Figuring Out What to Write

Some writers have problems deciding on what ideas to use and what to leave on the table. However, the solution is pretty simple- you need to sell yourself the idea before you sell it to an audience. If you’re not interested, an audience likely isn’t either.

One approach to solving this problem is writing a book blurb for your story, which lays out the fundamental ideas of the story in an interesting and lively way that attracts readers. If you get excited reading/writing this blurb, then that story might be for you!

Blurbs are written using formulas, and one of the best I’ve come across can be found here.

However, if writing a full book blurb is still too much for you, a simple core premise logline might be better at getting you started.

A Core Premise is the central idea of your story and a seed from which the rest of the story will grow. With it, you’ll know the story you’re trying to tell, and have a guiding star leading the way to the end!

To find your Core Premise, you’re going to use a very basic technique that writers for movies have been using for a long time. In the movie business, writers often approach producers and directors with ideas for films, but they use a very simple structured version of their idea called a logline to get maximum effect and make the producers interested. If they can use it to sell a movie to producers, you can use it to sell a story to yourself- so let’s get started!

A great Core Premise needs to describe most of the following things:

  1. One or two adjectives about the main character. (to give them personality)
  2. The main character’s role or job. (Don’t use a name, just their role for now.)
  3. Anything that’s important to know about the setting or setup for the story.
  4. What the main character’s clear goal is.
  5. One or two adjectives about the opposition. (to make them interesting)
  6. The antagonist, opposition or challenge they face. (Also no names, use roles instead.)
  7. A hint of what will happen if the protagonist loses, or the stakes involved. (to add drama)

These can be presented in any order, but usually go in the above order, and will produce one or two sentences that look like this:

A mousy college student (adjective, who) working in a used bookstore (setting) must find a mysterious book (goal) when her co-workers are possessed by evil spirits (adjective, opposition) that will escape the store at nightfall (stakes).

An overworked executive assistant (adjective, who) at a large corporation (setting) must choose between her work and her family (goal) when a long-time rival (adjective, opposition) threatens to steal a big project (stakes) during a family crisis.

A high school student (adjective, who) must find a way to tell her long-time crush her true feelings (adjective, challenge) before she moves to a new city and they lose touch forever (stakes).

It’s actually pretty easy and fun once you get the hang of it!

Try using the ideas you brainstormed to come up with a Core Premise that follows the rules above. You don’t need to use all the information you came up with, just the main ideas. Also, don’t be afraid to try different versions of the premise with different details until you get one that you like.

Once you’ve turned at least one of your story ideas into a good-looking Core Premise, then you should ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Does this story idea grab you and make you want to write it?
  2. Is this story going to be one you think will interest your target audience?
  3. Is this story going to make your readers feel something?

If a premise gets three solid answers of “yes!” then that’s the story you need to write. If none of them get a “yes” for all three questions, then you need to go back and brainstorm some new ideas and turn those into premises that will work for you.

Another Book Blurb Formula

Found this info in a thread on Royal Road on writing good reader-catching story blurbs by Vincent Archer. I thought it was worth sharing, his original source was a bit vague, so I couldn’t trace it. (Bolding mine for emphasis.)

The blurb is supposed to catch your readers’ attention and sell the story, not tell the story.

I’m going to pick from Author’s Society: Fiction book blurbs start with a situation (a), introduce a problem (b) and promise a twist (c). They usually end with a sentence that emphasizes the mood (d) of the story.

So you start with a catch-up sentence, since often, people will drop the blurb if they don’t like the first sentence, and you end with a kind-of-cliffhanger so that people go from blurb to story.

Blurb sample using the formula (along with ‘a’, ‘b’, ‘c’ and ‘d’) lists:

For nearly twenty years since they’ve opened, the Gilded Gates of the Infinite Labyrinth have brought power and wonders to the subjects of King George III. Fueled by the resources from the place beyond the Gates, the modern age is in full swing across the British Empire (a: situation)

But the Hordes of Napoleon are not standing still. They will not stop until they can achieve total dominance, and ending the British advantage is what they plan for (b: problem).

