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Don’t Bore the Explorer   7 comments

What is story arc to you?

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Discovery Versus Plotting

As a discovery writer, I could probably joke that it is meaningless. I start writing a story and I add events, dialogue and setting until I get to the end. And, actually a lot of my source material for Daermad Cycle (The Willow Branch and Mirklin Wood) and What If Wasn’t (Red Kryptonite Curve and subsequent books) is of that sort of meandering material. Even some of my drafts for Transformation Project (See new release Winter’s Reckoning here) start out just feeling along, looking for what excites my characters to grab the plot and run with it.

No, discovery writers don’t outline — much — but truthfully, I do usually have a plan for where I’m going and I’ll get to it — eventually.

Story arc refers to the structure and shape of a story. Wow, that sounds boring already. I don’t really “do” plots. I’m all about the characters. But, yeah, I’m answering the topic, so ….

What is Story Arc?

The arc consists of the events in your story — the sequences of occurrences — the plot’s peaks, plateaus and valleys that set the pace. Still kind of boring.

“A good arc is vital if you want to engage your readers from start to finish, and deliver a satisfying conclusion.”

I don’t know who wrote that, but I’m thinking they weren’t a discovery writer. I also think whoever wrote that sentence is a bore at dinner parties.

Narrative or story arc describes a story’s full progression. According to several articles I’ve read, every story has a relatively calm beginning, a middle where tension, character conflict, and narrative momentum builds to a peak, and then an end where the conflict is resolved.

Excuse me. I need to yawn.

You already know this classic example of the story arc:

  • Boy meets girl, boy fails girl, boy gets girl again.

Writers vary that simple trope by adding complexity to the basic arc.

  • Boy meets girl, boy fails girl, boy ends up on an island with girl, boy saves girl’s life, boy gets girl again, boy falls into a volcano, and girl saves boy’s life. Happily ever after here we come.

That sounds a lot like plot and it really is related. Plot is comprised of the individual events that make up your story. The story arc is the sequence of those events. But I don’t “do” plot. My stories are character-driven. Or are they?

A Discovery Approach to Plotting

When I let my characters tell me their stories, they don’t always give me the stories in sequential order. Which is handy for me because I can, usually, get away with ordering the story however I want. I often don’t bother with that until the editing starts. I’m a discovery writer. I want to unwrap all my presents before arranging them in my house.

Yes, I know outline writers whose heads are exploding as they read this article.

Go With Your Strengths

Part of the reason I can do this is that my characters dictate the story to me and I let them run with the plot, knowing I’ll have to do a continuity cleanup later. If you’re prepared for it, it’s really not as bad as it sounds and, frankly, I don’t know another way to do it. If I try to boss my characters around, they’re likely to stop talking to me. Their character arc(s) drive the story arc. Whatever inner demons they have are going to cause them to make decisions that will drive the story arc. It’s a symbiotic relationship. While my characters struggle to reach their goals and often fail, the story arc is created. The way my characters meet challenges spawned by the story arc also bend the character arcs.

According to the 19th-century German novelist, Gustav Freytag, story arcs are pyramidal, comprised of five dramatic stages: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. That would be useful if I wrote stories in the same way people build houses — but I don’t.

Exposition – In the Beginning (Maybe)

Take exposition, for example, It’s the defacto introduction to the book — setting the table — introducing the characters, scattering the seeds of conflict, imparting a bit of background knowledge so the reader isn’t totally confused by what happens along the way.

In The Willow Branch, I introduced readers to Prince Maryn and the Kingdom of Celdrya … and then killed him, so everything readers knew about Prince Maryn sort of didn’t matter (actually it does, because his death is a historic pivotal event that effects life a century later), but it was a much stronger beginning than my original one of Padraig riding down out of the mountains, which tells you a great deal about Padraig and the kingdom, but absolutely nothing really happens in that scene. It’s like watching an episode of 30-Something.

In Transformation Project, I started Life As We Knew It (Book 1) with Shane’s gun in his mouth and his finger just outside the trigger guard. Clearly, I don’t know how to start a story. I’m not alone. P.G. Wodehouse gallops right past the exposition. If it’s good enough for him….

I tried to write exposition for the story, but the truth was, the starting point for Transformation Project needed to be the central tension of Shane’s character. He’s suicidal because he suffers from PTSD. Only when things are banging and blowing up can he care about living and so, every time the plot slows down, Shane’s got to fly too close to a flame. Otherwise, that gun is going to go back into his mouth and, well, he’s still capable of pulling the trigger … as readers might find out when they read Winter’s Reckoning. Somebody might be dead at the end of the book. Would I kill Shane? I’m not telling.

