The Process – the Role of the Antagonist

Last week, I wrote about the Role of the Protagonist or your main character. This week, I’d like to talk about the role of the Antagonist.

Whether it’s a person or animal, or an element in nature – the Antagonist is the PROBLEM in your story.

In all stories, there is a problem that the MC must overcome. And that can be summed up by calling it the Antagonist. The issue will plague your MC, and it keeps the Protagonist from achieving their greatest desire.

I say that it can take the shape of a person, animal, or element in nature because the problem takes many forms. For instance, in the classic book ‘Moby Dick,’ the Antagonist is the whale.

In the ‘Perfect Storm,’ the Antagonist is the unpredictability of the high seas.

And you may choose to make your MC somewhat evil. In that case, the Antagonist will be the power of GOOD that your Protagonist is fighting against. In my trilogy, the Jill Adair Series, she fights the ‘system,’ and her enemies are the police and the law. Her problem is to escape justice.

So, when you are preparing your story – remember that you need to have a problem. A story without a problem doesn’t go anywhere or allow your MC to grow or change – as they should in any Character Arc.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

The Basics – How to make your writing ‘consistently interesting.’

“Mr. Martin Tanner, baritone of Dayton, Ohio, made his town hall debut last night. He came well prepared, but unfortunately, his presentation was not up to contemporary professional standards.

His voice lacks the range of tonal color necessary to make it ‘consistently interesting.’

Full-time consideration of another endeavor might be in order.”

Harry Chapin – ‘Mr. Tanner’

For those of you who don’t know, I’m a HUGE Harry Chapin fan. I think his talent for poetry to lyrics was incredible. I was fortunate enough to see him in concert just a few months before he died, and that concert (from over 39 years ago) still plays in my memory.

So, the term ‘consistently interesting,’ has a meaning that transcends music, lyrics, and creative writing. However, in creative writing, the author needs to play by certain conventions: The Rules of Grammar, Punctuation, and Word Usage.

Suppose an Author doesn’t follow the basics. How can they possibly believe that the average Reader will understand what they’re saying?

This is why it’s crucial to understand ‘HOW to write,’ and learn the basic rules.

The critics said that Mr. Tanner’s voice wasn’t ‘consistently interesting.’ Don’t let that be what your Readers think of you.

English comes in three different forms: formal standard, informal standard, and nonstandard. There is a great deal of overlap among these types, but you get the picture. Formal English isn’t used very much unless you’re writing a research paper. Still, some of the elements will leak into Informal English. And nonstandard language can become so familiar that it becomes part of the Informal vernacular.

So, happy writing. And remember, until you’re as BIG as Stephen King, you can’t break the rules.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

Elements of the Short Story – Theme

What Is A Theme?

If you think about it – the Theme of your story is what the Story is REALLY about.

For instance, you write a loving story about spending time with your grandmother in her kitchen while you were young. You tell about the smells, the feel of spending time with her, and you even describe the kitchen down to the last detail. But the story is about how a child experiences LOVE.

While the term, theme, is often misunderstood, it is an essential part of your story. Too many people view it as an abstract concept instead of the actionable item within the context of your writing. This trend is unfortunate, because if viewed correctly, the theme is the story.

I just read a great book on this concept. The author is K.M. Weiland, and the book is Writing your story’s Theme, The Writer’s Guide to Plotting Stories that Matter. The book was just released in October and it explains the concept of how a powerful theme comes about.

“Powerful themes are never incidental. They emerge from the conjunction of strong plots and resonant character arcs.” ~K.M. Weiland

I couldn’t decide whether to put this blog entry in the ‘Mustang Patty presents,’ or here. I think ‘theme’ is an important element of the short story, so I ultimately decided to put it here.

Watch my blog on www.mustangpatty1029.com – I will be giving away a copy of this book sometime in December, 2020.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

The Process – The Role of the Main Character

The trickiest part of writing the Main Character of your story is that the character arc demands that we put the poor person through hell. (The PROBLEM or INCITING event is often life-changing,) BUT we need to write about everything so that the READER wants to cheer OR hate the main character. WITHOUT this strong emotion or RELATIONSHIP between READER and CHARACTER, the story falls flat.

But there are two ways to accomplish this OR making the Main Character RELATABLE so the READER can identify with the character in one way or another.

First, make your Main Character someone who is REAL. The READER finds commonalities, and they are stirred up by your prose. They are entertained or fascinated or sympathetic. Any of these emotions will tie your READER to your MC.

