Writing

When You Unconsciously Use the Plot Structure in Any Story You Write

I’ve been studying the writing craft for years. It was seven and a half years ago when I learned the right rules of creative writing. It took about that long to hone my skills and mature my creative writing abilities to what they are now.

However, before I studied the craft, I wrote a bad novel that I was dying to publish and convinced my parents to let me do so. When it was published, there was no positive feedback. However, I do realize now that I still included the classic plot structure, which I wasn’t aware at during that time. I continued to use that structure in later novels where I studied the craft.

What is the structure, you may ask? It starts of with the inciting incident, where something greatly changes your main character’s situation and sets him or her up on a rough road to achieve his or her goal. Then there is a call to action, and the main character often refuses it at first. Then he or she will accept it.

Next comes the first plot pinch, which sets your main character up for failure. Then there is the midpoint, which can be a major defeat or loss. That will push the protagonist’s struggle to achieve his or her goal even further. There will be complications and higher stakes, which will lead to an all-is-lost moment, where the antagonist wins at that time.

Then comes the climax, where something prepares the protagonist for the final battle (not always literally, though). There may be a ticking clock too, where the protagonist’s time starts running out. Finally, there is the resolution of denouement, where the main character has come somewhere satisfying. He or she may achieve his or her goal. If not, he or she may realize that the goal was not something he or she had wanted all along or something not right for him or her.

And no matter what story I write, usually novels, this plot structures comes out into my writing unintentionally. I don’t know why, though. It’s like my brain has somehow inserted the plot structure into its subconscious or something. But that’s probably a good thing.

No matter where you are in the writing process, whether you are new or experienced, it’s important to know the plot structure. Any successful work, written or visual, needs to follow this structure.

Writing

Plot Hole Problems: Why They Bother Me (and Others)

Plot holes happen everywhere: movies, TV shows, books, and so forth. Even the top writers end up making plot holes, either as inconsistencies or unanswered questions.

Of course, no one ever means it—at least not usually. Even when they are being reviewed by agents or anyone before the works get released to the general public, plot holes are missed. It often isn’t until after the works are available to the public that the plot holes are pointed out. Sometimes, shortly after, and other times, not till several years later.

Obviously, no work is perfect nor do any please everybody. But some plot holes bother certain people a lot. There are examples in some of my movie critique posts, like “The Little Mermaid” and “Aladdin”. The ones where I spend a lot of time expressing my thoughts are the ones that bother me the most.

A plot hole I have not addressed here before is from the book, “Being Julia”. It’s not a super-big bestseller. But it was good and engaging up to a certain point. Julia gets grounded and has her computer confiscated. She tries to convince her dad to give it back to her shortly after, even though he won’t. When she is no longer grounded, the reader doesn’t get to see her getting her computer back. Another situation is happening. Then the next chapter takes place months later, when Julia is getting ready for college. Um… hello? When did she get her laptop back? This unanswered question plagued me so much that I wrote to the author and asked when Julia got her laptop back. Sadly, the author didn’t answer. So I moved on.

Some people will address plot holes later or separately. A good example is J.K. Rowling. These days she has been answering so many questions about plot holes in “Harry Potter”. Some folks, like me, enjoy that. Others, however, find it amateurish and lazy. I could see why.

While there are some plot holes in works that don’t bother me or I don’t care about, there are still some that will plague me for a while. A YouTube channel, called Cinemasins, is known for pointing out flaws in movies, such as plot holes. Because I watch movies with a critical eye, I enjoy this channel. I discover issues that I didn’t realize before.

Remember that nobody is perfect. Pretty much all works will have plot holes. Some may be addressed in sequels or on separate sources. Others will remain unanswered forever.

Writing

The Struggle with Sequels Standing on Their Own

How many of you have written a full-length novel? If so, congrats! What about a series? Extra congrats times a million! Now can your sequels stand on their own?

I don’t know about others, but for me, getting a sequel to stand on its own was the biggest challenge for me. It ended up connecting to my first book too much. Maybe because of how I ended my first book (don’t worry, I won’t say how)?

