Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Advice: yWriter Details and Goals section for defining purpose

Setting up a strong structure with yWriter
I mentioned yWriter way back in the beginnings of writing this blog.  I was explaining a feature in the program that makes it possible to keep track of various facts about characters, such as appearance, relationships, motivations, bio, even alternate names.  It helped me to learn more about a character I thought was not especially important.  I found she had much greater influence and dimension than I originally thought while filling out the character breakdown.

But that is not why I am posting about this program now.  yWriter offers numerous ways for a writer to develop his/her story, but the two features I want to focus on this time is in the Details and Goals sections of each scene. Once you have opened up a scene window, clicking on the Details tab opens up the plotting break down of that particular scene.  Here you note (or plan out) if the event is based on action or reaction, and if it is plot or subplot, and you can assign any tags and determine the time constraints of the scene (character experiences two minutes, four hours or thirty days, what have you).  When combined with the information in the Goals tab, the purpose or lack of it, of the scene become obvious.  And if the scene has no purpose, it is wasted writing.  I love these two features because they make sure that I am keeping the story moving: characters grow, tension mounts, connection exists, i.e., purpose.

The Goals tab is directly connected to the items in the Details tab.  If I selected reaction for the type of scene, then the Goals tab supplies three questions I must answer:  reaction, dilemma, choice.  And if I selected action, then I must respond to goal, conflict, outcome.  I find myself facing the purpose of the scene and the character's (s') reasoning.  If I find that my only reason for the scene is to get information out, then I am not making good use of my writing or my reader's time. All writing should be moving the plot no matter what.  So that necessary information needs to be part of movement not sedentary info dumping.

It is easy to fall into writing about the character learning something or meeting someone because it is essential to events later in the story but not moving forward in the story.  Having to fill out the underlying bones of a scene helps avoid this.  What was my character's reaction to what happened?  How did this create a problem and what choice did my character find he had to make?  That's all based on reaction.  What my character's goal is, what is stopping her from reaching it and what came of her efforts to reach that goal is action based.

yWriter doesn't write the story, but it sure helps me tell the story better.  When I have to redraft, looking back at what I wanted the scene to accomplish and seeing what actually happened helps me realign the plot or take advantage of that unconscious working of the writing mind.  A scene that seemed to have no purpose gets one as the redraft rolls along and having these features in this program forces me to examine the scene and its relation to the rest of the story.

Some scenes support the main plot while others are subplot events and that is just as important as determining purpose.  Designating a scene as tying my main arc together or developing undercurrent through subplots helps me keep my writing moving in the right direction and makes it so I don't have to keep it all in my head.  That's yWriter for you.

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