Friday, October 1, 2021

2021 - October through December — Fears Worse Than Death


This year's posts have all dealt with "lists" (also known as Cheat Sheets) that help a writer recall necessary elements before (or after) writing that make for a story worth telling and selling. Such Cheat Sheets are the backbone of a producing writer's Project Bible. 



Fears Worse Than Death 



One of the key elements to collect and put on a Master Character Worksheet or Questionnaire and to ask only of your main characters is: What is your fear worse than death?

That's right — 

There are things far worse then death or dying. Among them are fears and phobias. 

Often a fear or a phobia is the Protagonist's or Antagonist's Achilles' heel, their weakness, their vulnerability, which will play out in the story in some way, often in a major or catastrophic way.

Such a fear or phobia makes the character more human or adds a quirk to their personality. For instance, Indiana Jones's fear of snakes. My own fear is of wasps and hornets. I've been stung so many times over the years that I am now allergic to their stings. As a result, should I hear a buzz, I about panic looking for the culprit to kill it before it stings me.

It's important that a writer avoid plastering just any fear or phobia onto a character. The fear or phobia has to be part and parcel of the character's character because their fear or phobia resulted from a "cause." That is, something happened in the Protagonist's or Antagonist's past that created that particular fear and that fear, in turn, affects how the character judges and reacts or tries to avoid dealing with the fear or phobia they have acquired.

These fears-phobias fall into three groups: debilitating, life-threatening, and extremely humiliating. The result it that the character (or a person) will do just about anything to avoid facing that fear. One example is the fear of public speaking, which to most seem to result in the ultimate of humiliations.

Of course, often the character doesn't realize what affect that original fear-inducing incident had on them until "The Wise One" or "The Voice of Reason" type of character in the story points it out to them—or the Antagonist uses that fear or phobia against the Protagonist (or vice versa). What Lex Luther villain doesn't enjoy jabbing a little kryptonite into Superman?

Over the years, and from many different sources, I've put together my own extensive list of "Fears Worse Than death" (which includes phobias) that people have. You can start your own list by checking out: https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/mental-health/phobias/related/list-of-phobias/

Such a list should go into your personal, master copy of your Story Project Bible.

* * * 


October 9, 2021  — I will be giving two IN-PERSON writing workshops in Erie PA at the WRITER'S ROAD TRIP #9. This is the 9th year for the event hosted by Area 1 Pennwriters, part of Pennwriters, Inc. 


REGISTRATION AND INFORMATION
CAN BE FOUND  HERE


OR AT 

https://pennwriters.org/content.aspx?page_id=4002&club_id=522048&item_id=1516903

                                                                       







Monday, July 5, 2021

2021 - July through September - Why They Kill List

    This year's posts will deal with "lists" (also known as Cheat Sheets) that help a writer recall necessary elements before writing (or after) that make for a marketable story, a story worth telling and selling. Such Cheat Sheets are the backbone of a producing writer's Project Bible. 



The "Why They Kill" List

Be they hero or villain, Protagonist or Antagonist, have you every thought about why they would kill or why they might loath killing? 

Disregarding them being caught red-handed or cornered with no way out of the predicament they've gotten themselves into, below are some reasons to ill that might help flesh out or better understand your Antagonist or Protagonist. They would kill for:

MONEY 

ENJOYMENT (sadistic or cold-blooded)

REVENGE 

SEX (jealousy)

JEALOUSY OR ENVY (over personal possessions, social or job status, etc.)

PERVERTED ACTS 

DRUGS

CULTISM

TERRORISTS

CHILDREN ARE A BURDEN

INADEQUACY AS A PARENT

HATE

BECAUSE THEY ARE DELUSIONAL, MENTALLY ILL, OR INSANE

BECAUSE THEY ARE ASSASSINS 

BECAUSE THEY ARE ADDICTED TO BLOODLETTING OR HOOKED ON KILLING

It should be noted that men far outnumber women when it comes to the above. And speaking of women killers, did you know that 50% of women shoot their victims while 3% bludgeon, stab, torture, suffocate, neglect, or drown victims? And then there are the 29% of woman who employ a combination of the above.

One last thing, there is little difference between terrorists and hit men (assassins), but there are types— 

The Enforcer who has a cold-blooded mentality

Those where murder is an art to them

Those that are loyal only to the person who pays them

They are vicious psychopaths— having aggressive, perverted, criminal, or amoral behavior

They are sociopaths— having a personality disorder marked by aggressive, antisocial behavior

So, under what circumstances would your Protagonist kill someone?

Under what circumstance would your Antagonist kill someone?

