Showing posts with label K.M. Weiland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label K.M. Weiland. Show all posts

Monday, May 6, 2013

Protagonist’s Backstory PLANNING YOUR NEXT STORY: PART 6



Protagonist’s Backstory   PLANNING YOUR NEXT STORY: PART 6

Other discussions in this series include:


Today we will discuss something related to getting to know your protag and that is learning from them about their background, backstory. We all have one. If you’re alive and have lived at all, even for a minute or two, you have a backstory.


So how do you learn about your protagonist’s? You ask him/her through an interview. Devise a series of questions you might ask anyone you know (real person) or want to know about. Then verbally ask those questions to an empty chair. Although that chair won’t really be empty, because your protag will be sitting there, answering or refusing to answer, your questions. If they refuse, find a way around the question to seek the same answer.


Since you completed a character worksheet last month, you already know the basic stats about your character: hair color, style, length, eye color, etc. What you seek now is more in-depth about their childhood, their parents, siblings, schooling, tauntings or bullyings, special events from their past which helped make them who they are.


Don’t forget to ask WHY or HOW. Ask about any unresolved issues from their past and how they might complicate matters now. What are some catalysts that marked their life? How did they respond/change?

Here are a few questions to include in your interview:

What do people like/dislike about you?

What do YOU like/dislike about yourself?

What are your beliefs? Secrets?

What are your personal demons? Why? What have you done about them?

Are you optimistic or pessimistic? Why? How does this affect your life?

How confident are you?

What is your level of morality?

What would you change about yourself if you could? What’s stopping you?


Do you like your name? 

Who is the most important person in your life? Why?

What would you do if something bad happened to them?

Who were your friends growing up? Now?

Who were your enemies then? Now?


Learn all there is to know about their parents/guardians. I discovered an entirely new side to my story while discussing Rayna’s parents with her. Suddenly the woman who turned her over to the Peacers had a motive and the bully in the Gestortium’s motive matched giving me bookends. Readers LOVE bookends in stories. I’ll talk more about them at a later date. But by learning about Rayna’s mother’s backstory, I discovered she also had a bully growing up (the one who turned in Rayna) and the two bullies’s motivations are the same: now and then for Rayna and her Mum. Without learning about her Mum, I would never have seen that parallel.


Ask about siblings, dead or alive. You’d be surprised how many protags have experienced deaths they don’t like to discuss, but which had an impact on them. Ask about cousins, aunts & uncles, grandparents, neighbors, playmates (again-this became instrumental in my later bully motivation), etc.


Don’t forget to think about all of the characters revolving around your protag. You DO NOT need such in-depth interviews for all of them, but any who play a major role in the story need to be interviewed—if only to get to know them better and not use any of their background in the actual story.


Next month,

Thanks to K.M. Weiland’s Outlining Your Novel

Rebecca Ryals Russell, a fourth-generation Floridian, was born in Gainesville, grew up in Ft Lauderdale then lived in Orlando and Jacksonville with her Irish husband and four children. Due to the sudden death of Rebecca's mother, they moved to Wellborn, near Lake City, to care for her father, moving into his Victorian home built in 1909. After teaching Middle Graders for fourteen years she retired and began writing the story idea which had been brewing for thirty years.  Within six months she wrote the first three books of each series, YA Seraphym Wars and MG Stardust Warriors. The world she created has generated numerous other story ideas including two current works in progress, SageBorn Chronicles based on various mythologies of the world and aimed at the lower Middle Grade reader and Saving Innocence, another MG series set on Dracwald and involving dragons and Majikals. She is finishing a YA Dystopian Romance which has been a NaNoWriMo project for three years. She loves reading YA Fantasy, Horror and Sci Fi as well as watching movies.  Read more about Rebecca and her WIPs as well as how to buy books in her various series at http://rryalsrussell.com  You may email her at vigorios7@gmail.com



Saturday, April 6, 2013

Protagonist PLANNING YOUR NEXT STORY: PART 5



Protagonist   PLANNING YOUR NEXT STORY: PART 5

Subjects we’ve covered are: PREMISE, the PLOT POINTS andCOMPLICATIONS, SCENES, the MEATY5 (story’s heart).

Today you will discover who your PROTAGONIST is. You may think you know him/her, but when you finish with today’s questions, he/she will feel like your best friend.

For those who might not know, the protagonist (protag) is the one about whom the story is told; he/she/it solves the problem. The protag doesn’t have to be the ‘good guy’. You can have a bad protag, as long as the story is ABOUT that character and they are the one facing and solving the problem (remember, no conflict/problem=no story).

