Easy as ABC

I continue to learn from reading and listening to Eric Witchey. I know I’ve posted his You Tube video before but I glean something new every time I watch it. This time, he helped me grok a scene with my antagonist. That something comes from what he terms the “ABCs” of a scene.

  • Agenda,
  • Backstory,
  • Conflict, and
  • setting (I add senses to this as well)

You’re probably an old hand at writing fiction, if so, this stuff is now embedded in your DNA and the muscle memory of your brain. Not me. I kept having trouble with a scene between the hero and the villain. I finally realized that I had been only looking at the hero’s agenda; what he wanted. His assumption was that he would be fired from his job by the new boss. My previous drafts had been written with the antagonist acting this way. Once I realized the villian had a completely different goal, the scene became less predictable and more interesting (I think). For me, it was an ah ha moment or as a friend of mine calls it, “a blinding flash of the obvious.”

Jack Bickham, in his book Scene and Structure, outlines a scene as:
• Statement of goal (which should relate to the story question)
• Conflict developed in attempt to reach goal
• Failure to reach goal
• Repetition of attempt to reach goal/failure
• Goal reached/not reached
• Twist or tactical disaster

Bickham’s advice is good. The first two points are essentially Agenda and Conflict. Witchey adds Backstory, because that is what underlies the motives of each character, and setting to give the scene sensory depth.

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Happy NaNoWriMo

Happy NaNoWriMo everyone. National Novel Writing Month starts November 1. It’s a great idea. Write a 50,000 word novella novel in thirty days.  I’m not going to do it even though it’s a great way to switch off the inner critic (because it’s all about the numbers) and just write. As the NaNoWriMo folks say,

“Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that’s a good
thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving
yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and
editing and just create. To build without tearing down.

It’s similar to Eric Witchey’s advice to practice speed writing.

Ain’t nothing to it but to do it. So, if you’re thinking about doing it, here are some interesting links that I’ve come across:

  1. Paperback Writer. Lynne Viehl  offers Twenty Bits of Advice from a Pro for the New NaNo’er (plus links)
  2. The Plot Whisperer. NaNoWriMo Martha Alderson wonders if you’re a “pantser” or a “plotter.”
  3. Word Strumpet, Charlotte Rains Dixon, MFA, offers Top 5 Ways to Prepare for Nanowrimo

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Eric Witchey-Five Minutes on Fiction

Eric Witchey, Five Minutes on Fiction

In the video (part of Willamette Writers’ Five Minutes on Fiction) he talks about a common problem aspiring writers have and how to overcome the obstacle. He gives some good solid advice and it’s worth your time if you want to improve your writing.

Eric Witchey has published science fiction, fantasy, horror, literary, romance, erotica, outdoor adventure, young-adult, and true crime stories. According to his bio, [w]hen not teaching or writing, he restores antique HO locomotives or tosses bits of feather and pointy wire at laughing trout.”

In the video he mentions a story he sold titled Batbaby and Bigfoot vs. The Blood Trucking Vampire. You can find it here at Fortean Bureau.

I saw Eric at this year’s Willamette Writers’ Conference and he alone made it worth my while (if you’re interested, next year’s conference is August 7-9, 2009).

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