good novel set in a specific location and you’re sure to pick up some tips.

Do your research

Sometimes – for example, in the case of a novel set 50 years in the past – it’s not possible to have an authentic experience of the place you’re writing about. In this case, you will really need to do your research – and we don’t just mean a bit of Googling, because unfortunately, that won’t quite cut it! You’ll need to delve deeply into the history of the place in any way you can: by watching documentaries, visiting museums, reading books and other literature from the time period – seek out anything you can get your hands on and start absorbing it all. If you can, we also strongly recommend speaking to people who were in that place at the right time; there’s no better source than someone who can tell you all about it from firsthand experience.

Historical fiction books are a good resource for those wishing to write immersive, authentic fiction set in past time periods and real locations. An expansive genre, historical fiction contains a wealth of titles from which to gain inspiration and examples, but a good starting place might be exploring the work of:

  • Charles Dickens – A Tale of Two Cities conjures up particularly vivid images of London and Paris during the French Revolution;
  • Chinua Achebe – a Nigerian author whose African trilogy, especially Things Fall Apart, paints a striking portrait of post-colonial Africa;
  • Philippa Gregory – author of The Other Boleyn Girl, who specialises in British historical fiction that mostly examines the stories of the aristocracy.

Other great titles to investigate include Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, which takes place in wartime Germany, and Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha, set in twentieth-century Japan.

Speak with your senses

Building and developing a sense of place is a great excuse to flex your descriptive muscles. But don’t just rely on describing what you see – talk about the sounds, the smells, the feel of your chosen place; the atmosphere and the things that contribute to it; and, perhaps most importantly, the effect the place has on your characters. (On that note, it pays to remember not to get too bogged down in description at the expense of plot and character development. Keep in mind that your invocation of place is ultimately to serve the characters and story within it.)

***

After all that, you’re probably feeling a little overwhelmed by the amount of effort it takes to build a whole world with words – whether that world is fictional, real or somewhere in between. Our suggestion? Take a well-earned break, make a cup of tea, and set aside your world for now. Tomorrow it will still be there waiting for you, and armed with your new knowledge, you’ll be ready to build it from the ground up.

Via https://writersedit.com/fiction-writing/the-ultimate-guide-to-world-building-how-to-write-fantasy-sci-fi-and-real-life-worlds/

The Sound Of A Memoir | Article

Lyrics-in-novel-article

An interesting and useful article about using song lyrics in your novel. Makes for a very informative read. Enjoy!


Music is great for writing. Pop those headphones in, start up your two-hour Epic Music track or your carefully curated, book-specific playlist, get in your headspace and go go go.

Music is not great for reading. When I edit a manuscript with song lyrics used as epigraphs, or quoted from one character to another, or someone singing along, I have standard cut-and-paste language:

Consider whether these lines are necessary: using song lyrics falls under a specific copyright area that is not subject to fair use, and obtaining permission is tedious and can be difficult and expensive.

The short answer to “What about using some song lyrics in my memoir?” is “You can’t.” To elaborate, songs written after 1923-ish (depending on when you read this blog post) are almost certainly under copyright. The singer or band associated with the song may or may not be the writer(s). Once you google to find the writing credits, you’ll need to track down the publisher through ASCAP or BMI. The publisher does not want to talk to you until you have a publication contract, or specific, written publication plans including where you’ll be selling the book, the cover price, and how many copies you’re printing. Then the publisher bills you.

It can get expensive, Blake Morrison tells the Guardian:

I still have the invoices. For one line of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”: £500. For one line of Oasis’s “Wonderwall”: £535. For one line of “When I’m Sixty-four”: £735. For two lines of “I Shot the Sheriff” (words and music by Bob Marley, though in my head it was the Eric Clapton version): £1,000. Plus several more, of which only George Michael’s “Fastlove” came in under £200. Plus VAT. Total cost: £4,401.75.

But what about “fair use”?

Fair use is the legal principle allowing us to quote lines or paragraphs from books under copyright. Quotations are fair use if the number of words used is a very small proportion of the total words in the original work; if the quote is properly attributed; and if it’s essential to the point you’re making in your own work. Song lyrics have not yet been held to a “fair use” standard. Arguably, even a line of a song is a fairly large proportion compared to say, 200 words from a 90,000-word novel. But poetry can be fairly used and often is. What makes songs different?

