Tag Archives: chapter

Carol’s Homework Assignment Post WIFYR 4

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen12432220

“If I had to do it all over again, I would not have chosen this life. Then again, I’m not sure I ever had a choice.” Great opening line followed up by a furious chase as the MC runs off with a chunk of raw meat he stole from the butcher who is hot on his heels.

With this chase, the author has the perfect venue for giving us a great point of scene by including the sights and sound of the marketplace while the action keeps us in its grip.

We also discover Sage, the main character, is an orphan and that knowledge is imparted in a very slick way: it’s his target, his home base, where he knows he can find places to hide.

Then, of course, we have the butcher. There is some dialogue between the two, but mostly threats on the butcher’s part. So now we have two characters.

A man rescues Sage just as the butcher catches him and starts into beating and kicking him. His rescue is in the form of paying for the roast Sage stole with some extra cash for the trouble he caused. The man takes him to the orphanage where we find his name is Bevin Conner and he’s there to adopt Sage. Now there are three.

Last, but certainly not least, is Mrs. Turbeldy, the head of the Orphanage for Disadvantaged Boys. That makes four.

The number of characters introduced is one of those “just right” numbers. Every one of them helps move the story forward while giving us information and background in a straightforward and useful way. And it’s all done in eight pages.

There’s a lot of the first chapter I’m leaving out. A lot of information is presented in those few pages, but every word moves the story forward and that’s what it’s all about.

I’ll be studying this chapter at length, checking the tempo and beats, timing the flow. There’s a lot to be learned from this writing.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Tips on Tuesday: How Well Do You Know Your Antagonist?

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

We writers spend a lot of time imagining, dreaming about, creating our wonderful “heroes” of our stories. We love them, we hate to hurt them . . . but we know we must. We want to let our readers know how wonderful, handsome/gorgeous, smart, talented, and clever they are.

snidelypolls_292384_main_4714_498326_poll_xlargeThen there’s the Villain! The Bad Guy (or Gal)! They need to be every bit as smart, talented and clever. Sometimes we even need to make them seem like the “hero” ‑‑‑ or a “winner” ‑‑‑ or a “friend.”

Here’s a little exercise that may help you put some reality into the creation of your antagonist:

Recall somebody who made you really angry recently. Imagine yourself dong something to that person: getting revenge, giving absolution, practicing an extended session of psychotherapy.

Have fun with it . . . go “all out,” writing a scene (or even a chapter) on what you could/would do to that person in your life, if only s/he were your antagonist. How can you weave that scene/chapter into your mystery? Your romance? Your sci‑fi thriller? Your Arthurian tale?

Yup! That’s the “assignment” for this week. Have All‑Out Fun with it!


See you next on Thinkin’ on Thursday!

Leave a comment

Filed under Tips for Tuesday

Thinkin’ on Thursday: Road Maps in More Detail

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

Last Tuesday I wrote about possible ways for Pantsers to make a road map which would help keep them on the straight and narrow with their novels. I also pointed out what can be learned simply by looking at some stats. And I made a promise. A promise to show what else I learned by taking a careful look beyond the numbers, and checking out the actual content.

This time, I put the chapter number at the top of each section. Underneath, I made 4 columns: page number, character, a single verb describing what the character was doing, and a brief description of what was done. The latter was accomplished in somewhere between two and half ‑a‑dozen words (seldom that many). Some of the pages were completed in only a line or two, most took about four, a few complex ones took more, but my first 14 chapters took only 2 pages, while double‑spacing between chapters. So keep it all short — it’s your story: you should recognize what’s going on in just a few words.

If the verb in the 3rd column was passive (that’s a problem of mine) I typed it in all caps. Here’s an example:

4          Wyndell          THINKS                     about (possibly) dead twin

Poppy            coughs                    —

Mum              rushes                    to help Poppy

Wyndell          STARES                    at tools

tells                           himself he’s NOT the One

HEARS                     Poppy saying “have to be sent…”

Those six lines encapsulated the entire page in 30 words.

