Lisa Hale, “Putting the Novel Together, Bit by Bit”
Began with some song by Barbra Streisand about life and being criticized by editors/critics. (Sundays in the Park with George?????)
What keeps us from writing (also from Sundays in the Park with George) (answers in parentheses): I’ve nothing to say (Look at what you want, not at where you are, not at what you’ll be. Have faith, you’ve done a lot already. BELIEVE.), I don’t know where to go (move on, just keep moving on, make steady progress, enjoy the journey. DO), I want to make things that count, that are new (stop worrying whether it is new. Keep moving on. Forget the critics. Forget others’ expectations. MOVE), What am I to do? Fear and struggle of creating. (I chose and my world was shaken, so what? Let yourself make mistakes. FORWARD.)
Believe. Do. Move. Forward. (Forward means going through the mistakes. You have to go through them to get better.)
Look to narrative structure to get out of your pickle.
Julius Epstein—a reason Casablanca was successful. He told a screenplay writer how to write a screenplay in 3 sentences:
Act 1: Get your guy up a tree.
Act 2: Throw rocks at him.
Act 3: Get your guy outta the tree.
This summarizes narrative structure. Problem, intensification of problem, solution.
It’s much more powerful if your guy does something to get himself up the tree. The guy’s character traits cause the problem. The diff. betw. having character walk down the street and an anvil hits him AND character chooses to walk under scaffolding. Character is integrated into the action.
Character causes the problem, causes complications for himself, and then solves the problem.
Act 1 is the EXPOSITION. Identify characters (age, gender, etc.) and make us care about them. Bring character close to us. Create character in a way that we connect with them or are intrigued by them. Evaluate how quickly you’re bringing in conflict—this is a time to let us know who this person is. Sets up expectations for the reader. You set up rules. (Note: once you set these rules up, you can’t break them.)
End of exposition is when the INCITING INCIDENT happens. This is when the character gets himself into a pickle.
Act 2 is the RISING ACTION. Story becomes more complicated. We go deeper. Things go from bad to worse. Tension grows (like a rubber band being pulled back). This is where the character gains skills, tools (could be knowledge), and relationships (helpers) to help her through the story. Keep it character-centered. (Example, character chooses to resist the obvious solution because it would hurt someone else.)
Act 3 begins with CRISIS ACTION. This is where the character HAS to act. But before this, the character has to cause the crisis to happen. Character uses the tools, ideas, helpers to get out of it. Not only what they gained in the middle, but what was already in them from the beginning helps them solve the problem. Then FALLING ACTION and RESOLUTION.
I like to draft by going all around the plot line, jumping around by scenes (writing scenes from each section). I ask myself lots of questions while I’m writing.
In Star Trek, in Exposition, Kirk is chased by police, goes fast, car goes down and Kirk hangs on. Parallel scene later: when he jumps down on a drill (during Act 2). Action in Act 2 is more believable and authentic because we saw it before in Act 1. Or something could repeat in resolution, bring the story full circle. We like repetition and variation in the repetition. It’s satisfying to read. You can put in repetitions in lots of ways. (Story starts in a bedroom, ends in another bedroom. Lemon taste works through the book. If it’s very noticeable and overt, it’s probably too much.)
Rising action is usually the biggest part of the book. Exposition is about 3 chapters. Act 3 is short.
Look at writing in small units.
Is there something in your story you could have less of? Is the detail too prominent?
Is there something you should develop. Can you repeat some of the most interesting actions.
Would a perspective change help? How about an alteration of how the details are presented?
Which details are included? Which withheld? Appropriate?
Look at repetitions (characters, action, details), similarities between parts, connections.
Do 2 things simultaneously: 1) develop plot line. 2) develop scenes, details. This helps you know characters. These are the actual building blocks of the book.
1. Diagram your novel in those three parts.
2. Make sure your character is integral to all of those things.
3. Write, write. Write what you can. Label the scenes so you can go back and put them in.