Monday, September 13, 2010

Rewriting: Stuck? Make a list.

I am pretty sure there is no story problem that cannot be solved by stopping the hair-pulling and gnashing of teeth, breathing a bit, and then sitting calmly down to make a list of examples of the way great storytellers (YOUR favorite storytellers) have dealt with the particular problem that you are tearing your hair out and grinding your teeth over.

I am talking about specific, personalized, Top Ten lists.

Can’t figure out a great opening? List your Top Ten favorite or most striking opening images.

Your villain isn’t villainous enough? Make a Top Ten Villains list, and take some time to really break down why those bad boys, or girls, turn YOU on. (More here….)

Your story isn’t hot enough? Have some real fun and list your top ten steamiest sex scenes – and/or best kisses. (Warning: try to have some loved one close at hand for later… better yet, make a night of it – rent the movies and... analyze... those particular scenes together. Don’t you just love research?)

Not enough suspense? List your top ten most thrilling suspense scenes (and this would be a great list for you to do anyway, because we'll be delving further into suspense this week.)

Top Ten Character Introductions (see here). Top Ten Climaxes (story climaxes, I mean now). Top Ten Heroes and Heroines. Top Ten Inciting Incidents/Calls to Adventure. Top Ten Crossing the Threshold/Into the Special World scenes. Top Ten Image Systems (more posts on this coming.)

Are you starting to get how incredibly useful - and fun – this can be?

Make the lists. You’ll be unstuck and on to a whole new level of writing before you know it.

- Alex


How To Write A Novel From Start To Finish: previous posts

How to write a novel from start to finish (part one)

What is genre?

What's your premise?

The Price
(more on premise)

What is High Concept?

The Dream Journal

Three-Act Structure Review and Assignments

The Three-Act, Eight-Sequence Structure

The Index Card Method and Story Structure Grid

Elements of Act One

Story Elements Checklist for brainstorming Index Cards

What KIND Of Story Is It?

Elements of Act Two, Part 1

Plants and Payoffs

Plan, Central Question, Central Action (part 1)

What's the PLAN?

Plan, Central Question, Central Action (Part 3)

Elements of Act II, Part 2

The Lover Makes A Stand (romantic comedy structure

Elements of Act Three (part 1)

What Makes A Great Climax? (Elements of Act III, part 2)

Elements of Act III, part 2: Elevate Your Ending

What KIND of story is it? (and other notes about Inception)


More Rewriting: The Subplot Pass

Rewriting: Pay Attention To Sequences!


Screenwriting Tricks For Authors
now available on Kindle and for PC and Mac.


Sarah Ahiers said...

ooh. This plan matches up nicely with my love of making lists!

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Great, Sarah! I'm not so much a list person, but this never fails, for me.

Unknown said...

As usual you have another great idea to add to my process. Last week I poured over your outline and story breakdown posts.
For the first time I have a book, outlined from beginning to end! While I'm sure things will change and evolve I have my project broken into manageable pieces.
Thanks you!

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Pam, that is fantastic news! Congratulations!

For sure things will change, and maybe change a lot, but it is so much less daunting to launch into a book when you have an overall idea of where you're going. Thrilled to hear it.

Kim said...

I love how you post all of these ideas that should be obvious but somehow aren't. When I'm stuck on how to do something, I tend to go to a manual, when really I should be looking to the masters.
*looks forward to watching Harry Potter again after dinner*
Oh, and thanks for making this blog exist. I wouldn't have gotten through NaNoWriMo without it.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Exactly, Kim - go to the masters (and mistresses!) - but even more specifically, go to them to find a solution to YOUR SPECIFIC PROBLEM.

A manual simply can't be detailed enough to lay it out for you in a way that will ever get close to the ideas and solutions you can spark by looking at a personalized list of books and films that had to wrestle with the SAME story issues that you are.

I'll be posting more on this this week.

Oh, and - you're welcome! Thanks for being here.

Hannah said...

I'm with Sarah! I love lists so this is perfect! And I always need a new reason to use a new notebook.

Patricia McLinn said...

Mutual friend Diane Chamberlain recommended your terrific blog. I’m a pantser from way back, and want to emphasize to my fellow pantsers whimpering at the back of the room how necessary story structure is. (Darn it.) As you’ve said, sometimes it’s internalized. But even then, it’s hugely helpful to doublecheck and tweak the three-act structure elements. And it’s a lifeline if/when you have one of those something’s-not-quite-right quagmires.

I write as long as the characters keep talking to me, often out of sequence. Then I look at all this raw material I’ve got and do what I call retroactive plotting. As I tell students, the bad news is you’ve got to have structure; the good news (for me) is you don’t have to have it to start.

If I try to start with structure or (heaven forbid) outline, I’m bored into paralysis because my mind is saying: Told that story, give me something new.

But retroactively all this is fabulous material for us pantsers, too.

Affy-Ann said...

I'm going to try this. Thanks! =D

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Hannah, yes on the notebooks! Any opportunity to shop for toys...

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Welcome, Affy-Ann. Hope you get great things out of it.

laughingwolf said...

have to try this... only lists i make are for grocery shopping, then forget to take the list when i go

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Hey Patricia - any friend of Diane's is a friend of mine, she's the best!

Yes, I do think all this stuff is even more valuable in rewrite. I always hope I'm not coming off as saying anyone HAS to plot like this!! Hardly. Whatever gets you to THE END is all that matters. Thanks for the pantser pep talk!