Plot Driven VS Character Driven

Book cover for The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne, #amwriting, #amediting, book review, how to write, how to edit

In The Story Grid, Shawne Coyne takes a moment to discuss the differences between plot driven and character driven stories. In brief, a plot driven novel focuses on external problems whereas character driven focuses on internal problems. It’s very tempting to divide these into hard and fast categories, like saying all natural disaster movies are plot driven because the conflict is external.

That’s just not true. For example, look no further than zombies.

Zombies are Man VS Nature in its rawest form. Replace zombies with forest fires, earth quakes, tidal waves, giant meteors hitting the earth, or insert natural disaster here, and you’ll feel the same sense of hopeless dread against a force that can’t see reason and cannot be stopped.

Some zombie fiction is almost entirely plot driven, like World War Z. In others, the zombies themselves are almost window dressing to large scale, character driven dramas, like The Walking Dead.

Very, very rarely is a story 100% character or plot driven and successful. A viewer/reader/whatever has to care whether the character lives or dies to willingly follow them through the zombie wasteland. How much they care is a sliding scale. But there has to be something, otherwise the entire plot falls flat. Conversely, stories that exist almost entirely in a protagonists head, a protagonist without some kind of external goal, are incredibly boring. (We’ve all had to read those issue books in schools).

All stories balance character and plot as a driving force to pull the reader through the novel. How much of each is going to depend on audience, genre, and the writers personal preferences. But both sides of the equation have a lot to teach an aspiring writer.

Mythology Monday: Ariadne

Ariadne, Greek mythology retellings, young adult greek mythology, Dionysus, maze, TheseusAriadne (Libera) was one of the few humans in Greek mythology to be elevated to a divine status. She was a Princess of Crete, daughter to Minos, and she played a large role in Theseus’s quest to solve the labyrinth and defeat the minotaur (she gave Theseus a sword and thread). Theseus took her with him when he left Crete, but being the class act that he was, then abandoned her while she slept. The lesson here, Greek princesses, is do not defy your father to help heroes save the day, because heroes are jack-asses, and you will lose everything. Seriously. Every time. (Though in fairness, some versions of the myth have her being brutally murdered by Artemis before he could “enjoy” her, so it’s possible he didn’t abandon her, he just thought she was permanently dead. It’s also possible Dionysus told Theseus to leave because he wanted to marry her/Athena warned him away and Theseus had had enough experience going against gods to leave).

Fortunately, Dionysus found her and fell in love. The two married and she became a goddess either by walking up the mountain with him after their wedding, or after being killed by Artemis and brought back to life by Dionysus, or after being turned to stone with the head of Medusa by Perseus and brought back to life by Dionysus, or after killing herself and being dragged back from the Underworld by Dionysus. It just depends on who is telling the myth.

In my universe, she remained mortal and was simply abandoned by Theseus. This is because Dionysus doesn’t exist in my universe (well, not as a single god), and Theseus being a jerk is completely in keeping with his stories in mythology (this is the guy who abducted ten year old Helen of Troy and helped Pirithous try to abduct Persephone from the Underworld after all). I’d love to use her in later stories, because she’s an interesting character, but since her father is a dead judge in Hades’s Underworld, that would be hard to explain.

 

JordanCon

#JordanCon #JordanCon9

 

This weekend I will be attending JordanCon! I will be one of the professional critiquers for the Fantasy Writing Workshop at 8:30 PM tonight. This is their event schedule, and here are my plans for today.

2:30- Novellas and Short Stories

4:00– Plotting with Story Structure

5:30 – Write What You Don’t Know

8:30 – Writers Workshop

 

Will you be there?

 

 

Character Goals

Book cover for The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne, #amwriting, #amediting, book review, how to write, how to edit

Every character starts a story with a goal. Example: Rapunzel wants to see the lights, Ralph wants to be a hero, Hiccup wants to prove that he belongs in his Viking village. But what your character wants and what they need are seldom the same, and the thing they want is a misguided attempt to fill a need. In most cases, your characters goal is external, but it reflects an intangible desire they can’t quite say.