Publishers with deep pockets, excellent legal teams, and a strong precedent of defending their copyrights.

Beyond legal battles, it’s worth it to consider what impact the quoted lyrics will really have in your book. Does your reader associate “Janie’s Got A Gun” with that beautiful night you sat in a convertible, watching the ocean roll in below the hills? Or does she remember her school’s anti-violence initiative that used the literal message of the song? Will readers from another generation even know the song you’re quoting? Will they think of it as “Mom’s music” instead of “pulse-pounding jam”? Writers can’t control how readers react, so we might as well use words we can craft ourselves.

In the Brevity Podcast Episode 8, Geeta Kothari and I discussed using quotes within essays and stories. In her experience as an editor for Kenyon Review, lyrics often pull the reader out of the story on the page and into their own associations with the song. JoBeth McDaniel, from the Rush editorial board, mentions in the same episode that even quoting other non-song writing raises legal issues that editors just don’t want to deal with.

Sure, it’s a great feeling when a single lyric conjures up a world of emotion in our heart. But it’s both uncertain and a bit lazy to expect that line to do the same for every reader. Instead, ask yourself what emotional purpose that song serves, and put that feeling in the setting, in the narrative, in the dialogue. Or obliquely quote in a way that makes knowledge of the original song unnecessary:

He banged his head to Sweet Child O’ Mine and I wished hard I could like Guns N Roses. (Titles are OK!)

On the radio, Springsteen was on fire, singing his creepy lyrics about Daddy not being home.

We rolled down the windows and cranked up the stereo–GooGooDolls, The Cure, KLM, all the music everyone was listening to, the bass throbbing in my chest and making me feel like I was part of everyone.

You’ve got something important to say. Don’t lean on a song to say it for you. Use your words. Use your images. Use your experiences. Trust in your power to create your own music in the reader’s head.

***

Via: https://brevity.wordpress.com/2018/04/24/the-sound-of-a-memoir/

Create Compelling Characters With These 3 Types of Character Arcs

Characters2

We all know that crafting believable characters with strong motivations is vital in fiction writing. But how do you ensure that your characters remain compelling throughout the course of your story?

The answer is simple: make sure they all have strong character arcs.

What is a character arc?

A character arc is basically the journey a character undertakes over the course of a story. But this doesn’t mean a physical journey.

We’re talking about an inner journey: one that makes a character grow, learn, change, evolve, or even completely transform as the story unfolds.

Generally, this means that a character begins the story as one person, transforms, grows or changes throughout, and ends the story as a different sort of person. In other words, a round character.

Think of it this way: all good stories revolve around conflict. This usually comes in the form of obstacles, both external and internal, that a character must overcome. In order to overcome the obstacles, the character needs to grow or change in some way. And that’s where the character arc comes in.

Obviously, no two character arcs in fiction are exactly the same. But there are three basic archetypes that the majority of character arcs fall into.

Let’s take a look at those now.

 

The 3 basic types of character arcs

1. Change/transformation arc

The first and perhaps most common arc is one of change and/or complete transformation. It goes hand-in-hand with the hero’s journey – a plot structure found in more books and films than you can count.

This character arc involves a complete change from ‘regular’ person to hero or saviour. Usually reserved for main characters/protagonists, the change/transformation arc usually begins with a plain old ordinary person who’s something of an underdog, or at least seems rather unlikely to be saving the world anytime soon.

However, as the story unfolds, this character undergoes a transformation – usually quite a radical one. Drawing on some inner strength, talent or drive they didn’t know they had, the character ultimately achieves success in what they’ve set out to do – and basically becomes a completely different person in the process.

Well-known examples of this type of character arc include:

  • Harry Potter in the Harry Potter series
  • Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit
  • Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars series
  • Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games series

As you may notice, this character arc is perhaps most common in genre fiction such as fantasy or sci-fi. This is largely due to the mythic/epic quality of the ‘hero’s journey’ narrative – the theory of which has its origins in studies of mythology.

Writing a change/transformation arc

Perhaps the most useful concept to keep in mind when writing this type of arc is that of the lie your character believes.

Most, if not all change arcs involve the character in question believing a particular lie or misconception about themselves or the world around them. The character then discovers the truth, and the way they react to this discovery – how they change in the face of it – forms the basis of their character arc.

