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Writing Basics: Perspective, Tense, Editing and the Eight Point Arc.

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Mokrie Dela
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#1

Posted 03 November 2014 - 05:37 PM Edited by Mokrie Dela, 04 November 2014 - 12:20 AM.

I've been meaning to do this for a while, so here it is.

 

There is much to remember when writing. Many of it becomes second nature, but for newcomers it can be daunting. I've found myself offering the same few bits of advice a lot, so it makes sense to have them all in one place.

 

Tense

 

Perspective: Narrative

 

Perspective: Viewpoint

 

The Eight Point Arc

 

Plotlines and twists

 

Editing and Proof Reading

 

Footnotes.

 

Any discussion can be done in the Writers' Room

 

Also any feedback for this guide, corrections or suggestions, please PM me.

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Mokrie Dela
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#2

Posted 03 November 2014 - 07:44 PM Edited by Mokrie Dela, 03 November 2014 - 07:49 PM.

TENSE

 

Simply, tense is when the story happens. In the past, or present (theoretically in the future but I've not seen that). Past tense or present tense.

 

This is a very simply but very important step, When writing (or editing your story) it's important to make sure it's all consistent. If your story is past tense, keep it all that way.

 

Example:

Bob walked down the street, humming to himself. Above him, birds flew, and he could hear the whooshing of traffic from the main road. He pulled out his phone and his thumb danced across the screen, texting Cindy. That done, he stopped at the bus stop and waited for his bus.

 

This is all past tense. Bob walked down the street. You're talking about events that have happened.

 

Bob walks down the street, humming to himself. Above him, birds fly, and he can hear the whooshing of traffic from the main road. He pulls out his phone and his thumb dances across the screen, texting Cindy. That done, he stops at the bus stop and waits for his bus.

 

This is all present tense. Bob walks down the street. You're talking about events that are happening as we go. Now.

 

 

The choice as to which one to chose is of course up to you, and often one will just work more than the others. If your story is lacking that something, consider your tense. Would it work better in past tense?

 

Is the story like a tale that's being told - over events that have happened? Or do you want a more direct showing of it?

 

Exercise:

 

Write a short passage. It doesn't have to be exciting, but write it in past tense, then again exactly the same but in present tense. Get used to maintaining consistency. You do not want to switch between both in passages.


Mokrie Dela
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#3

Posted 03 November 2014 - 08:29 PM Edited by Mokrie Dela, 03 November 2014 - 08:42 PM.

Perspective

 

I've split this into two parts.

 

Firstly:

 

Narrative

 

The narrative perspective of your story is important. This comes to two things:

 

First and Third Person. You have all heard of this, I am sure.

 

First Person:

 

The story is told as though the narrator is the protagonist. And advantage of this is that it can feel a lot more intimate, almost as though the main character of the story is telling you him(or her)self.

 

Example:

 

I walked down the street, humming to myself. Above me, birds flew and I could hear the whooshing of traffic from the main road. I pulled out my phone and my thumb danced across the screen, texting Cindy. That done, I stopped at the bus stop and waited for the bus.

 

Combining your choice of perceptive with your choice of tense can become interesting. Combining present tense and first person can help develop a more direct narrative.

 

Example:

 

I walk down the street, humming to myself. Above me, birds fly and I can hear the whooshing of traffic from the main road. I pull out my phone and my thumb dances across the screen, texting Cindy. That done, I stop at the bus stop and wait for the bus.

 

An advantage of this is, if done right, you can get some very exciting passages – especially in action scenes. However, the style offered by these is very prevalent, specific, even. Consider which to use and which one is more appropriate for your story and how you want to tell it.

 

Third Person:

 

The story is told as though the narrator is watching the protagonist. It's a step removed, if you will. Most stories follow this. They refer to the main character not as “I” but as “him”. It allows a slight detachment from the character. While First Person is a very direct and personal perspective, the reader can reasonably expect all of the character's thoughts to be shared with them. With third person, it's a little easier to keep things held back. If the character's hiding something – be it for a plot twist or simply a character trait (bravado, for example; hiding his fear), it's difficult to show in first person, unless you're using an unreliable narrator.

