plot


by Earl Staggs

 This article first appeared in the March 2011 issue of Apollo’s Lyre (currently not publishing).

You don’t always have to write as tightly as we discuss here, but when you do, these tips may help.

If we want a fast-paced scene with tension and suspense, we need to eliminate anything that slows the action.  After you read the scene below, we’ll take it apart and see if we can do some tightening to make the action flow faster.

 Mike looked up to see everyone else in the office already staring at the door where a pair of police officers stood whispering with the supervisor. He turned to look at Maggie just in time to see her stand up.

The supervisor called out, “Is Maggie Carpenter here?”

But she was already gone. She leapt straight up in the air landing neatly on the counter under the window. As the police officers shouted for her to stop, she pulled back her fist and smashed it through the glass. She pushed through the spiderweb cracks in the remains of the window and disappeared outside. Mike didn’t see where she went.  By that time all the other students were on their feet and trying to get to the window. Mike alone remained seated.

Mike rose slowly and watched the officers push their way through the crowd. One of them finally made it to the window and crawled out of it, shouting to his partner, “Parking lot!” The second officer turned and ran out the door, leaving the room in a chaotic maelstrom.

Okay, lets start with the first sentence.

 “Mike looked up to see everyone else in the office already staring”

The word “already” is simply superfluous. Let’s cut it.

  “at the door where a pair of police officers”

“A pair of” means there were two of them.  Let’s say “where two police officers.” One word instead of three.

The third paragraph begins with, “But she was already gone” and then describes her leaving. That’s putting the cart before the horse, isn’t it?  Let’s cut that first sentence and get right into the action.

 “Maggie leapt straight up in the air landing neatly on the counter under the window.”

Think about that. If she leapt straight up in the air, wouldn’t she come straight back down and land in the same spot?  Let’s whittle that down to:

 “Maggie leapt onto the counter under the window.”

Also, under the circumstances of the moment, I don’t think anyone would take time to judge if she landed “neatly” or otherwise.

In the next sentence, we have:

 “As the police officers shouted for her to stop,”

We’ve already identified them as “police officers.”  Here we can just say “officers.”

Then, “she pulled back her fist and smashed it through the glass.”

In order to smash the window glass, we can assume she first had to pull back her fist. Let’s shorten that to, “she smashed her fist through the glass.”

Next comes, “She pushed through the spiderweb cracks in the remains of the window”

I doubt she could push her way through spiderweb cracks, so let’s tighten that to:

 “She pushed through the remains of the window and disappeared outside.”

We don’t need to say “outside.”  She was in a room and went out through a window, so we know that’s where she went.

The next sentence begins with, “Mike didn’t see where she went.” That’s redundant since we already said she disappeared. Let’s cut it.

 “By that time all the other students were on their feet and trying to get to the window.”

“By that time” is one of those little phrases we tend to use, but really only slows down the action. We’re trying to keep the action moving here, so let’s drop it.

 “Mike alone remained seated.”

We’ve just said, “all the other students were on their feet,” which tells us Mike was still seated, so let’s drop that, too.  Besides, the next paragraph begins with him standing up.

 “Mike rose slowly and watched the officers push their way through the crowd.”

The words “their way” are unnecessary. What else would they be pushing? Let’s cut them and go with, “He watched the officers push through the crowd.”

 “One of them finally made it to the window and crawled out of it,”

We don’t need the words “finally” or “of it.”

With those changes, here’s what we have:

 Mike looked up to see everyone else in the office staring at the door where two police officers stood whispering with the supervisor. He turned to look at Maggie just in time to see her stand up.

The supervisor called out, “Is Maggie Carpenter here?”

Maggie leapt onto the counter under the window. As the officers shouted for her to stop, she smashed her fist through the glass. She pushed through the remains of the window and disappeared. All the other students were on their feet and trying to get to the window.

