Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Little Handbook of Narrative Frameworks is published!

Narrative Frameworks
My newest book The Little Handbook of Narrative Frameworks for writing novels and stories is now available for download at Smashwords and will soon be available at B&N, Sony, Apple, and Amazon, along with a number of other distribution sites. 

The organization of a story is dependent upon its structure.  That is, of course, obvious, yet it can be overlooked so easily in the process of writing or reading.  But the conflict formation or the character development is essential to the story.  This handbook is about that unpinning, the structure that carries a story.

In addition to the examination of classic plot and character development, I have included worksheets after each framework for use in designing a story as well as for examining a story for its organization.  My intention was to create a resource book for reviewing and examining the structure of a narrative for design and understanding.  My hope is that writers and readers will find it a practical addition to their resource libraries.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Since I cannot have a wall of sticky notes for a visual timeline

Keeping time under control
Keeping track of a timeline in my novels has been a constant frustration for me.  I have tried numerous approaches which were only partially satisfactory.  I am trying a new one out for my second novel in my Students of Jump series.  Time is important because I have my characters moving through large chunks of time on occasion, and it gets tiresome rolling back pages to see what the date was the last time my character was in that place or determining progression of several events that are occurring at the same time. This can't be a problem I alone am having.

My dream timeline app will give me a horizontal line on which I can assign dates (and create dates that don't yet exist) and attach key points to them.  I want to be able to add little bubbles or boxes that connect to those points for summary or notes and be able to close them up as I move along the timeline or open them all up and see how it lays out.  I want to be able to click on them and move them if I wish.  But enough about what I want because that is not what I found.  If you find my holy grail, please let me know.

I need to keep track of time as it relates to growing a clone.  This simply cannot be found in mainstream iPhone apps.  I have this new laptop, and it has software new to me.  Some of their names are familiar, but I have not had any experience with them. 

I looked up the description of OneNote and checked out the video on it.  Okay, worth a try, I thought.  I was willing to accept a vertical row of boxes.  It did not quite supply the series of little boxes I was hoping for. (Though it may yet. I'll keep looking. BINGO - I can make little text boxes that can be moved about.)   After some playing around, I worked out a system of using the time markers from my book plus a short synopsis of the related event.  It seems to be working.  And I won't have to search though my desk for that paper I last scribbled a timeline on for book 1.  I was also able to set tabs in the same notebook for character lists, publication info and notes.  So it might prove useful for other reasons.  Not my dream timeline, but it's workable.

What do you do to keep track of your novel timeline? By the way, my husband will not let me take over a large wall and put sticky notes on it.  That is my other dream timeline, but alas, it cannot exist.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Narrative Mode ~ #17 Byronic Hero

Dark hero
The Byronic hero is different than other heroes.  In some ways he is similar to Hemingway's code hero in that he does not fit in society.  However, Hemingway's hero seeks acceptance and is humble in his difference, while Lord Byron's hero is superior and deliberate in his isolation.  He is better than others because of his superior intellect and sensitivity.  His passion overrides his actions and supplies support to his intense attachment to whatever drives him: war, a woman, knowledge, isolation. 

In return for his active rejection of social mores, he is also rejected by society even though he is still viewed as great, but great with tremendous flaws that others see, but he does not or does not view as actual flaws.  He is misunderstood or perhaps even maligned in his youth and must live with the stamp of darkness or deliberately perpetuate it as a kind of medal of valor against what he views as inferior knowledge created by the society he rejects.

This character acts as a foil against a common heroic plot.  There are heroic actions he simply cannot do, and this influence on plot imposes distinct directions that the designated Byronic hero must take.


  • Common hero sees female in distress, battles with those attempting to harm her, saves her and returns her to her waiting family's arms.  She falls in love with him, and they live happily ever after (once they have dealt with all the interference common to heroic love).
  • Byronic hero sees female in distress, battles with those attempting to harm her, saves her and (wait, here is the catch) returns her to her waiting family's arms requesting first proper reward paid before they may have her back.  He will withhold her until he receives appropriate payment and will even reject payment if he determines he undervalued the prize.  She is strangely attracted and repulsed by him, perhaps even insulted by his lack of interest in her.  He may even desire her, but payment comes first.

