February 29, 2012

back to basics: hero's journey, stage two

Continuing with the series on the Hero’s Journey, I introduce to you the Call to Adventure, stage two of the mythic structure. To see all the posts I’ve done so far, check out the “writing help” navigation tab at the top of the page.

As I said in my last post, the Ordinary World of the story is static and well, ordinary. But it is also unstable. The need for change and growth is due, and the hero only needs a small something to get him diving headfirst into an adventure. That something is the Call to Adventure.

Other terms for the Call to Adventure are inciting incident, initiating incident, catalyst, or trigger. It’s ultimately the plot device that gets the story rolling once the main character has been introduced.

February 27, 2012

back to basics: hero's journey, stage one


Continuing our discussion of the Hero’s Journey, brings us to the first stage, the Ordinary World. This first stage of the Hero’s Journey is the backdrop for the rest of the story and offers a mundane setting that contrasts against the unusualness of the Special World.

The opening of any story—whether it be a short, novel, film, or play—is detrimental to the success of the book as a whole. The beginning has to hook the reader, set the tone of the story, suggest where the story headed, and provide a massive amount of information without slowing the pace. Without managing these things, the book is less likely to reach a large number of readers. I have picked up several books, where, on the first page, I had a general feeling of meh, so the book went back to the shelf (or removed from my Nook, in the case of samples). Readers have to care what happens to your characters or world right off the bat, and should you fail to give them a reason to care, agents won’t want it, publishers won’t want it, readers won’t want it.

February 24, 2012

cover reveal and other things

The amazing Darby Karchut has another book coming out. No, not the sequel to Griffin Rising (though, that is coming out in April). This is something completely different, and to be perfectly honest, I can't wait to read it.

So, introducing Finn Finnegan...

Look at those blue eyes!

February 22, 2012

back to basics: the hero's journey, introduction

The Hero's Journey is probably my favorite story structure (so far), especially for fantasy and science fiction. It provides a great skeleton for writing fiction. My first (failed) novel somewhat followed the structure. The Clockwork Giant has similarities to this structure, especially in the beginning, but somewhere around the middle mark, it veers off. I'll probably use my book as an example in the earlier stages, but I promise not to go too far so as to give away any major spoilers--mostly stuff that's in the back cover summary, or in the sample.

I have expanded on the Hero's Journey in the past, and if you wish, you can find them in the archives. However, I hope you'll stick with me as I revisit each stage, adding new examples and new observations that I didn't have over a year ago. So, without further ado, the Hero's Journey:

February 20, 2012

back to basics: three act structure

Our next topic as part of this blog series is structure. I touched on this a bit in the previous post on plotting, but now, we’re going to take a more detailed look. Over the next several weeks—yes, it will take that long. We’re going to look at four different structures: three act, Hero’s Journey condensed (13 posts), Propp’s Fairy Tale (10-15 posts), and Snyder’s 15 key beats (5-8 posts). As I’ve said before, there is no right or wrong way to write a story. You might find these structures useful, or you might not. My hope is that you’ll find that your stories closely resemble one of these structures, and you’ll be able to apply the structure to give your story more depth.

Since the three act structure is the simplest, I’ll cover it today. This is the structure you learn about in grade school. Act I is your beginning, the exposition, where you introduce the characters, the setting, and the inciting incident. Act II is your middle, the rising action, where all the cool stuff leading up the climax happens. Act III is where the big event happens, the climax, the moment that the story has been leading to all along. And directly after the climax comes the falling action and denouement, the final resolution of the story.

February 17, 2012

you know, stuff

It’s been a long week. I didn’t get a single word written on The Chroniker Legacy, and even though I did a bit of brainstorming for another project, I’m not so sure it’s something I want to write. Seemed like a good idea a few weeks ago, but after trying to flesh it out a bit, it’s not nearly as cool as I thought. It happens. We just have to move on to the next idea.

So the reason for the lack of writing is because I’ve been staying with my dad since Monday, helping him with a dance studio photo shoot. Between that, doing these blog posts, visiting family, and finding time to sleep, I just haven’t had the time or motivation to write. This week has definitely taken its toll on my creativity. For that reason, this blog post is likely to be rather short. I really just can’t think of what to say, so if I ramble a bit, just, you know, go with it.