This doesn’t necessarily have to be a single lie or misconception, especially if the character arc stretches across multiple books in a series.

In the Harry Potter series, for example, the initial ‘lie’ that Harry believes is a literal lie told to him by the Dursleys: that he is an ordinary boy whose parents died in a car crash. He soon discovers the truth: that he is actually a wizard, and that he survived an attack from an evil wizard who killed his parents.

This sets off Harry’s character arc – his transformation from ordinary boy to brave, world-saving wizard who defeats Lord Voldemort. However, there are many more ‘lies’ that shape and reinforce his arc throughout the series, such as his perception of Severus Snape and the major reveal about his fate as one of Voldemort’s Horcruxes.

So when writing a change/transformation arc, ask yourself: what lie or lies does my character believe? How will they discover the truth? And how will this discovery lead them to change or be completely transformed as a person?

2. Growth arc

This type of arc is different from the above, in that the character grows, but does not necessarily undergo a complete change or transformation.

By the end of the story, they are still essentially the same person, but they have overcome something within themselves. As a result, they are a better or more rounded person, or simply different in some way.

Growth can also be achieved by the character changing their perspective, learning something new, or having a different role by the end of the story.

Basically, this arc is a little more subtle than the ‘hero’s journey’-style arc; in a growth arc, the character won’t end up being the saviour of the universe, but they will have grown, developed and changed in some way.

Well-known examples of this type of character arc include:

  • Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice
  • Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby
  • Jaime Lannister in the A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones series
  • Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings series

Just as the change/transformation arc is used most often in sci-fi and fantasy, the growth arc tends to be more common in literary fiction (but, being perhaps the most ‘general’ type of character arc, it’s found across all genres and styles).

Writing a growth arc

Growth arcs work particularly well for secondary characters, especially if your main character is undergoing a complete change/transformation arc. Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings, for example, experiences a growth arc, while the main protagonist Frodo Baggins undergoes more of a transformation.

While Frodo is totally and irrevocably changed by his experience with the One Ring – symbolised by him leaving the Shire to find peace instead in the Undying Lands – Sam is essentially the same hobbit after his journey, albeit a wiser and more weathered one. He returns to life in the Shire, different but not totally transformed.

When writing growth arcs, compare your character at the beginning and end of the story and ask yourself: at their core, are they essentially the same person? Would they be able to return to ‘regular life’, just with a different perspective, worldview or way of doing things?

As long as your character has learned something, changed their perspective, or improved an aspect of themselves throughout the story, they’ve experienced a growth arc – even if, in their heart, they’re the same homely hobbit they’ve always been.

3. Fall arc

While the above two types of character arc are generally positive, this is a negative arc. It involves the decline or ‘fall’ of a character through bad choices they have made, which ultimately doom them (and potentially others).

By the end of this arc, the character has usually either died, become corrupted, or lost their mind (or if they’re lucky, all three). They have likely ruined their own life as well as the lives of others, and have experienced no redemption or salvation – only downfall.

In the most extreme form of the ‘fall’ arc, the character begins the story as a good/happy/successful person, but by the end of the story is completely unrecognisable – basically the polar opposite of the positive change/transformation arc we discussed above.

Well-known examples of this type of character arc include:

  • Walter White in Breaking Bad
  • Hamlet in Shakespeare’s Hamlet
  • Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader in the Star Wars series
  • Dorian Gray in The Picture of Dorian Gray

This type of arc is seen a lot in classic tragedy, but is also common in modern literature and film.

Writing a fall arc

Author K. M. Weiland posits that there are three sub-types when it comes to this arc:

  • ‘Typical’ fall – the character changes for the worse through bad decisions.
  • Corruption – the character changes for the worse but ends up embracing the change.
  • Disillusionment – the character discovers a truth about the world that leaves them unhappy or bitter at the end of the story. (This type is sometimes better applied to the growth style of arc, as it doesn’t necessarily involve a complete transformation, just a change of perspective within the character.)

Fall arcs are perhaps most commonly used in creating villains. They’re particularly effective when the character begins as someone who could be perceived as the hero, but undergoes a negative transformation and becomes a villain or antagonist instead (plot twist!).