Rising Action/Triggering Event

Some people call it the “inciting incident”. I do make use of that. Before Shane can pull the gun’s trigger, something causes him to get distracted from killing himself. Romeo sees Juliet. Prim is selected during the Reaping. Some circumstance triggers a roll of the plot dice and causes a series of escalating events that set the rest of the story into motion.

In Red Kryptonite Curve, Peter’s triggering event is when he meets Cheyenne. Up to that point, he was a free agent. The character could have gone in any direction (and probably not been worth writing about) until he met the girl and then his other issues came into play.

This is the point in the story where character development takes place and relationships between characters deepen. Tension rises and conflict escalates.

Probably THE classic example of this is in Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. Everything that occurs after Hercule Poirot steps foot onto the train — up until the murder of R — constitutes the story’s rising action. It strengthens the suspense on the train and reveals the suspects relationships and motives to the reader. How my characters respond to the changing situations during a period of rising action speaks volumes about them.

Climax

According to more than one article I’ve read on the subject, a good climax will build upon everything earlier — the story lines, motives, character arcs — and package it all together. It’s the moment of truth for the protagonist (the peak of the character arc) and the event to which the plot’s built up (the peak of the arc). When the outer and inner journeys come together and click, you know you’ve got the beginnings of a winning climax.

On the flip side, a bad climax is the easiest way for a reader to feel cheated and chuck your book at the wall. I don’t recommend you do that with your e-reader. They’re frightfully fragile and a lot more expensive than a paperback book. So the climax is one of the most important parts of your story arc. While it’s the beginning that sells this novel, it’s the climax that sells the next novel.  

Discovery writers don’t always follow rules. I’m writing series with an ensemble cast. Sometimes there’s more than one climax and I also throw in a cliffhanger at the end. Not always, though. In Winter’s Reckoning, there’s resolution after a mid-point climax, but I also start a new event right at the end of the book. It’s not a cliffhanger per se, but it should make the readers want to come back for Book 7 (tentatively entitled “A Death in Jericho” which will focus on the familiar characters, but with a murder mystery woven in). Okay, I wanted to write a murder mystery, but I struggle to create characters to fill such a plot-driven book. My solution was to find already existing characters with a dead body. Yeah, I know, I’m breaking the rules again.

Falling Action

You’ve just blown up the dam and fixed all your characters’ problems. Good for you. I write series with ensemble casts, so it is possible I’ve done the same — in one thread — but you can bet there’s a cliffhanger fomenting in at least one thread. Why? Because if I resolved everything, I’d probably not get a lot of reads for the later books.

Yes, I know cliffhangers supposedly cause readers to pull their hair out. That’s not been my experience in analyzing KENP reads. They typically read the entire series and nobody has complained about the cliffhangers yet. I’ve got one guy who is mad at me for making military guys act like military guys and a woman who thinks I defamed God by having non-Christians act like non-Christians. Nobody’s mentioned the cliffhangers as a problem yet.. Enough said about that squirrel.

What goes up must come down. This bridge between the climax and resolution is where you show the reader the fruits of the protagonist’s toils. It’s how they get from the thrills and chills to happily ever after.

Often, my books have several climaxes and a cliffhanger at the end, which means the next book might start with a climax in the first few pages. A Threatening Fragility ends with a cliffhanging climax as Shane is thrown off a bridge with a rope around his neck. That required Day’s End to begin with a climax showing how Shane survived that event. It’s then followed by a period of movement that is no less productive to the plot than the climax, but isn’t as all-consuming. There is at least one other climax later in the book.

If I were writing stand-alones with a traditional climax in the middle or toward the end, I would have couples start pairing off and I would tie up dangling ends. Yes, I know how to do it, I just don’t think it’s always the best way to go. Sometimes it is. In Red Kryptonite Curve, which has a more traditional climax, it’s in the falling action where Peter meets Rick, who will save his life, if he’ll let him in the next book.

Resolution

Well, in stories not written by me, you’ve made it to the denouement. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy are engaged. Bilbo returns to Bag End. Huck Finn settles down with Aunt Sally to be “sivilized.” Ishmael is rescued from the sea. Readers breathe a collective sigh of relief.

