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The Changeling Chronicles…

I’ve been working on some artwork for my website – specifically a page for my fantasy WIP, book 1 in the Changeling Chronicles, set in the Scandinavian hidden world. I thought I’d post it here first – sources to be added to the Credits page shortly. The novel is dual pov – the girl in the top frame is the changeling, Astrid, and in the bottom frame, her nightmare, Danica. Oh, and there’s a bear in it… and a castle hanging in the sky 😀 I hope you like it!

The Changeling Chronicles

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The plot thickens…

Plotting my next novel is going really well. So far I have the First Act pretty much sorted, and I’m now running through possibilities for the Third Act. Once I’ve worked out how the novel will end, and how my heroine will ultimately “defeat” the bad girl, then planning Act Two will be a breeze – I’ll know exactly what she needs to go through, learn and obtain in order to “win”.

Plotting Bunny

I have a theory, it could be bunnies…

In case you’re wondering, my next story will be a contemporary fantasy adventure with a very strong quest-like feel. Of course, for me, writing such a book was inevitable, given the sorts of things I loved doing as a child – reading Norwegian folktales, playing King’s Quest games on my Atari ST, watching videos of my favourite fantasy films over and over again (eg. Labyrinth, The Neverending Story, The Last Unicorn, Willow, The Princess Bride, etc).

To assist me in my endeavour to plot the most awesome YA fantasy adventure ever, I’m studying various plotting techniques, including those used for writing scripts and even role play games, as well as how they apply to some of the most amazing movies out there today.

So far I have come across three methods that blow me away:

(i) Dramatica Theory

The Dramatica Theory of Story Structure is a diagnostic modelling tool built around a concept called “The Story Mind.” According to this notion, every story has a mind of its own – its psychology is built by the story’s structure and its personality is determined by the storytelling.

According to Glen C. Strathy HERE, Dramatica Theory sees every story as an attempt to solve a problem or rebalance an inequity. The theory shows you how to address all aspects of plot, theme, and character in order to create a consistent and emotionally compelling message for the reader.

As you might have guessed, the Dramatica Theory is very complex. Thankfully, HowToWriteABookNow.com breaks the theory down into an awesome 10-part preparation guide HERE, including:

  • Creating a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps;
  • Plot Development: Climax, Resolution, and Your Main Character; and
  • Creating Archetypal Characters.

Also on HowToWriteABookNow.com, there is also a list of other story models (and a comparison of them to The Dramatica Theory) HERE you might be interested in checking out. Overall, HowToWriteABookNow.com is a really great website with lots of useful resources and articles.

(ii) Dan Wells’ 7-Point System

I have to admit, when I first watched Dan Well’s 5-part video HERE, I got excited. It was the first time I’d seen plot structure explained to me in a way that made plotting seem easy. Essentially his plotting system, which he says is based on the Star Trek Role Playing Game Narrator’s Guide, encompasses 7-points:

1. Hook
2. Plot Turn 1
3. Pinch 1
4. Midpoint
5. Pinch 2
6. Plot Turn 2
7. Resolution

The two pieces of advice I found the most helpful in his videos were (i) know your ending before you start, and (ii) make sure the starting point is opposite to the ending point.

Karen Woodward has a really great series of posts on Dan Well’s system starting HERE.

(iii) Blake Snyder’s 15 Beat Method

I’ve saved this method for last because it is (in my very humble opinion) by far the best. I’ve just finished reading Blake Snyder’s “Save the Cat” and I have to say it is the Holy Grail of how-to-write books. Even though it relates to writing scripts, its advice is just as applicable to novel writing.

In “Save the Cat”, Snyder discusses genre, loglines, heroes, story boards, screenplay physics and quick fixes. He also outlines the 15 beats found in successful movies:
1. Opening Image
2. Set-up
3. Theme Stated
4. Catalyst
5. Debate
6. Break Into Two
7. B Story
8. The Promise of the Premise
9. Midpoint
10. Bad Guys Close In
11. All is Lost
12. Dark Night of the Soul
13. Break Into Three
14. Finale
15. Final Image

Honestly, anyone who is seriously into plotting should get a copy of “Save the Cat” and carry it with them everywhere!

Lydia Sharp has a series of amazing posts that analyse and apply Blake Snyder’s 15 Beat Method. You can search her blog HERE.

