New DIY MFA Article on Themes and the Act II Crisis

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So far in the Developing Themes In Your Stories series at my DIY MFA column Theme: A Story’s Soul, we’ve covered three major plot points: the inciting incident, the Act I choice, and the midpoint. Today it’s time for the scene best known as the “dark night of the soul,” the moment when the protagonist experiences her worst crisis in the story and believes (mistakenly) that her story goal is out of reach. It’s also the scene that, when carefully examined, emphasizes the “why” behind the protagonist’s motivations and pulses with the story’s themes stronger than in any previous plot point.

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New DIY MFA Article on the Act I Choice, Plus a New Worksheet!

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After my recent DIY MFA post on themes arising from the inciting incident, I wondered whether other major plot points could also reflect a story’s heart. So, the newest installment of my Theme: A Story’s Soul column does just that. Today we look at the pivotal choice that ends Act I, or the “Point of No Return” that was covered in the Character Evolution Files.

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New DIY MFA Article on Antagonists, Plus a New Worksheet + The DIY MFA Book!

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Most writers would agree that the relationship (or rather, conflict?) between the protagonist and the antagonist is one of the most important “bonds” in a story. How important, though? More than we might think. In my latest Theme: A Story’s Soul post at DIY MFA, we examine how this unique relationship offers a goldmine of literary themes through the characters’ interactions and conflicting goals.  Continue reading

Which Zodiac Sign Fits Your Character Best? (Plus, A New Worksheet!)

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Last year, a Twitter pal asked me if using the personality traits for the zodiac signs was an effective way of developing characters. I didn’t say “no” outright; each writer has a unique method of creating characters that works for them. The only advice I gave her was to ensure that, whatever method she used, her characters were well-rounded and realistic.

Yet her question reminded me of something very important: I had never figured out my characters’ birthdays. (*blushes*) The only reasons why are that I had been so focused on other aspects of their personality, backstory, etc., and that I didn’t plan on having birthdays coincide with events in my WIP. But it got me thinking:

“Which zodiac signs fit my WIP’s characters best? Do their personalities fit any of the signs at all? And if they do, could I determine my characters’ birthdays that way?”

The short answer, thanks to researching and experimenting over the past few months? Yes.  🙂  But before I explain how we can work backwards to do this, it’s time to unveil…

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New DIY MFA Post on Inciting Incidents, Plus A New Worksheet + Storytelling Superpowers

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An inciting incident has a crucial and unique responsibility in novel-writing. Sure, it’s the first major plot point in a story – but it also launches the protagonist into the main conflict and sparks the beginning of his character arc. And as we discover in today’s Developing Themes In Your Stories post at DIY MFA, it’s also one of the first scenes in the story where literary themes can bloom. Continue reading

New DIY MFA Post on Themes in Symbolism, New Worksheet, + Awesome Surprise!

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Remember my Developing Themes In Your Stories series that DIY MFA ran last year? It’s back! Today’s Theme: A Story’s Soul post tackles symbolism, one of the most thought-provoking yet challenging aspects of novel-writing. Don’t be intimidated, though – it turns out that symbolism is more closely connected to theme than we might think. It starts by knowing what kinds of symbols we can draw from and which questions we should ask to help us find the right symbols to reflect our story’s themes. Continue reading

Time Flies!: September 2015

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Welcome to the latest edition of Time Flies! It’s my version of a monthly update, where I recap the past month’s accomplishments and articles, share news and random things from my offline life, and hint at what may be coming in the month ahead.

It can’t be fall. September can’t be over. I refuse to believe it!

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See? Even Pikachu agrees!

Ah, well. Denial only works for so long, right? And in some ways, I really enjoyed September. But in other ways, I ran myself into the ground halfway through the month. You probably noticed the massive output of articles over the past two months, not only here but at DIY MFA and other guest posts. In short, I demanded too much from myself over a short period of time – which led to a case of blogging fatigue. (A crazier-than-usual work schedule also didn’t help things…) I still pushed through it to stay on top of my writing, but I let a lot of other things (visiting other blogs, commenting on posts, etc.) slide because I’d simply lost the energy. And it’s not the first time I’ve done this to myself, either.

