Now About That Outline

Standard

A few years back, I had a post about J. R. Hall’s story structure scheme. It more or less informed how I wrote the final version of The Third Face. I haven’t actually reread any of that stuff, but I do remember the basics. That’s how I got The Demon’s Guardian outlined. Here’s how I split each arc up:

  • Hook/Part 1: Introduce the situation as it stands at the beginning, with a little detail to grab the reader’s interest. 
  • First Plot Point: Some event shakes things up, causing the main character to have to react and do things differently from normal life.
  • Part 2: The main character is trying to deal with the First Plot Point, and its consequences are becoming more clear. 
  • First Pinch Point: There’s a glimpse at the bad thing that could come about if the main character fails. Often it’s a villain showing off their evilness. (Actually should come in mid-Part 2.) 
  • Midpoint: New information! Suddenly you have a better idea of what is really going on, and perhaps an idea of how the main character is going to deal with it.
  • Part 3: The new information lets the main character stop reacting and start making real decisions. 
  • Second Pinch Point: Much like the first, but scarier. 
  • Second Plot Point: Right here, things look more hopeless than ever. But a decisive change is the last thing that creates the last hope.
  • Part 4: Building on the Second Plot Point, the main character takes definitive action that drives the story to its end. 
  • Resolution: The day is saved! Or maybe not. There is some amount of aftermath either way. 

    The astute reader noticed that there are ten of these. I gave each of the five characters all of the different moments, but some didn’t warrant a whole chapter, or they overlapped with each other, which is what led to the count of 45 in the end.

    Since it’s been so long since I posted that stuff the first time, it might be nice to revisit it as a little series with my own take on the subject. It would involve rereading the original, which might give me more insights, too. And, it could give this blog that component of helpfulness that I’m not so good at. Does that sound like a good idea? 

    Advertisements

    Five Years?! 

    Standard

    If you count the original, crummy grey book that was considered the first edition, it was published five years ago today.

    And that’s bonkers! I really don’t even have a real draft of The Demon’s Guardian to work from?! What kind of author takes that long? People are on George R. R. Martin’s case for the gap since his last book, but I’m pretty sure it hasn’t been 5 years yet.* (On the other hand, people have waited much longer for Kingdom Hearts 3, I suppose.)

    Anyway, this kind of anniversary is usually marked with a celebration. But I am just going to take this moment to say that I am officially starting to write The Demon’s Guardian today. Plus it’s not really 5 years because that first edition doesn’t count in a lot of ways. So yeah. Happy birthday, Rasuke.

    *UPDATE: I was just guessing, and it seems I was wrong. Turns out those books have historically taken quite some time to come out. The last one was in 2011, in fact. Who knew? 

    Quarter in Review: Winter 2017

    Image

    Okay, that title sounds really formal and corporate, but I want to at least try this kind of format out for the year. Why not? Let’s at least see how it went so far. 

    Early in January, I realized my attempts at using Unity were not working. Game development quickly turned over to RPG Maker, and I designed and got working on a prototype for Dungeon University. 

    It wasn’t easy. Quite often, just cleaning the house or even resting took priority. Bugs tended to stop me in my tracks. In the end, the prototype isn’t really a small playable game like I’d hoped, but it does show that I can get the main pieces working together. I also discovered aspects of the game that I didn’t see before, like the wonders of a small scale.

    Meanwhile, Shelby has found herself a distraction from wedding planning: she now sells LipSense products. I don’t honestly know a lot about it, but it looks like she’s about to start making some real money now that she’s all set up. I’m really proud of her for all this.

    And, of course, there’s that outline for The Demon’s Guardian that I mentioned. That’s just a big step toward the next few months, which I’ll have to cover in another post since this one is basically long enough already.

    Overall, it’s actually been really productive. In the short term, I kept getting frustrated about not doing more, but I guess it turned out pretty well after all.

    Okay, friends. What have you been up to so far this year? 

    The Outline 

    Standard

    Yesterday was a very intense day of working on The Demon’s Guardian. Specifically, I mapped out all the characters into groups and made sure each group gets a complete story arc. Then, I organized those pieces into a description of every single chapter of the book.

    Honestly, I set out to get it done that morning because I thought it would just take an hour or two. But before I knew it, it was the middle of the afternoon and I hadn’t even eaten a thing all day. That left me only a little time to try to clean the house. It was more stressful than actually going to work!

    But this opens up a lot of possibilities for the future. I had planned to work on this kind of outline right up until the point where wedding preparations take over our lives. This way, though, I could potentially get through a first draft by that time if I worked hard. Which, compared to my previous plan, leaves the second half of this year wide open. Needless to say, I like that. 

    Progress!

    Standard
    proto-screen001

    From left to right, Sam, Ziziere, Mikard, and Chromia. Oh, and a slime in the background.

    So today I finally had a day off where I wasn’t busy or sick or anything. It’s very much been a good thing, because I was worried that I could never catch up to my goals in time. Lo and behold, a productive day!

