Thursday, July 28, 2011

Feed-the-Writer's-Soul Friday- Michael Hauge's Six Stage Plot Structure-Part 1

   Hi everyone! I am posting this Feed-the-Writer's-Soul Friday Blog one day early because we are leaving to New Orleans tomorrow. My son made it into the Junior Olympics for Taekwondo...and I am nervous as heck!!! So, if you think about it, please send up a quick prayer for safety for my son. Full head kicks are completely legal-even KO's. (Urgh! I don't think I can watch...)

Michael Hauge’s Six Stage Plot Structure-Part 1
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Michael Hauge is a very engaging speaker. He has worked with many writers and filmmakers as a script consultant. This was a 2 hour lecture on Plot Structure given by Mr. Hauge at RWA Nationals. Please keep in mind that these are just MY notes. And my notes ended up being pretty long (and a bit cryptic-sorry), so I've decided to do this in two parts. I believe this lecture was recorded, so those of you who bought them can use this as a rough outline. If it wasn't recorded...sorry about that. Anyway, I hope that you find this somewhat helpful. He had a great handout that explained this better in diagram than I can do with the written word, but I tried. :)

***The GOAL of a writer must be to elicit EMOTION.***

All stories are based on 3 basic elements-
1) Character
2) Desire
3) Conflict

In Hollywood calls them:
1) Hero-protagonist
2)Outer motivation
3)Outer conflict

Outer motivation—is the desire for something that’s visible, can immediately picture what it looks like ie: win love of another character, stop something, escape something, retrieve something.

Outer conflict— is what’s visible that’s getting in the way-whatever the H/H are pursuing that creates VISIBLE obstacles in order to over come them.

Often the inner journey is heavier than the outer journey. The story is stronger if there are obstacles in place that the audience/readers can see.

In the outer journey the H/H can pursue 2 different goals ie: break up a wedding and win love.

The inner journey creates the outer journey because it leads the characters actions-that are outwardly visible.

H/H outer journey defines the plot. The plot is the sequence of events that cause the maximum emotional element.

H/H inner journey is not visible, it’s their individual goal. It’s the inner journey that causes the TRANSFORMATION=the change on the inside. The H/H becomes different person from the beginning of the story to the end. For example, living in fear to living courageously.

For readers to understand the inner journey they must understand the outer journey --because the inner journey comes from the outer journey. SO-a stronger outer journey leads to a stronger inner journey. Basically, a character's outer journey is the visible choices a character makes to satisfy or obtain their inner desire.

There are 6 Basic Stages of a story-that are defined by 5 key turning points. These steps are always the same and occur in the same sequence. They occur at exactly the same place in the story and in every story.

Stage 1-SETUP-takes about 0%-10% of the movie/book. This section is all about setting the stage and giving the readers/viewers a connection with the story’s character’s full identity.

1) It introduces the H/H separately. 
2)It creates empathy with character so the audience connects. You do this by
      a) creating sympathy-feel sorry for them if you make them a victim.
      b) Put the character in jeopardy or danger. It can be physical jeopardy or danger that      person will lose something-job, competition, anything.
      c) Make the character likable-generous. Or show as well liked by other people.
3) Shows characters living their every day life before the journey begins because a story is before and after the journey. We must see how start out to see how it finishes. The over all change.
It ends with Turning Point=OPPORTUNITY at about 10% of the movie/story. This is where something happens to H/H that has never happened before. Something will create a desire (goal) but is not the story goal. It’s the goal to move to stage 2 and a new situation. The character is either forced to move-often times to a new location at OPPORTUNITY but not always.

Stage 2-NEW SITUATION-takes about 10%-25% of movie/book. This is the stage when character finds out what’s going on and finds out the rules. Something new occurs that has never happened before. The H/H now has a NEW DESIRE-New outer motivation. Whatever route the H/H do take-they do not pursue to fill. Pursue the VISIBLE GOAL. **Build up to pursuit. Circumstance brings things together.
This ends with Turning Point #2 CHANGE OF PLANS @ 25% of the move/story.

Tune in next week for Part 2...
Until next time,

Friday, July 22, 2011

Feed-the-Writer's-Soul Friday- How to Mend A Broken Scene

The Basics of How to Mend a Broken Scene
From a workshop presented by Roxanne St. Claire at RWA Nationals 2011

            This workshop was one of the most beneficial workshops I had the privilege of taking  at Nationals this year. If this had been the only workshop I had taken, it would have been worth the price of admission. Not only was Ms. St. Claire gracious enough to share with us several examples of her first draft MS to her finished product, she also provided some invaluable information and check lists to go over when mending your raw work. This workshop was not recorded because she didn’t want examples of her early work floating around, so I can’t share those with you. I have been given permission to share with you a summary of her lists.

