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So, you wanna be a writer? The Eight-Point Arc.

The Eight-Point Arc

The eight-point arc? What the f*$k is that? Well, that’s what I’m here to tell you. And, I can see you’re very happy about that 🙂

In my post, So, you wanna be a writer? What is a plot? I explained that a plot is:

“a sequence of events that are connected to one another through causality. Causality is the relationship between cause and effect; when one event makes something else happen, and that event, in turn, makes something else happen.

Plot is the what of the story (the characters being who, the theme is why).”

The eight-point arc is one way of organizing the plot and, as the name suggests, has eight parts.

These are:

  1. Stasis
  2. Trigger
  3. The Quest
  4. Surprise
  5. Critical Choice
  6. Climax
  7. Reversal
  8. Resolution

Yeah, yeah, Angela, but what the actual f*%k does that mean?

It’s really simple.

Stasis

This is the beginning part of your novel, the part before the triggering event of the story, the state of equilibrium or inactivity. As I stated in my post So, you wanna be a writer? Five things you need to do in Act One of your story, its:

“basically the beginning of the story, the part where the hero is inactive or, to use the posh word, in stasis. Stasis means a period of inactivity or equilibrium. Our hero is inactive, going about her business as she usually would until she is called into action when a triggering event happens.”

But, what is a triggering event?

Trigger

The triggering event is something beyond the control of our hero which, in the end, causes our hero to act. It doesn’t have to be huge, or necessarily bad. It doesn’t even have to be recognised as the triggering event at the time but it must set the story in motion. The triggering event causes the story to move forward. The first step if you like in the plot.

The Quest

The triggering event sets the story in motion and creates the quest for the hero. The quest, simply put, is a journey the hero goes on to reach his goal.

Is that it?

No, you have to throw in a few surprises on the way:

Surprise

As a writer, you have to throw surprises into the path of the hero. They can be pleasant surprises, such as the hero meeting an old friend, or bad surprises, like the hero finding out that that friend is working for the enemy. They can also be REALLY unpleasant surprises but whatever their nature, the best surprises in the narrative block the hero’s way and create obstacles on their road to success.

However, don’t forget plausibility when creating your surprises. They HAVE to be believable within the context of the story. Also, a predictable surprise that can be seen coming from a few miles off, is not an effective way of storytelling. The surprises have to be both unexpected AND plausible.

Critical Choice

This is an important part of the novel. There must come a point when the hero is faced with what looks like an insurmountable challenge. In order to get over this obstacle, the hero has to make a difficult decision, a critical choice. It is this point, and the choice that the hero makes, that determines their fate for the rest of the story. The hero MUST make the decision themselves and it cannot be left to chance or fate.

This is the hero making their own decisions and deciding their own fate.

Climax

The climax is the part of the story where the tension and action reach the peak of intensity. It’s the consequence of the critical decision the hero made when they faced their greatest challenge and decided their own fate with the choice or choices that they made.

However, the climax is definitely not the end of the story. It serves as a transition from the rising action of the story to the falling action of the story.

Reversal

The reversal is the result of the critical choice and the climax. It produces a shift in the status of the characters.

This is the place in the story where the hero is seen to bring together everything they’ve learnt on their journey and focus on a new goal. Essentially, it’s a shift in perspective. It can be a shift in the way the character thinks but also a shift in perspective of the reader.

The reversal is a change of direction, for example, a character who has been “bad” up to this point, turns “good”, or bad luck turns to good or vice versa. The reversal should be plausible AND probable.

Resolution

The resolution is the wrapping up of all the threads of the story. It’s a return to a place of rest and a fresh stasis where it’s obvious the hero’s character has been changed somehow.

As I said in my post, So You Wanna Be a Writer? Four things you need to have in Act Three of your novel;

“All significant loose ends should be tied up, and the tension of the story should ease after the drama of the climax. If our hero’s goal isn’t completely fulfilled in the climax, it needs to be achieved here.

The reader needs to have a satisfying conclusion to the story and everything that was promised to them over the course of the story should now be fulfilled.”

Conclusion

The eight-point arc can be an effective way of planning a story. It’s not the only way but it can be a useful tool to keep your writing on track.

What do you think of the eight-point arc? Have you used it? How did you find it?

 

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Dragon Rider – Part Twenty-Six

Dragon Rider

Chapter Twelve

Dreams

Drake rubbed his aching forehead; he felt confused and so very tired, a tiredness that was seeping into his bones.  He just wanted to be alone, to go to sleep.  ‘I don’t understand what you’re saying,’ he said.