Mike rose slowly and watched the officers push through the crowd. One of them made it to the window and crawled out, shouting to his partner, “Parking lot!” The second officer turned and ran out the door, leaving the room in a chaotic maelstrom.

With those bits of tightening, we’ve taken out unnecessary words and left the action moving at a faster pace.

And we’ve let the cops out after Maggie.  Run, Maggie, run!

 _______________________________

Earl Staggs earned a long list of Five Star reviews for his novel MEMORY OF A MURDER and has twice received a Derringer Award for Best Short Story of the Year.  His new novel, JUSTIFIED ACTION, is available in print or ebook. He served as Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Magazine, as President of the Short Mystery Fiction Society, is a contributing blog member of Murderous Musings and Make Mine Mystery and a frequent speaker at conferences and seminars.  Email: earlstaggs@sbcglobal.net  Website: http://earlwstaggs.wordpress.com

 

by Erin Entrada Kelly

Years ago I wrote a short story that received a resounding chorus of identical feedback from editors. The feedback went something like this: ‘Great story, but there’s no resolution’ and/or ‘This is great—but where’s the rest?’ I sat down with the story again, poised with a rewrite pen, and racked my brain for some kind of ending. After a while, I put it in a drawer and let it be. I couldn’t figure out an ending because there was no clear resolution. Life is unresolved sometimes, I thought. Life doesn’t tie itself up in pretty little bows.

It took me a while to appreciate that one of the reasons people enjoy literature—flash or otherwise—is because it allows us to escape out of our own unresolved, un-bow-tied situations. We want something better for the characters we acquaint ourselves with; we want something to change for them, or at least for the story, and we’ll take these changes for better or worse. It doesn’t have to be happily-ever-after, but it has to be something.

That’s it, really. That’s what makes an ending. Something needs to change. The situation, the person(s), the emotional quotient of the character(s). Things won’t always end well for the characters we write, but we know that it’s ended when something about the story becomes something else. As readers, we want to experience someone else’s experience, and that means going through all the peaks and valleys. The valleys aren’t as interesting without the peaks and vice versa. Just as in real life. If life were a plateau, how would we know how it feels to walk uphill or slide downhill?

So how do you know when you’ve reached the end? How do you know if the ending works? You walk the path of your story. When you reach the end, you turn around and stare back at the beginning. If you see a flat horizon, then you need to keep walking.

______________________________________________

Erin Entrada Kelly is staff editor for Flash Fiction Chronicles. Her fiction has been published widely in places like Keyhole Magazine, Monkeybicycle and the Kyoto Journal. She was short-listed for the Eric Hoffer National Fiction Prize and the Philippines Free Press Literary Award for Short Fiction. Her debut novel is forthcoming from HarperCollins’ Greenwillow Books. She currently works at Swarthmore College and is represented by the Jenks Agency. Read more at www.erinentradakelly.com. Find her on Twitter here.

by Gay Degani

Does anyone get rejections that say, “Some strong writing here, but this isn’t a story; there’s no arc” or “I like your character but where’s the conflict?”  Have you thought, “This editor is nuts!  A guy’s chasing her.  She has a gun.  She shoots him.  Isn’t that enough conflict?”

No, actually, it isn’t.  What that is is “action” which is different from “conflict.”  Action is movement.  Conflict is choice followed by movement.  What???  I’m talking about structure, what Randall Brown pointed out in a post at Flash Fiction Chronicles,  “Who Cares?”: The Nuts & Bolts of Making Narrative Matter:

Something happens (precipitating incident) to create a desire, and that desire creates a need for action that is thwarted by this and that and this and that until, finally, there’s resolution.

Movies are a great way to learn structure and what a story arc is.  One of my favorite movies to illustrate structure in that old reliable action flick ( I know, I didn’t say “structure flick”), Die Hard, made back in 1988 when Bruce Willis was moving from Moonlighting on TV to the Big Screen.