********************

Next posting October 1, 2021 



Thursday, April 1, 2021

2021 - April through June - The Criminal-Villain Qualities List

 

Special Notice: This year, my Writer's Cheat Sheet Blog posts will be updated on the first of every month but quarterly. The next update will be Oct. 1st.

This year's posts deal with "lists" (also known as Cheat Sheets) that help a writer recall necessary elements before writing (or after) that make for a marketable story, a story worth telling and selling. 


The Criminal-Villain Qualities List 

The Antagonist in a story is The Who or The What that opposes or thwarts the Protagonist. In this month's post, we'll be looking at only The Who type of Antagonist.

It goes without saying that the Antagonist needs to be powerful and ruthless enough to succeed in achieving their goal or goals. The Antagonist goal is to stop or defeat the Protagonist at every turn of the plot.

However, The Who Antagonist doesn't need to be truly evil-evil. Yes, people can be horrendously cruel, greedy, exploitive, and egocentric but not all psychopaths or sociopaths are criminals. Even if that Who Antagonist is a person, being, deity, extraterrestrial, etc. somewhere within them is a spec of goodness or kindness.

And of course, there can be one or more Complicating Characters who are a story's antagonists. Complicating Characters are bent on complicating the Protagonist's life and goals. Complicating Characters act individually or they may team up to thwart the Protagonist on several levels, which don't usually include murder but create a great deal of mayhem, frustration, and anxiety for the hero or heroine.

To better understand your story's Antagonist, ask your villain or each complicating character: What is your "malicious intent?" In other words, name their one, dominant, secret, deep-down desire, want, or need—and why that is.

It might help to know if your villain is AN ORGANIZED CRIMINAL who possesses several (but not necessarily all) of these qualities— 

. acts aggressively

. plans the crime or attack in detail

. personalizes the victim

. controls conversation with the victim

. controls the crime scene

. removes weapons from the victim's reach or use

. requires a victim to be submissive and/or restrained 

. leaves very little evidence that can identify them (cleverly disposing of bodies)

Or is your Antagonist THE DISORGANIZED CRIMINAL who possesses several (but not necessarily all) of these qualities— 

. acts spontaneously, emotionally

. targets people they know, or who they think have done them wrong

. depersonalizes the victim, keeps conversation with victim to a minimum (they don't want to be dissuaded from hating or disliking the victim)

. attacks victim with sudden violence

. does not use restraints

. creates or leaves a chaotic crime scene and may leave the corpse at the crime scene

. leaves weapon(s) behind along with a variety of evidence

. may have sex with a corpse

Here's something you might not know— Villains have a VICE. A vice is: 

An evil, degrading, undesirable, or immoral practice or habit 

A serious moral failing

Wicked or evil conduct or habits, may be depraved

Sexual immorality, especially prostitution, rape 

A failing, a slight flaw or an imperfection (scar, tattoo, etc.) that is visible to others

A physical defect or weakness the villain hates himself for having and perceives others are repulsed by it or he is often ridiculed for it

The above lists are possibilities to think about that can help flesh out The Who  Antagonist of your story.

Lastly, I can't be say it enough —  A story resonates best with readers when there is a worthy antagonist, one who comes across as a person, not a puppet.

 *************




Friday, January 1, 2021

2021 - January through March

 
Special Notice: This year, my Writer's Cheat Sheet Blog posts will be updated on the first of every month but quarterly (the next post will be April 1). 

This year's posts will deal with "lists" (also known as Cheat Sheets) that help a writer recall necessary elements before writing (or after) that make for a marketable story, a story worth telling and selling. Such Cheat Sheets are the backbone of a producing writer's Project Bible. 


So, now let's start this new year off with— 


THE QUALITIES OF

 A PROTAGONIST 

(HERO OR HEROINE)


Most romance and fiction heroes (those alpha and beta men) of legendary stories come across as superior to real men in many ways. The same is said for heroines versus real women.

Now, go get a pen and a sheet of paper and recall a book you really enjoyed reading that had memorable characters. As quickly as you can, write down three POSITIVE qualities of the most memorable MALE character in that story. Once done, compare your three to this list of hero-protagonist qualities:

HAS A WOUNDED SPIRIT

HAS A CAUSE /JOB (OR IS BUMMED OUT BY HIS JOB AND NEEDS REJUVENATION)

PEOPLE ARE LOYAL TO HIM

HE IS LOYAL TO HIS FAMILY AND FRIENDS

HE IS RESPECTED AND FEARED

HE IS SMART / INTELLIGENT

HE UNDERMINES THE ROMANTIC LEAD's OR HEROINE'S DEFENSES

HE CARES FOR HIS PEOPLE'S PLIGHT (FAMILY, FRIENDS, COWORKERS)

