Using Every Structure

Hand-to-hand combat has a lot of different flavors.

An uppercut is hugely satisfying, but it hurts your hand.  Elbow to the face is a neat, snappy, yet painful hit, but if you brush your funny bone, it's not worth it.  Knee to stomach buys you time, but it's difficult to make those two body parts meet.  Different hits have different connotations.  The ones  you use shape how you fight.

But learning it all is arduous.  You spend years figuring out how to cover your body while you're getting your balance back.  How fast (or slow) can you do a roundhouse kick so that the person doesn't trip you while your back is turned?  When they have a knife and you have a banana, do you make a smoothie or compromise so you can share?  All these questions!

Okay, not the banana thing, but learning all these moves is difficult.  When you finally get it down, however, after hours of training, stuff starts to flow.  You see things coming from your opponent that you can block and exploit.  You feel like it's a dance instead of a frantic slap-fest.  You feel your foot hit your opponent's chest and think The ballet would want me after that twirl.

Totally my thoughts at this point.  Look at that face of concentration.
The same thing happens in every other sport.  The same thing happens in cooking, frankly.  Hey, the same thing happens in video games.  (Tetris, man.  That game is my life.)  So it's not surprising that the same thing happens in writing.

Take it for this month, with structure.  We talk about all the different act structures.  We talk about romance, and thrillers, and heists.  We talk about things that might apply to your story, and things that can never apply to your story.  Do we seriously expect you to use it all at once?

No, we don't.  None of us use any single structure consistently (at least I don't), so we'd never expect you to use this stuff right off the bat.  And we definitely wouldn't want you to try lumping all the different structures into one.  That's insanity ketchup on the already-scrambled eggs of your brain.  It makes no sense.

So, that begs the question.  Why would we, preeminent superheroes and amazing writers as we are, try to teach you all this if we don't expect you to use it?


Well, it's like hand-to-hand combat, and Tetris.  You learn different lessons as you go that may or may not apply to any situation ever again-- then, when you think you're never going to get it, stuff starts to click.  It isn't as if you wake up and say, "Next time I'm in a fight I'm going to start with a left hook," or "I'm going to use five-act structure in my next novella."  But after a while, you're in a situation and suddenly, left hook!  Five-act structure!  Where'd that come from?  You don't have time to worry about it, but it's an amazing feeling.

Do we expect you to apply all of our structures to your novels?  Do we expect everything to click immediately?  Of course not.  If it does click immediately, good for you, but you're one of the lucky ones.  For the rest of us, we learn this sort of thing, store it away in our heads, and know what to do the next time this situation comes up.  After a lot of practice and relearning the lesson again and again, it finally starts to work regularly.

Don't sweat it if you don't nail this immediately.  If you want to plot your next short story or even novel around a structure you learned this month, great.  But it might not come easily.  It might not come at all, for years.  But that's okay.  It's up there in your head, and when the time comes, it will glide down the marble staircase of your mind into your story, fixing all of your problems with its presence.


I need to quit it with the mind metaphors.  Sorry.

The point is, take your time.  Be patient.  Everything you learn is a tool in your toolbox, but you can't force a screwdriver to work when you need a wrench.  The time will come when it all works, and trust me, you'll be glad you stuck with it.

But also, you might find yourself using only a part of each structure, mixing and matching.  For instance, I use midpoints almost exclusively to everything else, and I use three separate definitions for it (Hollywood Formula, Dan Wells' 7-point structure, and Emma Coats' Twitter feed).  You might constantly use the return home or refusal of the call from the Hero's Journey.  Or you might figure out how to make all the different act structures work together as one.  Whatever happens, you'll find your unique way of crafting a story.  That's something you can't rush.

So go write.  Keep moving toward that place of clarity.  It's worth it.

~Captain America

Romantic Structure with Agent Coulson (Seriously.)

So, maybe I’m not the best to be talking about romance. I mean, I’ve tried to work my way onto the dating scene, but work always has to be my number one. You would think the ladies would enjoy a man who gets things done, but you start one gunfight in the middle of an Italian restaurant and next thing you know she’s not answering your calls and changed her number after a week.


