Archive for the ‘Discussion’ Category

WriYe and Nano

Hey, so I realized that I hadn’t done the WriYe blog prompt for the month. And the month ends tomorrow.

(How goes my revision, you might ask. Well, I got to the chapter in the character book that talked about character arcs, and I was like, YES, give me tips on how to make a character arc, I need ideas for this so I can fix Lana’s arc, but it didn’t. It was like, here’s how you check your arc to make sure you’re not missing anything. I did eventually sit down and pull out a character arc, which is a huge step, but the book wasn’t as much help as I needed, and this was the area I really wanted help with. Alas.)

Anyway, prompt: Your thoughts on NaNoWriMo.

Being November, of course, it always comes back to NaNoWriMo.

(Funnily enough, WriYe, when I first joined it, was NaNoWriYe, and was a direct spinoff.)

I have been doing Nano forever. I’m sure I’ve told you guys this. I seriously considered doing it in 2002 (it started in 1999) and ended up not doing it as I was double majoring in two engineering degrees at the time and figured that was too much all at once, and 2003 was going to go the same way, except I woke up on Nov 3 with a fully-formed plot and gave into the urge.

2003 Nano was a very different place than modern Nano. I think there were only 5000 of us doing it. You could actually keep up with the entirety of the message boards.

I did not win Nano in 2003. I got, oh, 29K? I also got a concussion and the death flu. And that story has never been touched again.

I did and won Nano 2004-2011. In that time I wrote Book 1 (2004, 2005, 2009, 2010), Broken Mirrors (2006), What Lurks Beneath the Bleachers (2007), Shards (2008), and Book 2 (2011). (Book 1 lurks everywhere. Still. Continuously.)

Then the bigger, mobile one arrived, and I took a break.

2014 I won again with the Space Dinosaurs story, and then the smaller, mobile one showed up, and I didn’t come back until 2019, where I won with World’s Edge, and in 2020 I wrote my first ever complete draft with my cozy mystery.

Last year I only got 31K on Hallowed Hill, and yet here we are a year later, with it published and everything.

Nano was a huge deal to me when I was first getting started with writing. I mean, I’d always told stories, as long as I could remember, in various forms, but I didn’t often finish stories. I had (maybe still do, somewhere) a folder in high school where I’d put all my stories, and it was dozens of story starts–a few pages, maybe a chapter or two–but they never went anywhere. I never finished anything. I never even got more than a thousand words or so.

That first Nano, in 2003, showed me that I was capable of writing more. And when I got the initial draft of Book 1 done in 2005, that was huge. I had written a novel. Yes, it was terrible, but it was done.

And that is the magic of Nano–the ability to show you that you are capable of more than you think you are. And when I was first starting out, I needed that.

In 2006 I started writing year-round. I joined a number of writing groups, including WriYe, and I began to expand as a writer.

But now that I am a more experienced writer–Nano doesn’t really work for me anymore. I know I can write 50000 words in a month, but sometimes that’s not the right choice. Sometimes I need to focus on revising what I’ve already written instead of churning out more words. And Nano itself has changed. There’s so many people that it’s easy to feel lost, and not make the connections that used to be easy.

I will always remember Nano fondly. I lived in the Bay Area in the mid-2000s, and I got to meet Chris Baty (the founder) on several occasions, and he even remembered my name most of the time. I think I’m in some promotional video in there somewhere. And on one memorial occasion, I went to Nano HQ to help them box up and mail out merch that people had ordered.

(I’m sure they don’t do that themselves anymore.)

I love Nano, but I’m not in love with Nano, you know?

I think it’s a great program, and I hope many more people find it and get what they need out of it. It’s just not what I need anymore.

Thoughts on Nano, squiders? Thoughts on the impending avalanche that is Christmas? Hell, thoughts on character arcs?

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An Update, Thanksgiving, and a Landsquid (Walk Into a Bar…)

Sorry, it started to feel like a joke setup.

How goes the revision, you ask? Well, I have made it further in the character book/exercises, which continue to be a mix of helpful and not helpful, but not as much as I would have hoped. Having the small, mobile ones around has been even less productive than hoped for. We managed half an hour at the coffee shop on Monday and have not managed ANY sewing, so that’s about that.

