Showing posts with label The Call. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Call. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 9

Title: (NaNoWriMo Day 9): 8th Key Scene: Tests & Trials

Title: (NaNoWriMo Day 9): 8th Key Scene: Tests & Trials

We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”

In honor of NaNoWriMo, every day this month I’m blogging about a key scene, one that any suspenseful story will include either implicitly or explicitly. I then take a close look at how this scene, this structure, is implemented in three popular genres: Action, Romance and Mystery. So far I've posted articles about the Inciting Incident, the Lock-In, Pinch Point One, the Midpoint Crisis, the All Hope is Lost point, and the Climax.

Today I'm going to talk about a scene (or sequence of scenes) often referred to as Tests and Trials.

Tests and Trials: Breaking It Down

After leaving the Ordinary World and entering the Special World of the Adventure, the protagonist goes through a series of Tests and Trials.

The Special World is radically different from the Ordinary World. Metaphorically, it’s inside out and upside down, Kansas vs the Land of Oz. In this new environment the protagonist is a fish out of water. She doesn't have any idea of the rules, the norms, that govern conduct in the Special World.

Part of being a fish out of water has to do with her strengths and weaknesses being flipped. Qualities that were strengths in the Ordinary World now become weaknesses and her weaknesses are now strengths. Think of Luke Skywalker in the Mos Eisley Cantina or Frodo and company in The Prancing Pony.

Many of the things we said of the Ordinary World are also true of the Special World. For instance, the protagonist will often meet new friends as well as make new enemies.

Though I’m not going to say much about it here, the B-Story often begins now and will involve new friends the protagonist makes in the Special World. To read more about A- and B-Stories I recommend Steven Pressfield’s article: The “A” Story and the “B” Story.

Another similarity between the Ordinary World and the Special World is that, on entering the Special World, the protagonist will have a clear initial goal, one that will soon take on new dimensions.

Tests and Trials, Fun and Games

As soon as the protagonist enters the Special World she will begin a series of Tests and Trials, mini adventures which highlight the strangeness of the Special World. Because her strengths are now weaknesses, and vice versa, she will fail quite a lot and in ways she couldn’t have foreseen.

As the protagonist goes through her Tests and Trials she’ll often receive aid and advice from her new friends and be hindered by her new enemies.

Tests and Trials are often also a time of Fun and Games, a time of bonding through adversity.

During this period it may seem as though the protagonist loses sight of her story goal, and that’s fine. It gives the audience a breather, perhaps they have a laugh or two. Here you have time and space to develop your characters and make your readers care about them.

Often, at the tail end of Tests and Trials the protagonist has her first big success. For the first time she triumphs over her tormentors. There’s a brief celebration then, suddenly, the Big Bad rears his head (this is the first Pinch Point—for more on this see here and here).

Key Points

  • The protagonist is a fish out of water in the Special World. She doesn't know the rules.
  • In the context of the Special World the protagonist’s strengths become weaknesses and perhaps her weaknesses become strengths.
  • The protagonist has a well-defined goal going into the period of Tests and Trials.
  • The protagonist makes new friends and gains new enemies.

Where is it?

The Tests and Trials part of the adventure comes at the beginning of the second act, about 25% to 35% of the way through the story.

How is it connected to the protagonist’s desires?

The Tests and Trials portion of the story should be connected to the protagonist’s internal and external desires, but there is a bit of wiggle room here. New elements are introduced into the story as the protagonist meets new characters and learns about their desires, their goals. One thing we need to show here is how the desires of the new characters mesh with those of the protagonist. Are they compatible? Incompatible?

This is an important part of character development and adds depth to the story.

Tests and Trials: Examples

In Edge of Tomorrow the Test and Trials portion of the story begins when Cage, drenched in the blood of an alpha, dies and wakes up in the previous day.

In the beginning Cage has no idea what’s happening. He’s put through tests and trials as, desperate, he tries to learn how to fight all the while keeping himself—and as many others as he can—alive. This sequence also has incredibly funny parts. There’s one scene that, even though I know it’s coming, I laugh out loud every time I see it. Cage is NOT a fighter by any stretch of the imagination—in the beginning of the story, he can’t figure out how to take the safety lock off his weapon!

Testing the Scene Example

Fish out of water. In the Ordinary World Cage creates propaganda. He’s good with words, with creating a narrative, but he couldn’t shoot a gun to save his life. Literally! He doesn't know the rules, the norms. Check.