Needless to say, I did catch the guy. Probably saved a lot of lives too. I thought that would entail a second date. At least coffee.





My point is, although I might not seem like the typical romantic hero, I still have to write it. I’m not saying I do flowery ride-off-into-the-sunset-on-horseback business, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any romance involved at all. Because, if we’re going to be honest here, the vast majority of YA involves some kind of romantic subplot.


Because romance is everywhere.


Everywhere.


Just ask just about any of the other members of this group. If they aren’t too busy making eyes at each other (you know who I mean) or themselves (I’m looking at you, Tony), they have had at least some hint of a significant other in their origin story.


Because, when it comes down to it, we like reading romance.


So, dim the lights, put on your smoothest playlist and pull out the red wine, because we are going to talk about romantic structure.


Why is it necessary?


I like structure in my life, and I like structure in my job, although most of the time, it is completely necessary to improvise. That being said, sometimes, I don’t want a ton of structure in my writing. Sometimes, I just want to let chaos reign and see what becomes of it.




But if you are trying out a structure, it’s important not to forget about your love interests. The progression of their relationship should be just as important as the character’s individual arcs. Because this is a whole different kind of journey for your character. One that, considering we’re talking YA, they have likely never experienced before. (Or, if they have, probably do not understand.)


If you push the romance too quickly, the reader won’t have time to become invested. It won’t be believable, and you won’t be tugging on any heart strings. I’m not saying an instant connection can’t happen, or that fast-moving relationships don’t occur in real life (because they definitely do) but there has to be some sort of progression. You want your readers to be hanging onto every word, at the edge of their seats, pulling their hair out because these characters need to kiss already. Or, you know, so I’ve heard. But don’t push that too far. If it takes these characters too long, we’ll lose interest. The romantics-at-heart will be shipping just about anything, hoping for those hints you gave to turn into something. Like so many aspects of life, it’s all about the balance.


The Romantic Arc


Are you ready to swoon? I hope so, because we’re going to dive in.


Whether you are writing a straight-up romance or the darkest of horror that just-so-happens to involve some kissing, your romantic progression can come in the form of this arc.


Everyday Life. You know, the usual. Set-up your world, your character. It shouldn’t be long, but it is completely necessary.


First Sight. Your romantic couple has to meet. This is a game-changer. The catalyst of a regular arc, this is what changes your character’s life whether they like it or not. It’s so important, this first meeting, and your scene will live in infamy.




Here’s Your Rising Actions. Will they? Won’t they? Attraction grows, but perhaps something keeps them apart. It’s a roller coaster ride of ups and downs that keeps rising higher and higher. This is when you want to increasingly drive your readers mad. Have fun with that.


Oh, no… Your characters can’t be together. They can’t. Everything fell apart. Maybe some external force like a terrorist organization is keeping them away from each other. Maybe one of the characters made a huge mistake, and the other one is pissed. Whatever the reason, this is the no-hope-woe-is-me moment. And it sucks.


Oh, yes! But, wait! Yes! Yes! They can be together.


Now, they can ride into the sunset, or someone can die.


I mean, there’s more options than that. I’m just saying you can choose whether you want a happy ending or not. If you are writing a romance, you probably do. If you have a different genre going on with a romantic subplot, it will probably be determined by your main conflict.


So don’t forget about your love interests when outlining structure. It’s a whole relationship you are working through, and you need to treat it fairly.

Now, I have to go make it so that a certain incident at a certain restaurant never happened...


-Coulson

Thor's Thoughts: One, Two, Three


Good Wednesday, my friends and fellow writers. It is an absolute pleasure to be with you this fine day.

What's that? Why am I so chipper? Well, I am glad you asked.

Today I have the privilege of speaking to you about the wondrous Three-Act Format of structuring novels. Let us get on with it, shall we?

------------------------------------

To begin, here is the basic idea:

Act One: Inciting Incident 
Example: Chase your characters up a tree // Give them a problem
(The first 20-30% of the story)

Act Two: Rising Action
Example: Throw rocks at them // Make things much, MUCH worse
(The middle 50-60%)

Act Three: Climax and Resolution
Example: The characters get down // Solve the problem and wrap things up
(The ending 10-15%)

***

In complete honesty, I have never used the Three-Act format to build a story. My purposes in using it were always to re-structure once I had a draft completed.  This has helped me multiple times. Now, let us dig a little deeper.

