Archive for plot

Creating a Plot Storyboard for your Novel

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 8, 2017 by Dawn Ross
Plot Storyboard

Plot Storyboard – Print this out for your use or use note cards or a writers’ software program like Scrivener.

Remember last week’s post? I gave two tips for helping you get started on writing that book you always wanted to write. One of those two was to create a plot storyboard. Why? Because in order for people to like your novel, you need to have a good plot. With a good plot, even an beginning writer can write a worthwhile story. A plot storyboard can help guide you in developing your plot. Here is a basic plot storyboard outline to help you plan your novel:

  1. Character in a normal world – Don’t make this part too long or boring. In the old days, writers took a lot of time to develop the characters and setting in the first chapter or two. But in today’s world, you want to grab the reader’s attention as soon as possible. I, personally, stick to about half a page and add other details to scenes and characters as the story progresses.
  2. Inciting incident – This is the incident that forces the character to act. For a romance, it could be him meeting a woman who captures his interest. For a mystery, it could be a murder of a friend. For an adventure, it could be a call to war from the authorities.
  3. Character must make a choice – Do they pursue the woman, try to solve the murder on their own, or honor the draft?
  4. Character begins his journey
  5. First complication arises – This is going to be the character’s first indication that the journey is not going to be as easy as he first thought.
  6. Complication grows
  7. A new and larger crisis emerges – This is going to be much larger than the first complication and will cause the character to stop and wonder whether he should go on. It may also send the character in a new direction. This complication will be approximately midway through your story.
  8. Complications increase and become more complex – Your character may want to turn back, but keeps moving forward.
  9. A breaking point complication arises – Your character is going to be at the lowest of the low. The task is going to seem complicated. Your character is going to want to give up. The situation looks hopeless and it’s your character’s darkest moment.
  10. The character decides to finish what he started – Your character needs to go against his natural inclinations and do something he never would have thought of himself doing before. Make sure that whatever it is that instigates him to move forward despite the new and more complicated situation that it’s not a deux ex machina. This is something that miraculously shows up just in the nick of time without any indication previously in the story that this might arise. A deux ex machina would be a sudden change of heart with no explanation or a friend who has had very little interaction in the story suddenly shows up with awesome skills to help.
  11. The drama is resolved – The drama is resolved, the antagonist is defeated, and the character has changed. For a romance, the character is now a person in love. For a mystery, perhaps the character has a darker view of humanity. For an adventure, the character has learned more about the world and more about himself.

This is just a basic storyboard outline. Your story can have more than three increasingly difficult complications, but at least three are needed. And your story can have smaller side-plots. Also, remember not to get too caught up in the planning process. It’s good to plan because it gives you a place to start. But too much planning can cause you to lose steam and you’ll never get to the fun process of writing your book.

Two Tips to Help You Start Writing a Book

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 1, 2017 by Dawn Ross

Ideas for Writing a Book

Sorry I’m late today. I took the kids on an unexpected trip. Here’s your article this week for what I believe are the two most helpful tips for getting started in writing that book you’ve always wanted to write:

Have you ever had a great idea for a project, but never really started it? This happens a lot when it comes to writing a book. It all starts with an idea, but then ends once you start thinking about all the complicated aspects that go into it. Some people can just sit down and write. But they either know enough about writing to know exactly what is needed to make a good story, or they’re just winging it and hoping a good story will turn out well on accident. You’re probably not the first type or you wouldn’t be here. 🙂 And if your the later type, you probably don’t want to simply just wing it on your great idea. So here are two tips to help you start writing a book.

Break Down Your Tasks

Writing a book can be a very daunting task. If you’ve done some research, you’re probably overwhelmed with all the things you need to do. So the first step in getting that books started is to stop thinking about all of it at once. Break the tasks down into pieces and do one piece at a time. If you’re not familiar with all the aspects of writing a book, this list could change. But at least your brain isn’t trying to process everything at once.

