Putting Up Road Blocks — Story Road Blocks That Is!

Rachel Hauck, Princess Ever After

Monday Susie blogged on 7 Twists and Turns to add to your novel!

I thought I’d piggy back on her post and add some detail to one of her fantastic tips.

Let’s look at her 7th twist: Chose the Worst Case Scenario.

Susie writes: After every scene, Ask: What is the worst thing that could happen to my character right now? Then, follow up with – can I make that happen (or something similar to it?) When you sit down to consider all your options – and then choose one that is reasonable yet unexpected, you add in the element of unpredictability in your novel. And readers love it when they say, “Oh, I did NOT see that coming!”

Maybe I’m alone in this but whenever I think of raising the stakes or putting up obstacles (road blocks) or choosing the worst case scenario, I tend to go extreme, think of things like buildings blowing up, terrorist attacks, life threatening diseases, death, mayhem, destruction! (All State anyone?)

Well, I know I’m not alone. I can tell by some of the stories I read or contest entries I judge. Random, bizarre, something-not-even-related-to-the-story happens in an effort to try to up the stakes, create obstacles, or worst case scenarios.

Here’s the deal, if you’ve worked on your character journey/story arc and you know the probable epiphany of your hero, then all of the road blocks must fit within that story line.

Just shutting the door in someone’s face can be a sufficient and effective story block. Or as Susie calls it “worst case scenario.”

I’m working on rewrites for How To Catch A Prince.

My hero and heroine have a rather interesting and involved relationship. When Prince Stephen comes to America to deliver some rather awkward news to Corina, he reaches out to her the next day, after-the-fact.

In the first pass, I had Corina invite him into her penthouse.

But on my rewrite, I had a different take. She’s going to tell him to leave. Because that’s not what he wants to have happen. And in truth, she doesn’t either, but the tension between them is pretty thick so telling him to leave is the worst case scenario.

But can I up the tension a bit more? Make the worst case scenario even worse?

Sure.

They can argue. Say things they don’t mean. Say hurtful things. (Be careful with this one. Sometimes hurtful dialog just sounds mean to the reader.)

In my scene, Corina is holding two dozen roses Prince Stephen sent to her. She loves Prince of Brighton roses and the fact he sent them to her is very significant. Even a little bit “in your face.”

What if she hands the roses back to him?

Worst case scenario. Because it’s telling him, “You mean nothing to me anymore.”

And she is admitting to herself, “We are over. Forever.”

See what I mean? But you have to build those little layers into your story and they can be tedious.

In Once Upon A Prince, I built in a story road block where Prince Nathaniel cannot legally marry a foreigner. So when he begins to fall in love with Susanna, I used the overall story “block” to create a “worst case scenario.”

Nathaniel and Susanna are walking on the beach. He is aware of the attraction and feelings between them but he doesn’t want to defraud her so he blurts, “I cannot marry you.”

“What?!”

Now this is horrible for her because she was just dumped by her long time boyfriend two weeks prior on this very same beach!

Declared unmarriable by two men within two weeks?

I end the scene with them arguing, coming to an understanding only to find Nathaniel’s father has died.

Now, this death is not out of the blue. His father is sick the entire story. So I used this story point to create a “worst case scenario.”

Nathaniel doesn’t feel ready to be king in his father’s place! This is his personal “worst case scenario.”

Do you see the pattern?

Create obstacles against the characters’ wants and desires as part of the plot and story arc.

Then use those to create smaller “worst case scenarios” for the scenes.

I’ve been watching the comedy/drama “Drop Dead Diva” and while the worst case scenarios for the star, Jane Bingum, are episodic (here one show, gone the next) the writers keep the love and relationship aspects fluid.

So each episode, something happens to someone’s love life. (Poor Grayson!) Always the worst case scenario. Like being left at the altar. (Poor Grayson!)

But yea, they made sure the altar-leaving fit the motivation AND the tenor of the show. It wasn’t pulled out of the blue.

All right, there you go. More details for creating your worst case scenario.

Happy Writing!

***
RachelCloseUPChristy nominated author Rachel Hauck loves a great story. She excels in seeing the deeper layers of a story.

With a love for teaching and mentoring, Rachel comes alongside writers to help them craft their novel. A worship leader, board member of ACFW and popular writing teacher, Rachel is the author of over 17 novels. She lives in Florida with her husband and  dog.

Contact her at: Rachel@mybooktherapy.com. Pre order her next release, Princess Ever After, book two in the Royal Wedding Series.