Want to write a dark story, write with a Byronic hero in the mix.  He does not even have to be the main character.  But your readers will get attached to him, hoping all the time that he will change.  And perhaps, you will change him in the end, slightly anyway.

Seen any good Byronic heroes?  Wuthering Heights has Heathcliff.  Jane Eyre's Rochester is a gentler version that changes.  Written any?

 The Little Handbook of Narrative Frameworks available on Smashwords and Amazon.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Narrative Mode ~ #16 Romeo & Juliet

Wherefore art thou Romeo

This narrative framework has been used by the best: Shakespeare and Banadello , so why shouldn't anybody else?  However, though many are familiar with this story, it is often viewed as having a simple plot.  Sure Romeo and Juliet are the main characters, but the nurse, the friar, Benvolio and Mercutio are essential supporting cast that could become stories worth fleshing out more, even shifting the focus from the two star-crossed lovers to one of these four.  My students groaned when they learned we would be reading Romeo and Juliet, but they loved the sword fighting scenes and the word play between Mercutio and other characters.  Finding Benvolio to be such an honest, caring fellow was another benefit and examining the paired scenes in the garden between Juliet and the nurse kept them quite entertained.  The storyline runs well, especially when the other characters are considered.
  • Avoid the Shakespearian give away summary at the start and shoot straight into the story.  Two servants of the Montague family begin a street fight with two servants from the Capulet side. Their loyalty for the family requires this response and of course, they must get the other fellows to throw the first swing so the blame lands squarely on them. 
  •  Benvolio, best friend and cousin to Romeo, tries to stop the fight, but his actions are misinterpreted by hot head Tybalt Capulet who jumps into the fray.  Now the town joins in, and the Prince arrives to break up the fight and threaten to kill the next person to disrupt his peaceful town again.  This seemingly natural response on the part of the prince is the initiating action that leads to all the other conflicts.  Without the promise of death should a next fight occur, Romeo and Juliet would have never found themselves separated. 
  •  Romeo meanwhile is suffering from the standard teenage angst. He loves a girl, but she won't even look twice at him.  Most people forget that he was nuts about Rosaline before he ever laid eyes on Juliet.  In fact, he won't look at another girl until his cousin Benvolio and friend Mercutio drag him to a party they plan to crash.  Then he sees Juliet and forgets Rosaline in record time. 
  •  Of course, there is another meanwhile: Juliet's father is considering betrothing her to the County Paris.  Juliet is expected to meet him at the party and determine if she could come to like him. 
  •  So you see there is a lot more going on than just two teenagers who cannot be together because their parents have an ancient feud between them.  At the party, Tybalt sees Romeo and determines that he needs to be taught a lesson, which brings us to the most serious hurdle the two lovers must deal with. 
  •  Tybalt in his search for Romeo runs into Mercutio and Benvolio.  Mercutio ends up in a sword fight with Tybalt which Romeo then tries to break up.  This only leads to the death of his friend when Tybalt presses his sword under Romeo's arm and into Mercutio's breast.  He dies cursing Romeo for getting in the way.  Tybalt and Mercutio were fighting a staged dual, all bluff to save face.  Now Romeo must fight Tybalt to make up for Mercutio.  In his anger, he kills Tybalt and too late realizes he has killed Juliet's beloved cousin.  And that is the second event that tips the remaining dominoes. 
  •  How can Juliet love someone who has killed her cousin?  How can her family raise her from her grief?  How can Romeo give her reason to forgive him?  
  •  Juliet's father's response is to betroth her to Paris and plan the marriage for just a few days away.  Romeo is banished and has left the area.  Juliet acquires a potion from the friar which will cause her to appear dead, but Romeo does not get the message that would clue him in.  He learns instead that she has committed suicide rather than marry Paris.  And everyone knows what happens after that.  (My students would yell, "And everyone dies!")

