Archives for posts with tag: plot line

In fiction, to truncate time is to jump — or skip over — time in the story.

Authors truncate time because we readers don’t need to know every single minute in the character’s life.

Or every single hour. Or every single day. What the heck, we can skip whole months and years, if we want to, and the story goes on.

For example…

* The wet ropes kept slipping, so it took him about five minutes to wrap them around the ship’s metal bars…
* Within five hours, we’d broken down the sprawling camp and packed the two jeeps full…
* The next morning, even after the sun rose, it was still dark as the rain continued
* After five days of driving the reluctant horses across the dusty plains, we rested…
* It took five weeks for the party of twelve to cross the range…

(Okay, you might not get away with five weeks… but if you’re writing/reading a War-and-Peace-type-of-story-thingy, hey, it might happen.)

Truncating time is tricky.
You have to pick and choose the place of your time loss with thought. You have to choose your amount time loss with care.
(It has to make sense.)

In our personal lives, though, truncating time doesn’t make sense.

We have to go through things, good and bad.
We can’t skip the hard parts (even though we’d like to).

(Oh, how we’d like to.)

Pain happens.
Rejection.
Loss.
Death.

And it never comes at a time that’s convenient.

Instead of truncating the time, we go through it.
Minute by minute.
Hour by hour.
Day by day.
Week by week.
Month by month.
Until the bad has passed, and we are okay again, in a new now.

Yes.
We do get through.
The pain gets to be less.
We do find a new path, a new way.
(And it’s good.)

But in the middle, we wish for truncated time.

Think about those around you.
I bet you can be there for someone who wishes for truncated time.

And if you’re in the middle this,
of time you wish could be skipped,
reach upward and outward.
Find a way to give love. Because love, on any level, heals.
And healing takes time.

* Thup
coffeeJul7-14

At its base, art is about the complexity of life.

For example.
Sometimes, we as people are just not enough. We miss the mark of someone’s expectations. Always. At some point.
It’s the way it goes.

And when we’re not enough for someone.
They may ignore us.
They may turn on us.
(They may do both.)
Oh, people. So human. So flawed. So completely uugh sometimes.
(All of us.)

A few may extend grace. But that’s rare.
(unfortunately. so unfortunately. rare.)

Writers, in your story, your hero has to get to the place where he or she is not enough. He doesn’t meet expectations. He gives up.

In other words.
Nothing works.
Nothing matters.
(A moment of death.)

It’s the hero’s decisions at that point that make your story run its fingertip along the sand of humanity.

Story is complicated.
(So is life.)

Artists draw or paint it.
Photographers capture it.
Dancers express it.
Writers write it.

Perhaps that’s the way we, as a people, can deal.
As in understanding.
As in catharsis.
As in simply being human.
Through art. Creativity. Expression.

Humanity.

* Thup
coffeeJune21-14

Yes, I believe in success formulas.
They’re everywhere.
For just about everything.
(In work, life, and love.)

Okay. So if you want to be a successful writer (or creative artist),
read through to the end of this post.

Because writing has success formulas, too.
For instance…

* Look at Blake Snyder‘s Beat Sheet. Following Snyder’s formula, movies surge through the box office to pulse in our veins. We remember the movies: their meaning, their message, and how they made us feel.

* Look at Joseph Campbell’s monomyth and The Hero’s Journey. Following Campbell’s formulas, books surge through bestseller lists and into our cognitive and emotional pathways. We remember the journey, the challenges, and the characters like they’re our friends.

* And I believe that we’re hardwired for story –
hardwired to receive epiphanies, challenges, and emotional catharsis through story. Time after time, story captures and changes us.

You may not like formula, but it’s there.
And it works.

I sat in the movie theater two nights ago enveloped in The Edge of Tomorrowbreathing Blake Snyder’s beats, ticking them off one by one. And I loved it. The formula worked — the beats of story lined up perfectly. The opening image…the setup…the theme stated…the catalyst….right up to the mirrored closing shot. To me, the movie met all my expectations, and then some.

Expectations.
The operative word.
We go about life with expectations.
Some good, some bad.

Regardless, we like to have our expectations met.
The fulfillment of expectations brings certainty.

Tony Robbins names certainty (predictability) as one of our Six Human Needs. When we expect something, and it happens, we feel good.

As artists, we have to meet expectations…while also bringing freshness to the formula. We all know The Edge of Tomorrow is Groundhog Day with a twist. Yep. Same concept. Same premise. Same players. Different setting and scenarios. How did the writers get away with it? They made the twist twisty enough.