February 15, 2012

back to basics: plotting

Alrighty then. Today we’re going to talk about plotting. Now, I’ve done several posts about plotting in the past. For this comprehensive post, I’ll talk a little bit about how I plot a story, I’ll present a few techniques, and I’ll be sure to link back to previous posts if you’re inclined to read more on the subject.

Plotting is an interesting thing. Some view it as a terrible monster that needs to be avoided at all costs, and others see it as their literary savior. There is a serious debate on the subject between the two camps of writers: pantsers and plotters. To be honest, I was once a pantser. I wrote willy-nilly, with no regard to structure or coherency. I have since become a plotter, detailing scenes and acts and arcs and all that other plotty stuff. But that doesn’t mean plotting is for everyone. Some people will find that pantsing is their forte. But if you do want to plot, or try it at the very least, then this post ought to give you a good starting point.

February 13, 2012

back to basics: scenes

Any story that you write—whether it’s a 500 word flash piece or a 300,000 word epic—needs to have scenes. But what is a scene? You’ve probably heard various things from various sources. What I have to say on the matter may not be what you think a scene is, but it is what I consider a scene to be. This is how I write scenes, and I think it’s the most effective construction.

A scene must have three things: a goal, conflict, and change. These three aspects of a scene are equally important. Without one of them, the scene fails to be effective. Without two, the scene falls flat. Without any of them, it ceases to be a scene. Most short fiction comprises of very few scenes. A novel can have anywhere from a few dozen to a hundred scenes. Scenes can vary in length. I’ve written scenes that were less than 500 words and others that were over 4000 words. As long as the scene accomplishes the three things mentioned above, then it doesn’t matter how long it is.

February 10, 2012

defining ourselves

It’s no secret to anyone that I’m a bit—well, childish, not to be mistaken with nerdiness. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. I’m just not very grownupy. Yes, it’s a word. I just made it up. Nearly every shirt that I own is a print tee, hosting several nerdy references such as Harry Potter, My Neighbor Totoro, Pok√©mon, Star Wars, and various classic video games. I hang out in pajamas all day. I wear pink converses, bows in my hair, and printed socks. Most of my favorite books are intended for middle graders, others for young adults—the Harry Potter series, Percy Jackson series, everything by Diana Wynne Jones, the How to Train Your Dragon books, and anything that even remotely resembles a fairy tale. Most of my favorite films are intended for children under the age of twelve—Ponyo, Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, Tangled, Howl’s Moving Castle, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas… and so on so forth. I’m more comfortable in a room of kids than a room of adults. I still draw on myself when I’m bored. I make up random songs about random things. I laugh at fart jokes. One of my favorite lunches to make is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich cut into squares. I still think of things I want to do “when I grow up”.

Clearly, I am not very grownupy.

February 8, 2012

back to basics: point of view

Now that we're finally away from our high school English lessons, we can start talking about the art of writing. The below post is a repost from about a year ago. Everything I said then still holds true, and I think it can be helpful for new writers who don't yet know the difference.

So, take it away, past-Brooke:

Several of the books I have read lately have had interesting point-of-view choices. Leviathan has two third person limited POVs that switch every two chapters. Griffin Rising has a mixture of third person limited, omniscient, and first person over three or more characters. The Time Traveler’s Wife has two first person POVs with no alternating pattern. There is nothing wrong with any of these choices. The author effectively conveys the story with the chosen point-of-view.

When I write, I use third-person limited. I have dabbled in first person a few times, trying to branch out, but I just can’t do it. For some reason, I can’t get into a story when I write from a first person POV. I can get into second person before first person.

How do you choose which point-of-view to write with? Do you know the difference?

February 6, 2012

back to basics: research

So, this will be the last post in the “grade school” section of the Back to Basics series. I was going to cover grammar and common mistakes in writing, but I think if you stick to the rules laid out in the previous posts, you’ll be okay. If, of course, you have questions, don’t hesitate to email me. I’d be happy to help you out.

Leading into the next section of the blog series, we’re going to take a look at research. Every writer has to do research. It doesn’t matter what you’re writing. Trust me. Hopefully, I can help direct you to the right sources.

