The Power of the Greatest Fear in crafting a novel!

The Power of the Greatest Fear

Want to build a powerful climax to your novel? Harness the Power of the Greatest Fear to bring your character to an external plot climax, as well as an internal crisis.

We talked last time about the power of the Dark Moment Story in building that layered character. The Dark Moment story is also used to create the capstone of your novel: The Black Moment Event. This moment is not only the climax of the story, but the point of change for your character and sets up the epic finale of your novel.

 

The Black Moment Event hinges on understanding your character’s Greatest Fear.

Every character has a deep and abiding fear, based on his Dark Moment Story that has molded him as a person and helped established motivation for all his decisions and choices. This fear, as the novel opens helps determine what your character wants (namely, not ever repeating this fear) and guides his personality.

The key to having a greatest fear is that you want to create something that could possibly happen again, maybe not with the same people, or even the same event, but to create the same painful, emotional scenario.

This is how an author goes beyond a stereotypical, cardboard character. You, as the author, get to build your own person with his own wounds. Your character’s reaction to their dark moment story might be different than another character’s reaction to a family fight.

More, every dark moment is going to surface different kinds of fears. You can pick any fear you want out of that Dark Moment Story. It just depends on what you want to do in your story, and what story you want to tell.

The interesting part is that much of the time, authors pick a fear we relate to, which means that we will have truth in our past that we can then apply to the story. So now we’re creating characters that we can tap into in an authentic way.

In My Foolish Heart, I created a heroine who was agoraphobic. It was based on a talk show host, who’s never been in love and was trapped in her home. The reason she was trapped in her home is because she had panic attacks as a result of seeing her parents die in a horrific car accident right outside their home.

I did not understand my character. I knew her Dark Moment Story and her Greatest Fear but I couldn’t relate to her . . . or so I thought. See, I’ve always been a “brave” person–even living overseas and raising four children in Siberia. I looked at Izzy, my character, and thought she was weak.

Until . . . I started rooting around my past. I went back to a time when I myself was struggling to leave my home. I wasn’t afraid to leave but rather–overwhelmed. When I was in Russia, I had four children under the age of five, so young I had to carry two of them when we left the house. We lived in a high rise, on the ninth floor. We didn’t have a phone. We didn’t have Internet. We didn’t have running water. I didn’t have a car. And we had to walk two blocks to the little grocery kiosk. There would be times when my husband would be gone for two or three days and we’d have saltines and peanut butter in the cupboard. I’d stare at the empty shelves, wanting to conjure up anything to eat. I would think . . . I don’t know how I’m going to leave the house to buy food. I wasn’t afraid but I felt trapped, and that was enough for me to relate to Izzy and say, “Yes, this is what it feels like to be trapped in your home.”

From that emotion, I was then able to create a scene where Izzy actually was out of food and she had to go to the store. More, I was able to accurately portray her struggle.

If your character’s Dark Moment Story is something you can related to, something you can pull from your own life, you’ll create authentic situations and authentic emotions as you build that character’s story. So, don’t pick a greatest fear you can’t wrap your brain or emotions around. However, the beauty of the Dark Moment Story is that you can pick whatever greatest fear that you want. So choose wisely.

 

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The Greatest Fear is going to be helpful in two ways.

  1. Recreate it in the Black Moment Event. Using the Greatest Fear as a template, you’ll find an event or situation that resurrects this fear in a tangible, believable way, played out in the Black Moment Event. This gives you plotting fodder! You don’t have to set the Black Moment in cement, but you can brainstorm a number of fantastic ideas to help in the formation of your plot.

 

  1. The Greatest Fear adds both motivation and behavior to your character from the first page. Characters are wired to stay away from things that are going to hurt them, especially their greatest fears. So as your character walks on the page, he’s already going to be making decisions that will protect him, and keep him from getting into that dark place.

 

e.g. In My Foolish Heart, Izzy never wanted to leave her house. So she rigged her life so she never had to leave. She knew all the delivery numbers by memory, paid someone to deliver groceries and had a work-at-home job.

 

The Greatest Fear is the single most powerful ingredient you as the author can pull from the Dark Moment Story to help you build motivation, behavior and the essential Black Moment Event that builds the external climax and sets up the character change.

Next time we’ll talk about creating a powerful Internal Journey by understanding the Lie your character believes.

Until then, Go! Write Something Brilliant!

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Susie May

P.S. Need help crafting a novel?  Check out our Brilliant Writer series in kindle! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Calendaring Your Story (Guest by author Mindy Obenhaus)

When does your story take place? Does it span days, weeks or months? So many events transpire during the course of a book, but how do you keep them all straight?

We all know about plotting a story, but have you ever kept a calendar of your story?

I’m a visual person, not to mention somewhat detail-oriented, so trying to keep up with what my characters were doing and when they were doing them became a challenge. I got tired of scrolling back through my story to see when this or that happened. Then, one day, I spotted a calendar from years past and inspiration struck.

I could use that calendar to lay out the events of my plot. I’d know exactly what day of the week the Inciting Incident happened or if there were any holidays I could incorporate into the plot.