Also I slipped a disc in my back. Did I tell you guys this? I don’t think so, because it happened midday on Thursday and I think I blogged beforehand. It hurts SO MUCH. And what hurts the most is, inconveniently, sitting.

I can’t sit anywhere to save my life. What do I need to be able to do to write, sew, read, etc.? Sit. Sigh.

And, of course, the rest of the week is essentially useless for work purposes. We host Thanksgiving every year, which I think I’ve told you guys before, plus my mom is coming down this afternoon and staying through probably midday on Friday. And then, this weekend, it’s full speed ahead on Christmas, oh no.

Oh well. It is what it is. My chiropractor is having me come in a few times a week to go on the decompression table, which, as far as I can tell, is a modern version of the rack. In theory, this will create a vacuum that will suck the disc back where it’s supposed to go, but I’ve done it twice so far and continue to be in pain. My spouse would like me to go to an orthopedic surgeon, but back surgery seems like a very major step.

Sigh. Anyway.

I drew you guys a landsquid! Been awhile, so I figured I should.

I hope everyone in the US has a survivable Thanksgiving, and I will see you next week for inevitable holiday panic and whatever else is happening.

(Also, any thoughts on decompression tables vs orthopedic surgeons?)

In the Depths of Character Exercises

Where did I leave you, squiders, before I forgot Tuesday existed? Oh, right. With the grand plans that I was going to have an updated revision outline and be ready to dig into actual revision.

Well, we haven’t gotten there. But there are definitely ideas swimming around, on that front.

When I found the notes for the revision that I did before Hallowed Hill took priority, I also found some character notes I’d started.

You see, back in, uh, 2017, I think, my sister and I went to the Pikes Peak Writers’ Conference. Which was a bit of a mess emotionally, for me, but I went to some good panels and reconnected with other writers I knew, and so forth and so on.

One of the best panels I went to was run by a writing acquaintance of mine, Stant Litore. I don’t remember what it was about (though, hold on, I’ll check the archives here…) Aha. I did a panel by panel breakdown, good job me. The panel Stant did was called Bringing Characters to Life on the Page. Anyway, long story short (too late), I was so impressed by the panel I went and bought his book on the subject, Write Characters Your Readers Won’t Forget.

This is a short book full of character exercises and, at some point between May of 2017 and whenever I started poking at Book 1 again, I did the first couple of exercises with both Dan and Lana and then gave up on the whole thing.

(I am not and have never been great with writing exercises, which is probably a failing of mine.)

Anyway, since they were literally on the page before my revision notes, I was reminded that I own this book and, since a lot of the beta feedback I got was specifically about Lana (we talked about that two weeks ago), I thought, hey, I should run through the book and do the exercises and focus specifically on Lana and see if I can fix the whole thing that way.

Except, of course, this is taking a while. I’m on exercise 11? of 40. The last few exercises have been on character work in general instead of character work in specific, which is less helpful, so I may jump ahead to save time. Characterization is not a weakness of mine, so I’m finding this section a bit tedious.

Still, it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of things.

Anyway, that’s what I’m up to. Maybe next week we’ll be outlining, but who knows with the turkey holiday (I must procure a turkey) coming up and the small, mobile ones being out of school. Monday, at least, I’m thinking of proclaiming Sewing Day, where the smaller, mobile one and I will finish the Loch Ness Monster stuffies we started over the summer, I will finish my mending, and the bigger, mobile one can work on the cloak he so desperately wants (we bought the supplies for it a few weeks ago).

Thoughts on character exercises, squiders? Any you’ve found especially helpful?

The Plan for November (and the Revision)

Happy November, squiders! Or IS IT. (I don’t know. Just being dramatic.)

I went to the Nano kick-off party, as I said I might, and I got three years worth of stickers, talked to some lovely people, was a unicorn, and made myself sick by drinking coffee after 10 pm. I had thought I’d leave right at midnight, since I’m not actually writing, but no one else did and then I felt weird, so I hung out for an hour reading back over Book 1, and then I came home and couldn’t sleep (probably because of said coffee. I’d say I’d learned a lesson, but I so rarely try to drink coffee after 10 pm that I doubt it’ll stick).

It took me a few days to get all the way through the current draft (which sits at 116K words), but I am done now and ready to move forward.

