Monday, August 31, 2009

A Plethora Of Stories

A phone rings.
Then what happens?

-someone answers the phone
-someone answers the phone then immediately hangs up
-someone answers the phone and the caller hangs up
-the phone goes unanswered
-the caller hangs up before the phone is answered
-the ringing phone wakes someone
-the ringing phone startles someone into dropping something
-an alien doesn't know what that strange ringing sound is and zaps the phone with its laser beam (...wait, what?)

Okay, so I'm sure you get my point. A seemingly insignificant event-- a ringing phone-- can lead to millions of possible stories. Or can it?

How many stories do you think there are in the world? Billions? Trillions? An infinite amount?

Maybe. But some sources say there is only one story:

Exposition - Rising Action - Climax - Falling Action - Denouement

Some, like Forrester Harris, argue that there are three types of stories:

1. Type A, happy ending
This pattern results when the central character makes a sacrifice (a decision that seems logically "wrong") for the sake of another.

2. Type B, unhappy ending
This pattern follows when the central character does what seems logically "right" and thus fails to make the needed sacrifice.

3.Type C,’ the literary plot
"In which, no matter whether we start from the happy or the unhappy fork, proceeding backwards we arrive inevitably at the question, where we stop to wail."
This pattern requires more explanation. In short, the "literary plot" is one that does not hinge upon decision, but fate; in it, the critical event takes place at the beginning of the story rather than the end. What follows from that event is inevitable, often tragedy. (This in fact coincides with the classical Greek notion of tragedy, which is that such events are fated and inexorable.)

In grade school English class, we are taught that there are seven basic stories:

1. person vs. nature
2. person vs. person
3. person vs. the environment
4. person vs. machines/technology
5. person vs. the supernatural
6. person vs. self
7. person vs. god/religion

Christopher Booker’s theory is that all stories, whether it’s Cinderella or Lord of the Rings can essentially be boiled down to seven (different) basic elements:

1. Overcoming the monster
2. Rags to Riches
3. The Quest
4. Voyage and Return
5. Comedy
6. Tragedy
7. Rebirth

Ronald Tobias claims that there are twenty basic plots, that can then be divided into two smaller categories as "plots of the mind" and "plots of the body". Plots of the body are action oriented, not necessarily signifying anything. Plots of the mind are more cerebral and often involve "searching for some kind of meaning".

The twenty basic plots:

1. Quest
2. Adventure
3. Pursuit
4. Rescue
5. Escape
6. Revenge
7. The Riddle
8. Rivalry
9. Underdog
10. Temptation
11. Metamorphosis
12. Transformation
13. Maturation
14. Love
15. Forbidden Love
16. Sacrifice
17. Discovery
18. Wretched Excess
19. Ascension
20. Descension

And then (because twenty is apparently not enough) Georges Polti claims to be trying to reconstruct the 36 plots that Goethe alleges someone named [Carlo] Gozzi came up with:

1. Supplication (in which the Supplicant must beg something from Power in authority)
2. Deliverance
3. Crime Pursued by Vengeance
4. Vengeance taken for kindred upon kindred
5. Pursuit
6. Disaster
7. Falling Prey to Cruelty of Misfortune
8. Revolt
9. Daring Enterprise
10. Abduction
11. The Enigma (temptation or a riddle)
12. Obtaining
13. Enmity of Kinsmen
14. Rivalry of Kinsmen
15. Murderous Adultery
16. Madness
17. Fatal Imprudence
18. Involuntary Crimes of Love (example: discovery that one has married one’s mother, sister, etc.)
19. Slaying of a Kinsman Unrecognized
20. Self-Sacrificing for an Ideal
21. Self-Sacrifice for Kindred
22. All Sacrificed for Passion
23. Necessity of Sacrificing Loved Ones
24. Rivalry of Superior and Inferior
25. Adultery
26. Crimes of Love
27. Discovery of the Dishonor of a Loved One
28. Obstacles to Love
29. An Enemy Loved
30. Ambition
31. Conflict with a God
32. Mistaken Jealousy
33. Erroneous Judgement
34. Remorse
35. Recovery of a Lost One
36. Loss of Loved Ones.

Wow, now there's a list!

(Sources, for the link-clickers and the curious: The Straight Dope, Internet Public Library, Only Dead Fish)

My questions for you:

How many stories do YOU think there are?
And where does your current project fall on the preceding lists?

See you tomorrow!


Friday, August 28, 2009

New Approach

I'm trying something different with TEMPER. Before, I could never write scenes out of order. *Gasp* the horror! How can I NOT write chronologically? I can't skip this scene and move on to the next- the next scene can't happen yet, because the prior scene hasn't happened yet.

But that was with UNTOUCHED. And for some reason, I'm finding it much easier to wrap my head around separate scenes in TEMPER. Possibly because I'm writing it in 3rd person, and it is somewhat detached. Not as personal. Not as intimate. UT was also very character driven, while TEMPER is very plot driven.

So I'm trying something different. Since I already have the whole story outlined, I'm going to write a very very detailed synopsis of the whole story. Like, 40 pages, 12K words detailed. Then I'm going to fill in the scenes and flush it out and piece it together like a puzzle.

