Showing posts with label Joey Stone. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Joey Stone. Show all posts

Three Acts

By popular demand (8 out of 15 votes), the new working title for my WIP is The Cunning. I want to thank everyone who voted and commented. You've given me a lot to think about for later when I give this thing its real title.

And a special thank you to the folks who said they liked the story idea. That kind of encouragement is always welcome here :-)

So I'm plotting out The Cunning now. I freaking love this part. Everything's out there, just waiting for me to figure it out, and (because I plan before I draft) I don't have to spend a lot of time doing it. I might talk more about that later. Right now, because it's on my mind a lot, I want to talk about the Three-Act Structure and (maybe later) the Hero's Journey.

The simple form of the 3-Act goes like this: (I) setup, (II) confrontation, (III) resolution. In more detail...

Act One

* Introduce protagonist, "normal" world, and supporting characters.
* Introduce simple conflict.
* Ends when the main conflict is introduced and the protagonist's world is irrevocably changed.

Act Two
* In an effort to solve the main conflict, protagonist tries and fails against increasingly difficult obstacles.
* Ends with the Final Reversal - the last bad thing before everything is resolved. The protagonist has had enough, or the villain thinks they have defeated the hero for the last time. Whatever.

Act Three
* The protagonist faces the main conflict in the climax.
* Everything else is resolved.

That's one way to look at it, albeit a simple one. But it doesn't explain much about Act Two, which is supposed to be half of the story. Screenwriter Syd Field saw this and improved upon the 3-Act Structure calling it the Paradigm...

Opening Image:
The first image or scene that summarizes the story, especially its tone. This is kind of a screenplay thing, but it can work in novels just as well.
Inciting Incident: The protagonist encounters the problem that will change their life.
Plot Point 1:
The turning point, in which the protagonist's life is irrevocably changed.

Pinch 1:
A reminder, halfway between the beginning of Act Two and the Midpoint, of the overall conflict (e.g. while the protagonist deals with his obstacles, cutaway to the villain for a scene).
Midpoint: An important reversal or revelation that changes the direction of the story. Field suggests that driving the story to this scene can keep the middle from sagging.
Pinch 2:
Another reminder scene, connected to Pinch 1, and halfway between the Midpoint and Plot Point 2.
Plot Point 2:
The final reversal, when the hero has had enough or the villain believes they've defeated them for the last time.

Midway through Act 3, the hero confronts the problem for the last time. They don't have to win.
Resolution & Tag: The issues of the story are resolved, giving the audience closure.

This post is long enough already, so I put my examples in the comments. Feel free to add your own too; trying to match stories to this formula will probably teach you more than I could. (I learned a lot just figuring out my examples).

And remember, the three-act structure is not The Formula By Which All Stories Are Told. It's just one way to think about things. If you're not sure where your story needs to go next (like me) then it can be really helpful.

Your Call: New Working Title

For over a year, I've been using the working title Joey Stone for my next project. The name came from a short story I wrote about a powerful psionic-in-training believed guilty of treason like his father.

Unfortunately, that title and storyline is 100% obsolete. So I need a new working title, one that does as much of the following as possible (in order of importance): (1) makes you want to know more about the story, (2) conveys a sense of the world, (3) conveys a sense of the plot.

I know that's totally subjective and that there's no perfect title that does all three really well. Clearly, in situations like this, the best thing to do is to use an unscientific online poll:

I'd like you to vote without any more knowledge of the story, so please vote before reading on. If after reading the blurb below you change your mind, or think you have a better title than the options above, feel free to say so in the comments:

Suriya thought she'd hid her powers pretty well, until a group of Chinese bounty hunters comes after her. She escapes using her ability to call fire, but the fire gets out of her control and destroys an entire Chiang Mai city block. Even worse, now everybody knows what she is.

More bounty hunters come, but Suriya finds unexpected help from a woman named Charity.
They don't speak the same language, but Suriya understands when Charity speaks directly into her mind. She says Suriya is one of the Cunning - a group of people born with fantastic abilities. Charity wants to take her to the US where she can be trained.

Suriya wants to trust Charity, but when she overhears her speaking with the bounty hunters in Chinese, she wonders if Charity is telling the truth. She wonders if she can really trust anybody.

The Germination of a Story

Chapters edited: 5
Scenes edited: 16
Words murdered: 1,320 (6.5% - either I'm getting lazy or my writing got better after chapter 4)

Times Hagai nearly dies: 3
Times Hagai puts his foot in his mouth: 3
Times Sam gets in a fight: 1

Ideas are cheap. They're everywhere, but they're not enough to make a story. They need to mix, ripen, maybe bake (dang, now I'm hungry). The path from idea to story can be a long one. I want to show you what the path has looked like for me so far with Joey Stone.