What makes an effective healthy scene?
*The character goal is clear.
*There is tension regarding THAT goal (and others)
* An arc is completed: beginning, middle, and end
*Story is furthered and complicated
*Reader has more information than they had before

How to recognize your broken scene
* Character goal is not clear
* Scene is full of action, but nothing happens
* Characters are flat, untrue, clich├ęd, uninvolved, distant
* No identifiable plot point
* Massive amounts of backstory
* Forced, unnatural dialogue
* Huge, unbroken paragraphs of description
* Noticeable lack of emotion, humor, sexual tension or conflict
* Emotion is kept in check when it shouldn’t be
* Scene starts too early or ends too soon
* What does the character want when the scene starts & how are things getting worse?
* Is there a much stronger reason/plot point for a scene?
* Can I make it unforgettable?
* How can the plot be turned on its head to SHOCK the reader or character?
* Can I show the character’s true nature…and the conflict?
* Is the scene as “ier” as it can be (funnier, sexier, scarier, wrenching-ier)?

1)      Replace internal monologue to dialogue-if they can say it, it’s stronger
2)      Be sure characters are true-stay IN the character’s head
3)      Know your character’s goal-both story goal and scene goal
4)      Add sexual tension
5)      Increase conflict
6)      Ass senses and imagery-draw out emotion
7)      Don’t back away too soon-dig deep to get the scene completed
8)      Draw out emotion
9)      Gracefully drop in backstory and description-no dumping
10)  Strengthen the hook-at beginning/end of both story and chapter

Miscellaneous notes from Q & A:
- Sometimes fixing a scene means fixing the book.
- Don’t fear rewrites.
- Convey conflict on the scene level.
- Don’t imply sexual tension-SHOW it.
- Dig into the emotional quality of the setting.

Roxanne St. Claire is a New York Times bestselling author of twenty-seven novels of suspense and romance from multiple publishers.  Her books have won numerous awards, including the RITA, the National Reader's Choice Award, Booksellers Best, Book Buyers Best, and many others. She can be reached via her website, or through her fan page at  You can follow her on Twitter at

Friday, July 15, 2011

Feed-the-Writer's-Soul Friday- Worth the Work

Feed-the-Writer’s Soul Friday: Worth the Work
Swimming is in my blood. I learned to swim when I was young and haven’t stopped since. For me, the feel of floating, of being weightless is a powerful feeling. It’s one of my most favorite things about summer. If we had to swim everywhere instead of walk, I would be in heaven.

Because I love swimming so much, I took my kids to the pool from the time they were both very young. As a result, both of them spent time on competitive swim teams-and both did well. (But that’s neither here, nor there.)

For the past three summers I have given swim lessons, mostly to my friend’s kids. What I now take for granted, they have to learn, one small step at a time. There is so much to keep in mind when you swim. The most important, and initially the hardest thing to teach, is holding your breath under water. Once that is mastered, the real works begins. You have to learn how to get your body to float and to keep your body parallel to the water, to keep your legs moving in the water with just the right amount of bending, arm rotation just right, hip rotation, then the big one comes--breathing to the side during the stroke. And this is just freestyle! There are three other swim strokes.

I have kids that are at all spectrums of development. Some are learning to hold their breath and to not be afraid to put their heads under water, others can go under water but when they try to “swim” they don’t go anywhere, and others are moving and are now ready to learn to breath to the side (which is an advanced skill and not an easy one to learn-or teach, I’m finding out:).

There are a lot of correlations between swimming and writing. Just like in swimming, there is so much for a beginner to keep in mind as we move through our story: keeping the dialogue fresh, developing conflict, figuring out the POV the scene is going to be in, writing actively and not passively, show vs. tell, and the list goes on. As a new writer, all of this can be overwhelming, and it seems the more we learn, the more we have to learn.

But learning is part of any process. Just like in everything we have learned to do along our lifetime-walking, reading, riding a bike, driving- it takes time and lots and lots of practice. In the end though, it’s always been worth the work. I’m glad I struggled through learning to walk, talk, read, write, swim, drive. Without these abilities, my life would be so empty. 

So, the moral of it all is-keep working and improving yourself, whatever your passion is. We are all better because of it.
~Till next time!

PS-At the end of last month through early this month I went to RWA Nationals in NYC. I went to many workshops and learned SO much. Over the course of the next several Fridays I hope to share with you some of my notes from those workshops.