Jonas Sims never planned to be a Labyrinth Professional and be involved in high stakes games (c: plot twist)

Now he, and the rest of his team have to level, push themselves forward and grow beyond their origins (d: story mood)

Or the Sun may set upon the Empire at last! (final hook)

Another one to illustrate the method:

The town of Las Viadas has two sides, like the twin swings of its saloon’s entrance. One seedy, one bright, and never the two meet. (a: situation)

But sometimes, people go into the saloon and don’t come out, and that’s something sheriff Marcus can no longer ignore. (b: problem)

The thing is, sometimes people who haven’t gone into the saloon come out, and no one finds that strange. (c: twist)

Getting to the truth will not be easy, nor will it leave the sheriff untouched by the weird. (d: mood)

Unless he goes in and never goes out. (explosive suspense)

Of course, you can have a full paragraph for each part rather than one or two sentences. You just need to keep your sentences very short, to the point.

There’s lots of tried “recipes” in writing. We’ve been writing novels and doing mass market publishing for centuries now. Everyone wants to be an amazing writer, but for most of us, myself included, using tried recipes and putting our own touch on them works better than attempts at being “truly innovative”.

You can pick my story and try to see how the classic Hero’s Journey steps apply, and you’ll find they’re all there (well, except the very end, since there’s 5 chapters left). It’s all about the presentation.

Same thing for the blurbs. Classic version works nearly perfectly. The best ones follow the recipe without you realizing it’s there.

It’s not a bad little formula, and I think sells stories pretty well.

(a) Situation

(b) Problem

(c) Plot Twist

(d) Story Mood

(f) Story Hook

You could even use it to sell a story to yourself to decide if it was worth writing. Create a blurb for a story you might write, and see if it gets you exited enough to write it!

Rob

How to Write a Quick Blurb

A “blurb” or “book blurb”- it’s the advertising description that sells your book to the readers. You find it on the back of printed books, or as the description on Amazon.

As for how to write a catchy one, most blurbs basically look like this:

  • Introduction (1-2 paragraphs)
  • Hook (1 paragraph)
  • Cliffhanger (1 paragraph)

Each paragraph is short, just 2 to 5 sentences long, any longer and the audience might lose interest.

Introduction
-who is your main character? (the best blurbs are built around a character, not a story.)
-why should the audience care? (what makes them sympathetic – this is KEY, you need to make your audience like your main character)
-the most interesting details about the character or their world.
-things the audience needs to understand the hook or the cliffhanger.

Hook
-this is the main problem of your story that your character faces
-also, anything special that makes your story unique like special or unusual things about your main character, system, cheat, etc

Cliffhanger
-this is opposition – who or what is standing in the way of your main character accomplishing their goals?
-and stakes- what will happen if your character fails to deal with their problem? What price will they pay and who will pay the price?
-always leave them hanging and wanting to know more!

A few other tips:

  • Don’t refer to any more characters or places than you absolutely have to.
  • Names don’t mean anything to your reader, use descriptions (Not “Bob Smith” but “the last assassin of a lost ninja clan”, or not “Panagea” but “a lost continent filled with warring tribes of powerful martial gods”.)
  • Try to keep the whole blurb under 200 words or less.
  • Don’t use “is” or “have” verbs, use action verbs – “ran”, “conquered”, “convinced” etc.

How to Write Light Novels and Webnovels

Featured

Rob’s newest book is available online! After three years of research and writing, your guide to the secrets of writing successful webfiction has arrived!

You can write the Light Novel or Webnovel you want…

Right now, writers just like you are making stories that are setting the world on fire. Light Novels are getting turned into games, anime, and movies, while Webnovels are making authors into millionaires with legions of fans.

And, all of them started with just an idea, and a little creativity.

You’re creative and you have amazing ideas – you just need a little extra help in shaping those ideas into something that brings out their potential. Let a writing teacher with over twenty years of experience guide you through the writing process of making your story dreams into story reality.

In this book you’ll learn…

  • The 10 things popular Light Novels and Webnovels have in common
  • How to master the 8 major webfiction genres, including Isekai, litRPGs, Fantasy, Slice-of-Life and Romance
  • About all 3 styles of Asian light fiction – Japanese, Korean and Chinese, and what makes each of them special.
  • To use the 5 levels of story to build solid serials that get read to the end
  • 12 simple steps to turning your ideas into epic stories
  • And…so much more!

Rise to the challenge, and show the world what only you can do. This is your opportunity to show off your ideas and join the ranks of writers who are blazing trails across the world.