Today I use downloadable/printable calendars. Whether you’re an old-school-give-me-a-hardcopy type or an I-have-it-on-my computer person, they’ve got you covered. Calendar Labs is my go-to site, but you can Google “printable calendars” to see what site works best for you.

One option I like is that I don’t have to use the current year. Sometimes a story calls for something to happen on particular date, but I need that date to be on a certain day of the week, so I’ll look for a year when those two things coincide.

(Don’t worry if you didn’t follow that. The blonde brain can be a difficult thing to understand.) 

Once I have my calendar(s), I lay out the events of my plot that will then become scenes. And I always pencil them in. Because as we writers know, nothing is ever cast in stone. Sometimes a scene you thought would happen in chapter ten seems a better fit for chapter seven.

Often, I skip days, in which case I need to make sure to address that passage of time when I start my next scene. But one look is all it takes for me to know how much time has elapsed since the last scene.

Needless to say, calendaring your story isn’t rocket science. It does not take the place of my synopsis/plotting chart. It’s merely a visual aid, an at-a-glance reference to keep me on task and make sure my timeline is correct. And it also satisfies that detail-oriented person lurking inside that likes to drive me nuts.

So what do you say? How could my quirky calendaring benefit you?

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It took Mindy Obenhaus forty years to figure out what she wanted to do when she grew up. But once God called her to write, she never looked back. She’s passionate about the craft of writing and touching readers with Biblical truths in an entertaining, and sometimes adventurous, manner. Her debut novel, The Doctor’s Family Reunion, was named a finalist in American Christian Fiction Writers’ 2014 Carol Awards and her second novel, Rescuing the Texan’s Heart, is a finalist in the 2015 Carol Awards.

Mindy lives in Texas with her husband and two of her five children. When she’s not writing, she enjoys cooking, reading and spending time with her grandkids.

 

 

 

BusinesswA Father's Second Chance Coveroman Celeste Thompson has one goal: to make her restaurant and hotel a success. She doesn’t need any distractions, even from handsome contractor Gage Purcell and his two adorable little girls. Besides, single dad Gage is just biding his time before a big job at the mines comes through. But as Celeste’s project springs to life, their arguments transform into attraction. Gage isn’t looking for romance, especially not with another career-driven woman like his ex-wife. But openhearted Celeste is more than just another work-consumed client. She might just be his happily-ever-after.

 

Extreme Book Makeover: Reconnecting with your Story

I wrote a story 5 years ago that I didn’t finish called Limelight. A project for what I called our “Blog-A-Book” series, Limelight was a teaching novella that put application to the theory of writing by deconstructing the story-crafting process step by step. I worked with our blog and MBT Voices audience to pull together characters, a plot, the inner journey and then went scene by scene . . . until I hit Act 3.

Then I landed an unexpected writing project and something had to give.

The novella sat unfinished, my hero and heroine on the verge of their Black Moment Event, their Epiphany and their Triumphant Ending, free-framed, waiting for me to find the time.

Find. The. Time.  Right!  As time wore on, the story flow began to subside, and although I still loved the story, whenever that elusive “time” showed up, getting back into the character’s heads, the emotion and flow of the story seemed overwhelming.

Until . . . two weeks ago.  I pulled out Limelight to teach as series for our MBT Premium Members called “Build-A-Book” where we start with an idea and end with a publishable book.  As I started to read the story (and realized I still liked it), I knew I had to finish it.

But how to get into the flow again?

Summertime can be such a challenge for writers—vacations, kids camp schedules and house repairs cut into our writing time and we can find our writing flow disjointed, our minds scattered and our ability to identify with our characters stunted.

I discovered, as I went back to my writing chair with this story, a few tools to help me get back into the current of the story.

  1. I pulled out my Synopsis. Whether a story is contracted or not, I always “tell myself the story” in a rough synopsis form whenever I finish plotting and doing my character work.  Although I give myself freedom to veer from this plan as I see fit, having that outline helps me know:
    1. If my Plot makes sense
    2. What research I’ll still need to do
    3. If I’ve completed the character’s inner journey
    4. If I’ve build the romance correctly.
    5. If I’ve capped it off with a sufficient happy ending

After I write the synopsis, I separate it into chapters so I can see, roughly, what I need to accomplish in each chapter.

I dug up the synopsis for Limelight and tracked down to where I’d left off.  Now I had a game plan.

  1. I pulled up my Character Layering and Essential Scenes Guide. The synopsis gave me an external blueprint of the story. But I still needed to dive into the character and discover how much of himself he’d revealed to the reader—and the other characters. Character layering (and unlayering!) is a powerful way to reveal backstory naturally, mimicking the way we get to know people. In this way you can save character secrets and their dark moment story until exactly the right time for the reveal to move the story forward.  Although I read the story over to get momentum, I still needed to catch up to what the reader knew about my characters, and take the next logical step.

 

My Character Layering Chart helped me track this revelation, and the Essential Scenes told me what I’d accomplished . . .  and what I still needed to write.

