The Method To My Madness: Part 2
Ebbs and Flow
Welcome back! Up to reading more of my writer musings are you?
In part one, I discussed how I write a scene. And how I consider a book to be like a movie: written in scenes not chapters. But lets back up even further from that conversation: a book being a collection of scenes, and think about how to organize a story so it naturally tells it self, creating it’s own ebbs and flows.
What do I mean by that? (I’ll tell you, because that last paragraph sounded like I’ve been hanging out with some yogi in the Tibetan mountains … naturally tells itself?) I’m talking about how your story moves along and (where I would consider) a good place to start a story.
Now I write YA, which is usually a little faster paced than other writing styles. In fact (Listen up this is a good writing tip for YA!), The average teen who reads has a short attention span. (Nooo Waaay!) So you should pace your writing accordingly. (Duh.) Sooo – taking into account a persons average reading speed, you should change what’s happening in your YA story (change the scene, not necessarily the chapter) every ten minutes. No need to time yourself reading it! Just keep this tid-bit in mind when you’re writing. There is no magic word count number! I.e.: Hmm, it’s been about ten minutes of reading … time to throw a wrench it to things!
A change in the story doesn’t have to be big. There’s no need to go all Game of Thrones on your readers and kill off a character! Your changes can be a little subtler than that. Here are a few suggestions.
- Change the perspective. I.e.: Your character is in a bedroom cluttered with things. She picks out an old leather jacket from the closet, remembering who gave it to her. The scene changes from her in her bedroom holding the jacket, to a flash back of a memory of who gave it to her. Present to flash back.
- A character that hasn’t spoken or interacted yet, finally speaks up. Perhaps what they say gives the reader a new take on the situation. I.e.: They comment on what happened the previous night and it catches the main character off guard. “Oh my! I never knew he felt that way!”
More thoughts on story ebbs and flows …
Before I started writing HARMLESS, I read a lot of books on how to write fiction ‘well’. I daydreamed and took notes about my story for what seemed like forever before I put fingers to keyboard. There was a diagram in one of the books I read about the flow of a novel. I’ll be dammed if I could find the book, so I’m going to attempt to draw the diagram for you from memory.
Wait – I need to say one more thing before I get into this diagram. Okay – I have my big story idea in my head. It goes something like this. Girl goes through traumatic loss of her brother. Girl’s parents’ get a divorce. Girl moves from big city to small town … and girl unleashes ancient spirit that possesses her friend. (Whew, quite the jump there at the end.)
So that’s my story in a very tiny nutshell.
Back to the diagram now! In this very informative book of writing tips, that I no longer seem to have in my collection, it said – start with a hook. The hook being – the moment when you have the reader! And put it in the first ten minutes of your book!
The hook in my story is ‘girl unleashes ancient spirit’. Chronologically, there is a lot of story that comes before the unleashing moment, but I don’t have time for that in this first part. I only have ten minutes to hold the dwindling attention of my reader. So all that super cool back story will have to wait. I only have time for essentials!
My super cool drawing!
I’ve numbered the diagram to make this a little easier to explain.
- As you can see, right away in my storyline diagram, the excitement, the engagement, goes up. This is my moment of no return. Something happens that alters my characters plotted life course! Yeeee! Exciting!
- We are past the exciting hook. Things may have settled for the moment. The main character is flooded with questions and possibilities. What will happen next? Then BAM! A quarter through your story should be another big exciting moment. Wow didn’t see that coming! Now there is no ignoring what could have been coincidence. The plot thickens! (Insert evil laugh here.)
- The middle of your story. Don’t let it get saggy! IF YOU ARE BORED WRITING, THEY ARE BORED READING! Never forget that. The middle of your story is just as important as any other parts. I like to get into what I call ‘mini stories’ in the middle. Those awesome nerd-nuggets, back story, gems that will keep your reader going. I.e.: weave in a flashback, explain a quirk, debunk a myth! The mini story bits are endless.
- Building tension like the impending crash of a freight train. Then BOOM, the ending! An event which if your character survives is forever changed … not always for the better. All parts of a book can be tricky to write, but endings are what you leave your reader with. I’ve heard that, what people remember most about a book is not what it was about, but what feelings it left them with. What feelings will you leave them? It’s a bigger question then you think. One more pearl of wisdom when writing endings … I heard this at an event where Veronica Roth and Tahereh Mafi where speaking. Veronica Roth said that her editor told her, “You will find your end in your beginning.” Best advice ever! Ponder that for a while when you are having trouble with your ending.
- The tail-end. I like to keep this short and sweet. Say something poetic and call it a day. Some readers might want to know what happens ‘after’. But I say, if your readers want more – write book two.
So that’s my pictorial tutorial on the ebbs and flows of a YA story. But I’m not quite done yet … here is my tail-end.
Diagrams, tips, tricks and other things with help you figure out the intricacies of what good writing is. BUT the only way to go from being good to great, as with most anything – is to do it! So write, every day, even if you don’t feel like it.
Wow! That just sparked an idea for my next Method To My Madness Blog! Writing when you’re not in the mood: You aren’t always sunshine and rainbows, and neither are your characters!
Good writing and good reading to you all.