Get How to Write Light Novels and Webnovels today!

Starting making your own legend.

How to Write Manga

My new book is up! What started as a revision of Write! Shonen Manga turned into an almost complete re-write with lots of new material and approaches. This book now covers how to…

  • Write both Shonen and Shoujo manga.
  • Master the Ki-Sho-Ten-Ketsu story structure that makes manga unique.
  • Create epic battle manga like NarutoMy Hero Academia and One Piece.
  • Design manga characters that your audience can’t get enough of.
  • Grab your audience and keep them reading until the end.
  • Make your stories come alive with emotion.
  • Craft romance and slice-of-life manga that your readers will love.
  • Produce four-koma gag manga.
  • And so much more!

How to Write Manga will give you the simple and essential tools you need to write your manga your way.

Get your copy today!

J. Michael Straczynski on the secret to his writing

Yep. That’s basically it. You need to write until it’s instinctual, and that comes with a whole lot of practice. (Which he’s had, in spades!) Always keep writing!

Writing Manga: The Three Cycle Plot

Japanese comics, or manga, are written as episodic serials- which means they’re broken down into a series of semi-self contained chapters where each episode represents a piece of a larger story but is also a smaller story on its own. This style developed because they were publishing stories in weekly magazines and never knew if the reader had read the previous chapters or not, so they tried to make each chapter as accessible as possible by making it a mini-story. This isn’t much different from how American episodic television is written as well.

Where the Japanese approach differs from the typical American approach is that instead of a typical 3-act structure (Setup>Action>Conclusion) the Japanese prefer a style they refer to as the Ki-Sho-Ten-Ketsu, which is based on rising tension and excitement, and when mapped out looks a little like this…

Each cycle of the story represents a dip into suspense (Will they do it? How?) and a return to possible success, with each cycle increasing in length and intensity. This differs in length from a typical three-act story which is Setup (25%)>Action(50%)>Conclusion(25%), by being roughly Cycle One (25%), Cycle Two (30%), and Cycle Three (45%). In other words, instead of being organized as a beginning, middle, and end, the story is better thought of as being in three waves of increasing power and duration.

The peaks of the waves represents the moments of greatest hope and excitement turning into worry, while the bottom of the troughs represents the moments of greatest worry turning into hope. Using this sine-wave style pattern, the audience’s emotions are taken on a roller-coaster ride, and Japanese comic creators use it to play the audience’s emotions like an instrument alternating between fast and slow, soft and hard, and joy and despair.

Which is the key point- the Three Cycle Plot is built around the audience’s emotions and carrying them on an emotional journey. Things that happen are happening because they will affect the audience, and the characters and situations are a vehicle for making the audience feel. It’s all about creating a building a rhythm of suspense and excitement which alternate to bring out the best in each other.

Here’s how to use the Three Cycles to write a story…

Cycle One: Introduction and Problem (25%)

Introduce the following things as quickly as possible:

  • The main characters, including their motivations, reasons the audience should sympathize with them, and any long-term goals they have (if any).
  • The setting and other necessary details and pieces of information the reader needs to understand the story from start to finish.
  • The short term goal they have for this story.
  • An obstacle to that short-term goal which makes it appear challenging but still do-able. This obstacle should be connected to the major obstacle they’ll be facing in this story, but is not the main one.
  • A potential solution to that challenging obstacle.

Cycle Two: Double Trouble (30%)

  • Another greater obstacle appears, building on the smaller one. This can be something actually going wrong, or just the appearance of a greater threat. The important part is it creates another significant question in the audience’s minds (“How can they overcome this?”) and ups the suspense.
  • Usually the main opponent/challenge of the story will be revealed here, and their appearance may be the greater obstacle.
  • Despite the challenge of the greater obstacle, the main character will still attempt to solve it and make some headway.

Cycle Three: Disaster and Conclusion (45%)

  • Just as the greater obstacle looks to be solved, things take a deep turn for the worse and everything looks lost. The situation should feel hopeless for the audience, or at least they should doubt that the main character can solve their problem, just for a moment.
  • The main character must now do something they don’t want to do in order (or have been avoiding doing) to have even a chance at victory, and so they call on all their resources to take one last try at achieving their goal.
  • They win through their own efforts, and claim their prize.
  • The character is shown benefiting from their efforts in some way that makes the audience feel satisfied.
  • If the story is a continuing one, a new challenge is introduced to be solved in the next story.