 

  1. My Character Change Journey Chart. Along with my character revelation, I also needed to track my character’s inner journey.  While it can sometimes feel like an organic process, the character change journey is actually a step-by-step process, something I plot out in the story.  Grabbing this chart helped me figure out what scenes I still needed to write.

 

MBT Character Change Journey/Chart

Act 1
Snapshot of DreamInvitation to change

Need to change

 

Act 2
Attempt and failureCost consideration

Rewards

Desire

Attempt and mini-victory

Training for Battle

 

Act 3
Black MomentEpiphany

New Man (& Testing)

Happily Ever After

 

 

  1. I re-read the story, without editing. Although I love to dig into scenes and create a more powerful emotional experience, I needed to “feel” the story, to step into the storyworld and reacquaint myself with the characters, to worry about them.  Stopping to edit would only slow this down.  (as an aside, I did take rewrite notes and asked questions to answer later, after I’d finished the story.)  I am an Outliner AND an Organic writer, meaning I create a plan, and set up the right structure for my scene, but I also love to “feel” my way into a story and let my characters take over, so reading the story gave me that final push into the flow of the story.

 

  1. I told my writing partner the story. Nothing helps keep you on track like a story partner with whom you can discuss the overall flow and brainstorm the next scene.  Hearing yourself talk it out will assist the scene in coming to life.

 

  1. I blocked out a huge chunk of writing time. Knowing it would take a bit to get my legs into the story, and estimating it would take about 15,000 words to finish, I scheduled 3 full days to write, stocked the fridge and warned my family that I would be “going dark.”

 

The good news is that I finished the book.  And I can’t wait to put it together for the MBT audience (although with my creation notes).  But if you are working on a story this summer, and need to stay “in the flow” despite your crazy schedule, here’s a few tips (in summary)

 

  1. Tell yourself the story (so you have a game plan)
  2. Keep a copy of the Character Layering Chart and Check off your Essential Scenes as you write them.
  3. Plot the Character change journey and assign each step to chapters, so you know (generally) where you are (so you can pick up where you left off)
  4. Read the scene just before the one you are going to write, without editing, at the top of your writing session.
  5. Keep your writing partner current with your story so they can brainstorm with you and give you ideas (and help keep you on track)
  6. Block out time to write, even if it isn’t every day. Stock the fridge, trade babysitting with a friend, send the kids to camp . . . whatever.  We all know that time is valuable, so even if you don’t keep a regular schedule, don’t just give up—hunt for and protect that time.

 

Writing a great book doesn’t just happen.  And when we have to fit it around summer fun, it has to become intentional.  But with the right strategies, you can get that chapter written—and go to the beach, too!

 

Go! Write Something Brilliant!

 

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If You Give a Character a Lie …

If You Give a Character a Lie …

 If you give a character a Lie that is tied to some Dark Moment in his past … he is going to believe it.

 And if he believes it … he is going to act certain ways in both his relationships with people and with God.

 And if his relationships with people and with God are influenced by a Lie he believes, than he’s going to make mistakes – both with the people he loves and the God who loves him.

With that brief nod to If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by children’s author Laura Numeroff, let’s talk about why lies can be good things – at least within the context of writing compelling characters.

We are taught early and often that it’s wrong to tell lies, but it’s not until much later in life that we are taught not to embrace lies. But by then, it’s too late – we’ve listened to lies about ourselves and believe them to be true.

While we often carry around a multitude of lies-that-we-believe-are-true, there is usually one lie – the LIE – that affects us more than all the others. This Lie is created by some sort of Dark Moment in our past – an experience that wounded us emotionally and possibly physically.

In Catch a Falling Star, my 2013 release, my heroine Kendall believes the Lie that she will never be picked. Why? Because she had severe childhood asthma, and was one of those kids in school who was never picked in gym class. Her Dark Moment, which involved her high school hopes for romance, proved the “I’ll never be picked” Lie in the worst possible way.

Why is it good for Kendall to believe this Lie? Our fictional characters need to believe a Lie – and as the author of their stories, we need to know what their Lies are.

Your characters’ pasts – who they were before they appeared on page one of your manuscript – determines why they say certain things. Why they make certain decisions. Why they stiff-arm God. Why they want nothing to do with love.

Think of wrapping a thin piece of rope around a wooden top and then releasing it to spin, spin, spin … and topple. The rope represents your character’s Lie. The Lie influences your character’s choices and beliefs because they believe the Lie is true.

When you are crafting a story, forget the adage not to tell lies. As an author, you want to craft characters that readers care about. One key to doing that is to create the Lies your hero and heroine believe. You understand how one major Lie affects them – emotionally and spiritually. Use the Lie to deepen your story. Then weave in the spiritual truth and allow God to heal the Lie. You’ve created true-to-life fictional characters. After all, we’ve all believed lies about ourselves and about God because of our own Dark Moments in our pasts. And we know the release – the freedom – in discovering and embracing the truth.

What about you? Are you telling your imaginary characters Lies?

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