Two Great Words: The End by Jules Dixon @JulesofTripleR #MondayMessages #WriterTips

Two Great Words: The End

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So for the last two weeks I’ve been talking about the Three Act Structure. We’ve visited the beginning of a story (aka Act 1 or the excitement of meeting characters and finding out their goals, motivations, and conflicts) and the middle (aka Act 2 where we take those conflicts and we make them even worse).

So now, we’re at the end.

The End.

Those are two words authors dream of typing and when it comes down to it, nothing ever feels better.

So once a writer has taken their characters to rock bottom and had the worst of the worst happen, they’ve broken up, shit has hit the fan, everything looks like it can’t ever be fixed, and the readers are wondering: How in the world are they going to get back together? This is Act III. 

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The resolution to the story.

In the conclusion, readers must find closure. The main characters in romance will always end up together, either in a happily-ever-after or happily-for-now. And while we do this, an author must still maintain the same emotion that they have built throughout the story. Pulling those heart strings of the reader.  

For instance, in one of my stories, Rest, My Love, the black moment comes when Rahl, the leading man’s PTSD comes to a head and when he finds the leading lady, Sage, in the arms of another man comforting her. He punches the man and Sage has to make the hard decision to end their relationship for his sake as he needs to concentrate on getting better.

Rest, My Love Excerpt: 

“Sage…” Rahl stepped toward me and reached out.

I stepped back and the rain dribbled down my cheek, like tears but colder. “No. I just came out here to tell you that we need to take a break, Rahl. I need a break from us.”

“You don’t mean that. You’re my angel. We were brought together to save—”

“Each other? It seems like I’m trying to save someone who doesn’t want to be saved. I’m getting sucked into your vortex of guilt and anger and I can’t handle it. I just started to love life again.” I stared into those eyes that melted a part of my heart. “Because of you.” My bottom lip tingled with the want to kiss him, but I fought giving in. “But you’re taking that away from me.”

“I love you, Sage.”

My body shuddered, some from the cold rain and some from struggling not to give in, but I needed to be strong. “I know you love me. From the moment you said it, I never doubted that fact.”

“Then can we just forget what happened?”

I didn’t want to forget, I wanted him to remember, to remember that his actions hurt people, and I couldn’t stand by and watch him crumble and take me down with him.

“No. I can’t forget. Just like you can’t forget the things that have happened to you and the things you know about Easton, and the darkness that is eating you from the inside out and the memories and fears that cloud your judgment.” I hiccupped a sob. “I forgive you for everything, but there are other people you need to atone to, including yourself. I don’t want to be another person to get caught in one of your explosions of impulsive emotion.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to hit you, but he had his hands on you.”

“No, you didn’t mean to hit me, but if you hadn’t gone straight to violence and let me talk to you, you would have found out that Ollie and I are…” I swallowed as I stared into the eyes that melted my willpower. I looked away.

Maybe it would be easier for him to think the worst? If there is a time to be a good liar, it is now.

I stood straight. “You would’ve found out that Ollie and I are starting a relationship and you and I … we are finished.”

Rahl’s face paled. “You’re lying. You told me he was nothing.”

I mumbled, “I pray you get better, Rahl,” and tried to skirt past him.

He moved in front of me. “No, I don’t accept it. I don’t know why you’re lying to me but I’ll find out.” His hand ran down my arm to my wrist and he brought it to his mouth for a gentle kiss. “You’re killing me, Sage.”

Water droplets showered me as I shook my head. “No, Rahl. You’re killing yourself.”

Now, I could’ve done many things to bring them back together, but in the end, I had to torture them a little while longer while they were apart and give the reader more reasons for wanting them to come back together. I’m not going to tell you what I did, but it showed how much they were meant to be together, so when they actually ended up in the same room and Rahl was all better, the lightning bolts flew between them like they were two thunderstorms colliding, and when the storm was over, everything was good again, and then I had one more chapter to finish up all the tiny loose ends.