Or, at least, I'm going to try. I'm not quite sure how well this is going to work out. I wont be going from start to finish, I won't be working from chapter one to chapter twenty. I'm going to look at it as a whole, complete work. It's going to be weird. It's going to be different. But I think, in the end, it's going to be really good.

We shall see.

Oh, and next week I'm going to try something new with the blog. My blogging has been sporadic and scarce at best. So next week I'm going to blog Monday through Friday. 5 posts. In a row.

Man, I'm all sorts of crazy these days.

Have a good weekend!


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Change Of Plans

I got another partial request today! Woot! This is the first partial from the second batch of queries. So far I've sent out 24 queries- I've gotten 3 partial requests, and 9 rejections. The 2 partials I've already sent were rejected :( but now I have another one to get excited about.

Anyhoo, I planned on working on TEMPER all day, but it occurs to me that I haven't done a read through of UNTOUCHED in about a month. I've just been sending queries and 30-pg partials and (what's the plural for synopsis?) that have already been edited to death. So I'm going to do a run through of UNTOUCHED, then head to the local Staples.

See, I've only been e-querying because it's so much easier, saves the trees, etc. But this agent wants a 75-pg printed partial mailed to her. So I figure while I'm there I'll print up some queries and sample pages so I can send off some snail mail queries. Fun stuff.

Enjoy your day! I will spend mine being a busy little bee.

(That was a weird statement.)


Monday, August 17, 2009

Tough Choices

Today, another idea hit me. And I am still so torn. It's like my muse is in overdrive- but only on the idea front. I've spent the last couple of weeks flitting between WIPs, typing a paragraph here and a couple pages there. I'm finding it really hard to choose one and invest in it. I don't think I'm going to get very far if I keep juggling all these ideas and voices and characters.

I need to choose one. ONE. And set the others aside, for now.

I'm about to open a word doc for the idea that hit me today. I'm going to try very very hard to stick with this one project. I've outlined the whole story, and I really like the idea and the way the characters are coming together in my brain. I have the next two days off work, and I plan to write as much as possible. Hopefully, I will get somewhere.

* * * * * * * * *

A little teaser of what's to come:


16-year-old Connor "The Temper" Thomas has a unique (albeit unimpressive) superpower-- he can heat or cool things with a touch of his hand. When he gets a sidekick job with the legendary superhero Captain Power, he thinks he'll be saving the world. He's less than pleased when he discovers his main responsibilities are keeping the coffee warm and acting as a human ice pack when the Captain's shoulders are sore.

When Captain Power dies during a self staged publicity act gone wrong, Connor feels pressured to assume his identity. The city needs a hero. Or at least the illusion of one. As Connor fumbles through a rescue and thwarts a heist or two, he has almost everyone fooled. Only Freezepop, another sidekick, suspects that there's something different about the Captain. But the villains believe that Captain Power still protects the city, and so they stay away.

When Freezepop discovers the truth she tries to convince Connor to go public- before he gets himself killed trying to keep up with the heroic persona. But identity theft becomes the least of Connor's worries when a super villain comes to town. Blaze Blitz is the real deal- ruthless, determined and diabolical. And he has his eyes set on Captain Power.

Connor knows he's no match for Blaze, but when Blaze kidnaps Freezepop and threatens the town, Connor knows what he must do: defeat the bad guy, rescue the girl, save the city. And hopefully survive long enough to see the sunrise.

Keeping coffee warm never seemed so preferable.

* * * * * * * * *

Oh, yeah. Get excited.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I'm Not Dead

Hi guys! I've been slacking on the blogging lately. I know, I'm a horrible person. But it's summer, and I've been busy with real life. Weird, huh? I have been keeping up with all the blogs I follow, opening my Google Reader to 60-ish posts a day. Yeah, that's been keeping me busy too.

I haven't had much news to share on the querying front. I sent out a batch of 10 queries today, and yes, sadly, that took up most of my day. I'm really scarily obsessive over making sure my queries are perfect and I follow the guidelines exactly, so it takes me a long time to send each one. I personalize all of them, and double check that I've included any sample pages or a synopsis if that is part of the specific agent's guidelines.

(Oh, yeah, I'll say it again. I love Seriously. I think anyone going through the query process should use this amazing organizational tool. It makes everything so much easier.)

I've had two partial requests so far, one was a reject, the other I'm still awaiting a response. I've gotten a handful of query rejects, but that's the way this writing life is. I'm not too heartbroken, this is a business after all, and I have faith I'll find the perfect agent for me. Eventually. Hopefully.

On the writing front, it seems I am taking after Lisa and Laura. That's right, I am officially an idea whore. I can't stick to just one, and last week I was hit with a *new* idea. And it's really good! It's about a teen girl who can assume other people's identities (talk about an identity crisis). I've outlined the whole story, and I really like the direction it's going. But I'm still torn. Guess I'm still playing the field until one of these ideas can convince me to settle down. (Or maybe a new one will come along and sweep me off my feet.)

So yes, that is what I've been up to lately. How are you guys? How are your writing projects coming along?