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Thank you Raimey!
At a writer’s conference a few years back, I sat with a literary agent and pitched my story. She mentioned my villain struck her attention the most. My villain had a goal equal in weight to my Lead. Then she mentioned lots and lots of writers forget to focus on the goal and the arc of the villain.
So today, I’m using some thoughts from The Marshall Plan Workbook. I’m focusing on the craft of the Opposition, a word Marshall uses in lieu of the Villain, and the importance of strength and equality for both the Lead and the Opposition. I’m also thinking of Khan as an example of interesting Opposition.
Four Basic Points From Marshall’s Plan to Consider
The Opposition As A Person
Marshall states, “Nothing stirs readers like person-against person conflict.” (Page 77)
I pondered all the books and movies I’ve liked the most. Avengers, The Archived, Panic, and The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. Some of my favorites involve magical possibility. All of them involve human faces. Sure, some phenomenal stories have been written with natural disasters and animals leading the opposition, but largely I do agree with Marshall. I think human opposition does “come across most effectively.”
And Khan. Is he human? Or he is he a divine being without weakness?
Wikipedia states Khan is, “a genetically engineered superhuman.” Now I’ve never seen the first appearance of Khan with the early Star Trek movie. But I do like the new version of Khan. I like seeing a human figure as the shell to all his power.
Opposition And Lead Must Be Equal
This point made me think again. True, the reader wants a good fight. True, the writer needs enough action and reaction scenes to develop an effective plot. Marshal states, ”an opposition who’s an equal match for your lead is believable to readers.” If one or the other is so far advanced, why doesn’t the story just end? A fair point. A last fair point, “Think first of your lead’s special skills and talents that will help her achieve the story goal, then bestow your opposition with a large enough share of the same talents that your lead will be given a real run her money—a run that will keep readers turning the page.”
And Khan? I had a hard time justifying if Khan was indeed equal to the Lead, Captain Kirk. Khan seemed to win at manipulation with high stake issues. Kirk seemed to win with his crew and loyalty. He surrounded himself with talented people with different talents than the ones he seemed to have. Khan didn’t seem to need anyone, with a gift of regenerative blood. He seemed super strong. He seemed to evaluate weakness better than most. So it’s still a toss up to me.
Opposition isn’t Always Evil, Just Opposite
Marshall states, “The reason the ideal opposition is someone already known to the lead is that this is usually how life really works.” When I think back on all my own goals, it’s true. And Khan? I guess his existence was known previously to the start of the movie. Spock certainly knew him. His awakening was fast and public.
An Invisible Opposition Exists
Murder mystery genres face invisible Opposition. The lead does not know the opposition. The Lead is terrorized by an invisible opponent. The whole plot strives to uncover the opposition and solve a case.
A last important Marshall Question to consider:
Why would this character oppose my lead?
For more information on the Marshall Plan Workbook, here’s an amazon link to purchase the book. You’ll love the resource. I certainly do.
Any other Opposition thoughts? Any thoughts on Khan and Kirk? I’d love to hear them 🙂
Thank you Raimey!
This month, I’m reporting top tips to begin a second draft of a work in progress. I’ve learned the best advice is to settle my impatience and let the first draft sit to clear the canvas in my mind. My own first draft was completed back in March. A reasonable amount of time has passed and I’ve since moved on to other projects.
So now that I’m ready to make revisions, I admit, I didn’t know where to start and I’m sharing tips from a great author, Marissa Meyer. She reflected over her process in draft two of Cressa. Please visit her post as she provides lovely details of her process.
Here goes her tips and a few simple reflections:
- Print out your first draft.
Make notes of plot holes, questions, characters who may have been left out for lengthy chapters and need to be added back to remind the reader they exist. Ask yourself, how can I make life worse? What challenges can I throw into these scenes to add tension or correct realism in dialogue? How can I be mean to my characters I may have delicately danced over in the first draft?
- Import Draft One into Scrivener. Meyer used word to write her first draft. To begin her second draft, she imported everything into Scrivener. Have you tried it yet? I love it to pieces. Then use the synopsis note card and write two to three sentences to summarize each chapter.
- Plan the revisions from your notes.
Start with the big holes or changes you would like to see. Review the changes you note are not working and plot new scenes, brainstorm character changes, and ways to fix the holes. For me, I have a character who drops off the planet half way through the book, for good reasons, but not the right emotional reasons. Fixing her location will most definitely create new details and new scenes. Fixing her location and creating new scenes will further enhance one of the major themes in my story and was dropped in the first draft. I don’t want it dropped.
- Revisit the plot structure.
Add the new scenes and revise old ones. Scrivener has a terrific cork board to drag and drop scenes. I love being able to move things around. I love Scrivener’s character and location templates. I may do some more research on specific locations I’ve picked in the book and add them to my notes.
- Focus on the subplots.
Marissa Meyer mentions the first draft is about the larger plot. She takes more time in the second draft to flush out the details in subplots. For instance, backgrounds and histories and why characters do what they do. The subplots lead to deeper themes and plots readers crave. Once I rewrite the location of one of my characters, I’ll have satisfied some deeper emotional subplots of sisters and strengths and weaknesses in families and how together we create balance and solve problems we can’t always do alone.
So this is my plan. I’m starting this week. Wish me luck in the next few months and if you have any other tips on second draft revisions and organization, I’d love to hear it.
Thank you Raimey!
When I wrote my first draft of my first novel, I went scene by scene, chapter by chapter. I wrote in a logical timeline, from Monday, Tuesday, not knowing how to get to Friday where I really wanted the conflict to begin. I had no idea there was this really cool technique called Narrative Summary, and used effectively and efficiently, may work better then walking a reader through the whole truth.
