This Business of Writing

Posts Tagged ‘hero’

9 Essentials for Writing Your Climactic Scene

In How-to's, The Craft of Writing on April 2, 2010 at 8:03 am

by C. Patrick Schulze

To listen to a podcast of this article, click HERE.

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Every novel requires that final, explosive scene where the protagonist and his villain struggle with each other to the certain demise of one or the other. It matters not if you hero is a working mother trying to make ends meet, or the commander of the forces ready to invade Omaha Beach on D-Day. Every novel should have this climactic scene and you should consider certain criteria to make it as powerful as you can.

Here are nine tips to help you when writing that all-important scene.

This scene should be an epic confrontation with a clear winner and a clear loser. Someone gets the girl and someone goes home from the party by himself.

Your hero must confront his most worthy of adversaries. Secondary evil doers simply won’t do. Make this clash between the biggest and baddest.

Your reader expects your hero to win and so he should. However, his victory need not be what they expect. Regardless the sour taste of your hero’s success, a victory he should have.

Your hero should win something of value for his trials. It could be the realization that “The Girl” just ain’t worth the work, or it may be real estate garnered by an incredible battle. Whatever he learns or wins, it must make him a better person, or creature, as the case may be.

In this scene it is not the time for surprise arrivals of any sort. The cavalry, in any of its many forms, should not jump into the story at this point. All that should be set up earlier in your novel.

Have your hero save himself. Imagine if your hero is fighting the villain in hand-to-hand combat and just as the bad guy puts the sword to his throat, an unmentioned meteor streaks from the sky to obliterate the bad guy in a magnificent blaze of fire. Don’t you think your readers will be disappointed in that? Now, that’s not to say the beautiful model can’t Kung Fu in and save him earlier in the story, but at this time, he’s on his own.

There should be no flashbacks at this point in your novel. Flashbacks are tough anyway, but they break the tension and can kill the entire scene. Once the scene opens, focus on the conflict in that scene. Your readers’ interest should be at its peak and they deserve a healthy portion of suspense, action and conflict.

Speaking of action and conflict, this scene should be resolved with action and conflict. Let them duke it out, metaphorically, emotionally or physically, but get the tussle going. Make this thing as exciting as you can. (For more information on the difference between action and conflict, read this ARTICLE.)

Clarification of anything is death to this scene. This is the time for action and your readers should have already received any explanations they need, although mysteries might get away with this to a point.

And finally, this scene should end in a rational fashion. Make it suspenseful, but logical. You never want your readers to say, “Don’t buy it,” at the end of your story. If they do, they’ll tell their friends the same thing; “Don’t buy it.”

Now, are there any aspects to the climactic scene I’ve forgotten?

Until my next post, you knows I wish you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the emerging novel, “Born to be Brothers”


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There are no rules! Really?

In The Craft of Writing on March 29, 2010 at 7:48 am

by C. Patrick Schulze

To listen to a podcast of this article, click HERE.

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I may be missing something here, but I wonder why people in the industry say there are no rules in writing. Of course there are rules. Lot’s of ‘em. Everywhere you turn.

Here’s a thought. Isn’t, “There are no rules” a rule in its own right? Thus, it would appear the statement is false on its face. So, have I’ve already made my point? Regardless, let’s journey forward.

“There are no rules” is considered by many just the Real Rule among the multitude of maxims they know exist. Here’s one example that proves the invalidity of the Real Rule.

Don’t query fiction before you have a completed novel.

Of course, another rule says you don’t have to follow this rule if you’re already a successful novelist, or a celebrity, or a politician or this or that. But, that doesn’t make the Real Rule not a regulation for us mere mortals, does it?

Here’s more proof the Real Rule is incorrect.

Don’t query unless your novel is well-written.

That’s definitely a rule.

Ah, I can hear the arguments now. “You’re talking about publishing! You must understand there are no rules when writing.”

Well, they are often interdependent, but let’s check that one out, too.

If there are no rules in writing, I guess you can write a novel that contains no conflict, right? Conflict in fiction is a rule, isn’t it? Maybe not if you believe the “no rules” rule.