(By the way, Robbins also says that we need uncertainty. Hence the need for the twist.)

The Formula vs. The Twist
How much do we stick to the formula? How much do we deviate from the formula (how much of a twist is too much)? I believe balance is learned, then practiced — to learn the skills of the formula, and then to know how much to push the artistry into difference, beyond the receiver’s expectations. It’s something we have to try out.

So.
Learn the formulas. Use the formulas.
Then, yeah, just get creating and see where it goes.
(Writers, WRITE.)
Push the formula. Then push it a little more.

Oh. And here’s an Aside Life Application (of course)
(You know me — loving life application):

Life truths (formulas) make for our lifestory’s success.
(Covey’s Law of the Farm is a formula to pay attention to.)
(Maxwell has Seven Laws.)
(Blanchard says we need to get to higher levels of interaction.)
(Goldsmith says our formulas work to a point, but we need to be careful to not let our formulas be our downfall.)
(And on and on. There’s no shortage of life truths and formulas.)

Ignore the life formulas, and you get way off track. Yeah. Bad.
So. Really. Get to the good. Get going, get learning. There are a lot of formulas ready for us, waiting for us.
Let’s. Use. Them.

They will save you (and me) from a lot of wrong thinking, hurtful actions, and pain that could have been avoided.

And. As we write today
(or draw today)
(or paint today)
(or take that photograph today)
(or whatever-create today),
may we know the formulas and use them.
(May the formulas be with you.)

Balance between formula (certainty) and twist (uncertainty) creates the best result.

* Thup
coffee white

PS. Here’s a list of Leadership Gurus with a lot of great formulas.
PPS. Okay, let’s not forget Zig Ziglar. Read or listen to him, and you’ll find success formulas growing all over the place.
PPPS. And, oh yes, Nick Vujicic‘s life truths. POWERFUL. Watch this.

Public service announcement:  Writers of fiction, this post is for you.

Warning:  Contains embedded content and conclusions for the Average Joe and Josephine’s life.

(Read on.)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mounded foam on my latte is good.
(No question about it.)
coffeeJune2-14

But are bubbles good?
coffeeJune3-14

I mean, both the latte and the black coffee came from reputable shops.
But somehow, the bubbles bug me.
I’m used to a smooth, black surface on my coffee.

Something doesn’t seem right.

Fiction writers, at the opening of your story, this is the feeling you want your reader to have.

Everything seems fine.
(There’s nothing bad happening, really.)
But something — just one little thing — is off.

It’s subtle.
But it’s there.
(trouble lurks)

Even on your first page, before all breaks loose, your hero’s Ordinary World has bubbles.

In my current story, I’m in the process of putting bubbles into the story. Story outline in hand, I’m deliberately placing (“planting”) little, bothersome pieces in earlier chapters that, if you’re really paying attention, simply don’t seem right. Later on, those plants give the reader an, oh! I get it! I knew something wasn’t right! confirmation (so he/she can pat him/herself on the back for “catching’ it).

Bubbles entice the reader, prepare the reader, and draw the reader further into the story’s web.

We should pay attention to bubbles.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

But in our lives, we often don’t pay attention to the bubbles. We pass over the bubbles, brushing them off as outlier thoughts with no impact on our lives.

Brushing off bubbles can be dangerous.

If something doesn’t seem right, paying attention might be the thing to do. (Just sayin’.)

I’ve been caught in bad situations because of not paying attention to bubbles.(Haven’t you?)

Sometimes premonitions give us warning (as in this article, on the possibility of a sixth sense).

(By the way, fiction writers, you can get away with creating premonitions in some stories. But back to reality….)

Bubbles are more than premonitions. They’re our brain catching inconsistencies. We simply need to pay attention. Because there’s something in our brains going on all the time, where the parts of the brain work together to signal, to alert us to potential danger.

Some call it gut instinct kicking in (even Oprah puts in her two cents on gut instinct). But there’s something more.

Referring to his bestseller, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell states, “When you meet someone for the first time, or walk into a house you are thinking of buying, or read the first few sentences of a book, your mind takes about two seconds to jump to a series of conclusions.”

Those “instant conclusions that we reach are really powerful and really important and, occasionally, really good.”

We notice the bubbles. Our brains are smart. But, then again, we can blow off the smart signals our brain is sending to us.