So, you probably have some idea who your protag is at this point in the story development. But you may not know enough INNER DETAIL about him/her to keep them from becoming a flat character. Here are some ways to get to know the character.

Complete a Character Worksheet. There are tons of these available online or you can email me and I’ll send you some I use.

List 10 of the worst things that could happen to the character. How does he/she respond?

For example, Rayna is captured by the Peacers at age 13. She thought she was ‘safe’ from having to go to the Gestortium. But an evil lady turned her in out of revenge. What does Rayna do? She recalls her father always telling her to “Be invisible.” So she goes along, but watches for her chances to escape.


Next list 10 of the best things and how the character responds.

What are the character’s Internal Conflict? We all have it. Sometimes out internal conflict becomes so overwhelming we can hardly function—and some can’t function so they get sent to prison or a mental facility or check out with drugs/alcohol/sex/shopping. So, what conflicts does your character deal with besides the ones thrown at them in the story?

For Rayna:
Who is she?
Why is her hair red, eyes green?
Why are these taboo in society?
Why can’t she love Trae and express that love openly?

Of course, being a young teen, she has many more issues, but you get the idea. Keep brainstorming EVERY POSSIBLE conflict you can think of from all aspects of the character’s life. Some of them may NEVER be used in the story, but it helps you know them better.

Which of the character’s viewpoints change throughout the story and in what way? The protag MUST grow throughout the story or they become flat, like a paperdoll. So, decide what the character is supposed to learn and how and why. It’s called Character Arc and is similar to the Story Arc but for the protag. Ask him/her—let them tell you.

Mine: Rayna starts out quiet, subdued, listening to Da’s “Be invisible” as a result of living with taboo features. But as the bully pushes, she has to begin standing up for herself then her friends. Finally, she is pushed too far and decides that being invisible may not be the best answer for her.
Lastly, answer these questions:

What is his/her greatest weakness? Who is he/she hurting?
What does the character want? Need?
What does he/she know at the beginning? Middle? End?
What is he/she wrong about at the beginning?
What will he/she learn at the end?

Next month, your Protagonist’s Backstory.

Thanks to K.M. Weiland’s Outlining Your Novel

Rebecca Ryals Russell, a fourth-generation Floridian, was born in Gainesville, grew up in Ft Lauderdale then lived in Orlando and Jacksonville with her Irish husband and four children. Due to the sudden death of Rebecca's mother, they moved to Wellborn, near Lake City, to care for her father, moving into his Victorian home built in 1909. After teaching Middle Graders for fourteen years she retired and began writing the story idea which had been brewing for thirty years.  Within six months she wrote the first three books of each series, YA Seraphym Wars and MG Stardust Warriors. The world she created has generated numerous other story ideas including two current works in progress, SageBorn Chronicles based on various mythologies of the world and aimed at the lower Middle Grade reader and Saving Innocence, another MG series set on Dracwald and involving dragons and Majikals. She is finishing a YA Dystopian Romance which has been a NaNoWriMo project for three years. She loves reading YA Fantasy, Horror and Sci Fi as well as watching movies.  Read more about Rebecca and her WIPs as well as how to buy books in her various series at http://rryalsrussell.com  You may email her at vigorios7@gmail.com



Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Meaty 5 PLANNING YOUR NEXT STORY: PART 4



The Meaty 5   PLANNING YOUR NEXT STORY: PART 4

So far, we’ve discussed your PREMISE, the PLOT POINTS and COMPLICATIONS, and SCENES.


Today let’s talk about determining the meat of the story which will help define what the story is about, who the protagonist is, what he/she wants/needs, who your audience is. Without answers to these questions, your story might be a great idea, but will it develop into a readable story?

These 5 points were the hardest for me to define. I had the most trouble with the THEME. It changed about fifteen times before I realized what it was.

First, let’s look at MOTIVE. This is not your protag’s motive, but that of the story. Here’s mine:

Tell a story set in the far future about how a strong female deals with an oppressive, male-dominated society.

Pretty straightforward. 

Next is DESIRE. This does apply to the protag. What is his/her biggest desire in the story? What must they accomplish or die trying?

Mine: to be left alone to live her own life her way, to meet her birth mother, her twin sister and be with the boy she loves without government interference.

GOAL. Every character in the story must have a goal. Even the antag has a goal. But here we are concerned with the protag’s goal. What drives your character?

Mine:  to get through this horrific experience, required by the government of all girls her age but escape if she sees a chance.