------------------------------------

Act One


Act One is a getting-to-know-you phase. You are showing us -your readers- the world, letting us meet the characters, and essentially pushing us through any learning-curve there might be where magic/science/world building/etc. might be involved. Act One is also the time to HOOK us. The Inciting Incident should happen within the first chapter or three (depending on genre & length) and this must be something that gives us a reason to relate to and/or care for the characters and the problems they face.

For example: Harry Potter
Right in chapter one we see that Harry has been involved in something extraordinary. There are wizards and shape-changing cats and flying motorbikes that make us excited to read more. Then we spend a few chapters getting to know and care for Harry, when suddenly the letters begin to show up, and then Hagrid arrives to tell Harry he's a wizard. Along with that, however, Harry finds out that he has enemies and a reputation he did nothing to deserve. All of this is part of Act One, getting to know the world and characters, and HOOKING the reader.

Act Two

The beginning of Act Two is usually marked by some kind of major shift. From there, as I mentioned above, things always get worse for our beloved characters. Since this is the meat of the story, this section is where you find the majority of Try/Fail Cycles and/or discovery of clues. Also, a great deal of character development and world building can happen here, because you have a bit of room to work with. Just be sure that everything you put into your story is accomplishing more than one goal. Character development AND plot progression. World building AND voice. Use this mid-section to the fullest extent.

Let's continue with our example of Harry Potter:
Act Two begins with Harry traveling to and arriving at Hogwarts. At first he doesn't seem to have any problems aside from getting to class on time, but before long it becomes obvious that someone is out to hurt him, and steal something valuable. Harry and his friends continually pester Hagrid (the teacher they're closest to) that something is wrong, but he brushes them off. As things get worse, the kids begin to look for clues on their own, until finally they go to a higher teacher: Professor McGonagall, and tell her their suspicions. She too brushes them off, and they realize that if something must be done, they'd better be the ones to do it.

SIDE NOTE: The middle of Act Two is sometimes called the Mirror Moment. This is the point where your character must make the choice whether to change or not. I'm not an expert on this, but that post I linked to does a fantastic job of explaining how to work from it, if you are interested.


Act Three

Act Three is the final battle. The solving of the case. The lovers getting together. It is where everything you have foreshadowed finally comes to a head, and your characters either suffer, bleed, and die, or live to tell an incredible tale. Depending on your genre and how much you still need to wrap up following the big reveal/battle/action/romance, you may have a denouement to help fill in the blanks.

Example:
Act Three begins in the second-to-last chapter, when Harry and his friends go past the Three-Headed Dog to try and stop Snape (but not really Snape). The climax comes when Harry has been separated from his friends and has to face Quirrel/Voldemort on his own. Luckily, Harry has a heart of gold, and he not only survives but foils Voldemort's plans in the process. Our denouement is very brief, wherein Harry speaks to Dumbledore in the Hospital Wing and asks a few questions about what happened. He then returns home to endure the summer and wait for next year.

------------------

As you can see, there are bits and pieces of other structures within this one. The main focus -in my mind- of Three Act Format, is the tone. Each section is writing toward something, and therefore has a certain feel to it. Act One is exciting, in Act Two the pressure mounts, and in Act Three everything explodes.

I joke, of course. Unless you're Howard Tayler.






I hope this has been educational for you, my friends. Please feel free to ask questions in the comments if you wish, and I shall do my best to answer them by Friday.

Good luck,

THOR

Genre-Structures

Different acts in storytelling.  The Hero's Journey.  The Five Essential Steps to Make Your Readers Cry (Then Kiss You).  All the stuff we'll post this month is important, but it's difficult to figure out how structure works.  After all, structure is generic.  It has to be, or else it wouldn't apply to so many stories.  One thing, such as the Hollywood Formula or Save the Cat beat sheets, applies to any movie you watch-- so how do you make it original?  How do you make it work for a specific story?