I also found a great webpage Worksheets for Writers HERE where you can download BS2 worksheets adapted for novels.

Image by jannoon028 – http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

Anyway, I won’t go into any more detail than this as the websites and books I’ve listed above explain things better than I ever could (plus if I let myself, I could probably write about it for days – days that really should be devoted to plotting). I’ll just say that if anyone wants to learn more about plotting and the different ways to go about it, then I definitely recommend checking out these three methods.

I, myself, will be keeping all three in mind while I deliberate the fate of my characters.

One thing I really love these days is that when I am watching TV shows or movies I actually feel like I’m working, because as I watch I’m actually looking for inciting incidents and catalysts, midpoints and dark nights of the soul. I’m learning while being entertained. Pretty neat, huh?

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A rose by any other name…

Recently, I’ve been brainstorming plot and character ideas for my next project and, as such, have been researching as much as I can about the process. The first time around I did everything by ear (ie. I tried whatever came to mind and determined what worked by trial and error). This time, however, I want to be a little bit more organised.

Anyway, yesterday I came across something that made me smile – advice from Holly Lisle to find pictures of people I can model my characters on. Why did this tickle my fancy, you ask? Well, because when I wrote my first WIP, I had a very clear idea of who my main character’s love interest looked like. In fact, when I first started writing (and learning how to use photoshop), I even made fan art with him posing as the sweet, rambunctious Aiden MacEachan.

But before I confess all, I’ll give you a hint…

Who comes to mind when you think – tall, fit, red-headed, with a cheeky smile and mischievous character to match?

Prince harry

Why, Prince Harry, of course!

Now stick a MacLean kilt on him, and you’ve got Aiden MacEachan…

Isle_of_Mull

Here is a wallpaper I created back in 2009, featuring Prince Harry as Aiden and Mélanie Thierry as Boudica…

Yes, I am officially blushing now, but I am sure you will agree, Prince Harry makes the perfect highland spunk — with a dark side!

And here is an alternate book cover I designed recently featuring none other than Prince Harry as Aiden...

And here is an alternate book cover I designed recently featuring none other than Prince Harry as Aiden…

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Time and tide wait for no man… or woman… or writer in the throes of revision…

moon tide

This week’s task for How To Revise Your Novel (HTRYN) was setting up an events timeline. For me this meant research. Obviously, I’d done a little before I started writing (of course I did – I’m a research junkie), but now I was having to select exact dates on a calendar. And with my WIP being set in the somewhat distant past (1723 to be precise), this meant digging through volumes and volumes of old journals, encyclopedias and almanacs…

Or, for those of us with only 24 hours in our day, typing some random carefully thought out search terms into Google 😀

Did you know, up until 14th September (coincidentally, my birth date) 1752, the Scots used the Julian calendar – not the Gregorian calendar we use today?

Well, if you didn’t, you do now 😀

This was such wonderful news – converting Gregorian dates to Julian ones was what I’d always wanted to spend my Saturday morning doing (if you couldn’t tell, I was being slightly sarcastic there).

Apparently, there’s a formula for this – I found some nifty instructions HERE

formula

Fortunately for me (who misplaced the left side of my brain somewhere beneath the dirty dishes and piles of laundry), there happens to be a convenient date converter online: Fourmilab’s Calendar Converter.

Phew! *wipes hand across brow in relief*

So, I converted my most important dates (eg. my MC’s birthday), added the relevant season transitions (I found the 1723 season dates HERE), and then thought…

“Hey, why don’t I sync the moon cycles with my scenes so when a full moon is mentioned in my WIP it actually coincides with a full moon IRL?”

Of course, I would have to think that, wouldn’t I? *rolls eyes*

As it turned out, this was a lot simpler to research. The moon phases for the UK in 1723 were easy to find (I found them HERE all nicely set out in Julian calendar format):

1723 Calendar

Putting two and two together (and four and six), I came up with a timeline for my WIP, complete with moon phase synchronicity 😀 Now when I’m revising I’ll know exactly when my heroine should be wrapped up in her arisaid and when it’s too bloody dark at night for her to see more than a few feet in front of her lovely self.

Good stuff!

But next time I swear I’m going to work all of this stuff out BEFORE I write my draft!

Well, that’s the plan, anyway…

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