Monday, November 17, 2014

Writing Basics – Plotting II – Getting Down and Dirty with My Antag

This weekend I put aside some time to start into Book 2 of THE MESSENGERS. Autumn (one of my characters) has been pestering me about continuing with the series, especially since she has a little more page-time in this book. After a few words – oh maybe 20 of them – I recognized that I was going nowhere fast. Generally on good writing days I can knock out 1000-3000 words.  And sometimes I’ll run out of time for the day, but will put in another set the next day, and the next until 15,000 words are in the computer smiling back at me.

But I was looking at 20, and they weren’t smiling. They were laughing. They did that low rumble in the stomach to a full shrill burst-over-the-top pointing at you gut buster. So I did what I always do – Take a walk.

Walking frees my mind and helps me to unwind. Unfortunately it was 50 degrees outside, fortunately it wasn’t the 40 degrees that the weather people said it would be a few days prior. As I was going along, it dawned on me. My Antag was staring at me with one eye brow raised in the air and a palm turned up. “What’s my motivation?” My Antag asked. That’s why I was stuck. ( Read about the importance of Antag’s here.)

Now came the hard part, the reasoning of the bad behavior. Was the Antag mistreated? Unloved? Too loved? Did they run into problems early in life? Will their feelings be a surprise maybe even to them? Why do they hate? And hate so much to hurt another human being or system? (Remember you can hate and go into a shell – like many Red Herrings do.)

After three miles, I understood the motivation. Basically what I came up with was that … Hold on, I’m not telling. You have to wait for the book. :-)  I made it home and turned on my computer. It was time to do more homework – yes  more homework. I spent the rest of the day looking up everything from pictures of actors to fashion styles to weapons. I need to know what my Antag looks like, and how they plan to do their deed. Once I was satisfied, I went to watch the Indianapolis Colts lose to New England Patriots. Yes I watch football, and yes I wanted the Colts to win.

I took a break to let my brain breathe and let my subconscious create the character. I need for my Antag to talk to me in a voice just as strong as the Protag. In fact, I prefer that it’s stronger. Once that process is complete, I can rework any problems in the master plan to destroy/takeover. While I’m doing this, I try not to consider my Protag much at all. It doesn’t matter what they can and cannot do. What matters is what makes since for the Antag.  Once that’s done, we call in a mediator for the Antag and Protag to work through any issues and finalize the plotting of the Antag’s scheme.
So let’s use Felicia’s Antag from the last blog post – Mr. Furrytails.

Mr. Furrytails is a simple guy. He wants power and money. He’s currently working on a deal to remove two groups of werewolves from the city. He believes that if he can get rid of them, it’ll open up more commerce for his team to control. But to make this power move is risky and could cost him his life. But if it works, He’ll control all of the assets from Atlanta to Savannah to Williamsburg to Jacksonville. Basically all of the major trade in Georgia and the Carolinas.

When he finds out about Felicia, he doesn’t want much. He just wants her to come and pledge her allegiance to him. She’ll now be one of the many “controllable” powers in his territory. But Felicia’s mom gets in the way and that is a problem. The last thing he needs is anyone throwing off the balance of power or worse tipping off the heads of the Were-Families he’s working against.
So how does this show up in your book?

We know Furrytails attitude.
We know where he’s going to be and what he’s trying to do.
We know how many henchmen he’ll need to do the work.
We know his contacts.
We know his strengths – in resources and otherwise.
We know enough about him for his to affect our Protag.

Now that I know where my Antag will be and what they will be doing. I know how they affect the Protag(s). This movement of the Antag forces the hand of the Protag which creates story.  Hope this helps someone. Thanks a bunch for reading.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Writing Basics - Plotting

Now that character is out of the way, or at least a broad scope of ways to create realistic characters, we can move on to plotting. Plotting is simply the series of events that create your story. When I’ve helped other writers, I’ve noticed that plotting comes in a very close second to the problems that they face. I’ve already wrote about why your Antag is the most important character. In case you missed it, you can check it out here. (But I’d bet if nothing’s happening in your story – you haven’t sat down in the deep dark dungeon with your Antag.)

Plotting is simple. For most books and movies we use a Three or Six Act series of short stories that create the larger arc. Because I come from a movie background, I generally write a Six Act Storyline.  Below are the main items to be covered in each section.

1.       CATALYST – something in the daily life of character changes
2.       BIG EVENT – Changes the direction of story
3.       PINCH – Point of no return (Character fully committed)
4.       CRISIS – Major problem that needs to be fixed / low point
5.       SHOWDOWN/CLIMAX – When events must be put in proper order/things are fixed
6.       REALIZATION/RESOLUTION – Character has changed, achieved goals, etc

So that’s it. All done. Wow that was an easy blog post. I guess I’ll get ready for the next one. LOL

Okay, I’ll go into depth. First let’s create a character. We’ll call her Felicia and because of the name, she’ll be a cat. Everyone used to love ware animals so let’s make her a werecat. Or at least somewhere in the plot she’ll become one. Now let’s write a simple story based on that information. And we’ll see how easy it is to plot.

First I’ll turn her into a real character with Depth and Levels. This is generally a brainstorm based on what I spoke about here.

