Writing Fantasy || Outlining 5 – Foreshadowing

Your characters have a backstory, a personal history that will shape their life in your novel. They have childhoods, education, loves, conflicts, careers. All of these must be present in your character building for you to see where you need to foreshadow an event. When the event happens, your reader should be able to look back and think, “Oh ya, I kinda saw that coming”, but still be blown away when it happens.

Writing Foreshadow
I Didn’t See That Coming!

Keeping Track of WhereYour Characters Have Been

One way to keep track of timeline in your novel is to use a paper calendar with large squares, create one online, or use sticky notes. If you have room, put these on your office wall. If something epic happens to Lucy on Friday, you need to leave a trail of breadcrumbs (metaphorically) or have Lucy experience something similar before the epic event. Put a few breadcrumbs in the days, months or years leading up to the event. This gets the reader anticipating something and committed to turning the page.

Examples of Foreshadowing   #WritingTips

In the story of The Two Towers, Frodo says he needs to know that Gollum will come back from the pitifully evil person he saw him becoming. This foreshadows Frodo later succumbing to the evil power of the ring.

So, it doesn’t matter that your protagonist was a ballerina as a child unless she’s a ballerina when we meet her in the story as an adult, or there was a traumatic dancing accident which will haunt her throughout her life and shape her future. The foreshadow leads to an event or a realization in her life later.

One of my favourite old movies is Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? A nasty crotchety old woman is just plain mean to everyone. You have to know there’s something in her past that made her change from the beautiful little girl she used to be. As the story progresses, we see her relationship with her sister whom she lives with and cares for. It’s in the dialogue and flashbacks that we learn what happened to Baby Jane.

By far one of the best movies of foreshadowing is Sixth Sense written by M. Night Shyamalan. The entire movie is leading the viewer creepily towards a shocking truth. I didn’t see it coming until near the end. I believed everything until then and was blown away by the ending. I had to go back and watch it again to get all the clues that were left like tiny breadcrumbs. Now THAT’s foreshadowing at its best!

Where do you need to add a breadcrumb of information that will have your reader saying, “Wow, I didn’t see that coming! Wait – yes I did!”

 

Resources:

The Two Towers

Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?

Sixth Sense

 

Till next time, I hope you are blessed.

Lynne

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Writing Fantasy || Outlining 4 – Conflict

So you have a nice fantasy/fiction story going on and you have a happy ending. Guess what? We’re going to turn that all upside down now! Get ready to throw your readers a curve ball and upset the apple cart. Every story needs conflict – even children’s stories. Think about it. Where would Little Red Riding Hood be without the big bad wolf? We all love a villain to hate.

Writing Conflict
Little Red Riding Hood and the Fox

 

Here are some elements to think about as you write the outline of your conflict:

What To Consider Before Writing Conflict

  1. What motivates both your hero and the villain so they’re drawn into the upcoming conflict?
  • Love
  • Greed
  • Pride
  • Anger
  • Duty
  • Other ideas…

 

  1. What keeps your hero and villain locked together in this conflict?
  • Past History
  • Jealousy
  • Mutual Love Interest
  • Loss of Someone or Something
  • Misunderstanding
  • Other ideas…

12 Key Elements On Writing Conflict   #WritingTips

  1. Your hero tries to understand what just happened in the inciting event and what it means to them and their way of life. This is the start of Act 2.
  2. Reveal the power of the antagonist (villain) and the true nature of the conflict arising.
  3. The hero begins to recognize what’s at stake and searches for ways to fight the battle.
  4. Your hero recognizes the true reason behind the conflict.
  5. With new knowledge and understanding, your hero gains headway in the conflict.
  6. Foreshadows Act 3 (sets up the base for what’s coming next) and reminds the hero what’s at stake. (We’ll look at foreshadowing more later).
  7. Your hero rallies everything they’ve got and launches it against the enemy with a seeming
  8. A defeat for your hero after the seeming victory in Act 2. This begins Act 3.
  9. The hero questions their goal, commitment and choices. They begin to doubt themselves and their ability to win the battle.
  10. Your hero comes face to face with the enemy.
  11. The next event is a duel to the death for the hero and the villain. This can be physically or metaphorically. The reader needs to be kept on the edge of their seat here because they know one or the other will lose.
  12. The hero wins and the conflict is ended.

