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Author Toolbox Blog Hop

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Thank you Raimey!


Or at least a refresher on some old ones 🙂

I imagine we all have our own ways when we want or need to generate a new story totally different from anything we’ve ever written in our pasts.

In my own previous tips, I’ve talked about flash fiction and idea generation based on quick pictures I select on pinterest then combine two to three to get my own visuals rolling strong.

Recently, I’ve come across a new resource called The Marshall Plan Workbook: Writing Your Novel From Start to Finish, by Evan Marshall.

I wish I had this planner when I first started. It answers so many basic questions I clumsily stumbled through. And even if you have your own favorite resource, I thought this one is definitely worth mentioning today.

Where to begin? Genre. Research what the market requires and then the story may begin:

Loosely Define the “Lead”

“A novel must be about one person’s quest to attain a goal and it must be clear that this person’s actions are of primary importance in the story.” (Marshall, 35)

So what does loosely mean? According to The Marshall plan, know the age and sex of the character based on the genre and what is expected in the genre. Some genres may care more than others, like Romance. Romance genres tend to have more female protagonists then male.

Define the Crisis

What event occurs to “upset the normal order of things for the subject of the story?”

We need to know our character’s goal to fix this crisis.

What I really liked from Marshall’s book was the Suppose List to help generate the crisis of the story. I liked the permission given to generate any and all ideas from the news, our lives, people watching or interviews we conduct. I personally started with researching current news in the city where I plan to base my entire story.

I Googled the local city and found a daily newspaper website. Of course it wanted me to subscribe and though I wasn’t interested in paying a subscription for all the stories, I did find the same news on Facebook, which in my opinion was even better.

Keep a Trends Journal

For me, Scrivener will be my hub instead of an actual journal. I’ll use the index card set up and the research section to house pictures, fashion, and news stories I find of interest. Also important to do to help write for the senses is a character photo collage. Then develop a list of mannerisms from studying the pictures and let your mind wander about backgrounds and pasts. All of these mannerisms should relate back to your “Suppose” brainstorm.

Story Goal Worksheet

I’ve seen quite a few story goal worksheets. The one in the Marshall Plan has some specific evaluative checklists to consider after each goal section you brainstorm.

My favorite checklist questions:

_ Will upset lead’s life enough so that he/she must try to solve it?

_ Most logical under the circumstances?

_ If Lead fails, he/she will suffer terrible consequences?

Lastly, Research

Marshall talks about an excellent point worth noting, “When Not to Do Background Research.”

Marshall questions the length and time of a person’s research relative to the length in planning a believable and intriguing story to the reader of the genre. It’s suggested if we know nothing about a topic and we have a story deadline to meet, we might want to pick something else to write in order to make a year deadline for a publication.

There are so many other wonderful worksheets for specific focus of all the players in your book. Next month, I’ll go over thoughts on romance, and how to know if it’s important to the story or not. 🙂

About Erika Beebe

Author, dreamer, and a momma to a couple of wonderful kids, I try to live life everyday in hope and inspire others along my way.

Posted on August 14, 2018, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 24 Comments.

  1. Louise@DragonspireUK

    I love creating new stories and these are some useful pointers, especially defining the crisis. I have a tendency to plan my heroes in depth but not plan their goals and crisis well enough!

  2. That does give me some clues about the story I am writing now. I know the crisis, but I don’t think my main character’s goals are quite as defined.

  3. And I thought the Marshall Plan provided US aid to rebuild Europe following WWII. Little did I know it also was a framework to writing a novel. Seriously, a lot of great ideas in your post. Keeping the main character’s goal to fix crisis in focus is a good one.

  4. Wonderful tips as always. It does make me reflect on my current WIP though. The theme is about monsters killing everyone, and three of the POVs focus on that. But my MC is isolated from it, so his goals are to save his daughter’s people from an illness, figure out a way to step into a leadership role without killing his wife, and curing himself of an ailment before he dies and takes the world with him. He doesn’t even find out about the monsters until 3/4 of the way through. Think that’s bad that he doesn’t even know about the crisis in order to have a goal to fix it?

  5. Marshall Plan is one of my most useful toolkits for novel writing. I found it early on, followed it ad nauseum, and liked the results. Great find, Erika!

  6. How have I not heard of this book yet? It sounds really practical, which I love. Great post!

  7. While reading the info about loosely defining the lead, I thought, “It would be fun to write a romance novel solely in a male’s perspective.” 😀 I usually switch back and forth between my female MC and male MC for romance.

  8. Thanks for making me aware of this one. I hadn’t heard of Marshall, but I like a lot about his approach for developing story ideas.

  9. Hi Erika, The story goal worksheet is an awesome idea. i love the questions and can see how they totally help. Thanks for sharing.

  10. This sounds like an interesting book—I’ll check it out. Thanks for the recommendation!

  11. Some great tips. I’ve never seen this book before, but I’m definitely going to be checking it out! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  12. Thanks for the useful tips! I haven’t read the Marshall Plan but it sounds like a great resource.

  13. Great discoveries. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    Sorry I’m late.

    Anna from elements of emaginette

  14. I’m not happy when newspapers want you to subscribe before giving access to research. I can understand why they would do it though. They’ve got to generate more revenue to stay in business. Still, it would get mighty expensive if you had to keep doing this. Information can usually be found with enough searching.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

  15. There are so many ways to write a book. I’m constantly tweaking what works for me, but I sometimes think it varies from book to book. Congratulations on finding your method.

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