Here’s what to do: Get the Die Hard DVD and watch it with a pen and paper and the timer on your DVD player.  Number the lines on your paper from 1 to maybe 120 or so.  This numbering reflects two things: the number of minutes of the movie and the number of pages of the movie script.  In other words: one page of script-formatted writing equals one minute of movie time.

Back to your worksheet.  Maybe skip every other line to make sure you can write big if you get excited. Record what happens briefly, such as “McClane squeezes toes in rug in bathr” every minute or so, all the way through. This may seem like a tedious exercise,  but there is a pay-off.  When you’re finished, you will be able to see and understand just how carefully the story has been constructed.  For the hot-shot movie critics out there who love those ponderous three-hour think pieces (Tree of Life, anyone?), Die Hard is too “on the nose,” but for learning about structure and character development, it provides writers with one of their best instruction manuals.

What you’ll be looking for once you’ve finished watching the movie and recording each “tiny bit of action” or “beat” is based on Aristotle’s Poetics–the 3-act play structure.  There are many good books out there (Robert McKee’s Story  (a classic study of structure) is based on The Art Of Dramatic Writing: Its Basis in the Creative Interpretation of Human Motives by Lajos Egri. For a quick understanding, there’s always Syd Field’s Sreenplay) to help writers learn the ins and outs–as well as the disagreements about rules, formulae, and art–but I’ll lay out the minimum here.

Act 1 starts with a character in his regular life, something happens to turn his life on its head, and by the beginning of Act 2 (approximately 30 minutes/pages in), the character’s life 180 degrees away from what it once was.  The character sets out to either change his or her life back or to figure out how to make the best of things.  He’s not trying that hard because frankly, he can’t really believe things could go this wrong.  Then something else goes wrong and he rails against new expectations.

About a quarter way through Act 2 (around 45 minutes/pages in) the character has some kind of epiphany that he’s going to have to work a helluva lot hard than he thought.   The simple solution isn’t working.  He needs a better plan.

About half way through (60 minutes/pages) he realizes who the enemy is (himself, his best friend, the woman with the man hands) and at the same time, there is a coming together between the character and his/her main relationship.  If that relationship is male-male as in standard buddy flicks, they bond over fishing, fists, Figaro (The Odd Couple, Lethal Weapon); if female-female, they bond over awful men, making do, Manolos (Thelma and Louise, Outrageous Fortune, Sex and the City); if male-female there’s the usual washing of wounds or sex (Three Days of the Condor, Thomas Crown Affair, Charade).

In the second half of Act 2 some new effort is launched, but it doesn’t work and leads to a dark moment around 75 minutes/pages in.  The character gives up the game as hopeless.

But by 90 minutes/pages, the beginning of Act 3, the character has come up with new energy, a new plan, a new assault on his problem and works through his conflict until he either wins or loses.

Notice as you are jotting down the minute by minute action bits of Die Hard on your pre-numbered paper, what is happening around line 30 (30 minutes in), around line 45, around, line 60, 75, 90.  The timing won’t be perfect, but you’ll be shocked to see how close it is.

When you start reviewing your scribbles, by the first three or so minutes (line three or so), you know who McClane is, what his problem is, and how he thinks he’s going to solve it. Notice he HAS a problem. A personal goal to find out what the hell is going on between him and his wife. That isn’t the PLOT of the movie, it’s a subplot, but it’s what gives the movie some universal meaning.

About thirty minutes in, you might notice that everything has changed 180 degrees from the beginning of the movie (this is about where ACT 1 ends). The building is taken over and the story problem isn’t just about McClane and his wife, but it’s about surviving the “terrorist” attack.

Act 2 comes next, from around 30 or so minutes to about 90 minutes in. In that time, it is McClane fighting the bad guys.

The first part of act 2 is all about getting the police’s attention and he assumes, of course, that the police will solve the problem. He has to just survive and create enough chaos to keep the bad guys busy until the cops save the day.