The book is wrapping up. In an old-fashioned detective novel, the investigator would gather everyone in a room and reveal whodunnit. All questions would be resolved, all ends wrapped up. The reader would then close the book with peace of mind.

Maybe.

Does Freytag’s Pyramid work with every story?

History is dotted with novels that bucked the trend. On the Road possesses virtually no narrative arc while To Kill a Mockingbird arguably possesses two arcs (one each for Tom Robinson and Boo Radley). The Trial builds up to a complete anti-climax in the place of a climax; meanwhile, Catcher in the Rye casually drops a sentence in the denouement about Holden going to a mental institution before the book ends, abruptly.

Writing is about exploration and discovery and there’s plenty of room within the art to try something different. Disrupting reader expectations can be risky, but isn’t always a bad thing. A strong story arc gives a story shape, but subplots can provide a measure of variety to a story. There’s no reason not to experiment. It’s not like a tattoo. You’re not stuck with it forever. You can always delete attempts at variety.

Discovery Writer Discovers Plotting

I don’t much care about the story arc until I’ve finished the first draft. The draft is the time for my characters to do whatever they want to do. I know the general destination of my characters, but I let them decide how to get there. When I come back to the story, I read it as if I’ve never seen it before and I’m a beta reader trying to make the story better. When I read it yet again, I start to make notes. I know where I want the story to end up. Does the whole of the novel aim in that direction? Why did I send Cai to a culvert in Wichita and then to a concentration camp in Hutchinson? To make him a better person. To help him to understand his brother a bit better. To make him appreciate his wife more. To make his faith real to him. To bring in characters who will be key to resolving a future conflict. They didn’t live in Emmaus and I had to find a way to get them there. Did the events I described in A Threatening Fragility and Day’s End do for Cai what I wanted to accomplish? I had to do some rewriting to make it happen, but how I depicted Cai in Gathering In could not have been possible if he’d not gone through those earlier events.

Someone gave an apt metaphor for understanding the story arc. Think of plot as the disconnected bones of a skeleton. You could arrange them in a myriad of ways, but there’s really only one right way to arrange them. The story arc is the spine of the story. It provides the framework for the plot and prevents it from being a formless blob. Amoebic formations don’t make good stories. Experimenting with the story arc or letting your characters dictate their own actions can be a delightful experience in experimentation … so long as your whole picture aims in a direction that the story needs to go.

Posted August 17, 2020 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Clothes Make the Character   3 comments

How do you decide how to dress your characters?

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Characters are Part of the Setting

Many years ago, a jeweler showed me something interesting. He sprayed a handful of diamonds across a tabletop and asked me what I thought. They weren’t very interesting. Some shimmered a little, but mostly they didn’t seem any more interesting than any other rocks I’d seen recently. Alaska has a lot of cool rocks. Where was the flash, the sparkle, the depth?

He took the smallest, dullest diamond and set it on a square of black velvet, turned out the overhead lights and turned on a lamp right over the table where the square of black velvet rested. There in the middle of it was the uninterested diamond now sparkling as if it was a completely different rock.

What made the difference was the setting? The black velvet and the special light above it.

We authors do a lot of world-building – setting development – spreading the black velvet and adjusting the lighting. The clothes our characters wear are an important part of the setting. Clothes can tell the readers a great deal about the world our characters inhabit or about the characters themselves.

Celtic Fantasy

Daermad Cycle is a high-fantasy set in a medieval world inhabited by the descendants of Celts who were escaping the Romans circa 4th century, as the Roman Empire was collapsing.

How did I choose to dress them? Well, I did some research in the clothes worn by Celts and their descendants. I learned that in regions with heavy Celtic influence, the nobility wear plaids designating their clan particularly as cloaks. I was not making my men wear kilts, but I liked the idea of a lower garment that designed clan, so I gave some thought to how a kilt might become a pair of pants. That became a pair of loose-fitting wool breecs, that are worn by all men in the Celtic society. Nobles wear a plaid that designates their clan and matches their cloaks. Their siarcs (shirts) linen are embroidered in the clan totem. Noblewomen can wear lovely dresses in many colors, often of silk, but their dresses are belted with a kirtle in the clan plaid and the inside of their cloaks are lined with the same plaid.

The ordinary people who work in the noble dun wear wool breecs or aprons in the dominate color of the clan plaid.

Ordinary people who live and work outside of the dun wear wool breecs, dresses and aprons in whatever color they wish.