When I started writing The Clockwork Giant, I was lucky enough to have a series of books titled How Things Work. I stole these from my dad way back when, and they’ve been a huge help in researching steampunk technologies. Not everyone is going to have the appropriate books just lying around, so where do you go when you need to know something?

Honestly, I have four sites that I need on a regular basis: Wikipedia, Google, Dictionary.com, and BehindtheName.com. I can guarantee that when I’m researching for a novel, these four websites are my first go-to sites.

February 3, 2012

january sales

I don't usually do multiple posts in a day, but since it's Friday, you get a treat. I generally post random stuff on Friday, but since I failed to blog properly on Monday because I was sick, I didn't want to have two non-writing posts in the same week. And, I wanted to get the last of the punctuation posts out of the way. I figure you might not mind if I toss in my January sales numbers. Normally, I probably would have tacked them onto the end of whatever post happened to go up that day, but since the Back to Basics posts will probably be popular for a while, I figure six months from now, no one will care what my sales were in January.

Anyway... sales. Obviously, I didn't do nearly as well as I did in December (compare here), but I didn't expect to. Here's the breakdown.

January Sales for The Clockwork Giant

Kindle: 5 copies; $17.20 in royalties
Kindle International: 0
Nook: 3 copies; $9.72 in royalties
Smashwords: 1 copy; $4.06 in royalties
Third-party through Smashwords: 0
Lulu: 0
Createspace: 2 copies; $6.92 in royalties

So, for January, I sold eleven copies of my book, twelve if you count the one refund (which I don't). I made $37.90 in royalties for the month of January. I knew that sales would slow down, and I expected to sell about 10-15 copies a month after the release. But reviews are coming in nicely. I have ten reviews on Amazon right now, with a 4-star average.

Kindle is still the leader in sales,  though not nearly as big of a difference as last month. Amazon is clearly my biggest seller, since I sold seven copies of the eleven through them. But Nook is holding steady, and I got my first Smashwords sale. Hopefully, the Smashwords sales will go up now that the book is available for Kobo, iBooks, and Sony Reader. I didn't expect any sales from Lulu. The only reason the book was available there to begin with was because it took so long for the paperback to go up on CreateSpace. I probably won't include it in future sales numbers.

So far, I'm pleased with my sales, though they're nothing spectacular. Some people might be disappointed with such low numbers, but I'm not. I'm weird. Though, I will admit, I was kind of stressing two weeks ago when I had only sold five copies.

As always, if you want to buy my book, you can click on the links in the sidebar, and they'll take you to the appropriate website.

back to basics: punctuation pt. 6

Quotation Marks

In English writing, quotation marks, or quotes or speech marks, are punctuation marks surrounding a quotation, direct speech, or a literal title or name. Quotation marks can be used to indicate a different meaning of a word of phrase than the one typically associated with it, and are often used to express irony.

Quotation marks are written as a pair of opening and closing marks in either of two styles: single (‘…’) or double (“…”).

Quotation and speech:

Single or double quotation marks denote either dialogue or a quotation. Double quotes are preferred in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, whereas single quotes are more usual in the United Kingdom and South Africa. A publisher’s or author’s style may take precedence over regional general preferences. The most important thing is to be consistent. Notice that in further examples, I will use the double quotation mark, but the single quotation mark is also correct.

“Good afternoon, sir,” said Monfore. “How may I help you?”
‘Good afternoon, sir,’ said Monfore. ‘How may I help you?’


February 1, 2012

back to basics: punctuation pt. 5

This is the unfortunately not the last post I’ll be doing on punctuation. I didn’t expect to have to write six posts, but there are a lot of punctuation marks to cover. I'd rather not have a really long post covering both apostrophes and quotation marks, so, today, we’ll be discussing apostrophes, and on Friday, we’ll look at quotation marks.  And then that will truly be the end of punctuation. We can move onto other, more exciting things, like grammar and common mistakes in writing.

Apostrophes

In the English language, the apostrophe serves three purposes: the marking of the omission of one or more letters, the marking of possessive case, and the marking as plural of written items that are not words established in written English (though this last one is debatable; I don’t use apostrophes in this way, but more on that later). The apostrophe is different than the closing single quotation mark, though they share the same symbol.