Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Story Arc by A.M. Westerling

This is going to be a short post because I will freely admit that I am not much of a plotter although I usually have an idea of where the story is going.😊 "Spoiler Alert" (You may want to jump down to the next paragraph!) For example, in Barkerville Beginnings, I knew right from the start Harrison's gold mining venture would not be successful and he would have to find his fortune another way.
I do however loosely follow the stages of the Hero's Journey * , starting with The Call to Adventure which sets the characters on their path. Again using Barkerville Beginnings as my example, Rose's Call to Adventure is when Edmund threatens to take Hannah from her, and Harrison's Call is when he is jilted at the altar and must find another way other than marrying a wealthy woman to rejuvenate his family's fortunes. I also give my characters choices because their decisions and ensuing actions drive the plot. Do the characters change? Yes, but it’s due to their experiences and not anything I force them into!

I write historical romance which means the stories are set in an earlier time period but the main plot is the romance. Therefore every one of my books follows the romance arc:

First Touch
First Kiss
Make Love for the first time
Black Moment
Happily Ever After
Sometimes I’ll skip a step, for example, Barkerville Beginnings is a sweet romance therefore there is no love making scene. Also, there is no set pattern to this, sometimes the meeting and the first touch can happen in the same scene. Finally, the stages don't need to be spaced evenly apart throughout the story, just wherever is appropriate to fit the developing plot.

* Find more information on The Hero's Journey here: http://www.thewritersjourney.com/hero%27s_journey.htm

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Fly Away Snow Goose, Canadian Historical Brides series (Book ) by Juliet Waldron

Bio: I was a lonely only child who found companionship in books, particularly in reading history. People from the past hung out with me and several of these old friends have been the inspiration for my writing. Some of these "ghosts" have been in my life for 60+ years now. Mozart's Wife, Roan Rose and A Master Passion are stories I'd imagined (and re-imagined) over the course of many long years.

Blurb: They live in a vanishing Eden, their spirits close to the land and the animals upon which they rely. Captured by another tribe--
kwet'ı̨ı̨̀ (Stone House People/Whites)--two teens are placed in a residential school patently designed to "kill the Indian inside," by taking away their language and belittling their culture. Yaotl and Sascho arrive as sweetearts; in order to survive as whole beings, they absolutely must escape.    

Story Arc: Fly Away Snow Goose

Storytelling, at least to this writer, is a kind of trance journey on which I hope to take my reader. The way may wander through beauty or ugliness--much like life.

My characters were born into a tribe for whom long on foot journeys were a way of life. The early 1950's in the subarctic, where Fly Away Snow Goose begins, is a land where many Tlicho still live more or less as their ancestors have for 10,000 years, following the seasonal migration of caribou. 

This is a captivity-and-escape story--the mirror image of the ones where white children are carried off by "Indians." Here, 1st Nation's children are carried into European captivity when they are placed--as the law of the land required--in a residential school. After a daring escape, their own courage, love, endurance and their own wild knowledge will have to take them home.

These travelers create an ad hoc family. Their quest is not after new things, but after the old, as they seek to reconnect with their tribe. They carry with them not only new knowledge but a lot of pain after their encounter with the "stone house people."  In the spring, like the Snow Geese, they must go North.

~~Juliet Waldron

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Friday, July 21, 2017

My Story Arc by Katherine Pym

Click here to learn more
David and Sarah Kirke live in a time of upheaval under the reign of King Charles I who gives David the nod of approval to privateer French Canadian shores. When Louis XIII of France shouts his outrage, King Charles reneges.

After several years, the king knights David and gives him a grant for the whole of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Soon, David is carried in chains back to England. He entreats Sara to manage the Ferryland plantation. She digs in and prospers, becoming the first entrepreneur of Newfoundland.

I write historical fiction based in London during the 17th century and try very hard to have the history as correct as possible. Only when sources conflict with each other, do I choose one that seems the most likely. I also hope that source I choose is the most correct.  

At first, when given the honor to write about Newfoundland, I did not think I’d come up with much history in the 17th century, but as I dug, I was amazed at the plethora of information that surfaced. Gervase Kirke and his wife had several sons and two daughters. They ran a successful wine merchant company. 

