Hmm, maybe I can blame (or thank) the heat for my AHA! moment vs my usual HUH? Ever have one of those squirrely moments where all of a sudden you look at some familiar item and see it in a new light? Surely some light bulbs have gone off in your noggin at one point and you look at a situation thinking, “How in the world did I ever miss that?”
Well, last week, I had my AHA! moment with Michael Hauge. (TINA! I think I finally get what the man is saying!)
For those of you who don’t know Michael Hauge, he is a story and script consultant, author and lecturer. If you ever have the opportunity to attend his lectures, sign up fast - in ink - because besides having a treasure trove of knowledge, he’s also quite a humorous fellow. For those of you going to the RWA conference in Anaheim this year, he’ll be giving a workshop on “Uniting Love Stories and Character Arc.” Definitely a session to attend.
Okay, enough semi-gushing, it's time to confess. Michael Hauge maybe the guru of the gurus but I've never been able to apply his teaching to my work. I mean the guy is incredible in person and you leave his lectures feeling like you could write a book in a day. Unfortunately, that euphoria only carried me as far as my laptop. When I pulled up my WIP ready to work magic with words, everything that made sense during his Saturday lecture – and yes, I do take notes – jumbled together on Sunday afternoon and I couldn’t make heads nor tails of all his terrific advice.
It’s been a few years since I attended his last workshop here in Denver. I really don’t think of Michael Hauge often, except when TINA has some reason or other to get all excited over his methods and teaching. Usually during those brilliant bursts of radiant TINA energy and enthusiasm I look heavenward and whisper, “Lord, I just don’t get it.” I’ve tried, but I just can’t conquer…
…until this week.
Let's get back to my squirrely moment. During the last MH workshop, he handed out tip sheets and other cool tools, including his famous bookmark outlining the Six Stages of Plot Structure. I thought this was a sweet little souveneir of the workshop, so I slipped it under my clear cover deskpad – right next to a pic of my favorite dog and the ticket stub of a Chris LeDoux concert. I see the bookmark every day, but never give it a second thought.
Until Friday night. I sat down at my table to tackle a structure issue in my current WIP. I sweep over the pic of the dog, sigh over memories of the CL concert (as I always do) and look at the bookmark. I mean REALLY LOOK AT IT. Suddenly the lights come on and understanding dawns. I’d been struggling over this plot layout for weeks, and in one swooping glance, the answer to my layering problem became clear.
Well, maybe not crystal clear, but the roadmap to shuffling it all together was waving at me like the obnoxious kid in class who always has his hand up and the teacher cringes when she calls on him because of the satisfied I-told-you-so smirk that will inevitably follow the correct answer.
Disclaimer: Michael Hauge is not that child, nor has he ever flashed me that I-told-you-so smirk. Neither has TINA for that matter, although I know she does have very long-suffering patience for me : )
Let me show you what I discovered (click on the pics to make them come in clearer):
The Six Stage Plot Structure divides the book up into percentages. Nothing new about that, we’ve always heard the first 25% is the set-up, the middle 50% is the journey, and the final 25% comprises the black moment and conclusion. But what Hauge does is slice up the process even more. He only gives 10% for set-up and 10% for black moment/conclusion.
But that’s not where my aha lies. Look at the overall layering of the story.
You go from percentage divisions to the different stages of a story. He indicates Turning Points of note and defines what they represent and finally breaks the overall story into 3 Acts.
Obviously you can see that for yourselves : ) My big breakthrough came when I realized I can add rows below this basic structure and map out the journey for each of my characters.
This is a very distilled version of my chart, but you get the picture.
Seeing how each character has their own journey through the story made braiding the threads together surprisingly easy. I finally saw each of the characters as their own person who never had any intention of invading my story or getting to know their spouse-to-be until I roped and hog-tied them into it.
This story is a bit different for me too, since I’m venturing into multiple POVs. I have 4 POVs where usually I work with just two -- the Hero and Heroine. Mapping all my characters out along the same guidelines helped me see where insight into that character was necessary enough to make me switch to their POV.
It also showed me where the conflict would be greatest when all parties converged on the same spot with differing ideals, goals and motivation.
Providing a thread for the inspirational part of the story helped me keep the vision right in front of me. Afterall, I have to consider what God’s part in all this is. What does He want for my characters in order to glorify Him? Remember, the inspiriational thread is NOT an element to be overlooked and only woven in as an afterthought.
Every part of the book needs to be woven together tightly. If a character or subplot is left dangling, either tuck in the ends and make it work, or pull it from the tapestry. This method gave me an easy and convenient way to stack all my characters together and compare the strength of their journys.
Having finally grasped the concept MH has given countless workshops on, I feel complete.
To quote Hannibel Smith from the A-Team, I love it when a plan comes together.
Now it's your turn. Is there a resource on your book shelf that sounded like a good idea at the time you bought it, but haven't had a clue what to do with it for months or years, until one day you had an AHA! moment of your own? Maybe it's not a reference book. Maybe a seminar, blog topic or advice from you best crit partner. (Personally, I'm still waiting for the lightbulb to go off over the whole GMC chart thing and Snowflake method.) Whatever clicked for you, do share!!
If you read the Weekend Edition, you'll remember I claimed to have meandering thoughts today, and I think you’ll agree that’s just what I served up. I always seem to take the long way around to the right answer, but half the fun of writing is in the journey, right? Now that we've come to the end of mine, there's a pot o' gold at the end : ) Share some insight in your AHA! moment and maybe you'll be the lucky recipient of a $10 Amazon gift certificate. I thought I was going to give away two cards, but an AHA! moment struck me and I'll be giving away 3 of them : )
Let's start sharing!!