In the neighboring elven society, the Kin wear a lot of deer skin and the women wear beaded or embroidered dresses. They don’t have a nobility, so people pretty much wear whatever they want to wear, although they tend not to like what the Celts wear because the two don’t get on.

Middle America Apocalypse

I needed to do a lot less research and imagining to dress the people in Emmaus. They live in the United States the day after tomorrow. Masks aside (because the series started pre-CVD19), my people dress pretty much like you’d expect working class Americans to dress — jeans, flannel shirts, maybe some UnderArmour, outerwear. boots. That was easy. I just went on Google Earth and checked out what people were wearing on the streets of Kansas towns. That took five minutes. They dress petty much what Alaskans wear.

Long Island Upscale

My latest series is set in Long Island during normal times. It’s teenagers living on the Gold Coast. I picked a town in the area as my exemplar for Port Mallory. I googled and wandered the streets some. I did some catalog window shopping to understand what kind of clothes teenagers in a wealthy village in Brookhaven New York would wear. I spend more time choosing the clothing of people who think style matters.

Even Simple Stories Need Settings

I occasionally read stories where you have no idea what the characters are wearing and I’ve also read novels where entirely too much attention was spent on describing character ensembles. The extremes bother me. Yes, characters should wear clothing appropriate to the world they live in. If that is never described, I can actually pull up an image of the character naked. On the other hand, after a brief description of what the Aes Sedai or Rand al Thor wore in the Wheel of Time series, I could have happily not returned to the topic and would roll my eyes whenever Robert Jordan would begin some long description AGAIN. I much preferred Brandon Sanderson’s lighter touch.

Still, even simple stories need settings and clothes are one way to define a character. You can learn a great deal about a character’s personality simply by the clothes they choose to wear.

Do You Always Go 55?   18 comments

What generic ‘rules’ did you abide by when you started writing that have gone out the window?

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I’m a Highly Trained Writer, Unlearning the Rules

I’ve been writing almost a half-century now. When I started writing, I was unaware of any rules for writing. It was just something I enjoyed doing. I got good English grades in high school, I earned a BA in journalism, worked as a reporter and later got a Master’s in Journalism. I now know lots of rules for writing.

Do I follow any of them? Sure. But there’s a bunch I no longer find useful, so I don’t. The whole art of writing is to acquire enough skill in the craft to know which rules don’t matter and when to break the rules that do.

Grammar Matters … Mostly

There is a huge difference between writing a news article your editor has allotted 150-350 words to explain a complex issue to the reader and writing a 80,000-word novel. Many of the rules I learned in English classes taught how to use language very precisely, but often at the cost of digestibility. Seriously, never write above your audience’s reading level. Many of the rules I learned in journalism classes were designed to condense what we wrote into easily-digestible, information-dense sentences using words everybody knows. Yeah, college was a fun exercise in shifting my writing style from class to class. I once got a compliment from an English professor that journalism hadn’t ruined by ability to write. Maybe that explains my philosophy of writing novels — there are rules, but nobody should ever be aware of my use of them.

Don’t Sweat Split Infinitives

Most non-writers wouldn’t recognize a split infinitive if it sat down on their lap and screamed “Here I am”?

The rule against splitting infinitives says nothing must come between a to and its verb. Sorry, Gene Roddenberry, but it’s incorrect “to boldly go”. You need to rewrite that iconic line as “to go boldly” or “boldly to go”. Play the substitution game and you quickly realize how silly that rule is. The phrase sounds best the way the Big Bird of the Galaxy used it, In fact, it’s a fairly new rule that never bogged down the classic writers. George Bernard Shaw said, “Every good literary craftsman splits his infinitives when the sense demands it.” So, it’s a rule meant to be broken, because it’s mostly silly and readers won’t notice anyway.

Dangling Prepositions

There’s a rule that says don’t end a sentence with a preposition. What is this rule for? I mean, for what is this rule?

I think I just made my point. The second construction creates a clunky sentence that the reader might need to pause and deconstruct to understand. Pausing readers needing to consult grammar books is bad novelist ju-ju to avoided at all costs.

Ending a sentence with a preposition is completely natural in English and rarely wrong. The rule came about during the 17th century when scholars were deeply immersed in the study of Latin and took to emulating Latin as a model of linguistic purity. Because a preposition can’t be stranded in Latin, some thought that the same should hold for English. Latin differs from English in myriad ways, and to cling to a prohibition that forces you to swap It’s nothing to worry about for It’s nothing about which to worry does nothing for clarity of expression. Even the Oxford Dictionaries agree with me.