HE IS TRUSTED AND TRUSTWORTHY

HE IS REALISTIC

HE HAS INNER HONOR, A CODE OF HONOR

HE IS DETERMINED, DECISIVE

HE MAY BE A LONER

Now, list as quickly as you can, three POSITIVE qualities of the most memorable FEMALE character in a favorite story. Once done, compare your three to this list of heroine-protagonist / romantic-lead qualities:

HER INTELLIGENCE MATCHES THE HERO'S

SHE IS SMART / INTELLIGENT

SHE IS CONFIDENT MOST OF THE TIME

SHE IS BOLD, DECISIVE, OFTEN A LEADER-BOSS

SHE IS MADDENING IN SOME WAY

SHE IS DETERMINED

SHE MAY BE STUBBORN

SHE IS INDEPENDENT OR INDEPENDENTLY MINDED (SHE THINKS SHE CAN DO IT HERSELF)

SHE IS NOT OUTWARDLY OR OVERLY EMOTIONAL (MOST OF THE TIME)

SHE IS SENSUAL (NOT NECESSARILY SEXY)

SHE STRIVES TO BE FREE, TO BREAK THE CHAINS THAT BIND HER 

SHE HAS A NEED TO FEEL AND BE SOMEBODY SPECIAL

SHE DOES NOT EASILY TRUST 

Did you notice as you went through all the lists, that these are admirable traits? Well, a Protagonist, be they male or female, must be highly admirable. 

Here's the secret, show the reader their MOST ADMIRABLE TRAIT when they come on stage by announcing to the reader their name (the name they will be known as throughout the story, not necessarily their full name). After all, a story is about SOMEONE, a person, so begin with that very special person on the first line of the first page, or within the first sentence or paragraph or within 500 words of the opening of the story. 

Doing so telegraphs to the reader the story is about "someone special" who is a person worthy of a reader's investment in reading the story.

So, how does your protagonist measure up as "hero or heroine" worthy?

A new year is like a blank book. 
The pen is in your hands. 
It is your chance to write 
a beautiful story for yourself 
in this the New Year of 2021!
# # # 



Tuesday, December 1, 2020

2020 - December - Characters Make The Story

 



Part 12 of 12  of Job titles for Story Characters • © 2020 All Rights Reserved



A lot of information has been included in this year's twelve monthly blog posts. That's why this end-of-the-year post is a summary— and a reminder. 

Topping the list of reminders is that plot is only as effective as the characters who showcase that plot. Write that in big bold letters and post it where you can see it every time you write a story.

Characters are so important that they can be sorted into categories by their job or function in the story. Knowing their story job titles and duties (job description) helps a writer create a far better story and stops overpopulating the story with a "cast of thousands." As you have learned this past year— 

Story job titles fall into categories of:

Major (or Main) Story Characters

The Protagonist (The Hero or Heroine)

The Antagonist (The Who or The What that opposes the Protagonist)

Major Secondary Characters

Romantic Interest or the Romantic Lead

Best Friend, Sidekick, Pal, etc.

Mentor, Advisor, Teacher, Sage, etc.

The Fool


The Entourages for the Protagonist are 

Friends, men

Friends, women

A Love Interest or The Romantic Lead (who is not a Major Secondary Character)

A Mentor

A Coach 

Pals (drinking buddies, poker pals, bowling pals) 

Family (parents, siblings, other relatives)

Neighbors

Work associates

Food industry workers (bar tender, waitress, etc.)

Health workers (doctor, nurse, etc.)

Tradesmen (plumber, mechanic, pool man, etc.)

Professionals (law enforcement, banking or financial, veterinarian, etc.)

. . . and so on.


The Entourage for the Antagonist (if a Who) can be

* Friends 

* Right-hand Henchperson or second in command

* Toadies, Monster-beings, Servants, Minions, etc.

* A Mentor

* Family (parents, siblings, other relatives)

* Professionals (gangsters, crooks, thieves, killers for hire, security enforcers, and others who procure things, obey orders, and carry out the Antagonist's plans and orders, and protect the Antagonist).


Tertiary Characters (Named Minor Characters), Symbolic Characters, and Prop People.


In the last three posts (September, October, and November) we discussed the sound of names (psycholinguistics), the merits of archetype names, tags and traits for names, and the value of having a master character worksheet (questionnaire).

Armed with the information in this year's posts, you should be able to write a story with far more believable characters.

If you're new to reading this blog, feel free to go to January 2020 and begin reading the posts.

And, thank you for being a faithful reader of this blog and for sharing the links with other writers. Your comments and questions are always welcome.

Strive to write well and tell a story well.

Catherine E. McLean

  





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Revision is where the magic happens—

use this guidebook to take the frustration out of self-editing that draft you wrote during NaNoWriMo



Tell Santa you want this guidebook in your Christmas Stocking

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