Ralph’s external want is a medal, but it’s driven by an internal need for acceptance. But acceptance of others isn’t nearly as important as him accepting himself. Once he accepts and becomes proud of who he really is, everything else falls into place, and he realizes the medal never really mattered.

Shawn Coyne breaks this down into plot lines. Storyline “A” is the external want the character is after, storyline “B” is the abstract need they are trying to fill. The very best conflicts (which drive the story) occur when the two conflict. Example: Ralph gets his medal, but at what cost? He feels even worse about himself than he did when the story starts.

The conflicts can occur on a few levels.

Inner conflict. This is your character’s fight with themselves. Example: Ralph’s inner battle with himself as he struggles to come to terms with the fact that he is a bad guy, but that doesn’t make him a bad guy.

Personal Conflict. This is your character’s struggle with other people. It can be with an antagonist, but it’s often also with those they care about. Example: Ralph and Felix goals are in conflict with each other. Ralph needs to leave the game to get his medal, Felix needs to get Ralph back to save the game. Vanelope and Ralph both need the same medal to accomplish their goals, they resolve their conflict by teaming up, but are soon in personal conflict again when Ralph tries to save Vanelope from herself. King Candy and Ralph have a personal conflict, clearly, and the two fight to the death in the climax of the movie.

Extra-Personal Conflict is a conflict with something larger than an individual or yourself. For example, in Wreck it Ralph, Ralph has a personal conflict with Felix or Eugine, but he has an extra-personal conflict with an entire society that sees him as a bad guy and treats him with disdain. An extra-personal conflict tends to be with society as a whole or a force of nature. A natural disaster or zombie story narrative is an extra personal conflict.

So breaking this down further into the five major conflicts, you’ve got…

Man VS Self- Inner conflict

Man VS Man- Personal Conflict

Man VS Society- Interpersonal Conflict

Man VS Nature- Interpersonal Conflict

Man VS Technology- Interpersonal conflict

Most stories contain a mix of inner, personal, or interpersonal.

Mythology Monday: The Charities and The Graces

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“There’s a girl. She’s…” Adonis’s voice rang out of the room. “You’re going to want to see this.”

I led us to the last small room with glass walls, every step a lesson in agony.

Adonis stood in the doorway. “I don’t recognize her, but…” Adonis swallowed audibly, stepping aside so we could see the skeletal figure lying atop the metal table. “She doesn’t look good.

“Who is that?” I demanded with a gasp as we crowded into the room. The smell of infection almost overwhelmed me.

The goddess was connected to an IV, lying unconscious on a metal table, just as Hades had been. But unlike Hades, she was skin and bones. Pockmarked scars crisscrossed her flesh. Scars. The age of them told me just how long it had been since she had any access to her own divine healing abilities.

Hades worked a muscle in his jaw as he looked her over. “Aglaia.”

The name clicked into place. She was a Daughter of Zeus, one of the Graces. Her sister, Thalia, had mentioned she was missing back before we bought Zeus. But we’d assumed he’d already killed her.

Gods, this poor girl. Her gaunt skin rose and fell with shallow, pained breaths. I could hear the death rattle in her chest over the sound of the fight behind me. The Graces were harmless, alive only because Zeus had passed on token amounts of charm. But even without the poison, she couldn’t have had enough power reserved to heal from what they’d done to her.

They wanted to see what made me tick, Adonis’s haunted voice echoed in my mind.

Hades let out a long breath. “She went missing back when Zeus…” His throat bobbed as his ice blue eyes took in a fate he hadn’t quite escaped from yet. “We assumed he killed her.” He put a hand on her forehead and closed his eyes. “She’s gone.”

My heart wrenched. I hadn’t known her, but I knew of her. The Graces lived up to their name. They were harmless and kind. She didn’t deserve this. And every god lost was an irreparable blow to our species as a whole.

“The machines say otherwise,” Adonis said, pointing at the beeping machines monitoring her.

Hades gave him an icy look. “I know death when I see it.”

 

~@~

 

The Charities, also known as the Graces, were goddesses of sugar, spice, and everything nice. Basically. (Okay, the official list is joy, pleasure, mirth, beauty, dancing, feasts, marriage and banquets. Thank you Theoi).

