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Old 03-10-2009, 05:45 AM   #8051
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Cool

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Originally Posted by MiltonPope View Post
I don't know if it's a great help for designing fictional towns, but www.city-data.com is a phenomenal collection of public data for almost any town in the US. So it's 14 miles from Walpole to the nearest hospital. 18 Miles to the nearest airport. Lower than usual unemployment. Graphs of temperature, humidity, wind, snow by month. Older population, not much black or Hispanic population. And a hundred more.
A veritable gold mine of usable info there, thanks!!
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Old 03-10-2009, 08:09 AM   #8052
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Smile Starting a story

Hi Uncle Jim,

What are the pitfalls of starting a story, book, novel, etc. with dialog? No narrative to start with.
Ex:

"I tell you Germaine," Hermione said, "It wasn't like that. I cast the spell like the book told me and. . . it just. . . sort of. . . okay I messed up."

"Let's see if we can try this again." Germain said, "After the spell wears off. It's a little difficult to do anything when you're a snail."

It took sometime before the spell wore off. When it did, Germain opened the book to page one and started with the first lesson: Proper words to use while casting a spell.
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Old 03-10-2009, 09:31 AM   #8053
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Pitfalls? Same as in any other story: Confusing the readers.

(Perhaps you're asking the wrong person: we wrote and sold a short story that was entirely in dialog. When I say "entirely," I mean it: there weren't even any dialog tags.)
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Old 03-10-2009, 02:20 PM   #8054
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Pitfalls? Same as in any other story: Confusing the readers.

(Perhaps you're asking the wrong person: we wrote and sold a short story that was entirely in dialog. When I say "entirely," I mean it: there weren't even any dialog tags.)
Me too! See:

http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/...d.php?t=134234
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Old 03-10-2009, 06:38 PM   #8055
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Excellent, Euclid!

Ours was "Nobody Has To Know," which appeared in Jane Yolen's Vampires.
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Old 03-10-2009, 07:01 PM   #8056
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[quote=James D. Macdonald;3374920]Excellent, Euclid!/quote]

Hey, thanks for reading it.

Can I put your ringing endorsement in my cv?

Do you have an electronic copy of "Nobody Has To Know" to hand? If so, could you sent it over? I'd love to read it.
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Old 03-10-2009, 08:42 PM   #8057
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Read both and they both made me smile! Thanks!

Euclid, if you follow UJ's link, you can use Amazon's "look inside" feature to read the story. It's the first one in the book.

Which makes me wonder: Uncle Jim, how do you feel about Amazon's "look inside" feature? I figured that since you provided the link, it was all right for me to read your story there. But say the anthology was still being sold by Amazon, how would you feel about having your story out there for everyone to read while you receive no royalties from it?

I've heard arguments both ways on that feature and I was just curious how you personally felt about it, if you don't mind.

Thanks!

Last edited by Perle_Rare; 03-10-2009 at 09:37 PM. Reason: Fixing one of those sentences where you couldn't tell what was the subject of the verb...
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Old 03-10-2009, 09:17 PM   #8058
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The biggest risk to a writer isn't piracy. It's obscurity.

Given that the number one reason anyone buys a book is because they've read and enjoyed another work by that same author, I don't mind people reading my stories where ever they find them.

Note that I've posted a bunch on my own webpage.
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Old 03-10-2009, 09:36 PM   #8059
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Thanks, Uncle Jim! That's exactly what I was curious to know.

BTW, I'm plodding through Henning Nelms' book, trying to assimilate it. I recognize a large number of your guiding priciples in there. It's neat to see how it all comes together and makes so much sense. I just wish I was more interested in magic, though!

Last edited by Perle_Rare; 03-11-2009 at 08:25 PM. Reason: misspelling of the author's name. Bad. Bad. Bad.
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Old 03-10-2009, 09:50 PM   #8060
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Originally Posted by Perle_Rare View Post
T I just wish I was more interested in magic, though!
What could be more magical than thought transference to create a world in a reader's mind?
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Old 03-10-2009, 10:24 PM   #8061
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Touchée!

Maybe that's exactly the new insight I needed to get the most out of the rest of the book. Thanks, Uncle Jim!
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Old 03-11-2009, 03:41 AM   #8062
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I read "Nobody has to know". Neat (and tidy) story. Nice one, Jim and Debra.
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Old 03-13-2009, 12:21 AM   #8063
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Long post; Or, What I Did When I Finally Made It Through...

Uncle Jim,

Thank you for taking all this time over the last few years to keep up this thread. And thank you for answering all these questions. I have to admit though, that after pouring over the 300+ pages of this thread, there’s a lot of overlap. That’s the nature of the beast, I know.

