She found herself in the food stamp line. She got work through a temp service. Her baby started getting sick ALL the time after starting day care. She just couldn’t stay healthy. She ended up having to admit her to the hospital. Such a nightmare! She didn’t leave her side, she kept a 24/7 watch. That nightmare became a lifetime of reading food labels. She wasn’t sick from daycare, it was a food allergy. To this day , she reads all of labels to anything she gives her.
???: Surprising how easy it was to get here. Kathryn: But it’s late. ???: He wants us here, he just couldn’t tell us, yeah? Kathryn: I really do miss him… ???: Who cares! Oh, wait. We do care! Maybe that annoying pest is sleeping, yes, yes! *snickers* It’d be amazing to have him riight there and then, no?~ Kathryn: *nods* ???: Perhaps we just need a bit of help. It’s alright, he is our doctor after all.
Kathryn nodded again, he is. Or was? She was alright now, they had let her out fair and square, yes! She giggled before stepping towards the stairs. There were stairs to a backdoor that led into the kitchen, if she remembered correctly. The kitchen was too pretty to destroy, but she wondered what they’d done with the rest. She snickered to herself while pretty expertly getting the lock open.
Kathryn: Doctor, doctor, doctor.
She hummed as she quietly shut the door behind her with a smile. Oh how she had missed this place, though it was much prettier set ablaze.
Do you have any tips on how to improve writing/storytelling ? I've just started writing after long time and it's all just feels so clumsy! Any advice would be great tbh
the most basic and yet the most important piece of advice i can give you is simply: just keep writing.
the best way to improve is to keep doing
as far as storytelling, something I heard recently in a lecture for a class at uni is “a story starts with a character that wants something and then has to overcome obstacles to get it.” I think this holds true for every story. That want could be for something physical or it could be emotional, psychological, etc. every character has to have a goal, a purpose. a “why.”
using Lord of the Rings for an example:
the story is a magical ring needs to get thrown into a volcano in order to save the world. okay, so you have a plot. that’s good. but you need more than just a plot idea to write a story, yeah? you need characters. characters are, for me, the most important part of storytelling. you can have an incredible, original plot. you can have a gorgeous setting, an intriguing adventure, but if your characters are flat and lifeless then nobody is going to get engaged enough for all the rest to matter. nobody is going to care.
so, you have to make the readers care. you do that by fleshing out your characters. you answer the “why” for each one. even the minor side characters should have a purpose! Frodo chooses to take the ring to Mordor. Why? Because it’s the right thing to do? because he feels obligated? because he’s afraid for the safety of his people? answering the “why” for your characters will show you who they are as people, and you can then build on that and have them make choices that reflect on that.
character development is also key. i don’t think a character should be the same person at the end of the story as they were at the beginning. they have to change somehow. they have to learn something. it could be something as simple as “they learn that friendship is good” or as complex as “they learn that they do not have to be overcome by the darkness inside themselves.”
so yeah! those are sort of general pieces of advice as far as writing and storytelling goes! if you want advice for anything more specific, just let me know! i’ll be happy to help :)
I started in November, but I just finished all 90 episodes of Critical Role, because I don’t know what else to do with my life. I know I should be writing, but I’m chalking all that time up to ‘story telling research.’
Ok i’m kind of a huge loser and needed to draw this stuff to get it out of my system and I feel like I put enough time into it to… post it to my main blog.
I imagine Tom and Janna would have a great friendship where Janna is constantly giving Tom near heart-attacks. I actually want to draw more just general interaction stuff for them for fun, so I’ll do that later. I figured I’d post these on their own though.
There are few things as soul-crushing in the writing process (at least to me) than getting a bunch of characters in a room with the intention of something happening, then the characters proceed to stand around and stare at each other.
Or worse, look at you like this.
My characters didn’t know why they were there. I didn’t know why they were there either. I had no clue what they were supposed to be doing, so I’d start throwing random instructions at them: “Fight, characters! You guys should fight now! Maybe fighting will make this event have a purpose!” Which inevitably resulted in characters going through the motions of battle for no apparent reason, like they had all lost their minds.
What was the problem? I didn’t know how to write a scene. I didn’t know what a scene was. I had a vague definition that it was something about changing scenery, or just “something happening”.
It’s not. And once I learned what a scene was, my characters got to stop pummeling each other, while wishing they could pummel me.
So what is a scene?
The definition of a scene is kind of like the definition of a story. Story is change, a massive change in the life of your main character. A scene is change too, but much smaller, and part of that huge story change. You couldn’t have the BIG change without these tiny changes. Thus, a scene is not switching scenery. It’s not flipping to a new Character’s POV. It’s one segment of change, which triggers the next change, which triggers the next, which gradually build into sequences, which build into Acts, which build into story.
So what goes into a scene? How does it work?
1. Alternating Charges
If a scene opens positive, it will turn negative by the end. If it opens negative, it will end positive. Simple.
2. Character Goals
Everybody in a scene wants something. If they don’t want anything, they shouldn’t be in the scene. And these characters, with their often opposing goals, are going to employ different tactics on each other to get what they want. Which creates …
3. Escalating Conflict
Conflict is created when one character wants one thing and another wants something else, right? So the characters in the scene are each pushing for something different, each new tactic increasing in determination. And what are these actions called?
The beats of a scene are exchanges of action and reaction. One character does something, another character reacts. All exchanges (beats) are pushing the scene onward, building tension and conflict, until finally …
5. Turns & Revelations
The scene turns. The positive has changed to negative. Something has been discovered. The story has spun in a new direction.