FBI, CIA, and Special Ops persons are trained to pay attention. They’ll be the first to tell you how much the Average Joe and Josephine miss, on a daily basis.

(By the way, I ADORE Joe Navarro’s book, What Every BODY is Saying: An ex-FBI Agent’s guide to speed reading people. Paying attention to body language is one way for us to notice bad-bubbles people. And as a writer, it’s full of practical description for us to “show, don’t tell” our characters.)

So.

While it’s cool for your main character to blow off the bubble-event or clue (it makes good story), in real life, blowing off the bubble-event or clue brings us trouble we could have avoided.

Sometimes we simply need to pay attention. Because though bubbles look harmless (and even fun), and we may brush them off as non-important, bubbles can spell danger.

If something in life seems off, we need to pay attention.
Don’t go on as if nothing’s wrong.
(Take care of yourself.)

* Thup

 

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try,
you can’t hide it.
The everyday camouflage isn’t working.

Like this.
coffeeMar1-14
(“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”)
<<Pay no attention to the scone beneath the lid.>>

Who are we fooling?

Writers.
In good story, your Hero’s shoving down the Capital-P Pain.
In good story, your Hero thinks he’s okay.
He thinks he has this handled.
(“No worries. It’s not that bad. I’m okay.”)

But we all know.
<<he’s not okay>>

If our Hero doesn’t take care of whatever it is,
it’s all going to come crashing down.
(As I always say, good for story, bad for real life.)

We all have things we hide,
under the big bad umbrella of Capital-P Pain.

People walk all around us, sit next to us, talk to us…
(maybe it’s even us)…
All trying to cover up Hidden Pain.

What Hidden Pain is your Hero trying to cover up?
(And what-cup-lid-circumstance is he trying to put on top,
but it isn’t big enough?)

Write that.
That’s your character motivation. That’s your character arc.
Maybe that’s even the root of your plot twist.
(Pay attention to the man behind the curtain.)

Oh. And, friend.
We all carry Capital-P Pain. Yours. Mine. Ours.
Pulling back the curtain and looking it in the eye
is a good thing.
(Don’t let it get you. You’re bigger than that.)

* Thup

This morning,
the blinds in the reflection in my cup aren’t really wavy.

Look carefully at the picture below.
(The reflection distorts reality.)
coffeeFeb19-14
Too many times, we reflect distorted thinking to others.
The reflection looks real. But it’s not.

Let me explain.

Events happen. (good and bad.) We see, hear, and feel the event.
But then we interpret the event. We give the event meaning.

The meaning may be true.

Or, because it’s filtered through a reflection of our thoughts, the “picture” in our minds might be distorted. Not real. False.

Distorted thinking messes with us.
Distorted thinking makes something that’s straight look bent.

Writers.
Your Hero has some distorted thinking, doesn’t he?

He goes through an event, interprets the event (“What meaning does this have to me?”) and comes back with an idea.

Make it a wrong idea.
(ooh.)

The best story-grabbing-can’t-put-the-book-down happens when the reader KNOWS that the idea is wrong, but the Hero DOESN’T KNOW that the idea is wrong.

Our Hero heads out and on his merry way and, all the while, we readers start waving our hands and shout, “No! Don’t do it! Don’t go that way!”

The Hero’s distorted thinking disturbs us.
(And it should.) Because when you let readers in on the distortion, it HOOKS them in. (YEAH! Exactly.)

But.
In real life.
Drop the distortions.

No one wants that kind of drama.
(Think Straight. Get to the truth.)

Don’t let distorted thinking get the best of you. Because, if you reflect the distortion into your relationships, it can destroy them.
(sobering)

(Good for story. Not good for real life.)

* Thup

If you’re like me,
you’re always looking for the sweet deal.

It can be a sweet deal at the store (80% off)
or a sweet deal at the pump (20 cents less)
or a sweet deal at the coffee shop (a free taste of a sweet treat. mmm).

More so,
we look for the sweet deal in life
(the school experience)(the job)(the relationship)
with our happily-ever-after.

But. In real life.
Sweet deals are hard to come by.

Let’s talk character and story.

Your Hero wants the sweet deal, too. What is it?
(be sure you know)

And.
When the sweet deal doesn’t come
(because it needs not to come, you know),
BAM,
you have a disappointment.
Or two.
Or three.
Or ten.

(Now we have a story.)

How will she deal with disappointment?
Wait for it.

Do you have an idea?
Write another.
And another.
And another.

Sweet deals are nice.
But what happens to us when we don’t get the sweet deal,
and we change. Good. Or Bad.

