Author Archives: Melanie Anne Phillips

Free Story Structure Course in Streaming Video

Class Seven – Storyweaving

92. Introduction to Storyweaving

93. Exposition

94. Expectation

95. Context

96. Interpretation

Conflict Can Limit Your Characters

Many books on writing will tell you that a good story requires character conflict. In fact, this is far too limiting. Just as with real people, characters can relate in ways other than by coming into conflict which are just as strong dramatically.

Though conflict is an essential part of a story, there are other kinds of relationships that are just as important:

1.  Dynamic

2.  Companion

3.  Dependent

4.  Associative

1.  Dynamic relationships foster standard conflict between opposing points of view. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Positive Dynamic relationships are like the “loyal opposition” where two sides butt heads, but synthesize a better solution because of the conflict. Negative Dynamic relationships, however, occur when two sides butt heads until each is beaten into the ground.

2.  Companion relationships involve the indirect impact one character has on another. Positive Companion relationships occur when there is beneficial “fall-out” or “spill-over” between the two sides. For example, a father might work at a factory where he can bring home scrap balsa wood that his son uses for making models. Negative companion relationships involve negative spill-over such as a room-mate who snores.

3.  Dependent relationships describe the joint impact of the two sides. For example, positive Dependent relationships might bring Brain and Brawn together so that they are stronger than the sum of their parts. A negative Dependent relationship might have a character saying, “I’m nothing without my other half.”

4.  Associative relationships deal with how an individual relates to a group. Rather than being consistently positive or negative, there are two varieties of Associative relationships. The Component variety sees characters as individuals. The Collective variety sees them as a group.

For example, two brothers might fight between themselves (Component), yet come to each others’ aid when threatened by a bully because they now see themselves as family (Collective).

If you limit yourself to exploring only the conflicting relationships, ¾ of the ways in which people actually relate will not appear in your characters. What’s worse, if you also limit yourself to using only negative conflict, 7/8 of real relationships will be missing in your story.

By exploring all four kinds of relationships in both positive and negative modes, your characters will interact in a full, rich, and realistic manner.

Keep in mind: believable characters are not only built by developing each independently, but also by how they relate one to another!

Narrative

Working late tonight on the opening for my new book on narrative. Here’s the text, then back to bed;

Introduction

Narrative isn’t anything mysterious.  It is, simply, a description of our attempt to solve a particular problem.  At the end of the narrative, the author passes judgment on our efforts, declaring that we chose a wise path or a poor one.

Because our problem-solving process relies on a standard set of considerations, the same story points appear again and again in different narratives. Because each problem is unique, these story points come into play in different orders and at different points in the process.

For a story about a given problem to ring true, the narrative must include all the story points we would use in real life problem solving, explored in the order we would bring them to bear.

For a story to ignite our passion, the author must clothe the narrative in the trappings of storytelling style.

In a sense every narrative is a genome comprised of the same components, arranged to create a viable entity. This structure give the story its identity and storytelling provides its personality.

This book identifies the elements of narrative structure and describes how they are derived from and can also be applied to our own human nature.

Melanie Anne Phillips

Welcome to StoryWeaver

From our StoryWeaver Story Development Software:

Welcome to StoryWeaver – your step by step path to a completed novel, screenplay, or other narrative manuscript.

StoryWeaver is so named because it employs a technique for drawing story threads from your original concept much as a weaver might draw thread from wool. Step by step you grow and clarify your story as you twist the threads into a yarn, spin that yarn, and eventually weave it into the tapestry of your story.

Whether you already have a story you wish to improve or are just starting out with no more than a concept, StoryWeaver will help you grow your story, adding power to your plot, passion to your characters, humanity to your theme and richness to your genre.

StoryWeaver isn’t a web site, an organizational tool, or a series of fill-in-the-blank questions, but a sophisticated story development program. It runs on our servers and is accessed through your web browser, so you can use it on any internet connected device. As you work with your story, you can move seamlessly from laptop, to tablet, to smart phone, and from Windows to Mac, iOS, Android, or Chrome so you can follow your Muse wherever she leads.

Click below to try StoryWeaver risk-free for 90 days!

Your Protagonist Isn’t Your Main Character

Though many writers use these terms interchangeably, they refer to two different kinds of functions in your story’s structure.

The Protagonist is the driver behind the effort to achieve the story’s goal.

The Main Character grapples with a personal issue of morality, philosophy, or point of view.