What I’ve done is created a folder on my computer. The main folder is the title of my book. When I open that folder, there are more folders. There are folders for writing tips, research resources, my character journals, publishing information, and more. Several documents are found in the writing tips folder. One document covers plotting tips, another for character development tips, one for tips on adding conflict, and so on. The documents contain things I’ve typed out or links to websites I’ve found that provided good information.

You don’t have to do yours on your computer. You can also create a binder. At first, your computer folders or binder will have very little information in them. But as you write, you’ll find other things to add. This process will help you grow and help you keep organized at the same time.

Plot Storyboard

Plot Storyboard

Create a Plot Storyboard

To write a good story, you MUST MUST MUST have a plot. If your good story idea is about someone who gets into a lot of adventures with no end in sight, your readers are going to get very bored. A well-organized plot can turn even the most amateur writers into good storytellers.

To create a good plot, you need to think about what your character wants to achieve by the end of the book. They have to really want it and you have to help the reader really want it for them too. Then you need to think of complications that your character encounters that make it difficult for him to reach his goals. And these complications have to escalate to a point where your character considers giving up.

The above image is something you can use. You can also use note cards or consider software such as Scrivener. I, personally, like note cards. Note cards allow me to create subplots that I can put in story sequence around the main plot. I’ve heard a lot of other writers praise Scrivener and other software programs. Find what works best for you.

Next week, I’ll provide a generic outline for a storyboard. In the meantime, feel free to comment on this post.

The Kavakian Empire – Part Two Story Issues Update

Posted in Sci-Fi Part 2, The Kavakian Empire, Writing with tags , , , , , , on November 21, 2015 by Dawn Ross

I spent the entire Halloween weekend working more details into my outline. When I got done, I realized some serious shortcomings.

Part Two really is awesome. It has the perfect story elements for a good plot. And the plot escalates just like it’s supposed to. A good plot was something that Part One was very weak at.

I think I did a great job on Terk’s character in Part Two. He really takes the spotlight. And that, therein, lies part of the problem. Jori and J.T. are too wishy-washy. I can’t have that. Jori is the whole reason I am writing The Kavakian Empire to begin with. And J.T. is a major part of Jori’s story.

So on Halloween day, I brainstormed for ways to improve their characters. This is what I realized I needed to fix:

One reason Terk came out to be such a fantastic character is because he creates conflict. Jori and Terk were too wishy-washy because they just went along with everything. So, I tried to think of ways to increase their conflict

Internal Thoughts
One way to increase conflict is to get inside the character’s head more. The Emotion Thesaurus is helping me with this. By doing a better job at writing internal thoughts and emotions, I hope to shed some light on what my wishy-washy characters are thinking. And what they’re thinking can be a conflict because it might not be what the person observing them thinks they are thinking.

Take Jori, for example. He is very good at masking his emotions. So when I had him talking to his father, it looked to the reader like he was just going along with his father without much resentment. But by adding more internal thoughts, I hope to give the reader a better insight on how Jori feels about the man.

Use a Character’s Strengths Against Them
Another way to increase conflict is to understand that a character’s strength can also be his weakness. For example, my character Jori tends to care a great deal about certain people. I think most of us can agree that caring about people is a positive strength. But it’s not such a great trait to have when you’re part of a brutal warrior race, especially when a person you care about is supposed to be your enemy.

Conflicts with Friends
Conflicts with the enemy are a given. So writing Jori’s conflict with his father was easy. But what if he has a conflict with his brother, someone he cares deeply about? Writing J.T.’s conflict with the emperor was easy, too. But what if he has a conflict with one of his own men, like Harley?

Other Conflicts
The above are the types of conflict I used, but there are a number of other ways conflict can be used to help make a character more interesting. Conflict can be internal, such as when dealing with addiction or by having to make a difficult choice. Conflict can also be external. External conflicts don’t have to be just with people or society either. Someone could have conflict with an object, such as one a racecar driver might have with their car. Or it can be with the environment, such as needing to cross a mountain pass in winter.