When writing a fall arc, it helps to consider whether you want readers to be sympathetic to your character. If so, perhaps go down the route of a traditional ‘fall’ arc or a disillusionment; if not, you can create a full corruption arc, in which the character is as terrible as they come!

Be sure to keep things realistic when it comes to character motivations, though – there’s no point giving a character a negative or ‘villain’ arc if there aren’t believable motivations behind it.

 

A note on flat character arcs

Something to remember: not all characters need to experience a major, defined character arc.

Flat character arcs, while much less common than the types we’ve discussed above, do exist. They involve no change or growth within the character, who’s exactly the same at the end of the story as they were at the beginning.

Flat character arcs are most often found within certain genres, such as mystery (e.g. Sherlock Holmes), adventure (e.g. Indiana Jones), and spy thriller (e.g. Jack Reacher, James Bond).

However, flat character arcs can and do exist within all genres and styles of story. Many minor characters experience flat arcs, leaving the more defined arcs for the protagonist and other main characters.

An important note, though: be careful not to confuse a flat character arc with a lack of development for your character. Sometimes, if your character’s arc appears quite static, it means they are underdeveloped and that their journey and characterisation need to be more compelling – especially if they are a major character.

***

Happy writing!

Via: https://writersedit.com/fiction-writing/create-compelling-characters-character-arcs/

Cassandra Clare: ‘We need more gay relationships in young adult fiction’

Cassandra-Clare

(Photo by Rex/Moviestore)

Found this article very interesting, it raises a good point. Enjoy!


Cassandra Clare, the New York bestselling author of the Mortal Instruments series, has called for more representation of homosexual relationships in Young Adult fiction.

Clare told the teenage visitors to the Hay Festival that publishers turned her award-winning novels down because one of its main characters, Shadowhunter Alec Lightwood, was gay and embarked on a relationship with another young man, Magnus Bane.

“If publishers are throwing up roadblocks to wider representation of different parts of society, then we need to try harder to write books about them,” she said.

Answering a question from the audience, Clare explained that she knew it “would be a problem” to have a gay character in her novels, but that the character Alec developed his homosexuality as she wrote.

“Sometimes characters tell you things about themselves,” she said, “Alec was angry, and I realised he was in love with [his adopted brother] Jace”.

Clare’s books portray the ostracism some young homosexual people sometimes face. Alec is excluded by his people for being gay. After he made his relationship with Magnus public, he inspired other young Shadowhunters to open up about their sexuality.

Magnus and Alec’s relationship is popular with readers of The Mortal Instruments series. During her talk, Clare read from part of the forthcoming Bane Chronicles which detailed voicemail messages that had been left on Magnus’s phone after the end of his relationship with Alec.

Clare admitted that even she found it difficult to remember aspects of the unwieldy universe she had created for her novels, and that she had made a ‘Shadowhunter Codex’ full of “family trees and massive amounts of notes” that she now uses as a research tool.

***

Via: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/Cassandra-Clare-we-need-more-gay-relationships-in-young-adult-fiction.html

How To Plan Your Novel Using The Three-Act Structure

Three-act-structure_1

Writing a novel is hard, especially if you’ve never done it before. You’ve spent hours researching, building your world and becoming an expert on your characters. Now you’re ready for the next step: planning (also known as plotting).

While some people like to write organically (letting the story take you in whatever direction feels right), having a detailed outline can help make the novel-writing process a lot less daunting and overwhelming. But how exactly do you plan a novel?

Essentially, there is no right or wrong way to outline your novel. Each story is different and needs to be told in a different way.

However, if you need a bit more guidance on how to plot out the next bestseller you know you have inside you, the three-act structure might be for you.

Defining The Three-Act Structure

The three-act structure is a popular screenwriting technique that revolves around constantly creating set-ups, conflicts and resolutions. With this structure, a novel is divided into three acts: a beginning, a middle and an end.

There are many versions of the three-act structure. In some, the middle is the same size as the beginning and end put together.

However, when you’re first starting out, it’s much easier to plan each act to be the same length. In this version of the three-act structure, each act is divided into nine chapters for 27 chapters in total. The nine chapters in each act are also split into three blocks of three chapters each.

This version creates a fast-paced novel that invites readers to keep turning your pages. If you’re still unconvinced, for an example Suzanne Collins’ bestselling young adult Hunger Games trilogy follows this structure almost perfectly.

