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Build a Better Story
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Powell's Books Powell's Books

Hank gives an overview of the book:

  Build a Better Story contains a wealth of information and advice on fiction writing.   It will provide guidance for both new and experienced fiction writers.   For the newer fiction writers, the book offers a solid approach to  beginning a story.  Besides advice on such basics as motivation, characterization and plotting, it offers guides  that can be used to assist in developing the characters and story construction.  It also  contains a graphical representation on how to build a story.  This flow chart breaks down  the complex construction of writing a story into a series of steps that guide the writer  through the process.  At the end, all that is left to do is write the first draft and edit,  edit and edit some more.   Experienced fiction writers will find it a useful  guide to break out...
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Build a Better Story contains a wealth of information and advice on fiction writing.  

It will provide guidance for both new and experienced fiction writers.

 

For the newer fiction writers, the book offers a solid approach to  beginning a story. 

Besides advice on such basics as motivation, characterization and plotting, it offers guides 

that can be used to assist in developing the characters and story construction.  It also 

contains a graphical representation on how to build a story.  This flow chart breaks down 

the complex construction of writing a story into a series of steps that guide the writer 

through the process.  At the end, all that is left to do is write the first draft and edit, 

edit and edit some more.

 

Experienced fiction writers will find it a useful  guide to break out of the bad writing 

habits we all develop over time.  They will also find a fresh approach to story design and 

construction that will offer them a different way to build their next story. 

 

Based on the author's own experiences, both good and bad, it offers a practical and 

unique perspective on the craft of writing a work of fiction.

 

 

Read an excerpt »

 

From Chapter Three: Motivation

WHY DID HE JUST DO THAT?

Quite often the reason a character does something or the reason he responds as he does is lost to the reader.  This confusion occurs because the author has neglected to include the character's motivation in the scene or the snippet of action.  A snippet is a short piece of action embedded into scenes.  It contains a stimulus sentence or two followed by a character's response.  This sequence of action is also called cause and effect.  Unfortunately, the two elements are frequently reversed to the confusion of the reader.

Sometimes the motivation is apparent, such as when a character jumps behind a wall when he hears a shot.  In this case, the reader doesn't have to have the motivation explained to her.  When a reaction isn't that apparent, it is essential that the author describe the character's motivation or stimulus.  In the following snippet of a scene, Jody is a minor character who the reader knows nothing about:

Danny worked on the old car and whistled a nameless tune.

"Hi Danny," Jody said, giving him a big smile.

"Shut up or I'll make you shut up," Danny snarled.

Jody turned on her heel and left.

The reader is left clueless why Danny snarled at Jody.

Many times when this problem surfaces, it has to do with a character reacting angrily, even violently, for no apparent reason.  It's as if the author understands the need for tension or conflict, but inserts it randomly into the story without defining the character's motivation.  This artificial tension will come across as contrived and will be counterproductive.  This type of motivation-less action occurs more often than you'd think possible and turns reading a story from an enjoyable pastime into a chore.

 

 

 

From Chapter Nine: Writing a Scene

EMOTIONAL ARC

      A basic requirement for a scene is to include an emotional change in the POV character.  If the character's emotion is positive at the beginning of the scene, then it should be negative at the end.  As an example, Character A feels good a the start of the scene.  Everything is going his way and he is confident that he will solve the scene problem.  By the end of the scene, he must be in a funk because an unexpected obstacle arose and derailed his scheme to fix things.  Similarly, if the character's love life is grand at the scene opening, it should be on the rocks at the end of the scene.  Or if the couple starts out fighting or arguing, they should be smooching by the end of the scene.

A scene that goes emotionally from plus to minus should be followed by a scene that goes emotionally from minus to plus.  The point is to put the reader's emotions on a roller-coaster so that those emotions are never stable for very long.

I think the major problems that many writers face in developing a new scene are ones of not knowing the character sufficiently and second, not getting inside the head of the POV character when you are writing a scene. I mentally picture my characters acting out the scene (as if they are on stage) and I focus my attention inside the POV character so that I am writing what he sees and feels.  Then when something happens, I know what his thoughts are and what his motivation is, hence I can predict how he should react to the stimuli and thus build the emotional arc.

 

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Note from the author coming soon...

About Hank

Award-winning author Hank Quense lives in Bergenfield, NJ with his wife Pat. They have two daughters and five grandchildren. He writes humorous fantasy and scifi stories. On occasion, he also writes an article on fiction writing or book marketing but says that writing...

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