Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Nanowrimo: Best writing advice

Okay, this has probably been going on forever and I’m just catching on. But I just discovered that the Amazon pages of my books are continually compiling the most highlighted quotes from my books.

To explain for those of you who might not have an e reader - yet - you can highlight passages of books that you read on your Kindle to refer back to at your leisure. Whether or not you, the reader, know that this information is being compiled online is a different question. Some books you might not want to have those special passages highlighted, if you see what I mean.

But the Big Brother aspect is a different post. This highlighted quotes feature is actually totally EXCELLENT news for me because it means today, instead of a long blog post on what I think is important advice, I can just give you a pithy list of what readers think is the best advice in my Screenwriting Tricks books. and you all know how much I love lists.

So here you go:

Top Ten highlighted quotes from Screenwriting Tricks for Authors.


- The premise sentence should give you a sense of the entire story: the character of the protagonist, the character of the antagonist, the conflict, the setting, the tone, the genre.

- All of these premises contain a defined protagonist, a powerful antagonist, a sense of the setting, conflict and stakes, and a sense of how the action will play out.

- Write a one-sentence premise that contains all these story elements: protagonist, antagonist, conflict, stakes, setting, atmosphere and genre.

On a character’s GHOST or WOUND

- We all unconsciously seek out people, events and situations that duplicate our core trauma(s), in the hope of eventually triumphing over the situation that so wounded us.


- The arc of the character is what the character learns during the course of the story, and how s/he changes because of it. It could be said that the arc of a character is almost always about the character realizing that s/he's been obsessed with an outer goal or desire, when what she really needs to be whole, fulfilled, and lovable is _______ (fill in the blank).


- Our fear for the character should be the absolute worst case scenario:

- The lesson here is - spend some quality time figuring out how to bring your hero/ine's greatest nightmare to life: in setting, set decoration, characters involved, actions taken. If you know your hero/ine's ghost and greatest fear, then you should be able to come up with a great setting (for the climax/final battle) that will be unique, resonant, and entirely specific to that protagonist (and often to the villain as well.)

On PLAN (and ACT II)

- This continual opposition of the protagonist's and antagonist's plans is the main underlying structure of the second act.


- STACK THE ODDS AGAINST YOUR PROTAGONIST. It's just ingrained in us to love an underdog.


- Top ten highlighted quotes from Writing Love

- “Every genre has its own game that it’s playing with the audience.”

- The game in the romance genre is often to show, through the hero and heroine, how we are almost always our own worst enemies in love, and how we throw up all kinds of obstacles in our own paths to keep ourselves from getting what we want.

- A great, emotionally effective technique within the final battle is to have the hero/ine LOSE THE BATTLE TO WIN THE WAR.

- This continual opposition of the protagonist’s and antagonist’s plans is the main underlying structure of the second act.

- I’m a firm believer that just ASKING the questions will prompt your creative brain to leap into overdrive and come up with the right scenes. Our minds and souls long to be creative, they just need us to stop stalling and get our asses in gear.

- So once you’ve got your initial plan, you need to be constantly blocking that plan, either with your antagonist, or the hero/ine’s own inner conflict, or outside forces beyond her or his control.

- Very often in the second act we will see a battle before the final battle in which the hero/ine fails because of some weakness, so the suspense is even greater when s/he goes into the final battle (climax) in the third act.

- The final battle (climax) is also a chance to PAY OFF ALL YOUR SETUPS AND PLANTS. Very often you will have set up a weakness for your hero/ine. That weakness that has caused him or her to fail repeatedly in previous tests, and in the final battle (climax) the hero/ine’s great weakness will be tested.

- “Get the hero up a tree. Throw rocks at him. Get him down.”

- After I’ve finished that grueling, hellish first draft, the fun starts. I do layer after layer after layer: different drafts for suspense, for character; sensory drafts, emotional drafts, each concentrating on a different aspect that I want to hone in the story, until the clock runs out and I have to turn the whole thing in.


And that happens to be the step I'm on right now, pass after pass after pass. But it's coming together! How's everyone's Nano going?

- Alex


Screenwriting Tricks for Authors and Writing Love, Screenwriting Tricks for Authors, II, are now available in all e formats and as pdf files. Either book, any format, just $2.99.

- Smashwords (includes pdf and online viewing)

- Kindle

- Barnes & Noble/Nook

- Amazon UK

- Amaxon DE (Eur. 2.40)

- Smashwords (includes online viewing and pdf file)

- Amazon/Kindle

- Barnes & Noble/Nook

- Amazon UK

- Amazon DE



Jenni Legate said...

I highlighted and bookmarked so many things in reading both Screenwriting Tricks and Writing Love, and then went back through notes I took as I read and highlighted even more things! I think I highlighted almost every single one of the passages you quoted in this post.

I didn't realize that Amazon was compiling our most highlighted passages as a tool for authors, but that's kind of a cool feature, as long as it's anonymous. I mean, I am not sure I want authors knowing exactly what I, me, the individual I am in the big picture world, think is important or funny, or agreed or disagreed with.

I'm in full-blown preparation for an upcoming trial, so won't be able to finish Nano, but I knew that was likely. I have made some progress and outlined a lot more, so it's been a good process for me all in all.

Looking forward to your next book. Cheers!

Janet Kerr said...

Hello Alex,

I have just purchased both your workbooks and they are amazing.
Already doing my Master List I see a lot about my own writing.

I am looking forward to doing breakdowns on these.

Thanks so much for making this available! I certainly look forward to the thriller workbook ....I know a ways down the road (sigh)

I'll have to check out that whole highliting bit.
And thanks for that info too.

Jan K.

Mark said...

Great selection. These aren't just things to learn, they are things to meditate on.

In the most uncouth way, I'm going to use substitution in one of your highlights.

I'm playing with this idea:

"- The arc of the relationship is what the friends/lovers learn during the course of the story, and how each of them changes because of it. It could be said that the arc of a relationship is almost always about the characters realizing that they've been obsessed with an outer goal or desire, when what they really need to be whole, fulfilled, and united is _______ (fill in the blank)."

Or something like that.