The hooded figure stepped out from the shadows, his black cloak barely making a sound as it brushed against the cobbled floor.  ‘You must do it, you must finish it,’ he said,  pointing straight at Drake with his gloved hand, a finality in his voice that made Drake nervous.

‘Why me?’ asked Drake, wrapping his arms around his chest to protect himself from the cold, but the cold was already biting into his flesh, making his body tremble.

‘Because you are my son and you WILL avenge my death.’

‘How do I do that?’ asked Drake, the sense of foreboding seizing his heart in its icy grip making it feel like a lump of ice, cold and unmoving inside of him.

‘You know what you must do,’ said the figure coldly, as he pulled back his hood letting his shaggy black hair loose around his muscular shoulders.  ’I cannot rest until my death is avenged, Drake, and you are the only one left who can do it.’

‘I can’t…I’m not strong enough-’

‘Don’t ever say that!’ said Erick Blackthorn, his green eyes blazing with fury, ’You are a Dragon Rider,‘ he said pointing at the tattoo around his right eye and then pointing at Drake’s.

Drake could feel the swirling black of his mark burning into his skin like a scalding hot brand, the Devil’s Mark, tainting him for life.

‘You must avenge my death or I will never rest.  And neither will you: I promise you that!’

‘But-‘

‘It was Fenrik Lasko who ordered my death, son.  He stood there, smoking his putrid cigars, as his demons pulled my dragon apart, limb from limb.  He was there as the dagger was plunged through my heart, as my last breath was taken.  He is the one who took me away from you.  He is the one with blood on his hands.’  Erick Blackthorn pulled the black hood over his head and stepped backwards, disappearing into the darkness.  ’Of this, you can be sure!’

Anger ripped through Drake like a fiery tornado, shattering the ice that had crippled his heart.  ’I will, I’ll do it!’ he roared after his father.  ’I promise you I will finish it, even if it’s with my last breath!’

Drake could hear other voices emerging from the darkness, intruding whispers pulling him back from the shadows.  He could make out Willow and Pyro’s voices clearly now as he was yanked from his dreams.  He groaned silently inwards as everything came flooding back to him…Funestus, The Emerald Key, The Valley of Death…Willow…Pyro.  The enormity of it all choked him, rendered him silent, so he kept his eyes clamped shut and listened instead, as he tried to push it away and make-believe, if only for a while, that none of it was happening.

But, as they travelled onwards, the anger, re-ignited in his dreams, burned brightly inside him.  He only wanted to avenge his father’s death, how the hell had he managed to end up here?

Drake shifted in his seat; he’d got a pain in his bottom from the stiff, spring-less, seats and a throbbing head from the incessant prattling of Willow and Pyro.  ‘When are you two going to shut up?’  he snapped, as Pyro asked Willow, for what seemed like the millionth time, to show him the spell to change her nail varnish colour.  What he wouldn’t do for two minutes of quiet.

‘You awake?’ asked Willow, sarcastically.

‘Yep.’  Unfortunately.

‘Your attitudes stinks,’ said Pyro, ‘I think you should be encouraging your friend in her experiments with magick, it‘s not her fault she hasn‘t been trained.’

‘What?’  Oh, he couldn’t be bothered with them.  He slumped back into his chair, the red leather squeaking beneath him as his bottom slipped down the seat.  He huffed and stared out of the misted window.

Willow jumped around in her seat to face Drake.  She held out her hands to show him her bright purple nails.  ‘What do you think?’ she said, wiggling her fingers at him, ‘I think it’s the most delicious shade of purple I’ve ever seen.  In fact, it’s so good that I’ve turned a whole bottle of my old stuff into it.  I’ve called it Purple Passion.’

Drake shrugged, still gazing out of the window.  ‘That’ll really help us find The Emerald Key, won’t it?’ he snapped, ‘You could do that before.’

‘You really don’t know how to play nicely do you?’ said Pyro.

‘What is it with you two?  How come you’ve become best friends all of a sudden?’

‘I like to make the best out of a bad situation,’ said Pyro, ‘I mean, you dragged me here but-’

‘You’re a djinn, Pyro, you get dragged around all the time-’

‘Oh, it’s like that is it?’

‘Like what?’ asked Drake looking at Willow.

Willow shrugged, ‘Don’t get me involved, I happen to like him-’

She liked him?  A djinn that was into setting fire to things?  A djinn that worked for Fenrik?  Drake opened his mouth to speak, then closed it again.  He really couldn’t deal with them now; he was too tired, his whole body felt heavy, like it was shutting down.  He slumped back into his seat and covered his eyes with his hand.