But in the middle of the movie, around 60 minutes in, we see that McClane isn’t going to get any help. As a matter of fact, he’s now perceived as one of the bad guys. The stakes are ramped up. There is no help coming. He’s got to do it himself.  However, if I’m remembering correctly, this is about the time John McClane’s wife begins to feel more kindly toward her estranged husband. She knows it’s him solving the bigger problem as only he can.

And then at about 90 minutes when Act three begins, John McClane makes his final assault to save his wife and everyone else who has survived. And he manages to do that in true action hero form.

The end? The enemy is defeated and he regains his wife.

Okay. Formula. Over the top. Right? Yeah but it’s a learning tool too. Knowing why this movie works has helped me to have answers to story problems whenever I get stuck. I have questions to ask myself.  What does the formula tell me at this point???

Maybe I’m 30 pages into a 120 page novella and nothing has happened?  Maybe it’s a 1ooo word flash, and I’m 250 words in, and my character doesn’t exist on paper yet.  Thinking about Die Hard, I know I’m in trouble.  By page 30 my character should have a problem and he should be adjusting to it, fighting against it, trying to solve it.  If I’m writing flash, I should know the same kinds of things at 250 words.

Formula? Yes.  But I don’t have to write formula .  I can write with my own voice, my own details, my own angle on what it all means, but at least I have to realize that readers may want to know the character I’m creating and the challenge he or she is facing because a larger percentage of writing we like gives us insight, whether slight or deep, into life.

There are other things to be learned from Die Hard.  Also look for:

Set-ups and pay-offs: On the plane McClane talks with the other passenger about being afraid of flying. The passenger offers a suggestion. Watch for this to pay-off when he is in the bathroom of the Nakatomi building, and then later when he’s in the elevator and later when he’s being chased.  This suggestion from the passenger pays off about 6 times in this move. THAT’s good structure.

Look for how exposition is handled: On the plane, in the taxi, between McClane’s wife and her boss, when McClane gets to the Nakatomi building and looks his wife up on the list of employees. Then think about set-up and pay-offs again.  How is information given to the viewer?

Look for character development: The characters in this piece are so well-defined and consistent in their traits. We get them quickly and their motivation and subsequent behavior holds the structure together when the twists are thrown in. There is suspense without confusion.

Setting: Think about the airplane, the limo, and the high rise Century City building. Then think about how this movement evolves and what happens in the building and how each of these places have their own twists and turns.

Pacing??? Remarkably fast, but with the right amount of time spent on reflection so the movie has meaning. And it does. It’s about loyalty, determination, married love, brotherhood, evil….

I didn’t make this up. If this idea of studying movies to help understand structure appeals to you, you might consider reading one of the books I mentioned earlier.

I can’t remember all the movies I did this with, but it is amazing to see how close movies THAT WORK stick to the basics of structure.  And guess what,  most of my favorite books do too, even Jane Eyre and Middlesex.

Movies I logged:

Overboard
Witness
Terminator
Suspicion (wrong ending really but I still love it)
Outrageous Fortune
Trading Places
Charade

That’s all I can remember off the top of my head!  Happy movie watching!

 

 This is a revised FFC reprint from 2010.

___________________________________

Gay Degani is the editor of Flash Fiction Chronicles.

 

 By Len Hazell

Ever heard of intertexuality?  If not, perhaps it is something to look into.  Intertexuality is not some kinky literary fetish, but it was quite a buzzword in literary theory about ten years ago. Before it became popular in certain circles, the word meant:

“The reference to another, separate and distinct, text within a text.”

Like saying a man stranded on a desert island was doing a “Robinson Crusoe.” However, the rise of magic realism and postmodernism subtly changed the meaning so it slowly began to mean:

“Combining samples of previously published text to form a new and original work.”

To clarify, the more traditional words “allusion” or “influenced by” are somewhat the same thing.

In Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Salman Rushdie tells us of creatures that live in that eponymous sea called “Plennti-more Fish.” These fish consume the stories that make up the sea, mix them in their bowels and poop out new tales for the fishermen to catch. The writer–the intertexualist–scours archives of past published works, old TV programs, films, cartoons, comic, pulp novels, and literature, searching for tasty morsels, gobbling them up, and then regurgitating the mix into a new story of his or her own.

A  fun example is what happened in the studios of Hanna-Barbera. “Top Cat” was a rewrite of “The Phil Silvers Show.” “Huckleberry Hound” recycled Bing Crosby projects. “Pixie and Dixie” creators reworked their own “Tom and Jerry” material for MGM and most famously of all, “The Flintstones” was an animated version of the hit sit-com “The Honeymooners.” Animators referenced old shows, their own shows, books (remember those TV ancient cartoons with Eliza crossing the frozen Ohio from Uncle Tom’s Cabin?), myths, and legends.

The tradition, though was not yet known as “intertextuality,” had begun for the modern era.

It was used with caution at first. Fear of a copyright suit made intertexualists cautious, but as time went on, and copyright law became more and more obscure and confused, writers became bolder.

Example 1:

An ex-soldier declares war on crime after his family is gunned down in a mob hit.

A former Marine and weapons expert, turned pacifist takes up his gun again and becomes a vigilante seeking out and killing criminals after his wife and daughter are raped and murdered in a mugging.

A retired government agent becomes a pharmacist and forswears violence until the mob demands protection money from him and kills his wife.  He dons a black suit bearing a skull emblem and become a vigilante avenging himself on the mob.

Sound familiar?  They appear to be versions of the highly popular comic book series and film franchise, “The Punisher.” Only they are not.

Number one is the origin story of “The Executioner,”a thirty-seven-issue-strong series of paperback books by Don Pendleton starting in 1969.

Number two is the storyline of a 1972 novel, Death Wish by Brian Garfield.

Number three is the origin story of The Black Terror created by acclaimed novelist Patricia Highsmith in 1941 while working for Nedor Comics.

“The Punisher” (Frank Castle) was assembled and put in to print for the first time in February 1974 by writer Gerry Conway and artists John Romita, Sr. and Ross Andru under the guidance of Marvel supremo Stan ‘the man’ Lee. The intertextuality chain is plain to see the works listed above are the parents of the “The Punisher.”

Why?  Frank Castle has all the most appealing aspects of his predecessors rolled in to one. The Punisher is ex-military, ex-police(or FBI depending on which version you read or see), a weapons expert, a scientist, an utterly ruthless vigilante and is unencumbered by any law, but his own. He has a cool black suit with a skull motif, big guns and most importantly a dead wife and family to justify his insanity.

“The Punisher” has it all, taking the best from its predecessors.

Example Two:

A man murdered by a religious group leaves a clue, written in his own blood, which only a genius could decipher.

An Albino holy man, a member of an obscure religious sect, carries out a bizarre plot by his masters involving theft and assassination.

A centuries-old religious secret is revealed showing that the Holy Grail was a person, not an object.

Obviously The Da Vinci Code right? Wrong.

Number one is A Study in Scarlet written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, which was first published in 1887.

Number two is Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier, first published in 1936.

Number three is both The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln in 1982  and The Templar Revelation: Secret Guardians of the True Identity of Christ, a book written by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince and published in 1997.

(The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown was published in 2003.)

The final and most startling example I have kept till last because it shows just how far-reaching and how successful “intertextuality” can be if handled by a writer with some talent for mix and match and a good eye for a contemporary story.

Example three:

An evil wizard, long thought dead, returns to bring havoc and chaos to the world. Only the descendant of his most hated enemy can stop him.

A good wizard walks down a road extinguishing street lamps as he goes.

Magic users make good their escape using a bewitched flying car.

A child is sent to a school of witchcraft to be trained in the mystic arts.