My general plan goes something like this:

  • Read through story (done!)
  • Go through beta comments
  • Make revision plan
  • Do revision

I got through the chapter one beta comments and part of chapter two before I had to switch to Hallowed Hill, but I’m going to go back through them.

(As a side note, it amuses me that HH went from premise in late August 2021 to published in Oct 2022, where as I originally said I was going to write this trilogy in 1998, wrote the first draft of Book 1 in 2004/2005, and continue to still be having to poke at it, all these years later. Arguably it could be said that this is because I have improved as a writer over the past twenty years, though also arguably, a 50K Gothic horror novella is not as complex as a currently 300K+ high fantasy trilogy with many many characters.)

I did see issues, though, on my readthrough. That’s to be expected, or else I would not be revising it yet again.

There’s a fairly major plot point that the first step of is missing (probably got lost in the last revision). Weird vestiges of things I took out. A surprising amount of typos, even for me. And, of course, the disjointedness of the first part of the book and so forth.

When I ran the beginning of the book through the critique marathon, I did ask if people had suggestions on how to fix the disjointedness, and one of the suggestions they made was that one of the two viewpoint characters doesn’t have much internal conflict, so her chapters feel lacking, while that wasn’t the issue with the other viewpoint character.

One of the weird things about working on a story for so long is that things get lost. Things change. And some things get worse when you try and fix other things.

I was 14 when I created these characters. (Said characters were also 14 at that point, though they are not any longer.) I decided I was going to write the Trilogy because I spent a HUGE amount of time making up backstory for a character I was going to play in a Star Trek roleplaying sim. And then the ship only ran for a year and a half, and I was like, well, I put all this work in, and this is a really good story, so instead of, you know, moving the character to a different ship and continuing to play her, I was like, “The only solution here is to write an Epic Fantasy Trilogy and move everything out of the Star Trek universe since I can’t publish original stories there.”

As you do.

There are two viewpoint characters, Lana and Dan. Dan started off as an antagonist–I think he may have been supposed to be the main antagonist at one point–so it’s kind of weird that I included his viewpoint at the beginning anyway, in retrospect. As the story has evolved over the decades, he’s become an equal protagonist to Lana, so I’ve spent a ton of time working on him. Giving him an internal arc, making sure his actions–even the questionable ones–have forgivable motivation behind them, making him a complex character with flaws and strengths and goals.

And Lana, I just…didn’t.

To be fair, Lana has changed since the beginning draft too. (One beta, after the first draft, stated that she wanted to punch Lana in the face.) She’s less stuck-up, less braggy. As you can imagine comes from a character that a 14-year-old made to play herself, she had some Mary Sue-ish qualities. But I haven’t done very much character work on her because, once the Mary Sue issues were resolved (fairly easy, done by draft 1.5, if I recall), she was fine. Benign. Maybe even a bit bland.

But a bit bland isn’t going to cut it, not anymore. And worse, compared to Dan, she comes off as boring.

It was a slog to fix Dan, I’m not going to lie. But I’m really happy with him, in this most recent draft. He’s memorable, he’s sympathetic. No one who has read the most recent draft has suggested killing him off to put him out of everybody else’s misery.

(There’s still some work I’ve got to do, to still make him sympathetic for Book 2, but that is a problem for future!Kit.)

Lana should–knock on wood–be an easier fix. It’s really just a problem in the beginning, before she understands what’s happening in the plot. And she’s not moving from being an antagonist to a protagonist/love interest, because she’s always been that.

I’m hoping, as I go through the beta comments, an easy and appropriate fix will present itself. Otherwise, I have some vague ideas that I could poke out (though perhaps the most logical has its own issues, because it’s similar to some of Dan’s issues and I don’t want the repetition).

Wish me luck, squiders.

(Oh, and if anyone knows if there’s a way to change goals on the Nano site from word count to literally anything else, let me know. I put in a revision goal and wanted to do time, but couldn’t figure out how, so now apparently my goal for the month is 1500 words instead of minutes. Whee.)

(Also, they email me like every day to be like “Start Your Nano Project!” which is not going to happen, because if you select Nano it won’t let you change off the 50000 word goal.)

MileHiCon Aftermath and a Look at November

Oof, sorry for going all radio silence all week, squiders. Everything is fine! Except I’m avoiding editing my SkillShare class, not sure why. I think it’s because I feel like I need it to be quiet and I keep getting distracted by other things. Who knows.

