Seeds of a Story

The Day The World Sneezed

The Day The World SneezedMarch 12, 2020, I closed my laptop and walked across the Neuse River bridge to enjoy my evening walk on the greenway. Midway across the bridge the title for a story came to mind: The Day The World Sneezed. That Thursday, Raleigh and Wake County had begun to discuss imposing restrictions on business. There was talk schools might close the following week. When I got home from my walk I made a fake book cover with the words: “The Day The World Sneezed” at the top and posted it on Facebook. Done with that, I thought.

Friday during my evening walk Elmer showed up. Elmer introduced himself as the main character in “The Day The World Sneezed” and began to explain how the “crud” had disrupted his life. He talked as we walked. If you know a writer you may have witnessed them staring off into space in a daze. Odds are a character in their head is speaking and your writer friend does not want to miss a word. That night I celebrated my birthday with my wife, boys, and granddaughter. There I mentioned Elmer and how he had set out to help others but ended up making a mess of things – for a while, anyway.

Saturday morning, March 14, I began writing. Monday, March 16, our city and county began shutting down. As a writer who lives in a cave with characters no one can see, “shelter-in-place” was God’s gift to me. Finally I had an excuse to avoid all social contact: which meant I had more writing time. On April 5, Elmer finished telling me his story.

Several dear friends have mentioned that it is too soon to tell Elmer’s story: that people are dying (that’s true) and grieving (also true), but Elmer did not seem concerned about any of this when he told me his story.

“The Day The World Sneezed” is a story of hope, helping others, and finding the “light-hearted” moments in the midst of tragedy. If such a story is too soon, I’m sure Elmer will understand. He’s not the sort to force himself upon others. Maybe later, after all this “crud” business is over, you’ll consider listening to Elmer’s story. He really is, a colorful character.

How To Make A Scene

Building Your Novel One Scene at a Time

Scene Progression

State the goal of your Lead at the beginning of each scene. What does she want? What does he need? How does he plan to acquire the thing he wants? What will she give up for the thing she wants? This “want” is your Lead’s stake in the ground.

Promise pain through foreshadowing (tears, heartache, physical discomfort)

Deliver pain through action (show your Lead suffering)

 

Progress from goal to conflict, disaster, character development (how does she grow?)

 

Suspense is anticipation, so announce the reward for your Lead early in the scene

 

Restate your Lead’s goal as necessary (halfway through)

 

 

Never let your Lead relax for too long

 

 

Increase the risk of failure (towards the end of the scene add-to the penalties for failure)

Tension comes from unresolved conflict so leave your character’s world messy

 

Promise the payoff for that scene, then delay the payoff until later in the story.

 

 

Deliver a payoff, but not the thing your Lead sought

 

 

 

A Novel IdeaExcerpted from A Novel Idea.

From the Author

For ten years I’ve sat across the appointment table with authors who pitch me their project. When I ask:

“Who’s your main character?”
“What’s the inciting incident in Act One?”
“What is the main character’s call to action and how do they deny this call?”
I often get blank stares.

I wrote this book so authors could review their project and fix their story: or, in many cases, toss the story and begin a new novel.

I quote from successful authors and screenwriters because these individuals have mastered the craft of writing. There is nothing new in this book that you cannot find in a library full of writing books. I have simply compiled the essential elements of a novel into one book.

I teach from this book at writers conferences. Some authors say it helps them organize their novel. You decide if it helps you.

Creating Compelling Characters

From the book "A Novel Idea"

A Novel Idea - Learn How to Write a Novel in Under 60 MinutesWhat makes a character compelling? Simple. Something happens to them. Even if you despise your (_____), you enjoy telling others about his failures. “Did you hear what happened to my ex? He got busted for…” We love to loath, meddle in the affairs of others, and watch them fail. Our participation in their lives expands our world, which explains part of what fuels reality TV.

 

CHARACTERS MUST…
• Reveal heart
• Face obstacles
• Pick paths
• Make a discovery
• Reveal a secret

Characters Conquer Mountains

For your characters to be likable they should be witty, charming, wise, friendly, empathetic, authentic, encouraging, secure, or vulnerable. If your lead is perfect she’s boring, so give her both redeeming qualities and flaws so the reader can relate.

Give Your Lead Goals 
• What does she want?
• What is she willing to do to reach her goal?
• What WILL she do to reach that goal?
• What is she willing to sacrifice?
• What happens if the she fails?
• Is your Lead larger than life?
(Does he lay in the middle of highway, hang from a Ferris wheel, and rebuild an old house for the girl he loves?)

Want, Need, Motivation
If the reader questions why a character reacts in a certain way, then you’ve lost credibility. There are two reasons your characters act “out of character.”
1. There is no clear motivation for the character to perform the action.
2. The motivation provided isn’t sufficiently developed.

That’s the start of character development. Question: Is your character such that others cheer for you?