Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Big Bang Theory--Creating Great Beginnings

Here are the PowerPoint notes from the writing workshop held on August 11.  I highly encourage you to purchase the books recommended.  Mark them up and practice the concepts they teach.  You'll learn far more from these amazing authors and teachers than you will from me! 

Part 1: Story basics—review
žCharacters are key. 

žPoint of view—the point of view character provides the body and mind through which we experience the story.

žEmotion is the key to any story. The point of view character shows us how to feel about the story’s events.

žStories start with character and continue with conflict.  Without conflict, there is no story.

žThe choice cycle is the basic element of fiction.  It ties your reader into point of view, provides setting through sensory input, and provides emotional interpretation of events through the character’s evaluation and choice
 žIf the choice cycle is the story atom, then scenes and sequels are story molecules—scenes and sequels are made of choice cycles. 
žA scene is a unit of action measured in time.  A scene happens in the "now".

žA sequel is a unit of emotion.

žFor more information, read Scene & Structure by Jack M. Bickham.  Click here to purchase.

žThe plotline is made of scenes and sequels, just as scenes and sequels are made of choice cycles. 
žThe plotline has roughly the same format as a choice cycle.  It has an inciting incident (sensory input), followed by a character goal (emotion, evaluation, choice), followed by action.

žThe first 500 words of a novel will often determine whether an editor, agent, or reader will take the time to read the whole novel. 

žIf the first 500 words are as close to perfect as possible, editors, agents, and readers will often overlook minor flaws long enough to read your novel. 

žThe self-concept is how the point of view character sees or defines himself. 
žIt involves a deep, psychological view.
žThe story opening contains an inciting incident that challenges the self-concept.
žThe story worthy problem involves the character’s self-concept, and the inciting incident reveals the tip of this iceberg.

žThe Inciting Incident is usually big, exciting, and highly important to the point of view character—it challenges the self-concept.

žSurface problems don’t necessarily challenge the self-concept directly, but they require immediate response and are related to the inciting incident through the choice cycle chain.  They inspire your character to set short-term goals.  You will have several surface problems.  They are steps toward the climax, and will increase in tension as you near the climax—rising action. 

žThe story-worthy problem is the underlying problem that exists throughout the story.  It is the problem that will only be solved by the climax.  The opening of the story will hint at the story-worthy problem, but the point of view character and the audience will not be fully aware of it until the resolution.   

žThe story-worthy problem is inextricably tied to the character’s self-concept. 
žIt is the underlying problem that exists throughout the story.
žIt will not be solved until the resolution.
žExample: “Thelma and Louise”

Thelma sees herself as an ordinary woman who has difficulty pleasing her husband.  She keeps trying to please him, believing that someday she will, and their marriage will be happy. 

Her husband is rude to her despite her humility, and she chooses to sneak out with her friend, Louise, without asking his permission.  This is the inciting incident and the pivotal choice.  The incident challenges her self-concept because on some level, she realizes she will never please Darryl and be happy at the same time. 

Each choice she makes afterward presents a new problem (surface problems)—she goes out and a man hits on her and tries to rape her, then Louise shoots and kills him. Thelma can’t go to the police, or she’ll have to tell Darryl that she went out without his permission.  As the story goes on, she realizes she has a deep, psychological problem—she allows men to push her around. The story-problem lies in her self-concept. 

In the climax, she changes her self-concept.  She is a woman who will not be taken prisoner or change herself and her desires to please any man.
žThe inciting incident must be a dramatic scene—not a melodramatic scene.
Your point of view character must feel at a crossroads—there must be tension and an immediate need.
The character must be allowed to make a choice, and that choice will cause change.
Express emotion through understated action.
“If the character cries on the page… the reader won’t.”  --Toni Morrison
žMust be a scene, not a sequel. 
Comprised primarily of sensory input, choice, and action. Minimal back story—set up only.  NO EXPOSITION.
žMust challenge your character’s self-concept and force him/her to make a choice.

žSurface problems make up the bulk of your story and provide conflict, choice, and rising action. 

žProgress your character from the inciting incident to the climax. 

žSet-up happens in the story opening.  It is very concise and includes only what is absolutely necessary to set the tone and help us get acquainted with the character.  
žBack Story is also concise.  It appears throughout the novel, revealing what happened to the point of view character prior to the inciting incident.  It is triggered by sensory input and is only mentioned when it influences the “now” of the story.  This includes flashbacks, which are told in scene form.
žExposition is an element that is generally not used in modern fiction.  It includes long sections of back story which are told, not shown.  It is an indicator of an older style of fiction.

žSet up creates the “now”.

Setting established through sensory input.

Powerful characters introduced. (powerful=characters who influence the plot through their choices)

Point of view and voice established

POV character’s self-concept revealed through choice cycle—emotion, evaluation, and choice.

žBack story reveals information about the character, but that information isn’t needed to accomplish the above. 
žThe pivotal choice is possibly the most important choice the character will make. 
žIt is a choice made in response to the inciting incident.
žIt must be consistent with the character, but may represent the feeling that the camel’s back is broken—that’s the last straw!
žEverything in the character’s life will be different because of this pivotal choice.
žThe pivotal choice is important because it ensures that whatever happens, it is ultimately the main character’s responsibility.  Thus, it is a character-driven story.

žIntroduce the story worthy problem through an inciting incident. 

žChallenge the main character’s self-concept.

žForce the character to make a choice.

žHook the reader

Anything can act as a hook.  A hook is something that intrigues the reader and forms a question in his mind that he longs to have answered.

žOpening lines
žPhysical objects with symbolic meaning
žUnique setting/characters
žIntriguing questions
žHints toward what’s to come—foreshadowing

Now available for Kindle!

A couple of days ago, I got an unexpected check in the mail.  Just over $7.  It's better than a kick in the teeth!  But the coolest thing about this check is that it is a royalty check from the re-release of all three of my books for Kindle!  Apparently, the books were released in January, and I never even knew it.  I guess that explains why they wouldn't release the rights to me--they had plans.  :) 

So, if you like the Kindle and you don't have my book yet, check it out.  And if you know someone who would like any of my books, pass on the info.  Yay! 

Here's the link.