A well meaning man keeps a giant Spider as a pet.

Chess pieces come to life and fight on the board.

A boy chews a special food and is able to breath under water.

An evil wizard cannot be killed while his soul is hidden elsewhere.

There is a mirror that shows your heart’s desire.

An unpopular teacher turns out to be a hero.

Okay, ten is enough. I could go on for hours. It’s the Harry Potter series isn’t it? Only it is not.

Number one is of course The Lord of the Rings, 1954–55 by John Ronald Reuel Tolkien.

Number two is Bell Book and Candle by John Van Druten, 1950.

Number three is The Passionate Witch by Thorne Smith and Norman Matson, 1941.

Number four is The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy in 1974 and A Wizard of Earthsea, 1968 by Ursula K. Le Guin.

Number five is Tarantula a 1955 schlock horror movie.

Number six is Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There 1871 by Lewis Carroll.

Number seven is “Marine Boy” (TV Series 1968–1969).

Number eight is Captain Sinbad (1963 film version).

Number nine is Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1808.

Number ten is Goodbye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton 1933 and even more so The Browning Version by Terence Rattigan 1948.

JK Rowling is the new master of modern intertextuality and it has served her well. Give it try, decide on an idea to write about, google who has done something similar before, pick and mix the popular bits and who knows, you may have people lining up at midnight for your latest efforts too.

 ________________________

Len Hazell is 46 years old from the north east of England, holds a degree in Media, and is majoring in writing for the print and broadcast media.  He has published in various magazines in the UK, fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, and has had several plays produced throughout England.  He is currently working on his own musical adaptation of Arsenic and old Lace which he hope to stage in 2011. Len can be contacted at Bonniefans@hotmail.com. His music is available at http://www.nuzic.net/members/2565

By Len Hazell

As we saw in my March 17 article on plotline, every plot has three parts.

  • You set up a thesis
  • You counter this with an antithesis
  • All is resolved in a variable synthesis.

The difference between a plotline and a storyline is simple:  story is more complicated than plot.

I know that sounds glib and simplistic, but basically, it is true.

Plot answers only one question.  WHAT HAPPENED?

Story answers two more.  WHY DID THIS HAPPEN? and HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?

The other remaining questions “Who did this happen to?” and “When and where did this happen?” are answered in my articles on character and setting respectively.  So back to story.

Like the plot, which follows a basic cause and effect model, your story need not do so. In your story, you can play with the order of the plot, you can use time and memory to twist the order of the narrative, to confuse, mislead, and dramatize.

However, you storytelling technique MUST still follow the basic rule of thesis, antithesis and synthesis. (At least when you begin.  Once you become fully confident  and competent in your abilities, you’ll be able to  forget the rules and tell stories. Remember this is a only beginners guide.

Here is the cheat; I call it a Narrative Grid.


In the top row write in the 3 major points of the plot line you have chosen, in what ever order you want to tell that plot. Decide if you want to use flash back or other narrative devices to do this.

Do the same along the side column from top to bottom.

For the time being ignore the smaller grids in each section.

Don’t worry about characters or setting at this point simply keep in mind WHAT is happening, WHY it is happening and HOW this is coming about

In box number one write in the point where you want your story to start, the first moment of your narrative; The set up. Also here you can include a plot twist indicator, something that will be referred back to later as important to the story.

In box number nine, write the conclusion you initially wish to reach.

In Box 2 write your next story point an event that is not the direct opposite of that in box 1 but something that reverses it or interferes with it  and is influenced by the plot point in the adjacent side column.

In box three write a starting point for the bulk of the story, that combines elements of the first two boxes.

Example one*

Thesis

Plot 1

A seeks something for a purpose

Antithesis

B and C places good and bad obstacles in A’s way.

Synthesis

A overcomes all obstacles and returns to his fulfil his destiny or defines a new destiny from the quest and embarks on this instead.

