Thursday, June 23, 2016

How Authors Create the Stories You Love

Have you ever wondered how a writer came up with an idea, scene, or story? You might be tempted to think their mind just spit it out in the condition that you saw or read it, but don’t be fooled. Good writers plan the scenes and plot those exciting threads. Great writers plan each part out using layers. Let me explain. Every story is supposed to have a few basics:

Layer One
Someone to love
Someone to hate
Friction or bonding between characters
Verification of personalities and choices
Influences from secondary characters, environment, and social situations
A start, middle, and ending of some sort.
Layer Two
Now we’ll add on a layer for the genre of book. Let’s go with horror, so we need:
Moments that produce horror
Moments that lead to producing horror
Horror aftermaths.
We also have to have verification of choices during horror, including, but not limited to:
Weapons and gear
food and water
Shelter and warmth
Medical care
Flight or fight mentality
Layer Three
Now, we’ll go into the light details. To be horror, the mood has to be scary.
Giggling is discouraged.
Grins need to be changed to uneasy stretches of lips.
In horror, weather often plays an important role, so we have to be sure we match the scary mood. Children outside playing happily in water sprinklers will distract the reader/viewer from the scare they are about to get. It bursts the tension that we’ve built.
Our bad guy has to react properly to the characters. He has to be believable as in his motivation and methods
Our good guy has to be believable as in his dialogue and methods. His motivation (fighting the bad guy) should be obvious.

Layer Four
A fourth layer must go on now to keep track of all these threads. For example, if you have a snowstorm one day, you must make sure the cold is mentioned and there is still snow the next day unless it rains or floods or the sun sets directly on your iceberg. Details must be verified. Readers hate it when you screw up and have the same character in two places at one time. (I’m so sorry!) It was a simple name error, but it makes you look like an idiot. I call this layer the ‘make sure I’ve got them all where they should be’ layer.
Layer five
For the fifth layer, we have to be sure we’re giving conclusions. All the above items gave us potential threads to be followed and finished. People hate to be left hanging, unless it is a series, and even then, writers are supposed to tread carefully.  All those small moments that were set up have to be finished. Again, series are different, but even in those, a writer must eventually conclude that thread.
Layer Six
For the sixth layer, we have to explore the main them of the book. We ask ourselves 7 basic questions about the story:
Is there enough action?
Is the dialogue appropriate for the character and situation?
Will the reader understand?
Did the character have a good reason for reacting that way?
Was the scene boring?
Is the setting clear and appropriate for the scene?
Does the scene move the story along or is it just fluff?

Layer Seven
The final layer, for the writers who have the energy left, is to ask, of each and every scene or plot thread:
How can I make it better?
What if I changed, switched…

The Next Step
Now that we have put together the 15-35 page draft using the seven layers above, the author is finally ready to write the stories you love. It can be exhausting, even on shorter works. That’s why it takes so long. The tales don’t spit themselves out in full form. Writers shape them into cohesive, coherent (we hope!) tales that might last forever. Then we sleep.

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

What Book Genres Satisfy You?

Some readers are very strict on their material. They pick one or two genres and stick with them. Over the years, I've noticed this more and more. It is very hard to get someone who reads, say thrillers, to consider horror. Same with romance readers. They love them and seem to prefer little else. Fantasy people even fit this, as they generally pick the same settings or basic plot threads. Same with science fiction readers. Try to get one of them to read a romance. Go on, I dare ya. I've also spotted this trend in movies and music. People generally pick a couple of favorites and then close themselves off to the rest. What about you?

What book genres satisfy you?

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After further observation, I have concluded that people are much more closed-minded than they think they are. I'd love to see a social study covering the differences between inherited biases and biases that come from environmental and social influences. I bet the human race would discover that being biased is inherited. I have little doubt that environmental influences and personal experiences reinforce these traits, but in no way are they the sole product of. People, in general, are biased. They think their way is right, their preferences are right, and refuse to compromise. Would be a very interesting study, though I'm not sure if we can tell the difference yet with our limited technology and understanding of how DNA makes us who we are. We still have a lot to learn, you know?

*I realize this poll went a bit deeper than what I've been putting out there, but I can't tell you how many patterns and connections I see during just one day. I explore the news of other countries as much as my own. I love to study human behavior and after 20+ years of doing that, I've made some ugly conclusions. Occasionally one of them will match up with a poll and land here. Most go into my stories or my personal Fb wall. I believe that information, education, is the key to future peace. If that offends you, please ask yourself why.