It's lucky we're doing structure right after genre, because the two have a lot in common.  A romance runs very specifically, so that when you read or watch one you know it's a romance.  A heist, on the other hand, is almost completely different.  Yet, both of them have the same fundamentals (main character wants blank, and must do blank to get it).  What's the difference?  Merely the structure of the story.

Learn the overall structure of a story through the act systems, then get more specific with the genre you want to write.  I'll go over a couple of the most obvious genre structures here.  And remember: although some genres have inherent structures, you don't have to follow any of them to write that kind of story.  Sometimes it's just easier.

Heists

I like heists, or capers as they're sometimes called.  Why are they so intriguing?  The main characters are so good at their jobs, it shouldn't be legal.  (Ahem.  I mean in terms of storytelling.)  How do you make a story work when your main character is basically, well, me?

Being writers, I think we all know.  Heists rest on this single problem: when you make a plan, it doesn't always work.  When I plot a novel, I get about halfway through before I realize the wrong people are kissing, the villain loves kittens, and the best friend is probably an alien.  When I discovery write a novel, I often find out the same things, but it doesn't bother me because I expect weird things to happen.  When you have a plan and the smallest thing goes wrong, DISASTER.


That's the basis of a heist.  Everything goes wonderfully until about halfway through, where something goes wrong.  Everything starts to go downhill until the team pulls victory out of a hat.  All heists are different, of course, but the big reason heists have their own structure is this: the characters are amazing at what they do until about halfway through, when everything begins to tumble down around them.  In any other story, the villain is supposed to be the amazing person, and it's generally not wise to have the main character winning before his time.  In heists, however, it works.

Thrillers

One of my other favorite structured genres is the thriller.  Many look at the thriller as just a mystery where the murderer is still loose, and that's okay-- but I binge-watched Fringe after my time as an icicle.  Five seasons of supernatural one-hour thrillers teaches you a little something about a structure that works.  No, not all thrillers do it this way, but this structure is consistently successful.  It happens in a series of deaths.

Death 1: a person we just met and only slightly care about dies.  They probably have kids, or a puppy, or something, but they must die for the sake of story.  This is the same as in any other crime show: first thirty seconds, you get a murder.  Enjoy.  The team of detectives begins to investigate, but can't really find anything conclusive.

Death 2: right around halfway through the story, another person dies.  This death is like the first-- we only know a little about the victim-- but the detectives find a vital clue at the crime scene.  They begin to understand something about the killer, such as his modus operandi or preferred target.  They make some headway in the case and finally realize where the person is going to strike next.


Death 3: not exactly a death, just an attempted one.  In the course of their investigation, the detectives realize that the murderer is going after someone we know.  Perhaps it's a friend of the first victim, but they're really pleasant and unworthy of death-- perhaps it's one of the detectives, or a relative thereof.  Someone important is in danger.  The detectives realize this, rush to the location of that person, and catch the killer.

This format is so powerful because it puts someone we care about in danger.  It isn't simply three people dying, nor is it a killer hunting after a single quarry constantly.  It starts out very clinical and matter-of-fact, then steadily gets more and more emotional until the suspense is screaming.  It's gripping from the beginning, but that increasing suspense really packs a punch.

I consider heists and thrillers to have the two most distinctive structural differences in genres.  In a romance, you can structure it blow-for-blow along the Hollywood Formula, or even the Hero's Journey.  The same goes (obviously) for a quest; the same goes for a post-apocalyptic paranormal romance horror novella.  The thing about heists and thrillers is this: you can have an epic fantasy heist, or you can have a science fiction thriller.  These are less genres than they are structures, and they can be translated into other genres very easily.

Are there other such structure-genres?  Of course there are.  Sports stories (key feature: the montage), romantic comedies (key feature: bad decisions and schemes), or armchair mysteries (key feature: Miss Marple).  All of these have inherent structures, but none of them are quite as pronounced as those of heists and thrillers.

Remember this: although some genres have structures stapled to them, you don't have to follow them.  Write your science fiction heist.  Write a romantic comedy thriller.  This goes back to the genre-bending post Stark had last month, but it also works for structure.  Not every bullet point of every structure must be followed.  You are your own writer.

So write, and have fun with these.  They have good track records-- you can't fail.

