Tag Archives: structure

Where should you start your story?

11 Jun

manuscript

My second draft manuscript has been in the breathing phase for two months now, while I’ve been mulling over the feedback I received from my critiquer. When she told me my story started in the wrong place – despite having prepared myself to hear this – I was crestfallen and frustrated, mostly because I had already deleted the first three chapters and reworked their content into the story.  Realizing that the first 18K words of your precious novel could in fact be superfluous is hard to swallow, and more so if you think you have actually followed the ‘no back-story’ and the ‘start in the action’ rules.

With my writing confidence somewhat bruised, I had to embark on a self-imposed reading exploration to find out where my story should actually start. My critiquer and my beta-readers indicated ‘somewhere around chapter six or seven’ as they felt this was where the story got really interesting.  Had I really filled the first six chapters with banal waffle so boring that it rendered the first fifth of my novel redundant? For two weeks, all I could think about was that I had worked on 18K words that were now useless to my overall 100K words. But then this is why there are third and fourth drafts, right?

Lagos Egri’s ‘The Art of Dramatic Writing’ has now spent about six weeks full-time by my side. I needed to fully understand conflict in all its power and how it drives a story forward. When I reached the chapter titled ‘Point of Attack’, my eyes and ears shot open. Egri states that ‘the curtain rises when at least one character has reached a turning point in his life.‘ At the end of the chapter Egri states that ‘It is imperative that your story starts in the middle, and not under any circumstances, at the beginning.’ 

With these two notes in mind, I had to think about all my main character’s conflicts that served my novel’s premise and decide which ones were actual ‘turning points’ in my protagonist’s life. There were lots of conflicts, but I had to go through the process of pin-pointing which events where so forceful that they revealed strong, true character traits witnessed only when a person faces a life changing conflict situation. Would it be when she makes a hard decision about a job, when she decides to accept less than stellar behavior from a loved one or when she makes a decision so pivotal that the outcome of the decision will determine the direction of her life, and also the novel story? Identify this conflict situation and this is where you start your story.

American Science Fiction author, Nancy Ann Dibble advises to ‘Make everybody fall out of the plane first, and then explain who they were and why they were in the plane to begin with.’  Back story is okay once the action is set up and being played out. Egri also states that ‘In conflict we are forced to reveal ourselves‘ and it is this character revealing conflict that will keep readers interested and move your story along for the get-go.

I’m still re-structuring and editing and not quite there yet but in simplest terms it looks like I am taking the first half of my novel and flipping the content on its head. Maybe I’ll get it right by the fourth draft!

 

NMG.C

Main image via here

Over the New Year Writing & Editing Rainbow

10 Jan

Image

This is where I spent the afternoon of New years Day 2013 – Loughcrew, Co. Meath. I needed some inspiration to push me through the phase II editing on my novel’s manuscript. It had been a tough few weeks and I was experiencing some sort of ‘creativity block’.

I needed to see clearly and far into the distance, so I climbing to the top of the old megalithic passage grave at Loughcrew – which is over 5,000 years old. Far below me, the beautiful Meath countryside swept around for miles and miles from the breathtaking 360 degree view point. The wind swiftly grabbed the cobwebs from my head and the awe-inspiring view opened my mind and eyes into the distance, shifting my internal visual perspective.

I just wasn’t expecting to see this beautiful inspirational rainbow in the untouchable distance! I managed to capture it on camera before it lost its tenuous grasp on the January air and faded away into the misty afternoon. I couldn’t have wished for better.

I returned home that evening invigorated and refreshed – and totally enchanted by the rainbow. It was the perfect ray of hope to encourage me to keep going, to get over the hurdles I had hit with my writing and to have trust in what I was doing.

I rejigged my writing timetable, clearly setting out the targets I needed to achieve in the coming weeks. And guess what, it worked. I have completed my plot and scene restructure, editing all my scenes into a more compelling story so that they drive my plot and characters forward. Let the stage II rewriting begin.

Thank you for the inspiration Mother Nature!

NMG.C

This week’s inspiration source….

22 May

This was the only book my small local bookstore had and despite my hesitation bringing it home because it’s about Screen-writing, I have not put it down all week. So glad I found this!

Robert McKee – Story

Book Cover image via Amazon

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