The Power of Storytelling Part Two: The Basic Framework of a Story

As mentioned, I’m attending a three-evening course on storytelling taught by Adam Lebor, a published author and journalist.

The first session examined creativity – and in particular, the key elements of a good story.

The session kicked off with us reading excerpts from our favourite books to get a feeling for different writing styles, as well as what draws us to particular tales. These excerpts were then used as a launching pad to discuss story structure.

THE BASIC FRAMEWORK OF A STORY

Adam Lebor has a tidy, memorable formula: COCR.

You may think I (almost) typed a rude word — in which case, go to the corner of your room and have a quiet giggle.

Immaturity aside, it stands for Conflict, Obstacle, Climax, Resolution.

These four elements are the key to narrative drive; they make your story compelling, addictive, and just generally awesome. If you are struggling with your WIP and the story seems flat, it could be missing one of these elements.

Let’s start with conflict.

In order to have conflict, you need a protagonist and an antagonist.

In my novel Above Ground, the protagonist is clearly Lilith. The antagonist, however, is not a particular individual but society at large: the hatred and separation between humans and those living above ground is the source of tension in the story.

So what’s Lilith’s obstacle?

What does Lilith want or need — and what’s stopping her from getting it?

Lilith wants to get home alive, and the dangers she faces are the obstacles preventing her from returning safely. As she surpasses each obstacle, a bigger one shows up, driving the story forward.

Here comes the climax!

At the climax, all the events in the story come to a head. It’s the turning point in the story, and often a key moment in the character arc. (More about character arcs next time.)

If you’re anything like me, the climax is one of your favourite bits to write.

In Above Ground, the climax is when Lilith is offered the chance to go home whilst having to confront who she really is. The self-realisation puts her main objective of getting home into question — and she has to decide where her priorities lie.

On to the resolution

How does the story end? How does the protagonist overcome the obstacles and where does he/she go next?

In Above Ground, Lilith reaches her new home. It is not the home she was aiming for at the beginning of the novel, but it’s a home that suits the person she has become.

Conflict. Obstacle. Climax. Resolution.

A simple yet effective framework to get the creative juices flowing.

NEXT TIME

The next session of Adam Lebor’s storytelling course will look at clarity, focusing on character development of both protagonists and antagonists. I’ll let you know how I get on.

In the meantime, what’s the COCR in your story?

There Be Pirates!

The other day I came across the following forum post:

Where to download above ground a m harte?

I have been looking for a reliable way to find and download this book for free, but I so far I got nothing solid. [...]

I am looking for specific titles, and usually they are not classics, like Dorian Gray or Wuthering Hills, but new literature of fact, like above ground a m harte?

So, is there something I am missing, or is there no reliable way to find such interesting books to download for free?

My initial reaction was annoyance.

How could someone want to steal from the “little guy” – the indie author? How could someone want to steal at all?

Buying Above Ground will set you back all of £2. It’s cheaper than a Sainsbury’s meal deal. Come on.

But the calming effect of time has given me a different perspective.

People are working hard to pirate my book, and there is nothing I can do to stop them. While it’s unfair that they want to enjoy the fruits of my labour for free,  they do want to read my novel. Is that not the tiniest bit flattering?

So to all you pirates out there, I say this:

Torrent Above Ground. Heck, ask me for a free copy. I’m glad you want to read it.

But if you can’t — or won’t — pay for my books, then I ask for your support instead.

Post an honest review of my book on your blog, Goodreads, Amazon… anywhere. However long, however short. Just spread the word.

It’ll cost you nothing, and will make a difference to me.

There be pirates, yes. But pirates can have honour too.

Teaser Excerpt: FTSB

Every door in the village was barred shut, every window sealed from entry. The red dirt of the main street was baked dry and clouds of dust stirred with their footsteps. If it weren’t for the scent of the people hiding behind closed doors and the sound of their heartbeats—fast and frightened, like hummingbirds—Fang would have thought they had wandered into a ghost town.

He looked over at his companion Jake, who was weary and covered with dirt but still handsome somehow, and felt a stab of guilt. It was his fault they were in this state, his fault they were fleeing further and further away from Jake’s home.

“This is the third village like this,” Jake remarked grimly, untying the sweat-soaked bandana from around his neck. “Where’s a werewolf going to get a shower and a drink these days?”

“Perhaps the next village will be better,” Fang said. The skin between his shoulder blades was crawling with the weight of the villager’s stares. They knew what he was; Fang was sure of it. “We should keep moving.”

“Fuck that. I’m tired, I’m thirsty, and I’m all out of cigarettes.” Jake continued down the road, hunting for an inn. When he spotted a likely door he strode up to it and knocked. “We know you’re in there,” he called. “We’d like a room for the night.”

Silence. Fang hung back, alert for trouble.

“We’ve got cash,” Jake added.

Now there were murmurs from behind the door. The summer drought was at its peak, and judging by the fine dust permeating the air this village had been hit worse than most. There wasn’t a hint of green as far as the eye could see—even the weeds growing in the shelter of the house were twisted and yellow.

