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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My story structure workbook, Screenwriting Tricks For Authors, is FREE for Kindle 10/9 - 10/12. Just in time for NaNoWriMo!



Are you finally committed to writing that novel but have no idea how to get started? Or are you a published author - but know you need some plotting help to move your books and career up to that next level?

Screenwriting is a compressed and dynamic storytelling form and the techniques of screenwriting are easily adaptable to novel writing. You can jump-start your plot and bring your characters and scenes vibrantly alive on the page - by watching your favorite movies and learning from the storytelling tricks of great filmmakers.

With this workbook, based on award-winning author/screenwriter Alexandra Sokoloff's internationally acclaimed Screenwriting Tricks For Authors blog and workshops, you'll learn how to use techniques of film writing such as:

- the High Concept Premise
- the Three-Act, Eight-Sequence Structure
- the Storyboard Grid
- the Index Card Method of Plotting

- as well as tricks of film pacing and suspense, character arc and drive, visual storytelling, and building image systems - to structure and color your novel for maximum emotional impact, unbearable suspense and riveting pacing, no matter what genre you're writing in.

In this rapidly changing world of publishing, more and more agents and editors are looking for novels that have the pacing, emotional excitement, and big, unique, "high concept" premises of Hollywood movies (and the potential for that movie or TV sale!). And if you're indie publishing, it's even more crucial to make your book stand out from the crowd.

Whether you're just starting to develop a book or script, or rewriting for maximum impact, this workbook will guide you through an easy, effective and fun process to help you make your book or script the best it can be.

"Sokoloff's advice is spot-on, and her teaching style is direct and effective. A must-have book for authors and screenwriters."
- JA Konrath, A Newbie's Guide To Publishing

For sample chapters please visit http://screenwritingtricks.com
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Hi Grace - I think you'll like the technique.  You'll never look at movies the same way again when you see what a simple structure they all have, no matter how complicated they seem on the surface.  And that structure is sooooo easy to steal - I mean, borrow - for novel writing!
 

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Welcome to KindleBoards, Alexandra, and congratulations on your book!

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·


More Nanowrimo prep:

First, you need an idea.

When people ask authors, "Where do you get your ideas?", authors tend to clam up or worse, get sarcastic - because the only real answer to that is, "Where DON'T I get ideas?" or even more to the point, "How do I turn these ideas OFF?"

The thing is, "Where do you get your ideas?" is not the real question these people are asking. The real question is "How do you go from an idea to a coherent story line that holds up - and holds a reader's interest - for 400 pages of a book?"

Or more concisely: "How do you come up with your PREMISES?"

Look, we all have story ideas all the time. Even non-writers, and non-aspiring writers - I truly mean, EVERYONE, has story ideas all the time. Those story ideas are called daydreams, or fantasies, or often "Porn starring me and Edward Cullen, or me and Stringer Bell," (or maybe both. Wrap your mind around that one for a second…)

But you see what I mean.

We all create stories in our own heads all the time, minimal as some of our plot lines may be.

So I bet you have dozens of ideas, hundreds. A better question is "What's a good story idea?"

I see two essential ingredients:

B) What idea gets you excited enough to spend a year (or most likely more) of your life completely immersed in it -

and

B) Gets other people excited enough about it to buy it and read it and even maybe possibly make it into a movie or TV series with an amusement park ride spinoff and a Guess clothing line based on the story?

A) is good if you just want to write for yourself.

But B) is essential if you want to be a professional writer.

I'm all about learning by making lists. Because let's face it - we have to trick ourselves into writing, every single day, and what could be simpler and more non-threatening than making a list? Anything to avoid the actual rest of it!

So here are two lists to do to get those ideas flowing, and then we can start to narrow it all down to the best one.

List # 1: Make a list of all your story ideas.

Yes, you read that right. ALL of them.

This is a great exercise because it gets your subconscious churning and invites it to choose what it truly wants to be working on. Your subconscious knows WAY more than you do about writing. None of us can do the kind of deep work that writing is all on our own. And with a little help from the Universe you could find yourself writing the next Harry Potter or Twilight.

Also this exercise gives you an overall idea of what your THEMES are as a writer (and very likely the themes you have as a person). I absolutely believe that writers only have about six or seven themes that they're dealing with over and over and over again. It's my experience that your writing improves exponentially when you become more aware of the themes that you're working with.

You may be amazed, looking over this list that you've generated, how much overlap there is in theme (and in central characters, hero/ines and villains, and dynamics between characters, and tone of endings).

You may even find that two of your story ideas, or a premise line plus a character from a totally different premise line, might combine to form a bigger, more exciting idea.

But in any case, you should have a much better idea at the end of the exercise of what turns you on as a writer, and what would sustain you emotionally over the long process of writing a novel.

Then just let that percolate for a while. Give yourself a little time for the right idea to take hold of you. You'll know what that feels like - it's a little like falling in love.

List # 2: The Master List

The other list I always encourage my students to do is a list of your ten favorite movies and books in the genre that you're writing, or if you don't have a premise yet, ten movies and books that you WISH you had written.

It's good to compare and contrast your idea list with this IDEAL list.

This list of ten (or more, if you want - ten is just a minimum!) - is going to be enormously helpful to you in structuring and outlining your own novel.