Death’s Apprentice – Part 43

‘Mmmm, let me think,’ said Hel, her right hand stroking her chin.

‘It’s okay,’ said Joe, ‘I can wait.’ He almost added, I’m used to being hungry, but didn’t because what was the point? No one cared.

And, he was used to it if he was really honest. It was part of the package when you lived in the Bones’ household.

Not that they were dirt poor, not like his mate Limey. Limey’s parents were both chronically ill and on benefits and when they got put on to Universal Credit there were a few times that their benefit money was stopped. No benefits meant no money. No money meant no food and no heating. It sucked.

No, Joe’s mom worked and although they weren’t rolling in money, they weren’t on Limey’s scale either. Problem was, Joe’s shitdad prefered beer and weed and the bookies to feeding his stepkid. But hey, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?

Right?

Wrong.

It had just given Joe a load of rather unhealthy coping skills.

Hades rubbed his head against Joe’s leg making him jump. His heart twanged again as he thought of Lola.

‘Good boy,’ he said, running his hands through the dog’s rough fur. The dog began to purr loudly and started to lean on Joe nearly making him fall over.

‘Careful Hades,’ said Hel and the dog shifted its position. ‘Okay, I’ve got it. There’s a witch that lives in these woods -‘

‘A witch?’ Even Joe could hear the scepticism in his own voice. ‘Really? Come on now. Stop pulling my leg!’

Hel stared at him, her face contorted with confusion. ‘I’m not touching your leg.’

‘I know. It’s just a saying…’ Nope, he could see from the look on her face that she wasn’t getting it. ‘It doesn’t matter. So, this witch…how far is it? Is she dead?’

‘No, she’s very much alive,’ said Hel.

So, you wanna be a writer? Short Writing Prompt.

Short Writing Prompt.

Character.

Look at the picture below. What an amazing face this man has. I’m fascinated by faces and the stories that are written in the very fabric of them.

man wearing blue hurley shirt
Photo by Thgusstavo Santana on Pexels.com

So, using this face as a story prompt, think about who this man is. What’s his name? How old is he? Where does he live? What does he want from life? What makes him sad? What makes him angry? What family does he have? What flaws does he have? How does he walk? How does he talk?

Really think about his character. Give him a biography. You could use this free printable Character Guide and fill in all of the boxes to give this man a background.

Now, once your character is fully formed in your head, write a 1000 word story in any genre you want.

Good luck!

What did you come up with? I would love to hear!

Dragon Rider – Part Twenty-five

Dragon Rider

Chapter Eleven Continued

Escape

A pale figure stepped forward.  Drake could see his nostrils flaring as he sniffed the air like a wolf.  Behind the figure stood a white coach, the light he had seen in the darkness had been from the single gas lamp that hung from its helm.  Six pure white kelpies, horse-like creatures who could ride as fast as the wind, waited nervously at the front of the coach, their hooves clawing at the mossy floor.

‘It would appear that you are not dead,’ growled the figure, his steel coloured eyes locked onto Drake, his body stiff and unwelcoming.

Drake regarded the figure with wary eyes.  ‘No, we are very much alive,’ he replied.

The figure’s lip curled in distaste.  ‘Quite irregular, I usually only ferry dead people-‘

‘It’s okay,’ said Pyro, ‘I think I would rather walk, get a little travel sick.’  He made a vomiting gesture to underline the point.

The figure recoiled in disgust, his pale skeletal hands clutching at his chest.  ‘You have such a foul creature as a djinn with you?’

‘Yes, unfortunately,’ replied Drake as Pyro shrugged, a weak smile glancing upon his face.

The figure turned back to face Drake and bowed his head slightly, ‘I am Charon the Ferryman.  I assume you want to get to the Iron Fortress?’

‘Yes.’

‘Well, I’m afraid I cannot help.  The clue is in my Job Description.’ said Charon, a slight curl on his lips.  ’I ferry DEAD people,’ he continued, speaking as if to a two-year-old.  He spun on his heels, the tails of his white coat splaying around him, and made to leave.

‘Excuse me!’ said Willow, flapping the scroll in the air to get Charon’s attention, ‘Excuse me!’

Charon turned to look back over his shoulder at Willow.  ‘Yes?’

‘Sorry, hi,’ said Willow offering her hand, ‘my name’s Willow-’

‘Get on with it!’  hissed Charon, ‘I’m very busy, you know.’  He spun around.  ‘Do you know how many wars are on at the moment?’