 

Examples (Past and present tense):

 

Bob walked down the street, humming to himself. Above him, birds flew and he could hear the whooshing of traffic from the main road. He pulled out his phone and his thumb danced across the screen, texting Cindy. That done, he stopped at the bus stop and waited for the bus.

 

Bob walks down the street, humming to himself. Above him, birds fly, and he can hear the whooshing of traffic from the main road. He pulls out his phone and his thumb dances across the screen, texting Cindy. That done, he stops at the bus stop and waits for his bus.

 

An important thing is to maintain perspective throughout your scenes. Avoid switching from one to the other – something a lot of new writers do, and even more experienced writers will do from time to time.

 

Exercise:

 

Write a scene – chose whatever genre you like. Write it in third person, but then write it again in first person and see how it differs. Notice how the entire style feels different.


Mokrie Dela
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#4

Posted 03 November 2014 - 08:46 PM Edited by Mokrie Dela, 03 November 2014 - 08:49 PM.

Perspective – Viewpoint.

 

The best explanation I've heard to what viewpoint is, is:

 

Simply, it's where the camera is put.

 

If you imagine your story/scene as a film scene, imagine where the camera is placed. Is it over the shoulder of the protagonist, or watching from afar? Do you have more than one camera?

 

To put this more appropriately, it's the point of view that you chose. If you're writing in first person perspective, then chances are that the narrator is the main character. So, the reader would be privy to all the thoughts and feelings of that character. But not of those of other characters. This is a pitfall that I fell into for years. The entire story was written from the point of view of one character, yet there was a scene where the point of view shifted to that of a minor character. It felt strange, once I'd been shown my error.

 

There are a few different options available.

 

Single Viewpoint.

 

Every event of the story is seen through the eyes of the protagonist. Everything he/she sees, the reader sees. But only what he/she sees. The protagonist can not see the assassin preparing on the roof, so if you're choosing this viewpoint, make sure you stick to it. The advantage of this is that you can pull of good surprises on the reader. They'll literally not see it coming.

 

Example:

 

Bob stepped on the bus, and sat down. The bus pulled into traffic and Bob watched the cars overtake. They turned the corner when the bus came to a sudden stop. Bob fell forward, grabbing the handrail to prevent himself from face-planting the floor.

Bob looked up to see a man on a bicycle in front of the bus. The driver was waving his arms, uttering profanities, and the cyclist was waving back.

 

Here there is no indication of what was to happen.

 

Multiple Viewpoints

 

Simply, this is an expansion of the above. Instead of following one character, the reader will be following two or more. Still, only what these characters know and see will the reader see. If neither of these characters see the surprise coming, then the reader should not, too.

 

Example.

 

The bus driver pulled up at the bus stop, and Bob stepped on. Bob paid his fair and sat down, and the driver pulled out into traffic. Bob watched the cars overtake, and the driver watched the road ahead of him. As they turned the corner, the driver noticed a wobbly cyclist on the pavement, suddenly dart out across the road. He slammed on his brakes, stopping inches short of hitting the cyclist, who came to a surprised stop.

 

Bob fell forward, grabbing the handrail to prevent himself from face-planting the floor. He looked up to see the man on the bicycle in front of the bus. The driver waved his arms, uttering profanities, and the cyclist waved back.

 

This is especially useful if your story has more than one protagonist. Perhaps you wish to show the points of view of both the hero and the villain.

 

God's eye Viewpoint

 

This is a further expansion of the multiple viewpoint. Essentially, the reader floats over your scene, seeing all. The can see every character – that assassin sneaking in, the protagonist, the villain... A downside of this is that the reader and even the narrator could be detached. You're not following one, two or even three people, but watching the scene as though you're hovering over it. You can see through walls, and even the thoughts of every character present.

 

This produces the risk of losing focus, however. If you want to present the reader with the protagonist's thoughts, and take them on an emotional journey, then God's Eye will likely do the opposite. Again, it's a stylistic choice that could work well, if used right.