Now, the novelists who have just found this blog recently may be wondering why I'm asking you to list movies as well as books. Good question.

The thing is, for the purposes of structural analysis, film is such a compressed and concise medium that it's like seeing an X-ray of a story. In film you have two hours, really a little less, to tell the story. It's a very stripped-down form that even so, often has enormous emotional power. Plus we've usually seen more of these movies than we've read specific books, so they're a more universal form of reference for discussion.

It's often easier to see the mechanics of structure in a film than in a novel, which makes looking at films that are similar to your own novel story a great way to jump start your novel outline.

And just practically, film has had an enormous influence on contemporary novels, and on publishing. Editors love books with the high concept premises, pacing, and visual and emotional impact of movies, so being aware of classic and blockbuster films and the film techniques that got them that status can help you write novels that will actually sell in today's market.

And even beyond that - studying movies is fun, and fun is something writers just don't let themselves have enough of. If you train yourself to view movies looking for for some of these structural elements I'm going to be talking about, then every time you go to the movies or watch something on television, you're actually honing your craft (even on a date or while spending quality time with your loved ones!), and after a while you won't even notice you're doing it.

When the work is play, you've got the best of all possible worlds.

- Alex

http://alexandrasokoloff.com
http://ScreenwritingTricksforAuthors.com

Buy the workbooks - $2.99

 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·


More Nanowrimo prep: Nanowrimo Narrative Structure Cheat Sheet

So we've already covered Story Structure 101: http://thedarksalon.blogspot.com/2011/10/nanowrimo-prep-story-structure-101.html

And I was going to continue today to go over the story elements of each act, starting with Act One, but this year I'm going to try something a little different, first.

The more I analyze structure, the more it seems to me that every story has the same underlying structure. In previous years I've come up with a checklist of story elements, and last year I really expanded on that one. But in the last month of some short workshops and my Nano Prep, I've actually tried to put the most important of those story elements into an almost narrative, a cheat sheet for story development.

So I'm running it by you all today, to see if it makes sense to anyone but me.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

NARRATIVE STRUCTURE CHEAT SHEET, from Screenwriting Tricks for Authors



Act I:

We meet the Hero/ine in the Ordinary World.

S/he has:

-- a Ghost or Wound

-- a strong Desire

-- Special Skills

And an Opponent, or several, which is standing in the way of her getting what s/he wants, and possibly wants exactly the same thing that s/he wants

She gets a Call to Adventure: a phone call, an invitation, a look from a stranger, that invites her to change her life.

That impulse may be blocked by a

-- Threshold Guardian

-- And/or the Opponent

-- And/or she is herself reluctant to take the journey.

But she overcomes whatever opposition,

-- Gathers Allies and the advice of a Mentor

-- Formulates a specific PLAN to get what s/he wants

And Crosses the Threshold Into the Special World.

Act II:1

The hero/ine goes after what s/he wants, following the PLAN

The opponent blocks and attacks, following his or her own PLAN to get what s/he wants

The hero/ine may now:

-- Gather a Team

-- Train for battle (in a love story this can be shopping or dating)

-- Investigate the situation.

-- Pass numerous Tests

All following the Plan, to achieve the Desire.

No matter what genre, we experience scenes that deliver on the Promise of the Premise - magic, flying, sex, mystery, horror, thrills, action.

We also enjoy the hero/ine's Bonding with Allies or Falling in Love

And usually in this Act the hero/ine is Winning.

Then at the Midpoint, there is a big Reversal, Revelation, Loss or Win that is a Game-Changer.

Act II:2

The hero/ine must Recover and Recalibrate from the game-changer of the Midpoint.

And formulate a New Plan

Neither the Hero/ine nor the Antagonist has gotten what they want, and everyone is tired and pissed.

Therefore they Make Mistakes

And often Cross a Moral Line

And Lose Allies

And the hero/ine, or if not the hero/ine, at least we, are getting the idea (if we didn't have it before) that the hero/ine might be WRONG about what s/he wants.

Things begin to Spiral Out of Control

And get Darker and Darker (even if it's funny)

Until everything crashes in a Black Moment, or All is Lost Moment, or Visit to Death.

And then, out of that compete despair comes a New Revelation for the hero/ine

That leads to a New Plan for the Final Battle.

Act III

The Heroine Makes that last New Plan

Possibly Gathers the Team (Allies) again

Possibly briefly Trains again

Then Storms the Opponent's Castle (or basement)

The Team (if there is one) Attacks the Opponent on his or her own turf, and all their

--- Skills are tested.

--- Subplots are resolved,

--- and secondary Opponents are defeated in a satisfying way.

Then the Hero/ine goes in alone for the final battle with the Antagonist. Her Character Arc, everything s/he's learned in the story, helps her win it.

The Hero/ine has come Full Circle

And we see the New Way of Life that s/he will live.

--------------------------------------------------

If this works to make the process a little easier for you, great! It may be more useful to look at it later, during your rewrites.

And if not, no problem - forget it! I'm just always looking to try to explain things in different ways, because I know for myself, sometimes it just doesn't sink in until I hear it for the tenth or ten thousandth time.

- Alex

http://screenwritingtricks.com
 
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