Elizabeth: Beat Refresher

As I mentioned last week, I’ve recently been working my way though an iPod full of writing podcasts that I have accumulated over the past several years.  The most recent one was a 2014 StoryWonk Sunday podcast called Dodge ex Machina.  The podcast, which featured Lani Diane Rich, is now defunct, but the insights on story and craft and a whole lot more are still valuable.

This particular podcast provided a great example, via an improv session, on how to structure the beats in a scene.  I found the reminder very helpful, so I thought I’d share the information here, just in case anyone else out there would like a refresher.  It’s also a fun exercise that you may want to do on your own, or may want to try with an actual scene you are working on (or may be stuck on).

So, let’s get started. Continue reading

Michille: Write Your Novel in a Year

medium_Writers_WriteWriters Write is one of my favorite writer blogs. They are running a series right now called Write Your Novel in a Year (Anthony Ehlers is the blogger of this series). There is a new post every week and they are up to week 14. It’s set up with goals, breaking it down, time lock, quick hacks, and finishes with a quote. Each week, the post has information and suggestions under each of these topics. I am looking forward to the next in the series. Continue reading

Michille: Turning Points

Left-Turn-Sign-X-W1-1LA turning point is a defining moment in a story. The names for the turning points vary, but the ones I used in the McD program, and continue to use, are Inciting Event (or Incident), Change of Plans, Point of No Return, Crisis (or Dark Moment), and Climax. Turning points are scenes, not summaries. They change the protagonist’s world and he/she can’t go back to the way it was before. Continue reading

Nancy: Fix This Damn Scene!

Protagonist vs Antagonist Face-to-Face

This past week, I had an opportunity (READ: no choice but) to go back to some of our McDaniel program basics to fix a scene that had gone off the rails. Actually, it was more like it had stalled on the tracks.

First – a bit of context for the horrible, no-good, very bad scene. My protagonist, Eileen Parker, has been stuck in idle since her (now) ex-husband went to prison for the night he attacked her and set the neighbor’s garage on fire in a rage. When she learns he’s going to get a parole hearing, it spurs her into action to create the life she has wanted for herself, a life without and safe from her ex. She starts working her plan, which at its core involves starting her own business.

What I knew I needed after I read the first draft was a confrontation scene between Eileen and her ex (who use to be named Jim but is now Alex, for those following along at home). But I needed a device to get them in the same room – no easy feat since he’s in prison and she isn’t about to go visit him. Continue reading

Nancy: What Sondheim (Re)Taught Me About Scene

Stephen Sondheim

Story is everywhere, and storytellers come in all shapes, sizes, and media. This lesson was brought home to me recently when I caught a fascinating documentary on HBO titled Six by Sondheim. The documentary covers the career of American composer and lyricist Steven Sondheim. The documentary traces Sondheim’s career in musical theater, focusing on six of the many, many songs he has penned.

I must admit, I am not a musical theater aficionado, nor am I particularly a fan (apologies to all my college friends who were musical theater majors), outside of a few classics like Guys and Dolls and Jesus Christ, Superstar. And while I know musical theater productions tell stories, I had never before thought about songs being used as turning points. That’s where Sondheim, who gives master classes in musical  theater and has stated that teaching is “a sacred profession”, taught me something new. Continue reading