Friday, July 16, 2010

The Dark Side to Your Novel's Hero

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The Dark Side of Your Novel's Hero

by C. Patrick Schulze

Listen to a PODCAST of this article.

We all know our HERO require a weakness. But did you also know he needs a dark side, a shadow if you will, and this part of him needs to come out? I didn't until I read my EDITOR's suggestions for my current manuscript. In one of her four hundred thirty-two suggestions, she recommended I needed to play up my hero's dark side a bit more.

The fact she mentioned this proved I didn't know enough about the concept, so I did some reading on the subject. I now feel I have a better handled on the idea and thought I'd pass along what I've come to know. After all, it is all about the sharing, isn't it?

To start, if your hero must have a dark side, what good is it if it doesn't come out of hiding? That was the editor's point. As I reevaluated my manuscript and the character in question, I realized my hero had a shadow, I'd simply not used it to effect.

So, what is this shadow and what might cause the good guy to turn to his dark side?

His dark side is the villain. Surprised? So was I until I thought it through.

The villain personifies those qualities opposite of your hero, right? He therefore possesses those characteristics your hero despises or those that may even frighten him. And why does the protagonist hate those qualities? It's because these aspects of his personality are his own shadow, a deeply subdued part of himself.

Whoa… Flashback to Psych 101.

In any case, how might the hero's dark side come to the fore? Most often it is the villain who draws it from him. It is he who pushes the hero's buttons and forces the good guy over the edge. In effect, he provokes your hero to his breaking point.

Consider "The Lord of the Rings." The master ring pulls from its owner their worst, does it not? How about "The Wizard of OZ?" Dorothy kills the witch who, in turn, wants to kill Dorothy for killing the witches' sister, all of which is contrary to Dorothy's basic personality. This all makes sense when we realize a villain must force the hero into some sort of obsession if the good guy is to complete his quest.

Think of it like this. Take your hero's finest characteristic and use it against him. Does he think himself a brave soldier? Them maybe he should run away when he first faces combat like in "The Red Badge of Courage." Does he believe marriage is sacred? Then have the villain force him into a divorce. Is he a happy-go-lucky guy? Then turn this characteristic into irresponsibility. The secret to this, is to ensure the motivation for this transformation is valid. Did Dorothy have a reason to kill the Wicked Witch? Yup.

What keeps the hero from becoming a bad guy himself? It's choice. He chooses not be become like his nemesis, thus again subduing his own dark appetites.

The good part of this whole shadow concept? It allows for character growth. It fills in his personality and gives you a more three-dimensional character. It overcomes the imbalance that kept your hero from his goal.

You can develop this dichotomy in your hero by way of a three-pronged technique. You first develop his high qualities. Then find the opposite of these. Finally, you assign a physical behavior to this contradictory characteristic.

For example, if your hero loves children, the opposite is to hate children. The activity that might brings this out is he causes a child's death.

So, a major aspect of a fully developed hero, is to give him a dark side, a shadow, then bring it out of him by way of a button-pushing villain who posses those same traits.

I don't know about you, but I found this interesting. Regardless, I've got work to do on "Born to be Brothers."

Have you brought out the dark side to your hero? How did you do it?

Until we speak again, know I wish for you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the BACK-from-the-editors novel, "Born to be Brothers"

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

When Writing a Novel, Details Do It.

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When Writing a Novel, Details Do It.

by C. Patrick Schulze

Listen to a PODCAST of this article.
My father-in-law attained the rank of Major General in the Air Force. This guy had not attended college, let alone graduated from The Air Force Academy. Both of which are required for one star, let alone his two. Yet, despite his lack of education, this guy somehow rose to the third highest rank in the military. Not an inconsequential accomplishment.

One day I asked him the secret of his success and he offered two lessons I've not forgotten to this day. His first rule? "No harm no foul." In effect, take care of your people. His second rule? "Details do it." He said with everything he passed to his superiors, he ensured the correctness of even the tiniest of details. Of course, each boss promoted him as they knew his work was of the highest caliber.

So it is when we write. Details do, indeed, do it.

Imagine a scene where a character does something as simple as exit a car. Does the guy step out of the vehicle? Does he jump out, slide out or even fall out of the vehicle? It makes a difference, don't you think? If one gets out, he may have decided to pick up some milk on the way home from work. If they jump out, a level of tension is indicated, is it not? And if he falls out, all sorts of doors are opened here. Did he slip? Is he drunk or even dead?

The secret is in the specific words you choose for your nouns, verbs and adverbs.

I pay attention to the specificity of my nouns and verbs when I edit. During my first draft, I just write what comes to mind. Later, I review my nouns, verbs and adverbs to ensure they are particular to my scene.