So what can be learned from this? After the first 14 chapters I drew a lot of conclusions:

The story didn’t really begin until the second page

It was too long by at least half, considering all the passivity which was trying to pass as action: thinking, wondering, knowing, feeling, realizing, watching, wishing, questioning himself, acknowledging, hearing, worrying, believing — none of those were acting! (How should I deal with the fact that too often Wyndell, the main character, was by himself? How do I work in someone for him to talk to?)

I wanted to know what the reader would actually learn from these pages (in however subtle a way). So I made a list of story items revealed, such as:

An Evil Essence is threatening

11‑year‑old Wyndell is making a Luck Hat with scraps

He begins to notice Elements (water, air, earth, fire) responding to him

He wants to know what his Skill will be

His twin is missing . . . etc., etc., etc.

Then I was able to make some decisions about these chapters:

Split the first long chapter into two

Bring in the Sidekick character as quickly as possible

Let Wyndell confront his ailing father

Mix everything up by throwing in a 3rd (and important) character’s chapter

. . . and so on.

I was surprised to find that even though I was aware, in the back of my mind, that the writing was too passive, it took really listing what was going on to see how nothing much was going on outside the MC’s head. And that led me to seeing other ways to portray the events.

It was an interesting and revealing journey. I would recommend this to any of you who know you need to do some rewriting, but are not quite sure where to start. Good luck with your endeavors!

See you next for Saturday’s Softcover!

Leave a comment

Filed under Thinking on Thursday

Tips on Tuesday: Road Map for a Pantser

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

As writers, we all need to have a road map. Some writers draw (occasionally with a mapping program) their maps. Others format them as outlines. Or Post It Notes. Or a giant white board. Still others sketch it out on butcher paper or poster board.

And we “pantsers”? We do it entirely in our heads. And mostly without thinking about it. But somehow, inside our brains, the seed of an idea begins to sprout. It’s roots may burrow deep, its leaves may slowly unfold one mite at a time. Eventually that plant sprouts into fronds and leaves, flowers and fruit. But what if some of the fruit grows like potatoes and carrots, underground? The flowers forget to produce seeds and are left hanging and stunted. Even without the coming of fall, some of the leaves desert the twigs and branches from which the sprang.

Maybe its time to examine our burgeoning Mystery Plant and see what we have.

I’ve begun just such an examination for a YA WIP of 211 pages, which has a beginning, a LOT of middle, and even an end. Of sorts. But I also knew something was wrong. How to fix it?

Before we can fix, we need to examine the plant and see why it is ailing, why leaves are falling prematurely, why the fruit is too small and undernourished to provide that which is needed by the reader. Or even by the Pantser.

I started by making a list of my chapters, by number and title, what pages they began and ended with, and how many total pages were held within that chapter. About half-way through the 21 chapters and the 14 unnamed and incomplete sections, I thought “Why am I doing this? It’s probably just a waste of time!” And later, “I could have written another whole chapter by now!”

Still, I pressed on. When I finished the list, I looked back at what I’d done and, surprisingly, I’d actually learned some things:

I have four fairly long chapters: 14, 15, 18 and 20 pages long.

I needed to examine those to see if enough was happening in them to warrant that many pages. Knowing me, I would also need to look for unnecessary repetitions, and trust that the reader would “get it” the first time around (or at least the second).

Other chapters were very short. 1 had one page, 2 were only 2 pages, 2 more had only 3 pages. Three of them — all in a row — had 4 pages each. Would that last appear to be for some significant reason? For “shock” value, or some surprise element, an extremely short chapter (1-2 pages) might have some value. Were they that, or did the need to be combined with another chapter? Or did they just need to be fleshed out?

I also discovered that I had — word for word — repeated one entire chapter just before the last chapter or two. CUT!

I found an ending chapter which I’d repeated large portions of THREE times. CUT!

