S2, E44: Prepping for NaNo: Monster Episode


Essentially this one is a two-for-one deal, because it’s practically two episodes in one! For the first chunk (about 40 minutes or so), it’s all about giving you updates on Aisuru. A ton of stuff is happening really fast, including Aisuru being off to editors for samples/quotes. The big news is Aisuru’s crowdfunding campaign – it is a go and it starts November 1st!!! Insanity!

After all of that, I then move into the actual planned topic, finishing out this Prepping for NaNo series by talking about setting, conflict, plot types, and narrative structure, including breaking down three act and hero’s journey structures. Tons of info in this episode delivered at a regrettably high speed to avoid running out of memory!

Intro:

First, some seriously huge updates!!!

  • Zenbi’s bank card arrived, yay! Stupid activation (seriously, M-F, 9-4pm only…WTF?)
  • Aisuru – finished getting the footnotes back in and going through and making any final minor tweaks based on the earlier critiques I’d received
  • First chapter is now at two editors for sample copy edits and quotes on said copy editing and proofreading
  • Over the weekend I played aroundwithPublush and in a moment of utter insanity, last night I hit the button and sent the project for approval
    • Approval has come through and Aisuru’s crowdfunding campaign will run November 1-30 (launches in 5 days), perfectly timed with NaNo, which seemed appropriate since it was my first NaNo “win”
    • Can find project at http://aisuru.pubslush.com – will of course post everywhere when it’s live!
    • Go over the Project details (from page)
  • Thanks to Madeline on topic as she pointed me to some helpful resources for this one 🙂

Main Topic:

  • Setting
    • Setting can factor into character behaviors, reactions to events, and the like. After all, the societal, legal, and cultural norms of one place would be different from another, or even from the same place in different time periods. These elements of a place and time can also play a role in the stakes of the story.
    • When trying to decide what the setting of your story should be, you want to keep in mind those aspects of the story that setting can influence.
      • Mood: the atmosphere of the piece can be made or broken by setting. For example: would a horror story set in a bright, rainbow and butterfly filled land with lots of people who are all happy, no weapons, no abandoned places, etc really inspire the same sorts of fears as the normal dark, creepy settings of a good horror story?
      • Character behaviors and norms: a character raised in a certain culture will have differing values, believes, clothing preferences, etc versus one from another. Someone from Japan would dress, think, act, and look differently than someone from Russia.
        • Even within the same country, there are distinct differences in the nuances of a person—for example, mannerisms of persons raised in the US southern regions versus those from the west coast.
    • Stakes/Consequences: different societies have different rules and cultural norms that can result in vastly different outcomes for a person going against the norm. A person committing adultery in the modern US may face divorce and lengthy custody battles. However, there are some countries or time periods, adultery could earn one or both parties a death sentence. Suddenly the stakes for your characters have jumped dramatically!
  • Conflict
    • Conflict is generally what is getting in our main character’s way of reaching their goals? Without conflict, the story wouldn’t have very much tension or excitement and would be boring. This is true regardless of genre.
      • Conflict doesn’t mean fighting or arguing—that’s a separate meaning relating more to person-to-person interactions. In story telling, conflict is something that is in your protagonist’s way, something that forces them to make choices or risk not failing at their goals.
      • There are two types of conflict you’ll find in stories: internal and external. As the names suggest, this essentially means conflict can come from within a person (internal) such as self-doubt, fears, and lack of self control or from outside (external) such as a bully, a wall to breach, or hurricane.
      • For the majority of stories, you’ll have both types present, as few people will be free of internal conflicts in any situation and without some form of external conflict there won’t be much for a character to do or to prompt them to overcome their current status quo.
    • Conflict can also be broken down into four classic types, three external and one internal. Knowing these classic types can help with figuring out just what the conflicts in your story will be.
      • Person vs Person
        • This is the most common type of conflict and probably the one that most people will think of when they hear the word conflict. Namely it’s one character against another, the classic tale of “hero” vs “villain”, mano a mano! Whether one of the characters is “human” and the other an alien, a god, a robot or so forth, as long as the other party is capable of “human-level” thought, it’s still a one-on-one struggle of opposing goals. There is a single identifiable being standing between your protagonist and their goals.
      • Person vs Society
        • With this form of conflict, the protagonist isn’t dealing with a single person, they must deal with the whole of a culture, bucking against what society has deemed okay. It isn’t necessarily that the others are “at fault” but still it is the people as a whole who are standing in your protagonists way of getting what they want. Your characters will often be forced to make a moral decision that goes against what they were “raised to believe” and may end up becoming a martyr by making that decision.
      • Person vs Nature
        • As you might have guessed, with this type of conflict, your protagonist isn’t against any identifiable person or persons but the very world itself! Nature is the obstacle blocking them from achieving their goals and mother nature is one heck of an opponent to deal with! This can be in the form of a force of nature, a geographical feature, or creatures incapable of human-level thought.
        • Often with stories dealing with this conflict type, you’re subplots will focus on individual stories of others dealing with the same natural event. Think of various natural disaster films—while the “opponent” is some natural event, the stories are usually driven more by the people caught up in it, both in the bigger picture of performing whatever roles they need to for the story (too save everyone, to escape, etc.) and on the personal level.
      • Person vs Self
        • We’ve probably all heard the saying “you are your own worst enemy”, and it’s never more true than with this form of conflict. The main thing standing between your protagonist and their goals is…the protagonist! Something in their own nature is what is keeping them from their goals, be it the way they are thinking or the way they are feeling. As we often self-sabotage in real-life, this type of conflict will be found in pretty much any story and paired with at least one of the other types.
    • Some people also add Person vs God, Person vs Machine, etc
    • Not all stories necessarily need conflict or even a singular main character. My friend Madeline recently shared a link for Ingrid Sunberg’s excellent series discussing the various alternate types of plot and narrative structure, which I’m sharing in the show notes as I can’t cover it all in one episode! 🙂
  • Plotting
    • Okay, so now we have all the basics – the characters, the conflict, the settings, and the writing style. Now it’s time for the main events, i.e. the actual plot! To do this, we’ll look at some different narrative structures that fit the typical type of plot: one or more main characters have a goal they want
    • If you pick up five different books on writing, you may very well find five different ways of planning out your novel’s plot.
      • Traditional 3 act structure, which can then be broken down into 5 or 6 parts – what you probably learned in school
      • Hero’s Journey
      • 4 act structure
      • Seriously, some books on the subject cover over FIFTY different forms of story structure….FIFTY!!
    • There are also differing schools of thought on conflict