Thesis

A seeks something for a purpose

Thesis Antithesis Synthesis
Thesis
Antithesis
Synthesis

1) Prince A is almost killed as a baby, By king B but is saved and hidden away. King B swears vengence.

Thesis Antithesis Synthesis
Thesis
Antithesis
Synthesis

4)

Thesis Antithesis Synthesis
Thesis
Antithesis
Synthesis

7)

Antithesis

B and C places good and bad obstacles in A’s way

Thesis Antithesis Synthesis
Thesis
Antithesis
Synthesis

2) Prince A returns as a young man King B lies to him and tells him he must prove himself worth by going on a quest.

Thesis Antithesis Synthesis
Thesis
Antithesis
Synthesis

5)

Thesis Antithesis Synthesis
Thesis
Antithesis
Synthesis

8)

Synthesis

A overcomes all obstacles and returns to his fulfil his destiny or defines a new destiny from the quest and embarks on this instead.

Thesis Antithesis Synthesis
Thesis
Antithesis
Synthesis

3) Finds followers and sets out to achieve the quest

Thesis Antithesis Synthesis
Thesis
Antithesis
Synthesis

6)

Thesis Antithesis Synthesis
Thesis
Antithesis
Synthesis

9)Prince A returns and becomes the rightful king

Now in box four write a powerful reversal of box one, that also relates directly to the first plot point.

Box five is the most important pivotal pat of the grid

This story point must re-establish the story so far, provide a reversal of box 2 and box 4 and introduce either an obvious or hidden obstacle to the competition of the plot. There can also here be a reiteration of the plot twist indicator, or something maybe added to it, or even a partial resolution.

Box six involve a major change or loss by reversing part of box three and combining four and five.

Example two*

Thesis

Plot 1

A seeks something for a purpose

Antithesis

B and C places good and bad obstacles in A’s way.

Synthesis

A overcomes all obstacles and returns to his fulfil his destiny or defines a new destiny from the quest and embarks on this instead.

Thesis

A seeks something for a purpose

Thesis Antithesis Synthesis
Thesis
Antithesis
Synthesis

1) Prince A is almost killed as a baby, By king B but is saved and hidden away

Thesis Antithesis Synthesis
Thesis
Antithesis
Synthesis

4) Prince C the son of King B hides himself in the companions of Prince A feigning friendship.

Thesis Antithesis Synthesis
Thesis
Antithesis
Synthesis

7)

Antithesis

B and C places good and bad obstacles in A’s way

Thesis Antithesis Synthesis
Thesis
Antithesis
Synthesis

2) Prince A returns as a young man King B lies to him and tells him he must prove himself worth by going on a quest.

Thesis Antithesis Synthesis
Thesis
Antithesis
Synthesis

5) Prince A expounds on the quest, tells of his ultimate aim and destiny and professes his trust.

Thesis Antithesis Synthesis
Thesis
Antithesis
Synthesis

8)

Synthesis

A overcomes all obstacles and returns to his fulfil his destiny or defines a new destiny from the quest and embarks on this instead.

Thesis Antithesis Synthesis
Thesis
Antithesis
Synthesis

3) Finds followers and sets out to achieve the quest

Thesis Antithesis Synthesis
Thesis
Antithesis
Synthesis

6) The encountering of an obstacle and secret betrayal by Prince C leads to the loss of a companion who is forced to go on a quest of his own.

Thesis Antithesis Synthesis
Thesis
Antithesis
Synthesis

9)Prince A returns and becomes the rightful king

This now brings us in to the closing sections of the story.

In box 7 indicate the beginning of the climax by a point in the story were all seems to be going well by an act of revelation or arrival, combine elements from boxes one and four to do this.

In Box eight reverse this and have everything seemingly go wrong, bring together all that has gone before and reveal anything which has still been hidden to this point, before resolving the problem.