To get a sequel to stand on its own, you need just enough backstories to get the reader caught up with what happened in the first or previous installment. It’s going to be a bit hard, depending on your story.

It took me nearly three years to complete my sequel (which is temporarily off the market, but will return as a second edition soon). And the biggest reason is probably because I had trouble making it stand in its own.

Depending on your storyline, you will need to include backstory that is relevant but also makes the sequel stand on its own. My problem was that I hadn’t included enough. But with the help of editors, it worked. And many readers said that the sequel was able to easily stand on its own.

It may also be necessary to summarize your first book in one or two paragraphs in your sequel. Obviously, do it when relevant and don’t get too hooked on certain details.

The best way to test if your sequel can stand on its own is to have editors or beta readers look at it and give you honest feedback. You won’t be able to judge by yourself.

Anyway, thanks for reading. In the meantime, you can check out my novel, “From Frights to Flaws, 2nd Edition” right on Amazon.

Writing

Deny, Rethink, Accept, and Write – This is a Part of my Writing Process

Every writer needs an editor, even the most talented ones. And no two editors are alike. They do different services from critiques, content-editing, line-editing, copy-editing, and proofreading. They also have different editing styles and reasons. That is why I have gone through too many different editors. Many have been helpful and rational, but a lot have also been too controlling and even turning my words into their own—practically making my stories their own. I have never used them again.

However, when they give constructive feedback, there comes a process that I often go through: denying, rethinking, accepting, and writing. I could call it DRAWing.

I often love what I write, even if it’s unnecessary or serves little to no purpose to my content. When an editor asks me to change or cut something I admire, I will often deny his or her recommendation. This is natural as I don’t want to believe him or her.

After a little while, though, I do rethink the editor’s suggestion. I consider why he or she said that. Often times, it ends up making sense.

Unless it will screw up the story or any major material, I usually end up accepting the request at some point. Sometimes I even twist a suggestion. For example, if an editor asks me to remove an unnecessary element, such as a character, I will figure out a way to make it important. This has worked at least a few times.

And then the final step, obviously, is to keep writing. Some stories are not meant to be enjoyed or sold, though. I’ve learned that a little too late. I have published five books, but only one is available to buy. The other four weren’t exactly good enough for the market. However, I had not realized that years before. I’d even pretested them with pre-publication feedback, and they got mostly positive feedback.

This process still applies to me now. It probably will forever.

short fiction

Job Opportunities: A Flash Fiction Piece

I sat on our summer home porch. Night fell as I stared at my father’s submarine. He lost his life from a bee sting two days ago.

            My mother came out and removed her diamond ring. She sat with me. “Sarah, we’ve got to give up this house.”

            I opened my mouth. “What?”

            “I don’t think I can afford it anymore.” My mom sniffled. “I don’t even know if I can hold a job much longer.” She burst into tears.

            I petted her back. “I’m already sixteen. I can try and help support our family.”

            “No, you can’t.”

            “Holly recommended a position for me at her orchard last week.” I referred to my best friend. “I can make this work, Mom.”

            My mom breathed. “If you think so.”

            “Thanks.” I stood up and returned inside. I packed my belongings. Tears stung my eyes as I thought about my dad. Who would take his submarine? And would we ever get this summer home back—or any summer house in general?

            After I finished packing, I followed my brother, Timothy, downstairs.

            “Sarah, is it true that Holly is going to give you a job?” Timothy asked.

            “She said she might.”

            “How do you know you’re going to get it?”

            “Well, I have known Holly since kindergarten.”

            “That doesn’t mean anything.”

            “You’re only twelve, and you met your best friend in third grade since he was new then.”

            “Why does that matter to you?”

            “Because I’ve known Holly longer!”

            Timothy stared at me. “Gee, Sarah. You need to relax.”

            “I can’t. Not without Dad.”

            “Please stop.” Timothy’s eyes watered.

            My phone rang. I answered to Holly.

            “Hey, Sarah, sorry to hear about your father.”

