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.

In Praise of Robert McKee’s “Story”

In the past few years I have started, but not finished:

  1. A coming of age story with a strong musical element
  2. The first mystery in a new series with a rather artistic protagonist
  3. The first mystery in a new series with a female protagonist
  4. A Jeeves & Wooster/P. G. Wodehouse-inspired light comedy with a mysterious twist.

They are unfinished, not because they aren’t good, but because I didn’t know how to make the last 1/3 (or 1/2 or 2/3) as good as what was already written.

Not because I don’t know how to use words. Never been a problem. I was reading at college level when I started Kindergarten back in the Jurassic Era.

What I didn’t know was, once you start building a bridge of story from over here and it spans half the chasm, how do you keep it from collapsing into the ravine until you can make it land over there?

In other words, what is the structure of a story?

… more … “In Praise of Robert McKee’s “Story””

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”

“Found Around the Web” Fiction Writing

Angela AckermanToday’s resource is from The Creative Penn Blog by Joanna Penn. She recently posted an article by Angela Ackerman.

Angela discusses creating character personality traits to make your story richer. Her resource books help writers create layered, compelling characters that readers relate to and care for. Read more at The Creative Penn Blog.