Theme (Story Engineering and Physics #3 of 12)

Part of a series of posts on story engineering based on the book of that title and its companion volume Story Physics.

Story Engineering & Story PhysicsIf you ask someone “What is The Lord of the Rings about?” and their answer could just as easily apply to The Magnificent Seven (that is, a band of unlikely heroes comes together to save some weaker realm) what they are talking about is concept.

If their answer has to do with destroying a ring, and hobbits and wizards and elves and dwarves, they are talking about plot or character.

If their answer has to do with good versus evil and how even the smallest act of good control over evil they are talking about theme.

Theme is what our story means in the big picture of life. It is, perhaps, the lesson we hope readers will take away. It is how life is explained by our story — or how our story is explained by life.

… more … “Theme (Story Engineering and Physics #3 of 12)”

Character (Story Engineering and Physics #2 of 12)

Part of a series of posts on story engineering based on the book of that title and its companion volume Story Physics.

Story Engineering & Story Physics

I learned a lot about trust from a book called The Speed of Trust, written by Stephen M. R. Covey, the son of the “7 habits” author.

It cleared up some misconceptions and filled some gaps in my understanding of trust. For instance, why can we trust someone to repay a loan, but we wouldn’t ask them to work for us? Why can we take them at their word, trusting their honesty implicitly, but not ask them to watch the dog when we’re on vacation?

Answering those questions taught me about the people in my life (including myself) but it changed how I present the people in my books as well. First, some details about the psychology of trust, and then, how this informs your writing.

Trust is a Tree

Covey compares trust to a tree with four elements matching the roots, trunk, branches and leaves.

… more … “Character (Story Engineering and Physics #2 of 12)”

Concept (Story Engineering and Physics #1 of 12)

Part of a series of posts on story engineering based on the book of that title and its companion volume Story Physics.

Story Engineering & Story PhysicsIdea. Concept. Theme. Premise. Their meanings overlap.

English being a language of precision, we can speak and write with nuance.

We ought to learn writing with nuanced terminology as well.

These words all mean something different, and for the sake of this discussion, we’re going to adopt the storyfixer‘s dictionary.

… more … “Concept (Story Engineering and Physics #1 of 12)”

Bringing Some Reality to Your Writing

Science tries to deal with what’s real, to identify and label and if possible rule out the imaginary, illogical, impossible.

Sometimes science bothers people with little facts like gravity being the weakest force in the known universe. The only thing that keeps us from flying off into space as the earth turns (moving 1,000mph at the equator but slower near the poles) is that the earth is so huge that the tiny pull of gravity is amplified enough to keep us pinned.

Earth spinning: at the equator, a spot moves 24,000 miles in 24 hours. Simple math: 1,000mpg.

About 8 feet from the geographic pole, you could draw a circle 24 feet around. Stand (float) in one spot, and make the 24-foot trip in the same 24 hours.

That spot is moving 1 foot per hour. The bit at the equator is going 5,280,000 times as fast (1,000mph = 5,280,000 feet per hour.)

structure
… more … “Bringing Some Reality to Your Writing”

Here’s How to Look Before You Leap into Your Book

Larry BrooksNo secret I’m a huge fan of Larry Brooks. If you’d like a huge jump start on your next novel, check out Larry’s Conceptual Kickstart Story Analysis. For fifty bucks you’ll get feedback from a master to ensure that your concept will result in the best possible book (as long as you execute the other 5 elements of story engineering and all 6 elements of story physics.

We’re moving everything we own into storage this weekend because the house we’re renting just sold, and we leave on Tuesday for a month-long business trip so ta-daa! it all has to get done now now now.

Posts here should continue as usual. They may, though, have a certain frantic or distracted tone.

Your Novel in 12 Sentences: Summary

The Ultimate Plotting Tool for Pantsers

Your entire novel in 12 sentences. When I first read the concept, it made perfect sense to me because I’d just finished Story Engineering and knew why it would work.

What about you? Has this made sense?

It’s not easy. I’m grinding through the 12 sentences for the sequel to Through the Fog and they’re not coming easily.

But I’d rather struggle now than after writing a 40,000-word draft.

More than once I’ve heard the claim that some folks can’t plan a story in advance.

I just don’t buy it. … more … “Your Novel in 12 Sentences: Summary”

Resolution (#12 of 12 Sentences)

#12 Resolution

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

The last big event in your novel is the Resolution, where your hero delivers the coup de grace, eliminating the antagonist as a threat.

While others might be involved, your hero needs to be the one who nails the bad guy. Your hero cannot be saved by someone else, by circumstances, by a god in the machine. Even if it’s indirect, a discerning reader should see that the events which took the antagonist down were set in motion, directed, driven by the hero.

This is the final change in our protagonist: … more … “Resolution (#12 of 12 Sentences)”

Climax (#11 of 12 Sentences)

#11 Climax

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

After the hero survives the “All is Lost” Moment and the last piece of the puzzle surfaces in the Second Plot Point, it’s a race to the finish. Nothing new added; the only surprises are the realities foreshadowed earlier.

… more … “Climax (#11 of 12 Sentences)”

The Second Plot Point (#10 of 12 Sentences)

#10 Second Plot Point

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

Now that our hero is in Attack mode, we need one last bit of information to put them on the path to victory. That last piece of the puzzle is the Second Plot Point. It’s the last piece of new information you can add. After this, everything and everybody is in play. No deus ex machina salvation or surprises.

… more … “The Second Plot Point (#10 of 12 Sentences)”

All is Lost Moment (#9 of 12 Sentences)

#9 All is Lost Moment

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

To amp the moment when our hero finds the last piece of the puzzle and begins the chase, provide some contrast: just before the Second Plot Point, slam your readers with an All is Lost moment. Yank the rug out. If you’ve put your hero up a tree and thrown rocks at them, this is the point to have angry woodsmen chainsawing the trunk as they set it on fire. Preferably with flamethrowers. And one of the good guys up the tree with our here might turn out to be in cahoots with the enemy and shove them off the branch, where they hang by one hand above the flaming chainsaws.

Getting from here to your Second Plot Point is one of the toughest parts of writing. Get it right, and your readers will worship the water you walk on.

Write a sentence to explain what goes wrong to throw your hero into the pit of despair which is the All is Lost moment.

Tomorrow, #10: the Second Plot 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.