            “Thanks, Holly.”

            “Anyway, I’ve got some bad news too.”

            “What?”

            “The job I offered you isn’t available anymore.”

            I gasped.

            “My cousin took over it.”

            “Holly, how could you do such a thing?”

            “We needed someone as soon as possible.”

            “B-but—”

            “Sorry, Sarah, but you’ll just have to look for something else.” Holly hung up.

            I looked down and sighed.

            “I told you,” Timothy said.

            “Shut up!” I inhaled and exhaled.

            My mother returned inside. “Kids, are you all packed up and ready to go?”

            “Wait, we’re moving out tonight?” asked Timothy.

            “Yes,” said my mom. “Sarah, did you hear from Holly?”

            I nodded. “But she gave the position to someone else.”

            My mom gasped. “No.”

            Her phone rang. She answered it.

            I tuned out, assuming that it had nothing to do with me. But my mom looked at me. “Sarah, Mrs. Johnson has a job opening for you.”

            I opened my mouth. My mother’s friend offering me a job opportunity?

            “All right then. Thank you, Martha.” My mom hung up. “Sarah, Mrs. Johnson expects you next week.”

            “Why not sooner?” I asked.

            “Because she has to take care of other things,” my mother said. “But we may get this house back.”

            I smiled.

Writing

Dictate the Darn Story If Necessary

Image from Pixabay

Typing is probably the most common way to get your story down. In fact, it is also necessary for submitting for publication, whether it’s commercial or self-publishing.

There’s also handwriting when you’re drafting. I find that works best for me a lot, especially because you don’t have the Internet or other computer-related distractions.

And then there is something I’ve discovered quite recently. It is called dictation. That is when you put up your program microphone and speak into it. The words then come out on the screen.

You need to be as clear as possible, otherwise the words will come out incorrectly. That has happened to me so often. Obviously, you should only do it in your home, or maybe a hotel room, as long as you’re not too loud.

How do you set up the dictation feature, you may ask? On a PC, it is the Windows keyboard and the H keyboard. On the Mac, you press the FN keyboard twice.

It might be exciting to get started ahead right away without thinking. Maybe you can do that. However, I cannot. I need to have words pre-written before dictating them into a program.

I have them handwritten and read off of them. I also have to edit the wrong words constantly. And I have to avoid transcribing made-up words or even uncommon names. I have made-up words because I write fantasy.

It takes practice to do voice dictation confidently. I have yet to master my use of dictation. I will make it there some day. After all, it is often said to be the quickest way to write your story.

short fiction

The Prince Who Loved Boys: A Short Story

Once upon a time, there was a prince who lived in a castle. He was seventeen years old and completing his education soon as well as preparing for engagement. His parents, the king and queen, had arranged princesses and other young ladies to meet him and bless them with marriage.

            Only that—the prince didn’t love girls. He loved guys.

            “Mother, I want to marry another boy,” the prince said.

            “You do?” asked the queen.

            “I’m gay,” said the prince.

            The king hung his jaw down. “Why didn’t you tell us earlier?”

            “I’m sorry, father, I… I wasn’t sure if you’d accept it.”

            “Of course we would, son,” the king said. “It’s just that… we don’t know any other gay guys.”
            “There has to be someone out there.”

            A guy cried for help outside. The prince ran to the window. A boy, around the prince’s age, carried a rose outside the moat.

            “Has anyone seen Casey?” the strange boy asked.

            “Um… may I ask if Casey is a boy or a girl?” the prince asked.

            “He’s a boy!” the guy stared at the prince. “Were you overhearing my—”

            “Sorry,” the prince said.

            “Why do you care?” asked the boy.

            “W-well… b-because—”

            “I’m taken, sorry.” The boy turned around.

            “Wait!” exclaimed the prince.

            The guy stopped.

            “You’re gay too?”

            “Yes.”

            “Oh, isn’t that wonderful?” the queen approached the window. “In fact, I think you should have dinner with us tonight and let my son get to know you.”

            “But I—”

            “We’ll have the guards open up the gates and take it from there,” the queen said.