MileHiCon went well! I got less things done around my panels and stuff than normal, which I think is because I had more panels, and also because I didn’t get to doing my research for the panels before the con. They moved Fall Break on us and so I had the small, mobile ones all week, so that was a bit distracting.

(Also, apparently I’m out of copies of Hidden Worlds. I didn’t think to check the stock on the older books before the con, so that’s on me.)

Basically all I got done was some pages in my sketch travel journal about our Scotland trip. (Shhh, pay no attention to the fact that it’s been almost five months since we got back from Scotland) and the panel research that I should have done earlier.

Oh well. It’s fine. Always good to see everyone and make new connections, and I sold a good number of books too.

The panels were kind of a mixed bag. The Night Vale panel was fun–I love Night Vale–but it wasn’t reader’s theater so much as round robin reading, where we all sat in a circle and read for a bit before passing it on to the next person. Didn’t seem to be any reason to have panelists, honestly. I’ve never been to this particular panel before because it’s at 10 pm and normally I’m out of the Con by 8 or 9 at the latest (if I’ve stayed for the costume contest and literacy auction), and, to be honest, it felt very late to me and I don’t know that I would do again in the future.

The Flash Fiction Chopped panel was the best of the bunch. It was a flash fiction writing contest set up somewhat like the Chopped cooking show. So each round the audience gave us a character, a setting, and a conflict, and then we got a few minutes to write based off of those prompts. Each round someone was cut, based on audience vote. There were four of us, and, hey, I won! One of the other panelists had won a Hugo, even. Now, I realize that this is completely arbitrary, and that in this particular case with these particular prompts I was able to write a better story than the others, and in other circumstances someone else probably would have won, but it was a big boost to my confidence and now I can say I beat a Hugo Award-winning author in a writing contest.

The Seelie, Unseelie, and Beyond panel was fae-focused, as expected, but it’s good that I looked at stuff beforehand, because there was also an aspect where we were supposed to bring and read from a fae-related story. Now, I trolled through every story I’ve ever had published (surprisingly a lot) and I’ve never had an explicit faerie story published, partially because, well, I don’t really write them. There was, of course, the Changeling novel I spent most of 2020 on before giving up on it, but that had many issues (not least being that I was having issues getting the fae elements to be as alien as I wanted them to be), so that wasn’t going to work. I ended up doing To the Waters and the Wild (currently available in The Best of Turtleduck Press, Vol 1) which hints at fae and the Otherworld without being explicit about it. And the rest of the panel went fine, because I do actually know quite a bit about fae nonetheless. It felt all awkward though, because I sat next to Carol Berg and had a terrible bout of imposter syndrome (even though I’ve known Carol for years and she is very nice), so that was fun.

(Normally you can’t ever get on panels that ask for panelists to read their stories, because everyone wants to be on them, so I’m not really sure how I landed this. Maybe con staff just likes me.)

Beyond the 3 Laws of Robotics went, well, not great. Robotics is not my forte, and I don’t even use them in stories that much when I’m doing scifi, though I have read a lot of Asimov’s robotics stuff. And I did do a fair amount of research, about why the 3 Laws aren’t actually useful for programming, and alternatives that have been put forward instead, and some research on AIs and AI laws that have been passed, but I’ll admit it was pretty top level stuff, and I was sitting next to a guy who actively works in robotics and specializing in general AI. I always feel silly when I’m on a tech panel that I don’t really understand, because I’m invariably the only woman and 15-20 years younger than the other panelists.

(Con staff knows I used to be an aerospace engineer, so I feel like sometimes they just use me as filler on tech panels that they didn’t get enough interest on.)

All in all, though, a good experience. The larger, mobile one may actually build a Critter for the Critter Crunch for next year. We shall see.

Now, of course, we’re a few days out from November (and Halloween–I’m going to be a unicorn, one of those nice, warm fuzzy pajama type costumes) and we must, as always, acknowledge the omnipresent looming of NaNoWriMo.

Now, as perhaps you can guess due to the lack of posts on the subject, I’m not going to be participating this year. Well, I am, and I’m not.