The family was litigious, with their papers and letters archived so we can read them. They argued with their peers and superiors. David Kirke (our hero) butted heads with King Charles I over the spoils he’d collected while in Quebec. He wanted to be governor of Newfoundland, and saw his opportunity when Lord Baltimore gave up his Avalon Province in lieu of a warmer climate. 

This is good-story-stuff.  With this, I could write a novel based around Newfoundland’s history. 

The Cutty Sark
I’ve had readers remark how often David and Sara travelled from London to Ferryland NL, but if you look at a map, you’ll see Newfoundland sticks into the Atlantic quite a distance. Google says it is 2345 miles from London to Ferryland, NL. The Cutty Sark once sailed 2163 nautical miles in six days. Data shows ships crossed from the Channel to Northern Canada in as short of a time as 4 weeks. Not bad. 

As merchants, the Kirkes found great opportunity in the new world. In London, they fitted their ships for sail, carrying goods from England and Europe, then traveled to the Americas, spanning that coast from Newfoundland down to Barbados and the West Indies, where they would trade goods, then sail to the Mediterranean or back to England. These trips would take a good deal longer than 4 weeks. 

17th Century Ships of Sail
So, with this historical data and my 30 years study of the 17th century, the story arced on its own. It grabbed what I unearthed and ran with it. 

Many thanks to Wikicommons, Public Domain

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Arc of the Story as I see it, by Diane Scott Lewis

I adore history and telling stories. I was born in California and published short-stories and poems in school magazines. I wanted to travel the world, so I joined the navy at nineteen, married my navy husband in Greece-and explored the ancient ruins-then had two sons. We traveled to exotic locales, giving me the urge to weave tales involving the past. My first novel was published in 2010, and many historical novels followed. I now live with my husband in Western Pennsylvania.

My current work in progress is in honor of Canada's 150th birthday: On a Stormy Primeval Shore
In 1784, Englishwoman Amelia Latimer sails to the new colony of New Brunswick in faraway Canada. She’s to marry a man chosen by her soldier father. Amelia is repulsed by her betrothed, and refuses to marry him. She is attracted to a handsome Acadian trader, Gilbert, a man beneath her in status. Gilbert must fight the incursion of English Loyalists from the American war to hold onto his land and heritage. Will he and Amelia find peace when events seek to destroy their love and lives.

Available in 2018
What is a story arc? An agent once asked me if my story followed the three-arc format? I had no idea what she was talking about. Then I took a writing class, which helped—sort of—to explain this issue. I was under the impression I could write my novel any way I wanted to, rambling on and on, throwing in info dumps, but no, you must have an arc, a frame work, highs and lows and a wrapping up at the end.

Since I’m a ‘pantzer’ i. e., I write by the ‘seat of my pants’, I just start writing with a slight idea of who my characters are and what the setting will be. It’s after I’ve written several chapters that I figure out where the story will go.

For this novel, I read up on the history of New Brunswick, decided to start with the ‘break’ of the colony from Nova Scotia in 1784, and tossed my female character, Amelia, a young Englishwoman, into those events. My male character is Acadian. Gilbert grew up with the ebb and flow of changing events, the expulsion of his people when the British came, and so forth. This way I could show the colony from the POV of two different cultures.

As for story arcs, I’m not sure if I follow the framework as I should. I try to intermix action, with gentler scenes, have a big action scene near the end, then wrap up the story. My characters often tell me which way to go once their personalities flesh out and they take over the novel. I try to work in the history in ways that make sense and don’t overwhelm the reader. But I still like those info dumps, darn it!

French flintlock pistol, 1790
I suppose for this type of novel a story arc is boy meets girl, boy loses girl, people shoot at each other, further difficulties arise that I won’t reveal, then, hopefully, everything comes out all right in the end.
To find out more about Diane Scott Lewis and her novels, visit her BWL Author page
Or her website: dianescottlewis.org

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Story Arc: Where the River Narrows, by Kathy Fischer-Brown

“It’s always best to start at the beginning.” Wise words from the Good Witch of the North in one of my all-time favorite movies, The Wizard of Oz.