 

The best use I have found for this, is in opening chapters. The story starts, with a scene being set – time, weather, location. There is no character present, but the reader is being shown the world first. Then, with that done, the characters can enter, and the viewpoint can be shifted to that of theirs.


Mokrie Dela
  • Mokrie Dela

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#5

Posted 03 November 2014 - 08:54 PM Edited by Mokrie Dela, 03 November 2014 - 08:58 PM.

The Eight Point Arc.

 

Now we're into something a bit more complicated, but that can help immeasurably.

 

You've all head of “beginning, middle and end”, I imagine, and this is a sort of expansion of that. As the title suggests, your story is split into eight stages: Stasis, Trigger, Quest, Obstacle, Reaction, Climax, Reversal and Resolution.

 

Now I'll go into more detail.

 

1 – Stasis.

 

This is the opening of the story. The world is presented as is. “Once upon a time there was....”. The reader is shown a world in its normal form. It is the backdrop also, in a way, and might even contain pre-existing conflict or another sort of plotline. Stories set during a war or civilwar are an example of this – the war is a pre-existing conflict and has its own story, but the main plotline has yet to begin.

 

Example:

 

Once upon a time, there was a person...

 

2 – Trigger

 

This is the event that kick-starts the story. Until this point, everything is simply a stasis. A normal world, and it'll remain normal until the trigger occurs. This event might be huge or tiny, but it's important nonetheless. It can be obvious, such as something violent happening to the protagonist, or it could be distant, like the protagonist receiving news. Either way, it starts everything.

 

Example:

 

...when something out of the ordinary happened...

 

3 – Quest

 

As a result of the trigger, the protagonist will want something. This is the quest – what he/she wants. Players of RPG games such as Fallout or Oblivion will be familiar with this and the meaning of “quest” is exactly the same. It is the overall goal.

 

Example:

 

...causing the protagonist to seek something...

 

4 – Obstacle

 

Often called the “surprise” (I prefer obstacle), this is something which gets in the way of the protagonist's quest. It can literally be a surprise, or an obstacle. More so, it could be something physical, such as weather, a disaster, or a troll not allowing you to cross a bridge, or it could be internal – a psychological condition, disease, or any other kind of conflict. Either way, it's something that gets in the way,

 

Example:

 

...until something gets in the way...

 

5 – Reaction

 

Also called the “critical choice”, this is where the protagonist has to address and overcome the aforementioned obstacle. It could literally be a decision, take the red pill or the blue pill, or it could be a struggle – physical (such as a fight) or internal (wrestling with a conscience).

 

Example:

 

...forcing the protagonist to react and/or make a decision...

 

6 – Climax

 

As you've probably guessed, this is the culmination of the previous stages. Simply, it's the consequences of the obstacle/surprise and the reaction/critical choice. But choosing what they did, the protagonist has to deal with the fallout. If the decision is to free the captured princess, then the climax will be the protagonist battling the dragon.

 

Example:

 

...Which has consequences...

 

7 – Reversal

 

This is the outcome of the climax. It's the change of events from one state of affairs to the opposite. Having slain the dragon, the local town is now safe, and the damsel is now free. If the climax was, lets say, to kill Hitler, then the Reversal could be the collapse of the Nazis and the german army.

 

Example:

 

...the result in which is a change in status...

 

8 – Resolution

 

This is simple a new stasis. It's the end. And they all lived happily ever after. Following the choice, climax and the change that followed, the world settles down to this. It's the closing equivalent of the opening stasis. A new world or a new situation is shown.

 

Example:

 

...And they all lived happily ever after.

 

Variations:

 

Now this 8-point-arc is a template to writing a story. Start with setting the scene with a stasis, and go through the stages until the end.

 

However, I bet you can think of at least one example where the story does not start at the stasis. The film of Fight Club, for example, starts at the climax or “obstacle” stage. Then it jumps back, and the stasis is shown.

Sometimes films – and stories – can start with the quest, or even a later stage. The stasis and trigger can be shown later.

 

Also stories can have multiple plotlines, and thus multiple instances of the eight point arc. A single plotline can also have more than one occurrence of each step. There could be two climaxes, for example, or more than one obstacle/surprise.

 

Also, you can omit one of these stages – but that's something you can experiment with once you've learned the basics.

 

Example:

 

Using GTA IV, Niko has his own little plots. Firstly, his trigger was the ambush that occurred during the war. That's the trigger. It gave him a quest – to find the one who survived, the traiter. This Is his quest.

This quest extends into GTA IV itself, until he meets Florian. Here, Niko's shown a surprise – Florian's not his man – and an obstacle – he needs to find Darko.

Niko's choice here is to leave Florian and find Darko, and that involves using ULPC, ultimately.

Once found, Niko goes to meet Darko, and here is a climax of the story, but also another critical choice to be made: kill or spare.

The reversal of this is Niko letting go of his quest, and realizing that it has not satisfied him. The resolution is, in many ways, Niko moving on.

 

Exercises:

 

Pick up any book, story or even a film or computer game. Look at the story, and as you read, analyse watch or play, note down events in the story that fall into each step of the 8 point arc. Can you see the trigger? Can you see how they connect? Try doing this with Jack and the Beanstalk.

 

Write a short story, sticking strictly to the 8-point arc.

 

Write a short story, still using the 8 point-arc, but this time don't start with the stasis. Start at any later stage, such as the quest or even the climax or critical choice. As the story progresses from that point, reveal the steps that you have “skipped” - could be through a face-off with the enemy or a self-realization.

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Mokrie Dela
  • Mokrie Dela

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#6

Posted 03 November 2014 - 09:01 PM Edited by Mokrie Dela, 03 November 2014 - 09:35 PM.

Plotlines and Twists

 

Tying hand to hand with the eight point arc is plotline. This is how the events tie together. Each stage of the eight point arc is useless if you can not tie them together.

 

Now picture a plot as a line. It goes from A to B, up to G. By the time you're past C, you'll know where it's going; straight on.

 

Cue plot twists.

 

And twists come in 3 main flavours, as do plotlines.

 

Grand Plot

 

This is basically the overall story arc. It's the biggest quest. I'm going to use GTA IV as an example here. The Grand plot is Niko's hunt for Florian/Darko. It extends throughout the game, and ties most of it together. Without this plot, Niko's just a gunman. With it, his character is allowed to florish.

 

The grand plot of any story is the main one. If you strip a story down, chances are you can simplify it to this one plotline. Any twists you put in your grand plot will bend the route I mentioned before, making the end of the story probably go somewhere unexpected.

 

Major plot

 

Along the way – especially in games – there may be digressions, or things the characters have to do. In GTA IV, in order to find Florian, Niko has to work for people. Off the boat he works for the Russians and here in comes a major plotline:

 

Dmitri.

 

The trigger to this, is Niko killing Faustin and Dimitri betraying him. We're also presented with another plot of Nikos involving Bulgarin (the trigger of this one occurs in the Adriatic sea many years ago). Niko's quest after this is to get revenge. A few obstacles pop up, and Niko deals with them. Ultimately, his choice/obstacle is when he knows that Dimitri is on the boat. The player is given this directly – the reaction/critical choice is in their hands.

 

And the consequences, should they chose Revenge is the shootout on the boat, killing Dimitri.

 

All of this impacts but does not directly affect the overall – Grand – plot. In this case, the Grand plot has finished. In many ways the Dimitri story arc also is a grand plot, but it is secondary to the Darko one.

 

Twist of the Major plot will further bend the storyline, but ultimately it will still end up in the same place.

 

 

Minor plot

 

This is the smaller stuff. Working for, say, Elizebeta. It's a minor plot (that eventually leads to the grand plot's choice), but the storyline that involves her, is minor. Usually these pad the story out. Without them the story can feel a but flat.

 

61GOwjI.png

 

Here is a line. It goes from beginning to end.

 

Add a Grand plot twist, and you see how the storyline changes.

 

8Ngygpl.png

 

Now lets add a major plot twist. We still end up at the end, but we take a different route.

 

Gh07uxo.png

 

And finally, a minor plot twist. Barely changes anything, just makes the ride more interesting.

