Have you always wanted a story banner?
Recently I have gotten a program for my computer that enables me to make blends and story banners. I have found I can do them rather quickly and so, I would like to extend this service to all of you. If you would like me to make a banner for your story, please send the pictures of your characters and your story title to email@example.com . I wil make a banner for you and email it back to you! Here is an example below:
Hey everyone! Just popping in really quickly to remind you to join us this Tuesday night (and every Tuesday night) for our writer's chat. Whether you need help with your Secret Santa stories or you're just curious and want to pop in to chat with some fellow authors, we would love to have you!
Writing 101 Week 3
How to Structure A Story: The Eight-Point Arc
By Ali Hale
One of my favourite “how to write” books is Nigel Watts’ Writing A Novel and Getting Published.
My battered, torn and heavily-pencil-marked copy is a testament to how useful I’ve found it over the years. Although the cover appears to be on the verge of falling off altogether, I’ve risked opening the book once more to bring you Watts’ very useful “Eight-Point Story Arc” – a fool-proof, fail-safe and time-honoured way to structure a story.
(Even if you’re a short story writer or flash fiction writer rather than a novelist, this structure still applies, so don’t be put off by the title of Watts’ book.)
The eight points which Watts lists are, in order:
He explains that every classic plot passes through these stages and that he doesn’t tend to use them to plan a story, but instead uses the points during the writing process:
I find [the eight-point arc] most useful as a checklist against which to measure a work in progress. If I sense a story is going wrong, I see if I’ve unwittingly missed out a stage of the eight-point arc. It may not guarantee you write a brilliant story, but it will help you avoid some of the pitfalls of a brilliant idea gone wrong.
So, what do the eight points mean?
This is the “every day life” in which the story is set. Think of Cinderella sweeping the ashes, Jack (of Beanstalk fame) living in poverty with his mum and a cow, or Harry Potter living with the Dursley’s.
Something beyond the control of the protagonist (hero/heroine) is the trigger which sparks off the story. A fairy godmother appears, someone pays in magic beans not gold, a mysterious letter arrives … you get the picture.
The trigger results in a quest – an unpleasant trigger (e.g. a protagonist losing his job) might involve a quest to return to the status quo; a pleasant trigger (e.g. finding a treasure map) means a quest to maintain or increase the new pleasant state.
This stage involves not one but several elements, and takes up most of the middle part of the story. “Surprise” includes pleasant events, but more often means obstacles, complications, conflict and trouble for the protagonist.
Watts emphasises that surprises shouldn’t be too random or too predictable – they need to be unexpected, but plausible. The reader has to think “I should have seen that coming!”
At some stage, your protagonist needs to make a crucial decision; a critical choice. This is often when we find out exactly who a character is, as real personalities are revealed at moments of high stress. Watts stresses that this has to be a decision by the character to take a particular path – not just something that happens by chance.
In many classic stories, the “critical choice” involves choosing between a good, but hard, path and a bad, but easy, one.
In tragedies, the unhappy ending often stems from a character making the wrong choice at this point – Romeo poisoning himself on seeing Juliet supposedly dead, for example.
The critical choice(s) made by your protagonist need to result in the climax, the highest peak of tension, in your story.
For some stories, this could be the firing squad levelling their guns to shoot, a battle commencing, a high-speed chase or something equally dramatic. In other stories, the climax could be a huge argument between a husband and wife, or a playground fight between children, or Cinderella and the Ugly Sisters trying on the glass slipper.
The reversal should be the consequence of the critical choice and the climax, and it should change the status of the characters – especially your protagonist. For example, a downtrodden wife might leave her husband after a row; a bullied child might stand up for a fellow victim and realise that the bully no longer has any power over him; Cinderella might be recognised by the prince.
Your story reversals should be inevitable and probable. Nothing should happen for no reason, changes in status should not fall out of the sky. The story should unfold as life unfolds: relentlessly, implacably, and plausibly.
The resolution is a return to a fresh stasis – one where the characters should be changed, wiser and enlightened, but where the story being told is complete.
(You can always start off a new story, a sequel, with another trigger…)
New Mod Intro
Courtney has been busy behind the scenes doing such great work on the archive, and one of those things is adding new moderators to help keep everything flowing smoothly.
As one of the newest mods, Courtney thought I should introduce myself...so here I am!
My nom de plume is elle-miranda, and while it's not at all my real name, you can call me El/Elle for short. ;-) I've been reading and writing fanfic for years, but only recently came out of lurker status here. In addition to helping Courtney out wherever needed, I'm also running the Archive's official tumblr page and helping out on twitter. (If you're on tumblr, join us! http://nsyncfiction.tumblr.com/)
I try to pop in to the author chat for at least a little while around 10CST each night, and I'm also easy to find and get in touch with on Twitter as @elle_writing.
I'm so excited to be part of the archive, and I hope to connect with you soon!
This weeks Writing 101 topic focuses on writers block. I feel it is the perfect time of year to focus on this because many of us experience writers block when we are trying to write stories for challenges. Enjoy!