“Step back,” a woman finally said.

Jake backed a few steps away from the door, keeping his hands slightly away from his sides to show he wasn’t armed. The door opened a crack.

“Turn around.”

Jake turned on the spot, looking amused. There was no place to conceal a weapon in his baggy trousers or vest top, but he had no need for weapons. Even without shifting to wolf form he was stronger than the average human. They both were. Fang put on a smile and did his best to look harmless.

The inn door opened fully. A girl barred the doorway, human by the smell of her. Her dark brown hair was tied up in a bun and she was wearing tight trousers under a loose shirt. In her hands was a long broom, held before her like a weapon. Her breathing quickened as they looked at her but she stood firm, and there was something about the way she lifted her chin that reminded Fang of his little sister. His heart twisted painfully in his chest and it took all his focus to keep on smiling.

“Hello,” Jake said, his voice sinking that little bit lower as he smiled at the girl. She flushed under his attention and Fang suppressed a flash of jealousy. “Could we stay the night at your lovely establishment?”

* * *

An except from my current WIP, which is set in the Above Ground universe. I’m aiming for novella length and am having good fun with these characters.

5 Reasons Why Not To Write A Sequel

Now that the initial flurry of publishing Above Ground has died down (and the subsequent post-publication I-hate-my-writing stage has passed) my thoughts have turned to writing the sequel.

Ideas keep bubbling. The excitement is returning. What can I do to the characters THIS time? How can I raise the stakes? How can I give the readers who’ve enjoyed Above Ground more of what they love?

And yet…

Even though I’ve jotted down every idea and drafted a rough outline, I cannot bring myself to sit down and begin writing.

It took me over three years to write Above Ground. In that time, I’ve learned where I went wrong. I’ve learned how to write better and faster. I’ve learned that I CAN write a novel.

But what I haven’t yet learned is if I can write ANOTHER novel. A sequel doesn’t count: it’s the same characters I love, the same stories, the same threads.

Can I write something unrelated? Can I build a new world and fall in love with a new cast of characters?

The idea of starting afresh terrifies me.

And yet…

5 Reasons Why Not To Write A Sequel

  1. Only people who like Above Ground will want to read the sequel.

  2. Diversifying my offerings will introduce my work to new readers.

  3. Creating a new world, plot and cast will improve my skills.

  4. It will prove that I can write unrelated novels.

  5. Most importantly, because it terrifies me.

Yes, those waiting for the sequel will most likely throw rocks at me. But I believe that a writer who only sticks to writing what they find comfortable will never grow. And I want to be the best writer I can be.

And when I do go back to write the sequel to Above Ground, the story will be all the better for it.

Above Ground’s Futuristic Technology

One of the reasons I enjoy straddling the science fiction / fantasy line with Above Ground is that I have the chance to play with werewolves and high-tech gadgets at the same time.

Much of the world building and gadgetry of the story has existed in my mind for years… so it gave me a very strange sense of deja vu when, throughout the course of writing, I stumbled across the same concepts.

Take Google’s Project Glass.

In Chapter 10 of Above Ground, Emma is harassed by a blogger/journalist called Mike, who suspects her of being involved in a government plot. He wears a pair of sunglasses that double up as a computer, very similar to what Google envisioned.

Excerpt from Chapter 10:

Mike touched his glasses, adjusting whatever screen he was reading. “You touched out on this level,” he said, “but there was no record of you touching in.”

“You got that information illegally,” Emma said, nervous. “The privacy acts—”

“So you don’t deny it?”

“I’m not a fare evader,” she replied. “I paid for my fare in cash, and forgot that I didn’t need to touch out.”

“In cash?”

“It’s archaic, not illegal.” Or so Emma hoped. If Liam had lied to her….

“Either way, I don’t really care,” Mike said, dismissive. “I’m not writing that piece anymore, not when there’s a bigger story out there. The theatre,” he added, once again flipping through screens on his glasses. “I ran checks. You’re the only one who went above ground this morning who has come back. The only traceable one, anyway. If you hadn’t touched out, I wouldn’t have found you.”

He pulled his glasses down for the first time. His eyes were small, bloodshot, the blue pupils fixed on Emma. “You bought two tickets to the theatre; I know you were there. Tell me what you saw. Give me the exclusive, and I’ll make you look like a hero.”

Check out Google’s version:

Then there’s the Nokia 888

In Above Ground, phone are flexible, adaptable, and shape shifting. Snap them onto your wrist. Project holographic screens. Unfold them into normal phones. Clip them onto your belt.

Excerpt from Chapter 4:

King’s phone beeped. He glanced down, read the message without unsnapping the phone from his wrist. He’d opted for the latest model—a thin, flexible strip of smart plastic which could be worn almost anywhere—and the sight of it made Emma long for her own phone, as inconvenient and bulky as it was. She felt naked without it, defenceless. The thought of being locked up in this tiny room, cut off from the world with no means to call for help, was terrifying.