The ending of your story should give the reader ‘breathing space’ and ease them into the hero’s new reality.

Watch a favourite movie – it doesn’t need to be fantasy – and see how the conflict escalates and is resolved.

Resources

The Hobbit -The Battle of the Five Armies

Maleficent

DivergentDivergent

 

Till next time, I hope you are blessed.

Lynne

Writing Fantasy || Outlining 3 – Story Arc

Most best-sellers and box-office hits have a main character that goes through an enormous transformation and either becomes a hero or ends up becoming a villain. (Anakin as he turns to the Dark Side). The result is what keeps us talking about it long after the story has ended and we’ve slid back into our own reality. It’s this change that intrigues the audience and keeps them riveted to the story, not wanting to put the book down or leave the theatre for a refill of popcorn for fear of missing something huge.

Darth Vader
Darth Vader

Award-winning novelists seem to agree that there are four (sometimes five) key elements to character arc which drives a compelling story arc.

 

4 Key Elements For Character Arc   #WritingTips

 

  1. Need
  2. Yearning
  3. Weakness
  4. Desire

 

  • Your story will usually begin with your main protagonist and their setting. His life lacks something he needs and causes a sense of something unfulfilled.
  • The need may be fuelled by a yearning which he may or may not be aware of.
  • The yearning may come from a backstory that caused them to feel weakened by a loss of love, ability, or perhaps a sense of purpose, and makes them fearful, limited by their circumstances and feeling unable to change. The yearning is most likely to be the opposite of what the protagonist’s life is like now. Identify their yearning in a single sentence and let that drive the story arc, for example, he wants to be free (of something or someone), to find true love, to go home again (or make a home for himself).
  • Something happens to your protagonist that changes their view on their daily life and stirs a desire for change. This is the Inciting Event.

This will all happen in Act 1. After the event that happens to your hero to stir their desire, you’ll be ready to think about your story arc and which scenes belong in Act 2. This took me some time to figure out, but I think I have the most important points now. Remember we’re not writing yet, just outlining. Simple point form or one-sentence sticky notes will do.

 

Creating Intensity Toward The Anticipated Conflict   #WritingTips

 

About a quarter of the way into your novel, the hero will be frantically searching for a reason behind the villain’s antagonism. The hero may not yet realize there’s an underlying cause for the building conflict, or they may have a vague idea but not yet know what’s at stake. The villain may still be taunting the hero to make them give up and turn back.

Before the halfway point of your story, the hero will realize the true nature of the conflict which is imminent and the ultimate power of the villain. Do your notes on story arc build up to your halfway conflict? Include your notes on the hero’s personality and flaws that hold them back, how their mentor tries to persuade them to believe the truth, plot twists, and some fun scenes with their companions for comic relief (The Avengers).

Next time we’ll look at how to generate conflict and why it propels the story.

 

Resources:

Personality Types by Lynne Collier

Star Wars – Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

The Avengers

Writing Fantasy ll Characters 4 –Personality by Lynne Collier

Writing Fantasy ll Premise 2 – Plot Twists by Lynne Collier

 

Till next time, I hope you are blessed.

Lynne

Writing Fantasy || Outlining 2 – Scenes

Do you sometimes get overwhelmed at the thought of actually writing an entire novel? Is there an easy outline to follow as you write your scenes? Take heart, I found a simple structure for novel-writing as I was pantsing my way through my first novel for NaNoWriMo, without any plotting ahead whatsoever!

All great stories have three main components;

  • A Beginning – The comfort zone of the protagonist and the inevitable separation
  • A Middle – Resistance of the oncoming event and the struggles moving forward
  • An End – The hero’s transformation and return to a new normal

 

Organizing for writers
Organizing Your Work

Use whatever method you’ve discovered works for you as you collect your ideas for your epic fantasy story; sticky notes, mobile device, notebook, dry-erase board, whatever. Use something you can manipulate. You’re going to want to move things around when you realize a particular scene needs to switch from the beginning to the middle, for example. For this reason, I like to type them out and colour-code the scenes once I figure out where they belong. Highlighting them makes it easier to spot them in the array of my imagination on the screen. Then write, write, write! Every scene that’s been playing around in your head and kept you awake all night or distracted you during a sermon (it’s ok, it was God who gave you your imagination so He’ll forgive you if it veers you off once in a while).Then put them under the headings; Beginning, Middle and End, or if you prefer, Act 1, Act 2 and Act 3.

