Tag Archives: relating to characters

NNWM – Plotting lessons learned

After the climax, the story actually should wrap quickly. What remains is the main character recognizing what they have been through, tending to wounds (emotional as well as physical), acknowledging loss, acknowledging newfound knowledge, repairing friendships that may have frayed as decisions were made out of necessity or expediency, but not necessarily kindness. This part of the plot is called the falling action.

Lessons Learned Technique: What's The Point? — Business Analyst Learnings

Again, thinking about my students, some had a hard time recognizing this part of the story. So let’s take an example most everyone can recall in detail. This is from “Star Wars” (Episode IV):

If you’ll recall: the climax was Luke entering the main trench and finally managing to blow up the Death Star with his “Force-aided” shot.

The falling action is the next scene: Luke landing at the Rebel base on Yavin, getting out of the cockpit, helping get the damaged R2D2 out of his spot and seeing to it that he’s repaired. C3PO offers his own circuits. These actions deal with the consequences of the climax (healing/tending wounds).

Luke also has Han and Leia running up to greet him. Importantly, to acknowledge and resolve their previous actions had created emotional wounds, Luke has an exchange with Han — “That shot was one in a million, Kid!” “I knew you’d be back!” “Couldn’t let you take all the credit!” “I knew there was good in you.” (Leia)

There’s another part that’s not in the screenplay. In the novelization, there’s a brief moment of Luke explaining to Leia about feeling Obi Wan, hearing him. She’s not on the same level, but she acknowledges he experienced something, and aren’t they all so lucky it worked out. Luke grew from his experiences so he’s looking at the universe, and his own place in it, a little differently. Awareness of self-growth is also the job of the falling action.

NNWM advice – Planning for Lessons Learned

If it’s lessons learned from the climax, from the journey, how can you know what the characters will learn before you’ve written it all out?

This is where you, the author, are in control. The point of deciding the falling action before you begin writing is stating outright, “This is what I want my characters to have learned about themselves, about their situation, about their history, by the time they get to the end of the story.”

Here’s another way to think about it: At summer camp, directors and counselors plan activities so that children will learn something (such as how to work as a team by rowing a boat together across a lake). Yes, the children will learn things outside the planned activities too, but there are at least a few goals for the children to learn and grow specifically in mind.

So in your NNWM planning or in your story plan generally, type a heading – Falling Action/Lessons Learned. Now, write the things you want your character to learn or how you want them to change.

Your characters almost certainly will learn more than this and even change in ways you can’t predict, but with this guideline sitting out in front of you while you’re writing, you will write “toward” it. You’ll ask yourself, “how is this action, decision, or reversal, going to teach my characters what I want them to learn?” Any extra scenes that come about because the characters momentarily “go elsewhere.”

When you get to the writing of the falling action part of the draft, write dialogue or moments of introspection demonstrating the character has learned these lessons, reflecting on their actions earlier in the story to show (to themselves and the reader) how far they’ve grown.

Okay, that’s it for falling action. Come back tomorrow for the final part of my plotting advice: the resolution.

~ Lara

NNWM – plotting opposition

In yesterday’s post I talked about the main character’s plan for getting what they want. You’ve got a list of all these things they want to try for achieving their goals. And I asked you to consider if they would cheat. That would be sources of internal conflict.

External conflict is the opposition that comes from someone else who either wants the same goal (win a big race or date the same girl) or wants to stop the main character for some reason of their own — like, they want to take over the galaxy, but can’t if the main character gets in their way. LOL

This is the antagonist.

Look at your list of attempts to reach the goal. Ask:

Is there an internal conflict that could block the main character from getting through this step successfully? (they don’t want to cheat, but they might have to because…)

Is there an external conflict instead? (someone else who wants that same object?)

No, you do not have to decide now what the outcome will be. That can be discovered as you write each scene itself.

Write down whether there is an internal conflict or an external conflict for each one.

How to Write Story Plot: Tips, Tricks, and Margaret Atwood's Writing  Prompts - 2020 - MasterClass

You’ll notice I don’t discuss climax separately. The climax is the end of the rising action. It’s the last “make or break” attempt to achieve the goal. So it’s just the last on your list, and your character’s progress to that point will determine if they are successful or not.

That’s plotting in a nutshell. I will tell you this last bit of advice. Don’t make the achievements easy. What lifts a plot from basic to interesting is the “mostly, but not quite” conclusion to a goal-seeking attempt or a “not this time!” outright failure (what are called “reversals”). if you want to read more about these techniques of scene ending, I highly recommend Jack M. Bickham’s Scene and Structure.

After the climax is the falling action and resolution. Both of these are covered in the next two posts “Lessons Learned,” which will discuss themes and character growth, and “Endings,” which discusses, you guessed it, how to end your story.

See you tomorrow.

~ Lara

NNWM – Plotting

Yesterday I discussed some ideas for developing characters. If you went along with the writing exercise and wrote a scene, what problem(s) did the character reveal?

When a character has a problem they need to resolve, that becomes a character goal. A character’s goal sets them off in a direction. Once you’ve got a character moving, making plans, picking among choices, they’ll start facing obstacles. The process of facing obstacles, whether they come from people or situations, is conflict.

How to Write Story Plot: Tips, Tricks, and Margaret Atwood's Writing  Prompts - 2020 - MasterClass

Where there’s conflict, you’ve got plot.

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Getting a character to their goal is an exercise in problem-solving. So the first thing you’ve got to do is develop a plan for (attempting to) solving the problem. This becomes the rising action, all the conflict in your plot map based on what does and doesn’t work to move the character further along the path to getting what they want (character goal).

The technique I recommend for quick plotting (such as is needed for NaNoWriMo) is brainstorming. It’s like asking the main character “what are you going to try?” List all the answers the character gives to this question:

What are all the things you think you need in order to achieve your goal?

Keys to Screenwriting: Brainstorming | by Scott Myers | Go Into The Story

In a “quest” plot, these are all the tchotchkes that will locate, get past all the dangers, and open the treasure chest. In a “I want to get into my dream college” plot, it’s all the things that need to be good-looking on the application, like grades, extra curricular activities, test scores, the application essay, finding financial resources, etc. In a “wanna get this girl” plot, it’s the finding out what she likes in a guy, doing all the different kinds of “notice me” things, and then finally not sounding like an a** and talking to her to get the date. LOL

Now, put those random ideas into some sort of order by asking:

Well, what do you wanna try first?

Since you can’t do all those things at the same time, one has to be tried first. This can be sorted chronologically: certain tests are only given at certain times, maybe a full moon-stars alignment is necessary to get a piece necessary for opening the treasure chest, etc.

Then ask: And if that doesn’t work? Or if it works only so far, what next?

Use this to work through all their brainstormed options, writing down the next step and the next step and the next step.

Recommendation: Put each of these on their own separate notecard, or in your word processing file at the top of its own separate page

TIP: press Ctrl-Enter to insert a hard page break on a new line rather than hitting enter to go down and down and down to the next page.

TIP: Don’t number them, but format the first few words of the text as a heading, so that you can use the word processing program’s table of contents function. If enough people message me going “huh?” on how to do that, I’ll write a how-to post.

The reason you need separate cards or separate pages is because you might be moving these steps around. And later you can convert these headings to part/chapter titles or simply numbers.

The final thing you need to ask your character in this part is:

Are you willing to cheat? If so, why and how? Add to each step how they envision this cheating.

There’s one more day of plotting, so come back tomorrow and I’ll talk about figuring in the points of opposition whether the antagonist is a real person or an internal character trait.

~ Lara