[Just so you know, I started writing this at page 300. I had to get something down to join the conversation.]

But here’s one for future reference of people asking questions here.

Anonymous Questioner: “Uncle Jim, I know your mantra is ‘BIC (Butt in Chair), bull through to the end, and finish the book,’ but [here’s why I’m different], and [here’s how my book is different], what should I do because [I’m a unique snowflake]?”

Uncle Jim’s standard answer: “What works for you is right. And BIC, bull through to the end, and finish the book.”

Next Post: “Uncle Jim, I know your mantra… but…”

Oh, and please thank Doyle for condensing and editing the thread into a book on writing. I can’t wait to read the additions she makes. And if I may, where are you two at on the project?

Note: As a pure geek for old pulp magazines and having utterly odd tastes in movies, I love anything with Nazis or dinosaurs. Preferably both…

At first I didn’t quite understand the level of adulation going on in this thread, but you had me at, “You must always strike the right balance between dinosaurs and sodomy.”

For a decent read filled with mixed metaphors and bizarre phrases, people should check out Pet Peeve, by Piers Anthony.
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Old 03-13-2009, 12:49 AM   #8064
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euclid - that piece is nicely done
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Old 03-13-2009, 01:29 AM   #8065
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Smile Exposition

Hi Uncle Jim,

I read the explanation for what an exposition is, but how does that translate, in simpler terms, in what is seen in a book?
==========
EXPOSITION:

Details, usually imparted in summary form, that give the readers the background information they need to understand the story.

Exposition often appears at the beginning of a story, but it can be interspersed throughout the piece, between or within episodes that more actively carry the plot. In some stories, of course, a long period of exposition is not particularly crucial.


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Old 03-13-2009, 01:51 AM   #8066
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Take a paperback copy of your favorite novel (or, any novel picked at random from the Three Books for a Buck bin at your local bookstore).

Take a highlighter.

Go through and highlight everything that fits that definition of exposition.

There is your answer.
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Old 03-13-2009, 02:14 AM   #8067
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I'm taking a lot of liberty:

"Almost there," I said to myself, peering up at the misty summit some thirty yards ahead. The trek up this mountain had been a strange one that I would likely remember forever. Even now, the steps I took led me through thoughts and opinions in many voices, their sounds distant echoes in time. For this mountain, in a way, was time itself.

I crested the trail, surveying the misty sky and cliffs from the highest point in the area. I chuckled. "I'm not sure whether it's the journey or the end that's the reward this time," I said to myself, as I often did when alone. But I wasn't alone.

Instinctively, I took a step back. Sitting casually on a rock, a book in his hands, was a middle-aged man. He had a healthy beard and wore a black leather jacket, giving an edge to his otherwise genial appearance. His dark eyes scanned the book he held with one hand, then stopped. He gazed up at me.

"So, you made it at last?"

"I've made it to the top," I said, noting that his was a question, not a statement.

"How was the journey?" he asked as his eyes rested upon the page again.

I searched for an adequate word, but only came up with, "incredible."

He considered that for a moment as he took in the view from the mountain top with obvious familiarity. "What are you going to do now?"

"Well," I said, "if I'm correct, the past is back that way--" I indicated the trail behind me, "--so the future must be the other side."

"Do you think it's all downhill from here?" he asked, meeting my eyes again.

"I think there's another fine looking mountain ahead."

He smiled, and nodded. "Off you go, then."

I returned his nod, and set off. As I passed him, I stopped. "Uncle Jim," I said heavily.

He looked up again, "Yes?"

"Thanks."

He smiled again, and I set off down the other side of the mountain.
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Old 03-13-2009, 03:21 AM   #8068
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Thanks Uncle Jim.
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Old 03-13-2009, 04:14 AM   #8069
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euclid - that piece is nicely done
Glad you liked it Cooee
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Old 03-13-2009, 05:43 PM   #8070
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The Memo

I am running a writing experiment. For the last ten book I read, I have been plotting the books by page number.

The experiment went like this. I took three books by three authors. One author had four book. I read the first two books by each author and recorded the pages by action and important plot points. With the third book, I read only the pages with plot twists and points, based on the pages from their first book.

With all three, I could predict the pages, within a couple, that would have important action. The one author who had four books, the last book was a much shorter read, the ratios held true. Adjusting for the size difference, I could predict the action pages within one or two pages.


Did I miss a memo or something? Am I supposed to be using a set plot line adjusted to a formula so rigid that I end up being able to predict what happens where? Or is this some subconscious brain train that all good writers naturally have?
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Old 03-13-2009, 06:42 PM   #8071
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Allen, if it's not too much trouble, could you try that with one of my books?