Throughout this article, we’ll take a look at what each section of the three-act structure involves, using examples from The Hunger Games to demonstrate each element. (SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t read or seen The Hunger Games and don’t want key plot points spoiled, read on at your own risk!)

Act One (set-up)

The first act is used to introduce the reader to the world your characters live in and to set up the coming conflict.

Block One – Introduce Hero in Ordinary World

  • Chapter 1: Introduction (set up)
  • Chapter 2: Inciting incident (conflict)
  • Chapter 3: Immediate reaction (resolution)

In the first chapter, you need to set up your hero in their ordinary world. Introduce us to your characters and the relationships and conflicts between them. In The Hunger Games, the first chapter introduces the dystopian world and the Reaping.

The inciting incident in Chapter Two is the event or decision that sets your hero along the path of your narrative. The inciting incident is really important – without it, your story would not occur. The inciting incident in The Hunger Games is Katniss volunteering herself for the Hunger Games to save her sister; if Katniss didn’t volunteer, the rest of the novel would not have happened.

In the third chapter, the hero reacts to the inciting incident. The immediate reaction in The Hunger Games is when Katniss’ family and friends come to say goodbye to her before she leaves for the Games.

Block Two – Problem Disrupts Hero’s Life

  • Chapter 4: Reaction (set-up)
  • Chapter 5: Action (conflict)
  • Chapter 6: Consequence (resolution)

Chapter Four is where the hero reacts to and reflects on the long-term impacts of the inciting incident. In Chapter Four, Katniss reflects on the impact her death would have on her community, especially her mother and sister. Katniss also starts to discuss strategy with Haymitch, her mentor.

As a result of their reflection, the hero decides to take action and do something to change their situation in Chapter Five. In The Hunger Games, Katniss takes her first step towards winning the Games in the parade of tributes. Her fiery dress and attitude win over the crowd.

Chapter Six details the immediate consequences of the action the hero took in Chapter Five. In The Hunger Games, Katniss discusses the success of the parade with Haymitch. She also reflects on her past and the difficulty of rebellion.

Block Three – Hero’s Life Changes Direction

  • Chapter 7: Pressure (set-up)
  • Chapter 8: Pinch (conflict)
  • Chapter 9: Push (resolution)

The hero’s life has changed as a result of the action they took in Chapter Five, and this creates a lot of pressure and stress in Chapter Seven. The pressure is obvious in Chapter Seven of The Hunger Games. Here, Katniss has her demonstration where she shows the Gamemakers her archery skills by shooting an arrow towards them in frustration.

In Chapter Eight, the first pinch – or plot twist – occurs. A good plot twist is something completely unexpected for the reader. The first pinch in The Hunger Games is Katniss receiving a score of 11, something completely unexpected.

As a result of the pinch, the hero is pushed into a new world in Chapter Nine. The majority of this chapter in The Hunger Games centres around the television interviews with Caesar, the last formality before the tributes are sent into the Games. Here, Peeta declares his love for Katniss.

Act Two (conflict)

The second act is full of conflict. Character development is crucial in the second act; the hero at the end of Act One does not yet have the tools (whether those tools be emotional, physical or literal items the hero must retrieve) to succeed in the third act, so Act Two is all about the journey.

Block Four – Hero Explores New World

  • Chapter 10: New world (set-up)
  • Chapter 11: Fun and games (event/conflict)
  • Chapter 12: Old world contrast (resolution)

Chapter 10 allows you to introduce the reader to the new world. What has changed, and how does the hero feel about it? In Chapter 10, Katniss finally enters the Hunger Games.

In Chapter 11, the hero can take a break and have a little fun. Maybe they have a date with their new lover, or maybe they do something they’ve never done before. Here, Katniss travels through the arena looking for water, and while she is still in an intense environment, she has a bit of a break.

Chapter 12 is time for the hero to compare their current world to how things were at the novel’s beginning. After realising Peeta has teamed up with her enemies, Katniss reflects on their relationship and compares this Peeta to the person she was friends with.

Block Five – Crisis of New World

  • Chapter 13: Build-up (set-up)
  • Chapter 14: Midpoint (conflict)
  • Chapter 15: Reversal (resolution)

The fifth block is all about the midpoint, or the main crisis or conflict of your novel.