Example Story: Baker’s Dozen, Episode 3

Cycle 1: Introduction and Problem

Dolly Madison is the best teen baker you ever saw, but she runs completely on instinct and recipes just confuse her. Thus, no baking school will accept her because she fails the written component of all the entrance tests. Seeing her potential, a master baker named Chef Kim has taken pity on her, and is giving her one chance to win a possible apprenticeship. As the story starts early one morning, she sneaks out because her parents don’t approve of her dream, and then heads to Kim’s Bakery, where she will face her big test.

Arriving at Kim’s Bakery, she finds he’s set up three stations, complete with equipment and ingredients. At each station is a sealed letter, and he tells her that in order to pass the test, she must complete the instructions in each letter before noon when the bakery opens. She can do them in any order, but she must complete each task to his satisfaction or she fails and he won’t give her another chance.

Saying a prayer, she picks a station randomly and reads the first letter- it turns out to be for two dozen chocolate chip cookies. The recipe is there, but she’s made them in the past, and is pretty sure she remembers how to do it on her own. She gets everything put together and gets the cookies in the oven- it’s now 8:30am, and she’s got a few hours.

Cycle 2: Double Trouble

She opens the second letter to find it requires her to make two chocolate layer cakes- something she’s never made before. Again, the recipe is there, and at first she tries to use it but gets really confused and makes a big mess. But then after taking out the cookies, she recalls that she’s seen people make these on her favorite cooking shows and after panicking reconstructs the steps in her head. She manages to get the ingredients together and gets them baking- the clock says 10:15am now.

Cycle 3: Disaster and Conclusion

Rushing over to the third station, she finds it’s for two loaves of banana bread- something she again has never made before. As she’s puzzling over how to do it, she smells something burning and discovers that the cakes are burnt! Can’t serve these! She now has an hour and a half to remake the cakes, and she still hasn’t started the banana bread!

After Chef Kim makes it clear there will be no more time, Dolly leaps into action and gets the cakes remade and in the oven. Then, she stares at the recipe, trying to figure it out and decides to just do one step at a time- breaking the process down. She has no time for this, but she’s got to go through it slowly in order to produce something. Working her way through, she manages to get the banana bread in the oven in time to get the cakes out. But the cakes are too hot to ice in time, and so she improvises a special topping that won’t melt on the hot cake. Then, with seconds to go, she pulls out the banana bread and gets them on the cooling racks.

Chef Kim tastes her cookies and finds them a little hard and salty, so he’s not impressed. He’s impressed by her cake however, and her ability to think up a topping at the last second to recover. Then they get to the banana loaf, which he questions will be done under such tight conditions. And, when he checks it, he finds it’s underdone and still uncooked in the middle.

Dolly cries, because she’s failed the test.

However, Chef Kim then informs her that she did pass the test- the test to see if she could follow a recipe under pressure. That was the real test, and in the end she did it, earning her place as his apprentice. Then he informs her it’s time to start serving, so she needs to clean up and get to the front of the bakery to serve customers. Baking is only half the job, and this was only half the test! Get to it!

Examples of Three Cycle Plot Patterns

These are some of the many possible ways you can use the three-cycle pattern to plan out the plot of a story, using some common situations. Each of these is only one way among many to do it.

The Hero Cycle

  • C1: A heroic character is introduced and faces a small challenge which lets the show off what they can do. This challenge leads to them facing a larger threat.
  • C2: The hero faces off against the real threat, and learns that they’re much tougher than they thought. By putting their skills to the test, they manage to hold their own against this dangerous opponent and make things even.
  • C3: The opponent reveals that they’ve been holding back and unleashes their full force against the hero, driving them into a corner. At their darkest hour, the hero manages to find a solution to their problems and rally against their opponent, defeating them.

Bad Situation Cycle

  • C1: The hero meets a villain who is clearly a tough customer. But it seems like they might be able to take them.
  • C2: The hero realizes this situation is worse than expected and pulls put their best move, which seems to do the trick.
  • C3: The villain turns out to be immune to their best move, and…
  • The hero must improvise/find a new way to defeat the enemy and then wins.
  • The hero gets pummeled into the ground and loses, leaving it as a cliffhanger for the next chapter.
  • The hero is rescued by a third party.
  • The hero must develop a new special strength.
  • Some combination of the above.

