I was ready to pack it in! I had committed to putting out the third and final book in my current series, and then maybe I’d just quit. Live an ordinary life. Not have to keep learning new skills and trends to keep up my writing career. I had learned many things: — How to
Do you ever wonder if the hours, days, weeks, and years you spend at your computer arranging words is making any difference whatsoever in the grand scheme of life? I do.
Since 1989, I’ve spent much of my time writing fiction. A lot of people don’t understand what I do, or why, but I keep writing because I think that’s what God has called me to do. In all those years, I’ve written lots of short pieces but only six books (four currently published). But does it make my world better? Does it leave a legacy for anyone besides my immediate family?
Kimberly Yuhl suggests you have eight words to capture your reader’s attention.
Rob Weatherhead states in the article, Say it Quick, Say it Well (please excuse the grammar), that the attention span of a modern internet consumer is short. “Studies have shown that 32% of consumers will start abandoning slow sites between one and five seconds.”
In my Fiction Writing 101 series, I often refer to James Scott Bell and his writing books and tools, especially Plot & Structure. My copy is well-marked and highlighted. That’s where I first heard the differentiation between an OP and a NOP.
OPs are Outline People, NOPs are Non-Outline People. The abbreviations are easy to remember but the meanings tend to merge into one another.
What is plot—besides a piece of ground used to bury dead people? (That’s from James Scott Bell in Plot & Structure.) In my mind, plot is the story itself, with a beginning, middle and end. Of course there are literary works that don’t follow any of the rules, not even as guidelines, but I’m thinking of genre writing. Plot is the skeleton of the story, the bones on which the rest is built and fleshed out.
A smile formed on Callie’s face at the sight of Tom. It had been so long.
“Welcome by to the land of the living,” she said.
“It’s good to be back. What have you been doing in my absence? I hope you managed to keep out of trouble.”
“Of course, what do you think?”
She willed him to take her hand, to look deeply into her eyes. There had to be something between them after all they’d been through together.
Touching scene, except that it’s hard to follow in our mind’s eye because it’s not grounded. Callie and Tom are two characters floating in no particular time or space. We have trouble visualizing the interaction without supporting place.
There are many methods for creating fictional characters. We’ll look at how to:
- create characters from our imaginations
- use people we know and alter them to be unrecognizable
- create conglomerates using characteristics from a number of people
- use actual people
Before we begin talking about plot outlines, character development and setting, let’s discuss a little concept called genre. The word is pronounced john-ra or zhon-ra, and it simply means kind or variety. In our case, it refers to the kinds of stories we read and write.
When I present a talk on novel writing, I often ask the audience for their input on the basic elements of fiction, and they come up with several immediately: plot, setting and character. Let’s begin with these.
Plot, according to James Scott Bell in his excellent how-to book Plot & Structure, is: “1) a small piece of ground, generally used for burying dead people, including writers and 2) a plan, as for designing a building or novel.”
Plot is what happens in our stories: the beginning, the middle and the end; with a story arc that takes the reader from one part to the next with compelling situations.