    • No wondering plotting seems so daunting!
    • Could do multiple episodes on ways of plotting, and maybe we will down the road LOL For today’s, we’ll look at the classic
    • For sanity sake, we’ll look at just two of these:
    • Three Act Structure
      • First Act (beginning 0% of the way through the story) – introduces the characters and their goals.
        • 10%-15% – the protagonist faces a fateful decision. The protagonist is presented with a choice, and how they answer determines whether or not there is a story.
        • Set-up: also referred to exposition, this introduces the characters and the setting, showing what life is like before the “incident”. Readers will often get hints as to some of the characters’ goals and at least some of the internal and external conflicts that will be in play. Depending on your story this could be as short as a page or several chapters
        • Inciting Incident: this is the event that launches your protagonist into their adventure, i.e. what causes us to have a story to even read.
      • Second Act (25%) – starts piling on the problems.
        • 50% – Up to this point the story has been raising questions. At this point, it begins to answer them.
        • Rising Action: the bulk of your story will be the rising action, i.e. everything that happens after the inciting incident and to the climax. This is the journey, the roller coaster of events that your character will go along as they strive to reach their goals and while addressing minor conflicts and obstacles along the way.
      • Third Act (75%) – the beginning of the third act is the low point – the furthest the protagonist can possibly get from their goal.
        • Climax: This is it! The big event! The turning point when your main characters have to make the big decision that will determine the outcome of the story and they must directly address the main source of conflict, be it the protagonist or themselves or both. The climax itself is usually short as it is purely the actual event.
        • Falling Action: Now we have the fall out, the results of the climax and we’re heading downhill to the end of the story. Does the protagonist succeed in conquering the antagonist? Do they initially fail and have to go back and try something else?
        • Resolution: This is the end of the line, where the conflicts are resolved (or perhaps not) and we go wrap things up events. Whether the ending is happy or not, we see how the characters have changed and how the events they’ve been through have affected them. Sometimes the actual ending is referred to separately as the dénouement.
    • Hero’s Journey
    • A pattern of narrative identified by the American scholar Joseph Campbell that appears in drama, storytelling, myth, religious ritual, and psychological development. It describes the typical adventure of the archetype known as The Hero, the person who goes out and achieves great deeds on behalf of the group, tribe, or civilization.
      • 1. THE ORDINARY WORLD. The hero, uneasy, uncomfortable or unaware, is introduced sympathetically so the audience can identify with the situation or dilemma. The hero is shown against a background of environment, heredity, and personal history. Some kind of polarity in the hero’s life is pulling in different directions and causing stress.
      • 2. THE CALL TO ADVENTURE. Something shakes up the situation, either from external pressures or from something rising up from deep within, so the hero must face the beginnings of change.
      • 3. REFUSAL OF THE CALL. The hero feels the fear of the unknown and tries to turn away from the adventure, however briefly. Alternately, another character may express the uncertainty and danger ahead.
      • 4. MEETING WITH THE MENTOR. The hero comes across a seasoned traveler of the worlds who gives him or her training, equipment, or advice that will help on the journey. Or the hero reaches within to a source of courage and wisdom.
      • 5. CROSSING THE THRESHOLD. At the end of Act One, the hero commits to leaving the Ordinary World and entering a new region or condition with unfamiliar rules and values.
      • 6. TESTS, ALLIES AND ENEMIES. The hero is tested and sorts out allegiances in the Special World.
      • 7. APPROACH. The hero and newfound allies prepare for the major challenge in the Special world.
      • 8. THE ORDEAL. Near the middle of the story, the hero enters a central space in the Special World and confronts death or faces his or her greatest fear. Out of the moment of death comes a new life.
      • 9. THE REWARD. The hero takes possession of the treasure won by facing death. There may be celebration, but there is also danger of losing the treasure again.
      • 10. THE ROAD BACK. About three-fourths of the way through the story, the hero is driven to complete the adventure, leaving the Special World to be sure the treasure is brought home. Often a chase scene signals the urgency and danger of the mission.
      • 11. THE RESURRECTION. At the climax, the hero is severely tested once more on the threshold of home. He or she is purified by a last sacrifice, another moment of death and rebirth, but on a higher and more complete level. By the hero’s action, the polarities that were in conflict at the beginning are finally resolved.
      • 12. RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR. The hero returns home or continues the journey, bearing some element of the treasure that has the power to transform the world as the hero has been transformed.
    • Things to remember
      • Neither of these structures may work for you, and that is okay! There are many other kinds out there. Check out Ingrid’s link for 9. There is also an interesting structure found in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese story-telling called kishōtenketsu, which is a four-act structure that does not rely on any conflict at all, unlike most western style structures.
      • In fact, neither of these truly fit well with my own story this year! While my characters will face some challenges, trying to fit my story to any of these standard molds has left me pretty frustrated.
      • All of these structures are flexible! If something doesn’t work for your story, drop it. Don’t be afraid to shake it up. In the end, any structure is a guideline, not a force of nature that can’t be defeated! 😛
      • Your subplots may use a different structure entirely from the main plot, and that’s okay

Progress Report: Footnotes done in Aisuru and final fixes from previous feedback, first chapter at editors for samples/quoting, crowdfunding campaign scheduled to launch 11/1

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