Now that’s story.

* Thup
coffeeFeb18-14

Writers (and any artist, of any kind, in any place)…
It’s our job to keep ’em on the edge.

On the edge means that the tension holds its little fingers outstretched, not quite touching but wanting to touch, its eyes widening and heart beating with the angst, waiting, waiting for the moment to connect and feel that everything’s okay.

Musicians, it’s the suspended 4th or 7th that doesn’t resolve.

Painters, photographers, it’s the image in the mist that one can’t quite make out, making the viewer squint his eyes and imagine, or the line of intricacy pulling the viewer in to the canvas to peer more closely.

Manga artists, illustrators, it’s the image the partial picture obscured from view, half on and half off, running away from the page,  pulling across the storyboard, eeking across squares and rectangles, seeping toward the turned page.

Screenwriters, it’s the image with a twist, the dialogue with a bite, the words left dripping with meaning before the cut to.

Writers, it’s the bits of story that keep adding up, still confusing yet beginning to make sense, making the mind search for the why of the scene that rolls and rises and crests into the climax, where the hero gets the external goal and experiences the internal change.

Yeah.
On the edge.
Waiting for the resolution.
It’s a nerve-wracking place to be.
(For the writer, because we have to meet expectations.
For the reader, because it’s downright emotional.)

We actually want this?
Another Yeah. Go figure. It’s curious to me that, in art, readers want nerve-wracking, enticing experiences. As long as the tension is rising, the reader/viewer is with us. We want to push the limits of adrenaline and angst. Readers want to be pulled along, with a thread of constant tension that doesn’t go away but builds into a CRASH. But there’s a good reason. It’s so that when resolve washes over us, it’s more satisfying. Relief.

On the edge works because it’s a universal experience. I contend that it’s a spiritual experience, the God desire for resolution in the deepest parts of who we are. We all wait for the resolution, the clarity, the ability to sit in peace and enjoy, within the senses and within the heart.

BUT (and that’s a BIG BUT)…
In life, the experience of on the edge doesn’t work well, especially if the limits are pushed and pushed and the edge is ignored over and over. If the coffee cup gets too close to the edge, it will not only spill but in the fall the ceramic shatters…perhaps into pieces that can’t be put back together.

Bottom line
In crafting on the edge in art, if we push the edge too far,
we lose the audience.
In life, if we (or someone else) pushes to the edge too far,
we lose much more.

(All the more reason to cherish and live life with care.)

* Thup
coffeeJan19-14

many are alone
in the holidays.

From
a death.
a divorce.
a move.

and.

many are alone
in the holidays.

From
anger.
isolation.
torn relationships.

Pain comes in vanilla and chocolate.
external. internal.
both hard to taste,
even harder
when that’s all that’s on the table
to eat.

remember this,
in writing your story.
(It will change the way you write.)

remember this,
in living life.
(It will change the way you live.)

* Thup
coffeeDec11-13

The season.
It’s here.

How do I know?
My cup says so.

Image
Really,
the stores have been saying
so for a bit already,
haven’t they?

(Yes, I heard that early
Christmas music.
Did you?)

And, really,
TV has been saying so,
for a week or so now.

(Did you see those early
Christmas commercials?
I did. Hmm.)

This Christmas Season has been
sneaking in with
little hints
here and there.

So many things start early,
but we don’t “count it” as so.
(Until all is fully in place,
it doesn’t count.)

I call this early-start-stuff
The Fuse.
ssssssssss…

The Fuse is all around us.
Like a kid who has a meltdown tantrum.
It didn’t start there, with the tantrum.
Oh, no.
It started quite awhile back.

But the parent didn’t see The Fuse
and stomp on it, before it went
ka-BOOM!

Writer.

The Fuse of your Doors of No Return
and of your Critical Moments
starts way back.
(sssssssss…)

The reader just doesn’t see it.
(sssssssss…)
On purpose.
(sssssssss…)
We plant bits and pieces
(sssssssss…)
On purpose.
(sssssssss…)

I love stories that have bits and pieces
dropped in, lighting The Fuse.
(Don’t you?)

ssssssssssss…kaBOOM!

And you say,
Hey!
That little fact,
That little action,
That little dialogue,
AAAHHHH!
I GET IT!
(the hints were there all along)

Plan the ssssssssssss.

Sometimes it takes drafts
and drafts
to put the sssssssssss in.

Draft away.
(I am.)

* Thup

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