Once I decided on what I needed to make my characters more interesting, I brainstormed some ideas on how to implement them into the story. I came up with several great ideas and grasped onto two situations that I felt would really spice up the story.

Coming up with more content meant editing and adding to my current outline. I added several chapters or subchapters and 4,890 words to my outline and I made revisions to a few of the chapters that I’ve already written. If you’d like to see the revised version of those chapters, please email me at naturebydawn at aol dot com.

By the way, I’ve been participating in NaNo, aka the National Novel writing month, at Hopefully, this will keep me motivated so that I can finish Part Two in no time. You can find me on NaNo by searching dawnross.

The Kavakian Empire – My Process for Writing a Chapter Timeline

Posted in The Kavakian Empire, Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 8, 2015 by Dawn Ross

Writing a story is not easy. Even if you have the best story idea in your head, getting it down on paper can be a tedious endeavor. One needs to keep track of and flesh out all the details, make sure there are no loopholes, have the three act structure in mind, stay focused on the plot, and so much more. I may not be the best person to tell you about structure and plot, but I believe I have a good process for writing each chapter.

1) Know where the story is going
2) Determine character motivations
3) Decide who, what, where, why, and how
4) Build a basic timeline (the when)
5) Decide point of view
6) Add more detail to timeline
7) Begin writing or go back to step 6

Know Where the Story is Going
I already know the basic outline of my story. For part two of The Kavakian Empire, we’ve seen Emperor Kavak take possession of a laser that can be turned into a deadly weapon. We saw J.T. and his crew of Alliance officers get captured while trying to stop the emperor. We know Terk and Jori want to help J.T. but since they know their father the emperor won’t allow it they have to go behind his back. We also know the emperor has a strong desire to make up for his father’s failings. And we know the Tredons are a warrior race.

Determine Character Motivations
So how far will a warrior emperor go in order to develop a deadly weapon? And how unlikely is it that J.T. and the other Alliance crew members will willingly do this for him without proper motivation?

When writing a story, it is important to understand your characters and why they do the things they do. It’s not enough to have a bad guy do bad things without understanding the reasons behind them.

Decide Who, What, Where, Why, and How
After asking myself the above questions, I decide that in chapter 5 the emperor will set a drastic tone by torturing the prisoners. In his mind, these Alliance men need to know he is serious. He doesn’t want them to sluff off from their efforts. He doesn’t want to have to deal with protestors or procrastinators.

As we saw in chapter 4, Terk is to gather the prisoners in a place on the ship called the gallery. Now that I know the what, where, and why of this scene, I need to decide who will be there and how it will be done.

* Who: All the Alliance prisoners, Emperor Kavak, Jori, Terk, and several Tredon warriors.
* How: Will they all be tortured at the same time? This doesn’t sound easy, so I decide one man (or woman) will be tortured at a time so that the others can watch. A device is wheeled in. It is basically just a metal frame with shackles hanging down where a man can be hung by his wrists. Torture can’t be too severe. The emperor has already expressed his desire to give them a “taste”.

I then ask myself if there is any other information I want to convey in this chapter. I’ve decided Jori and Terk will be expected to witness it, but will they be expected to actually participate? And if they are expected to participate, will they do as they’re told?

The When: Build a Basic Timeline
The next step is to create a basic timeline for the chapter. Try to keep plot and structure in mind. Here is my basic timeline for chapter 5:

– The Alliance prisoners will be brought into the room. Describe the room, the metal frame with shackles, and who is in the room. Try to implement other senses besides sight when describing. Smell, sound, feeling, taste?
– Emperor Kavak will lecture the men (and woman) on what is going to happen and what he expects the results to be.
– The first Alliance man is hung from the shackles. He is whipped, zapped, beaten, or all three. He cries out as the other prisoners watch. Other prisoners get their turn.
– Terk and Jori are told to administer some of the punishments.
– J.T. is tortured last and worst because he is of the highest rank.
– When it is over, the emperor gives another brief lecture.