6. Connection to Story Objective
Every scene must be connected to the BIG goal of the story, the main character is taking small actions to reach that big goal. If it isn’t obviously connected to this big plot, it won’t make sense. Your reader won’t know why the heck they’re reading the scene. Which brings us to …
7. Logic & Necessity
Every scene must be necessary. It must be able to be linked with the previous scene. “Because that happened in the previous scene, THIS must happen in this scene.”
So! To see how that all works, let’s break down a scene from Tangled. (Because I used it in the last post to map out how a premise works, and my little writer heart can’t resist symmetry.)
Rapunzel’s Goal: Rise up against her mother – finally.
Gothel’s Goal: Regain control.
Escalating Conflict: They’re fighting over who controls Rapunzel, and this battle causes them to go from “mother and daughter” to “enemies”. The conflict builds nicely in this scene, causing the story turn.
Connection to Story Objective: Throughout the movie, the big thing Rapunzel wants is freedom, she wants her life to begin, she wants to have a new dream. This is the moment she figures out how to do that; it’s not escaping the tower, it’s escaping Gothel’s control over her.
So! Here’s the scene.
“Rapunzel? Rapunzel, what’s going on up there?”
Ignores her. Still processing the tremendous implications of this revelation.
“Are you alright?"
"I’m the lost princess.” (Dumbfounded. Almost whispering it to herself.)
“Oh, please speak up Rapunzel! You know how I hate the mumbling.” (Bullying.)
“I am the lost princess! Aren’t I?” (Fighting back. She will not be bullied anymore.)
Gothel stares, stunned. She’s rendered temporarily speechless, because her secret’s been revealed finally, and her victim is actually fighting against her.
“Did I mumble, Mother? Or should I even call you that?” (Accusing. Drawing herself up taller. Looking down on Gothel and glaring. She’s seeing her clearly for the first time in her life.)
After a pause, thinking up a tactic. “Oh, Rapunzel, do you even hear yourself? How could you ask such a ridiculous question?” (Laughs. Ridicules. Attempts to make her feel childish, dumb, worthy of being mocked. Tactics which have always worked. She even begins to hug her.)
Rapunzel pushes her. “It was you! It was all you!” (Still accusing and angry, but pain is beginning to show. It’s almost like she’s giving her a chance to explain herself.)
“Everything I did was to protect you.” (And Gothel doesn’t say anything redeeming. She’s holier than thou, regal, bestowing kindness on an ungrateful, stupid child. Trying to control through guilt.)
Rapunzel rams her out of the way.
“Rapunzel!” (Shouting. Now trying anger.)
“I’ve spent my entire life hiding from people who would use me for my power …” (Leaves her.)
"Rapunzel!” (Still trying the anger angle.)
“But I should have been hiding from you.” (Throwing the truth at her.)
“Where will you go? He won’t be there for you.” (She’s tried everything else. It’s time to attack her heart.)
“What did you do to him?” (Fear)
“That criminal is to be hanged for his crimes.” (She’s keeping up the disapproving mother act, but striking her right where it will hurt her most.)
“No.” (She’s stopped. Shrinking in on herself. Staring, horrified. And Gothel thinks she’s won.)
“Now, now. It’s alright. Listen to me. All of this is as it should be.” She goes to pat Rapunzel’s head, a gesture symbolic of her superiority, her physical, mental, and emotional control over her victim.
Rapunzel grabs Gothel’s wrist. “No! You were wrong about the world. And you were wrong about me! And I will never let you use my hair again!"
Gothel wrenches free, stumbling backwards in shock and anger, breaking the mirror in the process.
"You want me to be the bad guy? Fine. Now I’m the bad guy.” (Well, now emotional control is over. It’s time to start stabbing Rapunzel’s boyfriend.)
This action has no reaction, interestingly. It leaves us hanging, a cliffhanger created with only beats.
Closing Charge: Negative. She’s now a full-fledged villain, the motherly persona shed, and she’s determined to get what she wants whatever the cost.
Turn: It changed from positive to negative, and now we’ve got a Flynn-stabbing witch to deal with.
Revelation: She’s always been evil. She has always been the bad guy. The motherly act was just that, an act.
Logic & Necessity: This scene fits with the previous scene, and the one that follows.
Though I’ve seen these concepts in many books, the place I first learned about it (and the best resource for scene design in my opinion) is the book Story by Robert McKee. It’s helped me countless times, is one of my favorite books on storytelling, and I highly recommend it if you write anything.
I realize that these definitions were a little vague, so I’ll be explaining things more thoroughly in subsequent posts.
“My cousin Helen, who is in her 90s now, was in the Warsaw ghetto during World War II. She and a bunch of the girls in the ghetto had to do sewing each day. And if you were found with a book, it was an automatic death penalty. She had gotten hold of a copy of ‘Gone With the Wind’, and she would take three or four hours out of her sleeping time each night to read. And then, during the hour or so when they were sewing the next day, she would tell them all the story. These girls were risking certain death for a story. And when she told me that story herself, it actually made what I do feel more important. Because giving people stories is not a luxury. It’s actually one of the things that you live and die for.” –Neil Gaiman
We all have a thirst for wonder. It’s a deeply human quality. Science and religion are both bound up with it. What I’m saying is, you don’t have to make stories up, you don’t have to exaggerate. There’s wonder and awe enough in the real world. Nature’s a lot better at inventing wonders than we are.