~Captain America

The Hero's Journey

There is a reason why Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey is so prevalent in storytelling: it works. It has worked for thousands of years. It seems that use of the monomyth is unconscious in writers; we imitate it because it’s what we know. We see it in our books, in our movies, in our bible stories. In Blake Snyder’s screenwriting best seller Save the Cat, we see it on his beat sheet, broken down for writers and critics to follow. It seems unavoidable, Ingrained into our very psyche. And yet, original work still seems to exist. But is what we see really original? Or just our first experience with the incarnation?

To understand how prevalent the monomyth is in our culture and storytelling—especially in science fiction and fantasy—first we must understand what the monomyth is. The Hero With A Thousand Faces breaks down the narrative structure into three acts: the Departure, the Initiation, and Return. Within each of these acts, there are beats that the character typically hits. The three act structure is a simplified version of this, tracing the inciting incident where the characters and situation are first established, the rising action in which the protagonist tries to solve the problems faced in the first act, and the resolution in which the loose ends are tied. This is also similar to Lou Anders’s Hollywood formula. These formulas do not exist to produce identical stories, but to help maximize the “emotional torque,” the gut punch at the end of the story that leaves a lasting impression and prevents an apathetic reaction from the reader and audience.

Would you refuse this call?
We first have our Call to Adventure, in which the hero is called out of the mundane. In the Lord of the Rings trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien, Frodo and his three companions leave the Shire. Neryn is lifted out of her life of wandering and her relationship with her father in Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier. Rand is cast from the safety of the Two Rivers in The Eye of the World, the first book of the Wheel of Time fantasy epic by Robert Jordan. Heroes of humble beginnings are typically expected, it leaves room for a significant amount of character growth and leads into the second beat: the Refusal of the Call.
Refusal of the summons converts the adventure into its negative. Walled in boredom, hard work, or 'culture,' the subject loses the power of significant affirmative action and becomes a victim to be saved. His flowering world becomes a wasteland of dry stones and his life feels meaningless—even though, like King Minos, he may through titanic effort succeed in building an empire or renown. Whatever house he builds, it will be a house of death: a labyrinth of cyclopean walls to hide from him his minotaur. All he can do is create new problems for himself and await the gradual approach of his disintegration. -Joseph Campbell
The reluctant hero is much more engaging than an eager one. This necessitates growth.  We don’t want a perfect hero, someone who is ready to cross thresholds and accepts trials.  We want someone who has to come around the idea.  It raises the stakes, it deepens the impact of what the hero undertakes. If saving the world was easy, what joy would there be in experiencing it?
Joy. Right.
The next step is supernatural aid.  It comes in the form of the Good Folk fixing Neryn’s shoe and discussing her destiny. Frodo’s receives help from the Elves of Rivendell and Rand’s village is aided by Aes Sidai. It is important that the hero cannot complete this journey on his or her own—if they could, it would cheapen the difficulty. Then the First Threshold is crossed, over a bridge, out of Rivendell, across the Two Rivers and into the Belly of the Whale. Neryn is captured, Rand and his companions cross into Shadar Logoth, a city plagued by unspeakable evil, Frodo and his fellowship enter the Mines of Moria. After this, the true adventure begins as our hero is pushed through a series of trials that serve as the Initiation.

The Initiation is the bulk of the novel, the second act. This is where we watch the hero grow and change as they are forged and pushed forward by forces beyond their control. The first step in the Initiation is the Road of Trials. Typically, this comes in sets of threes, and the hero is likely to fail one or more of them. It begins his transformation. For Rand, these trials begin in Shadar Logoth and end when he reaches Whitebridge. Frodo and his companions face a terrible creatures, including the Balrog, before emerging from the Mines. Neryn encounters the shape shifter who tests her. These trials are often life and death situations. It heightens the seriousness of the journey, it raises the stakes.

