Welcome to Three Dirty Birds Talk, where three dirty birds talk about writing, sex, wine, and whatever else takes our fancy (usually sex).
We’re still talking about Story Trumps Structure by Steven James, a writing book for pantsers. (But you can still read it when you’re not wearing pants.)
Today, we’re discussing about Chapter 3, where Mr. James talks about crisis and calling. In essence, the motivation that drives your character from start to finish. After the behemoth that was our last post, we thought we’d be kind and give you a shorter one this time.
Ana: Let me start with my favorite line of this chapter: “Show him what he desires most, and then dangle it in front of him.” I think some erotica writers are doing an exceptional job with this.
Kate: It’s definitely an exceptional line in that chapter. And most appropriate.
Zoe: I liked all of his three ways to introduce the crisis or calling, the other two being “Give your protagonist what he desires most, and then snatch it away,” and “Force what he dreads upon him, and make him escape from it.” I’d read any of those stories.
Ana: They all introduce tension, in a way.
Zoe: Oh, I just like that it’s character torture.
Ana: Of course.
Zoe: You could just rinse and repeat through the whole story to keep it going: giving him what he wants and taking it away, dangling what he wants in front of him, etc.
Kate: There does seem to be a lot of dangling in our stories. Except when there isn’t. 😛
Zoe: There’s more jutting in mine than dangling, but I see your point. Erm.
Kate: I liked the charts too, that showed how the different struggles can be introduced and the timeframes for resolving them. It’s something I do by instinct, but it’s nice to have it confirmed.
Ana: Yes, I like when books tell me I’m right.
Zoe: The charts didn’t do anything for me, but I got a lot out of having the three different kinds of struggles defined: internal, external, and interpersonal.
Kate: I don’t know how you ladies handle it, but the longer the story, the more of those kinds of struggles I put in. Which I’m not explaining very well. But in, say, a short story, I’ll probably put in only one, but in a novella, I’ll include at least two, and sometimes all three of those different conflicts. And I don’t think you can have a novel without all three in some form or another.
Ana: I don’t have a lot of experience with formats shorter than novels. When I think about it, I usually have all three in my stories, at least to some extent. Often the internal struggle has to be resolved to resolve the other two, though. The character has to change to get what he wants, so to say.
Zoe: It’s not something I’d given conscious thought to, but I’ll be actively working on that in the planning for an upcoming novel. (I’m doing the plotter thing for that one—but this book still helps!)
Kate: I’d like to get a bit more plotty, simply because I need to work things out a bit in my head or I can’t move forward. This might be a way for me to be ‘plotty’ without spoiling the writing of it for myself, which I have done in the past. (and have trunked half-novels to prove it)
Ana: I’m just hoping I won’t have to rewrite 90% of my next novel like I did the last one.
Zoe: Yes! That’s what I’m trying to avoid—cut down on the number of draft/rewrites. And maybe tighten it up overall.
Kate: Me too! I spend so much time combing through it in the last stages, and I’m notorious for adding stuff even up to the proofing stage.
Ana: I’m sure your editor loves that.
Kate: Um, not so much… Anyway, ladies, how has this chapter improved your writing?
Zoe: Well, I just finished reading it as you were typing the intro for this, so…. We’ll see?
Ana: I’m hoping figuring out the kind of struggles my characters face will help me cut down on necessary rewrites in the future. (A girl can dream.)
Kate: I’m hoping to develop a more structured approach to pantsing, as opposed to my more usual ‘flailing arms and wailing’ style. I’d like it if it let me be a bit more efficient in my writing. I waste a lot of time trying to figure out why the chapter isn’t progressing, when I could be getting words down. Maybe having a clearer idea of my conflicts, having them written down in black and white, will help keep me on goal.
Zoe: Yes, I’m hoping that getting more into the three struggles will also make the story more satisfying for the reader.
And that’s a wrap for chapter three. Our thoughts on Chapter Four: Escalation: Adding Complications and Weeding Out Repetition should be up on Kate’s blog next Monday! I’ll have a link here for you then.
Feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts on this chapter. Or anything else~