Here's a example from my emerging novel, "Born to be Brothers." In this scene, I wanted to show man and beast at odds with each other. Here's the sentence as it read in my rough draft.

"The man walked behind a mule and snapped the reins to encourage his animal."
After editing, it read as follows:
"The man plodded behind an old mule and snapped the reins again and again to encourage the sluggish beast."
You can see in this sentence how the added details enhanced the image. First, "walked" became "plodded." Plod insinuates the man is tired and worn whereas "walk" does not necessarily do so. I also added the words, "again and again" to indicate the mule did not accommodate his driver. Finally, I changed, "animal" to "sluggish beast." Again, a much more effective picture, don't you think?

Yes, my friends, the details within your writing do indeed do it. If you pay close attention to your details, you'll find a much more effective story will emerge for you.
Now, does anyone care to share how they changed a simple detail and it made a marked difference to their novel?

Until we speak again, know I wish for you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the now-at-the-editors novel, "Born to be Brothers"

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Don't Write a Novel, Write a Story

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by C. Patrick Schulze

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A reader of this blog asked if I might help get her NOVEL started. She said she had the idea and the research completed, but was uncertain as to how to get on track. This article is for her.

When I first began to WRITE, I joined a writer's group and sat in on a few meetings. I hoped the group could tell me how to write a novel, but found I had my proverbial horse way ahead of my cart. I didn't need to learn how to write a novel. I needed to learn how to tell a story. That little piece of information changed my life.

The next thing I learned was the difference between a story and a novel. A story is the plot, that succession of incidents within the novel. It's what happens in your novel. The novel is the narrative by which the story is presented.

That means you first write a story, then convert it into your novel.

All you need to get your story started is a plan. And with novels, the classic plan is called The Hero's Journey. It's been around since the days of Mythology and is still used by the best writers today. The Hero's Journey is nothing more than a structured string of the events your hero needs to endure.

The Hero's Journey has twelve situations your hero must face. This generates a plot and forces a story to pop out as if by osmosis. The novel is much more difficult, but the story, well, that's easy.

Here are the twelve steps to the Hero's Journey.

1. Ordinary World: You show your hero's life at the start of your story.

2. Call to Adventure: Something, whether the hero realizes it or not, calls him toward some grand quest.

3. Refusal of the Call: The hero first says he can't undertake this quest.

4. Meeting the Mentor: Your hero meets someone important to help him on his quest.

5. Crossing the Threshold: This represents that event that ensures your hero can not go back to his Ordinary World until he finishes his quest.

6. Tests, Allies and Enemies: These are people or events that help or hinder the hero.

7. Approach to the Innermost Cave: He closes in on the big bad villain.

8. Ordeal: He fights the bad guy.

9. Seizing the Sword: Your hero takes what it is he needed to complete his quest. It's what he's gained by his Ordeal.

10. The Road Back: The trials he may face to get back to his Ordinary World.

11. Resurrection: This is the time when your hero proves he's gained the right to use the "sword" he's won.

12. Return with the Elixir: This is where your hero reaches his Ordinary World once again and shares his "sword" with others.

If you think about these twelve steps, it makes perfect sense a story will be the natural outcome. You've got good guys, bad guys, conflict, excitement, rewards and all the rest.

Better yet, it works regardless your genre. For example, think about a story of an abused wife. Her ordeal may be the beatings she underwent and her "sword" may be her freedom. In the same light, in a war story the ordeal may be a battle and the "sword" the death of the enemy general. There is no genre for which The Hero's Journey does not work.

Now, a short article cannot teach you everything you need to know about how to write a story. However, further information is all over the Web and in countless books at any library or bookstore. Take some time to study The Hero's Journey and if you take it to heart, your story will emerge.

Is this all there is to The Hero's Journey? Of course not. Entire literature courses cover each of these twelve aspects. However, it worked for authors then and it works for authors now. It will get you started. It's step one.

Are they other ways to write a story? Of course, but until you've got some work under your belt, use it. As they say on television, "It works!"

Now, some say The Hero's Journey is outdated or incomplete. Maybe, maybe not, but here's a clue. That little black dress and a string of pearls still work, don't they? They work because they're classic. That is, they brought out a woman's beauty then and they do so to this day. Here's another way to look at this idea. If they can write "Star Wars," "The Lion King," "Pulp Fiction" and even "The Full Monty" by way of The Hero's Journey, you and I can use it for our story, too.

Now, are there any specific articles I can write to assist you on your path to publication? If so, let me know.

Until we speak again, know I wish for you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the emerging novel "Born to be Brothers"