stories and advice

Building a Revolution

Overthrowing a powerful government in the name of the people is a popular plot.  It certainly has a great appeal.

However, before you get all excited about writing a story where the angered people scramble together an army and launch themselves against the government, you might want to take a step back and figure out how they got there in the first place.  A revolution isn’t built around one big event: there are things that lead up to it, and there are smaller frustrations that may go unnoticed, but because it’s a part of everyday life, it’s a constant reminder.  They might not be the things people point to when identifying what started the revolution, but they certainly kept the wood for the fire warm.

At what point did the government begin to ruffle feathers?
It’s going to start out small.  It will be annoying, but dismissed as bearable.  It may cause a bit of an obstacle, but nothing that people can’t work around.  Perhaps the government won’t let working class or its colonies to use the official currency.  Perhaps items of higher quality were held for only certain people the government deemed worthy. 

When did the government start adding to the little things?
For one reason or another, the government starts putting restrictions or laws on more things. They’re still able to work around them, but people will talk to each other about their frustration over it.  It’s also important to remember that the government will have a reason for it.  Maybe the new law/restriction is more cost effective,  Maybe it’s intended for protection.  Some examples might be that the colonies/citizens are limited to government approved materials.  Or they’re banned from traveling to a certain place, and that place happens to be on the fastest path to another colony/town.

What started sparking outrage?
Perhaps the government overspent on something, or they went to war and are now low on funds, so they introduce a tax on an item that’s considered an everyday luxury.  Or perhaps a ban is introduced and it affects something that everyone normally gets, but not necessarily a need.  There’s still not enough to pick up arms and fight, and the people might at this point lobby with the government to reconsider some of its strategies. 

When did it start picking up speed?
Perhaps the first tax isn’t bringing in enough funds.  Or the government feels the people aren’t paying as much as they should.  So another tax is introduced.  Or perhaps the ban isn’t that effective and so another ban is introduced to keep people from finding loopholes.  Maybe the government has to ban certain imports.  Anger with the government is increasing at this point.  The citizens/colonists may understand why the government is doing it, but they know they’re getting the raw deal.  Attempts to get the government’s attention become more aggressive, but there isn’t harming of other people.

How does the government respond?
So the government responds to the people’s cries of outrage, but not in the way they expected.  Another tax and/or ban is introduced, or even a new law.  Perhaps citizens/colonists are forced to use a material they are opposed to.  Perhaps the government realizes that if it doesn’t do something, it’s going to lose control over its citizens/colonies.  The militia/police force is increased to keep an eye for rebellious acts.  Arrests are made daily, and the people might be released if nothing is found.  Perhaps the government starts forbidding certain things to be said in the media, so people are forced to rely on word of mouth, and must do so carefully because of the increase in arrests.  Perhaps at this time, the idea of revolting is mentioned while others insist on trying to be diplomatic.

When does the physical conflict happen?
Perhaps there was a scuffle with the police force.  Either the citizens/colonists attacked first, or the police/militia acted aggressively.  Perhaps there was a massacre of some kind.  Maybe there were incidents that didn’t result in injury or death, but it came close to it.  Perhaps the government or citizens/colonists made a precautionary move that made the other party highly uncomfortable.  As the incidents, whether of violent or nonviolent nature, increase in number, the intensity also increases.  Influential people of the citizens/colonists begin to suggest a revolution, or to declare independence.  The government begins to realize they’re losing control unless they take more drastic measures.

When does the idea of a revolution actually become a threat?
Revolting or declaring independence becomes something that many people agree with.  The government perhaps realizes this and so starts making laws or regulations to keep it from happening.  Weaponry might become illegal for citizens/colonists so they won’t have anything to fight with if/when a revolution actually happens.  Curfews might be enforced.  Those outspoken about the government might be tailed.  The influential people work hard on a new government or system to replace the oppressive government.  Perhaps they just plan to outright revolt instead of declaring independence.  But either way, the citizens/colonists are only one word from the government away from declaring war.

It may seem like a lot to work on, but there are events leading up to the revolution that will resound with some people more than others.  Or there are events that will become a bitter memory that will help give some depth to each individual character.