Young Master Cycle

  • C1: The hero finds a jerk being a jerk and puts them in their place. The young master sends thugs at the hero, who they defeat.
  • C2: The young master’s old master (father/master) comes looking for the hero who has bullied their son/student, and the old master is tougher than the hero. The hero is in serious danger, and at first they almost find a way to avoid conflict, but…
  • C3: The young master eggs the old master on, or something else incites the old master’s anger, and they attack the hero. The hero is in mortal danger and…
  • Must use every trick they have to get out of this one.
  • Finds a new unexpected strength.
  • Is saved by an unexpected ally.
  • Defeats the old master, but now has their entire clan hunting the hero down to try and restore the family’s honor.

The Comedy Cycle

  • C1: There’s a misunderstanding between two characters, but maybe they can work it out.
  • C2: Nope! Thanks to a twist, things get twice as bad, and there’s going to be real consequences. But there is still a chance…
  • C3: The chance for understanding falls apart and the only solution is now the hero coming clean (if it was caused by their own unwillingness to do what needed to be done) or a display of their special strength. The misunderstanding is cleared up and their relationship is healed, usually becoming stronger for the experience.

The Murder Cycle

  • C1: Someone has been killed and a detective uses their skills to find their first clues that lead them to a suspect.
  • C2: The detective finds the mystery is even harder to solve when their first suspect is also killed by the murderer, or the first suspect has a solid alibi. They’re left back at square one.
  • C3: The detective finds a new direction that leads them into a confrontation where they face several suspects and explain how the crime was done. Then they point out the murderer, who confesses under the weight of evidence.
  • Note: The moment things turn around in the Murder Cycle is when the detective has an “ah-ha!” moment that lets them piece the whole thing together and solve the crime.

The Romance Cycle:

  • C1: The lead is romantically interested in another character but their first attempt at getting closer with the other person fails.
  • C2: The lead gets another try at getting closer with the love interest, often due to circumstances, but this attempt not only fails but makes the love interest seem to dislike them.
  • C3: The lead gives it their all and confesses their feelings to their love interest, usually as part of an apology, and finds that the love interest doesn’t hate them at all. The two of them find a way to start a new relationship with each other, one that’s going in a positive direction.

Final Thoughts

This pattern is designed for writing serials, and will work for any kind of continuing episodic story from Manga to Xianxia Webnovel chapters. However, it can also be used for any other kind of story as well, and will work for organizing stories from a few paragraphs to thousands of pages in length. Just remember that there can be cycles within cycles, and each of those cycles can have other smaller 3-Cycle Plots inside them!

Look at your favorite Japanese stories and you’ll quickly start to see this three cycle pattern everywhere. While there are other patterns as well, most of them are variations on the three-cycle pattern which helps to define how the Japanese put together their stories.

Happy writing!

Rob

NaNoWriMo Quickstart Guide – Part Eight: Writing a Synopsis

Step 8: Writing a Synopsis

While you might be tempted to write your story just from your scene list, it’s a good idea to take one more final step and make sure everything is in place before you begin the process of turning your story into something people are going to love to read.

That final step is turning the collection of scenes you’ve made into a synopsis of the whole story.


Basically, what you’re doing is writing a short version of your story using the information from your scenes and adding whatever details you think need to be added to make the story work. It’s a final pass through your story to double check that it’s going to work the way it is, and that everything will flow smoothly before you commit to writing the whole thing out.

If you’re doing it on paper, you should take a fresh sheet of paper and write everything on that, and if you’re doing it on computer you can start by editing together the bullet point versions of the scenes into full scenes. Since you’re doing a synopsis, don’t be afraid to leave out some details that are already understood between scenes (like turning names into “he” and “they”) and look for ways you can add transitions between the scenes to make things flow together.

What you will end up with will look something like this:

On a morning in late October, Sam and Bob arrive in the sleepy town of Springville. Pulling over to a gas station, Sam gets gas while Bob talks to a cute female gas attendant and asks about the strange disappearances that have been reported here. The attendant flirts with Bob and offers to let him know the details if he buys her lunch, something he happily agrees to do since she’s very attractive.