Care for another example? When writing your novel, everyone says you need a sympathetic hero. How many novels would you sell if nobody cared for or identified with your protagonist? I guess we’ve found another rule that does exist.

Here’s another I guess you can ignore when writing; point of view. Just write from any and every viewpoint at any time. Right? I doubt even your mother would care to read that novel. Hum. Yet another rule.

One more, if you’ll bear with me. There is a rule when writing grammar that says you should eliminate most of your “-ly” words. Here again, another rule.

In addition to the many binding rules of writing, there are any number of ideas that are passed off as rules when they are not. One that comes to mind says fifty percent of your novel should be dialogue. That’s more a “guideline” as our pirate friends of the Caribbean might say. These sort of pseudo-maxims are a bit more difficult to address and beyond the scope of this article.

It’s probably time to stop and get to the point. My point is, there are rules, many and all kinds of them, and as writers we need to know and employ them.
With that said, I believe “there are no rules” is much like the rules of society. That is, rules do exist and people in power expect you to follow them, but it’s a lot more fun when you know how to break them. If fact, as Katherine Hepburn once gave words to my personal mantra, “If you obey all the rules, you’ll miss all the fun.”

In general, rules are made to be broken, but for the majority of us we must be circumspect when we do so. Some, such as conflict in fiction or the sympathetic hero really should not be broken if we wish to sell our novels. Others, like the use of semicolons, can be manipulated.

I recommend we think of the rules in writing as techniques or skill sets, if you will. Early in our writing careers we should first learn these various skills and methodologies. We should then adapt to them and become proficient with them. After we’ve reached that level of success that satisfies us, then figure out how to bend and even break the rules.

In the mean time, if we wish to sell our novels, we should jump through the hoops the industry requires of us and don’t give those people who say there are no rules too much sway over our writer’s life.

Okay, I’m done. Now I want to hear your arguments to the contrary.

Until we speak again, know I wish for you, only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the emerging novel, “Born to be Brothers.”


How to Write Your Novel’s Hook-Line

In General Information, How-to's, Marketing Your Book, The Craft of Writing on March 25, 2010 at 4:29 am

By C. Patrick Schulze

To listen to a podcast of this article, click HERE.

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A hook-line is a one or two sentence summary of your novel. Although the term, “hook-line” is singular, it may consist of two sentences, but it should probably be no longer than that. It is the high-concept of your novel compressed into a few words and should enable your target audience to grasp your storyline at once. Think of it as an elevator speech for your novel or as a teaser on its dust jacket. You might even consider it a marketing tag-line.

The purpose of your hook-line is to grab someone’s attention and encourage them to learn more about your novel. The secret to it, however, lies in its hidden sales pitch. That pitch should suggest your novel is something they would want to buy. You’ll see what I mean when we outline the five elements of your hook-line.

Why do you need a hook-line? Well, consider the target market, or audience, you’ll want to develop for your novel. Your initial market is comprised of a single person, an agent. In this person’s case, your hook-line will often be the opening line of your query letter. Your hook-line should spark their curiosity in some way and persuade them to learn more about your novel. It should do the same with an editor, a publicist, wholesale book sellers, retail book buyers and eventually the consumer or reader.

So, how does a writer create their hook-line? It’s not as difficult as you might think as it need not encompass your entire storyline, just some critical aspects of it. All you need is enough information to peak someone’s interest. If you cover the five fundamental elements of a hook-line, you’ll be all right. The premier elements of your hook-line are listed below.

1.  Character: Who is your hero and what does he want?

2.  Conflict: What is it that keeps your hero from his goal?

3.  Uniqueness: What makes your novel stand out from all the others?

4.  Setting: Insure your setting, or at least your genre, is obvious.

5.  Action: Your hook-line needs to at least promise excitement.

Can you see how these five components would have the potential to tweak an agent’s or a reader’s curiosity? Might a compelling description that highlights these points encourage them to buy your book? If you know much about selling, you’ll realize it just might.

Let’s take a look at the tag line for my current manuscript and see if it fits the criteria.