            Some time later the royal family and the new boy sat at the dinner table. The butlers brought out the food.

            “So what is your name, sire?” the king asked.

            “I’m Kyle,” said the guest. “And there’s something I need to tell you.”

            “Well, our son is due for marriage soon,” the king said. “And he just told us that he’s gay.”

            “So am I and—”

            “You and our son would make a perfect couple, Kyle,” the queen said. “We’ll make you both live happily ever after.”

            “What I’m trying to say is—”

            “And you two will rule the kingdom together,” the king added.

            “I’m in a relationship!” Kyle yelled.

            There was a pause. The whole table went silent.

            “I’m sorry, but I can’t marry the prince,” Kyle said.

            The king sighed. “Fine. Then I guess you guys will just be friends.”

            That night the prince sat in his chamber. Tears stung his eyes. He and Kyle could be friends. But the prince loved him as a partner.

            What if there were no other guys to love? The royal wedding was set to start in six months. The prince only had a few more days to find a suiter.

            But Kyle seemed to sob outside. “Casey, you can’t do this to me.”

            The prince rushed to his window.

            “I don’t love you,” Casey said. “Honestly, I don’t feel ready for a relationship.” He walked away from Kyle.

            The prince hurried to his parents’ chamber. “Mom, Dad, I need your help with something.”

            “If it’s about Kyle, I’m afraid we can’t do anything about it,” the king said.

            “That’s the thing,” said the prince. “His boyfriend doesn’t love him. He broke up with him.”

            The queen gasped. “Oh, that’s terrible.”

            “Can we let him back inside?” asked the prince. “Please?”

            “It’s nine o’clock,” the king said.

            “I don’t want to lose him,” the prince said.

            “Your majesties!” cried Kyle.

            The queen walked to the door. “We’ll let him in.”

            After the guards let Kyle in, the prince approached him. “Are you all right?”

            “Casey’s used me this whole time for nothing,” Kyle said.

            “I’m sorry,” said the prince. “But… maybe I can make it up for you.”

            “You really think so?” asked Kyle.

            “Yes,” said the prince. “I promise to love you with all my heart. I’ll never cheat on you or dump you.”

            “You promise?” Kyle asked.

            “I do,” said the prince.

            Kyle smiled.

            The next few months, the two spent several dates together. They married in the late summer as prince and prince. And did they live happily ever after? You decide.

short fiction

Spring Explained: A Flash Fiction Piece

Today is March twentieth. You should know what that is. The first day of spring. You’d expect flowers blooming, tree buds expanding, and much more.

            Maybe in parts of the south. However, here in New York, the first day of spring is cold, can snow, and has no blooming of anything whatsoever. It’s practically still winter.

            I’ve always wondered why the dates of spring couldn’t be regional. Why does it have to rely on an equinox related to the Earth and where it is around the sun?

            Because where I live, “spring” isn’t until at least close to mid-April. That’s right. Nothing blooms or fades from winter until about a month after the first day of spring.

            On the bright side, winter weather delays my allergies. When pollen flies and plants bloom, I sneeze a lot. Sometimes I even catch a cold.

            I stare outside my window, and watch flurries fall from the sky. Darn. I didn’t expect that today.

            But someone knocks on my door.

            “Genevieve, it’s time for school,” my mom says.

            I leave my room and go downstairs. I realize that global warming has made some springs come sooner. It wasn’t until three years ago that things bloomed in March. And that’s unusual.

            “I’m surprised it’s snowing,” my mom says.

            “It’s March, Mom,” I say. “It’s always cold at this time of year.”

            “Um… no, sometimes it’s warmer than usual.”

            “Global warming.”

            “You really believe so?”

            “Yes.”

short fiction

The Cruise: A Flash Fiction Piece

Ava took out her paper while facing the classroom. “This is a true tale about something that happened over the summer.” She gazed into her sheet and looked at the other students. “The sun was shining over the ocean. I was dancing on a cruise with some friends and my family. But a thunder storm struck lightning nearby. Our ship had to move away from it. The party was over. I was disappointed.”