The MC is rarely mysterious. For your READER to care, they must know who the MC is.

We will discuss this further in future blogs – but for now, just know that your MC is a complex character. You will have to punish them (or make bad things happen) and do it with LOVE so your READER can relate and cheer or Boo.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

The Basics – Formatting your Manuscript

Over the past year, I’ve been trying to help other writers learn ‘the rules of the road.’ And in that capacity, I’ve had more than a few manuscripts sent me for one reason or another.

And I cannot tell you how many DIFFERENT ways these MS were sent to me. It disturbs me because, as a ‘rule girl,’ I’ve always made sure that my document was formatted in the manner that wherever I’m sending it to has requested.

Rule One: IF you are submitting something – a book, a short story, an article – it is EXTREMELY important to find out what format they are requesting your MS to be in. You can always find this somewhere on the site or rules of the contest, etc.

Rule Two: It is rare to see two places requesting you submit your MS in the same manner. So, you must understand your formatting system well enough to manipulate your document to meet their standards.

Rule Three: RARELY is your MS to be submitted with fancy formatting and headers/footers. Sometimes, it’s requested that your document has a numbering system. Still, it is ALWAYS crucial for you to check with the rules/regulations to find out.

Rule Four: If you are using a program that you can’t accurately manipulate your documents to bit standards – LEARN how to do these things OR find someone who can FORMAT your document for you. There are many sources for this service. (I’m one of them.)

The most basic format is to use one-inch margins all the way around, double-spacing, and a twelve-point font, such as Times New Roman or Courier.

Just a bit of information for you

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

Elements of the Short Story – The Plot

What Is A Plot?

Simply stated, ‘A plot is a series of events that make up a story.’

All plots have beginnings, middles, and endings. For reference, the first quarter of your book is the beginning, the second and third quarters are the middle, and the last quarter is the ending.

In an 80 000-word novel, this generally means that your beginning is 20 000 words long, the middle is 40 000 words long, and your ending is 20 000 words long.

Do not get your story idea confused with the plot. A plot involves much more than a basic idea.

There is a conflict for the protagonist, which was caused by the antagonist. These two characters have opposing story goals – and they are concrete – meaning that they are expressed with certainty. The inciting moment will reveal these goals and problems and tell how the protagonist’s world is changing.

  • To further define how you structure your story around the plot: (Keep in mind that NOT every story has all of these plot elements.)

According to Gustav Freytag, a German writer, a traditional plot is made of:

1. Exposition: The exposition is generally the first quarter or beginning of your book. The story begins when the main characters and setting are introduced. The conflict or main problem is also established. The inciting moment presents the problem.

2. Rising Action: This usually is the middle of your book (the second and third quarters). Rising action means that a series of events occur that move us closer to the conflict. The storyteller uses tension, cliffhangers, and pacing to get the most out of the rising action.

3. Climax: The climax occurs in the last quarter, or ending, of your book. Your protagonist must overcome their enemy, their own fears, or challenges. This part is packed with drama, action, and excitement. Your characters also undergo some sort of change here.

4. Falling Action: The falling action occurs in the last quarter, after the climax. The author ties up loose ends. This is sometimes known as the winding up of the story. The conflict is mostly resolved, and the main character evaluates their part in the story.

5. Resolution: This is at the end of the falling action. The conflict is over. The story has ended. You can also have a denouement here. This is generally a paragraph (or a few concluding paragraphs) that resolves any remaining issues and ends the story.

Plotting your story is essential. When I think back on how I used to write stories – without thinking about the plot, I can see where it was easy to get lost, go off on tangents, and worse – bore the reader.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

The Process – Evaluating an Idea

Those of us who write know that in order to overcome the blank page, we need an idea. Essentially, the idea is the FIRST PART of the writing process.

But an idea is truly just the beginning. When the project (book/story) is done, the idea HAS to be fully developed. As a writer, it is crucial to breathe life into the idea by populating the landscape of the story with vivid characters, great settings, inciting events, and a resolution.

Erik Bork has a written a wonderful book, The Idea. I gave a copy away several weeks ago, and the woman who received it was so excited. She read the book and evaluate her own writing and saw where she was ‘skimming over’ the basics of developing the idea.

So, before you write a single word, you need to take the time to evaluate your idea. Will this idea support a full story? Can you build a plausible plot around the concept? Will the Protagonist of your story carry his mission to fruition? More importantly, can you define his mission?