The Meeting with the Goddess is next. The Goddess is gives the opportunity for the hero to achieve the boon of love. Rand meets Elayne, who he is destined to be with. Frodo meets Galadriel, the tests him and assures him. Neryn sees her mother. The impact of these meetings shapes the hero and brings them further on their path, with confidence in knowing that they are loved and supported by the “goddess” figure.
Meeting with the goddess? Check. 
We next encounter the Woman as Temptress. This brings up the problematic dichotomy with woman being both Goddess and representation of temptation. Though Campbell bases his hypothesis on years of studying mythology and spirituality worldwide and admits that temptation does not always come in the form of a woman, I dislike the assertion that woman serves a vessel to sin and straying from the hero’s path, without assigning proper culpability to the hero. This permeates sexism which is largely seen in the science fiction and fantasy genre, however that is a topic I shall save for later.
Thanks J-Camp.
 Neryn’s temptress comes in the form of her feelings for Flint and are circumvented when she learns of his powers as a mind scraper. Rand faces Queen Morgase and her Aes Sidai advisor Elaida who seeks to stop him from continuing his journey but is ultimately set free and is set free. For Frodo, temptation comes in multiple places in the novel, since he wears the Temptress around his neck. Most notably, when Borimir attempts to take the ring to use its power. Borimir does realize that he has done wrong and sacrifices himself, making his own Atonement with the Father. In the end of the trilogy, Frodo decides not to destroy the Ring and keep it for himself, but is forced into Atonement by Sam. This atonement is the initiation of the hero by an all-powerful being.
The problem of the hero going to meet the father is to open his soul beyond terror to such a degree that he will be ripe to understand how the sickening and insane tragedies of this vast and ruthless cosmos are completely validated in the majesty of Being. The hero transcends life with its peculiar blind spot and for a moment rises to a glimpse of the source. He beholds the face of the father, and understands—and the two are atoned.-Joseph Campbell
This atonement comes in various forms. Neryn sees her grandmother. Rand meets the Green Man, who dies saving his companions. Frodo’s atonement is different. Because he succumbs to his temptation, he atones when he leaves with Gandalf across the sea. However, his companions are atoned throughout the novel and Sam is able to save him from himself and help him destroy the Ring and Gollum, who represents Frodo’s failure.
Apotheo THIS. One more near death experience for the scapbook
Apotheosis is the death of oneself. It can come in the form of rest and peaceful fulfillment before the hero begins the return.  
The agony of breaking through personal limitations is the agony of spiritual growth… the mind breaks the bounding sphere of the cosmos to a realization transcending all experiences of form—all symbolizations, al divinities: a realization of the ineluctable void.-Joseph Campbell
Neryn accepts that she is the Caller and used the Good Folk to save her new friends in battle. Frodo refuses the selfless offer of Sam to carry the ring, and instead Sam carries him into Mount Doom. Rand learns that he can channel and will ultimately die because of it. The final stage of the Initiation is the climax: the goal of the quest achieved. The Eye of the World is saved, the Ring is destroyed, Neryn reaches Shadowfell. It is the inevitable, the expected fulfillment of promises established in the beginning of the book. The call is answered. All that remains is the Return.

The final act, the final stage of the journey is usually much shorter than the first two stages, sometimes encompassed in a single chapter. Initially, the Hero will refuse the Return. Having reached enlightenment in the apotheosis, the ordinary world will be a lesser place. But it is the hero’s responsibility to return and offer the gift of the boon to his fellow man. We are denied the true return in Shadowfell, as it is the first book in a series, as well as in The Eye of the World. However the Lord of the Rings has a full return. Frodo’s failure to destroy the ring is part of the Refusal. The Flight that comes after, is literal, as Sam and Frodo are saved by Gandalf and the Eagles as Mount Doom collapses.
#winning
The Rescue from Without is brought as the heroes find respite, rejoicing as the four Hobbits that began the journey are reunited.
Whether rescued from without, driven from within, or gently carried along by the guiding divinities, he has yet to re-enter with his boon the long forgotten atmosphere where men who are fractions imagine themselves to be complete.-Joseph Campbell
The Crossing of the Return Threshold is fulfilled when they cross the threshold into the Shire and find it enslaved. They must use what they have learned to rid the Shire of evil and become the Masters of Two Worlds.  They then can achieve the Freedom to Live and go on to live the “happily ever after” portion of their lives.
The happy ending is justly scorned as a misrepresentation; for the world, as we know it, as we have seen it, yields but one ending; death, disintegration, dismemberment, and the crucifixion of our heart with the passing of the forms that we have loved.-Joseph Campbell

Merry and Pippin are heroes, Sam marries Rosie Cotton, and Frodo, too wounded by the oppression of the Ring to live a normal life, crosses the Sea with Gandalf. He is eventually followed by Sam, the last of the Ring Bearers. And with that, the journey is over, the final page turned.