CONFLICT. I know you’ve heard this before, but it bears repeating: You don’t have a story without conflict. There should be LOTS and LOTS of conflict in a good story. We’re talking here about the MAIN conflict of the story and maybe one or two SUB conflicts.

Mine: Shawna’s bullying (jealous); government’s Generational Program which is inflicted on every girl age 12-20; internal conflict about who she is.

THEME. Like I said, this was the hardest for me. I read through list after list of possible themes looking for the one which fit my story. I found several, but they never seemed just right. For example, knowing who you truly are can make you strong enough to deal with adversity. While this is true of my character, it is not the theme of the entire story.  Information can lead to knowledge. Oppression leads to rebellion. By losing everything, sometimes you gain a true sense of self. While all of these held a glimmer of what the story is about, none were complete.

Then I thought of this one: Sometimes, it’s only by staring into the abyss one finds the courage to jump across.

This fit my story in many ways, which I listed in my notes and was pleased to see how well it fit. So don’t try on just one or two, keep looking for the right idea until you find the one that fits.

Another interesting way of getting the theme across is the use of Symbolism. What are some symbols you can use to establish the theme in the reader’s mind?

Mine: Rayna’s view out the window beside her top bunk is of a narrow street and the front of another tall building. The street is so narrow she imagines getting a running start down the central dorm aisle between the beds and launching herself to freedom across the chasm of the street, landing on the roof of the next building.

In the Exercise Yard, where they all go for one hour every day, Rayna presses so hard against the chainlink fence while staring down her street to freedom, that she become imprinted by the links on her cheeks, forehead, shoulders and hands.

Next month, getting to know your Protagonist.

For an in-depth discussion of these points be sure to read K.M. Weiland's Outlining Your Novel



Rebecca Ryals Russell, a fourth-generation Floridian, was born in Gainesville, grew up in Ft Lauderdale then lived in Orlando and Jacksonville with her Irish husband and four children. Due to the sudden death of Rebecca's mother, they moved to Wellborn, near Lake City, to care for her father, moving into his Victorian home built in 1909. After teaching Middle Graders for fourteen years she retired and began writing the story idea which had been brewing for thirty years.  Within six months she wrote the first three books of each series, YA Seraphym Wars and MG Stardust Warriors. The world she created has generated numerous other story ideas including two current works in progress, SageBorn Chronicles based on various mythologies of the world and aimed at the lower Middle Grade reader and Saving Innocence, another MG series set on Dracwald and involving dragons and Majikals. She is finishing a YA Dystopian Romance which has been a NaNoWriMo project for three years. She loves reading YA Fantasy, Horror and Sci Fi as well as watching movies.  Read more about Rebecca and her WIPs as well as how to buy books in her various series at http://rryalsrussell.com  You may email her at vigorios7@gmail.com

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Scenes PLANNING YOUR NEXT STORY: PART 3



Scenes   PLANNING YOUR NEXT STORY: PART 3

So far we’ve discussed discovering the PREMISE for your story. Then you explored the BIG MOMENTS (turning points or plot points) and how they complicated your character’s life then how that affected them, ending with some major problems your character must deal with.

Today we’ll start imagining some scenes in the book.



Every book is similar to a screenplay in that it consists of scenes which move the story along. The scenes must be cohesive, sequential (unless there’s a flashback or flashforward, foreshadowing), essential to the plot movement and end on an upnote to keep the reader wanting more. Generally, a chapter is a scene. 

Sometimes you can have several scenes within one chapter, if they all relate. Just remember to end on a cliffhanger. Keep the reader guessing and intrigued. That’s why a chapter should end with someone about to be in trouble of some sort, or solving something big in the plotline—but in the next chapter.

Just think about the end of every serial show on television—they always show what’s coming next week to keep you coming back. And how do they ALL end for the season? On a cliffhanger, of course.

So, looking at your list of BIG MOMENTS from last month, start with any moment (turning point/plot point) and imagine what scenes might occur within that time-frame of the story. Make sure you cover the and thens and affects you thought of earlier and any more you might come up with.

I always work sequentially, but that’s just me. You can start with any plot point you find interesting or have ideas for and work out from there. It's sometimes helpful to begin at the end and work forward--especially if you know your ending.

Don’t worry about whether or not you will actually USE the scene. Write down just enough to remember the basics of it and move as fast as you can through each plot point. The scenes don’t have to be in any order yet, either. You’re just brainstorming at this point.