Later on outside the Diner where Bob is having lunch with the gas attendant, Sam buys a chocolate bar and sees a weird shaggy homeless kid eating from a garbage bin. Sam feels bad seeing this, so he gives his chocolate bar to the weird kid, who howls with delight and runs away. Sam shakes his head at the sight and buys a new chocolate to eat while he waits, checking his phone to see their messages.

During lunch, the attendant is curious and asks Bob about what he does. He tells her that he and Sam are Monster Vloggers who investigate strange events for their YouTube channel, which has over two million subscribers. She’s excited by the idea of meeting someone famous and asks to be on camera, so he takes out his phone and begins interviewing her about the local events. He finds out from the attendant that every full moon there’s been disappearances for the past year, and that the local farmers have been so scared they’re moving away and half the farms around the city are now empty. He also learns that a girl went missing just two days before while out delivering mail in the west of town.

After lunch, Sam finishes watching the interview Bob did and decides that since this is the last night of the full moon for this month, this will be their only chance to learn the truth. The two plan to go to where the girl disappeared and look around. 

Later that night, the pair are walking in the forest trying to find a missing girl and see a giant werewolf eating a deer. When they try to film it, it charges at them so they run away and the wolf chases them to a nearby farmhouse. As the two are trying to get into the locked farmhouse to escape, the werewolf catches Bob and tries to eat him as Sam desperately hits it with a shovel. The werewolf ignores the shovel, but then the weird kid Sam gave the chocolate bar to earlier appears and starts to howl, making the werewolf drop Bob and chase the kid instead.

As Sam and Bob watch, the werewolf catches the weird kid, but before it can hurt him two other werewolves appear and attack it. It’s two against one, and the killer werewolf goes down quickly as the boys film the event, gushing over the ratings they’re going to get. Then, after the fight is done, the two new werewolves turn to advance on Sam and Bob but the weird boy stops them by nuzzling Sam. At this, the two werewolves transform into a man and woman and tell the boys that they were here to stop the rogue werewolf from causing trouble for their kind, then demand Bob hand over his phone and make them promise not to reveal what they’ve seen. In the end, the pair are left driving home with a story they can’t tell and it turns out the boy peed on Sam’s pants.

The End.

Some ideas have been made clearer, and the whole story has been tightened up with transitions. This is one of the advantages of writing a synopsis first, since it lets you have a clear picture of the events so that you can just focus on describing the scenes and dialog as you’re writing.

Also, if you’re writing a comic book or movie script, this synopsis lets you start to break the whole story down into scenes and locations so that you can think about page counts or costs before you commit to writing the whole thing. You can also use it to get feedback from others about what works and what doesn’t work about the story, and make easy changes before the whole story is written.


With this, you’re ready to write that story you wanted to bring to life! You’ve gone from having a vague idea and picking a genre, to brainstorming characters and core premises and turning ideas into characters and scenes. This is a method you can use again and again to develop the stories you want to tell and express your unique vision to the world.  Over time, you might start to skips steps, or develop your own methods of doing things, and that’s great too! The whole point of this book is to help you get started and give you a framework you can use or change as you tell the stories you want to tell.

Of course, this is just a starting point in learning the writing process, and like any great art, there is always more to learn. In the following extra chapters, we’ll look at a few Techniques to take what you’ve learned so far and make it even better!

NaNoWriMo Quickstart Guide – Part Seven: Organize Your Ideas Into Scenes

Step 7: Organize Your Ideas Into Scenes

The next step is also simple and fun – you take your big collection of scenes and try to see if you can arrange them into a rough version of a story. In the paper version, this involves putting them into a box (or a random pile) and then drawing each one out randomly and arranging them in front of you in ways that make sense. In the Word Processor version, you’ll want to copy-paste them into a blank document one at a time, or just re-arrange them where they are on the page.

In either case, you’ll end up with several Scenes which roughly go together, and a few that probably won’t fit. At this point, discard the ones that don’t fit (although don’t trash them, just set them aside for later possible use) and then make sure you’re happy with the order in front of you.

Here’s a few questions to ask yourself:

  1. Does this order of scenes make logical sense?
  2. Is this order of scenes interesting?
  3. Do the scenes which happen get more interesting as they go? Is there a constant feeling of rising tension or building drama?
  4. Are there scenes which are missing that need to be here?
  5. Will this story appeal to my audience the way it is?
  6. Is there a starting scene and an ending scene which match each other?

