Jami Gold

How do I revise thee? Let me count the ways...

Welcome back! Happy New Year!

It’s revision time here. Or do I mean editing?

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No. Revision. That’s the process where we step back and look at the whole forest of plot points and characters and what scenes go where, while editing is the paragraphs, sentences, words.

I’ve been using information from three bloggers— Jami Gold, Janice Hardy, and KM Wieland— to sort through my weaknesses of:

  • getting a consistent goal on the page,

  • getting motivation on the page, and

  • getting the stakes on the page.

You noticed the commonalities among those three points? Getting it on the page! That’s pretty important for the reading of the story. If the goals, motivations, or stakes for the protagonist and the antagonist are not evident, or at least alluded to, there’s no tension in the story and if there’s no tension, why would anyone at all be interested in reading to the end of the story?

Creating A Worksheet

I’ve created worksheets. Several.

From Jami Gold’s blogs on Broken Story and on Missing Motivations or Stakes, the worksheets are simple word docs. I type her questions then answer it from the information I have written in my story.

It does sound like homework but it’s much more fun because it’s about a story that I am still thoroughly enthralled with and I’m trying to get it all out of my head and onto the page so readers will find it just as thrilling.

As I answer the questions, if I find I have not put this information, somehow, into the story, I either go right there to write it in OR, if it’s complicated, I’ll highlight that answer so I can go back later and find it after I’m done answering all her questions.

It’s not easy work. Broken Story alone has nine steps. I was able to complete Steps 1- 4 in one day on Dec 28, 2018!

Yes, I dated each step as that gives me a sense of accomplishment.

applying the Steps

What are the steps for Broken Story from Jami Gold’s blog? Here is how I handled her first three steps.

  • Step 1 - Identify what I’m trying to say in the story.

    Here I wrote down my theme. Since my theme focuses on coping with various levels of violence, I broke it down into the different levels and different types that happen in the story. The spectrum of violence encompasses: physical, emotional, economic, institutional, societal, and familial. I also looked at the opposite of violence and listed specifically what the antidote to violence is. What does love and courage look like in my story.

  • Step 2 - Identify what pieces of the story fit with this and what pieces don’t. Do the plot developments, character insights, story elements tie into the theme identified in Step 1. Do my subplots reflect the theme of dealing with violence through courage and love? Do any aspects of my story undermine the theme and focus of my story?

  • Step 3 - Are there enough scenes that fit the theme or are there enough bits and pieces of the theme that all I need to do is tweak or shift the scene a bit so that it’ll refocus on the big picture again.

I have found this process helpful for layering my story and making sure I have on the page, what I have envisioned in my imagination.

How do you handle revisions?

Goal - Motivation - Conflict

Yup. Still gardening. I finally put in my tomatoes and red bell pepper. 

A yellow iris, behind the barely seen pepper plant, tomato in its cage, HUGE rhubarb, and another tomato in its cage. 

A yellow iris, behind the barely seen pepper plant, tomato in its cage, HUGE rhubarb, and another tomato in its cage. 

Gardening yesterday was wonderful!  No bugs!  How did that happen? I wore long sleeves but my legs were exposed. No mosquitoes. No gnats. I stayed out working in the lawn and garden until the sun set. 

But, that's not my topic today.  

Goal - Motivation - Conflict

Some more aha! moments this week. This time from a comment on Kill Zone blog with the mention of Debra Dixon's GMC book. My curiosity piqued, I checked it out on Amazon and read through the available pages. This book is on my TB (to buy) list!   

She focuses on the three main elements of plot and in her pages, she writes that there are many different words for these three:

  1. Goal: desire, want, need, ambition, purpose
  2. Motivation: drive, backstory, impetus, incentive
  3. Conflict: trouble, tension, friction, villain, roadblock, barrier

And she has a GMC chart, which is not in the Amazon read but which can be found online.  The chart involves answering questions about these three elements from the point of view of your main character: What? Why? and Why Not?

Jami Gold also has information on her blog about these plot elements and asked more defining questions. 

  1. Conflict: What forces the main character to become involved?
  2. Motivation: Why do they make that choice?
  3. Goal: What do they hope to accomplish with that choice?

Finding Balance

I also found more helpful information at nerdychickswrite.com in a column by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, an award-winning children's author. She lifts up three more elements to take into consideration as we plot out our stories: obstacles, fears, and rewards. 

She asks these questions to go with these "ingredients" as she relates writing to cooking. 

  1. Goal: What does your character want?
  2. Motivation: Why does he want it?
  3. Stakes: What happens if he doesn't get what he wants?
  4. Obstacles: What stands in his way?
  5. Fears: What does he have to overcome to be able to go after what he wants?
  6. Reward: How does he triumph if he does get what he wants?   

This blogger also talks about how these six elements can be paired and the necessity to balance these pairs. She balances: goals with obstacles, motivations with fears, and stakes with rewards. 

Happy writing!  

Quiet Black Moments

Thematically, I should have written about Black Moments last week, during Holy Week, when we used black fabrics on our altars and lecterns and pulpits during the "Good" Friday service when we remembered the death of Jesus through the torture of the crucifixion. 

Instead, here it is Easter season, in the Christian church, when we celebrate with white paraments, spring flowers, and tell stories of Jesus' resurrection in our sanctuaries.

What are Black Moments? For the writer and the reader, it is the moment in the story, at about the 3/4 mark, when all seems lost. The protagonist is clinging onto the edge of the cliff, losing her grip and ready to fall to her death.  The antagonist has trapped the heroine securely within his lair and there is no way out. There is no hope. Our main character gives up. 

Black Moments are Big Moments. Dramatic Moments. Breath-Catching Moments. Also known as Dark Nights.

What if, like me, you're reading or writing more of a character-based story? It's a quieter story rather than a thriller or a horror or an adventure. 

What is the Pride & Prejudice Black Moment? (a spoiler lies ahead)

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When Lizzie finds out her foolish, younger sister has run off with a man, Lizzie's own chance, as well as that of her other three sisters, of securing love and an advantageous marriage are dashed hopelessly to the ground. They will none of them be able to marry to advantage because of this one sister's thoughtless act.

Although I can find the black moments in other writer's stories, trying to craft a good scene that is the black moment within my own story has had its challenges. 

Fortunately, I read Jami Gold's blog this week, Do Black Moments Need to Be Catastrophes?  In this blog, she talks about the quiet black moments. 

If you're interested in story structure in general or how to revise and/or edit your story once you're past the first draft, search through her website. Jami's blog is gold!