And their love is true, beautiful, and the real deal.

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When an author really comes to the end, the last sentences can make or break the novel. That final moment needs to remind the reader of something important, a repeated theme or a special element between the two characters. A final piece of the puzzle to make the reader go–YES!  

In Rest, My Love, I bring back something that Sage said to Rahl in the first chapter. So Sage says: 

I hadn’t forgotten my past, but I lived for the future and Rahl had decided to do the same.

And together we would create the sweet music of love for the rest of our lives.

Only you, Rahl. Only … you.

So the end can make or break a novel. Make sure yours gives the reader what they want, but not always exactly as they want. A surprise is always a good thing. 

Okay, until next Monday.

Hugs and ❤ Jules

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Conflict: Ramp up Drama by Jules Dixon #WritingTips #MondayMessages @JulesofTripleR

Conflict: Ramp up Drama

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Last week I talked about beginnings of stories and this week I’m taking on the dreaded…sagging middle of a story…aka Act II…and the part where all the drama and plot happens in a story. And as much as I want to believe authors celebrate and acknowledge this section of the story, the fact is a lack of true conflict in stories happens too frequently and too many plots are easily resolved with one question.

Act One, the beginning, is exciting to write because you’re inventing people, places, and problems. The end or Act III is easy because it’s a culmination of tension and the reveal of either love or death or a moment that changes everything—a black moment.

But it’s the stuff in the middle of those two that takes a lot of work.

Sometimes combining action, dialogue, setting, and so much more into words comes naturally–I’d say about 1.945% of the time for 1.982% of the writers. But the other 98.008% of us writers have to think about how to make a story sing and keep readers interested…and more. Because if we don’t, we can end up writing a story where no drama, no events, no problems, and no progress ever exists.

And it’s a fact…

giphy (46)Readers want drama.

Readers want problems. Readers want to see characters mixed up and torn down and drug through the mud before they figure their lives out. Readers do not want a blasé, so-so, emotionally bereft story with characters who never progress from the first chapter and remain exactly the same. But planning the drama can take energy and is always a hard examination of what your character’s goals, motivations, and conflicts really are.

So “sagging middles” happen when characters in a story are just living their ho-hum lives. Sagging middles of stories occur when characters aren’t faced with major hurdles to lead to changes in both their external lives and their internal emotions. And boring–ahem, I mean sagging–middles continue when characters don’t face problems head on in a timely manner.

Imagine reading a book where the author tells you the brand of toothpaste a character loves? Why does it matter? Normally that kind of information doesn’t. BUT…if he’s self-conscious about his teeth cause he stopped smoking three years ago after a long bout of lung cancer and the stains remind him of how close he came to mortality, knowing why he thinks about what kind of toothpaste he chooses could be the beginning of a conflict which could propel a reader forward.

It’s examining what conflict is needed to show the themes and will resonate toward a solution most effectively.

 

My writing friend, Cheryl St. John relays that in romance, the central conflict usually revolves around “Why can’t he love her?” and “Why can’t she love him?”. What is it keeping the two lovers apart?

This conflict usually involves two sides: an internal component (emotional/past event/himself) and an external component (man/nature/inanimate object).

For example:

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A cowboy/ rancher sets his sights on the mayor’s daughter who moved back to town after her husband died in an accident, but in the process of wooing her, he not only to find out the mayor is coming for his land to create a new state park but that the object of his affection remains loyal to her father.

So in the example, we have good conflict, but it’s always about ratcheting up the conflict that helps to make a story go from interesting to great. Hurdles for the character to overcome are those conflicts.

I’ve heard of an exercise when trying to figure out the conflicts of an Act II. Take your main conflict and write it on a 3×5 notecard. Then start dreaming up other conflicts that could happen. Fill out a new card for each, starting it with “but” or “but then”. And then other conflicts.