Chapter 13 is the build-up to the midpoint and Chapter 14 is the midpoint itself. A good midpoint will dramatically change the hero or impact their life in a negative way. In The Hunger Games, Katniss is pushed towards the Career tributes in Chapter 13, and escapes from them after Peeta saves her in Chapter 14.

Chapter 15 is the immediate reaction or consequence of the midpoint. Here, Katniss makes an alliance with Rue and they formulate a plan to take down the Career tributes.

Block Six – Finding a Solution

  • Chapter 16: Reaction (set-up)
  • Chapter 17: Action (conflict)
  • Chapter 18: Dedication (resolution)

In Chapter 16, the hero reflects on the long-term impacts of the midpoint. In The Hunger Games, Katniss realises that to take down the Careers, they need to stop their food supply.

In Chapter 17, the hero decides to take action to resolve the problem created by the midpoint; however, they realise the enormity of their task when things don’t necessarily go to plan. In Chapter 17, Katniss blows up the Career’s food supply, but before she and Rue can celebrate, Rue is attacked by another tribute.

Despite the set-backs, in Chapter 18 the hero decides that they will succeed no matter what. Rue dies in Chapter 18, and Katniss promises to win for her.

Act Three (resolution)

The final act is all about resolutions. In the third act, the hero needs to find solutions to the conflict created by the midpoint, and you as the author need to make sure you tie up all the loose ends.

Block Seven – Victory Seems Impossible

  • Chapter 19: Trials (set-up)
  • Chapter 20: Pinch (event/conflict)
  • Chapter 21: Darkest moment (resolution)

In Chapter 19, the hero faces significant trials. These trials are extremely difficult for the hero and is something the hero has never experienced before. Here, Katniss races to find Peeta and struggles to help save his injured leg.

Chapter 20 is the second pinch, where the hero experiences something completely unexpected that makes everything even worse. In Chapter 20, Peeta’s injury leads to blood poisoning.

This plot twist leads to the darkest moment in Chapter 21 where the thought of success is incomprehensible. Here, Katniss risks everything to get medicine for Peeta, and the chapter ends with her passing out from her own injuries.

Block Eight – Hero Finds Power

  • Chapter 22: Power within (set-up)
  • Chapter 23: Action (conflict)
  • Chapter 24: Converge (resolution)

Having hit rock-bottom, the hero remembers their desire to succeed in Chapter 18 and finds the power within to continue on. In Chapter 22, Katniss and Peeta both start to recover from their injuries.

After deciding they can do it, the hero takes action in Chapter 23, and this action causes the plotlines to converge and come together in Chapter 24. In Chapter 23, Peeta and Katniss realise how close they are to winning, and in Chapter 24 all of the tributes are pushed towards the lake by the Gamemakers for the final battle.

Block Nine – Hero Fights and Wins

  • Chapter 25: Battle (set-up)
  • Chapter 26: Climax (conflict)
  • Chapter 27: Resolution (resolution)

Block nine is the finale. In Chapter 25, the character has one last battle. This doesn’t have to be a physical battle – it could be a fight between friends or lovers, or a mental battle your hero has with themselves. Here, Peeta and Katniss try to survive the freezing night and kill Cato.

Chapter 26 is the final climax. The decisions the hero makes here will impact the rest of their life; it is the point of no return. In The Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta pretend to eat the poisonous berries, which leads to President Snow stopping them by declaring them both winners. However, Katniss realises that despite winning the Games, she’s now in even more danger.

Chapter 27 is the resolution or the immediate reaction to the hero’s decision in the last chapter. Here, Katniss and Peeta finally get to go home.

The way you end your novel is up to you. You might choose to explain everything, or leave some things (or a lot of things) up to your reader’s imagination. It could be a happy heroic ending, or it could be a tragedy where everyone dies.

Either way, congratulations! You’ve planned a novel.

***

One last thing to note: When you start to plan your novel using this structure it’s important to remember it’s just a guideline. You don’t have to change your story to suit the structure; you can change the structure to suit your story. If your plot twist would make more sense earlier or later, move it. These aren’t hard rules. Do what is right for your story.  So take a deep breath, set yourself up in your favourite place to write and start planning!

Via: https://writersedit.com/plan-novel-using-three-act-structure/