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Posts tagged ‘novel’

Power Tools for Writers

Elizabeth Sims of Writer’s Digest writes, “It’s not the size of your writer’s toolbox that matters—it’s how you use what’s inside. Become proficient with these two tools and you can fix most any story problem.

 

The Story Arc

            What is it?

            How to Use it?

 

The Elements of a Story Arc

While story arcs vary based on the storytelling medium (novel, short story, television show, etc.), I will summarize a basic story arc in five parts. These parts include:

1. The author creates a status quo. This is the framework in which the story occurs. What is normal life like for the characters before the story begins? This gives the reader background and helps the author develop the character.

2. There is a “trigger.” An event that is external to the main character’s existence gives him or her a reason to break the status quo. For example, in the classic fairy tale “Hansel and Gretel,” the birds eating the children’s breadcrumbs and causing them to be lost in the woods is the trigger for their adventure.

3. The trigger causes the main characters to embark on an adventure or a journey. This adventure forms the main part of the story. The adventure may be metaphorical, as it may consist of the protagonist exploring a part of himself or herself or coming to terms with a past injury. During the adventure, one or several plot twists or surprise events will help to give the story substance. They should surprise the reader while remaining plausible.

4. The protagonist makes a decision that steers the course of the story. The kind of decision that the protagonist makes will determine his or her character and how the audience perceives this character. The consequences of this choice result in the climax, which is the point in the story where the tension reaches its peak. This is the turning point and the most exciting part.

5. The tension is resolved. This is done by examining the full consequences of the protagonist’s choice and the fallout of the climax. The author explores the new roles of the characters and how the climax has changed the status quo.

Why use story arcs in fiction?

Using a story arc in your writing can help you organize your story and keep the action moving. It can help condense a disorganized collection of small plot twists into a narrative that flows seamlessly and keeps the reader engaged within a broader tale. This is especially useful in long works, like novels, films, and episodic stories like tv episodes and comics. While the downside of the story arc is that it is difficult for readers or viewers who start in the middle of the work to become engaged and understand what is going on, using a story arc can help you develop a loyal following of readers or viewers who want to know what happens next.

Making story arcs work for you

If you are considering using a story arc in your writing, you can either use it as a framework to build your plot or you can use it as a checklist to edit your work. Both ways are useful and which way you choose depends on personal preference and the way you write. You may find it useful to use the components of the story arc as an outline before you begin writing, as it can form a skeleton that you can flesh out with details and prose. Conversely, you can write your story, then fit it into the story arc guidelines and add and remove parts as needed. For instance, you may have an excellent climax but need to develop your status quo and trigger more.

Whether or not it was the initial intention of the author to do so, most stories do follow the story arc guideline. Use this pattern to help you get started, to edit a story in process, or simply to provide forward momentum in your work. The uses of this literary tool are limited only by your imagination.

 

The Character Arc

What is it?

            How to Use it?

 

The standard definition of a character arc is how your main character changes over the course of your story. It’s important to note that there’s more out there than just the good guy or gal who’s transformed by the end of the story. Not all characters undergo some major transformation. In some cases, your main character will grow, but not transform.

In fact, most character arcs can be simplified to fit into three different, but sometimes overlapping, categories:

  1. The Change Arc (aka the Hero’s Journey)

Probably the most common, or at least the most recognizable. By the end of the tale, the main character has conquered and becomes a usually unlikely hero. Some examples include:

  • Katniss Everdeen’s rise from poor hunter to revolutionary hero by the end of The Hunger Games.
  • Frodo Baggins in The Fellowship of the Ring begins as an eccentric little hobbit with an ordinary life in the Shire. No one would have expected him to overcome so many obstacles and throw the ring into Mount Doom.
  • And remember, a hero is not necessarily a good guy. Look at Michael Corleone in The Godfather by Mario Puzo. Just home from Vietnam, Michael wants nothing to do with the family business, but an assassination attempt on his father forces him to take action and sends him down the path toward becoming the ruthless leader of New York’s most powerful mafia.
  1. The Growth Arc

The standard definition of a character arc is how your main character changes over the course of your story.

The most common form of character arc is the Hero’s Journey. An ordinary person receives a call to adventure and, at first, he or she refuses that call. There’s usually a mentor who helps the hero accept or learn how to attempt the adventure. Think of Yoda in Star Wars.

There’s More to the Character Arc

It’s important to note that there’s more out there than just the good guy or gal who’s transformed by the end of the story. Not all characters undergo some major transformation. In some cases, your main character will grow, but not transform.