Everything after p. 173 (in the new pagination, which cut it down to the 211 pages) really fell apart and needed Major Surgery. These “pieces” of chapters which came after p. 173 included one piece that looked like a repeat of something earlier, one piece — not at the very end — actually gave the line which I’d planned to have as the last line of the book.

And all that from, basically, a list of numbers.

For what I discovered next, I’ll see you for “Thinkin’ on Thursday!

1 Comment

Filed under Tips for Tuesday

Thinkin’ on Thursday: Starting Over — in the Middle!

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

Just after the first of the year, Brian Klems (on‑line editor for The Writers Digest) threw out a quote by Joyce Carol Oates: “The first sentence can’t be written until the final sentence is written.” I sort of nodded in affirmation and moved on. Only later did I really start to think about it. I’ve written here before that I am now more convinced than ever (note: that was well after the succinct Oates quote should have given me pause for thought) that I should start writing and write to the end before letting anyone read, comment or critique what I have.

Now, if I could just convince myself to do it, instead of rewriting the first chapter, then writing a little more; rewriting the first three chapters, then writing a little more; rewriting the first 5 chapters, then writing a little more. As a result, I’ve covered the south end of my dining table with two Girl Scout cookie boxes (they’re the perfect size for filing) — full of papers, and a pile of 4 full loose leaf folders, the contents of which are critiqued, or not, and include multiple versions of several chapters, on my “current” WIP. When the boxes were full, I just piled more on top of them. Well, only a little more. About three inches worth. Each.

Oh, I have written the last chapter. And I love it. I just wish the eight or so before it were finished too!

What was I thinkin’?

Well, I guess I wasn’t. Thinkin’. Fortunately I went to the WIFYR class taught by Cheri Pray Earl: The Muddled Middles. Well, mine wasn’t exactly the middle — but pretty close.

I am going to start over . . . on chapter 17 (or whatever it happens to be). Again. I’ll fill in that gap in the story. Then I’ll examine everything, one chapter at a time, beginning to end. Then I’ll write (or rewrite) Chapter 1.

DONE ! ! !

See you next on Saturday’s Spellbinder!

Leave a comment

Filed under Thinking on Thursday

Thinkin’ on Thursday: Thinkin’ Up More Mayhem

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

Did you try it? What??? Writing tense, exciting, possibly even mayhem-filled chapter endings?

This past Tuesday, I suggested that you do so and gave you examples of several books which used this technique to carry you past the last line of a chapter and into the next chapter — whether you wanted to go there or not!

I also quoted a number of ideas which ending each of many chapters in his The Maze Runner trilogy by James Dashner. This set was literally a group of three books you could not put down at the end of a chapter. And THAT’s how to keep your reader, well . . . READING!!!

Here are more of Dashner’s examples ‑‑‑ but hopefully, no spoilers. I’ll name several types of events at chapter ends — not in order and not telling you which of the three books they’re from. Additionally, I’ll keep them as general as possible. Think about what you can dream up to do to your characters that will hurt them the most, that will keep the reader going, even if it IS time for dinner, or bed, or (maybe) even homework! If you end each chapter with ideas like these, you may have a real page turner, or even that page burner:

  • a kid wakes up, in a huge “elevator:” NO memories of any past life (I know, I gave this one Tuesday too, but I sets the stage)
  • a kid fighting a losing battle with a mechanical monster is caught in a lightning storm which morphs into an invisible power field leaving him vulnerable to a white heat
  • a kid is promised a place of safety, but when a group gets there, they are met with only a sign that this is the right place: nothing else is there.
  • a kid is told that all current test subjects may be given their memories back; they must choose to participate or not; then choice is taken away
  • a kid discovers a small insect‑like device which spies on all of them in this strange place — meaning someone is watching them, probably 24/7
  • a kid in the midst of battle is hit with a burning power equal to 1,000 bolts of lightning, falls convulsing and with a total loss of vision
  • a kid finds out survivors have to go back to the beginning where they all met, were challenged, tortured, intimidated or even killed
  • a kid is frequently dazed by a rapid changing of loyalties among friends: who can he really trust?
  • a kid, after horrendous battles and fatigue, is warned in a dream state that things are “about” to get bad for him
  • a kid sees that everyone who’s been here for a while picks on the newbies ‑‑ even a sweet little kid who becomes his only friend
  • a kid is made to choose which of two friends will die immediately: he chooses, knowing the enemy will do the opposite — only he doesn’t
  • a kid is attacked, seriously injured by another boy who seems to have gone completely crazy
  • a kid, in an audience of survivors, is told that the rampant disease affecting and eventually killing much of the population also affects many of their number
  • a kid notices frightening sounds and smells, confronts a mechanical monster with the fate of another boy in his hands

If you didn’t try to write compelling chapter endings before, get to it!!! (And how do you accomplish this kind of angst in romance? Or fantasy? Or historical? Etc., etc., etc.?)

See you next for Spellbinder Saturday!

Key words:


Leave a comment

Filed under Thinking on Thursday

Tips on Tuesday: What We Can Learn From Dis-HOPE-ian Books

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

Like dystopian writing? Or are you all dystopianed out? They say the popularity is beginning to wane ‑‑‑ publishers want something else, something “new”.

Here’s what the dystopian pieces I read did for me: I started with The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I don’t normally read horror and/or gruesome kinds of books. This was about as “edgy” as I could stand. Yet I found myself going through radiation treatments for a second bout with cancer when I started the first one and kept turning the pages no matter what. Read them in the waiting room, when I was angst‑ridden, when I needed to be someone else for a while. Couldn’t stop: exciting, nerve‑wracking, challenging, never a dull moment!

Immediately thereafter, I started reading the Divergent series by Veronica Roth. I found this dystopian world to be compelling: exciting, nerve‑wracking, challenging. Well, a little more trouble with the third volume, but not enough to make me give it up.

Next I took on James Dasher’s excellent The Maze Runner trilogy. More of the same. In fact, if anything, even MORE of the “more of the same.” Admittedly, I did have to put it down after book two to read something else — but I think that was because it was #8 of 9 in a row of dystopian. I needed a BREAK from angst, excitement, plot twists and all the rest of it.

It was literally a set of three books you could not put down at the end of a chapter. And how it’s done.

Let me give you some of Dashner’s examples ‑‑‑ but no spoilers. I’ll name some types of events at chapter ends without doing them in order or telling you which book they’re from. And I’ll keep them as general as possible.

Contemplate what you can do to your characters that will hurt them the most. If you end each chapter with ideas like these, you may have a real page turner, if not a page burner.

  • a kid wakes up, in a huge “elevator:” NO memories of any past life (you may guess some facts if you know ANYTHING about it, but I did need to set the stage)
  • a kid loses the one he most cares about, the one he promised to save
  • a kid is incarcerated in a small cell for nearly a month with NO human contact
  • a kid loses his ability to trust when he’s betrayed by a true friend
  • a kid feels responsible for leading friends and foes into overwhelming trouble
  • a kid is berated and beaten for failing to keep an unknown “promise” to a friend
  • a kid finds out he’s trapped by enormous, rock walls that close every night, with no escape
  • a kid finds out his allies are setting explosives to bring down the building they’re all in
  • a kid watches, helpless, as a sick, demented person is run down by the vehicle he’s in
  • a kid is given a secretive note, told he must swear only to open it when the time is “right”
  • a kid shoots a true friend in the head on purpose ‑‑‑ and suffers terrible guilt
  • a kid races away from a deadly mechanical creature, only to confront three more
  • a kid sees that a friend’s sacrifice still leaves everyone else in jeopardy

What are YOU writing? “Go, thou, and do likewise.”

See you next for Thinkin’ on Thursday!


Leave a comment

Filed under Tips for Tuesday