So let's break it down to simple plotting:
·       Boy wants girl but can't get her.
·       Family of boy hates other family.
·       Friends of boy drag him off to a party at the other family's home
·       Boy falls for another girl in the enemy family.
·       Girl falls for boy
·       With the help of loyal servant, girl and boy plan to wed
·       Girl's cousin goes after boy and kills his friend instead
·       Boy seeks revenge
·       Girl is expected to hate boy and love another
·       Boy must hide to avoid "justice"
·       Girl's death is faked, but boy does not get the news and kills himself.  She awakens to find him dead and kills herself.
·       Family learns the hard way to get along

Two colonies on an alien planet.  Two companies in commercial competition selling the same product.  Two schools in the same city.  Two software programs in the same mainframe.  Two ranches in the old west.  Each applies it own influence on weapons, fighting styles, rulers, values, and how much the end will twist.

 The Little Handbook of Narrative Frameworks available on Smashwords and Amazon.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Not just sitting around

Not just watching the flowers grow.
So I have not been preparing my Tuesday prompts and am not busy teaching, but that doesn't mean I am just sitting around twiddling my thumbs.  I have been steadily working on two separate projects.  One is getting the second of my Student of Jump books (No-time Like the Present) ready for publication at the end of this month.  I just finished what is my pretend final edit.  The one I convince myself is the last one needed.  But in a week or so it will go through another which will no doubt result in finding so many errors I will be a basket case for a few days, losing all confidence before I do another edit which will do the exact opposite, and I will split the difference and feel fairly confident that I have taken care of all I can.  I have my absolutely wonderful beta reader tackling it right now, which will provide the impetus to make changes and edit again.

The other project is The Handbook of Narrative Frameworks for Novels & Short Stories.  This is a gathering of the narrative mode posts I have been doing since February 2013.  After pulling them together, I edited, added, and am currently creating worksheets that will help make use of the frameworks each one provides for novel and story writing.  All and all I have been busy and since school has let out, intensely content finding myself immersed in my writing, spending time with my family, and taking care of those little jobs that always wait for summer to come.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Narrative Mode ~ #15 Sleeping Beauty

I like sleeping beauty because I always felt my own mother lived a life that fit a large part of this framework. She was a classic good girl who thought life as a secretary would be made to order.  It had some challenge, and she did well and even did some modeling on the side.  But life lost excitement, had no adventure for her. She did travel, but it was basically from her parents to her grandparents.  Boredom set in ,and she felt trapped, almost asleep while life went on around her.  And then the dashing engineer arrived interviewing for a position at the company where she worked. They grew close and soon she was learning how to pilot a plane and traveling to Cuba and other South American countries.  After five years of adventuring, they married, had children and well, lived  happily every after.

The basic plot is easy to lay out:

  • A girl is born and the family sees danger in her future.
  • They protect the girl by limiting her interaction with others
  • She is innocent of the danger and trusts everyone
  •   The dangerous situation takes place and…
  • She falls into a deep sleep due to the backlash of the measures taken to protect her. 
  •  Another stranger arrives and breaks through the protection to awaken her
  • She then lives happily ever after.

Simplest way to adapt this to a modern story is to make the protection and its affects a metaphor.  Imagine her innocence as a type of sleep.  She is unaware of life outside a set locale and group of people.  The protection is a valid and necessary one, and she will face that danger too, but she can also come out of that sleep through an activity, through meeting someone or through a physical or mental challenge.  She will struggle to gain a sense of understanding and then finally reach the moment of complete awareness.
This one is not particularly demanding as frameworks go, but for simple bones and easy adjustments to bring in complications, it is a nice one.

The Little Handbook of Narrative Frameworks available on Smashwords and Amazon.