Then again, I doubt old Glinda ever wrote a novel or she probably would have come up something a bit less confusing. Unlike Dorothy, I would have asked, “What is the beginning?” 

Okay, in the context of the movie, this is pretty much self-explanatory: If you’re heading from Munchkin Land to the Emerald City, you start out on the Yellow Brick Road and keep going until you reach the big gate with the broken door bell. But with a novel, it ain’t that easy. You can start in media res (in the middle of the action) or at square one, as in Tom Jones, by Henry Fielding, with the lead character as a baby. You can start at the end and work backwards, or with a prologue…. The possibilities are nearly endless.

Today’s readers are not so forgiving as Mr. Fielding’s in the middle of the 18th century, or Charles Dickens’s in the 19th  or even Margaret Mitchells in the early 20th century. They want something more fast-paced. They want to jump into a book without the long preambles and slow development our pre-multimedia-consuming ancestors found so appealing. Gone are the days of the family sitting around the fire, by candle- or lamplight after supper on a long winter night, reading aloud as the sole form of entertainment.

Then again, the beginning of a book is dependent on the type of story you want to tell. A murder mystery will begin quite differently from, say, a contemporary romance or a high fantasy. And even with those genres, the author has choices to make. Whose point of view is most compelling and appealing off the bat? First person, second, third, omniscient? Will there be more than one point of view in the novel? Present or past tense? Not to mention how to introduce the setting and its details.

photo © Janice Lang
The fact that I write historicals places certain restrictions on how I approach the arc of a book. The characters are vital to the plot, and the setting has nearly equal weight when planning how the book will be structured. I like the deep third person point of view that allows the reader to get into the skins of more than one character, and I try to include just enough details of time and place without them being overwhelming.

In Where the River Narrows (with fellow BWL author Ron Ady Crouch, to be published by in July 2018), I’ve chosen to begin the book at a what I consider to be a logical start-off point. The Exposition introduces the characters (Elisabeth Van Alen, her family, servants and neighbors, and Gerrit Bosch, the groom in this Brides story) without a lot of preamble. The goal is to show them going about their normal lives while painting in the features and subtleties of the era as a natural offshoot of their daily activities. But to simply present a bunch of people running around in costumes performing out-dated tasks would be boring without a hint of something about to happen. Something is brewing that will upset this charming scene and have far-reaching consequences.

Before the proverbial cart is overturned, relationships between the characters are established, the groundwork laid for the “bride” aspect of the book, and the external conflicts put in place that are responsible not only for capsizing the wagon but for trampling its contents under foot.

Following the “Exposition,” we move on to the “Rising Action.” After the inciting incident (the event that sets the wheels turning), the story takes on an entirely different feel. What had been normal and comfortable no longer is so. War does this, and war, in the form of the American Revolution, has dire consequences for Elisabeth and Gerrit. There are losses and separations. Loved ones die, confidences are betrayed, and the survivors are forced to carry on amid harsh and forbidding circumstances. In this part of the book, Elisabeth and the remnants of her family and servants make a perilous trek to Canada where they hope to seek asylum among the British troops and loyalists to wait out the conclusion of the war. On the way, they meet up with an assortment of colorful characters based on historical accounts from a variety of sources. Once they arrive in Quebec Province, they need to survive further hardship and privation.

The Climax, Falling Action, and Denouement haven’t been written yet. (Neither, for that matter, has much of the Rising Action). But the arc of this story plays out nightly in my mind before I fall asleep. Even though I do not “plot” per se, this book is already as indelible as it could be. There is room for change…but not much. That depends on the research materials I continue to pore over. As anyone who’s ever written a historical novel will tell you, there are gold nuggets waiting to be mined from some dusty old tome that can put a new spin on even those story elements that today seem untouchable.

We shall see….


Kathy Fischer Brown is a BWL author of historical novels, Winter Fire, Lord Esterleigh’s Daughter, Courting the DevilThe Partisan’s Wife, and The Return of Tachlanad,  an epic fantasy adventure for young adult and adult readers. Check out her Books We Love Author page or visit her website. All of Kathy’s books are available in e-book and in paperback from Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and other online retailers.