‘No,’ Willow shook her head, ‘sorry.  But erm, that doesn’t matter because actually, if you read Section 7, sub-section 1 a, of the Underworld Act, 1200 B.C, you can ferry people who are alive through the Valley of Death, as long as they satisfy certain requirements.’

‘What?’ screeched Charon.

‘What are you talking about?’ asked Drake.

‘Look it says here,’ said Willow, pointing at the Scroll of the Dead, ’You need a Totenpasse, such as The Scroll of the Dead-’

‘A what?’ asked Drake, unable to read any of the strange black symbols which had appeared on the scroll.

‘A Totenpasse, a Passport to be shown in the Underworld,’ she turned back to Charon flapping the Scroll of the Dead in his face before beginning to read from it again, ‘a valid reason for visiting-’

‘A valid reason?’ said Charon, his face screwed up like he was chewing a wasp, ’What valid reason could you possibly have?’

‘Our lives are in Mortal Peril,’ replied Willow, pointing at the words “Mortal Peril” in the text of the Underworld Act which had magickally appeared upon the scroll, ’back in the Land of the Living.  Oh, and you need to have a witch present.  That would be me.’

‘You, a witch?’ snorted Charon.

‘Yes,’ said Willow putting her hands on her hips, her face lifted slightly in a “come on then, let’s argue” kind of way.

Charon looked as if the anger in his body was about to explode, and, despite how pale he was, his face was beginning to glow red.  He turned and walked over to his carriage.  ‘Get in!’ he hissed.

The three of them ran down the granite steps not wanting to wait a minute longer in case Charon found a way to change his mind.  At the bottom the earth was spongy, its surface peppered with a dazzling array of precious stones and minerals.  Huge diamonds, the size of footballs, sat alongside boulders of vivid blue azurite and chunks of violet amethysts.

Drake tapped Pyro on the head as the djinn bent down to pluck a diamond, the size of a tennis ball, from the floor.  ‘Leave it,’ he snapped.

‘You can’t blame a djinn for trying,’ said Pyro.

‘Exactly why did I bring you?’ asked Drake more to himself than Pyro.

‘I don’t know, you didn’t say,’ shrugged Pyro, ‘but I would take a guess that you find me scintillating company and probably would miss me if I wasn’t here.’  A huge smile spread across the djinn’s face.

‘Yeah, whatever,’ said Drake opening the coach door.  He grabbed the djinn by the collar and threw him roughly into the coach.

‘He’s a bit lacking in personality isn’t he?’ said Pyro, as he jumped up and down on one of the red leather seats to check out the springs before he made himself comfortable.

‘Who?’ asked Willow turning around to face Pyro, her leg tucked under her other one.

‘Charon,’ whispered Pyro, pointing to the front of the carriage.

‘Well, he is the bloke that ferries dead people to the Iron Fortress,’ said Willow.

‘Willow, will you stop encouraging him,’ said Drake looking out of the carriage windows at the forest of yew, willow and oak trees looming in front of them, their branches twisted in a macabre embrace, an impenetrable barrier, like soldiers guarding the Fortress, where no branches moved and no leaves stirred.

As the carriage neared the Forest the trees closest to them were pulling their ancient roots out from the earth and were shuffling aside to create a small space just wide enough for the carriage and horses.

‘YAH!’ shouted Charon and the kelpies began their long trek through the Forest of Suffering.

 

Death’s Apprentice – Part 42

Joe had no idea how long they’d been walking through the forest. Walking? What he actually meant was stumbling through because even though the trees seemed to strangely move apart when Hel skipped through them, their gnarly roots seemed to try and trip him up whenever possible. He’d fallen over that many times that he was now considering crawling.

There was no telling what time it was down here in the underworld. There was no sun to mark the passing of the day, and no moon to show the passing of the night. Instead, there was a murky, unforgiving twilight that hung over them, a light that was completely useless for walking through a forest.

Joe’s stomach gave a long hard groan.

Great.

He hadn’t even considered how he would feed himself down here. In this…shit hole.

Yes. The further he stumbled, the more he realised this place was a shit hole. Not like his house (not home, for was the place he went to bed really a home?). No, that was a shit hole, shit hole. This dark, forbidding place was a shit hole because it stunk like a toilet that hadn’t been flushed for a month and the funny light seemed to be sucking the very life from him. His legs were burning, his eyes were burning, his lungs were burning and he felt like shit.