Hallowed Hill has taken a lot of my time this past year–I outlined it in August, wrote it November through February, edited it in May and July, and spent August through now on publication and marketing. One one hand, yay, I got a book out in about a year! On the other hand, I’m a bit tired. And definitely not ready to start something new, not when I’ve got four books that need to be revised.

So I’m going to work on my Book 1 revision during November. I actually think this is going to go really well. It gives me an excuse to go to write-ins, which I’ve desperately missed the last few years. And if I set myself some sort of goal (is 50 hours too much? Probably. Maybe 25 hours), even if I don’t reach it, it hopefully gives me the dedication I need to make some real progress, or maybe even finish it up.

So that’s my plan. A little late in the year to really be digging into the revision, but oh well.

How are you doing, squiders? Thoughts about November?

WriYe and Horror

Catching up on my WriYe blog circle prompts, plus it’s an easy blog topic in the midst of convention planning, haha.

(Trying to figure out my last outfit for the con. Do I want something that says “horror writer” to go along with Hallowed Hill? Do I want to look professional? Do I want to look eclectic and artistic? Do I want to just dress like myself? Should I wear unicorn pajamas? Options abound.)

Here’s October’s prompt: Your thoughts on horror/gore/scary stories?

In general I am pro-horror, which comes as no surprise. I love ghosts especially, and am less enamored of other paranormal creatures such as werewolves, vampires, and zombies. I don’t read or watch a lot of those.

I’d say ghosts first–and ghosts are a major draw to a story for me–and eldritch horrors second, or really any story where you’re never really sure what it is that’s out there, if anything. And ghost-adjacent things are also good.

I am also fond of Gothic literature, though I do prefer there to be actual paranormal aspects, or at least a really juicy mystery or family secret. (One that’s not just dead children buried on the premises. God. I am so sick of dead children.)

I love scary stories, where the scares come from the atmosphere, or the unknowing, or the mystery. Which is probably why I like ghost stories so much, especially ones where it’s the little things you really have to look for.

I am not a gore person. If a game or a book or a movie relies mostly on gore and violence, count me out. I don’t need that in my life.

(With books I’m a little more flexible, because I can skim through violence or gore if necessary if the story is worth it otherwise. Though I have found that if the story feels like it needs quite so much gore and/or violence, it doesn’t necessary have the legs to stand up otherwise.)

I mostly read or listen to scary stories (through podcasts or YouTube videos) and don’t really watch a lot of horror movies or television shows. I don’t necessarily scare very easily, but I do have an overactive imagination, and even visuals that weren’t especially scary in the moment tend to pop up at inconvenient times (usually the middle of the night).

(When I saw the Ring in college, I slept with the television on for three nights straight, because if the TV was already on it couldn’t turn itself on. Though I either saw or hallucinated a really disturbing episode of the Flintstones one night, so that’s a thing. And when I saw The Witches when I was six, I thought a witch was living under my bed for about six months, despite that not being an aspect of the movie at all.)

What are your thoughts on horror and scary stories, squiders? What’s your favorite scary movie? (I’m rather partial to The Village, which is not technically horror, I don’t think, and also has a very predictable twist.) Favorite ghost story? Especially share your ghost stories.

WriYe and Writing Courses

Hey, guess what I forgot to do in September?

Here’s the prompt from WriYe: Share your favorite books, courses, or websites you like to visit to grow your writing!

I’m firmly of the belief that there’s always more to learn about just about anything, and so I do periodically take classes, go to webinars, and read books about writing. Sometimes these books are specific to a genre or an area of writing, and sometimes they’re not.

I have found, though, that a lot of the stuff goes over the same ground, most of which is not helpful at this point (because I already know it). So something does need to be a little more unique these days.

ANYWAY though.

One of my very favorite writing books is Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. Pacing was long an issue for me, with many very badly jacked up first drafts (and some second drafts) in my past. This is the book that fixed all that for me.

Do you know how many pacing issues I had in my first draft of Hallowed Hill? NONE. This is hugely different than when I had to completely reconstruct the pacing on Shards to make the story make any sort of logical sense. I am cured, and this book is the cause.

(Seriously, this is the only note I got from the editor about my pacing for HH: “The pacing is good throughout, with a nice balance of Martie in problem-solving mode, moments of terror and despair, and enough support from expected and unexpected sources to keep her going.”)

