Posts Tagged ‘Robert McKee’

The contradition in character

In writing the novel, there is a difference between characterization and character.

Characterization is a list of attributes that describes your character, including how she looks, her skills, her physical capabilities, values and ingrained standards. These traits are the sort of things that we know about our acquaintances, for example. They are important for your story, but they are nonetheless superficial.

They do not define true character.

True character is the essence of the person. Character is the part that remains when the surface is peeled away. Read More…

What’s It All About?

In all of the frenzy to lock down the elements of story craft, we often forget what we’re talking about in the first place. That is, what is your story about? Not plot-wise, but thematically. What is your theme, premise, controlling idea, the core, the heart of your novel?

Don’t know? Can’t state it simply? That’s a prescription for a wandering story, one that can take off in different directions, hijacked by a new idea, a splendid side-canyon where you will stagger around happily until you die of thirst. (Not to scare you or anything.) Read More…

Writing in Scenes, part 2

Last time I talked about writing in scenes: what they are and how they can discipline your writing. But not all scenes are equal.

We all know that some scenes need to carry more weight than others. But which ones? And where do they fit in a novel’s architecture? While there are competing views on what the scaffolding of a novel should be, I’m going to give you the leading one, and the one I use.

There are six crucial scenes that bring your story into focus. Each should be an emotionally charged packet of drama that turns the protagonist’s fortunes (a reversal.) Read More…

Favorite Books on the Craft

No one can teach you to write a really fine novel. I take that back. They can teach it, but your novel may still flounder. It’s all in the gestalt of your finished story. It’s up to you to make the artistic choices.

However,  the tools of the novelist are fairly basic. You should master them, and one way is to read (and take classes on) different approaches. Each teacher will come at things like plot and character and subplots a little differently. But they all talk about the same set of tools. That being the case, it’s time to start building your library!

Here are a few of my faves, sort of in order of complexity:

  • How to Tell a Story, Peter Rubie & Gary Provost
  • How to Write a Damn Good Novel, James N. Frey
  • The Writer’s Journey, Christopher Vogler Read More…

The Emotional Scene Goal

I’m always tempted, before throwing a book at a wall, to figure out what went wrong. Often it’s boredom from tepid scenes. Yet some low-action scenes are fascinating. What’s the disconnect here?

It has to do with tension and desire, and how to get them on the page more effectively.

If we’ve conceived our plot carefully, we have a driven protagonist who’ll engage the story problem in escalating and surprising ways. But let’s look at what the character wants right now. Read More…