            “And we’ll stop there,” said Mrs. Sanders, the teacher. “Ava, is this really a true story?”

            “Yes,” she said.

            “You’re crazy,” said a boy.

            “I thought your family didn’t have a lot of money,” said Kelsi.

            “Mind your own business, Kelsi,” Ava said.

            The bell rang. Everyone left the classroom and packed up as his or her locker.

            Ava breathed, thinking about what her classmates had said. She couldn’t be insane. She couldn’t have made the whole thing up.

            After hopping onto the bus, Ava’s phone rang. It was her mom.

            “Ava, what happened in school today?”

            “Nothing, Mom.”

            “I got a call from Mrs. Sanders that you made up a story about us being on a cruise.”

            “We did go on a cruise over the summer. I remember.”

            “We’ve never been on a cruise before. I’m sorry, but we’re going to have to have a chat when we get home.” The mother hung up.

            Ava felt her stomach compress. How could her mom not recall the cruise? Either her mom was starting to forget things or… Ava had some memory issue.

            No. She couldn’t. She’d heard of some condition where people unintentionally lied about things that never happened. But that couldn’t be the case for her.

            Minutes had passed. Ava got off the bus and went inside. Her mom gave her a sharp look. “Ava, I have some bad news for you.”

            “I’m grounded, aren’t I?”

            “No.” The mother sighed. “You have been cursed with a condition that gives you memories of things you’ve never had.”

            Ava lowered her jaw. “What?”

            “I found out that your father was a magician. And that he gave you that jinx.”

            Ava gasped. “No.”

            “It’s been ten years since he died. I waited too long to tell you.”

            Ava looked down. “How am I ever going to get through life like this?”

            “You’re the only one who can control those false memories.”

            “What?”

            “It’s all up to you.”

            “But how do I control them?”

            “You have to consider other circumstances and suppress those that don’t match with them.”

            “Okay.” Ava sat on a couch. She closed her eyes. “We never went on a cruise ship,” she whispered. She repeated herself a few times.

            The thought faded. Ava forgot what happened before the storm. She reminded herself out loud a couple more times. She couldn’t remember anything about a cruise vacation.

            Ava looked down. It would be nice if we went on a cruise one day. Perhaps, before my thirteenth birthday in January.

art

Mini Art Show: Parrot at the Zoo

Who doesn’t love macaws, parrots, and other tropical birds? They have beautiful bright colors. Some can develop speech and mimic sounds. “Polly Wants an Art Show,” the bird above may say. Ha, ha.

So I was practicing my illustration skills. I decided to try a somewhat simplistic technique. See the solid colors and the simple designs of the “jungle”? Yup. You probably do.

Now why was jungle in quotation marks, you may ask? Because this was (pretty much) copied from a photo I took at the Central Park Zoo. The macaw was actually behind glass and behind it was a painted rainforest.

Except for the platform (I don’t know the word) and the bird, of course, pretty much everything else was official. I don’t even remember if the pink flower was real.

Some elements were distorted for ease and simplicity in the artistic style. The trees were, for instance, as were the leaves. Colors might’ve been changed too. But I am not totally sure. I might have the original photo I captured. Yet, I don’t know where it is.

The outlines may look a bit choppy. That’s because they were done in pencil and scanned into the computer, where I colored them in using Photoshop. And if you think lines need to be crisp and clean all the time in art or illustration? Think again. Many artists use rough outlines. Some use none at all because the style is intended to be outline-free. That is the case for some types of styles (like “South Park”) or realistic paintings (like the “Mona Lisa”).

Why dark green leaves, you might also wonder? I never knew why, but darker, bluer greens always felt more jungle-like to me while lighter, yellowish greens felt very grassy and sunny spring or summery, like a backyard. Of course, it varies per region. Rainforests in Central America looks quite different from those in, say, Africa. At least from the pictures I saw. Obviously, pictures aren’t enough for research.

All right, enough said. I hope you enjoyed this post.