But what about sentences like Where’s he at? or Do you want to come with? Should those be considered correct, then? No. Those are examples of non-standard grammar because they’re used in non-standard dialects, not because they end with prepositions. At where is he? does not sound any better, and if the problem with come with is the ending preposition, why doesn’t come along sound just as bad? 

Going Beyond Grammar

Of course, writing novels is about more than grammar. I encountered countless rules for writing novels when I was honing my craft.

Don’t make your opening scene too dark.

You’ll run across this advice in many writers groups and I’ve had beta readers bring it up too. Start the novel with an “establishing shot” — something showing everyday life before the dark events start.

Clearly, I don’t subscribe to that advice as many of my novels start with darkness. I start the entire series of Transformation Project with a scene in which the main character Shane puts a gun in his mouth. In Red Kryptonite Curve, I start in Peter’s dream remembering the sexual abuse he suffered as a child.

Contemporary novels don’t have establishing shots. Readers expect us to start in the middle of things. I establish from that first scene in Transformation Project that death stalks this series and anyone — including the hero — is fair game in the Apocalypse. I’ve had fans say “I really like Shane, I hope you’re not killing him off, but I kind of know you might.” That was after I hung him at the end of A Threatening Fragility. You had to read Day’s End to find out if he lives. In the case of Peter, I want people to know that behind his charming personality and teenage angst lurks secrets that are seeking to kill him. The book and the series it’s spawned are all about how he faces those demons.

The “establishing shots” theory of novel-writing probably comes from a misunderstanding of the “hero’s journey.” The “hero’s journey”, based on the teachings of Joseph Campbell, says a story must begin with the hero in his normal life at home, before the “call to adventure,” like Dorothy in Kansas before the tornado hits. Remember the old bat on the bicycle and the storm brewing on the horizon? The Wizard of Oz‘s opening scenes were bucolic, but the snake was visible on the tree.

Home for Shane, a mercenary, wasn’t sunny and pastoral. Yeah, way back in his history there was Kansas and his family, but in his contemporary life, he’s got demons crawling through his brain. And, poor Peter, his mother was always a part of his life.

Readers typically want action and emotion right away and if you don’t provide it to them, they’ll put your book back on the shelf and go to another one that fulfills their desires.

Nix the Contemporary References to Avoid Dating

Yes, you might risk dating your novel with a contemporary reference — or you might create a classic. Will anyone still be reading your novel in 10 years? Life As We Knew It will be five years old this fall and 2020 has been it’s best years in sales. Of course, I’m writing an apocalyptic series and each new book that comes out acts to draw people to read the whole series, but truthfully, most books read today won’t still be actively read 10 years from now, so if you put a pop-culture reference in it, it won’t matter.

I’m a fan of Alex Finn and especially like her Breathing Underwater. She wrote that in the 1990s, back when cell phones were brand-new, Facebook wasn’t a thing yet, and smart phones had yet to be invented. I have an early printing and, while I recognize some of the references as dated, I don’t care. I made both my kids read the book (which is about dating violence) when they were teenagers and neither said “But, Mom, this is so old-fashioned.” A great book can overcome being dated.

I recently bought a copy through Kindle and noticed when I reread it that some attempt was made to update some of the technology in the book. Some of the updates were fine and then there was one where the whole impact of the scene was destroyed by Nick calling Caitlyn on his cell rather than a payphone. Of course, good luck finding a payphone in Miami these days, but the smell of the hairspray and his fear of the germs of others was completely lost and the scene fell flat because of it.

Brand names, celebrities, and current events add a sense of authenticity that readers can relate to. Cultural references also pinpoint your story in time. Go ahead and let your protagonist’s grandma go catatonic for three weeks after the 2016 US Presidential election. That will give historical perspective and tell readers a lot about your MC’s grandmother without actually needing an info-dump.

Speaking of which, for my European readers, the title of this article references a now-mostly defunct federal traffic rule — the arbitrary setting of a national speed limit at 55 miles per hour. I bet my middle-aged American readers got the reference immediately and it probably made them smile and told them something of what I was going to say in this article. Contemporary references can be spice in an otherwise bland meal.

Said” is a Perfectly Useful Verb. Don’t Get Creative.

This is a bit of conventional contemporary “rule-making” that I have ignored my entire writing career. In journalism, you’re taught to make every word count and so strong verbs are your friend. In contemporary novelist circles, we’re told we’ve read too many Hardy Boy’s books if we use any verb meaning “to speak” other than “said.”