Everything ends with shawarma.
The monomyth is an observation drawn from years of study of myth, religion, and story by Joseph Campbell. The awareness of this formula has led me to view stories with a sometimes jaded eye, feeling cheated by the obvious steps an author takes to push their characters through trials. Ultimately, a story can still be meaningful and well told provided that the characters are fully realized. 
The hero is the champion of things becoming, not of things become, because he is… He does not mistake apparent changelessness in time for the permeance of Being, nor is he fearful of the next moment.-Joseph Campbell
The hero must continue to change, continue to grow, and continue to learn as the story goes on, otherwise he or she is lost in the step by step expectations of the journey. The problem of originality is not in the journey, but in the people. It is inevitable in the space of reality that we live and we die, but the decisions we make in the meantime differentiate us from animals, from a subpar existence. Our written characters should be reflective of this in the decisions they make, otherwise they will fall into a space of forgettable infamy. 

Any questions?

Happy Monday, It's a Wrap-Up!

When we pitched the idea for genre month, we expected things to go something like this:


Instead, it was more like this:


We wanted to hit ALL THE GENRES this month, but we only managed a few in real posts.  But that's okay-- and you'll see why, because this is the January wrap-up post!  Scratch those final supersuit itches (it's okay, everyone has them), and let's dive in.

Dr. Banner begins the month with a glance at his romantic side-- okay, a stare for those of us who didn't think it existed.  Surprisingly, he's rather softhearted, and he delves into the science of tugging heartstrings.  Using The Fault in Our Stars as an example, he shows how romance should unfold rather than punch.  (That was the perfect example, too.  That book made me want to crawl back into my ice cube.)

Stark follows up with his usual anarchy: writing a story that wiggles away from classification.  Personally, I like to have a genre because it keeps me from splattering over everything all at once (and a lot of genres come with structures already pre-made for your convenience), but man, this post is inspiring.  It makes me want to write a science fiction animal romantic thriller comedy.

But, back to normal genres.  I posted next, about mysteries and their place in the universe (read: everywhere).  I go through a couple of the main attractions, like mixing up clues and creating red herrings and generally confusing people without losing them.  I went cold just before the Agatha Christie age, but I've had fun catching up.  Read any of her books for a master class in mysteries.

Now it's Thor's turn.  Before you yell at me for making fun of him again, this time he actually did something useful.  At this point, we were running a bit behind on genres.  Romance and mysteries are big ones, but what about others, like science fiction, fantasy, or contemporary?  Almost everyone else was out on some mission or other (yes, even Loki-- he was looking for another Big Stick of Evil or something), and we didn't have the time for many more individual posts.  So, Thor pulled something out of his cape to knock down all the rest of the genres.


Yessiree, we had a Twitter chat.  Black Widow phoned in from her mission to lend a hand. Between the two of them, they answered questions, broke down popular genres into their component parts, and generally cleared up a few things.  I wanted to be there too, but duty called.  And, ahem, I kind of forgot.  So, you can read up on everything I missed at the #YAvengers hashtag.  Look out for future chats from the same hashtag.  (We'll warn you here, too.)

Do I even need to say it?  Our team is amazing.  Even when half of us are off saving the world from evil organizations, invading aliens, or Loki's schnitzel (or... I'm not sure what that was-- they say autocorrect does odd things sometimes), the other half can handle the blogging.  If you ask me, blogging is harder, but no matter what comes around, we'll be here with writing tips, events, and encouragement for you.  Thank you all for sticking with us.  We appreciate it.

Next month is story structure month!  Tony and I are both big fans of this sort of thing, so we're excited to get started.  It's rare that we agree on anything-- you could make a movie about us disagreeing, honestly (not that anyone would watch it)-- so stick around to see the new, the exciting, and the plain old fun.

In the meantime, make cool stuff.  Write great words.  Live amazing lives.

~Cap