Writing Fantasy || Point of View

Who is going to tell your story? The answer to this question will play an important role in the tone of your entire novel. We listen to other people probably every day in one form or another; in personal conversations, a lecture at school, a boss, or characters on a TV show. Notice how the tone of their voice influences you. Are they interesting, funny, lively, friendly or quarrelsome? The characters telling the story have their own unique voice and, depending on that voice, will tell a scene in a specific way. Have you listened to your characters?

 

Writing Point of View
Point Of View

 

8 Points To Ponder For Point Of View   #WritingPov

 

  • Have you thought about what tense you’ll write in? Will your story read better in past tense or present tense?
  • Past Tense – “Suzie shopped at the mall”.
  • Present Tense – “Suzie is shopping at the mall”.
  • When you sit to write each scene, who do you hear talking in your mind?
  • First Person – “I love donuts”.
  • Second Person – “You love donuts”.
  • Third Person – “Suzie loves donuts”.
  • Omniscient (aka all-knowing) – “Suzie loves donuts but she doesn’t realize they’re laced with a powerful hallucinogenic”. Use this voice sparingly, as when none of the characters know something but your reader needs to know.

 

Choose Your Narrators   #AmWriting

Just like in a movie audition, test your characters’ voices to see which point of view sounds best for each scene. You may want to do several viewpoints throughout your story, but remember to not switch viewpoints in the middle of a scene or chapter unless you make a specific break in the narrative. It confuses the heck out of the reader. If you’re new to writing fantasy/fiction keep it simple and write one POV for each scene. You may feel like you want to write the entire story from one POV, but test other voices to see if you can spice things up, add some humour or simply add a different perspective to delight the reader.

Voice Test   #WritingPOV

Write a paragraph from the author’s POV. This means you just write out the paragraph as it happens, without emotion or opinion. Then write it out in all the voices of your chosen characters. Let them say what they feel and what they’re thinking.

  • Who sounds good for this particular scene?
  • Who has an emotional investment in what’s happening?
  • Who will it influence later in the story as your plot unfolds?
  • Who sees something no one else does?

Example:

  • “Suzie went to the mall again. I hope she’s not spending all her money. She still has two weeks before her next paycheck”.
  • “She went to the mall again. Who does she think she is, buying all those fancy expensive clothes? They look ridiculous on her anyway.”
  • “Suzie went to the mall this morning. She needed to choose a dress for her grandmother’s funeral”.

Do you see how each character changes the tone of the scene? What were they thinking and feeling? Ask them why. Draw the scene out from your chosen character’s point of view.

 

Resources

Back To The Future – where the twists are revealed by other people and by the main character.

Structuring Your Novel – K.M.Weiland

 

Till next time, I hope you are blessed.

Lynne

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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

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