Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Writing a First Chapter - No Problem No Pain

Although it came out two years ago, I've only finally watched Wreck-It Ralph.  I have to say, for a surreal gaming world, it had a smooth overall style which at first I didn't expect.  But that's something I might talk about more later.  In a review (if that's the right word), perhaps.

In any case, I noticed an important plot element that was established in the very first minutes of the story.  There's a problem.  A big problem.  At least for Ralph.

But that problem wasn't the inciting incident (though to be fair, it is what caused it).  In any case, my point is that there's something wrong with Ralph's state.  The inciting incident didn't create the problem - the problem already exists.

Why did I bother to bring this up?  Maybe because you, like me, have at least once made a mistake concerning this.  On my current novel, I realized I didn't have a problem - a deep problem.  Not one that comes from the inciting incident, but one that has a difficult and sometimes ugly origin.  It could either be a problem for my hero, someone or something he cares about, or for the whole setting.  But there has to be something to motivates the inciting incident.  For Ralph, he needed to find something in life besides being the bad guy.  Something to show him that, even though he's a bad guy, he's not a bad guy.

And that problem spurred the inciting incident, which in turn made its own (and more severe) problems.

In my own story, the inciting incident is the problem of the story (or at least what gets it started).  Sure, I could write a story like that, but this is one large plot tool that so many stories have it's hard to take another path.  And that's not bad - the elements of plot continue to recur in stories because that's what makes good stories.

I was never aware of this plot tool in the past, but now that I am I plan to make good use of this knowledge.  Because if there is no inherent problem that has to be fixed, right from the beginning, what kind of a story would that make it?

Robert McKee says in his book Story, a story should go to polar opposite by the end.  If it has a bad beginning, it should have a good ending.  Or if it has a happy beginning, it should have a sad ending.

I agree with this completely.  Stories are about change - as significant change.  No matter what happens by the time that last word is put down, something changes.  Even in dark stories there is total and complete change.  Change for good, whether that ending is one of joy or not.  All good stories are about transformation, all good stories are about that moment when the problem - even in a world that seems to get along well - is finally solved.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Write It

Write it.
Just write it.

It's 11:00 PM here as I write this.  I'm sniffling as I enter the frigid wasteland of another sickness.  And I'm conflicted.

There's certainly no point in stressing out over a story, am I right?  But somehow, I can't get that through my head.  There's no writer out there who would take his or her writing too lightly as they prepare to send it out to the world's bleak eyes.  And in many cases, this seriousness - the devotion to the story - is good.  When it goes too far though, it will degenerate the writer down with it.  It comes in many ruses, but it comes much of the time because of stress.

I procrastinate when I get doubts and when I'm afraid.  Yes, I'm afraid.  Fearing that this is all for nothing.  And I can't imagine that it isn't a natural feeling.  But right now, why can't I write this?  It's a minute and a half of dialogue.  A few lines, a few words.  Why can't I finish it?  I need it done by tonight.  It shouldn't be that big of a deal!

But I also procrastinate when I'm conflicted.  And I'm conflicted.  And maybe afraid too?  Afraid I could mess this up so much I'll never be able to amend it later.  And once this is done, I won't be able to amend it.  A last minute change to a project before it goes live means there's no more time for continued editing.

Just a few more lines and that's it.  But they're loaded lines.  Meaningful words.  And, as Mr. Schwbauer says, meaning is something (even something very simple) that points to something greater.  These scraps of lines are so significant to the story because they're at the very end.  And they mean something.  They're the end of character arc, they point to something far greater, and simultaneously they expose light to another, more hidden topic the story has hidden before.

And these lines specifically need to explain why.  Why.  And the Whying of any story can kill a writer.  It's telling the audience why this, or why that.  But Whying can be aggravating - because it's telling, not showing.  And that's bad, because the Whying should be the showing, and yet most of the time it's switched with the telling!

Are you confused too?

Yet I'm resolved to write this tonight.  I'm kind of obsessed with it.

Clocking in at 12:10.  I had a long distraction in writing this.  Ah, the distraction of a distraction from trying to write . . .

See you in the morning.


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - March Fourth - Top Ten Popular Authors

Top ten popular authors . . .

That I've never read.

10.  Stephenie Meyer.
       (Thank goodness).  I can't even spell her name without looking it up.  There are a few logical reasons as to why I've never read anything of her's though - let me explain.  Vampire romance.  I think those two words work? ;)

9.  J.K. Rowling.
       As much as I would like to read Harry Potter, I haven't done it.  And watching the movies doesn't count.  Sometime or other I'll buy the series, even for the sake of just reading such an acclaimed series.  And because everyone says her plot weaving is superb.

8.  Stephen King.
       Why am I putting all the really popular authors up at the top?  Because they're the ones that matter least to me.  I've never read any of Stephen King's, and for the most part I don't plan to do so.

7.  George R.R. Martin.
       His books are hardly fit (content wise) for a teenager to read.  Enough said?

6.  William Goldman.
       For as many times as I've looked at that book on Amazon, you would have thought I'd have bought the Princess Bride by now.  But I haven't, and therefore I still haven't read any of William Goldman's work.  Have any of you read the the Princess Bride?

5.  Anne Elisabeth Stengl.
       Popular enough, right?  I would certainly like to read the Goldstone Wood series, and the first book might honestly reach my top ten to read list.  But, as always, I'm such a procrastinator from reading anything.

4.  William Shakespeare.
       While he's technically a playwright, reading his scripts seems the thing to do.  Although I did read a bit of MacBeth at one time (or rather, it was read to me).

3.  Jane Austen.
       Seeing as I don't read much Romance/Romance related books, it makes sense that I never read a Jane Austen.  Nor have I ever finished watching a movie adaption.  The movies have always brought me into a mire of boredom, about which time I hit the off button.

2.  John Green.
       I've been wanting to read the Fault In Our Stars since it came out (what, two years ago?) I've been wanting to read it.  And it's still sitting on my to-read list.

1.  Charles Dickens.
        I CAN'T BELIEVE IT!  Never once have I read a Charles Dickens.  Impossible, you say?  I guess I'm the exception.  And in this case, being the exception isn't fun.  For the sake of all that's writerly good, I must read Little Dorrit, or at least Oliver Twist!
       Truth is, I've actually read Oliver Twist, but it was abbreviated.  Talk about dumbing down society!

- Robert