(I wonder... if something's happening on every page will the experiment give a false positive?)
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Old 03-13-2009, 09:28 PM   #8072
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That sounds similar to Blake Snyder's Beat Sheet (aka BS2) for screenplay plot point structure. You might research it or his book Save the Cat! for details, but this is the basic structure:

Opening Image
Point Stated (at 5% into the movie)
Set-Up (takes up the first 9% of movie)
Catalyst (at 11% mark)
Debate (between the 11% and 23% portion)
Break into Two (at 23%)
B-Story (at 27%)
- usually the romantic story or subplot
Fun and Games (from 27%-50%)
- the clips for movie trailers tend to come from this section
Midpoint (50%)
- there's usually a party about 60 minutes into a movie
Bad Guys Close In (50%-70%)
All Is Lost (70%)
- false defeat, whiff of death
Dark Night of the Soul (70%-75%)
Break into Three (75%)
Finale (75%-100%)
Final Image (100%)

Last summer, I applied the BS2 to about 75 movies. The majority of those movies (which included movies like The Godfather 1 + 2, Chinatown, Psycho, L.A. Confidential, Strangers on a Train, etc.) followed this structure.

I did the same for the 1st season of The Sopranos. Ditto for a DC comic book event called Crisis on Infinite Earths. Was planning to apply it to novels, but decided I was too lazy to be that ambitious.
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Old 03-14-2009, 12:03 AM   #8073
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I’m more familiar with a variant of Syd Field’s plot breakdown, but here goes for novels.

This assumes an 80k word ms., and 250 ms. words to the published book page…

Act I: 1–27
Hook: 13
Inciting Incident: 27
Act II: 27–80
Call to Action: 40–53
Plot Point: 53–80
Act III: 80–160
Midpoint: 133–160
Act IV: 160–240
Plot Point: 213–240
Act V: 240–320
Climax: 267–320

This assumes a 100k word ms., and 250 ms. words per published page…

Act I: 1–33
Hook: 17
Inciting Incident: 33
Act II: 33–100
Call to Action: 50–67
Plot Point: 67–100
Act III: 100–200
Midpoint: 167–200
Act IV: 200–300
Plot Point: 267–300
Act V: 300–400
Climax: 333–400

I would be interested to know what breakdown you used Allen.

(Posting this and checking a few books by it...)
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Old 03-14-2009, 01:16 AM   #8074
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gabbleandhiss View Post
That sounds similar to Blake Snyder's Beat Sheet (aka BS2) for screenplay plot point structure. You might research it or his book Save the Cat! for details, but this is the basic structure:

Opening Image
Point Stated (at 5% into the movie)
Set-Up (takes up the first 9% of movie)
Catalyst (at 11% mark)
Debate (between the 11% and 23% portion)
Break into Two (at 23%)
B-Story (at 27%)
- usually the romantic story or subplot
Fun and Games (from 27%-50%)
- the clips for movie trailers tend to come from this section
Midpoint (50%)
- there's usually a party about 60 minutes into a movie
Bad Guys Close In (50%-70%)
All Is Lost (70%)
- false defeat, whiff of death
Dark Night of the Soul (70%-75%)
Break into Three (75%)
Finale (75%-100%)
Final Image (100%)
Could you provide definitions for your bold points and possibly examples?
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Old 03-14-2009, 02:58 AM   #8075
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1. Opening Image
The very first impression of what a movie is -- its tone, its mood, the type and scope of the film. It gives us the starting point of the hero. It gives us a moment to see a "before" snapshot of the guy or gal or goup of people we are about to follow on this adventure.

2. Theme Stated
Somewhere in the first five minutes of a well-structure screenplay, someone (usually not the main character) will pose a question or make a statement (usually to the main character) that is the theme of the movie. This statement is the movie's thematic premise.

In many ways a good screenplay is an argument posed by the screenwriter, the pros and cons of living a particular kind of life, or pursuing a particular goal. And the rest of the screenplay is the argument laid out, either proving or disproving this tatement, and looking at it, pro and con, from every angle.

3. Set-up
This is the make-or-break section where you have to grab the audience or risk losing them. The first ten minutes "sets up" the hero, the stakes, and goal of the story.

Make sure you've introduced or hinted at introducing every character in the A story.

Plant every character tic, exhibit every behavior that needs to be addressed later on, and show how and why the hero will need to change in order to win.

And when there's something that our hero wants or is lacking, this is the place to stick the Six Things That Need Fixing. Six is an arbitrary number, that stands for the laundry list you must show the audience of what is missing in the hero's life. These six character tics and flaws will be exploded later in the script, turned on their heads and cured.

The first 10 pages and the rest of Act One is the movie's thesis; it's where we see the world as it is before the adventure starts. There is a sense in the set-up that a storm's about to hit, because for things to stay as they are. . . is death. Things must change.