Do you need help with your story idea, synopsis or proposal? How about some one-on-one craft coaching. Check out our menu of services designed to help you advance your writing dreams.

Overcoming Obstacles In Pursuit of Writing

Rachel Hauck

You know what I re-discovered after last month’s blog? Not only must we do the next thing to pursue the writing dream, sometimes that means jumping hurdles. Some large, some small.

My son Caleb is running track this year. Ask me about basketball and we can converse. Track? Not so much. Needless to say this Momma is learning a whole new sport. One of the races Caleb’s coach has him running hurdles is the 110m Hurdle race.

I was amazed to watch him jump the hurdles. The first miracle? That this chick has a son with legs long enough to run jump hurdles (I’m only 5’1″). He picked up speed and kept jumping them one after another. Some he sailed over, others he clipped.

It made me think about the writing journey. I want consistent victory–to sail effortless over every hurdle. Every. Time. But it doesn’t work that way. While parts of the writing journey, seem effortless. Others? It takes work and determination. For instance, editing was never my strong suit and it still isn’t. Those I tend to hit the hurdles on.

The important thing is to stay on track, focus and run your race. You probably won’t master every aspect of writing, especially if you’re like me, starting out. But you will eventually.

Here are three things to remind yourself of. They are simple, but necessary.

1. Write. You won’t be published if you haven’t written. Set aside time and write. Put it on your calendar. Close your door. Tape your door with Crime Scene tape. Hey, whatever it takes.

2. Try and try again. Finding time an issue? It’s the biggest hurdle for me. Keep trying until you find something that works. Remember there are different seasons in life. When my kids were little, I could only snatch pockets of time to read, much less pursue writing. My kids are now teenagers (and they are still needy) only now I can leave the house or threaten them with loss of limb aka taking their cell phone or car keys if they interrupt designated writing time. Determine your season and work with it.

3. Attitude. I ran across this by Goethe and pinned it on my desk as a reminder. It’s called, “I Am The Decisive Element”. Remember it’s you who chooses your attitude and you make  choices that not only affect you but others. It’s a quick read so I included it.

I Am The Decisive Element

I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanized or de-humanized. If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.

How about you? What hurdles are you sailing over?

 

Social Media Minute—The Basics for Building a Strong Platform through Social Media

Anyone who reads this blog knows I believe it’s possible to build a strong platform through social media. I should, I did it. Beyond that, I’ve helped hundreds of other writers do the same things.

But with all the posts I’ve shared over the years, I haven’t lately laid out all the basic building blocks, at one time—in one place. Today I’m going to do just that.

Basic Building Blocks

  • Blogging
  • Facebook
  • Twitter

That’s all there are, just three. But when you work them together you can capitalize on the synchronicity that results, here’s how:

Blogging

You need to be blogging regularly somewhere. Your interactions on Facebook and Twitter are brief, because of the nature of the sights. Think of them as place to gather for short, casual conversations. On the other hand, blogging is a place where your readers get to know you better. They can sit and have a cup of coffee with you. You choose one of two places to blog regularly:

  • Your own personal site.
  • A group blog.

If you’re blogging on your own site, you need to be posting a minimum of once a week. And that once a week needs to be a regular schedule. If you expect readers to visit your site regularly, then you must be there when you say you will. Think about it. How many times will you visit a business if you aren’t sure whether they’re open when they say they will be. It’s the same thing with a blog.

If you’re a part of a group blog, you must be blogging there a minimum of twice a month. Again this needs to be on a regular schedule.

Facebook

At this point in time, unless you already have a thriving professional page, I strongly urge you to stick with a personal profile. If you want to know the reasons I recommend this, I did a post on How to Use YourFacebook Profile Professionally as well as Personally

So how often should you post to FB? I recommend posting a minimum of 4 – 5 updates a day, 4 – 5 days a week. I also recommend commenting on a minimum of 2 posts a day, 4 – 5 days a week.

Twitter

This one’s a bit easier. I recommend a minimum of 5 tweets a day, 4 – 5 days a week.

Beyond that, I haven’t relented on my single hard-and-fast rule for social media:

Edie’s 5 to 1 Rule

For every 5 social media updates on a given network, you may only send out 1 about yourself or your product. Your product would be an article, blog post, book for sale (or offered for free), etc.

Updates that aren’t about you include favorite quotes you share (as long as they’re not yours), Bible verses, questions, or general comments.

You may add other networks to your social media plan, but these are the three I believe fall in the  have-to-do category.