Though Jak and Clay share a camaraderie known to few but brothers, each falls in love with Kate and requests her hand in marriage. Despite her choice of one, their brother’s bond remains intact until the American Civil War threatens and forces them to decide whether their loyalties lie with love, with friendship or with their nation.

Let’s evaluate this to see if it fits the criteria outlined above.

Character(s):

Jak is our hero and he wants to hold onto his friendship with Clay and have Kate for his wife. He also requires an honorable decision as to his personal loyalties when the war erupts.

Core Conflict:

This is the decision the characters must make relative to the war and their relationships.

Uniqueness:

How many love triangles do not tear apart the relationships? The fact the three remain close is most unusual.

Setting:

This novel takes place during the mid-nineteenth century in America, which is shown by the outbreak of the Civil War.

Action:

We have three lives that revolve around the love triangle, the war and the decision they all must make.

Do you agree or disagree this covers the five critical elements required of a hook-line? Have you come up with your hook-line as yet and would you care to share? I’d love to see it.

Until we meet again, you know I wish you only best-sellers

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the emerging novel, “Born to be Brothers.”

How to Write Your Novel’s 1st Chapter

In How-to's, The Craft of Writing on March 18, 2010 at 7:56 am

by C. Patrick Schulze

To listen to a podcast of this blog article, click HERE.

We all know the first chapter of your book is the most critical in the novel. We also know within this initial chapter, the first paragraph is of utmost importance. And of your first paragraph, the first sentence is primary above all. Why is this, and if these things in your novel carry so much weight, how does an author insure he gets it right?

They “why” is simple. Book sales.

Have you ever seen someone in a store pull out a book, flip it open, read for a moment then set it back on the shelf? Truth be told, they do that much more often than not. So, how does an author get the buyer to say, “yes?” Of course your cover, your title and your blurbs all have power to help form the buyer’s decision, yet despite all these, before they buy they’ll read that first paragraph or two.

The worst part of this? They offer you three, maybe four seconds to capture their attention. That’s it. You’ve got mere seconds to convince them to pay you a royalty. And that is why you’ve got to grab them right away. It’s all about the sale, my friends.

So, once they flip open your novel, how is it you capture their curiosity?

One tool to consider is Point of View, or POV as it’s known. If you’re new to the craft of writing, give serious consideration to third-person point of view. You might contemplate this even if you’re not so new to the craft of writing. Third-person POV, where the author acts as narrator, can be considered a default Point of View, if you will. It’s a powerful Point of View and offers the writer much more versatility with his words. It’s easiest to write and most familiar to your reader.

Another tip is to get to setting right away. This creates that first important word picture and immerses the reader in your story at once. You need not get too descriptive, for this can bog down the action, but give them a fact or two to ground them in time and place. For example, in my current manuscript, “Born to be Brothers,” right away the reader sees a wiry man as he reins in his plow mule. Can you see how the mule and plow give you a hint of setting? The secret with this is to make the setting active. That is, have your character perform some action in relation to the setting.

You also might wish to employ some startling action in the first sentence or two. Give them a reason to raise an eyebrow as they peruse your first page. Be sure not to give them the entire picture all at once or their curiosity won’t compel them to take your novel home.

Another possibility is to open with a puzzle of sorts. You might have your hero look over something he doesn’t understand. Of course, the “something” must be integral to the storyline, but if you do this well, it may raise a question in the reader’s mind and encourage him to learn more.

You might attempt to create that perfect twist of words that captures their imagination. “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” It’s tough to do, but quite effective.

You might introduce the reader to an intriguing character in context or perspective. Is he an outsider, an outlaw or an odd duck? Again, this just might spark the reader’s imagination.

Another potential opening could include a microcosm of your entire story. If you’re writing about a murder, begin with a murder. If your story revolves around a young girls fantasies, begin with a fantasy. This type of opening can bring your reader into focus fast.

You can also attempt to fascinate or intrigue the reader with an interesting character. Imagine an opening sentence that shows a female detective thrashing an ex-con. Might your reader want to know more about her? If you use this tactic, focus on the character’s emotional state during the scene and not their physical description. For more on how to create effective characters, consider THIS blog article.

