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“You enter the extraordinary by way of the ordinary.” ~Frederick Buechner

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Overview Plot Development: Historical Literature

Workshop: An Introduction to Writing for Children and Young Adults

“This is perhaps the greatest challenge of the writer of historical stories: to make history come alive.” George Edward Stanley

What assumptions can we make about this particular ‘world’ based on this moment in time?                                             

Look at this ordinary day excerpt:

            “From the barn I see my mother on the back porch washing beans,
            my little sister with her dolls there on the stoop, my father
            leading horses from the field.

            Morning sun crawls up, a yellow dog just waking,
            stretching one leg and another, then
            its wide-mouthed fiery yawn.  I rub my eyes and push
            my hand behind a plank, grope until my fingers
            close around the edges of a wooden box. Crouched

            He stands inside the door, his hat pulled down, a bridle
            Hanging loosely in his hands. Behind him, sunlight
            Makes shadows dance across the dusty floor.”

What kind of scene are you seeing? What emotions do you apply to this reading? Pick out specific words that you think contribute the most emotional weight.
            “It’s not because my daddy thinks
            the South should fight against the North,
            but we’ve been so long a piece of Tennessee
            today we’re leaving for the war.”

Excerpt from Moon Over Tennessee, A Boy’s Civil War Journal by Craig Crist-Evans (pgs 7-9)

How does this sparse, yet detailed setting affect character and theme? Based on these few verses, what do you expect to happen?

“It’s important that the writer help the young person of today identify with the young person of yesterday.” George Edward Stanley

As an historical setting this passage establishes place, historical framework, season, time of day, moods, and atmosphere. Its authenticity allows us to fully participate.

A decision that needs to be incorporated is what is the level of historical importance to your world and what are the key factors that you want to maintain as its influence? In what ways can the plot points strengthen the history?

“The bottom line is that the portrayal should be truthful.” George Edward Stanley

Action Steps:

1. Choose a place in your novel and describe it with its history. Integrate what was there by first describing both the present, and the absent, and then the present and the past.

2. After you have chosen and written one from an “historical” viewpoint, rewrite it from a family history perspective within the same framework.

Share: Did you find some new plot points or patterns?

                                                   Read deep, marcy

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Overview Plot Development: Developing the Conflict

Workshop: An Introduction to Writing for Children and Young Adults

“Character is plot, that the plot has to grow out of the characters, not be imposed upon them.” Jane Yolen

Jane Fitz—Randolph notes that one of the strongest plot combos is when the Wish fulfillment acts as a second tier to Purpose Achieved. The basic substance and enduring value becomes the theme foundation as the basis of the second tier—which takes us back to motivation and response.

Developing the Conflict.

Which type of conflict will best work?  Man versus nature or man versus society as in Hansel and Gretel? Or Huck Finn versus himself and versus society? What is the relationship with another character? What does the character want?

            Olga Litowinsky says:

“1. They want acceptance by their peers.
2. They worry about their position in their family, and how the family functions.
3.They are concerned about their physical growth: size, puberty, and how they look.
                     4.They are striving for a positive self-image, their own view of themselves.
5. They wonder about what the future will hold, their own, the society &   world.”

All these questions can be applied to contemporary, historical, fantasy, and sci-fi. If you’re writing cross-cultural remember to lean on these emotional cores.

Action Steps:

            1.Take the story question and the pattern you have been developing and integrate conflict from one or two of the above types.

2. Then look for places to increase the conflict with one of Litowinsky’s suggestions.

3. What enduring value can develop the theme?

Share: Which question gives you the most conflict?

Read deep, marcy

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Overview Plot Development: Rising Action

Workshop: An Introduction to Writing for Children and Young Adults

“Every story can benefit from its author holding back enough so that the reader remains eager to find out what’s going to happen.” Barbara Seuling

The action, tension, questions and stakes need to increase throughout the plot—even when the story line is a simple one.

For example, in a linear sequence the main character keeps moving forward until she gets what she wants, says Marion Dane Bauer in What’s Your Story. And she will be in a very different place at the end than at the beginning.

In a circular version, by the end, the main character has literally returned to his beginning, but now the story’s resolution centers on how he repairs the connection with his father.

Aristotle is known for developing charts of rising action High Points with each chapter scene pushing the boundaries higher until the story reaches its climax. Each chapter in a sense contains the same issues—goal/conflict all gathering towards the over-arching story line umbrella.           

Fairy Tales and Folk Tales are often delivered in three stages with each one becoming more distressful.

Look at each event through the main character’s eyes. How will it change him? If a scene can be taken out without it altering what follows—it doesn’t belong in the story.

Action Steps:

1.     Make a list of possible scenes that explore your character’s main desire.

2.     Now rank them according to obstacles.

3.     Next by emotional ones.

4.     Now put them into the two tiers and see where any holes are. Fill them in.

Share: Which scene choices were the most difficult to make tense?

Read deep, marcy

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Overview Plot Development: Patterns Part Six: The Story of Decision

Workshop: An Introduction to Writing for Children and Young Adults

“He was like a ronin—no pride, no morals—bullying, stealing, even killing a man for a turnip.” The Master Puppeteer by Katherine Paterson.

In the Story of Decision the problem is always an immediate need to make a decision between two courses of action that are either morally right or morally wrong.

The right course may be apparent or the character may have honest doubts. The conflict will continue right up to the Crisis when decision can no longer be put off. When he acts upon his choice at the climax then his action reveals his decision.

This is an especially strong pattern for the YA market especially when tied into basic needs and urges. Whether the choices are positive or negative it is a story of character growth and constant clash both within the mind of the main character and in the outer situations in which he or she must choose their path.
Take for instance the need to belong. Someone new to a school, or to an organization that means a lot personally, may find themselves being asked to participate in activities or actions that make them very uncomfortable.  The more choices made then become more decisions that begin to affect every part of their life. And the murkier they seem to become.

In The Master Puppeteer, a starving Jiro leaves his parents to become an apprentice puppeteer in order to eat, but then becomes entranced with the profession and strives to learn. But both the hunger for physical nourishment and professional nourishment become more and more confusing as he uncovers lies and deceit and then people he cares about are put in danger. He struggles to determine what exactly is his code of honor in the midst of corruption swirling all around him.

Action Steps:

1.     Make a list of decisions that your character has to make for each of the basic needs mentioned earlier.

2.     In which one is your character the most vulnerable? Why?

3.     How could her decision become a moral battleground for her?

Share: Why do you think your character is most vulnerable in this basic need?

                                                               Read deep, marcy
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