...are set in prime motivation stories where the page turners are between two or three beings (buddy cops, romance, kid/horse/parent, forced road trip 'pals', three rebels fighting the Empire, etc.)
PRIMARY MOTIVE: to observe how the relationship develops.
Theme: how why two/three beings fit together:
The formula / pattern:
Denial in the potential of a relationship.
Show how the thorns poke each other (dislikes)
Reluctance to build a connection, but they have to!
Begin the 'weave' or 'braid the roses' as the pair / trio are forced to work together.
Exploration of the relationship.
The (end of) Act II disaster: where things break apart (reader will say "Oh NO!"
Acceptance of the relationship (The End).
WARNING: Watch out for the 'Idiot Plot' (common to RomComs) where all the problems would be solved is the two main characters would simply talk to each other. This kind of issue to incredibly cliché and considered a non-issue by many readers. EARN the bumpiness. Have the ENTIRE book build to the disaster (such as the film While You Were Sleeping). Create 'of course they will do this' (such as Han Solo leaving the rebels at the end of Star Wars); Lea is devastated as she realizes the 'friendship' was only business; THEN embrace the 'whoo hoo!' moment is when Han has a change of heart and comes blazing back.
Page turners are built around the crisis moments that occur during the relationships. Fulfilling on the promises require tone, progress, and creating the RIGHT crisis for the moments of the relationships. Do the crisis's reinforce the story? Does support between the characters exist? How did the writer indicate that two characters belong together?
1. Do the characters complete each other?
2. Have gaps / holes been defined for the relationships to fill?
3. Love stories make the reader fall in love, friendship stories make the reader part of the buddy group (such as the first Lethal Weapon, ).
4. The reader wants the main characters to MAKE A BETTER CHOICE even though the character is going to make a less than perfect decision during a crisis moment.
...are the group of folks working in the same direction on a problem.
PRIMARY MOTIVE: Get the 'band' together to stop the problem!
Even though it is a group, there is still a primary arc of one or two characters combating the heart of the problem. This will bookend the beginning / end of the story to give a sense of completion. Examples from film:
2 sisters torn from each other reunite in the end (Frozen)
Tony Stark verses his narcissistic ethics of 'stepping on the wire' (Avengers)
2 brothers save the orphanage (Blues Brothers)
A baker's life implodes and leaves her with nothing; she finds the strength though her friends to move ahead in life (Bridesmaids)
The ensemble is handled through dialogue. NO WORDS ARE WASTED.
A preface may be needed to set up the 'big bad' of the story, then Chapter 1 should focus on the main character at the heart of the problem (even if the main character does not realize it yet). Film example: Trinity verses the Agents (preface), Next scene: Neo waking up (Chapter 1). (The Matrix)
Bring each member in while defining who / what they are through individual scenes with the main character core of the 'gang'.
Have background dialogue bring feeling in for other main characters and seed feelings / reactions.
Character voices are important and each should be unique!
Don't marginalize characters; have each bring SOMETHING more than a 'one note'; keep everyone respectable! Have each character in the group be there for 'something'. Have secondary characters be 'fans' of specific main characters / ideals.
Multiply each scene's / prop's use throughout the group. In other words, each scene should link in multiple ways to 2+ scenes coming up (whenever possible).
Characters will engage on two levels: professional and personal.
Dialogue might be a caricature of REAL dialogue (the Avengers Movie, Oscar Wilde books, etc).
Characterization of an ensemble cast:
Large cast, but each with a little time 'up front'.
Every scene must serve multiple 'shows of character': The mindset, skill(s), and attachment to the problem.
Each character must have an arc to promote GROWTH or CHANGE. Create momentum for each character.
Who is the primary Protagonist in the group? What / who is the Antagonist against the group (either from the outside or from within)? Now show us why as the story progresses.
Think about the group tying up the Act III catharsis. How does each character arc lead to the group tie up during the catharsis? Let everyone turn to their specific strengths and support each other to do this in Act III.
Give the characters a sense of liberation from whatever was repressing them.
Give action moments of WHOAH! to break the fatigue to the non-stop action of the Act III catharsis point.
Pacing is important: Once you set the pace within your first couple of chapters, you must remain true to that pace though the book (or steadily / gently quicken it as the chapters progress).
Today I'm going to talk about two common ways that writers who are 'planners' set up the overall structure of their stories. Hope it helps!
Disclaimer: Yep, there are other ways to structure your story, but these two seem to be the ones most talked about in the circles where I surf. Both also follow the assumed rising-action (stakes)-until-catharsis-then-ending method as well.
#1: The Three Act Play: This is the most common 'old fashioned' form of structure. It is SO familiar and ingrained into most readers minds that it provides a 'safe' and 'comfortable' read when done correctly and a sensation of 'messiness' when done incorrectly. When you are planning this kind of structure, the Heart of your story arc is in Act II. Your character introductions, themes, and setting are set up in Act I. Catharsis is hit at the beginning of Act III, then you tie it up and write The End.
Due to our cross-media culture and concepts of 'properties' / 'franchises', most of today's three-act stories are beginning to blend into script writing rules (allowing for easier book-to-movie deals). With that in mind, the three-act structure will (more or less) come together as follows:
1. The first sentence that opens the tale.
2. Introduce the Protagonist, hint at the Problem, tease the elements of the Setting / Major Themes
1. The Protagonist is launched into the Heart of the Problem (some kind of disaster strikes)
2. Pinch #1: Remind the reader of the Problem, show the Protagonist failing / messing up when the Problem re-appears.
3. Midpoint: The story flip-flops or changes in some way, with the Protagonist thinking they solved the Problem, but has only made things WORSE.
4. Pinch #2: Deal with minor plot points, start hinting around at how to bring things together, even if the Protagonist cannot see them yet.
5. Dark Night Of The Soul: All seems to be lost for the Protagonist until,,,
1. The Protagonist deals with the Problem when everything comes together!
2. The final battle / Catharsis
3. Tying up the minor points (watch out for info dumps!)
4. The final sentence that closes the tale.
That's about it for this type of planning! Try to keep the lions share of the story in Act II (keep it around 2/3rd to 3/4 of the total pages).
#2: 32 Scenes: This is a less-structured way of planning, allowing for more twists and turns and keeping the reader in a state of suspense and tension. Take care not to lose minor plot arcs and also try to keep from traveling too far off the plot (this will create distrust for the reader).
Here's how it works: For dramas and biographies, plan on creating 30-32 scenes (or chapters). For action / thrillers, bump the number of scenes / chapters to 38-40; this keeps the scenes shorter and gives the books a faster pacing.
Your first scene or Preface should introduce the Problem and/or the Protagonist. However that scene plays out will set the TONE for the ENTIRE BOOK. This creates trust between the story and the reader (be careful how you manipulate it). Early scenes should have a lot of unanswered questions and teasing of things to come.
By the 4-6th scene, you should fall into a kind of "Because of X, then Y happens..." This rhythm should end each scene with a question / problem that is dealt with in the next 1-3 scenes.
Catharsis should happen around 4-6 scenes from the end.
The last scene should tie up everything and reflect the issue presented in the first scene, to give the reader a sense of completion.
I tend to write the 32 Scenes down on a sheet of lined paper, with each line being the scene descriptor. When I am doing the novel-in-a-month thing, I try to work on expanding each (single) scene / line into 1700 - 2000 words. At the end of of the month, I've got my novel 'done'.