Once that’s done, rearrange your scenes in the order you think they need to happen.

Remember you’re only writing what’s going to happen in your scenes, not the entire scene right now. This is extremely important if you’re using these blogs to prep for NaNoWriMo where you’ll need to write 50,000 words in 30 days. These blogs are about outlining (preparation) before you actually start the writing process.

 

The Beginning – Act 1

Begin at the beginning. Sounds like a good idea – very logical. The beginning is where all the groundwork for your story belongs. Here too, you introduce your reader to the when and where of your story. So here is where you put your Setting and World Building ideas and make them into scenes (something happening at the time and place in the world you’re describing). Write one or two sentences about what your scene will be.

The Status Quo

  • Introduce your main protagonist (hero) in their normal everyday life and the world they live in. (In LOTR, Frodo is a Hobbit who lives in a small house in a shire. He loves life and he likes people).

The Catalyst

  • The event that calls the hero to act on something and leave their status quo. (His uncle vanishes and leaves Frodo a magical ring).
  • They embark on a journey, either physically or emotionally. Usually, in fantasy, it’s a journey away from home. (In LOTR, Frodo sets out on his adventure).

The Denial

  • Your hero rejects the quest at first either from fear, hesitation or pride. (Frodo is reluctant to leave his comfortable life).

The Mentor

  • Your hero will need a mentor, someone who has experience and wisdom which will prove vital to the hero on their journey. Introduce the mentor here. (Gandalf is Frodo’s mentor as he leads him on the adventure).
  • The mentor will aid the hero through some sort of transformation.

Acceptance and Action

  • Introduce minor characters but introduce one at a time to give your reader chance to familiarize themselves with everyone in the story. (In LOTR, we’re introduced to Sam, Pippin and Merry).
  • Their journey begins.

#AuthorQuotes

“Don’t do a lot of world-building before you start writing. Do just enough to get the basics clear in your mind, then let the characters reveal things to you as you work”. – J. Anderson Coats, author of The Wicked and the Just. 

 

The Middle – Act 2  Trials, Tribulations, Friends and Foes

The Edge of the Abyss

  • Your hero will encounter all of the above; characters who will help your hero or hinder their quest. There will be tests to determine who is a friend and who is a foe. (Orcs, a stranger who becomes a good friend and ally, dark riders on horseback).
  • Your hero will need to decide if they will carry on with the quest, turn back, or run. There is a crisis. (Frodo has a crisis of courage, feeling that he cannot go on).

 

#AuthorQuotes

“Write short, sharp, heart-clutching scenes that propel your characters through conflict, adventure and resolution. Let your characters guide you”. – Elizabeth Sims, Novelist, Writing Coach and Editor.

 

The End – Act 3  The Climax and The New Normal

The Climax

  • Your hero faces their biggest test/fear in a confrontation with death or another big event. (Frodo knows he needs to destroy the ring but it beckons him, and he shows his weakness).

The Resolution and Reward

  • Your hero earns the prize and journeys home or on to a new normal. (Frodo goes back to the Shire, but his life will never be the same).

Rearrange your scenes until you’re satisfied with the order they’re in so the story outline starts to make sense to you. Fill in the Middle with several action-packed scene ideas. As always, learn from the masters by reading fantasy and watching fantasy movies. Keep a notepad handy and try to draw out of the story all the points in this blog.

How is your novel organizing coming along?

Until next time, I hope you are blessed.

Lynne

Writing Fantasy || Outlining 1 – Ask The Questions

Now we start the real ‘meat and potatoes’ of our novel’s outline. Researching this week, I discovered we need to go back to our premise and ‘What If’s to see if we can now add more interesting content to the ideas we wrote. What can you glean from the premise you’ve written?