The Graces acted as handmaidens for Hera, Aphrodite, and Dionysus. There were three primary Graces and a bunch of minor Graces mentioned in random throwaway lines of Greek mythology.

The three primary Graces are Aglaea (Charis), Euphrosyne, and Thalia. Aglaea was a goddess of beauty, and Hephaestus’s second wife. She plays a minor role in Love and War and Venus Rising. Euphrosyne was the goddess of good cheer. Thalia (the Grace, not the Muse) was the goddess of festivities, (except in Sparta, where the third Grace was Cleta). Thalia plays a minor role in Iron Queen.

The primary graces were most often considered to be daughters of Zeus and Eurynome, but sometimes they were mentioned as daughters of Dionysus and Aphrodite, or Helios and Aegle.

 

Of the younger graces, (most of whom were Hephaestus’s and Aglaea’s kids) the most notable was the oldest, Pasithea. She was Hypnos’s wife and the goddess of rest and relaxation. Others included Auxo, who might have been a Grace, might have been a Hora (Seasonal deities) or might have been a title for Persephone; Peitho, the goddess of persuasion; Antheia, goddess of flowers; Eudaemonia, goddess of happiness; Euthymia, goddess of good cheer; Hegemone; Cleta; goddess of fame and glory; Paidia, the goddess of amusement; Pandaisia, the goddess of rich banquets; Pannykhis, the goddess of night parties; and Pheanna.

You’ll notice a lot of repeats, cross-overs, and straight up emptiness in that list. That’s because the Charities were often depicted in art work, but few mentions of them survived in actual writings. For my purposes, there are only three.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FAQ Friday: Why not teleport?

Question mark in a blue bubble. Repeating icon for the frequently asked questions in the Daughters of Zeus series a young adult greek mythology retelling by Kaitlin Bevis

 

A reader asked why Persephone didn’t teleport away from danger during Daughter of Earth and Sky.

Without getting into spoilerific details, 90% of the time Persephone was in danger, someone had a firm grip on her. She can’t teleport in the living realm with anyone born outside Demeter’s realm and she can’t teleport with anyone in the Underworld that doesn’t read as a native. As for the other 10…

With the Reapers it wouldn’t have done any good. The have rights to teleport in both realms, so they would have just gone with her, and then what? She couldn’t explain what was going on to Hades, and if she stuck to the living realm, they’d already shown a willingness to retaliate with random humans.

With that last thing that happened, there was a shield in place to prevent teleportation, which is also why Hades could not interfere.

#YASH Winners!

Team Pink, #YASH Young adult Scavenger Hunt

Congratulations to the winners of the Spring 2017 YA Scavenger Hunt! We hope you had a great time discovering new authors and exploring exclusive content. Thank you for joining us whether it was your first hunt or you’ve been with us from the beginning. This hunt truly is for you!

The Winner for the PINK team was April Rope, and the winner for my personal giveaway was Hannah Mac.

To see all the winners from every team and author giveaway, click here.

 

The First Act

Before I get into the next chapter of the story grid, I’m going to deviate a bit to give some important background.

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, most stories start with a slice of the protagonist’s life. In the heroes journey this is called “the ordinary world.” The slice of life (or beginning exposition) establishes some very important things for your character.

Who they are.

What is normal (because you can’t appreciate the abnormal until you know what has changed).

What they want.

What they have.

What they can lose.

There’s a reason one of the first lines of the Pixar story spine is “Every day….One day…”

I put together a video talking about what needs to be established in the slice of life for a creative writing class that I’m taking. Note: I know that the scene from Lilo and Stitch is not actually part of the slice of life, but it was either that or the first 15 minutes from Up, and I wanted to be a productive human today.

Once the slice of life is established, the next major plot element is the inciting incident. This is the incident that kicks off the story. This is often tied to the call to adventure, but not always.

Here’s a few of my favorite examples of inciting incidents.