The other thing that was very influential on me was Holly Lisle’s How to Revise Your Novel class. This taught me how to effectively revise, and it’s done in such a way that the steps are fairly easy to copy and use yourself, and I have used this on every book since I went through the class. (Including Hallowed Hill!) I have modified the procedure a bit, but this is a wonderful class if you’re having issues figuring out how to edit your own stuff.

(Holly also has a free class, How to Write Flash Fiction, which is also quite useful and has actually gotten me a number of sales on my flash fiction.)

There are a ton of other resources out there–so many great ones, really. It’s overwhelming, and you can (and I have) spent a ton of time (perhaps too much time) looking at stuff. You have to remember to balance your learning with your doing.

Oh, all right, one more. My favorite writing website is Fiction University. Janice Hardy runs this site (and also has a number of How To writing books and workbooks) and it’s been a go-to of mine for years. I don’t read every post, but there’s a lot of good stuff in there.

All right, well, those are my favorites! Any thoughts? What has worked best for you?

When It Rains, It Pours

Squiders, Hallowed Hill is out! It looks beautiful and I’m really proud of it.

And I got all my marketing work done–all the reviewers emailed, copies sent out to those who requested it, promos set up on subsequent days to maximize release week pricing and whatnot, etc.

And…I’ve run into technical issues.

The paperback version on Amazon got stuck in some sort of publishing limbo. It’s supposed to go live in three days or less, but it was stuck on “Publishing” (so past being reviewed, in theory just a short status while the book went live on the website) for over two days. Which put the paperback into some sort of weird pre-order limbo, where people could order the book, but they never got any sort of delivery date or anything like that.

It took Amazon over 24 hours to figure out why the paperback had gotten stuck and to make it go live, and people I know who had ordered the paperback in the weird limbo phase are telling me, as of a few hours ago, that they’ve finally got delivery dates and all that jazz.

Now, though, sales aren’t showing up in my reports. I know of at least a couple of people who’ve bought the paperback, and I have talked to Amazon about it, but basically they’re not worried about the sales missing yet, and I’ve been so frustrated and worn out from trying to deal with the technical issues that I don’t have the energy to push anything right now.

But, it’s like–I put all that work into the marketing, and the promos, and the timing, and everything, and to have it all go sideways because of random technical issues is so frustrating. Like, why did I bother? Maybe the solution, in the future, is to get the book all the way published, and THEN run the promotions.

Or, I don’t know, turn to octopus husbandry and teach the octopuses how to conduct bank heists.

Anyway, the smaller, mobile one and I made chocolate zucchini bread last night, and it’s really good.

Now that Hallowed Hill is out and is no longer consuming 100% of my attention (aside from technical issues and frustrations), I can go back to other projects. It will be nice to do something else for a bit. But I am running into issues with too many choices–where I can’t decide what to do next.

I saw an add for an app where you put everything that you need to do into it, and then it prioritizes stuff for you. Might look more into that.

Anyway, I should be back to my normal posting schedule. How have you been?

Master Plot Series: Other Plot Archetypes

Well, squiders, we’ve reached the end of our summer series. We’ve looked at SO MANY plot archetypes. 7 basic plots, 20 master plots, whatever the 36 plot list was called.

So, we’ve done them all, right?

You would be WRONG.

We’ve mentioned this before, but the whole plot archetype thing is really subjective, and where people draw the differences varies wildly. The three sets we went through are the most popular delineations, but they’re far from being the only ones.

So, to finish up our summer series, I thought I’d give you a quick look at some of the other plot archetype lists.

The Hero’s Journey

Perhaps the most classic of all plot archetypes is the Hero’s Journey, which was created by Joseph Campbell. There are 12 stages:

1. The Ordinary World

2. The Call to Adventure

3. Refusal of the Call

4. Meeting the Mentor

5. Crossing the Threshold

6. Tests, Allies, Enemies

7. Approach to the Inmost Cave

8. The Ordeal

9. Reward (Seizing the Sword)

10. The Road Back

11. Resurrection

12. Return with the Elixir

Kurt Vonnegut’s 6 Archetypes

Vonnegut’s archetypes are based on the main character’s arc through each story.

