Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Characters

Without conflict there is no story (or plot, I will use these two words interchangeably), only a sequence of events that may or may not be related to one another.

Thus, one of the requirements for a well-told story is conflict. This requirement creates the need to have exactly three distinct story elements.
Two (2) characters fighting over one (1) thing. (2+1=3)

But as my friend Chris White mentions in a post on his blog, for him plot = character. In other words, it is the interaction of characters that define the story.

Two characters fighting over one thing, while potentially riveting in a short story, is quite a challenge to sustain over an entire full-length novel. The story is greatly improved when others get involved in the battle for the unique object that is the ultimate story goal.

As a writer, you must be cautious not to overcrowd the story with too many characters.

How many is too many? That is a hard question to answer. Instead, let me give you the minimum number of characters you need for a fully developed story.

The Hero (Protagonist) – The central character of the story. This is who the story is about.

The Sidekick (Protagonist Supporter) – Brings attributes to the Hero’s side of the story (i.e. comic relief) without altering the Hero’s personality.

The Villain (Antagonist) – Competitor for the object. This is why the story is taking place in the first place. The stronger and more capable the Villain, the better the story.

The Henchman (Antagonist Supporter) – Villain’s version of the Sidekick.

The Companion (Love Interest involved with Protagonist / Antagonist / Both) – Has a connection to both the Hero and the Villain and does not need to be sexual in nature.

The Object – Single (often one-of-a-kind) object that only one person can possess at a time and has the following attributes:

- It will give the Villain the power to get what he/she wants
- It will give the Hero the power to stop the Villain

And there you have it. These six elements give you all you need to create a fully developed story. Use them wisely.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Fanning The Spark

You have an idea for a story, but you don't know what to do with it. Me, I place all my ideas into a Story Nursery and take care of them. Once an idea has fully matured, I pluck it and that is my next book.

How do you nurture that spark of an idea? You need to think about it. Here is the "food" I give to all my ideas in my Story Nursery. If I am unable to make any of the sections in Part One or Part Two makes sense, the idea is still too young to harvest and I wait.

Part One: Determine who the main characters are. These are the people who make the story interesting. Answer the questions to learn about each character as you will use this information for Part Two.

The Hero: Who is the story about? What does the Hero want that s/he does not have or loses early on in the story?

The Villain: While the story is about the Hero stopping the Villain. It is the Villain's actions that cause the story to happen in the first place. So, with that said, who doesn’t want the Hero to get what s/he wants?

The Companion: Who helps the Hero get what s/he wants? What does the Companion do to show the Hero that s/he can get what s/he wants despite the actions of the Villain?

Part Two: Determine the main points of the story. Write the answer to each of the questions below and then put them together into a cohesive telling of the story. Be sure to follow the order below when creating your version of the story. This is your elevator pitch.

1. Who is the Hero and what is s/he doing at the beginning of the story?
2. Who is the Villain and what does s/he do to ruin the Hero’s perfect world?
3. What does the Hero want and what does s/he do to get it?
4. What does the Villain do to make it harder on the Hero to get what s/he wants?
5. Who is the Companion and what does s/he do to show the Hero s/he’s been going after the wrong thing?
6. What does the Hero do differently to finally get what s/he wants?
7. How is the Hero better off than s/he was before?