Decide Point of View
You may have noticed that I prefer to write my story from the third person point of view. And I have different characters give their point of view at different parts of the story. In thinking about this particular chapter, I think it makes the most sense to have this chapter told from J.T.’s point of view.

Add More Detail to Timeline
Now that I have all this decided, the next thing I do is make a more detailed timeline:

– J.T. is afraid. The Alliance prisoners are made to kneel on a cold floor. The room is also cold, and it smells musty or something. One of the Alliance men is hung on the shackles. The emperor, Jori and Terk, and several Tredon warriors watch. Some watch without expression, like Jori and Terk. Some watch with gleeful anticipation and J.T. hears derisive laughter. I realize that Hanna had previously been in a separate place from the prisoners and had probably already been beaten. So I have three choices: 1) not have her in this scene, 2) have her show up with the rest of the crew and have J.T. assume she’s been raped, or 3) have J.T. reflect briefly on what he knows of Hanna. Hanna was brought to his cell earlier. She had been beaten and bruised. But she was conscious and she told J.T. that Terk helped her.
– I haven’t decided yet on what the emperor will say in this first lecture, but it will be brief.
– All the prisoners cry out from the torture. Some will even beg. I will only focus on one or two but I do not want to go into morbid detail. It will be noted that Simmonds and a few others will beg while Hanna, Harley, J.T. and a few others don’t. Hanna does not get as much of a punishment because she had already been injured by Lank.
– Jori refused to participate. J.T. sees that the emperor is angry about it but he doesn’t push the issue. J.T. sees Terk hesitate but he ultimately decides to do what his father wants. J.T. feels sorry for them both.
– When it is J.T.’s turn, he is determined not to cry out. But he is surprised at how much it hurts. He’d never been tortured before. He broke his arm once while on a hike and was left to suffer for hours before rescue came. But it was not like this. This was sharp and continuous.
– The emperor makes it clear that he has torture methods that are far worse than this, but he will hold back so long as they cooperate. He mentions a man named Alkon and gives morbid details on what Alkon will do. J.T. is sickened by what he hears and when he looks at Jori and Terk, he thinks he sees the revulsion on their faces too. It is difficult for him to tell though, because both Jori and Terk are good at keeping their faces blank.

Write the Story
I can add more detail to the timeline again if I want. Or if I think I’m ready, I can start to write in earnest. I think I’m ready to get started on this one. Is it possible that the story will change when I actually start writing it? Absolutely.

When you write, don’t feel limited to the structure of your timeline. You may find some information to be too much or too boring. You may decide a certain part isn’t necessary. Or you may find that you need much more detail than your timeline suggests. Either way, that’s okay. The timeline is just a tool to help you build structure and focus.

Every writer has their own process. So if you’re writing a story for the first time, give my method a try. If it doesn’t work for you, there are many other methods used by many other writers. Find what works best for you and write away!

Still Working on a Weak Plot

Posted in The Kavakian Empire, Writing with tags , , , , on January 18, 2015 by Dawn Ross

For the past week, I’ve been trying to learn how to spice up my plot and subplots. Some tips I’ve come across that have been more helpful include:

* Put characters in stressful situations to reveal their character – J.T. is an important character, but I’ve written him very blandly. I’ve introduced a little more of his background into the story and have put him in a stressful situation in chapter 12 (coming soon). Other stressful situations will emerge as the story progresses.

* Plot needs to be presented in a series of escalating conflicts – A plot is emerging, but not strongly enough. I believe I have stressed the need to prevent a war a little mores strongly. Things will escalate more in future chapters.

* Every page needs tension and urgency – I’m still falling short on this one.

* Backstory is worked into the story, not spilled out all at once – I have a tendency to give too much information at once, so I’ve deleted and changed some parts and have hinted at things to be divulged later.

