How Evil Can You Get?

In Story Robert McKee talks about “the negation of the negation” (NotN). It’s not mathematical, the multiplication of two negatives leading to a positive. It is the end of the line in the emotional or moral value of the internal story.

Take the normal “worst case” scenario, and find the thing that’s so much worse it’s unthinkable.

In “living dead” stories, that’s often the fate worse than death: damnation, or living death.

McKee talks about four stages, from The Big Win through Not So Much to Real Bad and finally, the NotN. For instance, in a love story you can have true love, indifference, active dislike/hate, and the worst thing in a normal romance, hate masquerading as love.

Scifi adventure: success might be beating the aliens. The other end of the spectrum might be seeing your whole race enslaved by the aliens, in a manner which prevents mass suicide. Nope. You’re slaves, maybe even eternally because they gave you live-forever-juice.

For many stories, the NotN is going to be, if not unique, at east customized.

The lighter the story the less devastating the NotN. For instance, in my book A Long, Hard Look

  1. Success: Phil solves the case and gets the girl.
  2. The likely case is he doesn’t solve the case, but at least he gets the girl.
  3. Worst case, you’d think, is he doesn’t solve the case, doesn’t get the girl.
  4. What happens is he stands in a room full of his girl’s family and is helpless to prevent one from killing another, and in the end, his girl leaves because he reminds her of his failure and her family’s brokenness.

Not only does the case get solved too late to prevent another death, the girl despises him and runs away.

Figure out what your readers will assume equals “success” and if you choose a happy ending, deliver that and more.

Know, or define, what they’ll expect as the “less than success” the hero is worried will be his fate.

Know what your readers expect as a worst case scenario. That’s failure.

Make your protagonist suffer that failure, then give him a way out.

Then, come up with something so unimaginable your readers never saw it coming, couldn’t foresee it, won’t believe their eyes.

And aim it straight at your hero.

I’m Afraid Your Excuse is Fear Talking

Guy Winch shares 5 excuses we make when we fear failure. For each, he describes what we’re really feeling, what we tell ourselves, and what to acknowledge so we can move forward.

His TED talk on why we need emotional first aid is witty and meaningful.

Success and Failure: 2 Ways of Doing Each

This was originally a post on my Business Heretics website.

Business HereticsThere are two ways to succeed:

  1. things turn out the way we expected; or,
  2. they don’t, and we learn something from it

There are two ways to fail:

  1. we don’t learn the lesson from Success #2 above; or
  2. we quit before we have a chance to fail and achieve Success #2 above

Continuing the Theme of Two, here are two ways for Fail #1:

  1. we can’t find the lesson to be learned; we looked, honest, and we can’t find it; or
  2. we think Success #2 is actually failure, so we don’t even look for the lesson

If you’re doing it right, here’s how your business will look, from most frequent to least frequent:

  1. Success #2: it didn’t turn out, but we learned a lesson
  2. Success #1: it worked!
  3. Fail #1a: the lesson is impossible to discern

You’ll note that Fail #1b and Fail #2 aren’t even on the list. Eliminate Fail #2 by quitting after you’ve learned the lesson to be learned.

Eliminate Fail #1b by changing your perception of how the universe functions and realising that life is something you create, not something that happens to you.

Second Pinch Point (#8 of 12 Sentences)

#8 Second Pinch Point

#8 of only 12 sentences you need to define your entire novel.

Midway through the Attack comes the Second Pinch Point, where we share another glimpse into the evil of our antagonist. Just like during Response as our hero was flailing and failing, reveal another vivid first-hand look at what our hero is up against. As before, simple and direct is best.

Write one sentence describing this clear look into the antagonist’s actions and how it raises the stakes for our hero.

Tomorrow, #9: the All is Lost Moment.

My Pathfinding Session for fiction authors will dredge up these 12 sentences from the secret place they’re hiding in the back of your mind. It’s $1,000 worth of writing coaching for only $325. Follow this link to read about it and sign up.

Attack (#7 of 12 Sentences)

#7 Attack

#7 of only 12 sentences you need to define your entire novel.

Based on the new information introduced at the Midpoint, the hero shifts from wanderer, reacting uselessly, to warrior, attacking the problem head on.

The magnitude of this shift reminds us how significant the Midpoint is. A weak Midpoint makes the Attack less believable.

… more … “Attack (#7 of 12 Sentences)”

First Pinch Point (#5 of 12 Sentences)

#5 First Pinch Point

#5 of only 12 sentences you need to define your entire novel.

Midway through the flailing and failing of the Response is the First Pinch Point: the reader is given direct insight into the antagonistic forces for themselves. New information emphasizes, even raises the stakes. According to Larry Brooks, the simpler and more direct it is, the more effective it is.

Write one sentence which describes what new insight into the antagonist will raise the stakes, at least in the reader’s mind.

Tomorrow, #6: The Midpoint.

My Pathfinding Session for fiction authors will dredge up these 12 sentences from the secret place they’re hiding in the back of your mind. It’s $1,000 worth of writing coaching for only $325. Follow this link to read about it and sign up.

Response (#4 of 12 Sentences)

#4 Response

#4 of only 12 sentences you need to define your entire novel.

After the First Plot Point the hero reacts without success. For the next 25% of your book, they flounder, fight, and fail, reacting to this unwanted quest which has been thrust upon them. They are a wanderer, trying to make sense of the new world they find themselves in.

Write one (perhaps long and rambling) sentence which describes how your hero will flail and fail.

Tomorrow, #5: the First Pinch Point.

My Pathfinding Session for fiction authors will dredge up these 12 sentences from the secret place they’re hiding in the back of your mind. It’s $1,000 worth of writing coaching for only $325. Follow this link to read about it and sign up.

Back on the Rails

image http://www.sxc.hu/photo/796527 by Dominic Morel http://www.sxc.hu/profile/cx_edThe double-fudge-loaded cheesecake derails your healthy eating habits.

Disturbed sleep derails your writing habit.

Surprises in your schedule derail family time.

Unexpected behavior from others derails your best intentions to be the best possible version of yourself.

Time goes into stealth mode and derails your blogging routine.

Some of those seem trivial. Others are major events. Each of us would rate each of them a little differently.

… more … “Back on the Rails”