These “experts” insist “said” is invisible to the reader. Any other dialogue tag draws attention to itself. So, use other tags judiciously, the way you do with exclamation marks, but if you use them, only use “said.”.

Point of fact, you want to use dialogue tags sparingly, and only when needed for clarity. You can tell the reader who is speaking by connecting action to the dialogue. But occasionally, the sound of a character’s voice matters, so don’t just waste the opportunity with a generic “said”. On the other hand, don’t just use “growled” or “exclaimed” because you can. I stop and think about the impact of a verb before I use it.

Never Use Sentence Fragments – Even in Dialogue

A beta reader who claimed to be a school teacher lectured me on this once. His whole critique of my novel — which was the 4th in the series, mind you — had to do with sentence fragments, run-on sentences, and colloquialisms … in dialogue The people in Transformation Project sound a lot like the people from my mother’s hometown in North Dakota and the Midwesterners who immigrated to Alaska. In other words, they sound authentic. Characters speaking in complete sentences would sound fake. Even people in New England don’t sound like that.

When you write a novel, your aim should be to present realistic characters, not to impress your junior-high Language Arts teacher. Nobody uses perfect grammar when they speak. Not even Ph.Ds. (A third of my church’s membership holds a Master’s or better, and I have now edited about 20 thesis and dissertations – they don’t even use perfect grammar in writing these documents — until I’m done with them.)

The rules for writing fiction are very different from the rules for writing a scholarly essay. If you confuse them, you’re going to end up with a pompous, comical mess nobody will want to read.

Never use the word “was.”

This grows from the very good advice of “don’t use passive voice”, but “was” is not always “passive.” The past tense of the verb “to be” is also used in creating the past progressive tense in English.

Passive: “The book was read by me…” Passive voice tends to sound pretentious and annoying, although sometimes the passive voice is necessary, so don’t try to eliminate it entirely.

Past Progressive: “I was reading the book when some idiot came in and told me the word ‘was’ is taboo for writers.”

If you change the construction to “I read the book” instead of “I was reading the book” you have no sense of the timeline, which would require adding more sentences to fix that problem. That would be dumb.

Yes, doing a search for “was” is a handy tip for self-editing. It helps to weed out passive construction. A “was” search can also pinpoint lazy writing habits like starting descriptive passages with “there was.”

Don’t go overboard though. Some passive construction reduces tension occasionally and prevents the choppy rhythm that sometimes comes with Hemingway-esque all active-voice writing. Used sparingly, it can actually improve the flow of a novel.

All Viewpoint Characters Need Equal Time

When I started writing Red Kryptonite Curve, I tried to follow this rule. I knew there were three perspectives I wanted to tell the sotry from. The problem was, Cheyenne turned out to be shallow. I didn’t enjoy writing her. And as I wrote, I found she mainly thought the same things over and over again – because that’s what shallow people do. When I stood back from the book and looked at it, I didn’t think Cheyenne had anything more to say. Someone suggested I eliminate her point of view, but that didn’t feel right either. Peter and Ben are male friends. They’re not gay lovers. It made no sense for them to take turns telling a story about Peter’s romance with Cheyenne. The story was originally written strictly from Peter’s point of view and I discovered he’s so in denial about his problems that I needed another POV to be the aware one. I needed Ben, but when I wrote his POV, the advice I got was they needed to be lovers. Yeah, no, they don’t. That’s so overdone these days. So I wrote Cheyenne as the third-wheel, but she’s like a small caster compared to their big wheels and I think it works. I plan to do the same thing with 2nd book “Dancing the Centerline”.

Rules are Structure, but Don’t Be Afraid to Play

I kind of view writing rules like I do traffic laws. They help keep the car out of the ditches, but sometimes they can be bent or even broken without consequences and the outcome will be so much better than if I’d stuck to the rules. Sometimes, driving in Alaska, you have to break the traffic laws just to get down the road. Because of permafrost, which renders our roads into asphalt rollercoasters, you probably want to stay below 55 mph, but you might not always want to drive on the right. Sometimes you have to veer to avoid “dips” (a euphemism for a moon crater that has absorbed the lane and will break your axle should you follow the rules). Sometimes in writing, you’re going to end up with a better novel if you aren’t too wedded to “But everybody says.” Everybody can be wrong and you should do you.

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