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How an Engineer Approaches Fiction!

...excerpt from a post here about how I avoid getting lost in a scene/chapter:

Do you do an outline in either XMind (free mind-mapping SW) like I do as a very first step, or even writing software that makes it easy (WriteWay or Scrivener)? I had lots of 'now what?' moments until I stopped diving in, and instead outlined first. WriteWay has a mechanism for this, and you can add/edit your own chapter templates. In my case, asking & answering the 'cards' from these templates after I did my outline cleared everything up before the first word of each scene/chapter. So my chapter/scene templates for fiction look like this:

Note: Obviously not all are needed/used for every possible kind of scene or chapter. I'm just giving you them all as-is. I was told long ago to write like you are watching a movie, with all the visual suspense elements, but written.

Plot:
Pre-requisites: (if any)
Describe what needs to happen in this scene/chapter:
1. Dialog:
2. Narrative/Description: :
3. Action:
4. Thought (She wondered for a moment...):
5. Exposition (She’d been in Key Largo a year now, looking for ...):
How does this scene/chapter:
1. Reveal something(s) about the character(s)?
2. Move the story along?
3. Give the reader some necessary information?

Conflict:
External:
How does it escalate:
-------------------------------------------
Internal:
How does it escalate:
-------------------------------------------
Next Conflict/Obstacle:
===========================================
Where are the COMPLICATIONS (element that must either illuminate, thwart, or alter what the character wants):
Where are the SITUATIONS (does not qualify as a COMPLICATION):

Character(s):
Protagonist
Attire:
Attitude:
Development:
Scene Goal:
Will he/she get it?
-------------------------------------------
Antagonist
Attire:
Attitude:
Development:
Scene Goal:
Will he/she get it?
-------------------------------------------
Secondary (as needed)

Character Diary:
(diary entries are written from that character's PoV, first person: Their unique goals, actions, views, thoughts in this scene/chapter, in their voice)
Character Name:
Act/Scene Diary:
--------------------------------------------
Character Name:
Act/Scene Diary:
--------------------------------------------
Character Name:
Act/Scene Diary:
--------------------------------------------
Character Name:
Act/Scene Diary:
--------------------------------------------
Character Name:
Act/Scene Diary:
--------------------------------------------
Character Name:
Act/Scene Diary:
--------------------------------------------
Character Name:
Act/Scene Diary:
--------------------------------------------
Character Name:
Act/Scene Diary:
--------------------------------------------
Character Name:
Act/Scene Diary:
--------------------------------------------

Scene Sketch:
PoV Character:
Goal in Scene:
Motivation:
Conflict:
Climax of Scene:
Turning Point this scene?
Effect of the Turning Point:
Purposes of Scene (should serve 3+ purposes):
Large Action (directly related to POV chars & story):
Supporting Action (imagery/sensory action):
Scene Ending Line or Image:
===============================================
1. Is this scene necessary, or am I keeping it around simply because I spent all that time and effort writing it?
2. What exactly does it add in terms of:
- Character development:
- Necessary information:
- Moving the plot forward:
3. How much of the scene’s work can be done by the most dramatic modes of fiction:
- Dialogue:
- Action:
- Description:
4. Have I given my scene it’s own beginning, middle, and end?
5. Is there a place for a background element that might enrich the proceedings?
6. Have I gotten in quickly and gotten out as soon as possible?
7. What should or would happen next?

Setting/Environment:
Timeframe/Time of Day:
Location:
Climate:
Terrain (interior/exterior):
Deep Focus elements (that enrich):
1. Where are the COMPLICATIONS (element that must either illuminate, thwart, or alter what the character wants):
2. Where are the SITUATIONS (does not qualify as a COMPLICATION):
Setting issues to be researched:

Dialogue:
What needs to be said in this scene/chapter?
What is the subtext of the dialogue here?
(what's going on below the surface of what your characters are saying?)
Is dialogue substituting for thoughts or editorial descriptions?
Jot down any snippets of dialogue you want to use in this scene/chapter:

Romance:
Is there sexual tension in this scene?
Romantic Relationship Development:
Intimacy Level:
How is this romantic element special/unique?

Suspense:
What is the main suspense element this scene?
How has the suspense escalated from previous chap/scene?
Real clue to be planted here?
Red Herring to be planted here?
What information is revealed?
What secret is held?

Sub-Plot:
How does the subplot progress this scene?
How does the subplot serve your main plot and/or theme this scene?
(Does it contradict the central story question? Highlight it? Support it? Complicate it?)

Revisions:
Record any ideas you have for later revisions of this scene/chapter:

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I am a technical writer, as I explain in my tiny blog here, so fiction/creative writing is difficult for me. If I can 'fill in' the above 'cards' that apply to each scene/chapter ahead of time, I know that everything will fall into place, and I know exactly what to accomplish every chapter. Anything not on the to-do is a bonus, but I really, really try to get the minimum things I wrote down in the outline & mind map done FIRST.

I only go through this (it isn't trouble, as WriteWay allows me to customize & create a new template set each chapter) because I am not a good 'normal' writer. If you have the same issues I do, then maybe the above will give you some ideas-even if only on 3x5 cards! :smile:

Comments

OMG, lol. I thought I was the only one that was crazy...

Before seeing this, I could have sworn I was taking my writing a bit TOO seriously, but it's good to see that someone else has the same thing except...your's is WAY more detailed. I actually copied and pasted this one just for the things I missed.

The thing is my story is complex. There's world building, history, character specs, and most importantly the balancing and cohesion of it all which is where- surprisingly- math plays a REALLY big role for me but you really hit it spot on. I really did get the feeling that I was an engineer constructing a world from scratch from the fundamentals.

Thanks for this :)
 
Math is everything.

It rules our minds, actions, and all of our universe. Story arcs can be too long, worlds can be distractedly not right technically, and then there is the math of character/plot mentions, chapter page counts, how many words/book, you name it.

And is our math their math?

Is math a help or hindrance to the plot logically?

Is causality important? I mean, the math of logic, in that B logically follows A, in such a way that your readers aren't confused, or worse-you [need to] spell it out.

I think people under-estimate what math is in this universe, thinking it is just addition/multiplication tables. I write software (not for day job, mostly) utilizing deep learning neural networks, and there is a ton of calculus and linear algebra in there that I didn't even realize until I was pretty far along.

"That's linear algebra? Why is everyone freaked out about it?"

So you're right... math is lurking behind every corner and in plain sight. You just have to stop looking at it and see it.

Good topic!

So tell me about this character that is in marketing...?
 
kaminoshiyo;bt6082 said:
OMG, lol. I thought I was the only one that was crazy...

So funny! No! You are not alone in that asylum called your mind! Or, as I prefer to put it:

A good mind thinks alike!

One thing about all that (which most people will say is too detailed) I really like, and think is the most revealing, is the Character Diary. You know how they recently film competitions & "reality" TV by interviewing the participants as they are cutting to the competition?

I like to think of the Character Diary as how each character would describe what just happened in the scene. It isn't part of the story/book, but it makes it very easy to keep track of complex stories, and more importantly the way characters perceive their world, and how they feel about [not] getting what they want out of it.

Was X unfriendly to you?
How did you feel about that?

You know, like you are interviewing them just as the scene ends.

That doesn't seem that engineer-ish to me... more like notes, and easy insights into what you may have missed, and what characters are [not] aware of at that point of the plot.

BTW, I adapted that framework from the stock one that comes with the writer's software WriteWay, which is cheap & excellent. For some story types, Scrivener works, and for others WriteWay (those are the 2 I own)...

FYI...
 

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Yumi Koizumi
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