This time, I need to ensure I’ve learned my lesson. Which, in this case, means no extra blogging assignments for a while, apart from two October guest posts I’ve already committed to for DIY MFA and The Sprint Shack. More on both articles when each goes live.

All right. Let me give you a chance to catch up on the past month’s posts now:

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The Character Evolution Files, No. 03: The Journey Through the Character Arc, Stage 1 – The Trigger (Inciting Incident)

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Welcome to the Character Evolution Files! This monthly column focuses on character arcs, from the elements that create or enhance a character’s inner journey, to techniques that writers can employ to strengthen character arcs in their own work. Today we begin our Journey Through the Character Arc with File No. 03, which focuses on the Trigger (a.k.a. the Inciting Incident).

A character’s evolution doesn’t ignite on its own. Like a firework, it needs a spark – something that catalyzes the plot as well as the protagonist’s arc – so the story can take off. This is the moment where your story truly begins. In story-structure land, this is known as the Inciting Incident. For the purposes of the Character Evolution Files, however, we’ll give it a different name: the Trigger.

This first stage in our journey through a positive character arc is the subject of Character Evolution File No. 03. We’ll discuss the important elements of an arc Trigger, the role that untruths or “false beliefs” play in arcs, and how this arc stage aligns with the Inciting Incident. Also, we’ll study two examples of Triggers using well-known fictional characters, both of whom we’ll follow during our journey through the positive arc. (Hint: Check out the banner above to guess who will be featured.) Oh, and there might be a downloadable goodie for you at the end. 😉

Shall we begin?

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Time Flies!: August 2015

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Welcome to the latest edition of Time Flies! It’s my version of a monthly update, where I recap the past month’s accomplishments and articles, share news and random things from my offline life, and hint at what may be coming in the month ahead.

Well, that was a crazier month than I’d expected. Not a bad kind of crazy, but attending the Writer’s Digest Conference and writing a trio of articles to cover the event for DIY MFA on top of everything I normally do in a month’s time brought the phrase “insanely busy” to a higher level.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m so, SO grateful for going to WDC this year, and for everything I learned and experienced while I was there. I just happened to load too much on my plate once again. It’s a bad habit I need to learn to kick… someday. 😉

But I got through it. I managed to stay on top of my priorities, though it did mean postponing other bloggish things (tea reviews, the blogoversary giveaway, an upcoming guest post, etc.) I’d been meaning to work on.  So, I still have some catching up to do, but that’s OK. It means that September should be a fun month here! Make sure you keep an eye out on your inbox or check back here during the month so you don’t miss out on anything.

In the meantime, here’s your chance to catch up on August’s posts:

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Chronicling The Craft: Draft #2 Revisions – 30% Complete

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Six Steps to Saving Your Self-Edits for Later – Plus, a New Worksheet and Another Excerpt from The Keeper’s Curse

“Chronicling The Craft” is an article series where I share my experience with working on my YA fantasy novel THE KEEPER’S CURSE, starting with the first draft and now into revisions. Each article contains a progress update as well as writing / revising tips and excerpts from the updated draft. Today’s installment celebrates 30-percent completion of Draft #2 of THE KEEPER’S CURSE.

Huh? It’s been 2 months since the last Chronicle?? *blinks* I guess that shouldn’t surprise me. Summer tends to be my slowest writing season, since I’m more motivated to get out and enjoy the nice weather. But that’s OK. It prevents me from becoming a hermit, right? 🙂

Originally I was going to post updates for every 20-percent milestone (20%, 40%, 60%, 80%, and 100%). However, since gaps between those updates might be lengthy, I’m changing the frequency to every 10-percent milestone. Here’s what I’ve done since mid-June:
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