Confrontations: Sticks and Symbols

In almost every story, there are times when Character A picks up a fight with Character B. The best way I found to describe their confrontation is to draw color-coded stick figures. Once I can see where the characters are and their possible moves, I can get an outline for the confrontation. After that, it’s just a matter of expanding the outline into paragraphs to describe the scene.

Here is a piece of a confrontation as example (this should look familiar):

Combat_solo

Our hero in blue is down on the ground with a broken arm and his large red enemy is approaching to finish the job. Blue moves his head up and lands a spell on the ground. When Red steps on it, he gets frozen in place and becomes trapped.

Sometimes I add emotions on the drawings, but I mostly reserve this for the outline process. The outline is just a narration of what is happening right to the point, much like on the paragraph below the image. Bullet points or flow charts also work.

With all the pages of the stick figures fighting and the outline of their moves and reactions, words just flow onto paper to detail the scene.

Now, what if is not just Characters A and B that have a problem with each other. What if their friends are involved as well? In that case, stick figures don’t work for me. Too many variables are in place with more than two characters up until they are each on their own. For these types of scenes, I use symbols and colors much like a sports team would describe their strategy during training.

Combat_group

Square is unconscious and the Red team is determined to finish her off. The three Red Circles move to Square’s allies still standing, Circle and X, while Red Triangle goes for the defenseless Square. However, Blue Triangle is not completely out of the fight. Blue Triangle casts a spell to knock back Red Triangle and buy time while the other Blue and Red symbols go at it.

At this point I would also divide the duelists with another symbol and draw their individual movements with stick figures. For example, the two Red Circles fighting the Blue Circle would be marked with @. Every page that has their fight drawings will have @ on the top corner. A group confrontation could take several pages, specially once you branch out into the team member’s individual confrontations. Marking duelists with a symbol will help find their experience in the fight easier by just looking at the symbol on top of the page.

I am drawing and outlining each duelist’s experiences, but this doesn’t mean each of their experiences is going to be narrated. I pick the most exciting encounter to describe once each character is on her or his own and go from there. While the outcome of the other duels are going to be noted, they are not going to be as detailed as the “main event.” Otherwise, the scene would just go on and on and that which was meant to be exciting, may end up being boring and skipped.

At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter how you design your confrontations. Just have fun with it!

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Short Story Structure

I have been wanting to write short stories again for a while now. I wrote several when I was in school either as assignments or just because I wanted to.

Short stories are fun to write and can help complement a longer story line, such as that of a novel or novel series. I have been playing with the idea of writing short stories taking place in the world of Arion to bring some background for supporting characters and lore. So I noted down some ideas and researched to help me keep my train of thought on track.

A story should have 5 elements: Setting, Characters, Plot/story line, Theme and Style. The structure of the story should have 5 acts: Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action and Resolution. Before I begin writing my short story, I note these details on a spreadsheet. This will help minimize how often I have to go back and revise, much like I learned with The Snowflake Method for writing novels.

Here are three sites I found helpful:

Teaching Short Story contains a set of slides that explain the elements and structure of a short story. This is where the image at the bottom originated from.

Teaching the Short Story also contains slides with similar explanations as well as points for different genres.

5 Rules to Writing a Great Short Story are a set of tips and tricks to help answer some of questions such as “how long should it be?” or “how much should it cover?”

There is a lot of information out there. If you are interested in writing a  short story yourself, keep looking for as much information as you need.

Happy writing!

teaching-short-story-12-638
Structure of a Story (from Teaching Short Story)

Writer’s Block

Writer’s block is fun!

No… no, wait… that can’t be right. Let me start over.

Writer’s block sucks! It is as bad as finding a spider inside your favorite shoe!

Now that makes more sense.

Writer’s block can be annoying and frustrating. You know you want character A to get something, but how? Or maybe those two characters have to meet and become best friends, but where? The scenarios for writer’s block to manifest in are as many as the possible scenarios in your story, if not more.

However, there is help out there. Said help may not be in the form of screaming for help until your spouse or roommate comes to save you from the spider, but you can still scream if you want.

This is one of the many sites I have visited to help me out when my hands say “Ok, let’s do this!” and my brain instead says “huh?”

Step two is my favorite and it’s what works best for me. If you ever came to my house, you’d notice a notebook, notepad or some sort of writing instrument in every room.

I’ll leave this here for you. Happy writing!

Unblocking the Mind

The Snowflake Method

Back in school and when I first started writing, I found myself going back and updating things a lot. So much that I stopped writing for years because I hated the delay in the process. I mean, I had all these ideas in my head ready to be put down on paper and having to go back to what was already written was annoying me and sometimes even confusing me.

A few years ago I wanted to write again. I tried a couple of different ways to get my story down using methods from books and the Internet.  The process still felt like it wasn’t right for me. Even though those techniques I was using worked wonders for others, they did not sit well with my train of thought. Then one day I stumbled upon The Snowflake Method and my writing world changed.

This article gives you steps on how to go from a one sentence summary to a full novel. It helped me get organized and stay focused on what mattered in my story. It is because of this method that I fell in love with writing again.

I still have to go back and touch up details here and there when I’m writing, but I do it in a more manageable way and nowhere near as much as I used to.

Out of the multiple techniques for writing out there, this is the one that did it for me. So thank you, Randy Ingermanson, for making my life as an author a bit easier!

The Snowflake Method