In our example, ratcheting and advancing might include:

But his brother wants to sell out to use the money to follow his own dream.

But then the house catches on fire on the property and our cowboy/rancher has to live in the barn.

But the property has been in his family for 200 years, he feels an obligation.

But he’s had a crush on this girl since high school when he was a geek and she was the shy girl who never spoke to anyone.

But back then he was a geek, but not anymore, he’s matured in all the right ways.

But she won’t call him back and when he sees her in town she ignores him.

But the mayor has a heart attack and his love is upset.

But she has never rebelled against her father.

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After a writer has 15-20 cards with conflicts, then they can decide which ones seem most likely and write the meat of the story off of those conflicts. When determining conflict take a look at each card trying to see if there is dilemma, denial or decision to be written out…and how much drama is there to be explored. Which ones lead to great dialogue? Which conflicts can’t be handled quickly? Do any of these hinder his ability to get his goal?

What we need to keep in mind is that drama is between two people—not one sided. If the hero and heroine aren’t actually clashing or coming to heads about something important to both of them, it’s a lost battle from the beginning and the reader won’t care. In every scene, one character wants something from another character.

There you have it–Conflict–ratchet up the drama writers! Bring on the emotional issues, the people who want to keep them apart, and the storms to drown readers on an excitement roller coaster.

Next week I’ll be talking about the end of a story.

Until then–have a great week!

❤ Jules

MONDAY MESSAGES

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Starting Again–Writing and Blogging by Jules Dixon @JulesofTripleR #MondayMessages

Starting Again–Writing and Blogging

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So the Naughty Quills is now reorganized and we have new posting days for most or all of us. So I get to kick the weeks off from now on and I’m excited about this!

Today I’d like to talk about starting again as the topic relates to writing…and blogging.

As writers, we start again… a lot. Obviously, every story begins somewhere. And that place holds importance.

Beginnings are scary. If they don’t hold enough power, then readers aren’t interested. If they hold too much power and the story doesn’t hold up to the grandiosity of the beginning, then readers are upset the story wasn’t as epic as promised.

Act I, as the beginning of a three act structure is referred to, is the setup of the story. This portion is usually about 25% of the book. This time not only shows the hero/heroine in their normal environment but also sets the mood, characterizations, setting, and details the reader will want to know going forward.

The beginning of the book has to have a hook, a goal for the hero/heroine to achieve or a problem for the hero/heroine to overcome. This portion also presents the main conflict, both internal and external, by jumping into the action and getting the hero or heroine to go in a different direction or to question what they thought. Along with these conflicts, we will often learn their motivation–why is this goal important to them?

Lots of writers, editors, agents, etc will say there are ways that you should NEVER start a story. And although they mean well, I say start the story and then fix it from there. Don’t worry about the rules and standards and dos and don’ts.

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We all have different styles. What works for me as a beginning won’t always work for another writer, but that’s great! Beginnings are like sunglasses–what works on my face, doesn’t work on my daughter’s, but we share a DNA like writers share a passion. So we search for the right pair, the right look for us, the right color or shape.

And the same goes for beginnings. It’s a search. It’s trying things out. It’s making the mistake of wearing Audrey Hepburn sized glasses but finding out John Lennon circle glasses work the best.

giphy (44)Same with blogging. We all have different topics, strengths, weaknesses, issues that we face, so no two blogs–even if they’re on the same topic–will ever be the same.

A few other articles you might want to take a look at:

10 Ways to Start Your Story Better by Jacob M. Appel

Why Stories Should Never Start at the Beginning by Chuck Wendig

Plotting a Novel in Three Acts Opening Scene by Janalyn Voigt

My rules that I set up in my first post on Naughty Quills still stand and can be found here, Hump Day Hangout A New Girl on the Naughty Block.

So go try on different styles and colors of sunglasses because the right beginning can be blinding!

Next week I’ll look at Act II–the middle of a story.

Until then, have a great week everyone!

Jules

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