Using the sample scenes from Step 6, we’d end up with something that looks like this:

  • The morning the boys arrive in town, Sam gets gas while Bob talks to a cute female gas attendant and asks about the strange disappearances that have been reported here. The attendant offers to let him know over lunch after she gets off work, and he makes a date with her.
  • While waiting for Bob to have lunch with the gas attendant, Sam buys a chocolate bar and sees a weird kid eating from a garbage bin. Sam feels bad seeing this, so Sam gives his chocolate bar to the weird kid, who howls and runs away. Sam shakes his head and buys a new chocolate to eat while he waits.
  • Bob and Sam are walking in the forest trying to find a missing girl and see a werewolf that charges at them so they run away and the wolf chases them to a nearby farmhouse.
  • As the two are trying to get into the farmhouse to escape, the werewolf catches Bob and tries to eat him as Sam hits it with a shovel. Then the weird kid Sam gave the chocolate bar to earlier appears and starts to howl, making the werewolf drop Bob and chase the kid.

Like in this example, it’s very possible you will either be missing a Starting Scene or Ending Scene, and that’s fine, because now you know what your story will be, so you can start writing the missing scenes and figuring out the transitions between the different scenes.

  1. The morning the boys arrive in town, Sam gets gas while Bob talks to a cute female gas attendant and asks about the strange disappearances that have been reported here. The attendant offers to let him know over lunch after she gets off work, and he makes a date with her.
  2. While waiting for Bob to have lunch with the gas attendant, Sam buys a chocolate bar and sees a weird kid eating from a garbage bin. Sam feels bad seeing this, so Sam gives his chocolate bar to the weird kid, who howls and runs away. Sam shakes his head and buys a new chocolate to eat while he waits.
  3. During lunch, the attendant asks Bob about what he does, and he tells her that he and Sam are Monster Vloggers who investigate strange events for their YouTube channel. She’s excited and asks to be on camera, so he takes out his phone and begins interviewing her.
  4. Bob finds out from the attendant that every full moon there’s been disappearances for the past year, and that the local farmers have been so scared they’re moving away. In the end, he learns that a girl went missing just two days before while out delivering mail to the west of town.
  5. After lunch, Bob and Sam decide that since this is the last night of the full moon, this will be their only chance to learn the truth, so they plan to go to where the girl disappeared and look around.
  6. Bob and Sam are walking in the forest trying to find a missing girl and see a giant werewolf that charges at them so they run away and the wolf chases them to a nearby farmhouse.
  7. As the two are trying to get into the farmhouse to escape, the werewolf catches Bob and tries to bite him as Sam hits it with a shovel. Then the weird kid Sam gave the chocolate bar to earlier appears and starts to howl, making the werewolf drop Bob and chase the kid.
  8. As Sam and Bob watch, the werewolf catches the weird kid, but before it can hurt him two other werewolves appear and attack it. After the fight is done, the two new werewolves threaten to attack Sam and Bob but the weird boy stops them and nuzzles Sam.
  9. The two werewolves transform into a man and woman and tell the monster hunters that they were here to stop a rogue werewolf from causing trouble, then make the men promise not to reveal what they’ve seen. In the end, the pair are left with a story they can’t tell and the boy peed on Sam’s pants.

 

Now that the new scenes have been added the story is complete and flows much better. You might notice it doesn’t start with a introduction of why the characters are there right from the beginning. This is to make the reader curious about what these two men are doing in the small town, and helps to start the story moving from the very beginning.

Once you’ve got all the scenes planned out, there’s just one more step to go, and you’ll be ready to write!

NaNoWriMo Quickstart Guide – Part Six: Brainstorm Situations and Scenes

Step 6: Brainstorm Situations and Scenes

Once you have your cast, it’s time to figure out what’s going to happen to them.

This is where the fun really begins, as all you have to do is start to write down ideas about situations that could happen in your story. Right from Step 2 and 3, you probably had images of different important scenes in your head, and now it’s time to get those on paper in rough form.

You can do this as two steps or just skip the first step and go right to the second one, but it’s recommended doing both steps as it allows for more creative planning.

