Writing

NaNoWriMo – 2016

I completely missed the beginning of NaNoWriMo this year. I mean, I know when November 1 happened – it appeared on my calendar. But I forgot it was NaNoWriMo.

Not that I intended to participate this year; I knew how crazy this month would be and knew I would have no time.

But to everyone else who is doing it: Good Luck.

I salute you.

General · Writing

What is a writing beat?

I mean, in writing a short story or a novel. What is a beat? I first heard the phrase on Writing Excuses, and I have since heard it in a few other places.  untitled-1

Even though Writing Excuses was where I first heard this term, I don’t think they actually define it in any podcast. Anyway, I haven’t found a podcast dedicated to the concept of writing beats. (I would like to hear one, if you are reading, Writing Excuses.)

According to dictionary.com, it can be:

36. Music.
a. the audible, visual, or mental marking of the metrical divisions of music.
b. a stroke of the hand, baton, etc., marking the time division or an accent for music during performance.

37. Theater. a momentary time unit imagined by an actor in timing actions: Wait four beats and then pick up the phone.

And other Katherine Cowley on her site (http://www.katherinecowley.com/blog/10-keys-to-writing-story-beats-in-novels-with-exercises/) defines it as:

The definition: A beat is the smallest story unit in fiction. Individual words are like atoms. Story beats are the molecules, the real building blocks of the story world. There are different categories or types of story beats including a line of dialogue, a moment of action, a moment of reaction, a moment of inaction, a visual image, an emotion, a setting, a theme, or an instance of meta-storytelling.

So having googled writing beat, I still don’t really understand it. How do I identify the beats in a book?

I am pretty sure there are different types of beats. Story, character, plot, emotional, action and so on and so forth. But I don’t think I can tell one beat from another or even identify a single one in a scene. It is quite confusing.

In this first chapter – which is mostly dialog, just one setting, one scene – from Pride & Prejudice, what are the beats?

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1342/1342-h/1342-h.htm

I suppose they must include the last line? Which is the aim of her life? But . . . is that a story beat, a character beat, a plot beat, an emotional beat? One or more of the above? Story, yes; plot, probably; character, probably; emotional; maybe; action; no?

And what is the difference between story and plot beat? I don’t know. I am confused.

A part of me wants to forget this whole notion of writing beats.

flash friday · General · Short Story · Writing

Friday Flash: First Day

This is my first Friday flash in months! Months and months and months! It is exactly 304 words, which is alright.

The baby grinned toothlessly into the camera. Its little fingers gripped the bare mattress.

Than it plopped its butt onto the bed and the blue blanket balanced atop its head slid down until the baby was completely covered, from the top of its bald skull to its bite-size toes.

The baby shrieked, whether in joy or distress, I couldn’t tell. I didn’t know enough about babies. But I knew what I was going to do next. It sure was loud. Nice, healthy lungs on this child. Maybe it knew this was the first day of its new life and it was celebrating with noise.

I turned off the camera and looked across the room at its mother. She looked like she was trying to scream louder than her baby. The bright pink ball gag kept her silent, though. Mostly silent. Tiny sounds still came made it through.

So annoying. Maybe I needed to cut off her tongue. But then she wouldn’t be able to scream when I wanted to hear her. Hmm.

The sweet sounds she would make later were worth a little irritation now, I decided.

“Come to Aunt Rosie,” I told the baby. “You know you love me.”

I reached forward and yanked the blanket off the baby. The baby was startled into silence, looked at me with big blue eyes and scrambled forward on hands and knees.

My sister said the baby was a boy, but how could anyone know? The baby wasn’t old enough to decide on a gender. And I would keep it alive until it did.

For now, its mother would do. She would last until this little one grew up enough for me to decide what to do with it.

Tomorrow was soon enough to take another picture. I would keep a collection as it grew up.

General · reading · Writing

The Belly of the Whale: The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Chapter 1.5

The Belly of the Whale

The hero has heard the Call to Adventure, accepted it (the hero may have rejected it first) and has also gotten through the First Threshold. Now our brave hero is in the Belly of the Whale.

Chapter 1.1 was about the Call to Adventure.

Chapter 1.2 was about Refusal of the Call to Adventure.

Chapter 1.3 was about Supernatural Aid.