In fact, most character arcs can be simplified to fit into three different, but sometimes overlapping, categories:

1. The Change Arc (aka the Hero’s Journey)

Probably the most common, or at least the most recognizable. By the end of the tale, the main character has conquered and becomes a usually unlikely hero. Some examples include:

  • Katniss Everdeen’s rise from poor hunter to revolutionary hero by the end of The Hunger Games.
  • Frodo Baggins in The Fellowship of the Ring begins as an eccentric little hobbit with an ordinary life in the Shire. No one would have expected him to overcome so many obstacles and throw the ring into Mount Doom.
  • And remember, a hero is not necessarily a good guy. Look at Michael Corleone in The Godfather by Mario Puzo. Just home from Vietnam, Michael wants nothing to do with the family business, but an assassination attempt on his father forces him to take action and sends him down the path toward becoming the ruthless leader of New York’s most powerful mafia.

2. The Growth Arc

This is where your main character becomes a better version of who he or she really is. Another version of the Growth Arc is a Shift Arc where the main character shifts his opinion or perspective about a certain situation or a group of people. Some examples of a growth arc include:

  • Skeeter Phelan and her contingent of African-American maids in The Help by Kathryn Stockett. They begin the story timid and oppressed, and through the course of the story, they transform into strong women who take a stand and fight for change.
  • Richard Chapman in The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian. In this book, a decent, moral family man throws a bachelor party for his younger brother that gets out of control. The ending is shocking (no spoiler alerts), but it serves to reinforce the main character as an accountable, responsible man.
  • Briony Tallis in Atonement by Ian McEwan. Briony is a good girl who thinks she’s protecting her sister and makes an accusation that haunts her the rest of her life. Her life becomes, in effect, atonement for that one moment.

3. The Negative or Fall Arc (aka the Tragedy)

Our main character fails, he or she is doomed, or death occurs. Shakespeare was excellent at writing compelling tragedies.

  • The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger gives us Henry who can time-travel and change what has or will happen in his life. His wife Clare is left behind to wonder and worry every time he travels. No spoilers, but this is definitely a negative character arc.
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding shows us the ugly side of humanity by marooning a group of British school boys on a deserted island who try to govern themselves with disastrous results.
  • Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller is the tragic ending of Willy Loman, a salesman surrounded by mixed and unaddressed emotions of his family and himself about what life should be.

There you have the three major character arcs. People may—and do—argue that there are more than just these three character arcs and perhaps they’re right. It can also be argued that there are no original story lines, just variant degrees of the same plot. Think about it.

Seeking manuscripts

We are seeking manuscripts (books) on:

  • environmental sustainability;
  • healthy school environments, including projects that reduce food waste in cafeterias;
  • environmentally-friendly agriculture practices;
  • reducing human contributions to ocean litter;
  • school gardens;
  • recycling.

Submit unpublished manuscripts to: bookdivision@pathtopublication.net

 

From the PTP Book Division

Atsa - Cover

List Price: $11.95

5″ x 8″ (12.7 x 20.32 cm)
Black & White on White paper
218 pages

ISBN-13: 978-1986942294

ISBN-10: 1986942295

BISAC: Fiction / Native American & Aboriginal

This story traces the life of a half Navajo infant boy abandoned by his birth mother on the steps of a Catholic Navajo Mission School. The mission’s staff cared for him during early childhood. Betty, the school’s cook was Navajo and named the abandoned child Atsa. Interpreted definition is eagle. Atsa was born mute causing social challenges he was forced to confront. A retired college professor widower eventually adopts him. Atsa displayed high level academic prowess and this trait combined with sign language and written responses allowed him to transcend his disability and achieve a medical degree from The University of New Mexico on a full academic scholarship. His adoptive father adds significant input to Atsa’s life combined with his formative years, as Sister Cynthia served as Atsa’s surrogate mother at the mission school and influenced Atsa’s progression through adulthood.

 

New books from PTP Book Division

Stalked_Cover_for_Kindle

List Price: $14.95

6″ x 9″ (15.24 x 22.86 cm)
Black & White on White paper
424 pages

ISBN-13: 978-1987433937
ISBN-10: 1987433939
BISAC: Fiction / Action & Adventure

Twenty-two-year-old Brittany Carlson has just been signed by Baez Productions to star in a film that everyone in Tinsel town is sure will be the next Oscar winner. Brittany should be thrilled, but instead she is terrified. Her life has been turned upside down and she is trying desperately to keep it a secret. Someone is stalking her and yet the police are suggesting this is merely a publicity stunt!
She is even more horrified when her Pulitzer Prize-winning mother descends on her home in the middle of a party only to find that cocaine is one of the guests.
Between the efforts of her world famous mother as well as Brittany’s two sisters, life begins to look as though it might just have a chance to get back to normal; at least as normal as any life in Hollywood can be. That is until the stalker makes a lethal threat against her mother and her sisters. Brittany is sure this nightmare can’t get any worse. Now, her whole family is in danger. How do they find this psycho and will they be in time?