Well defined goals going in. Cage’s goal is to NOT fight. Even when he’s on the beach in the midst of the battle he tries to run back to safety! But, as soon as he figures out that if he doesn’t learn how to fight that he will die, he begins to apply himself. So, yes. He has a well defined goal: survive.

Makes new friends and enemies. In Cage’s case he ignores the people who are hostile to him and makes friends with those who can help him. Check.

How the Midpoint is Implemented in Three Genres: Action, Romance & Mystery

Action Genre

I’ve covered the action genre, above.

Romance Genre

It depends on the kind of romance story you’re writing, but this is generally the “getting to know each other” phase that my male friends hate and my female friends (including moi) get all dreamy over.

Any romantic contact with the antagonist is forbidden (he’s a prince, she’s a pauper, etc.), and even if it wasn't forbidden the protagonist knows a relationship would never work. Never EVER. Still, the protagonist keeps thinking about the antagonist, she wants him to notice her. Then she does something mortifying and, sure enough, he notices her! He comes over and offers her a hand but she just wants the floor to open up and swallow her.

It turns out he likes her, he thinks she’s cute and different. Perhaps their essential incompatibility appeals to him because he’s not looking for a serious relationship.

And so on.

Murder Mystery Genre

In a murder mystery this is where the sleuth acquaints himself with the case by questioning suspects and investigating clues.

Every post I pick a book or audiobook I love and recommend it to my readers. This serves two purposes. I want to share what I’ve loved with you, and, if you click the link and buy anything over at Amazon within the next 24 hours, Amazon puts a few cents in my tip jar at no cost to you. So, if you click the link, thank you! If not, that’s okay too. I’m thrilled and honored you’ve visited my blog and read my post. :-)

Today I’d like to recommend one of my favorite Agatha Christie murder mysteries, Murder on the Links: A Hercule Poirot Mystery

From the blurb: “An urgent cry for help brings Poirot to France. But he arrives too late to save his client, whose brutally stabbed body now lies face downwards in a shallow grave on a golf course. But why is the dead man wearing his son's overcoat? And who was the impassioned love-letter in the pocket for? Before Poirot can answer these questions, the case is turned upside down by the discovery of a second, identically murdered corpse . . ..”

That’s it for today! I’ll talk to you again tomorrow.

Word count so far: 12,755
Word count for today: 1,465
Total words this month: 14,220

Tuesday, November 8

NaNoWriMo Day 8: 7th Key Scene: Call to Adventure

NaNoWriMo Day 8: 7th Key Scene: Call to Adventure

I have been successful probably because I have always realized that I knew nothing about writing and have merely tried to tell an interesting story entertainingly.

The Midpoint: Breaking It Down

In the Call to Adventure the protagonist accepts a quest, takes on a challenge that will occupy her till the Climax at the end of the story. I’m going to call this challenge the Story Goal because it will be the engine driving the action of the story, of the plot, right up to the very end. This goal defines the protagonist’s arc and becomes the story’s backbone, tying all the other character arcs to itself.

The protagonist doesn’t always accept the Call to Adventure. Often she rejects the Call and must be talked into it, often by a mentor. If a mentor is involved they may give the protagonist something that will aid her on her journey. For example, in Star Wars IV: A New Hope, Obi-Wan Kenobi gives Luke his father’s lightsaber.

What is it?

A problem/challenge. At the Call to Adventure the hero is offered a challenge or adventure.  The Call must make it clear what the hero’s goal is.

Stakes established. The Call to Adventure should reveal the states. We need to know what will count as a win and what will count as a loss, and we need to know how the protagonist will be rewarded for a win and what price will be exacted if she loses.

Call is freely accepted. The protagonist must be able to reject the Call to Adventure. Sure, there might be dire consequences if she rejects the Call but, nevertheless, it’s important that she has the opportunity.

The upshot: During the Call to Adventure, a decision must be made, action then taken and a conflict faced.

The Difference Between the Inciting Incident and the Call to Adventure

As we saw when we talked about the Inciting Incident, the Ordinary World is relatively static at the beginning of the story. Often, there is something deeply wrong with the protagonist’s normal existence, but it could also be that she is simply in stasis. She is surviving but she isn’t living.

Another way of looking at the protagonist’s initial state is that she has reached a kind of false, local, optima. The protagonist isn't happy and knows she's not happy but is scared that if she tries to change, her life will get worse.

For example, in the movie The Matrix, at the beginning of the story Neo—or, rather, Mr. Thomas Anderson—knows that something is wrong; not just with his life but with the world. He doesn’t know what exactly is wrong, but he has searched for the answer all his life.

