Tag Archive - ten key scenes

The 5 Turning Points in Your Novel

Almost every great story has five turning points. Movie, play, novel—regardless of genre. Traditional story structure goes way back to ancient storytellers sitting by the fire and regaling listeners with their tales. While we didn’t live back then, we can assume their stories had these essential five turning points. They’re the foundation of practically ever story we’ve ever heard.

If you’re writing fiction, you need to know what these turning points are. While short stories don’t often conform to this structure, you will see it sometimes. But if you’re writing a novel, this post’s for you.

Turning Point #1:“Opportunity” Knocks

Turning Point 1: “Opportunity.” Yes, this is the inciting incident. Michael Hauge puts it so nicely: “An event occurs that creates desire in the protagonist. Reader gets a glimpse of their longing or need.”

Ah: core need. How often I harp on this. Protagonists (and all main characters) need motivation. We do things for a reason, and your protagonist needs a strong reason to chase after her goal. We bond with characters whose needs are clear. We see what they care about, what they’re passionate about, what they love to do, what they believe in. But underneath all that is the need. A basic, maybe even primal need.

Every great story has this. Scarlett O’Hara needs love. She sure hasn’t a clue what it is or how to get  it. But it’s her core need. Continue Reading…

Is Your Premise Worth Your Time (or Anyone Else’s)?

Most fiction writers are clear about the inciting incident or initial disturbance that has to come near the start of their novel. 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 do many fifty-page critiques on novels that have fifty pages of setup. Backstory. Telling, for example, all about how the characters met, fell in love, got married, etc. What is the stated premise? It might be about 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.

That inciting incident often isn’t there. I imagine it shows up at some point later, but that’s way too late. The inciting incident has to come at the start of the story. It launches the story. Catapults it. You don’t want your story sitting in that little catapult bucket for weeks just waiting for someone to hit the lever and send it flying.

A ship’s voyage begins when it’s launched. Not when it’s sitting dry-docked for weeks, waiting.

Every great story is about some character in his ordinary world that gets veered off in a new or specific direction due to some incident. Michael Hauge nicely calls this an opportunity. Life is moving along, and suddenly an opportunity presents itself, for good or ill—or both.

Whether it’s a parent’s kid getting kidnapped, a violent storm blowing into town, a ship of mutant dinosaurs or zombies that land on shore, or a young woman meeting a hot man, novels need that inciting incident to launch the premise. Continue Reading…

Half-Off Online Courses in July!

A few years back, I decided to create online video courses. Many writers had expressed interest in getting deep into topics that I had written blog posts (as well as an elaboration of my free email course on Amazon success, which you can take anytime, for free, by clicking on the link at the right).

Since I opened my online school, more than 1,000 writers have taken my courses! And I’m presently putting a new course together on emotion: a really intense, deep look at how to both show emotion in our characters and evoke emotion in our readers. I plan to launch that course this fall.

In order to encourage you to check out my courses, this month, July 2019, I’m doing something I have never done. I’m offering all my courses and course packages for HALF OFF. While you get to access these courses forever (or as long as the world and/or internet exist …), you would have to enroll in my school and pay for the courses in JULY using this coupon: JULYHALFOFF.

It only takes a minute to sign up. Go to my school (cslakin.teachable.com) and enroll by putting in your email and a password. That’s all! Choose which course you want to take, go to pay, and type in the coupon. Easy peasy! Continue Reading…

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