Narrative Technique

Janny Wurts Chat Area: Author's Corner: Narrative Technique
   By Cheryl on Tuesday, July 06, 2004 - 09:25 pm: Edit Post

Thanks Janny I have plenty of problems for the hero but maybe not enough drive or passion for him to succeed. I will work on that.


   By Trys on Saturday, February 18, 2006 - 04:50 pm: Edit Post

Hopefully the next post is the one being referenced.


   By Jeffrey L Watson on Saturday, February 18, 2006 - 04:52 pm: Edit Post

[Posted by request for Janny]

I took a moment this morning to answer a writer's question on another board - and thought you guys here might want the benefit as well.

Here's what I posted about developing a plot:

Trusting you have already conceived of a setting and a character - the thing that drives is CONFLICT. One of the best bits of advice I received from a mentor/playwright was:

You need to know AT EVERY POINT IN YOUR STORY, "What's at stake?"
The character on page wants something. He stands to lose what, if he doesn't win it - and what obstacles lie in his way.

If he doesn't want anything - no plot! No goal. You're missing the sense of triumph and victory that would create your Ending.

If he wants something, does he have PASSION for it. If not, who cares? Passion lights the fire, the drive to achieve the Victory. If your character does not desire, you lack the spark to incite your plot.

If your character has a goal he MUST aim for (ending), has passion for it, (spark to drive) but nothing stands in his way - no frustrations, no "yeah buts" - you have no friction, no resistance, no hurdle for him to overcome, therefore, NO sense of mystery - the "how" of his solving of his range of problems. You lack SUSPENSE.

Therefore, plot is a moving cascade:

Character + conflict, sparked by Passion, jammed by resistance, = driven to achieve triumph.

Beginning scenes open conflict. Middlebits deal with the dance/ricochet between passion/desire and frustration/resistance. Climax is the point of highest tension between the two - triumph is the end....

Each stage must be answered: What's at stake?
Arrange your answers, you will have solved your entropy problem.

Hope this Helps! It did for me -- best of luck finding your creative way.


   By Janny Wurts on Saturday, February 18, 2006 - 05:05 pm: Edit Post

Thanks Jeff - that's the one! Jana also searched and found it on Sff.net - and you beat us to it!


   By Janny Wurts on Sunday, February 19, 2006 - 02:41 pm: Edit Post

Here's another post, originally done by me, posted on another chat - and kindly dug back up by Jana for sharing here. It seems more to do with writer's block than narrative techinque....

If these did not answer the original question - well, ask away!



When I find a story won't go forward, it's because somewhere, the passion got misplaced. It can happen for several reasons:

ONE: I set the story down, got too distanced from it for too long, and my emotional bias got lost. I sit down to write and I can't reconnect - because I'm not in synch with the mood of the characters. Pausing to refine or review the previous scene usually resets my interest.

TWO: You can't draft (create) and edit (destroy) at the same time! You know you're caught in this one, because each sentence you write feels "dumb" or isn't "right" or just won't come out....you're trying to refine the idea before the idea is down. you MUST separate creation phase with destruction phase to get going. Therefore, turn OFF the critic! Write whatever comes out, without any judgement, period. Just write it dumb if you have to - Then when you have it down - when you know you have an idea - you will know how to adjust it. Then use the critic and editor voice to (destroy) refine the idea. (there is more on this in my Tips for writers section, my website)

THREE: Knowing the difference between a "block" or what I call a "roadblock" I know the first by when I've stalled on a scene for 3 days. It will not go, even though I think I know how it Should Go. This happens because I've lost my passion - I've chosen to show the wrong scene, or the wrong angle in, or the wrong point of view - there isn't enough intrigue or interest to drive the scene - I usually have to find another angle to show the information - or another way to view it OR - the story seemed "on track" but really wasn't - the passion wanted to take the story elsewhere and my overly logical self said NO, don't listen to that, do it by the Rules. For block - break the rules. Go where the drive takes you even if at the time it doesn't seem
logical.

Roadblocks are temporary - you Do know where the scene should go - but what you're doing just won't come alive....there's usually a bit of the idea missing. I find that to sit there and hammer it is counterproductive. For me, at this stage, the idea has to breathe. I sidle up to the point where I paused, "play out a few what ifs" then dance back. Go make a cup of tea, take a walk, vacuum a rug, do something dumb. Dance up again - take another peek - dance away. fiddle with the cats. Take another peak - keep looking at the impasse, reaching into the "nothing" and then do something else. Next thing I know, bam, in walks the bit that was lacking, I know and off the scene goes. I differentiate between Block (3 day impasse) and roadblock by the time it takes - if I haven't sprung loose after 3 days, it's a wrong turn in the story - and I have to step back a scene, alter something, shift POV or change tack to forward again. A roadblock will solve in under 3.

LAST: you didn't set time out in your "mental day" to write, or to play with concepts, or to let the ideas breathe....you just let "life" plow through and take up every minute. No excuse for this. Even in the most intense times, I can carry a file card in my purse, or go to sleep thinking about my story, with a card by the bed to jot a scene in skeleton form when I wake up for expansion later....or put a pad by the damned toilet, if I have to - somehow making even Tiny Spaces for story to happen keeps them ticking over. I call this last form of block No Shelf Space...and knowing I wrote a whole novel on a bus to and from art classes, and did another on scattered scraps of paper waiting about here and there, for tea to boil - if you Really Want to write, nothing will stop you. There are only 27 lines to the page, in draft - and I can find 27 minutes between other minutes to do at least a page a day...and most often one page becomes more, even when pressed. You have to create
the space for the writing to happen.

Some days take longer to get started - those days, you just have to shove yourself into it - and wait - for the frame of mind to settle in.

OR kick the mule. (see the following)

Two helpful hints I've seen work - get some hemisynch music - these compositions are written around certain tones - sound - and put the two hemispheres of your brain into synch - which generates the "right" mix to create - these really work! for revving a slow day or a placid scene right along. There's one based on white noise - also - marketed under the name High Focus. The Monroe Institute used to sell ones based on music. These really help to knock out the jazzed state of mind I bring back from errands, and get back on track. If simple distraction's your problem, these really DO work.

I write to music, always, and many times just putting the right cd with the right mood will trigger the scene I'm trying for.

LAST THOUGHT -
A story also won't flow if you're writing a story you don't love - if you are doing the one you "think" others will like, or that you "think" will sell on the marketplace - you're not being true to your own creativity.

You have to do what moves YOU - or it doesn't connect. Create the meaning that will take fire, and go with that.

Whatever works - I wish you a quick fix to the problem!


Add a Message


This is a private posting area. Only registered users and moderators may post messages here.
Username:  
Password: