cjhuitt

NaNoWriMo Prep

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Since there was at least a bit of interest, and since I'm ego-centric enough to treat this forum as my own personal entertainment, I thought I'd start leading some novel-prep ideas here.

You're mission, should you choose to accept it, is twofold:

  1. Read Jim Butcher's post on Story Skeletons.
  2. Write at least one story skeleton to try and use for NaNoWriMo (or another time/another story) this year.

The following will give you bonus points:

  • Current Story: Write the story skeleton for the story you are currently working on (writing or editing) if you have not done so already.
  • Multiple Options: On Writing Excuses sometime recently (and I can't seem to find it) Howard suggested coming up with a list of ideas, and choosing one of them. Try making multiple different story skeletons.

They can be posted here for general discussion and support, or done on your own. Have fun!

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I am not sure if I am doing this right, but here goes.

2012 nano project......

When a teenager shows up on Eden's door claiming to be her mail order husband, she decides to adopt him. But will she succeed when her jealous roommate turns her in for child trafficking?

Current Story......

When Nikus is saved from a tower, he decides to live a quiet life in the country. But will he succeed when he finds out that his parents are alive and in need of a rescue?

Multiple Options:

When a mother of 3 breaks from the weight of motherhood, she takes her 72 hour kit and runs away. But will she succeed when the memory of her children haunts her, she runs out of food, and the winter begins to set in?

When a woman runs into her X husband after several years being apart, they decide to both sell their bodies to Dose-Core for their children's financial future. But will they succeed when Dose-Core decides to torture them instead of lethal injection.

When codex finally dies after a long life of administrative slavery, She decides to explore the universe with her only friend. But will she succeed when her master charges her back to life and is forced into slavery for another lifetime?

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2012 NaNo -

Ten years after the beautiful people apocalypse, hoping to cure the sterility problem that plagues the remnants of the human race, a troupe of traveling minstrels and their bodyguards seek out a rumored "lost tribe" of survivors. But will they succeed when there is a haunted forest, an ex-military killing machine, and an army of very angry undead between them and hope for humanity's future?

Current Project -

Roman and Jo, two people with very different backgrounds, but both runaways, find themselves on the same starsway rig, both on the verge of being sent home to hum drum lives they so desperately wish to avoid. But what will they do when they find out they are both prophesied to play a part in a catastrophe that will affect the galaxy, and possibly the entire universe?

I was going to do the multiple options, too, but coming up with one for my current project was so hard that my brain now hurts. I'm really glad I did, though. It's given me perspective and I think it will help me focus it a bit more. Thanks for the link!

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When a teenager shows up on Eden's door claiming to be her mail order husband, she decides to adopt him. But will she succeed when her jealous roommate turns her in for child trafficking?

I like this. It doesn't have the multiple "things go wrong" yet, but it certainly sets up a potential doozy of a conflict.

When Nikus is saved from a tower, he decides to live a quiet life in the country. But will he succeed when he finds out that his parents are alive and in need of a rescue?

This seems a little more generic to me. I wonder if you have the focus wrong? What about: After being rescued and retiring to the country, Nikus finds out his parents are alive and in need of rescue. Will he succeed in saving them when X, Y, and Z?

When a mother of 3 breaks from the weight of motherhood, she takes her 72 hour kit and runs away. But will she succeed when the memory of her children haunts her, she runs out of food, and the winter begins to set in?

When a woman runs into her X husband after several years being apart, they decide to both sell their bodies to Dose-Core for their children's financial future. But will they succeed when Dose-Core decides to torture them instead of lethal injection.

When codex finally dies after a long life of administrative slavery, She decides to explore the universe with her only friend. But will she succeed when her master charges her back to life and is forced into slavery for another lifetime?

I like all of these also, but the last really raises some questions. Questions like, how could she explore the universe after she dies? How could she be "charged back to life"? It has the potential to be a really cool setting story, I think. The same with the Dose-Core one, maybe (though I'm not usually a fan of reading about torture).

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Ten years after the beautiful people apocalypse, hoping to cure the sterility problem that plagues the remnants of the human race, a troupe of traveling minstrels and their bodyguards seek out a rumored "lost tribe" of survivors. But will they succeed when there is a haunted forest, an ex-military killing machine, and an army of very angry undead between them and hope for humanity's future?

[...]

Roman and Jo, two people with very different backgrounds, but both runaways, find themselves on the same starsway rig, both on the verge of being sent home to hum drum lives they so desperately wish to avoid. But what will they do when they find out they are both prophesied to play a part in a catastrophe that will affect the galaxy, and possibly the entire universe?

I like both of these, but I wonder if you could make it even more succinct? I think the obstacles are fine in both, but perhaps the setup could be cut down a bit. I know this is hard for me also (and I haven't done my own assignment yet, but results pending), but I think part of the idea is to boil it down as cleanly as you can. for example, in the second one is the fact that they are both runaways crucial to the plot? The different backgrounds?

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2012 Nano:

When a lost magic sword resurfaces, one-time orphan Guntram sets out to retrieve it for the king. But will he succeed when the other noble houses want the glory (and the sword) for themselves?

Current story:

Pursued after stealing some magic crystals, Jorah tries to get his life back to normal. But will he succeed <<redacted to not spoil critiques>>, Lord Dominik attempting to retrieve them at any cost, and his bad luck catching up to him?

Options:

When his fiancee is murdered, Jon tries to drown himself in scholarly research. But will he succeed when a strange illness strikes the country, and her family insists it was impossible for her magic to transfer to him?

When the king's deadline for naming his heir approaches, heir-candidate Migul is determined that he not be named. But will he succeed when his own survival demands his best effort in the trials?

When his uncle commits suicide, young Pridely must take up the family position of chief shaman. But will he succeed when the weather magic demands a yearly sacrifice of those he loves the most?

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All right, it's been a bit more than a week. Here's the next "assignment".

  1. Read Jim Butcher's post on Characters.
  2. Write out the following about your upcoming story's main character:

    1. Exaggeration: In what aspect are they wildly different than the reader?
    2. Exotic position: In what way is their setting interesting?
    3. Introduction: What is a typical and memorable character action they can be performing when first introduced?
    4. Empathy: How will their initial setup, problem, or goal make the reader empathize with them? (I'm deviating a bit on this from what the post says, but I think it's worthwhile.)
    5. Tags and Traits: How will the reader consistently know who it is on-screen?

As the reading material says, they don't need to all be present, but the more the merrier. Note that I morphed V-factor into tags and traits, because those can be done ahead of time. The rest needs to be embedded. OK, technically empathy needs built throughout the story also, but I want to try to start with some right away as well.

For bonus points, do more characters. Either other major characters for the upcoming novel, or major characters for your current novel.

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And therein lies the problem. I'm not sure I can make it more concise, though I really wish I could. Perhaps as I write more? It's strange because I feel like he's almost coming from a completely different direction. As I write I search for that one thing that ties it all up into one or two sentences. He's saying to start from that point and move forward. I've been having a bit of a writer's identity crisis recently, and this is definitely feeding that. I'm thinking of scrapping my Nano idea and starting fresh with a more concise story idea. One of the great things about Nano is that it's the perfect time to try out different types of writing.

My current project is nearing completion. Writing toward a more concise story skeleton, I think, is going to help with this final leg to no end. The one thing I've agonized over (other than not being able to find a good balance between obtuse and too subtle) in my own writing is the lack of focus. Story skeletons. I had heard of them before, but until I actually tried them I didn't realize what my process was missing. Thanks for the thread! Look forward to your... NaNoWriMo course. :)

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Okay, I'm late, but I'll submit something for partial credit for last week. I'll try to get my next homework in on time...

Current project:

When Isaac and his mother escape from the mob who murdered his father, they leave in the time machine he invented to try to bring him back to life. But will they succeed when the changes they make set Isaac's father's tyrannical doppleganger against them, in his very own time machine?

NaNo 2012

When hormonal surges start causing temporary changes and powers instead of just acne, one teenager discovers the pattern, and starts using them to his advantage. But will he succeed when the real originators of the changes take notice?

Other options (my first book):

When Sam accidently sends himself to an artifical alien planet after his house is destroyed by a void of energy, he is set on a path to both reclaim his home and discover his new magical talents. But will he succeed in his war against the voids, the league of Maji who create them, and the dissolution of the entire universe?

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And therein lies the problem. I'm not sure I can make it more concise, though I really wish I could.

Of course, sometimes it isn't easy, or maybe even possible. It was harder than I thought for my own, but I think part of the point is to figure out what the one primary idea for the story is, and work from there.

It's strange because I feel like he's almost coming from a completely different direction. As I write I search for that one thing that ties it all up into one or two sentences. He's saying to start from that point and move forward. I've been having a bit of a writer's identity crisis recently, and this is definitely feeding that.

Really, there's no reason you have to do it that way -- especially not if it starts any sort of crisis.

I'm thinking of scrapping my Nano idea and starting fresh with a more concise story idea. One of the great things about Nano is that it's the perfect time to try out different types of writing.

This I definitely agree with, and it's why I'm trying this out now.

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Okay, I'm late, but I'll submit something for partial credit for last week. I'll try to get my next homework in on time...

Current project:

When Isaac and his mother escape from the mob who murdered his father, they leave in the time machine he invented to try to bring him back to life. But will they succeed when the changes they make set Isaac's father's tyrannical doppleganger against them, in his very own time machine?

NaNo 2012

When hormonal surges start causing temporary changes and powers instead of just acne, one teenager discovers the pattern, and starts using them to his advantage. But will he succeed when the real originators of the changes take notice?

Other options (my first book):

When Sam accidently sends himself to an artifical alien planet after his house is destroyed by a void of energy, he is set on a path to both reclaim his home and discover his new magical talents. But will he succeed in his war against the voids, the league of Maji who create them, and the dissolution of the entire universe?

I might say the same here, that they should be a bit more focused. However, maybe that's the difference between writing one for an existing story, and writing one for a potential story. I think your NaNo 2012 version is quite concise, although it might lack a goal for the protagonist.

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I agree. It's easy for me to spit out that story skeleton for an existing book, because I can capture what's there. If you look at Butchers skeleton for Storm Front, it's pretty similar in complexity.

On the NaNo one, it doesn't have a clear goal yet because I literally came up with the idea that day (from a combination of Alcatraz and the Katie Ka-Boom shorts in Animaniacs...). I think going through these exercises will help me find the goal of the story versus the starting situation. The character homework (especially tags and traits) has already helped me out.

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cjhuitt- Thanks for the advice. The last one was hard to do because the main character is a cell phone that has become awakened by being hooked into a human brain. They die, like cell phones do, and then are charged back to life. What the human doesn't know is that when the cell phone was awakened it also created it's own religion where it believes in only being a slave to the human's brain for one lifetime, and then travels the universe the rest of their existence through an energy source that floats through space. The fact that the Main character is a cell phone is the big reveal in the end. I didn't want to say that in the story skeleton.

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I'm still having trouble coming up with a new story/skeleton so I can't do the character stuff yet. I'm attempting the Bradbury approach of train of thoughting a list of nouns until something catches my interest.

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What do you guys think?

Stuck in a dimensionally derailed commuter train, Jessie must ride to end of the line or he will never be allowed to return to his own reality. But will he succeed when also forced to disembark for one full hour at three increasingly surreal and dangerous villages along the way?

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Would it be verboten for some random person to comment? If so, let me know and I'd be happy to delete. But if not...

Stuck in a dimensionally derailed commuter train, Jessie must ride to end of the line or he will never be allowed to return to his own reality. But will he succeed when also forced to disembark for one full hour at three increasingly surreal and dangerous villages along the way?

I love the idea, but the skeleton feels rather passive. For example, the *WHEN SOMETHING HAPPENS* section isn't something happening, but rather something that has already happened continuing to happen. To bring in the MICE quotient, it looks like you are building a milieu story (based on the assumption that the story ends when Jessie returns to his own reality) but skipping the decent into the rabbit hole.

Likewise, the *PURSUES A GOAL* section isn't clear. Does Jessie even want to return to his own reality? What active actions (sitting is a passive action) will he pursue to achieve that goal? Also, as you've stated it, the *ANTAGONIST PROVIDES OPPOSITION* are insurmountable (because, as you said, "he must ride to end of line," and disembarking early inherently precludes that).

I think if you made things a little more concrete, the skeleton would work wonderfully. For example, it feels like you have a milieu story seed here, so what specifically made Jessie get on that train? Did he make a deal with a transdimensional alien who calls himself D'Vil? Did he follow a white rabbit on board? Did he try to summon the Black Goat in the Woods with a Thousand Young? Etc.

As I said, I love the idea. It feels like it could be a lot of fun, both for you to write and others to read.