Now it’s your turn. What questions do you have about building an online platform? Be sure to leave them below.

Extreme Book Makeover: 7 Twists and Turns to add to your novel!

A great story is plotted by looking inside your character, figuring out what his lie is – and how this journey will somehow set him free – and then putting him in situations that make him confront his lies, his flaws and his weaknesses until he takes a good look at himself, figures out what he wants, and charges forward into a new future.

I know, that’s a bit oversimplified, but a story, boiled down, is simply about a character’s inner change, brought about by the external circumstances.
However, how do we make those circumstances intriguing enough to keep our readers’ attention?

At My Book Therapy, we have a character change chart/questions that helps us generate ideas on this journey  (found in the Advanced Fiction Workbook: Deep and Wide – currently on SALE!).  However, if you’ve already plotted this journey, and are still stuck, here are 7 ways to add more “trouble” or Twists and Turns into your plot. 

1. Add a Villain.  Even novels that are NOT a suspense need a villain.  It doesn’t have to be person, however.  It could be nature, the government, health problems, inner demons, external, impossible circumstances – anything that purses the hero/heroine with the intent of causing their downfall.  Especially when writing romance, we don’t consider the inclusion of a villain, but when we begin to consider external obstacles as villains, it opens up new plotting doors.  In a recent story I wrote, I used the “villain” of an unexpected pregnancy to create problems for the hero/heroine. Ask: How could your “villain” actively cause trouble in your hero/heroine’s life?

2. Betray a Secret.  Even if your story isn’t rife with soap opera secrets, inserting a debilitating secret can cause new tension in your story.  For example, if your hero’s secret is that he once got arrested for drunk driving, and the heroine had a friend who was killed by a drunk driver – even if it unrelated – can cause tension between them.  In a recent story, I used the brother of my hero and his accident revelation of the hero’s secret to cause trouble.  Ask: What dark secret does my hero/heroine possess – and how can the revelation cause tension?

3. Introduce Shadows from the Past.  Great drama often includes dredging up the past to cause trouble in the present.  Old love interests, competitors, business partners, well-meaning friends – people from the past carry the memory of both regrets and longings.  In a recent story I wrote, my hero’s old firefighting pal calls him up and asks him to join him on a project.  The temptation to dive back into his old life causes tension between him and his pregnant wife.  Ask:  Who could appear in the story from my hero/heroine’s past…and what information do they have that adds new tension

 4. Do the unexpected.  So often, plotting falls short because our hero/heroine act logically.  What if they didn’t?  Create a good motivation, and then turn your story on end by having your hero/heroine do the opposite of what people assume.  In a recent story, I had my hero return home – instead of take a job he really wanted (for good reason), and this opened up new problems when he discovered the girl he was trying to avoid had followed him home.  Ask:  What choices does my hero have…and which one is the least expected.    

[Tweet “Do you know these 7 Twists and Turns to add to your novel? Check them out @MyBookTherapy http://ctt.ec/bdSFa+ #amwriting”]


5. SAY the unexpected!  If you really want to shake up your story – have your character blurt out something they didn’t mean to say. A long buried hurt, an accusation, a hidden desire.  In a recent book, I had my heroine confess that she did love the hero – but she couldn’t trust him.  And that led to her unleashing her long buried hurt…which added great tension into their relationship.  Ask:  What unexpected thing could my character say right now that would change the tone of the conversation or even story?  Experiment – you might be delightfully surprised!

6.  Add in a Taste of Death.  When the going gets tough…does your character get going?  Ideally, every scene should have something at stake in it – something your character could lose if he doesn’t accomplish his/her goal.  If you want to shake up the story, add in a death – literal or figuratively.  Death of a dream, a goal, a hope, a future, a friend, a compatriot, even a competitor.  Grappling with this “death” allows for new motivations, new twists, and new determination.

7. Chose the Worst Case Scenario.  After every scene, Ask:  What is the worst thing that could happen to my character right now?  Then, follow up with – can I make that happen (or something similar to it?)  When you sit down to consider all your options – and then choose one that is reasonable yet unexpected, you add in the element of unpredictability in your novel. And readers love it when they say, “Oh, I did NOT see that coming!”

A great story should keep us on the edge of our seats, breathlessly engaged in each step of the story.  Keep your twists and turns plausible but unexpected and your reader will stay glued to the story.

Go! Write something Brilliant!

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PS – this is the LAST DAY to register for the Kiss and Tell Seminar!  Deets here!