And lo and behold:

Rather than feeling bummed about my ideas lacking originality, I’m intrigued by how similarly people think. It is pretty incredible how quickly technology develops.

Although, really, if all our predictions came true, we’d already be driving around in flying cars.

…maybe next year.

Above Ground Blog Tour Winners!

The time has come to draw the Above Ground blog tour to a close.

Firstly, thank you to everyone who followed along. You rock.

Secondly, yes, I’m finally going to tell you what the prizes are.

As part of the month-long tour, I ran a mystery raffle with 11 secret prizes up for grabs. Each prize was based off of the letters in the title “Above Ground”… and now, I’m going to reveal what the prizes are.

But first, an important note:

There is no way I can FAIRLY assign prizes to winners. Instead, each winner should claim what prize they want in the comments. Crossed out prizes are already claimed.

Onto the prizes:

The Prizes!

  1. Appearance – a cameo of you in my next release
  2. Book! A print copy of either Above Ground or Hungry For You
  3. Origami – a foldable version of any Above Ground character
  4. Voucher – a $5 Amazon voucher
  5. Ebooks of Above Ground, Hungry For You & Merge
  6. Goodie bag – postcards and fun stuff!
  7. Request – a flash fiction written on a subject of your choosing
  8. Object d’art (kinda) – a poster of the cover of Above Ground
  9. Untold secrets! 5 spoilers for Above Ground
  10. Note from the author – a letter from me, plus a treat
  11. Drawing – surprise print of Above Ground artwork

So now you know the prizes. But which lucky people are the winners?

And the winners are…

The Winners!

  • WA_side – goodie bag!
  • Kyle Newton – $5 voucher
  • Brittni Kay Snye – ebooks
  • Andreea
  • Alicia – note from me
  • Jaid Keenan – untold secrets!
  • Lillie Webb
  • Jim Larranaga
  • Onge – origami
  • Fiery Na
  • Victoria Zumbrum – print copy of Above Ground

Thank you to everyone for following along, and congratulations to the winners!

Winners, claim your prize by leaving a comment!
First come, first served.

Above Ground Blog Tour: The End Is Nigh!

From November 1st to 30th, I’ve been running a blog tour to celebrate the release of Above Ground.

Enter to win the tour-wide giveaway by December 1st for your chance to win a mystery prize!

Tweet along with the tour using #AboveGroundTour, and make sure to visit…

THE LAST TWO HOSTS!

A Bit of Dash Graham Storrs

THE TOUR IN REVIEW

It’s been an absolute whirlwind of a month, so I don’t blame you for missing a stop or two. Below is a recap of the month’s posts.

Guest posts:

Reviews:

Interviews:

Fun stuff:

Don’t forget that you can still enter to win in the mystery raffle!

Thank you everyone for following along thus far. Woo!

Above Ground Blog Tour: One Week Left!

From November 1st to 30th, I’m running a blog tour to celebrate the release of Above Ground.
Enter to win the tour-wide giveaway!

Every comment you leave on a blog tour stop enters you to win prizes!
Don’t forget to check out the week one and week two recaps.

WEEK THREE’S STOPS
Missed any posts? Catch up now!

Don’t forget that you can still leave comments on the above posts – comments give you more chances to win in the mystery raffle!

THIS WEEK’S HOSTS
Tweet along with the tour using #AboveGroundTour, and please do visit the tour hosts each day. Posts should go live about 8AM EST / midday London time.

Catherine Mede Greg X Graves Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile The Bathroom Monologues Bookish Ardour Cheapass Fiction

Above Ground Blog Tour: Week 3

From November 1st to 30th, I’m running a blog tour to celebrate the release of Above Ground.
Enter to win the tour-wide giveaway!

Every comment you leave on a blog tour stop enters you to win prizes!
Don’t forget to check out last week’s recap too.

WEEK TWO’S STOPS
Missed any posts last week? Catch up now!

Don’t forget that you can still leave comments on all the above posts – each comment gives you more chances to win in the mystery raffle!

THIS WEEK’S HOSTS
Tweet along with the tour using #AboveGroundTour, and please do visit the tour hosts each day. Posts should go live about 8AM EST / midday London time.

Friday Flash TA Holtorf Raining Ink Ellie Hall Reviews The Amwriting Blog A Book A Day

Above Ground Blog Tour: Week 2

From November 1st to 30th, I’m running a blog tour to celebrate the release of Above Ground.
Enter to win the tour-wide giveaway!

WEEK ONE’S STOPS
Missed any posts last week? Catch up now!

Don’t forget that you can still leave comments on all the above posts – each comment gives you more chances to win in the mystery raffle!

THIS WEEK’S HOSTS
Tweet along with the tour using #AboveGroundTour, and please do visit the tour hosts each day. Posts should go live about 8AM EST / midday London time.

Page Readers JC Hart Zoe Whitten Ellie Hall AMA on Reddit EJ Spurrell Eight Cuts Gallery 5 Rings