Often these two functions are given to the same character in your story. When they are both combined into one individual, it forms the basis of the stereotypical “hero” who not only must achieve the goal, but must also resolve a personal issue.

But, these functions can be given to two separate characters, such as in both the book and movie version of To Kill A Mockingbird in which the protagonist is Atticus, the righteous lawyer in a 1930s southern town who seeks to get a fair trial for a black man accused of rape.

But, the main character is Atticus’ young daughter, Scout. No only do we see the story unfold through her eyes, but she has to grow to rid herself of her own bias against the mentally impaired man who lives next door, Boo Radley.

She sees him as a boogey man – someone out to hurt children. But in fact, Boo is protective of the children and prevents the antagonist of the story from harming the children.

The structure is stronger since Atticus never has to question his beliefs in equal protection under the law and can therefore fight for his goal wholeheartedly. But with Scout’s prejudice against Boo without ever having met him, we learn how easy it is for even the most good-natured and innocent of us to harbor bias and prejudice while never seeing it in ourselves.

Learn more about story structure by reading our 350 page book, Dramatica – A New Theory of Story, free on our website.

And write your novel or screenplay step by step with our StoryWeaver Software.

Links to Articles On Writing

Atlas Shrugged

How to Grow a Sentence Into a Story

Audience Reach

Five Steps to a Believable Character

Dramatica Explained in Plain Language

Beginner’s Guide to Dramatica Software

Writing with Globular Clusters

Should Your Main Character Change or Remain Steadfast?

Stories with Characters who Change

Should Your Main Character Start or Stop?

Throughlines – And How to Use Them

A Novelist’s Bag of Tricks!

Psychoanalyze Your Story

A Screenwriter’s Bag of Tricks

The 12 Essential Questions Every Writer Should Answer

The False Narrative

Have Your Characters Write Their Own Autobiographies

When fleshing out your characters, have each one write a short autobiography in their own voice about their lives prior to the beginning of the story, touching on key turning points, memories of special events – both cheerful and tragic, and of the people who meant/mean the most to them.

What are their biggest disappointments, narrowest escapes, greatest triumphs, deepest regrets?

Have them tell you, the author, about their hobbies, religious and political views, hopes, and dreams.

And finally, have your character each write about how the people and events in your story appear to and affect them, from their unique point of view and position in your story.

In this way, your character development will become more organic and more informed.

Keep in mind, however, that our sense of our own selves is usually quite different from how others see us. So, it is a good idea to make sure each character writes about the others in terms of whether they trust them, what they think is their greatest strength, most detrimental weakness, and must fun/frustrating trait. This will not only illuminate how each character sees the others, but how the others see them.

And finally, when you actually sit down to write your characters, don’t just approach them from your author’s view as to what you need/want them to do in the plot, but stand in their shoes and try to understand why they do these things. Is it easy or hard for them to do what they do, compatible or contrary to their nature, and what personal costs or benefits will their actions bring them?

In the end, never forget that we are each the main character or our own personal story, even when we are playing a subordinate role in a larger story involving many others.

Read more writing tips at Storymind.com, the Creative Writing Tips web site.

Have Your Characters Write Their Own Autobiographies

When fleshing out your characters, have each one write a short autobiography in their own voice about their lives prior to the beginning of the story, touching on key turning points, memories of special events – both cheerful and tragic, and of the people who meant/mean the most to them.

What are their biggest disappointments, narrowest escapes, greatest triumphs, deepest regrets?

Have them tell you, the author, about their hobbies, religious and political views, hopes, and dreams.

And finally, have your character each write about how the people and events in your story appear to and affect them, from their unique point of view and position in your story.

In this way, your character development will become more organic and more informed.

Keep in mind, however, that our sense of our own selves is usually quite different from how others see us. So, it is a good idea to make sure each character writes about the others in terms of whether they trust them, what they think is their greatest strength, most detrimental weakness, and must fun/frustrating trait. This will not only illuminate how each character sees the others, but how the others see them.

And finally, when you actually sit down to write your characters, don’t just approach them from your author’s view as to what you need/want them to do in the plot, but stand in their shoes and try to understand why they do these things. Is it easy or hard for them to do what they do, compatible or contrary to their nature, and what personal costs or benefits will their actions bring them?

In the end, never forget that we are each the main character or our own personal story, even when we are playing a subordinate role in a larger story involving many others.

Read more writing tips at Storymind.com, the Creative Writing Tips web site.