Felicia just started the 8th grade. She’s typical height/weight. I want her to wear glasses because I think it’ll be cute and something she can grow out of. She’s not shy, but not overly outgoing. She has dark hair and a periwinkle stripe. (Why? Why not? It’s cute and cool. And I want it. [Periwinkle stripe will need backstory though. Anything out of the ordinary needs backstory]) She speaks normally. She’s not the most popular girl, doesn’t have any “real bullies” and is more of a teacher’s pet. But she’s attractive and boys do like her. Her favorite colors are periwinkle and pink (because of her hair) and she has periwinkle eyes to match her stripe. She’s white[, but (backstory) she knows her dad was not 100% white. He was of a mixed race and her mother doesn’t know everything about him]. That’s why she may have the stripe. (Something to get to in a later book, maybe?) She has a hint of detective in her. (Maybe I’m thinking too much about the girl from the books of ELSEWARE – who cares I like it.) Her smart side conflicts with her attractive side.  She has no siblings (because I don’t want to think about other kids in the house. I want the story to be about her and her mom).  And there you have it, Felicia is born. (5 minutes)

Now back to plotting… Here we go.

CATALYST – something in the daily life of character changes
PROTAG does something normal for her world. They spots something/trips over something/meets someone that makes her think differently. They goes back to their normal life, but has doubts/imagination heightened/etc.

Felicia leaves fifth period. Abby, her best friend, reminds her about the 8th Grade Dance on Friday. They both spot Jason, Felicia’s crush. Felicia shies away from seeing him, but just then he texts her saying he hopes to see her at the party. Overjoyed she heads home, but on the way a cat follows her as she turns down a street. At the next crossways another joins. By the time she gets home 10 cats are parading behind her. Frightened she runs up stairs. Her mother tries to talk to her, but the weirdness of the day is too much and Felicia just wants to get to her studies to make sure she can go to the dance.

BIG EVENT – Changes the direction of story
PROTAG goes to event/place/new world. They see new things and are momentarily happy. Something Bad happens and they are thrown away from the old world into the new one or away from the new one back into the old one.
Felicia wants to go to the 8th grade dance. It’s the “Big Event” of the fall. She picks out her dress and talks to her best friend Abby about going. Abby is a little worried that none of the boys will notice them, but Felicia is not worried about it. She’s already received two texts from Jason. Felicia starts to have stomach pains and a headache, she hopes it’s not her whatever medical problem. Her mother thinks it’s something else, but Felicia plays it off and tells her mother she’s “understands.” After all, didn’t she ace Health Class? At the Dance, Jason notices her lip appears slightly hairy like she has peach fuzz. Panicked she rushes to the hallway only to watch in horror as her body transforms. Abby and Jason arrive and can’t believe their eyes. The BULLY\FAV TEACHER arrives and makes the moment worse. Felicia runs off into the night.

PINCH – Point of no return (Character fully committed)
PROTAG feels bad/confused. Someone/thing appears which gives them some guidance. PROTAG learns about this new ability, and reconciles that they must take on this issue.

Felicia doesn’t know what to think. She glares into her reflection at the edge of a lake. Her mother walks up from behind her. Her mother assures her it’ll be okay. It’s her first change, but there will be others. She states that werecats are natural enemies of werewolves and if she doesn’t learn to control her new powers the werewolves may find her and kill her. Her mother starts her training to change on command and to suppress the change when needed. Abby calls her and supports her OR Maybe Abby starts dating Jason. (It’s your story figure it out LOL)

CRISIS – Major problem that needs to be fixed / low point
ANTAG shows up just. PROTAG is gaining mastery, but is likely to fail at some major event causing a downfall.  

Mr. Furrytails, a super-powered werewolf, learns of Felicia. He wants all werecats to report to him so that he can control them. But her mom never reported in and therefore he is angry. Mr. Furrytails attacks and kidnaps her mom. Felicia is left because they think she’s dead, or that she got away or some other “convenient” way that she’s not captured. (Or maybe she is). Felicia starts to doubt. How can she save her mom? Was it her fault?

SHOWDOWN/CLIMAX – When events must be put in proper order/things are fixed
PROTAG comes to senses. A plan is formed. PROTAG goes to the rescue and new found powers save the day. (Generally in last breath, last second, last bit of rope, etc)

Mr. Furrytails takes Felicia’s mom to his stronghold. Felicia sneaks in with the help of the 10 cats that followed her home in part one and Abby making a few phone calls. (Or use whatever secret trait you’ve given the SC). Felicia sees her mom and rescues her. But it’s not that easy. Mr. Furrytails enters. He’s amused/angry. He attacks and almost kills Felicia. At the last moment she remembers something from a previous act that seemed unimportant to the reader/viewer. She uses that to stop Furrytails. He dies, scurries off, etc.

REALIZATION/RESOLUTION – Character has changed, achieved goals, etc
Cleanup all loose ends. Prepare for next book/movie/video game storyline.

Felicia tells her mom about how she feels. She knows everything will be okay. Her mom warns Felicia that Mr. Furrytails works for a Ms. Puffinpaws and that she is extremely dangerous. Her mom says that they’ll continue training and next time, they’ll be ready.

So there it is, a quick overview of plotting. Remember an Antag can be anything including aliens or a disease. (1 hour to plot) So in 90 minutes a story and character was born. An idea with more time should be more in-depth and fun, but the core of the plotting will remain similar.