    Dungeon University has been the main focus. As mentioned before, I set it up so that the pairs give each other major bonuses, including special “Pair Burst” attacks. Basically, each pair has a set of points (which don’t have a meter yet because it’s tricky), and either character can use those points to trigger a really powerful skill unique to that pairing. Surprisingly, a system like this wasn’t really out there in the wild yet, so I had to use some cleverness to hack together a solution. Suffice to say, I’ve got a way so that one of those attacks, at least, works!

    My other time was used to take notes on The Third Face. I’ve been rereading it for a couple of weeks, and now it was time to put down the thoughts and details that I noticed. You’d be surprised at how much I managed to forget! It’s a good thing I found it, though, because there are probably enough loose ends here to fill another whole book, even if I didn’t introduce much new stuff. But I do have new stuff to introduce, so that’s why there are two more books, not to mention the fact that entries tend to get longer as a series goes on. Hopefully this means that The Demon’s Guardian will be relatively easy to write, once I get down to it.

    Overall, I am probably being really optimistic right now on both fronts, but for a guy that’s always worried about doing well enough and whether I’ll ever finish, that is a really good thing. Now let’s hope that my house and wedding plans are as cooperative!

    New Perspective

    Standard

    I never really thought about it before, but for the last couple of years, I’ve more or less been hiding my first book, The Third Face. I don’t mean that I stowed every copy away and took down the listings. But out of the people I’ve met since it came out, only a few know it exists. 

    Recently, some of my coworkers have discovered it on their own. I’m not sure how, but the information is spreading fast. And most of them ask me something like, “If you have this other talent, why are you working here instead of using it?”

    There are basically three answers:

    • It would be a bad idea to quit my day job just to work on a project that’s not even making money.
    • The more I pushed myself to write, the less fun it got, until I hardly liked it.
    • Making video games is more interesting to me right now.

    All of these were good reasons to put less emphasis on writing. But were they good reasons to put it off indefinitely? To quit? I don’t know.

    Right now, though, it’s a topic worth thinking about. After all, I’m ahead of this year’s schedule for Dungeon University, which gives me some time. (I should probably say more on my progress there, but… Next time!) 

    Throwback Thursday: Plot and Character 2

    Standard

    On Thursdays, I’m going to post a previous article from my blogging past. This week’s post was originally titled “Plot and Character: The Flaw” and appeared on Obscure Authors Alliance in February of 2013.

    Last time, I suggested that character arc is half the battle when it comes to story. In it, I briefly mentioned that all characters should have a flaw to overcome. This week I’m going to focus on that some more.

    What makes for a good flaw? Anything that will stop your character from getting past all the obstacles and accomplishing his or her goal. As long as the character fails to overcome the flaw, winning is impossible. For example, in my current work, the protagonist Rasuke has the idea in his head that it’s just a cutthroat world where everyone is only out for their own interests. He thinks other people only act nice when they need something from him, and he can’t trust anyone at all.

    The flaw will always be there. In the beginning of your story, it might not give your character much trouble, because he or she knows how to work around it. It’s later, when things really begin, that the flaw will begin to show its ugly face. Going back to my own example, Rasuke has been going through the motions without letting anyone in. When he finds himself close to a crime scene, though, his mistrust turns into paranoia, causing him to run away from home. And even when he gets out into the world, he refuses to make friends. That stops him from ever really thriving.

    Your character usually spends the middle of  the story just like this, shooting himself/herself in the foot. The problem is going to keep snowballing until nobody can ignore it. If you have a villain, that antagonist is going to take notice and start playing on your character’s weakness. There’s no way around it: as long as that flaw is there, the character will never be able to win.

    It’s around the halfway point that the character might start to become aware of the flaw. He or she might even start trying to overcome it, even with a little success. But it’ll still persist, and so will the outside force that the character has to face. That’s a great way to build a lot of tension–by ramping up the conflict both inside and out. And eventually, the character is going to snap.

    There are several names for the three-quarters mark of the story. I like to call it the crisis. This is the point where the character’s flaw is at its very peak, ruining his or her life completely and making victory all but unthinkable. After the crisis, the character takes some time to reflect and truly understand what he or she has been doing wrong. This empowers your hero to finally win. (Other theories put these events leading up to the three-fourths point, making the important spot the beginning of that comeback. You don’t have to be exact, though, so it’s not that different.)

    Finally, at the climax of your story, the flaw is gone. In fact, the climax is where the character shows off, in the most intense way possible, that his or her flaw has been conquered. The villain has been counting on that weakness to be there, and without it, the evil plan falls apart. That is the main reason that good wins: because the hero has grown.

    You can think of all these stories as metaphors for having an “intervention” for someone, if you want. Hopefully, though, your story is a bit more exciting than that!

    Well, there you have it. I’ve just explained, from start to finish, what character arc really is. Next week, I’ll delve into more aspects of character that are also essential to crafting a great story.