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Thanks for the feeback, Thought! Your name is fitting since now I feel I have to think about this even more. I was going sort of for the accidental adventure. If I had to choose one of your examples, it's a White Rabbit thing. Actually, now that I think about it, it definitely is a White Rabbit thing. Anyway. James and a few other strangers get on a simple commuter train. I don't know yet if the train becomes dimensionally derailed while he's on it, or if he got on a train that wasn't supposed to be there in the first place. I'm definitely leaning toward the latter, but I'm not sure yet. Anyway, the passengers slowly realize something is wrong when the train makes an unscheduled stop at a town none of them (these people are commuters so they see the same sights all the time) recognize. When they confront the Conductor, he/she/it explains the deal. Ride to the end of the line, go back home. The three stops each have a theme, and those are (at least until I change my mind) a 1) Western Ghost Town ghost/vampire/something, 2) A single shack with a La Llarona type character (the story takes place in central/northern New Mexico), and finally 3) Something more SciFi, maybe a dystopian town or something. Anyway, at the first stop, he saves a girl who joins him on the train. She accompanies him through the other two trials, but then there is one final surprise trial. She isn't from his dimension and can't get off when he does.

Sorry, didn't mean to post my whole story, but I am NOT good at brevity or skeletons, apparently.

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Here's my own:

"When Ember Watt's best imaginary friend disappears from school, she travels to the un-retrocessioned part of Washington D.C. to find her. But will Ember succeed when she finds herself contending with Jefferson Davis (President of the Confederacy), an evil version of her own mother, and a plot to use her imagination to change the past?"

As an aside, I've been told that "un-retrocessioned" is word that confuses the wiggles out of people. Washington DC was supposed to be a diamond. However, part of it was "retrocessioned" (aka, given back) to Virginia. As for un-retrocessioned... well, that's getting into too many details, probably.

@Jack, glad I could be of some help.

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I'm still having trouble coming up with a new story/skeleton so I can't do the character stuff yet. I'm attempting the Bradbury approach of train of thoughting a list of nouns until something catches my interest.

I should have responded to this sooner, but what is the Bradbury approach? I'm not sure I've heard of it.

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"When Ember Watt's best imaginary friend disappears from school, she travels to the un-retrocessioned part of Washington D.C. to find her. But will Ember succeed when she finds herself contending with Jefferson Davis (President of the Confederacy), an evil version of her own mother, and a plot to use her imagination to change the past?"

As an aside, I've been told that "un-retrocessioned" is word that confuses the wiggles out of people. Washington DC was supposed to be a diamond. However, part of it was "retrocessioned" (aka, given back) to Virginia. As for un-retrocessioned... well, that's getting into too many details, probably..

I just have to say, "un-retrocessioned" threw me for a loop as well. However, it does add to the interest of the hook.

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  1. Exaggeration: In what aspect are they wildly different than the reader?
  2. Exotic position: In what way is their setting interesting?
  3. Introduction: What is a typical and memorable character action they can be performing when first introduced?
  4. Empathy: How will their initial setup, problem, or goal make the reader empathize with them? (I'm deviating a bit on this from what the post says, but I think it's worthwhile.)
  5. Tags and Traits: How will the reader consistently know who it is on-screen?

When did NaNo get so close? Only 29 days away!?

For my main character for the upcoming NaNo novel, Guntram Holder:

  1. Exaggeration: One of the best swordfighters of his generation, and focused on becoming the best.
  2. Exotic position: An orphan given the chance to become adopted into one of the noble houses.
  3. Introduction: Fighting for the championship in the king's tourney, against the current champion (and "hand" of the king).
  4. Empathy: The current champion plays with him and then easily defeats him, due at least partially to Guntram losing his composure in the match.
  5. Tags and Traits:Dark hair, dark eyes, thin beard, birthmark, liquid movement, steel link bracelet, plain sword with a worn leather grip.

Not as easy as I thought, but not horrible once I got into it. I'll try another, one of the other main characters, Arkady Travill:

  1. Exaggeration: The best head of family (by far) in her house's noble history.
  2. Exotic position: The only (surviving) child of her father, one of the most prestigious of the noble houses.
  3. Introduction: Working the crowd of other nobles at the king's tourney, evaluating their desires and positions and using them to strengthen her own. Ends with her being forced to admit that her father's plan to adopt (instead of name her heir) would strengthen their house's position.
  4. Empathy: Her father blames her for not being a boy and therefore able to inherit the rule of the house. The house's prestige has diminished due to him not having a male heir (and his own dealings, usually against her excellent advice).
  5. Tags and Traits: Wavy hair. Dirty blond hair. Sharp green eyes. Angular chin. Thin. Hard. Emerald pendant. Elegant vests. Sarcastic thoughts, only occasionally shared.

I think I might like doing this. It's not easy to do off-hand, but I can already see that it's helped me firm up my impression of the characters.