Things happened in the story before each of these events, but for most, that was establishing background. You could argue, for instance, the inciting incident for Big Hero 6 was Tadashi dying, or Tadashi convincing his brother to try nerd school. Or in Frozen, Elsa being born, hurting Ana, getting locked up, or for Wreck it Ralph, the anniversary, the creation of the game, ect. But the difference between those instances and the inciting incident is that they are used to set up the slice of life. Elsa hurting Ana was used to explain why she spent every day locked up and was afraid of her powers, not to explain why she froze the kingdom. Tadashi dying could arguably be considered an inciting incident since Hiro’s personal goal was revenge for his death, but Tadashi dying isn’t what kick starts the story. It’s this moment when he activates Baymax, and Baymax realizes his microbots are active. Until this happened, Hiro didn’t know his brother needed to be avenged. Instead of kicking off the story, Tadashi’s death explains the slice of life. Why every day, Hiro sat in his room, isolated from his friends, until one day….

The inciting incident isn’t what establishes the character’s goals, that’s what the slice of life is for. The inciting incident is the thing that sets them on the path to achieving those goals. In Hiro’s case, what he wants (revenge) and what he needs (to connect with someone and grieve) are two very different things, but this moment is what puts him on the path to achieving both.

After the inciting incident, the story truly begins, and that moment is called crossing the threshold. This is when they leave the ordinary world, their slice of life, and everything begins to change.

Here’s some of my favorite examples.

Character goals tie into act one in a big way, so next week, I’ll be sharing what the Story Grid has to say about establishing character goals.

 

FAQ Friday: Wouldn’t it have been safer for Persephone to just stay in the Underworld?

Question mark in a blue bubble. Repeating icon for the frequently asked questions in the Daughters of Zeus series a young adult greek mythology retelling by Kaitlin Bevis

 

*Spoiler warning for Persephone and Daughter of Earth and Sky

A reader wondered why, if Hades and Demeter knew Zeus was still around and after Persephone, did they allow her to return to the living realm in book two?

Remember, Boreas was restricted to a relatively short season, but Zeus could wait around for all eternity. Persephone wanted to hang on to the human life she’d built. She has friends, a job, a family, and a life. And while it’s one thing to step away from that for a few months (December-March) while Boreas was at full strength, it’s quite another to say goodbye forever.

Persephone’s will in this is paramount, because I didn’t want to write a horror story about a teenage girl being forced to spend her life in the land of the dead. It’s one of the first things I changed when I rewrote the myth.

As far as what Hades wants, while other writers have tackled the whole over protective significant other forcing their loved one to stay somewhere safe (and thus destroying their relationship in the process) SO well (Seriously read the linked book. It’s so good), that’s not the story I wanted to tell. Which is why, in book one, Hades explicitly stated that he wouldn’t keep Persephone in the Underworld against her will. That’s a promise he has to honor. He does try to convince her to stay a few times. He just can’t make her.

Demeter on the other hand, would absolutely force her daughter to stay in the Underworld for her safety. For a season. Asking her to say goodbye to her daughter for all time, especially after her daughter nearly died the last time she tried to make that happen, is a bit much. Plus, Demeter’s dealing with a lot of parent guilt in book two. Every move she’s ever made regarding Persephone was for Persephone’s own good, but it backfired. Her daughter hates her for her deception, the events of book one outright would have never happened if Persephone had had an ounce of preparation, the priestess she chose for her daughter has gone rogue, the father she chose for her daughter so she’d have enough power to survive is the very thing threatening her life. Every move she made failed. So while she never shows it (she’s a goddess after all, showing weakness isn’t easy for them), Demeter spends most of book two feeling paralyzed. She knows if she pushes Persephone to stay in the Underworld, she will lose her forever on more than one level. Plus, she can’t force Hades to abide by her will, and Persephone sure isn’t going to go alone with it, so it’s a fight she couldn’t win if she wanted to. Demeter’s smart enough not to pick a losing battle.

Plus, she feels like she’s losing Persephone to Hades already. Her goal for the first third of book two is to keep her daughter out of the Underworld as much as possible. It’s only once the danger becomes explicit that she takes a major step back. She knows if she tries to force Persephone into the Underworld, that Persephone is just mad enough to dig her heels in to spite her. So she doesn’t. And she assumes that is where Persephone is spending most of her time.