Some things to consider when building the revolution:
It is not as black and white as it may seem.  Both sides are going to be guilty of doing something wrong; it’s just going to be more obvious in the government.  There are going to be people among the citizens/colonists who side with government and they’re not necessarily going to be bad guys.  When creating the conflict, keep in mind why people would choose one side over the other.
Stages will overlap.  A revolution isn’t going to be cleanly cut as posted above.  There are several times when a “stage” will mix with another “stage”, while others may blend right into the next one.  Timelining the process and placing each event can be extremely helpful as you try to keep events straight.
The revolters are most likely going to be the underdog.  They may have experienced people on their side, but if the revolution is going to made up of average citizens/colonists, they’re going to be at a disadvantage.  The government is going to be in control of an army and other resources.  The revolters are going to have to work to achieve their goals.

10

I’m starting a monthly feature of 10 special things people have said to me that have really impacted me, whether it’s watching my back and telling me someone reposted my story, asking advice, or just saying some really sweet stuff that makes me love what I do.  I love everyone!

@um-emma80 @thenewtsalamander @officialcaptain-marvel @omgilovenewtscamander @that-nerdy-artist @luni-studies

Descriptive words for book reviews, essays and other things

“I liked it / it was nice”

  • lovely
  • delightful
  • pleasant
  • fair
  • pleasurable
  • approved
  • fine
  • satisfying
  • excellent
  • amazing
  • great
  • pleasing
  • sound
  • rad
  • worthy
  • superb

“It was complex in a good way/ it really grabbed my attention”

  • fascinating
  • intriguing
  • thought provoking
  • captivating
  • alluring
  • stimulating
  • intricate
  • sophisticated
  • labyrinthine
  • baroque

“It was complicated in a negative way / I didn’t quite understand it”

  • troublesome
  • inconvenient
  • difficult
  • vexing
  • tricky
  • puzzling
  • confusing
  • disorganised
  • obscure
  • far-fetched
  • strange

“It wasn’t very interesting / not very exciting”

  • boring
  • tedious
  • dull
  • unpleasant
  • mundane
  • stuffy
  • lifeless
  • repetitive
  • drudging
  • flat
  • tiresome
  • tame
  • depthless

“It made me a bit emotional/gave me the feels”

  • sentimental
  • emotional
  • moving
  • heartwarming
  • tear-jerking
  • affecting
  • heating
  • poignant
  • passionate
  • touching

“I’m not crazy about it / it was okay”

  • okay
  • passable
  • so-so
  • not bad
  • tolerable
  • adequate
  • middling
  • all-right
  • moderately pleasing

“Best thing ever”

  • fantastic
  • exceptional
  • marvelous
  • first-class
  • splendid
  • astounding
  • astonishing
  • extraordinary
  • phenomenal
  • wonderful

comparing things / “It was better than this other thing”

  • superior
  • favourable
  • preferable
  • more advanced
  • of higher rank
  • exceeding
  • distinguished
  • a cut above
  • more desirable
  • more valuable
  • improved
  • higher/better quality
  • more useful
  • surpassing
  • sharpened
  • more sophisticated

“It wasn’t good I didn’t like it”

  • bad
  • disagreeable
  • nasty
  • unrefined
  • horrible
  • unlikeable
  • coarse
  • imprecise
  • vexing
  • problematic
  • unimportant

“It was really bad”

  • terrible
  • repulsive
  • atrocious
  • disturbing
  • disastrous
  • revolting
  • rotten
  • loathsome
  • gruesome
  • appaling
  • abhorrent
  • dreadful
  • horrifying
  • poor
  • offensive
  • dire
  • awful
  • ghastly
The 7 Elements of a SCENE

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?  

4. Beats

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.)

Which scene? The one right after this happens: 

Opening Charge: Positive. She’s realized everything. 

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.

Beat 1

“Rapunzel? Rapunzel, what’s going on up there?”

Ignores her. Still processing the tremendous implications of this revelation. 

Beat 2

“Are you alright?" 

"I’m the lost princess.” (Dumbfounded. Almost whispering it to herself.)


Beat 3

“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.)

Beat 4

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.)

Beat 5

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.)


Beat 6

“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. 

Beat 7

“Rapunzel!” (Shouting. Now trying anger.)

“I’ve spent my entire life hiding from people who would use me for my power …” (Leaves her.)

Beat 8

"Rapunzel!” (Still trying the anger angle.)

“But I should have been hiding from you.” (Throwing the truth at her.)

Beat 9

“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)

Beat 10

“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.)

Beat 11

“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!" 

Beat 12

Gothel wrenches free, stumbling backwards in shock and anger, breaking the mirror in the process. 

Rapunzel walks away. She’s escaped Gothel emotionally now.

Beat 13

"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. 