Notes for Writers
Outlining A Novel

 

5 Epic Moments  

Can you think of five major events that will occur in your novel? Can you think of five ways to add your plot twists to each of those events?  When adding your plot twists, think about how these will affect the story:

  • How will this affect the protagonist?
  • Will you need to add backstory for your protagonist to show this affect?
  • Who else will be affected by this plot twist?
  • Is this a good place to add conflict? If so, between which characters?
  • Will this interfere with your protagonist getting what they want? How?
  • Will it cause a disaster for your protagonist?
  • Does your setting need more of a fantasy backdrop for your plot twist to be epic?

 

Do this exercise for all your major events and you’ll have a good outline started. Try to write a rough scene for each one to revise later. If you hit a wall don’t give up. Read a book in the same genre, or brainstorm with your writing group, then just start writing and pants for a while. Letting the juices flow freely may stir a fireworks display of creativity.

#VisualWritingPrompts

If you don’t have any scenes spinning in your head yet, watch a TV show in the same genre as your novel (This works great for me. I’m glad I have a pause button so I can write notes as I watch!) You can also find some great visual writing prompts on my Pinerest board. Later, you’ll keep what fits and file the other ideas for another time or maybe another novel.

 

Sunset on the beach
Sunset Silhouettes

 

Here’s a prompt to get you started. What do you see in this picture? A peaceful sunset at the beach, an approaching storm, or perhaps a scary scene from Fear The Walking Dead?

Resources For Outlining A Novel

White Rose Writers on Pinterest

Outlining Your Novel, by K.M. Weiland

Writing a Book by Jeff Goins

Till next time, I hope you are blessed.

Lynne       

Writing Fantasy || Characters 5 – Backstory

 

You probably have a pretty good idea of who your protagonist, their main sidekick, and the evil antagonist are and what they’re doing when your story starts; but how did they become who they are? Why is your protagonist a charming young female who loves to wander the forests of a mystical land on horseback? Why is her companion an outcast from a faraway land? What led your antagonist to despise all Elves?

What’s the story behind your story?

How do you find out the backstory of your story? As you know, I’m learning this whole process as I go along – like most of you too, it means. Thank you for joining me on this journey. In my research I discovered that the best information to start with is the character’s birth. (Duh.)

Baby Sleeping
Sleeping Baby by pixabay

I also found as I wrote my first NaNoWriMo novel draft last fall, it really does help to plot all this before you start writing your novel. I wasted many hours last November going back into a previous chapter to correct something I didn’t realize about my character until half way through. I mentioned I switched my focus half way through the story, right? The first half was superhero and the second half was – well, I’m not exactly sure but it wasn’t superhero. Something I learned from a fellow NaNo writer was to write all the main characters on sticky notes or in a journal with their own page (the method I chose), then add anything you discover about them as you write so you don’t lose track of information.

So let’s start with your protagonist.

Ask where they were born and any unusual circumstances surrounding their birth. Was it an easy birth? Was the father present? Were they delivered by a doctor or a travelling healer? Maybe in their realm they were delivered by supernatural means. How many siblings did they have? Write as much as you know about your character.

Then go on to childhood. Did they go to school? Who was their best friend? What was their favourite subject? Did they excel at anything? Did their experiences as a child influence their career choice? Were they homeschooled or sent away at a young age to apprentice with someone? Were they born with all the knowledge they would need in life? How did that happen?

If they’re an adult when the story begins, what drove them to be in the situation they’re in now? Did they suffer prejudice, health issues or a failed relationship? Write as many life events as you can think of and add to and erase when you begin to write. Many ideas will change as your story unfolds.

Then do the same for your major antagonist. Ask why they’re angry, mean, and vicious. People don’t start out that way as a newborn baby so what happened in their past to steer them down that path? Is the antagonist driven by fear, guilt or jealousy? Why do they have metal teeth or wear a mask?

Do the same for two or three minor characters and any new ones you add later. Write only what’s important to your reader.

 

#WritingFantasy   Resources:

Take a look at The Watcher by Sara Davison as a great example of backstory for her protagonist,  Kathryn Ellison, and Great Expectations as a wonderfully written backstory for the antagonist, the embittered Miss Havisham.

And check out my interview with Colin from the sc-fi novel Singularity!

 

Till next time, I hope you are blessed.

Lynne

Writing Fantasy || Character Interview

Good Morning, readers, and welcome to our blog on Interviewing Characters. Today I’m with Colin Wade from Singularity.