Ever told an event from your day word for word and managed to hold attention from start to finish? I’m not sure if this is possible. I admit, I’ve done it. I’ve also watched eyes wander away.
In writing, Narrative Summary is a great way to hold on to a reader’s attention with a great fast-forward bridge where the reader may not notice a skip over a course of hours, maybe days, and may also remain engrossed on the page without scanning.
So what is it, you might ask?
According to Quora, I found the perfect definition:
Narrative summary is possibly the most flexible of the various ways of presenting a story. Narrative summary doesn’t necessarily tie the author down to chronological order, the way dialog and dramatization do, nor does it require a focus on one particular aspect of the story, as description often does.
90 Day to Your Novel by Sarah Domet also states, “the narrator summarizes some events of the story for the reader, without showing the scene directly.”
Author Domet goes on to say, “you don’t have to show, in scene, how your character got from the end of chapter one to the beginning of chapter two by first getting a car, driving to the ferry, riding a ferry … then walking the rest of the way. But you will have to make clear to the reader that these changes took place.”
One of my favorite young adult books I’ve read this year and talked about multiple times is Panic, by Lauren Oliver. In one beautiful sentence Oliver transitions the reader from one Saturday to the next:
“Time tumbled, cascaded on, as though life had been set to fast-forward.”
Then she begins the next paragraph so perfectly, “Finally Saturday came, and she couldn’t avoid it anymore.”
I am so drawn in. I can see her panic, her nervous tension. And I want to read on and find out how she faces her worst fear in the next blind challenge against her peers.
One more example, you may ask?
A perfect one ends a chapter with a huge confrontational moment where our second POV main character Dodge is crushing on a girl and gives her a gift for her birthday. One he can’t afford. One he can’t stop thinking will finally show her he really cares. She’ll melt. She has to. Instead, she gives it right back and he’s so dejected he says the worst thing and they’re both sniffing back shadowed tears:
“Her eyes locked on his for a minute. He saw two dark holes, like wounds; then she whirled around and was gone.”
Thus, the chapter ends.
The next chapter begins with him home in his apartment, dreading his decision to head straight home the second he hears his mom call from the living room. To meet her new boy of the week. The father of a former classmate who had recently died. In the very game our two main characters are competing in. The entire scene is painted so we see Dodge’s awkward tension.
Oliver could have started the new chapter with the door in Dodge’s face, a slow walk down the hall, him shuffling down the steps to the street below, but she didn’t. We don’t need to watch a dejected walk of shame or the passing details of the city. Realistically, Dodge wouldn’t be paying attention to the city. Instead, Oliver shows us in the opening page of the new chapter with body language, dialogue, all the while, ramping up new conflict to peek our interest.
What can you do to try Narrative Summary?
Take out a scene you’ve stewed over. Maybe it doesn’t feel right. Maybe you’ve had comments from your beta readers, peers or editor how the action or conflict has dropped. Reread it. Seek places to summarize point A to B in a sentence. Notice the differences. Maybe try a new scene and write it out both ways. You might really like what you discover.
Thank you Raimey!
I don’t know many people who run into drama and maximal conflict with their arms wide-open, ready to face off with someone near and dear to them, ready to cut them off or curse them to infinity and beyond, excited about being alone because trust is something we no longer know.
Welcome to the world of writing ACT II.
In 90 Days to Your Novel, Sarah Domet states, in real life, we are “conflict adverse … We strive to stay out of trouble and make decisions to bring us as close as possible to our desired outcomes … unless seriously provoked.”
I reread this page just yesterday. I reread it over and over because finally, I’ve been given permission to do a very hard thing for me, create tension, difficult tension, which might really hurt the characters we breathe life into.
ACT I is the introduction to your character and the world. ACT II is what Domet calls “the story.”
In the Hunger Games … ACT I shows us Katniss as a realistic survivor whose mission is to provide for her younger sister because her father is dead and her mother lost herself while grieving. Katniss has one trusted friend with the same survival mission. Life is as it is. Then suddenly she finds herself at the name drawing ceremony when a boy and girl will enter an Olympian style fight to the death. Her younger sister is selected. Shocked, Katniss volunteers to take her place. ACT II begins on the train on the way to capital where she’s exposed to her wildest fantasies of food, clothing and the comforts of what was once an unattainable lifestyle. Her perception of what she is has to change. She must become pretty and fake. She must make allies of people she may one day kill. Survival is not just about skill anymore, and can she play a different version of herself to survive for her sister against her internal nature?
In Jane Eyre … Act I is all about a young ordinary orphan growing up devote to her christian faith and unwilling to compromise her internal character. Finally free of a hateful aunt and an orphanage, she takes a well respected position as a governess. ACT II is all about her conversations with a sour older patron of the home. Unexpectedly, she develops feelings for the patron. When she finds out he loves her too, she falls hard and her love challenges her internal strength and christian devotion where she must ultimately make the choice between her faith and her strength, or, the only love she’s ever known.
How do we take away what our characters want the most?
- According to 90 Days to Your Novel, the best place to start is a timeline of events between ACT 1 and ACT 2.
- Note the plot points of wants and needs.
- Ask yourself how you keep your character from getting what he or she truly wants along the way.
- Ask yourself, What continues to keep her/him from getting it and how can I deepen the conflict?
- How does the character motive and wants contribute to the action into deeper conflict?
- Lastly, what points are left to get him or her to the climax, when finally you are free of ACT II.
Remember, bad things happen to all of us. Bad things must happen to your beloved characters. So as you write through ACT II remember this: Don’t give your MC this deep want or desire. ACT III is the choice of this attainment.