The _Inciting Incident_ shatters the protagonist’s status quo, her state of equilibrium. Something happens that changes the protagonist’s world, a change which will, sooner or later, shatter her status quo. The Inciting Incident creates an imbalance, an inequality that the protagonist must, eventually, address.

At the beginning of _The Matrix_ words, unbidden, flash on Anderson's computer screen: "Follow the white rabbit." I would argue that this is the inciting incident, the event that sets a series of other events in motion that, eventually, leads to his call to adventure. Or the Inciting Incident could have happened in the backstory when Cypher first began to work for the first Matrix.

One could argue that Anderson receives a few calls to adventure, but I think that the Call came when Morpheus tries to talk Neo out of his office building so he can avoid the Agents capturing him. Mr. Anderson declines the Call to Adventure. This changes when, at the end of Act One when, Neo is offered the choice between the red pill and the blue pill.  Then he makes a choice and is locked into the quest.

I find it fruitful to view the Inciting Incident and the Call to Adventure as conceptually distinct because they serve different, though complementary, functions.

As we saw in that section, the Inciting Incident (which is an exciting incident) is meant to a) grab the audience's attention and b) sets the story in motion by breaking the status quo. The Call to Adventure, on the other hand, connects the hero to the cataclysmic changes in the Ordinary World.

You can see how these two events, the Inciting Incident and Call to Adventure, would often go together.

The bottom line: If how you view the Inciting Incident and Call to Adventure works for you, then great! In the end there's only one rule: use what works for you.

Where is it?

The Call to Adventure happens at the same time or shortly after the Inciting Incident. Definitely within the first act (the first 25% of the story).

How is it connected to the protagonist’s desires?

The Call to Adventure connects the protagonist to the changes in the world that the Inciting Incident introduced. The Call to Adventure must also be a call to take some action that will move the protagonist closer to fulfilling their internal and external desires.

The Midpoint: Examples

In Star Wars IV: A New Hope, the Call to Adventure occurs when Obi-Wan Kenobi asks Luke to join him as he travels to Alderaan to bring the plans for the Death Star to the resistance.

Testing the Scene Example

Was a challenge put forward? Yes! Obi-Wan Kenobi asked Luke to join him on a dangerous mission to aid the rebel alliance.

Are the stakes clear? Yes. If the information Princess Leia gave to R2-D2 isn’t delivered to the resistance then the rebellion will be defeated.

Is the quest freely accepted? Yes. Luke rejects the Call at first, but after his aunt and uncle are murdered by the Empire Luke takes up the quest and accompanies Obi-Wan Kenobi.

How the Call to Action is Implemented in Three Genres: Action, Romance & Mystery

Action Genre

I’ve gone over this, above.

Romance Genre

I said before, when we were going over the inciting Incident, that that point is where the lovers-to-be are thrown into conflict. The Inciting Incident is the point at which the protagonist’s world is altered, but it’s not necessarily where the Call to Adventure is given.

In a romance story the Call to Adventure has to do with the call to bond with another human being, the call to make oneself vulnerable. It  is the call to love another even as we wish to be loved.

By the way, in doing research for this article I came across a terrific resource: The Hero’s Journey for Romance Writers.

Murder Mystery Genre

In a murder mystery, the Call occurs when the sleuth agrees to take on the responsibility of solving the murder and, by so doing, to bring justice to the community.

Every post I pick a book or audiobook I love and recommend it to my readers. This serves two purposes. I want to share what I’ve loved with you, and, if you click the link and buy anything over at Amazon within the next 24 hours, Amazon puts a few cents in my tip jar at no cost to you. So, if you click the link, thank you! If not, that’s okay too. I’m thrilled and honored you’ve visited my blog and read my post. :-)

Today I’d like to recommend Dialogue: The Art of Verbal Action for Page, Stage, and Screen by by Robert Mckee. From the blurb: “From Macbeth to Breaking Bad, McKee deconstructs key scenes to illustrate the strategies and techniques of dialogue. DIALOGUE applies a framework of incisive thinking to instruct the prospective writer on how to craft artful, impactful speech.”

That’s it! If you’re doing NaNo, how’s it going? My take on NaNo is that as long as you write more in November than you would have otherwise, you’re a winner!

Talk to you again tomorrow, in the meantime, good writing!

Word count so far: 11,385
Word count for today: 1370
Total words this month: 12,755