Okay, this isn’t the first time I have given KM Weiland a ‘shout-out’ but she’s definitely due another from me. Her website http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com is simply awesome. It’s a repository of invaluable advice, tips, lists and guides to help writers get where they want to go. Want to know what elements should be present in your first chapter? Want to know the ins and outs of story structure? It’s all there. There’s movie and book reviews looking at the scaffolding inside that really help open your eyes to the previously invisible structure inside every successful story.
While in a second draft of my current work-in-progress, a middle-grade fantasy, Dragonspire, I knew that the middle of the story was too long and needed trimming and that my protagonist seemed to me to have too many motivators, I needed to nail one or two down and focus on those to help refine the theme. But, it’s one thing to know that something not working, it’s quite another to know how to fix it.
Enter ‘Creating Character Arcs’ and the accompanying Workbook.
I actually listened to the book on audio (I love my Audible subscription!) and grabbed the workbook to go with it.
For anyone reading this who knows nothing about story structure and what KM Weiland is all about, in a nutshell, she (like many others you can read) helps to reveal the structure that exists within all good stories. Stories don’t just work by accident. They work because their structure produces a satisfying and logical story that tracks the highs and lows of the protagonists journey.
The inciting event, first plot point, central reversal, second plot point and the climax are but the main tents poles holding up your story. Your protagonists character arc will track these same points, twisting and turning within the plot structure you have created to give your protagonist the hardest time possible in order to generate the biggest pay-off possible at the explosive conclusion.
Following the audio, I was able to track what was happening in my current draft (in terms of my protagonists arc) against the structure that KM Weiland discusses in the book. At various stages, the book poses questions relevant to specific stages of your character’s journey. In answering those questions, I could see where my story was working (where I had answers to the questions and those answers appeared to be solid) and where it wasn’t (where I had no answers or my answers gave me the wrong outcome). This process exposed flaws in the structure or my story and not only highlighted what was wrong but gave me an idea of what direction I needed to be heading.
Without this book I have no doubt that my current draft would have floundered about like a desperate fish until someone with a hefty club put me out of my misery! Sometimes, as a writer, you feel that at every stage of a story, your protagonist could race off in any one of a million directions, or at least it seems that way. This book helped me focus my thoughts on the key questions I needed to be asking myself about my protagonists journey and enabled me to see that, in fact, there wasn’t a million different directions, there was only a few to choose from and sometimes there was no choice at all, the path was clear. So many times as I listened in the car I would shout, “Yes! That’s what he needs to do!” – meaning my protagonist – and I couldn’t wait to get to a keyboard and back onto Scrivener (which is also awesome BTW – more on that another time) to make the necessary changes to make my story better. As a writer, you cannot ask for a more powerful tool than that.
Anyway, BUY THIS BOOK! It is an essential tome for any writers ‘How to…” shelf. I will definitely be using the Workbook when I next come to plan a story from scratch.