Modernist manuals of writing often conflate story with conflict. This reductionism reflects a culture that inflates aggression and competition while cultivating ignorance of other behavioral options. No narrative of any complexity can be built on or reduced to a single element. Conflict is one kind of behavior. There are others, equally important in any human life, such as relating, finding, losing, bearing, discovering, parting, changing.

Change is the universal aspect of all these sources of story. Story is something moving, something happening, something or somebody changing.

—  Ursula K. Le Guin
How to Keep a Reader Interested During Slower Parts of the Story

A writing guide requested by galaxys–end

While the main plot is building, as a writer you still must keep the reader interested.

  • Expand your subplots.
  • Consider character relationships. Is your MC fighting with their best friend? Are the siblings having a break through?

  • Consider romantic relationships.

  • When achieving their goal becomes slow, does your character lose faith? Focus? Hope? What is their mental state like?
Does your character have a good support system? Are they lonely? Can your character motivate themselves, even when times get tough?

  • How is your character dealing with what’s going on in their life emotionally?
Are they happy? Grieving? Depressed? How are they coping? Do they have support from those in their life?

  • Is your character physically well?
Stress can have detrimental affects on health. Is your character run down? How is the character’s health in relation to their goal?
  • Consider reworking the plot. If the other aspects of your story can’t uphold a reader’s attention, maybe you should change how the plot works.

Writing things that are self-indulgent is *GOOD* for you. Write self-indulgent stories. Writing stories that are huge and complex and world-shattering is amazing and very fun, but sometimes you just gotta sit there and bang out a trope-riddled mess where you get to kiss a character you find hot. 

things that actually happened in my high school

1. in the middle of am homeroom (so like 9am in the morning) a kid just broke out a pint of ice cream and started eating it. and i guess it wouldnt have been that bad except once people noticed, everyone started whispering and pointing until half the class was surrounding the table literally BEGGING for some. the teacher actually had to stop reading the morning announcements and give a speech on how you shouldn’t give death threats over ice cream.

2. this kid i was sitting next to once went home bc he got a massive headache after staring straight into a lightbulb for 2 minutes bc he “was bored and wanted to see what would happen.” he ended up taking 3 advils after that, got paranoid and made the entire table search “how many pills of advil does it take to overdose” on a school computer.

3.  there was a HUGE ASS fly in the room and the teacher thought itd be a great idea to kill it by throwing a folder 4inches thick with papers in its general direction; it ended up going across the room and hitting a poor, innocent kid in the face so hard that the other kids at the table scrammed and started yelling “EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF”…and when i tell you that this fly was huge,,it was literally so MASSIVE that this one girl almost started crying when it flew near her, someone actually tried throwing a cup of coffee at it, and another person started screaming ZIKA VIRUSSSS and something about how they weren’t vaccinated. and mind you the majority of the students are dressed in fancy attire bc of the national honor society ceremony that was later in the afternoon. in the midst of all this chaos, this one kid stands up, doesnt say anything and literally just ninja slams his bare hand onto the table and kills the fly all in one fluid motion, all without saying a single word. the entire class just broke out in thunderous applause, including the teacher, and then class continued as normal as if the past 10 minutes didn’t even happen

4. during first period a teacher who lost a ton of weight over a 2 year period was giving serious advice about the importance of living a healthy lifestyle while this kid right in front of the teacher’s desk breaks out a FULL mcdonalds breakfast meal and distributes it among the table

5. kids that were in apush and ap spanish held a joint prayer vigil the day before ap exams began, so that ap students could literally hold hands and pray to survive exam season as well as mourn our high grades. everyone who went was required to bring in fake candles and food, while someone else conducted a prayer service. a special invitation was sent using our school emails, you had to rsvp in order to attend, and it was suggested that you wear black. our ap teachers knew about this, and they agreed it was a good idea somehow

Marrying your high school sweetheart is, without a doubt, the most romantic thing ever. However, the journey from high school to married life isn’t as easy as it looks. Especially when you go to different colleges and stay apart for a couple of years. If I was given a dollar for every time someone told me long distance relationships are not worth it, I’d be a billionaire. It’s been almost 3 years into my relationship and trust me, they couldn’t be more wrong. A long distance relationship changed me for the better…

1. You learn to be self sufficient

There will be days when you need a hug and you won’t have your partner there to embrace you. You learn to be stronger and you get better at dealing with your own emotions. Most of all, you learn to be your own hero.

2. It helps you develop trust

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