What Causes Writer's Block
Writer's block is often caused by conflicted feelings. We want the writing to be perfect and we want the paper done as soon as possible. We know what we know but we don't know what our readers know. We know how the memo should sound, but we don't have all the facts we need. We know everything about the software, but we don't know what an article should look like. We know what we have to say but we are afraid that it won't measure up to our expectations or to our readers' expectations.
All of these feelings are natural and normal. Everyone finds writing a challenge. Many writers, however, compound their problems by employing weak writing strategies. When these methods fail, they give up.
Weak Strategies for Dealing with Writer's Block
Using trial and error
Since our short-term memory is limited, trying to juggle in your head all the possible ways to phrase something usually means we repeat the same rejected phrases over and over. One way to avoid this is to make a quick list of alternative phrases.
lnsisting on a perfect draft
Perfectionism is the surest way to writer's block. Expecting everything to come together at once leads to paralysis and heartache. Insisting on a perfect first draft is really much slower than writing several quick drafts focused on different goals.
Waiting for inspiration
Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. What seems like inspiration is usually the result of internalized hard work. In a moment we'll talk about some useful strategies for pushing "inspiration" along.
Using words looking for an idea
We all know those phrases which click so easily into the keyboard but then go nowhere:
due to the fact that...
it is imperative that...
a wide variety ranging from ... to....
These phrases can be building blocks but they won't help much until you know what you're building.
Effective Strategies for Avoiding Writer's Block
Jot down ideas and phrases as they occur to you. Free yourself from paragraphs and sentences for the moment--use flow charts, arrows, boxes, outlines, even pictures. Right now, you are worried about getting things down before you forget them.
When you're not just blocked, when you're stonewalled, try freewriting. Sit down for ten minutes and write down everything you can think of about your topic. The object is to write without stopping for the whole ten minutes. If you can't think of anything to say, write "blah, blah, blah" over and over. If other things occur to you as you write, go ahead and record them, even if they are not directly related to your topic. These distractions may be part of what is keeping you blocked.
Freewriting is good for uncovering ideas--it's a good way to nudge "inspiration." But the main purpose of freewriting is to get you moving! Most of what you write in those ten minutes will go in the recycling bin, but you'll be warmed up and your serious writing should go more smoothly.
Brainstorming resembles freewriting but is more goal-directed. You start not only with a topic, say PROFS, but also with a goal: What do new users need to know about this system? Then allow yourself to jot down ideas for a set amount of time without censoring any possibilities and without striving for perfect prose. When the "storm" has passed, you can rearrange ideas, put thoughts into complete sentences, edit, and polish.
Sometimes, starting at the beginning induces Perfect Draft Syndrome. It may be easier to get started if you approach the task sideways. If you've got a plan for the article or manual, choose a section from the middle or a point you know well and start there. Then do another section. After you've gained some confidence, you can work on the opening and smooth out the transitions.
What I Really Mean Is (WIRMI)
When you're stuck in a quagmire trying to find the perfect phrase, switch to What I Really Mean Is and just say it the way you think it. Once you know what you mean, it is easier to refine the phrasing.
Satisficing (satisfy + suffice)
You "satisfice" when you take the first reasonable solution instead of searching endlessly for just the right word or sentence. If you're unhappy with the choice, you can bracket it and promise yourself you'll fix it later.
Secret Santa has begun!
Secret Santa submissions are now closed. I have sent an email out to everyone who signed up with some guidelines as well as their matches for this year. If you have signed up and you have not recieved your email please let me know ASAP. We have fifteen authors this years as follows:
Somethingblue42, Diamonddoss, Hollie, ialwayzbesingin, Kaotyk, teamchasez, pumples, babygirl49392, NSYNCLVR, AceofSpades, kb4jc, elle-miranda, LTaylor03, Mack_Attack22, and LadyX
I sent all the emails to the addresses listed on your author profiles. If any of these email addresses are no longer active please let me know so I can forward the email to the correct address.
The following guidelines have been included in your emails but I will post them here as well:
1. Remember stories should be no less than 1,000 words. Song lyrics really shouldn’t count unless they are original ones written by a character in the story.
2. Please try to keep an eye on grammar and spell check. You don’t have to have a masters in English Lit, but using the letter U instead of the word “you” isn’t really the best thing to do. If you need a fresh set of eyes to look over your story before you post it or just while you are writing it, please don’t hesitate to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can get someone to assist you.
3. Remember, stories should be posted anytime between 12/20 and 12/31. If at any time you do not feel that you will be able to make this deadline please please PLEASE contact us. We need to know that everyone is going to get a story and make arrangements otherwise. If you realize you will not be able to write your story and it is before the deadline, make sure you call that out so we can find a replacement in time.
4. Try not to talk about who exactly your secret santa is in the chatroom or on twitter. If you think you’ve made this mistake please call it out. We can clear out the chatroom if we need to, tweets aren’t as easy.
5. If you do not write a story and you receive one, we will contact you to find out if you plan on posting a story. Unfortunately, if we are met with no response from you and do not receive your story, we may have to consider not allowing you to take part in any future challenges.
That’s it! Happy writing! Reach out to us on Twitter @nsyncfiction and we will hold official chats every Tuesday at 8pm here: http://us19.chatzy.com/75627326836925