* Leave little mysteries to be revealed later – I hope I’ve done this.

There are several other tips I need to go through in order to spice up my plot. I will keep reading and learning. As you may have noticed from my commentary, I’ve done some revisions to the previous chapters on the Kavakian Empire story. I think I’m still having trouble engaging readers with a good plot and subplots, but I think I’ve made some positive changes. Please go back and read the first eleven chapters of this space opera. Be sure to leave a comment with constructive criticism.

I Need Help with a Weak Plot

Posted in The Kavakian Empire with tags , , , , on January 10, 2015 by Dawn Ross

I’m stuck. I’m having a problem moving forward with writing The Kavakian Empire. Why? Because the plot in my story is weak. I know this but I don’t know how to fix it.

I know a plot is driven by character motivation. I know I should leave some mystery in the story. I know antagonists should try to prevent the protagonist from reaching his goal. But I can’t seem to make this space opera engaging.

I need to study more on what makes a good plot. And I need to use what I learn to meditate on how I can make this story better.

Here are a few posts I’m going to read:

Plot: Strengthen Weak Or Unfocused Plot

10-Minute Fixes to 10 Common Plot Problems

How to decide if your plot points are too weak (and how to fix them)

I’m also reading this book:

Book Perfecting Plot by William Bernhardt

Find this book on Amazon

If you have any ideas or sources that can help me with fixing my story plot, please comment below. Hopefully I’ll be back soon. If I modify any of the chapters I’ve previously posted on the space opera, The Kavakian Empire, I’ll let you know.

Further Develop your Story and Characters

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , on February 14, 2014 by Dawn Ross

In previous posts, I told you how I came up with the story and characters for “The Guardian of Destiny”. I showed you how I started out with just the basics and let my story grow from there. That is how I did it, but how can you implement my process and make it your own?

It all starts with an idea. Maybe you did a writing exercise that seemed to take off. Perhaps you watched something or read something that left this exhilarating feeling in your gut. This is where you start.

Meditate on whatever it was you saw or wrote that seemed to resonate so well. What is it specifically that got you excited? Was it the dynamics of the characters in the movie you saw or the book you read? Was it the way the story was told, the intricacies of the plot, the ending? If you got this feeling through a song you heard, what were the images you saw when you heard the song? What feelings did the song bring?

You need to take these abstract feelings and put them into words as best you can. This way, it will be easier for you to recapture it whenever you need the inspiration. Putting these feelings down on paper makes them more real and helps you to build your characters and your setting.

There are no hard and fast rules when you develop your story. At this point, it is perfectly okay to let your imagination go wherever it wants to go. Write it all down. You can write randomly as your ideas pour out or you can organize your thoughts using note cards. Not all your ideas will be used. You will find that as your story grows, some things will need to be discarded and other things will need to be added.

Once I get a basic idea of the plot, characters, and setting, I like to organize my thoughts. I dedicate a binder to the story. And then I start by writing about my main characters; what they look like and their basic personality traits. After that, I describe my fantasy world. At this point, neither my characters nor my fantasy world are set in stone. I want to give myself the freedom to change things, should the story require it.

I like to use note cards to organize my story. I start out with broad ideas. Then I write down ideas for specific scenes. And if I already have a very specific scene in my head, I write it out on paper and use the notecard to reference it. Using notecards makes it easier for me to delete scenes, add scenes, and change the order of scenes.

Notecards for Writing a Story 001

My color-coded note cards and binder for another story idea I have.

As my story grows, so does the number of note cards. Sometimes I have to rewrite the note cards because my ideas get too large for just one card. Keep adding cards until you feel that you have an entire novel’s worth of a story. Then organize those cards so that each card represents a chapter or subchapter. If you need more space, use the notecard to reference a writing journal or binder dedicated specifically to this story.

You don’t have to use these methods when you develop your story and characters. Do whatever is easier for you. The more you write, the more you will find out what works for you.