Chapter 1.4 was about Crossing of the First Threshold

This section about the Belly of the Whale concludes the first chapter of the The Hero with a Thousand Faces. It is called Departure and I imagine it means the hero has finished departing and is well into the adventure.

The book has this to say about The Belly of the Whale:

The idea that the threshold is a transit into a sphere of rebirth is symbolized in the worldwide womb image of the belly of the whale. The hero, instead of conquering or conciliating the power of the threshold, is swallowed into the unknown, and would appear to have died.

To me it sounds like the hero is trapped somehow, maybe by the enemy, maybe by the world itself. Maybe the hero was kidnapped or betrayed into the hands of the enemy. Maybe the enemy has trapped him some other way and he has to shoot his way out.

I am less sure about the rebirth bit of this quote. I think it means being trapped changes the hero somehow, in some fundamental way. Traumatic experiences do change people, but usually not in a good way. A traumatic experience can also turn you into a better person, or at least a more empathic one, so it could go both ways.

In Star Wars (Episode IV: The New Hope) this is when Luke and company are trapped on the Death Star. The point where they jump into the garbage disposal place is the moment when they are in abdomen of the Death Star.

Harry Potter . . . Harry Potter is harder to say. I think this is when he gets past  Fluffy (the three-headed dog) and goes through that trapdoor. They play that  game of chess. Well, this or there isn’t a Belly of the Whale in the first Harry Potter book. What do you guys think?

As for how they change . . . Luke watches his mentor as they fight free of the Death Star. Harry learns something about himself, but after the chess scene, so I am not sure it counts. Because the things that learns about himself could also be another part of the hero’s journey.

Anyway, at the end, I think the Belly of the Whale section is about the hero getting trapped somehow. It doesn’t have to be by the enemy, though it usually is. Cultural norms and things like that could also play a part. The hero’s own emotions could also a play part in trapping him.

reading · Writing

The Crossing of the First Threshold: The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Chapter 1.4

The Crossing of the First Threshold

At this point in the Hero’s Journey, the hero has accepted the Call to Adventure and is on his way. The hero has perhaps acquired some Supernatural Aid.

Chapter 1.1 was about the Call to Adventure.

Chapter 1.2 was about Refusal of the Call to Adventure.

Chapter 1.3 was about Supernatural Aid.

The book says this on the First Threshold:

With the personification of his destiny to guide and aid him, the hero goes forward in his adventure until he comes to the “threshold guardian” at the entrance to the zone magnified power. Such custodians bound the world in the four directions – also up and down – standing for the limits of the hero’s present sphere, or life horizon. Beyond them is darkness, the unknown, and danger; just as beyond the parental watch is danger of the infant and beyond the protection of his society danger to the member of the tribe.

I think the threshold guardian is someone or something that represents the boundaries of the hero’s world. This could be (probably is!) related somehow to the hero’s culture, to the hero’s place in his culture. Or, it could be, the physical boundaries of his hometown. Maybe both. It could be something that is keeping the hero from moving forward.

Maybe someone is bullying the hero; maybe the hero is being hunted; maybe the hero needs to go get something for his people; maybe the hero needs to go somehow to further himself.

Anyway, beyond this first threshold, is danger. Only heroes brave this danger; non-heroes are happy not crossing this boundary. 

In Star Wars, this was probably when Luke left his home world.

Harry Potter is more difficult. There could be a lot of thresholds, I think. The letters, when Hagrid comes to find him, when Hagrid first takes him to Diagon Alley.

But I think Harry crosses the First Threshold when he gets on the train to Hogwarts. He has to find and cross the weird train station, the one everyone tells him doesn’t exist. Everyone that tells him so, the mere perception that this train station cannot exist is, I think, the threshold guardian. This is when he crosses over to the magical world all by himself! What do you guys think?

The book also says about what is past the First Threshold:

The pairs of opposite (ugliness, good and evil, and all the other polarities that bind the faculties to hope and fear, and link the organs of action to deeds of defense and acquisition) are clashing rocks (Symplegades) that crush the traveler, but between which the heroes always pass.

The Symplegades (http://www.mythweb.com/encyc/entries/symplegades.html) is a Greek myth where two rocks come together to smash anything that passes between; Jason and the Argonauts had advice on how to pass through (ah! Supernatural Aid!) and they did so successfully.