Maybe you could introduce your intriguing character in context. Identify their personality. Is he an outsider, an outlaw or an odd duck? Again, the secret here is to focus on the emotional aspects of your character.

One way to draw a reader into your novel is to establish a powerful mood. Even Snoopy of “Peanuts” fame understood this. He always stated his stories with, “It was a dark and stormy night.” Don’t use that line, but you get the idea. An evocative atmosphere from the very beginning may just work for you, if fits your story.

Now I have a question for you. What remarkable openings have your written or read that might work for the readers of this blog?

As always, you know I wish you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze

Author of the emerging novel, “Born to be Brothers.”

The Secrets to Conflict in Novels

In The Craft of Writing on March 15, 2010 at 5:57 pm

By C. Patrick Schulze

 

As humans we tend to avoid conflict whenever possible, but as creators of characters, the use of conflict is one skill we must master.If your dreams of success include penning of The Great American Novel, then conflict is your friend.

Conflict is what makes your story worth reading and, in fact, is the key component that weaves all the elements of your novel together. Without it, you’ve simply written a series of facts and occurrences. Conflict is what gets your readers’ hearts to beat faster, sets their blood to boil and encourages them to turn the pages. It also is what generates buzz and book sales.

With few exceptions, every successful novel is grounded in its story and the story is grounded in conflict. Think of it as forces in opposition. That is, you create one character who exhibits some undeniable desire and you pit them against another character who wishes to deny that ambition. It matters not the form of your conflict, only that one person wants it and another wishes to keep them from it.

I feel there exists a major misunderstanding among writers, especially new writers, as it relates to conflict. Conflict is not the crisis or what happens to your characters. It is not the battle, the argument or the deception. Instead, conflict rests upon your characters’ thoughts and feelings toward the events they experience. Conflict is found within the moral choices your characters make, in their emotional reaction to the events that swirl about them.

Consider this example. A daughter tells her father a lie, but the father could not care less. Where is the excitement? Where is the energy? Where is the drama? Now, imagine if the father loses his temper over the lie and strikes out at his daughter. Now you’ve got conflict. It is not the action, it is your character’s response to an action.

Let’s look at some general tips about conflict.

There exists a delicate balance between too much or too little conflict. Have you ever read a boring novel or have one overwhelm and exhaust you? Only use that conflict that is necessary to your story.

In most cases, two opposing conflict points, one internal and one external, are enough to carry your novel. Can you put in more? Sure, but each new conflict point increases the potential loss of control over your story. Cut any conflict that is not necessary to your fundamental storyline. Though you may toss in a couple of other conflict points of lesser strength to keep raising the stakes, stick to a major conflict point or two for best results. Should you wish to add more conflict, think subplots. (For more on subplot, read THIS article.)

Your conflict should build in an upward trending line, with a couple of lesser peaks and their resulting valleys, towards the climax of your story. Think of the way your conflict builds as a line graph. It should rise and fall, rise and fall again and again until you’ve created a line that looks like an ever growing mountain range. Each of these peaks and valleys builds then releases the tension until you reach that highest crest where your hero and his villain clash in your most powerful scene. This series of growth and collapse sets an interesting pace to your writing, and further draws your reader into the story.

Every chapter in your novel should have someone wanting something. This want need not be anything of utmost importance, but each chapter should contain some level of conflict. It may be as simple as a young girl wishing her mother would allow her to walk to school, to the reactions of your hero as he is thrust into battle. Regardless, your novel requires some level of conflict in every chapter.

The true secret of conflict is that it begins and ends with desire. It’s all about who wants what and who wishes to keep it from them.

The essence of building tension is choice. Your hero must be forced to make choices in order to keep him moving forward on his quest. His choices, and the process of learning that results from them, are what keep your reader involved in your story. It also maintains the tension of your novel.

Fear intensifies conflict. Your hero must face his fears, so include doubt or worry at judicious points within your manuscript.

Use dialogue as a major tool in the building of your conflict. When used for best effect, dialogue increases the emotion, tension and tragedy.

If you spend the time to develop your conflict as you would your most important of characters, your novel will shine brighter.

Until my next post, I wish you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze

Author of the emerging novel, “Born to be Brothers.”