Here are my first five scenes when I brainstormed:
1.      Rayna is helping sell bolts of fabric when Peacers arrive and chase her through bazaar. She’s thrown into wagon with other girls. Woman who turned her in is smashed when wagon turns around. (This actually became my entire first chapter with many changes and additions)
2.      Rayna meets Deena and Renee on wagon
3.      Given Suzy’s (name changed) bunk in Gestortium. She has to chase away other ghosts when they realize she can see/hear them
4.      First night Rayna can’t sleep—some girls crying, moaning, snoring
5.      Fascinated by History lessons because never had schooling while others all bored—heard it all growing up normally

I even included flashbacks and premonitions/visions/foreshadowings in my scene brainstorming. I ended up with about twenty written pages of notes.

Next you type them onto a Word document with spaces between. Print them out and cut them up. Finally, you will arrange and rearrange these scenes as you build you chapters. You might even throw some out (I did) or add others as needed (I did).

Once you have them organized, paperclip each stack with sticky notes denoting the chapter number and put them into order.

Next month, the heart, liver, kidneys and brain of the story: Motive, Desire, Goal, Conflict, Theme.

Thanks to K.M. Weiland’s Outlining Your Novel

Rebecca Ryals Russell, a fourth-generation Floridian, was born in Gainesville, grew up in Ft Lauderdale then lived in Orlando and Jacksonville with her Irish husband and four children. Due to the sudden death of Rebecca's mother, they moved to Wellborn, near Lake City, to care for her father, moving into his Victorian home built in 1909. After teaching Middle Graders for fourteen years she retired and began writing the story idea which had been brewing for thirty years.  Within six months she wrote the first three books of each series, YA Seraphym Wars and MG Stardust Warriors. The world she created has generated numerous other story ideas including two current works in progress, SageBorn Chronicles based on various mythologies of the world and aimed at the lower Middle Grade reader and Saving Innocence, another MG series set on Dracwald and involving dragons and Majikals. She is finishing a YA Dystopian Romance which has been a NaNoWriMo project for three years. She loves reading YA Fantasy, Horror and Sci Fi as well as watching movies.  Read more about Rebecca and her WIPs as well as how to buy books in her various series at http://rryalsrussell.com  You may email her at vigorios7@gmail.com



Sunday, January 6, 2013

Planning Your Story: Part 2 Big Plot Moments



Planning Your Story: Part 2 Big Plot Moments

Last month I talked about answering questions in order to establish the PREMISE of your new story. Without knowing WHERE you are headed, you might not ever get there.

Today, I want to discuss how to establish your BIG PLOT MOMENTS.

Think hard about what the major events in your story MIGHT be—remember none of this is set in stone and can and will change as you write. This is a GUIDE to get you started. So, what is the first big thing your protagonist will face? What will happen then? And next? And so on.

Once you have this list of BIG MOMENTS, list 2 complications for each of those moments.  Beneath each complication, describe how this will affect your character.

Here’s how I handled this task:

BIG PLOT MOMENT
Rayna meets her twin at Summer Festival but doesn’t know it.

And then?
1.      She is seen talking with a red-haired girl by the antag who uses this as ammo
2.      Rayna begins to question who she is because they look so much alike
Now, obviously I had more than one big moment, but if I gave them all away here, you wouldn’t need to read my book. I think you can get the idea from this example.

So what?
1.      Rayna becomes the object of the bully/antag
2.      Rayna questions who her parents were, why she has red hair and they don’t, why is it taboo

As I hope you can see, by doing this exercise for EACH of your BIG MOMENTS in the story, you will begin to see it unfold and blossom like a summer rose.

Next month, setting the scenes.

Thanks to K.M. Weiland’s Outlining Your Novel

Rebecca Ryals Russell, a fourth-generation Floridian, was born in Gainesville, grew up in Ft Lauderdale then lived in Orlando and Jacksonville with her Irish husband and four children. Due to the sudden death of Rebecca's mother, they moved to Wellborn, near Lake City, to care for her father, moving into his Victorian home built in 1909. After teaching Middle Graders for fourteen years she retired and began writing the story idea which had been brewing for thirty years.  Within six months she wrote the first three books of each series, YA Seraphym Wars and MG Stardust Warriors. The world she created has generated numerous other story ideas including two current works in progress, SageBorn Chronicles based on various mythologies of the world and aimed at the lower Middle Grade reader and Saving Innocence, another MG series set on Dracwald and involving dragons and Majikals. She is finishing a YA Dystopian Romance which has been a NaNoWriMo project for three years. She loves reading YA Fantasy, Horror and Sci Fi as well as watching movies.  Read more about Rebecca and her WIPs as well as how to buy books in her various series at http://rryalsrussell.com  You may email her at vigorios7@gmail.com

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