Sunday, May 27, 2018

How To Write A Novel Readers Love - The Worlds Part 1

Dear Storyteller,

With your story well plotted out and the evolution of your protagonist’s internal change firmly rooted in place, you're well on your way to writing the first draft of your novel.

Well…maybe not quite yet.

There's something important you need to understand about story. In every great story—and even in some of the not-so-great stories—there are worlds at play. Three worlds to be exact. No, I’m not talking about science fiction or fantasy.

These three worlds exist no matter which genre you write in. The worlds in play are:

-    Thesis
-    Antithesis
-    Synthesis

These worlds correspond to the three acts of your Blake Snyder beat sheet. Act One is the Thesis world. Act Two is the Antithesis world. Act Three is the Synthesis world.

The Thesis world of Act One is the “before” stage of your protagonist’s life. This is where you see the hero in a state of crisis. Or he’s battling indecision. Or maybe he’s just plain bored. In this world, the protagonist reveals the broken things that need fixing in his life.

The hero is poor, divorced, estranged or otherwise lonely. And it appears at first glance that this is where the hero will stay if something significant doesn’t happen—and soon. The hero is in stasis. Nothing's happening to take him out of his state.

But this is bad. Why? Because stasis=death. If the hero keeps going the way he’s going, he’ll die.

In the beginning of my young adult novel From Bad Girl To Worse, my protagonist, Sandra Porter, is in stasis. She lives with her catatonic mother and her emotionally disconnected aunt. Sandra shares a house with two adults—yet she lives alone. The solitude is killing her.

She knows she needs to get out of this world—but how?

This is where the Thesis and the Antithesis worlds collide. Something happens that rock’s the heroine’s world. It makes her think that there just might be something more to life that she’s been missing out on. A significant event forces the protagonist to make a major decision, which requires a major move. And she must choose to make it.

The major event in play is known as the Catalyst on the Blake Snyder beat sheet. A Debate (the next beat on the BS2) follows, leaving the heroine wondering whether or not to make the move.

Once she debates--either with herself or others--and chooses to make the move spurred on by the events of the Catalyst, she plunges headlong into the Antithesis world. This world is an upside down, topsy-turvy funhouse mirror version of the world she once knew. The stasis world she left behind.

In this world, known as the Fun And Games beat sequence, the protagonist gets to spread her wings. She has fun. She finds out that there's more to life than she'd been experiencing. At the Magical Midpoint, something big happens that convinces her that she’s already achieved her greatest goal—without even breaking a sweat.

When my protagonist, Sandra Porter, enters her Antithesis world, she makes a new set of friends. She participates in a twisted initiation into the gang by throwing bricks through windows in an abandoned factory. She vandalizes a house with the gang. She grows closer to her crazy best friend. She falls for the guy who confesses his feelings for her, the guy she likes too.

Sandra thinks she’s getting everything she wants in life. Things couldn’t be any better. She’s having a great time. What she doesn’t realize is that these fun things come at a cost. But how much?

At the midpoint of your story, your protagonist must find herself in a similar situation. 
In my next letter to you, I will show you just how great a debt Sandra, and your protagonist, will owe.

I remain,

L. R. Farren
Author of From Bad Girl To Worse
and The Dangerous Way Home 

P. S. – The Thesis and the Antithesis worlds must be familiar to the protagonist, yet drastically different all at the same time. It’s not the protagonist’s surroundings that bear significance in the story. It’s how the protagonist views her surroundings that mean everything. 

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