Here, the clashing rocks are a metaphor for the pairs of opposites that can crush the hero. I think they could be physical things, actual dangers to life and limb. But, also, conflicting desires. Hate and love, justice and revenge, greed and generosity, life and death, conflicts of interest, bravery and fear, things like that. Basically, all the trials and tribulations the hero will face past the First Threshold.

Basically, I think this is the beginning of the adventure and danger should quickly follow, along with a way to use the (perhaps unobvious) Supernatural Aid the hero has previously received.

Also, I think this might be end of the Act 1 (if you’re following the Three Act structure, when the hero cannot turn back and is fully committed).

Others Blogging on This Topic:

  1.  Thoughts on Mythic Structure: Crossing the First Threshold from Debbie
  2. back to basics: the hero’s journey, stage five from Brooke Johnson
  3. The Crossing of the First Threshold: Confronting the Guardians from Living Joyfully
  4. Hero’s Journey: Crossing the First Threshold: The Unknown Place from Rainbow Gryphon
  5. Step 4: Crossing The First Threshold from Down The Rabbit Hole and Back
reading · Writing

The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Chapter 1.3: Supernatural Aid

Chapter 1.3: Supernatural Aid

This is after the hero has accepted the Call to Adventure! Maybe he refused it first, but he has

accepted it now. So the hero’s journey continues!

Chapter 1.1 was about the Call to Adventure.

Chapter 1.2 was about Refusal of the Call to Adventure.

This section is about supernatural aid. That is:

For those who have not refused the call, the first encounter of the hero-journey is with a protective figure (often a little old crone or old man) who provides the adventurer with amulets against the dragon forces he is about to pass.

So the hero finds a helpful figure, someone to give him things to help survive the trials and tribulations ahead. Things like amulets as mentioned in the quote above; knowledge probably counts, too; maybe weapons and trinkets as well.

I guess the helpful person could be the mentor figure. Like Obi-Wan in Star Wars and Dumbledore in Harry Potter. Luke gets his light saber from Obi-Wan. Harry gets advice.

Frodo’s ring probably counts as an amulet, too. But he gets from Bilbo; does that make Bilbo the helpful figure? He also gets advice from Gandolf. Maybe both Bilbo and Gandolf are helpful figures.

Then there is this line in the book:

What such a figure represents is the benign, protecting power of destiny.

So . . . is the helpful figure assigned to the hero by fate? By god? I don’t know. But I think this  means the helpful figure is a cheering squad, reassuring the hero and telling them can do this, no matter the odds. Maybe the helpful figure even shows them how to do whatever they need to do.

Protective and dangerous, motherly and fatherly at the same time, this supernatural principle of guardianship and direction unities in itself all the ambiguities of the unconscious – thus signifying the support of our conscious personality by that other, larger system, but also the inscrutability of the guide that we are following to the peril of all our rational ends.

I take this to mean that the helpful figure is basically like a parent and does a lot to sooth the insecurities of our hero.

And look! The guide, that thing that marks a new period in the hero’s life is here, showing the way to the end.

The book also says this about the helpful figure:

Not infrequently, the supernatural helper is masculine in form. In fairy lore it may be some little fellow of the wood, some wizard, hermit, shepherd, or smith, who appears to supply the amulets and advice that the hero will require.

Most of the helpful figures in the examples the book gives are actually female. I thought about ignoring this, but yeah. Although in the stories I was thinking of – Harry Potter, Star Wars – the figures are male. So there you go.

Really, I think the most important thing about this section is that hero finds someone to help the hero survive the adventure, usually by providing helpful objects or advice.

Others Blogging on This Topic:

  1. Adapting The Hero’s Journey for a Heroine from Kristen Pham
  2. Step 3: Supernatural Aid from Down The Rabbit Hole and Back
  3. Supernatural Aid: Looking for Guidance on Our Unschooling Journey from Living Joyfully
  4. What is the ‘Supernatural aid’? from frankindischleck
flash friday · Writing

Friday Flash: Unexpected Homecoming

Wrote this quick! I think it worked out.

He stumbled down the stairs. Shelia was here, Shelia was here, his beautiful baby girl.

She wore a long white dress, but stared down at the cherry wood of the steps. The top of her head was bare.

He slowed down when he noted a silver chain trailing behind her. It ended in – No! No!

His brother fisted the other end of the silver leash.

His brother’s smirked and mouthed the words: “I win.”

No, he would fight this. It wasn’t over yet. He wouldn’t allow his daughter to suffer.