#CharacterInterview
Lynne: Colin – first, let me say “happy birthday!”
Colin: (Laughs) Thanks. It was quite an accomplishment for me.

Lynne: I understand you’re a pilot for Deep-Sight Space Exploration. How long have you been working for D.S.S.E.?

Colin: Not very long. I mean, I’ve been with them for a long time, in training. And I’ve done some odd jobs here and there but this is my first time doing anything this… big.

Lynne: Yes, I heard your current mission is rather ambitious. Can you explain the goal?

Colin: The mission is to study a singularity. The central point of a black hole. Research into black holes is nothing new, but this is the first time we’ve ever attempted anything this close to one. The D.S.S.E. seems to think we’ve got the technology in place to study it safely but in greater detail than we ever have before. The data we get back from this one mission should match or even surpass what would normally have taken us decades with the previous tech. It’s a good time to be in astrophysics.

Lynne: How is it going?

Colin: Slow. (Laughs) So far it’s been surprisingly difficult to find viable black holes. But it’s probably just the regions we’ve been exploring. Ang seems to think it’s just a matter of time before the perfect one shows itself.

Lynne: Ang?

Colin: Oh, sorry. My onboard computer – the Artificial Neuron Generator for Universal Studies. “Angus” sounds too formal, though, so I just took to calling him “Ang”. He doesn’t seem to mind.

Lynne: I see. I hear this is your first time as captain.

Colin: It’s my first time on official duty as a captain. I mean I’ve had training. I’ve done the tests. But actually sitting in the chair on a live mission is a completely different feeling.

Lynne: Do you find space to be a lonely place?

Colin: It’s certainly different. I don’t mind isolation, necessarily, but space is different from simply finding a quiet room or spending time alone in the woods. To have literally no other living being around for incalculable miles is a feeling hard to describe. Ang keeps me company, though. For an AI he’s not bad to talk to. Plus he plays music for me.

Lynne: Oh, really? What kind of music do you listen to?

Colin: It changes. Ang’s gotten into the habit of picking songs based on my mood. I like a lot of oldies by Sarah McLachlan and Elton John. Lately, Ang’s been playing mostly “Take Me Home” by Phil Collins. And of course, David Bowie has some good ones for my particular career choice.

Lynne: I LOVE Bowie! And yes, I suppose he does have some fitting songs. What made you choose space exploration as a career?

Colin: I never really asked myself that. But if I think about it I guess there’s a lot of reasons. The biggest attraction was probably that it’s quiet. Not that I don’t like people. I like them in small quantities. A little bit at a time, or a few people at a time. But I do my best work on my own, in a quiet room, with all of space to look at. Compared to people, astrophysics is easy.

Lynne: Do you miss home?

Colin: Oh yes. Way more than I thought I would. But they did warn me that isolation can do that.

Lynne: Is there anything you’d like to say to any friends or family back at home?

Colin: Oh geez. Well, the first thing would be to thank everyone for the razor. It’s been working like a charm. I’ll give a shout out to my mom and dad and my sis. I’m sorry I couldn’t be there on my birthday to see everyone, but duty calls. We’ll do a barbeque at mom and dad’s when I get back. I’ve been practicing. I feel like I’m forgetting some people, but whoever you are, just assume that I miss you too. I’ll see you all as soon as I get back, and thanks for all the well wishes. Ang, do you want to say anything? (Brief silence) Really? Ang just says hello. He’s being unsocial.

Lynne: Well thank you so much for doing this interview, Colin. It’s been a pleasure talking with you.

Colin: Oh, the pleasure’s been all mine. It’s been great to hear another voice.

 

Well, reader, that was an interesting interview. I couldn’t imagine being alone in space for months at a time. Although listening to Bowie and staring at the stars sounds very peaceful.

Which of your characters would you interview? Why did you choose that character? What would you ask them?

Resources:

You can read more about Colin Wade and his extraordinary space mission in Singularity by Benjamin T. Collier.

Singularity by Benjamin T. Collier
Plot twists in every chapter!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read my other blogs on Character Development:

Writing Fantasy || Characters 1 – Races

Writing Fantasy || Characters 2 – Names

Writing Fantasy || Characters 3 – Occupations

Writing Fantasy || Characters 4 – Personality

 

Until next time, I hope you are blessed,

Lynne