4. Catalyst
Call to adventure.

Catalyst moments: telegrams, getting fired, catching the wife in bed with another man, news that you have three days to live, etc.

Life-changing events often come disguised as bad news. The catalyst is not what it seems. It's the opposite of good news, and yet, by the time the adventure is over, it's what leads the hero to happiness.

5. Debate
This is the last chance for the hero to debate whether to stay or go.

The debate section must ask a question of some kind.

Once the debate question has been answered, the hero can proceed into Act Two.

6. Break into Two
The act break is the moment where we leave the old world, the thesis statement, behind and proceed into a world that is the upside down version of that, its antithesis. Because these two worlds are so distinct, the act of actually stepping into Act Two must be definite.

The hero cannot be lured, tricked, or drift into Act Two. The hero must make the decision himself -- he must be proactive.

7. B Story
the B story of most screenplays is "the love story." It is also the story that carries the theme of the movie.

The B story gives us a breather from the A story and the abrupt jump into Act Two and its whole new world.

This is where the hero will be nurtured. This is the place where the hero will confide what she is learning. This is the place from which the hero will draw the strength he needs for the final push into Act Three and ultimate victory.

The B story is also very often a brand new bunch of characters. These are the upside down versions of those characters who inhabit the world of Act One.

It provides not only the love story and a place to openly discuss the theme of your movie, but gives the writer the vital "cutaways" from the A story.

8. Fun and Games
This section provides the promise of the premise. It is the core and essence of the movie's poster. It is where most of the trailer moments of a movie are found. It's where we arent' as concerned with the forward progress of the story -- the stakes won't be raised until the midpoint -- as we are concerned with having "fun."

Why did I come to see this movie?

This section is lighter in tone than other sections.

9. Midpoint
There are two halves in a movie script and the midpoint on page 55 is the threshold between them.

A movie's midpoint is either an "up" where the hero seemingly peaks (though it is a false peak) or a "down" when the world collapses all around the hero (though it is a false collapse), and it can only get better from here on out.

The stakes are raised at the midpoint. It's the point where the fun and games are over. It's back to the story!

It's never as good as it seems to be at the midpoint and it's never as bad as it seems at the All Is Lost point. Or vice versa.

10. Bad Guys Close In
This is the point where the bad guys decide to regroup and send in the heavy artillery. It's the point where internal dissent, doubt, and jealousy begin to disintegrate the hero's team.

Evil is not giving up, and there is nowhere for the hero to go for help. He is on his own and must endure. He is headed for a huge fall.

11. All Is Lost
It is the opposite of a midpoint in terms of an "up" or a "down."

Even though all looks black, it's just temporary. But it seems like a total defeat. All aspects of the hero's life are in shambles.

This is the place where mentors go to die, presumably so their students can discover "they had it in them all along."

It's where the old world, the old character, the old way of thinking dies. It clears the way for the fusion of thesis -- what was -- and antithesis -- the upside down version of what was -- to become synthesis, that being a new world, a new life.

12. Dark Night of the Soul
It is the point just before the hero reaches way, deep down and pulls out that last, best idea that will save himself and everyone around him.

This is the point where the hero admits humility and humanity, and yeilds control of events over to Fate. He is beaten and knows it.

13. Break into Three
Both in the external story (the A story) and the internal story (the B story), which now meet and intertwine, the hero has prevailed, passed every test, and dug deep to find the solution. Now all he has to do is apply it.

The classic fusion of A and B is the hero getting the clue from "the girl" that makes him realize how to solve both -- beating the bad guys and winning the heart of his beloved.

14. Finale
It's where the lessons learned are applied. It's where the story tics are mastered. It's where the A story and B story end in triumph for our hero. It's the turning over of the old world and a creation of a new world order -- all thanks to the hero, who leads the way based on what he experienced in the upside-down, antithetical world of Act Two.

The finale entails the dispatching of all the bad guys, in ascending order. Lieutenants and henchman die first, then the boss. The chief source of "the problem" must be dispatched completely for the new world order to exist.

This is where a new society is born. It's not enough for the hero to triumph, he must change the world.

15. Final Image
This is the opposite of the opening image. It is proof that change has occurred and that it's real.


Beat Sheet for the Wedding Crashers courtesy of www.blakesnyder.com

http://www.blakesnyder.com/downloads...heet_FINAL.doc

He also provides a BS2 for Miss Congeniality in his book Save the Cat! And he's got another book consisting of 50 movies beat for beat. I think that's called Save the Cat Goes to the Movies.

At any rate, I think it's fairly similar to Joseph Campbell's monomyth structure. Nonetheless, it won't write your story for you. But if you're the kind of person who outlines, maybe it'll help.
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