Joe thought that he probably used the word shit far too much but that word seemed to sum up so much of his life.

His stomach groaned again. So loud that it echoed through the trees. Or that’s how it felt to Joe.

Hel stopped stone still in front of him. Her hounds did the same. It was almost like they were connected on some telepathic level.

‘What was that?’ she whispered, slowly turning to face Joe.

Joe’s stomach roared again.

‘It’s me. Sorry,’ he said, with a small shrug.

‘Ahhhh,’ she said, as comprehension dawned on her. ‘You’re hungry?’

‘Yes.’

‘One of the problems of being alive, I suppose?’

‘Well, I wouldn’t class eating as being a problem,’ said Joe.

‘It kind of is down here,’ she replied.

‘Dead people don’t eat,’ said Joe, realising this could be a major problem. Was he going to die of hunger down here? Was he going to shrivel up like a prune, his body left to the creepy crawlies that probably lurked in the undergrowth?

So, you wanna be a writer? Bad reviews.

Imagine this;

You’ve spent three years writing your novel, polished it to within an inch of its life and are incredibly proud of your baby. You’re ready to publish. You press the button to self-publish (or it’s publication day for those who have gone the traditional way) and then wait.

The reviews (if you’re lucky/ unlucky) come rolling in.

Some are five stars. Others are one star.

One star?

Shit.

Pass me the vodka.

My writing sucks!

I’m never writing again.

I’m going to unpublish it.

I wasn’t made to be a writer.

I’m too shit at this! 

Does it sound familiar?

STOP!

Everyone gets bad reviews. I repeat EVERYONE. Even Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and all the literary geniuses that have ever had the balls to put their work out there.

Have you looked at Goodreads recently? It can be brutal (as I’ve found to my expense! ha ha ha – pass me the vodka too!).

If the bad reviews get under your skin, my advice to you is, don’t read them. Straight up, stop. It’s not worth it. Don’t let it stop you from doing the thing you love.

See, the problem is, reading and writing are very subjective things. Everyone likes different things and you are not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. And you know what? That’s absolutely fine. They are not your people.

Go and find your people.

If you can stomach reading the bad reviews, sometimes you can use them as a learning tool. Is there something which every bad review picks up on? Do you agree with them? Can you change it? Do you want to change it?

But, be warned, using reviews as a learning tool doesn’t always work and can backfire on you spectacularly.

Here’s a sample of a review I received for Everlong (a paranormal romance I self-published a few years ago);

Whenever I read a Young Adult book I always ask myself “am I enjoying this book” and “would my teenage daughter enjoy this book?”.

The answer to both questions is “Not really.” Normally if I have gotten that far into a book and it has not grabbed my attention yet then I put the book away and never finish reading it. The only reason I didn’t is because I made myself resolution to finish reading 52 books this year and review them. However, I won”t review most books until I have finished them because sometimes the ending is better than the beginning. This book is a clear example of why I do that. This book gets off to a rough slow start but ends with a flourish. The end was good enough that I MIGHT just read the next book in the series to find out what happens next to Evie and Josh. Maybe the next book is a 4 star book or better.

This isn’t a particularly bad review. But, I asked myself, is there anything I can learn from this?

Not on its own, but several other reviews did mention that the start of Everlong dragged a little. As a few people mentioned this, it probably follows that the start is a little slow, doesn’t it?

So I changed it.

I restructured the novel to make it more interesting. I changed the title and the book cover. The new book, called Bones, has one review on Goodreads. It’s a 2 star.

Everlong, the original version has nine text reviews, and five of those are four or five stars.

Another reviewer, who gave Everlong five stars, wrote:

When Josh saves Evie from dying everything changes for them both. Mostly because Josh is the Angel of Death. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The story was very original and wonderfully written. I LOVED the forbidden chemistry between Evie and Josh. I really wanted them to be together. Of course, with Josh’s “profession” being together isn’t going to be easy. Josh is a very loving and sexy character! I loved how much he wanted Evie. I absolutely cannot wait for book #2! I highly recommend this book!!

See what I mean?

You can’t please everyone.

So, don’t even try!!!

And leave the reviews alone, even the good ones, because, in the end, it will do your head in!

The best thing you can do if you want to know what works and what doesn’t work in your writing is to get a team of BETA readers to read it BEFORE you publish. Or join a workshop for writers. If there isn’t one near where you live, well, why not start one up yourself?

BUT, leave the reviews alone.

Unless you’re like me and are a bit of weirdo! 🙂