In Box 9 decide now if the initial resolution you wrote still fits, then either expand on it or alter it and give the pay of to your plot twist.

Example three*

Thesis

Plot 1

A seeks something for a purpose

Antithesis

B and C places good and bad obstacles in A’s way.

Synthesis

A overcomes all obstacles and returns to his fulfil his destiny or defines a new destiny from the quest and embarks on this instead.

Thesis

A seeks something for a purpose

Thesis Antithesis Synthesis
Thesis
Antithesis
Synthesis

1) Prince A is almost killed as a baby, By king B but is saved and hidden away

Thesis Antithesis Synthesis
Thesis
Antithesis
Synthesis

4) Prince C the son of King B hides himself in the companions of Prince A feigning friendship.

Thesis Antithesis Synthesis
Thesis
Antithesis
Synthesis

7)Prince C is revealed as a traitor and overcome as Prince A arrives at the place where his quest is to end.

Antithesis

B and C places good and bad obstacles in A’s way

Thesis Antithesis Synthesis
Thesis
Antithesis
Synthesis

2) Prince A returns as a young man King B lies to him and tells him he must prove himself worth by going on a quest.

Thesis Antithesis Synthesis
Thesis
Antithesis
Synthesis

5) Prince A expounds on the quest, tells of his ultimate aim and destiny and professes his trust.

Thesis Antithesis Synthesis
Thesis
Antithesis
Synthesis

8)Prince A and his companions are captured and in mortal danger, before escaping and achieving the object of the quest

Synthesis

A overcomes all obstacles and returns to his fulfil his destiny or defines a new destiny from the quest and embarks on this instead.

Thesis Antithesis Synthesis
Thesis
Antithesis
Synthesis

3) Finds followers and sets out to achieve the quest

Thesis Antithesis Synthesis
Thesis
Antithesis
Synthesis

6) The encountering of an obstacle and secret betrayal by Prince C leads to the loss of a companion who is forced to go on a quest of his own.

Thesis Antithesis Synthesis
Thesis
Antithesis
Synthesis

9)Prince A returns in triumph kills King B after revealing the death of Prince C and becomes the rightful new king.

In these Examples you can see I have used a classic story line variously told as Jason and the Argonauts, Horus and Seth, Robin Hood etc.

Keep your basic Story Grid and once you have decided on characters and setting  go back and in each section use the small grid to do the same again, making each box a fully constructed story in it’s own right.

Example four*

Thesis

Plot 1

A seeks something for a purpose

Thesis

A seeks something for a purpose

Thesis Antithesis Synthesis
Thesis King Pelias invades Thessaly Pelias invades the temple of Hera seeking Jason Hera saves Jason
Antithesis Pelias Kills the royal family Hera Tells Pelias he has the right to the city but not to her temple and those within it Hera curses Pelias that he will never be able to kill Jason, Pelius says in that case he will fool Jason instead and have someone else kill him (plot twist indicator)
Synthesis but baby Prince Jason escapes with his nurse Pelias kills Jason’s nurse anyway profaning the temple She tells  Pelias Jason will return as a man and kill him

1) Prince A is almost killed as a baby, By king B but is saved and hidden away

This done and placed along side your character and settings, you now have a comprehensive set of notes and a structure on which to build your story.

*Editor’s note:  I’m sorry.  The formatting of these forms will take me longer than I’m willing to spend to put these up at a website so that they can be downloaded.  Hopefully, Len’s explanation will be enough that you can set up a table on your own computer and customize the templates for your own use.

________________________________

Len Hazell is 46 years old from the north east of England, holds a degree in Media, and is majoring in writing for the print and broadcast media.  He has published in various magazines in the UK, fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, and has had several plays produced throughout England.  He is currently working on his own musical adaptation of Arsenic and old Lace which he hope to stage in 2011. Len can be contacted at Bonniefans@hotmail.com. His music is available at http://www.nuzic.net/members/2565

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