HostageCoverImage

List Price: $14.95

6″ x 9″ (15.24 x 22.86 cm)
Black & White on Cream paper
310 pages

ISBN-13: 978-1984187567
ISBN-10: 1984187562
BISAC: Fiction / Action & Adventure

In 1972, the political situation in Nicaragua is far from stable and Signe Carlson is worried. The corrupt dictator, Anastasio Somoza Debayle, controls the National Guard that acts as both police and army. The leftist guerilla group, The Sandinistas, is waging a covert war against the current regime. Mick McKenna and her daughter – Jenna Carlson – who has become one of Mick’s top operatives at McKenna International are both on assignment in Managua as are several other of Mick’s senior agents.
Signe’s sixth sense is in overdrive and when her daughters, Lia and Brittany, unexpectedly show up at her home, she finds out that her intuition was correct: Mick is missing. His plane made a forced landing in the mountains of Nicaragua and although his operatives got to the site in less than thirty minutes there was no sign of either Mick or the pilot.
Signe goes into action and within three hours of receiving the news, she is on her way to Managua in her corporate Learjet. She has a plan and she intends to find Mick. An old friend from her days in the OSS, Maria Dolores Díaz Aguero, lives just outside Managua and Signe knows that she and her family are highly involved in the politics of their country. Although Signe plans to commandeer Jenna as well, if anyone can help her to locate Mick, it is Maria.
StormCoverImage

List Price: $11.95

6″ x 9″ (15.24 x 22.86 cm)
Black & White on White paper
292 pages

ISBN-13: 978-1987433791
ISBN-10: 1987433793
BISAC: Fiction / Action & Adventure

March 21, 1976
Family and friends are gathered at Buckingham to celebrate Signe Carlson’s 51st Birthday. Mick McKenna’s gift to Signe is a month long cruise on their yacht, The Enickma. Where they would cruise is up to Signe and little did either of them suspect the deadly threats from both man and Nature they would undergo during their vacation.
From their home in Scottsdale, AZ to cruising the South Pacific attractions of Micronesia to a boardroom in Austin, TX, Signe and her family as well as Mick and his associates must work against time once the schemes of the man they call The Puppet Master are discovered and before he has a chance to turn his plans into catastrophic events.

 

New Title from Saguaro Books, LLC

Chip Cover

 

List Price: $11.95

5″ x 8″ (12.7 x 20.32 cm)
Black & White on White paper
202 pages

ISBN-13: 978-1978044838

ISBN-10: 1978044836
BISAC: Juvenile Fiction / Social Issues / Physical & Emotional Abuse

Danny Meyers is a kid with a plan—he’s smart, goal-oriented, and the definition of a goody-two-shoes. So how does an A+ student get mixed up with the school bully? In the summer of 1995, Danny is about to learn that people aren’t always what they seem, that sometimes the best-laid plans fail, and that the ordinary events of day-to-day life can be important—even if you don’t think so at the time. Danny is on the verge of turning a corner and he won’t be able to go back. But what he learns after turning that corner, and a few more, just might help him make sense of things after all.

ShopSmallSaturday, November 25

Please support our small businesses:

a)  All Things Editorial, LLC  www.allthingseditorial.com

b)  Saguaro Books, LLC  www.saguarobooks.com

c)  The PTP Book Division  www.ptpbookdivision.com

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New from Saguaro Books

BookCoverImage

List Price: $11.95

6″ x 9″ (15.24 x 22.86 cm)
Black & White on White paper
274 pages

ISBN-13: 978-1548323608

ISBN-10: 1548323608
BISAC: Juvenile Fiction / Fantasy & Magic

Would you risk everything just to be cool?

Young Duggan McDuggan really has no choice. Her habit of talking to trees has made her the most teased kid in her village. Duggan would love to stop the teasing but there’s no way she’s going to give up her tree friends. And so she’s worked out a daring plan to journey with her two best friends to Eshmagick, ancient realm of the Faeries. This will certainly stop the teasing. No one in five hundred years has made it there and back again.

For their dangerous journey, Duggan and her friends will need a Faerie guide. Unfortunately, legend says harming a Faerie will bring down a terrible curse and it’s hard to catch a Faerie without hurting it. But when you’re as desperate as Duggan, no curse is too scary to stop you.

 

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