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All right, I've been slacking off, I admit it. That's the bad news.

The good news is that I finally did my homework from the last post I put myself up for doing homework, and now my reward is allocating more homework. See what fun this is?

This one is easy. Re-read the last entry if you must, and this time write out the same issues for the antagonist (or antagonists) of your story. For review, they are:

  1. Exaggeration: In what aspect are they wildly different than the reader?
  2. Exotic position: In what way is their setting interesting?
  3. Introduction: What is a typical and memorable character action they can be performing when first introduced?
  4. Empathy: How will their initial setup, problem, or goal make the reader empathize with them? (I'm deviating a bit on this from what the post says, but I think it's worthwhile.)
  5. Tags and Traits: How will the reader consistently know who it is on-screen?

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...

Current Story......

When Nikus is saved from a tower, he decides to live a quiet life in the country. But will he succeed when he finds out that his parents are alive and in need of a rescue?

Multiple Options:

When a mother of 3 breaks from the weight of motherhood, she takes her 72 hour kit and runs away. But will she succeed when the memory of her children haunts her, she runs out of food, and the winter begins to set in?

When a woman runs into her X husband after several years being apart, they decide to both sell their bodies to Dose-Core for their children's financial future. But will they succeed when Dose-Core decides to torture them instead of lethal injection.

...

Those must be some pretty bad kids, because I know a mom of 12 kids, and she's fine, albeit stressed occasionally.. ;)

Edited by Stroniax
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All right, it's been a bit more than a week. Here's the next "assignment".

These have really been quite useful. It's forcing me to think about aspects of my story that I hadn't realized I need to be thinking about, or at least formulating them in a way that packs more punch (which will hopefully transfer well). So, for the main character of my NaNoWriMo novel, Ember Watt:

  1. Exaggeration: Ember is not just a day dreamer, the things she imagines actually manifest in the real world.
  2. Exotic position: Ember is a "normal" (sans the above) girl searching for her friend in a land populated by major historical figures.
  3. Introduction: Ember is introduced to the reader when she covertly throws things at bullies hustling a homeless man in a subway station.
  4. Tags: Small, thin fingers, freckles, red hair, ringlets.
  5. Traits: Silver hairpin, green sneakers
  6. Empathy: Underdog. Ember is a "cowardly bully of bullies." She greatly dislikes mean people, but is afraid to confront them directly, and so she manipulates situations in order to arrange for undesirable outcomes for these bullies (like throwing things at them from a good hiding place).

My other protagonists are still too amorphous to really do this with (they keep combining and splitting as I'm figuring out what their roles in the story should be). However, for an antagonist, I'll do Robert B. Aaron (yes, there's a pun in the name. I'm a horrible person that way):

  1. Exaggeration: Robert is not just a businessman, he's an industrial tycoon, responsible for the construction of the main infrastructure of the land of historical figures.
  2. Exotic position: Robert lives in a land populated by major historical figures. He's also at the top of an industrial empire (both figuratively and literally: he has a very tall headquarters.)
  3. Introduction: Robert is introduced to the reader as he calmly disembarks from his red ship and wades into a violent fight between his workers and those of a rival organization. His presence causes the brouhaha to immediately stop and the rival organization workers to flee.
  4. Tags: Old, thin, wrinkled, white mustache, impassionate eyes
  5. Traits: Black suit, top hat, silver-tipped gentleman's cane, and a frock coat.
  6. Empathy: Generous and charitable Initially, he goes significantly out of his way to offer Ember help, the first person to do so in the land of historical figures.

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  1. Exaggeration: Ember is not just a day dreamer, the things she imagines actually manifest in the real world.
  2. Exotic position: Ember is a "normal" (sans the above) girl searching for her friend in a land populated by major historical figures.
  3. Introduction: Ember is introduced to the reader when she covertly throws things at bullies hustling a homeless man in a subway station.
  4. Tags: Small, thin fingers, freckles, red hair, ringlets.
  5. Traits: Silver hairpin, green sneakers
  6. Empathy: Underdog. Ember is a "cowardly bully of bullies." She greatly dislikes mean people, but is afraid to confront them directly, and so she manipulates situations in order to arrange for undesirable outcomes for these bullies (like throwing things at them from a good hiding place).

I like how you've set Ember up. My main concern is that her introduction should perhaps be along the lines of her imagining something into the world, or at least include that aspect, since it seems to be an important aspect of her character.

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