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Understanding Premise and the One-Sentence Story Concept

Over the last few weeks we’ve been taking a look at key moments in your novel’s structure. This week, before we get into the meat of my 10-20-30 Scene Builder concept, I want to make sure you have a clear understanding of premise and the one-sentence story structure.

We really can’t move forward until you have this nailed, so I’ll do my best to help you get there.

Most writers are clear about the inciting incident or initial disturbance that has to come near the start of the book. Yet, I see way too many novels in which there really isn’t a strong impacting incident. Or it’s in the wrong place.

I recently did a fifty-page critique on a novel (which wasn’t the author’s first novel either) that had fifty pages of setup. Backstory. Telling all about how the characters met, fell in love, got married, etc. What was the stated premise? Basically, it told of a man who has something precious taken from him and must face danger and horror to get that thing back. Huh? What did the first fifty pages have to do with any of that? Nothing. Continue Reading…

How Writers Can Bring Setting to Life through Personification

Today’s post is by Becca Puglisi.

Settings can be tricky for authors. In our desire to firmly ground readers in the scene, we often write too much, adding way more details than are necessary. We also tend to write our settings in somewhat bald terms, keeping them simple so readers can easily envision the time and place.

The problem with these approaches is they result in descriptions that are flat and boring—even when the places themselves are not.

This common area of difficulty is one of the reasons Angela and I decided to tackle settings in our latest books. To be most effective, setting descriptions should be concise and economical, conveying just what’s necessary in a way that brings the scene to life.

Figurative language can often help with this. Similes, metaphors, symbols, and personification can succinctly express the heart of a setting with an economy of words and in a way that appeals to readers. Continue Reading…

A Look at the Second Pinch Point in Stories

Last week we took a look at the first pinch point—that moment in your story that comes after the hero’s goal is set and before the midpoint appears (in which the character has some important choices to make about the tough obstacles he’s facing).

Pinch points are mostly about the opposition. If the first pinch point reveals the strength of the opposition, the second one showcases the full force of it. If your character faces the edge of a hurricane at sea at the first pinch point, showing him what he’s truly up against, the second pinch point is going to be the battle for survival with the full brunt of the storm.

This isn’t the climax, but it’s building up to it. It’s preparing the stage for the final attack or onslaught or challenge your character will have to take.

As I said in last week’s post, I cringe when I have to do math and force my story into something like “the second pinch point comes 5/8ths into the story, at the 62% mark, exactly between the middle of the story and the second plot point—the middle of the third act.” Continue Reading…

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