It started because I wanted to write a school story with fantasy/spy/ninja elements, a la Naruto. A friend asked me to write a short story for her, so I fleshed out the idea with some psionic rules I'd made for an e-RPG, created a skeleton world (near future), and put some characters in it. I squeezed out a mediocre short story called Joey Stone.

I liked the characters and the powers, but there was nothing to the world and no story big enough yet for a novel (besides which, I was still writing Travelers), so I let it sit for a while.

Last summer, I watched Witch Hunter Robin and really liked the idea of using psions to hunt other psions. I also liked the connotations of "witches" better than "psions." I got that feeling again when I read the back of Marie Brennan's Doppleganger and mistakenly thought it was urban fantasy instead of the regular kind. Something about modern day witch hunters appeals to me, obviously.

A few months ago, I had a dream about a group of people who required technology to use their powers. One of their enemies discovered how to cancel out their technology. They were left powerless, until a young man was born among them who could use his powers without artificial aid, and he taught them how to do it themselves. This dream, combined with actually reading Doppleganger, got me thinking about the society of these "witches" and what it would have to be like for them to survive and stay hidden.

At this point, all these ideas were mixing together in my mind. The world was starting to take shape. I started thinking how to set the story at least partially in Thailand. I wanted to give the story a unique flavor and write what I know, but at the same time not seem too gimmicky (e.g. "It's X-Men in Thailand!").

But I still didn't have a story.

The other day I saw Babylon A.D.* It was okay, but I loved some of the future/tech ideas. It got me thinking about an America that's very hard to get into (hm, just like real life), and the story idea got stronger:

A Thai village girl discovers she has special powers. She is hunted for them, trying to understand them herself. She is rescued by a woman named Charity who explains the girl is one of the Cunning - people with extraordinary powers - and that there are those who would like to see all the Cunning Folk burn. Together, they fight their way into America where the girl will be safe, she hopes.

It needs a lot of work, and I'm not 100% certain I like it yet, but it doesn't matter. The idea is there, germinating, ripening, waiting for the next idea to hit my brain pan and make it better than it was. I have two more Air Pirates stories to write first, so there's plenty of time. Probably by the time I get to drafting Joey Stone, it'll be entirely different. Again.

What about you? Where do you get ideas, and how do you make them into a story?

* You'll notice I often steal ideas from other stories. There's nothing wrong with this, so long as you're not lazy about it. Steal what you like and make it your own. Amateurs imitate. Professionals steal.

Premise and Adam's 3 WIPs

Under extreme duress, I've added the followers widget to my sidebar. Two of you have already noticed it. Feel free to make use of it, and know that seeing little boxes up there makes me happy.

At the end of my first mission trip, we spent a few days preparing for reassimilation back to the States. One thing our leaders told us was that everybody would ask the question "How was your trip?" but not everybody wanted to know everything. We had to be prepared to answer that question, lest we just say "Good" or else ramble on until we noticed that our listener had walked away some time ago.

The leaders suggested we have three answers to the question: a 5 second answer, a 1 minute answer, and a 5 minute answer. Each answer was meant to be concise and informative, giving the listener the information they really wanted (you can usually tell who wants a 5 second answer vs. 5 minutes), yet hopefully causing them to ask questions and start a discussion.

Your novel is the discussion you want to have with someone. Your synopsis is your 5 minute answer. Your hook is the 1 minute, and your 5 second answer is your premise.

The premise is everything the story is about in one sentence, less than 25 words or so. It's the one-line blurbs TV Guide uses to describe the movies in their listings, the tagline at the top of Amazon items, the first answer to "What's your book about?" It sucks to write because you have to cut out everything, but it's a great place to start before writing a query.

Today I'm going to elaborate on the status of my works in progress, and give you a 20-word premise of each.

Premise: A father and son must rescue an extraordinary girl from an immortal tyrant in a post-apocalyptic future to save humanity. I've put the first chapter online.

Status: I've sent out 50 queries, and received 33 form rejections. Fun, huh?

Plans: I have another 8-14 agents to query. After that, I'll try revising the query at AQConnect and Evil Editor some more before querying big publishers directly. If that doesn't work, small press.

AIR PIRATES (working title)
Premise: A future-telling stone makes a young man join an air pirate crew on a quest to find his long-dead mother.