1. Rise, or “Rags to Riches

2. Fall, or “Riches to Rags”

3. Fall Then Rise, or “Man in a Hole”

4. Rise Then Fall, or “Icarus”

5. Rise Then Fall Then Rise, or “Cinderella”

6. Fall Then Rise Then Fall, or “Oedipus”

The Aarne-Thompson-Uther Index

This is a classification system that was developed for European folklore, and divides those stories up into seven categories with subcategories.

1. Animal Tales

Example subcategories:

  • Wild Animals
  • The Clever Fox (And Other Animals)
  • Wild Animals and Domestic Animals
  • Wild Animals and Humans
  • Domestic Animals

2. Tales of Magic

Example subcategories:

  • Supernatural Adversaries
  • Supernatural or Enchanted Relative
  • Supernatural Tasks
  • Supernatural Helpers
  • Magic Objects
  • Supernatural Power or Knowledge

3. Religious Tales

Example subcategories:

  • God Rewards and Punishes
  • The Truth Comes to Light
  • Heaven
  • The Devil

4. Realistic Tales

Example subcategories:

  • The Man Marries the Princess
  • The Woman Marries the Prince
  • Proofs of Fidelity and Innocence
  • Good Precepts
  • Clever Acts and Words
  • Tales of Fate
  • Robbers and Murderers

5. Tales of the Stupid Ogre/Giant/Devil

Example subcategories:

  • Labor Contract
  • Partnership between Man and Ogre
  • Contest between Man and Ogre
  • Ogre Frightened by Man
  • Man Outwits the Devil
  • Souls Saved from the Devil

6. Anecdotes and Jokes

Example subcategories:

  • Stories about a Fool
  • Stories about Married Couples
  • Lucky Accidents
  • Jokes about Clergymen and Religious Figures
  • Anecdotes About Other Groups of People
  • Tall Tales

7. Formula Tales

Example subcategories:

  • Cumulative Tales
  • Chains Based on Numbers/Objects/Animals/Names
  • Chains Involving Death
  • Chains Involving Eating
  • Catch Tales

Man vs. ?

You probably remember these from school. These focus on the challenges that the main character is confronting. (Also, most modern lists have changed this to Person vs. or Character vs.)

  • Character vs. Character(s)
  • Character vs. Society
  • Character vs. Nature
  • Character vs. Technology
  • Character vs. Supernatural
  • Character vs. Fate
  • Character vs. Self

And these are just some of what comes down to many, many different archetype breakdowns.

So, now that we’ve talked about the varying plot archetypes–what good are they? What can we do with them?

Well, a lot of this is all academic. But, arguably, you can use them as a starting point when plotting out your story. If you know what story you want to tell, or if you know the archetype of stories like the story you want to tell, you can use the same beats as the archetype to make sure you’re hitting all the right notes. Or you can use an unexpected archetype if you want to try giving your story more punch.

Or you can try all sorts of things. Or none of them. Do what you want, man.

Well, squiders, that’s that! I’ll have a cover reveal and an excerpt for you from Hallowed Hill really soon, so keep an eye out for that!

Master Plot Series: Rebellion Against the One

Let’s just pretend this was posted last week like it was supposed to be.

So, continuing on our master plot archetype discussion we come to the ninth of Booker’s seven plots, and his final one. (As mentioned in previous weeks, despite the book being called The Seven Basic Plots there are actually nine plots.) The final plot is called Rebellion Against the One.

As the name implies, this plot involves the main character rebelling against a greater power. Almost all dystopias fall into this archetype.

There are two ways this type of story goes. One, the greater power eventually breaks the main character, resulting in the main character being integrated back into the status quo and nothing really changing. Think 1984 or Brazil. Like the Mystery archetype, Booker doesn’t approve of this archetype because there is a disconnect between the internal character arc and the story itself. With this type of story, basically everything the main character does is all for naught, so what’s the point? (Says Booker, not me.) The powerless remain powerless and the “evil” (though not always) system stays in place.

That all being said, there is a second type of Rebellion Against the One stories. The set-up is the same, where the main character is fighting against the powerful system, except now the character is successful, and the society changes through their actions. The Hunger Games, The Matrix, Scott Westerfeld’s Pretties series, etc.

How do you feel about this sort of story, squiders? Again, I do think it’s kind of funny that Booker just ignored two perfectly reasonable archetypes just because he didn’t like them. What’s your favorite dystopia?