Saturday 25 May 2013

Tech Week for Novels: Day One (JuNoWriMo #10)

So on Thursday I talked briefly about the Three Act Structure of a novel. Today, on this lovely Saturday where I'm mostly panicking about getting this story plotted, we're going to focus on Act One. This is where tech week begins. You've spent all this time learning about your characters and now it's time to start rehearsing on that stage with your lights and your characters and your set pieces and figure out how it's all going to come together.

We're exactly one week away from June 1st. Tech Week - aka Hell Week - starts NOW!

We're going full on theatre metaphor mode here, people, you better buckle up.

Act One: The lights go down the curtain comes up and the audience meets your setting for the very first time. There is a special bond between an audience and a setting because it's going to be there for the entire show; there'll be a familiarity and curiosity to every step the character's make, taking the audience with them as they explore the setting.

Next to be introduced are the main characters, the ones who step on stage and demand attention and have an important story to tell. First impressions are everything so make sure they don't stumble on from backstage at the last minute. This needs to be well rehearsed (if you want some practice: come up with ten opening lines for your novel and write the scene that follows it). And as the story progresses more characters are introduced and all that lovely dialogue is exchanged, establishing voice and purpose and all those good, hearty vegetables.

If this were a musical, Act One would close on a grand energetic number that had your main character front and center nodding their head because they're going to make their dreams come true. Alas your novel is not a musical (yet) but that's the idea. This is the big moment. This is where your audience decides if they want to see the rest of what you have to tell them.

The almighty book says by the end of act one you should be able to answer:
    1. What is the significant event of the novel (what is the insighting incident that initially propels your story?)
    2. What is your character's motivation? What is at stake?
    3. Can your reader get invested in the characters (is there enough background and interaction to make them care)?
    4. Are there scenes that indicate the potential challenges to be faced in Act Two (aka FORESHADOWING)?
    5. Do you find the first section of your novel compelling?
Question five is very important, I think because if you aren't invested in these characters and want to know more, how can you expect your audience to?

Now the assignment for today (and really, what I should have been doing weeks ago) is to take a piece of paper, or word document or napkin etc. and start bullet pointing scenes that you want to happen in Act One. The goal is to create a skeleton for what will later become your full novel outline.

These aren't the scenes that are set in stone but start thinking or a timeline and certain events that need to happen and, most importantly, where Act One ends. Where does the curtain go down?

You got that?

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