Step One

Create a point form list of all the different possible scenes and situations you can imagine happening in this story. Each point is going to be a single sentence that starts with who is involved and tells roughly what happens, and that’s it. The goal here is to get as many of these down as possible, so set a timer for ten minutes (or more) and in that time write down as many possibilities as you can think of. As usual, don’t be afraid to get silly or weird, because those might free up some more interesting ideas. Also, refer back to your brainstorming list from Step 2 and your characters’ profiles from step 5 to help give you inspiration and ideas.

When you’re done, you’ll have a list that looks like this:

  • Bob and Sam see a werewolf and run away.
  • The werewolf catches Bob and tries to eat him.
  • Bob talks to a cute girl in town about the strange disappearances.
  • Sam buys a chocolate bar and sees a weird kid eating from a garbage bin.
  • Sam gives his chocolate bar to the weird kid, who howls and runs away.
  • And so on…

The scenes and situations don’t need to be in any particular order, they just have to be there on the page in front of you so that you have something to work with. Try to have at least ten of them, but the more the better, which is why the timer method is the best. Now you have a list of possible scenes and situations, and can probably already see a story forming among the ideas. Evaluate the scenes using the questions below and circle the ones you think are useful from the list.

Questions:

  • Does this scene idea grab you and make you want to write it?
  • Is this scene idea going to make your readers feel something?
  • Is this scene idea going to interest your target audience?

Once you have 4-6 scenes ideas you think you can work with, then move on to Step 2. If you don’t have at least 4 you can work with, you probably want to do another brainstorming session with the timer and see if you can think of some more ideas. Obviously, the longer you want your story to be the more scene ideas you’re going to need.

Step Two

Now it’s time to turn those ideas into Scenes. A Scene is the things that happen to a character or characters at a particular place and time, and can easily be defined using the 5WH method. All you need to do is fill in the blanks!

  1. Who is involved?
  2. When does the Scene take place?
  3. Where does the Scene happen?
  4. What happens? What goes wrong (or right)?
  5. Why do the characters do what they do?
  6. How does it all turn out?

Example:

Bob and Sam (who) are walking in the forest at night (where, when) trying to find a missing girl (why) and see a werewolf that charges at them (what happens) so they run away and the wolf chases them to a nearby farmhouse. (How it turns out.)

That’s all there is to it.

Your job is to take your character(s) and situations then write down as many Scenes as you can think of for those characters to experience. Traditionally this would be done on paper with each Scene on a separate cue card, piece of paper, or post-it note, but you can do a version of it on a Word Processor with each Scene being a separate paragraph. (It just isn’t as fun.)

And using this technique, you can create as many interesting scenes as you want. The key here is being aware of which character’s goals are driving the scene, and giving the basic details of what happens. Think of these as the scenes of a movie or the chapters of a book, and you’ll have the right idea. They’re what happens at a single time and place in the life of that character (or characters).

Your goal is again to write more scenes than you can possibly use (maybe twice as many if possible) and which are linked together by your characters, themes, or ideas. This is an exercise in brainstorming, so don’t be afraid to write down every crazy idea which come to you, after all, nobody but you will read these cards, and crazy ideas sometimes lead to brilliant ones.

So based on the above list, we might end up with scenes that look like this:

  • Bob and Sam are walking in the forest trying to find a missing girl and see a werewolf that charges at them so they run away and the wolf chases them to a nearby farmhouse.
  • As the two are trying to get into the farmhouse to escape, the werewolf catches Bob and tries to eat him. Then the weird kid Sam gave the chocolate bar to earlier appears and starts to howl, making the werewolf drop Bob and chase the kid.
  • The morning the boys arrive in town, Sam gets gas while Bob talks to a cute girl gas attendant and asks about the strange disappearances that have been reported here. The attendant offers to let him know over lunch after she gets off work, and he makes a date with her.
  • While waiting for Bob to have lunch with the gas attendant, Sam buys a chocolate bar and sees a weird kid eating from a garbage bin. Sam feels bad seeing this, so Sam gives his chocolate bar to the weird kid, who howls and runs away. Sam shakes his head and buys a new chocolate to eat while he waits.

As you can see, some of the above ideas were combined into single scenes because they worked better that way. Also, using this method, we have now turned simple idea points into full scenes which are almost ready to be used, we just have to organize them.