At the end of the book, Persephone had every intention of waiting out the danger in the Underworld. But she couldn’t remember her charmed promises compelling her to leave the safety of the Underworld and return to Zeus. The important thing to remember about charm, is that done right, the implanted thoughts  it feels like the charmed person’s idea. So when Persephone irrationally decides to go find Orpheus and fix things, that’s her mind desperately trying to rationalize an obviously bad idea.

 

YA Scavenger Hunt

Welcome to YA Scavenger Hunt! This bi-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors…and a chance to win some awesome prizes! At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize–one lucky winner will receive one book from each author on the hunt in my team! But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for 72 hours!

Team Pink.jpg

Go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page to find out all about the hunt. There are eight contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of the PINK TEAM–but there is also a red team, an orange team, a gold team, a green team, a teal team, a blue team, a purple team, and a blue team for a chance to win a whole different set of books!

If you’d like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.

SCAVENGER HUNT PUZZLE
 
Directions: Below, you’ll notice that I’ve hidden my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the blue team, and then add them up (don’t worry, you can use a calculator!).
Entry Form: Once you’ve added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.
Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by Sunday, April 9th, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.
SCAVENGER HUNT POST
Abigail Johnson, YA Author, If I Fix You
Today, I am hosting Abigail Johnson on my website for the YA Scavenger Hunt! Abigail Johnson was born in Pennsylvania. When she was twelve, her family traded in snowstorms for year-round summers and moved to Arizona. Abigail chronicled the entire cross-country road trip in a purple spiral-bound notebook that she still has, and has been writing ever since. She became a tetraplegic after breaking her neck in a car accident when she was seventeen, but hasn’t let that stop her from bodysurfing in Mexico, writing and directing a high-school production of Cinderella, and becoming a published author. Visit Abigail online at abigailjohnsonbooks.com and follow her on Twitter, @AbigailsWriting.
Find out more about the Abigail’s book here!
EXCLUSIVE CONTENT
If I Fix You first edition book cover, YA Book, Abigail Johnson

When sixteen-year-old Jill Whitaker’s mom walks out-with a sticky note as a goodbye-only Jill knows the real reason she’s gone. But how can she tell her father? Jill can hardly believe the truth herself.

Suddenly, the girl who likes to fix things-cars, relationships, romances, people-is all broken up. It used to be, her best friend, tall, blond and hot flirt Sean Addison, could make her smile in seconds. But not anymore. They don’t even talk.

With nothing making sense, Jill tries to pick up the pieces of her life. But when a new guy moves in next door, intense, seriously cute, but with scars-on the inside and out-that he thinks don’t show, Jill finds herself trying to make things better for Daniel. But over one long, hot Arizona summer, she realizes she can’t fix anyone’s life until she fixes her own. And she knows just where to start…


 IFFY Fan Cast.png
I binge watched so many awesome 90’s shows while writing If I Fix YouVeronica Mars and Gilmore Girls were both in heavy rotation, but I also discovered Felicity (I’m not the only one who fell in love with Scott Speedman in his portrayal of Ben Covington, am I?) and Everwood and so many more. Someday I’m going to write a character who looks like Jason Behr from Roswell, but in the meantime, here’s my dream cast for If I Fix You:
Jill (Emily VanCamp circa Everwood TV show)
Jill’s dad, Jim (Scott Patterson circa Gilmore Girls TV show)
Jill’s mom, Katheryn (Madeline Stowe circa Twelve Monkeys movie)
Daniel (Scott Speedman but with dark hair circa Felicity TV show)
Claire (Elle Fanning circa We Bought A Zoo movie)
Sean (Neil Haskell from the TV show So You Think You Can Dance)
Cammie (Selena Gomez)

Don’t forget to enter the contest for a chance to win a ton of books by me, Abigail Johnson, and more! To enter, you need to know that my favorite number is 2. Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on the pink team and you’ll have all the secret code to enter for the grand prize!
CONTINUE THE HUNT
 
To keep going on your quest for the hunt, you need to check out the next author!  But before you go, be sure to sign up for my newsletter to get a free audio copy of Persephone and comment your favorite find on the #YASH  Scavenger hunt for a chance to win a free e-copy of Aphrodite, the first book in the Aphrodite trilogy. Update: the winner of Aphrodite has been chosen at random from the comments section. Congratulations Hannah Mac.