Liveblogging RMFW: Carol Berg, Alternatives to Outlining

Much, much delayed again, but better late than never, right? (Previously, I posted my liveblogging notes for Victorian Violence and the session taught by Katriena Knights and I, Ins and Outs of Erotic Romance. )

If traditional outlining isn’t working for you…

Try Something Else!

Imagine you’ve sketched your hero, Roberto
* rich and arrogant
* no use for gods or religions
* has been betrayed by a brother
* highly independent and snippy about class distinctions
* you know what he likes to eat and wear

Julia
* lower class woman w a chip on her shoulder
* heard of Roberto
* motivated by duty

you’ve plotted worsening misadventures

meeting the first time

R wounded captive in tower armed guards, execution the next day

how does J get hi out of the tower?

what if his captor insults his family, describes execution in gruesome detail, and kicks him in the head

what if Julia has just ridden three hours in the cold rain, she was going to sleep, a dice game kept her awake and has to climb 150 stairs to get to the room, nose running

R has found a pair of dice and is throwing them repeatedly

Premise: you can write a tight and well plotted story without knowing everything that happens before you start writing

don’t know everything can help you
* characters live and breathe
* make settings an organic part of story
* make action a logical outgrowth of character interaction and setting

Began writing as roleplaying-letters to a sister, live in the moment, control dump of backstory

every writer is different; outlines feel like pulling things out of dry air for her; it’s sterile unit there’s an actual person living the feelings; process of planning is overwhelming, risk of boredom, too

Make characters believe they’re making their own choices; they don’t know they’re in a story

who cares if he doesn’t like broccoli? interesting if he’s forced to eat broccoli?

“The Last Lighthouse” —> reminded her last Roman soldier watching the last Roman ship leave

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO START WRITING?
story ideas come from everywhere but

* A character
who has a goal, a motivation, and something preventing him/her reaching that goal (conflict)

* A point of view
maybe the same person, maybe not
maybe someone who has to be around to narrate the story—Dakar in Curse of the Mistwraith

* A here
a time, a place, and an event (the moment everything changes)

* A there
a destination that defines a story arc

WHAT IS A STORY ARC
A series of actions/scenes of rising tension that eventually arrive at a climax or twist
* Every story has a “whole-story’ arc
* Most stories have many arcs
* A story arc describes a destination: I want THIS to happen

can only see what’s immediately in front of you — like driving down a foggy road

ask who would be there, ask how the scenes effect the characters

Write this initial scene
* Be prepared to throw it out
* Let it generate questions that will lead to the next scene
* Keep notes as ideas come to you.

“Putting the words onto paper forced me to question whether the circumstances as I’d envisioned them initially were reasonable”

Develop story arcs
* keep a notes journal: checklist of things that need to happen, ideas for names, descriptions, or clues; timelines, who-knows-what list; names of gods, swear words, herbs used for healing; makes of cars

Invent characters as you go along;
* use story necessity; develop with goals, motivations, conflicts

Craft scenes that build tension by furthering the plot or developing characters
Ask questions: how, why, who?
Assess needs: What does this character need to learn? How do I flesh out this heroine to make her relationship believable? who administers this fortress? who can help my hero get out of the city?

Risks and Disadvantages
* keeping lots in your head—> journals and checklists, audio tapes
* risk blockages – writing yourself into a corner—> ask questions, make lists, back up to last decision point
* wandering or rambling —> make sure you have a definition.

Polish, weed, rip, and refine
* read aloud to check pacing
* refine details and choreography; replace cliches with better choices; do your research
[Don’t do a lot of research in advance. Do just in time research.]
* trace subplots, motivations, character growth, go back and fill in.
* etc

carolberg.com