These are the kinds of things to consider, and I strongly you read the book, The Idea. I know it has helped me tremendously.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

The Importance of Veterans – AND Why they’re SPECIAL

Happy Veterans’ Day. For those of you who live in the U.S., you know that this holiday was traditionally celebrated on November 11th. When it became fashionable to move holidays to Mondays, it is now celebrated on the Monday closest to the date.

For years, the military of the United States has been a driving force in protecting the population of the globe. Our brave mean and women serve all over the world, and their service takes them far from their families, homes, and friends.

I’m a Veteran, and so is my husband, and three out of my four children served in the military. In fact, my daughter and her husband are still serving. One could say that we’re a military family, but my daughter and her husband are the only career soldiers.

Perhaps all these familial ties make me a bit more preoccupied with the lack of respect and love our Veterans receive in the United States. Despite the political rhetoric, Veterans receive the worst care of anyone in the U.S. They must go to overcrowded facilities, put themselves on waiting lists for services, and receive NO help for long periods.

The troops returning home from the current fronts are facing new challenges. Rather than coming home in body bags, they return home, but they are missing parts and have far-reaching injuries. Due to the nature of the fighting, we have more soldiers, airmen, sailors, and Marines returning to the U.S. with Traumatic Brain Injuries and Post Traumatic Syndrome Disorder.

These injuries require more care than a surgery or two. It is impossible to hand someone a ‘crutch’ and walk away. We need to make sure there is more being done.

OK, I’ll get off my soapbox, BUT please take the time to THANK someone for their service today.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

Elements of the Short Story – The Hook

~Your first line sells the book. Your last line sells the next book. ~

MICKEY SPILLANE, AUTHOR OF KISS ME DEADLY 

Many of the sources I read to write this blog post discussed how writing the First Words on the page is always the hardest you’ll write. This is partly because it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the importance of your beginning.

Some say there is a ‘secret formula’ used by bestselling authors. Others say that you will return to this opening line repeatedly as you polish your manuscript.

If there is a secret formula, it is all in how you construct the opening line. It has acted as a ‘hook’ to catch the readers’ attention and leave them wanting more. This literary technique is all about grabbing the readers’ attention and nothing more.

One way to build your knowledge of great opening lines is to read your favorite authors and pay attention to how the story opens. 

I was obsessed with Erich Segal’s book, ‘Love Story,’ when I was twelve or thirteen. He drew me in with the line,

“What can you say about a twenty-five-year-old girl who died?”

So remember, that opening line has got to draw your reader in. But that isn’t its only purpose, but it also needs to present the body of work. 

Here are some great lines for you to consider:

J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Book One, “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

“In my younger and more vulnerable years, my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. Whenever you feel like criticizing any one, he told me, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”

 The Go-Between by LP Hartley

“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.”

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.” (How many of us only remember the first clause?)

 Peter Pan by JM Barrie

“All children, except one, grow up.”

 Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

All this happened, more or less.”

I don’t know about anyone else, but I would LOVE to have one of my novels’ opening lines show up on this list someday. But the main point of this conversation isn’t becoming famous – it’s all about making the reader interested in reading the rest of your book.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

The Danger of Putting TOO much in Your Novel

The number one reason many beginning writers do NOT finish their first novel is because they try to cram every thought and idea they’ve had over the months and even years they’ve been working on the basic idea. As with any skill that you want to do well, you need to take the time to learn the rules of the road.

There are definitely rules for writing – both the short story and novels. One of the most important – Do NOT overwhelm your readers.

How could you do that?

Your book or story could have TOO many characters. Your reader wants to be able to identify with your MC, and if they’re appear to be too many important roles in your book, it leads to reader confusion.

So, learn to build your storyline around FOUR main characters with special emphasis on your MC – or Protagonist. It is important for your reader to be able to identify with them.

Another aspect of your storyline could be TOO many settings. When you create the world where your characters live, it is important for your readers to be comfortable. If you are constantly interrupting the flow of the story to describe a new setting, your readers will once again be confused.

The basic rule about settings is that you need to introduce them within the first quarter of the book. They should also be limited to the worlds of the four main characters.

Real problems arise when you have TOO many plots. Readers will get lost if you have too many storylines within your book. The general rule of thumb is to have one main plot and one or two subplots.

Feeling confined and restricted? Remember that this isn’t the only book you will write. Save some of those other plots for subsequent novels – OR even a sequel.

Happy Writing!

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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