 

m5DLIAE.png

 

With multiple plotlines, you can end up with something crazy

 

IHlCoXH.png

 

Again using GTA IV – the story in that twists and turns, and has different tangents and a lot of plotlines – major, minor, grand and ambiguous. But it still has the important stages – the eight point arc still exists, and the plotlines and twists are there.

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Mokrie Dela
  • Mokrie Dela

    Killed by drones.

  • Zaibatsu
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    Story/Poem of the Year 2011 "Justice in Flames"
    Story/Poem of the Year 2010 "City of Lies"

#7

Posted 03 November 2014 - 09:36 PM

Editing and proofreading

 

This is a crucial step that is often the most ignored. You've written your story, chapter or whatever. Now you want to upload it..

 

Don't.

 

Wait. Set it aside for a week or so, and come back to it with a fresh and clear mind. Read through it, and edit it, improve it, address flaws.

 

Now that can be tricky. So here's some pointers.

 

 

Split your reading.

 

Don't read your story and tackle everything at once. Do it bit by bit.

 

First, check your spelling and grammar. The former is easy to do with any word processing program. Even internet browsers and search engines offer this. Grammar can be a little harder. Full stops, commas etc. Are you using speech marks when you need to? Google can find you website that can help – or ask question in the Writers' Room. Also check out the WRITERS RESOURCE – you might find what you need in there.

 

Now read through it again, this time looking at tense and viewpoint. Are you accidently using “Said” and “says” or “did” and “does”? Are you being consistent? Is each scene showed through the right perspective?

 

Then give it a final read through, this time making improvements. Some sentences will seem crap. Some will seem out of place. Improve on what you need to, delete what needs to go but be bold. Don't leave something in just because you like it. If it needs to go, cut it.

 

With that done, if you've added much, you'll need to check that. Set it aside and come back to it again later, and do it all again.

 

When you feel that it's truly ready, upload it.

 

Now as you do this you can combine all this. You can begin to look for everything in one read through. It's hard but the best way to develop this ability is to critique others' work. See someone post a new topic here? Read it and give them feedback. Give your opinions and if you need to, break their story up to fit into the 8point arc etc. Either way, this will develop not only your ability to proof read, but also your own writing talent. You'll soak up what they do, how theyve used the language and grammar etc.

 

And also: Read books.

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Mokrie Dela
  • Mokrie Dela

    Killed by drones.

  • Zaibatsu
  • Joined: 01 May 2009
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  • Most Creative [Writing] 2016
    Most Talented Writer 2015
    Most Talented Writer 2014
    Most Talented Writer 2013
    Best Story/Poem 2013 "The Storm"
    Story/Poem of the Year 2011 "Justice in Flames"
    Story/Poem of the Year 2010 "City of Lies"

#8

Posted 04 November 2014 - 12:19 AM

Footnotes

 

 

The purpose of this topic is to offer a simple, quick guide in some of the basics of writing. Many people could do with learning this or having a refresher. From time to time I go through this sort of thing, reminding myself of the ins and outs.

 

Now, I am by no means perfect. I am not a master writer, but I learn. And I think I should try to help others, and that is the purpose here: to teach. I find myself talking about these points a lot, so here they are. I might also expand this as time goes on.

 

So if  you have any suggestions, or corrections, please PM me.

 

 

 

Tense:

 

While past and present tense are common, future tense is not. I've never seen it, myself, but it's something I plan to one day try. There is simply nothing I can offer on that, so I've left it out.

 

Perspective:

 

Usually stories are in first or third person. Rarely second. A friend of mine did do this once, and it actually worked. It was a football match that he'd played in and he'd written it in second person.

 

"You jump into the air, leg muscles straining. With a heaving yell, you extend your head and nod. The ball hits your forehead and it's a shock, and it hurts but, as you land, you see the ball fly into the net."

 

It's certainly an interesting idea, and one I encourage people trying, but it's rare and I've not touched on it in this guide because it's not necessary for a newcomer to know this. Anyone who's experienced will know enough to put what they know into it, but for now, it muddies up the water, so i'm omitting it.





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