Status: Tentatively titled "The Curse of Samhain." I have just finished chapter 14, putting the manuscript at 50,000 words.

Plans: The current outline calls for 29 chapters, maybe 110,000 words. I can't yet estimate when it will be done though. During the first six months, I wrote at 2,700 words/month, but in the last six I've more than doubled that. If I can keep it up, the draft might be finished in another 9-10 months. But take that with a bunch of salt, because (a) I'm getting faster all the time, (b) life gets in the way a lot, and (c) my wife and I are still trying to balance my writing with my life/job, and the net effect of this balancing on my writing speed is unknown.

I have a three-book story arc planned for Air Pirates.

JOEY STONE (working title)
Premise: A girl who controls fire with her mind joins an academy for her kind and learns about trust and sacrifice. (Give me a break, I haven't even figured out a plot yet!)

Status: Still brainstorming. Whenever I have ideas, I jot them down in a Word document set aside for that purpose. Otherwise, I leave it alone.

Plans (such as they are): The powers in the story are largely psionic in nature, but I may decide to refer to them as mutant or witchly.* The powers are based on a PBeM world I created in another life.** I was going to set the story in that world too, but now I'm thinking about leaving it on Earth, maybe modern day or near future. Heck, if I can figure out a way to place it in Thailand, I will. You can see how nebulous this story still is.

I very, very loosely have three books planned for this story. I don't know if I will start it after finishing Book 1 or Book 3 of Air Pirates though. Right now, Joey's just a seed that I'm interested in, but not a story. That seed has to bounce around my head for a while before it really sprouts.

* And you thought that other post was theoretical. Ha!

** In the world before 9/11.

Still Alive

Just got back from our visit to the States. Got 2 more rejections on Travelers queries. In October I plan to send out another transport of 10 queries,* maybe submit a short story, and actually write something for Air Pirates (I've got 0 words logged for this month - yay, vacation!).

I've also picked up about 13 books to read - sci-fi and fantasy all - so I'm looking forward to that too. It's a nice mix of true classics, modern classics, and modern midlist.** Though unfortunately I couldn't find the books I was really looking for. I guess I'll have to inspire my own airshipping.

In all other wise I'm just trying to get my house back in order after others have been caring for our kids for 3 weeks, and in less than 5 minutes I hope to pass out. I hope to wake up approximately 14 hours later.

* With draft #7 of the query letter.

** That could be classic any day now.

Follow Up Thought on Selling Out

For all my worrying about it, it just occurred to me that by the time I get to the story after Air Pirates, YA could easily be as saturated as male-focused sci-fi is now.

Sigh. Probably better to just tell the story I want to tell, I guess.

Genre Popularity and Selling Out

I was talking with my friend Matt the other day about this post on query effectiveness. It's about what kind of responses you should be seeing based on how hot your genre is right now. Here are a couple of bottom lines that interested me.

What's hot:

So what's a hot genre these days? YA and middle grade, but especially middle grade. Romance and mysteries are always hot, but their respective subgenres go in and out of favor). Graphic novels are "in" right now. High-concept commercial fiction (this never goes out of favor). And we've heard a lot of murmurs about serious women's fiction; agents are on the lookout.

What's not:

The market for traditional genre fiction has been saturated, especially for the type of fiction that was popular a decade ago. Also, genre fiction geared towards a male audience is a harder sell because women are the readers nowadays. That's why there's been an explosion of fantasy and science fiction with female "kick-butt" heroines, and thrillers and mysteries with female lead detectives.

So if you're writing traditional genre fiction geared towards men, then you're going to have a harder time.

Because I tend to write what I enjoy reading, I fall into the latter category. That kinda blows. Mysteries and commercial fiction aren't really my thing. I'd love to write a graphic novel, but I have very little experience in that area (and reading Civil War now is showing me just how different the writing style has to be). I'm not even gonna touch romance.

But here's the silver lining. The YA (young adult) genre is pretty danged freeform. Essentially, all a book needs to be YA is to have a teen protagonist, and beyond that whatever you do with genre doesn't matter. In fact, what with the tendency of my stories to mix sci-fi and fantasy, YA seems perfect.

So now I'm thinking of selling out, but not really. I mean, in order to sell out, I would have to hate YA but write it anyway. Thing is, I like YA. That's how, on the drive from Pattaya to Bangkok the other day, I found myself thinking about the next story - the one after Air Pirates that I've already planned a little - and wondering how it might change if the protagonist were one of the teenagers instead of an adult near one of the teenagers.

And what if that teenager were a female "kick-butt" heroine...