First of all, what is harmony?
- Agreement in action, feeling or opinion; accord.
- A pleasing combination of elements in a whole.
- Simultaneous combination of notes played at the same time, a chord.
- A collation of parallel passages, especially from the Gospels, with a commentary demonstrating their consonance and explaining their discrepancies.
How can we achieve harmony in our writing? Here are a few tips.
- Maintain the flow and rhythm of writing. Espress ideas of equal value must in parallel constructions.
- Balance comparisons, modifiers, verbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and clauses.
- Keep writing smooth, interesting, logical, and potent.
- Present only one main thought in a paragraph, avoid overlong paragraphs, and glide smoothly from one paragraph to another.
- Use language that is simple, direct, and clear.
The most common chord is a triad, a combination of three notes. Two common triads that occur in writing are GMC and TRILOGIES. Let’s talk about GMC first. (Goal, Motivation, Conflict).
(Yes, I know we’ve talked about this many times. But repetition is reinforcement. Right?)
- The GOAL is what (a dream, want, etc.) a character wants or thinks he/she is after. It needs to be measurable and possible within the story time frame.
- The goal must be important to the character, and it is best if it is urgent for the character to achieve it.
- There should be a long-term goal. It sets up the forward motion for the story and often changes as the story proceeds and conflicts are faced and met.
- There should be short-term goals. These are specific tasks, objectives, or actions the character believes must be accomplished in order to achieve the long-term goal.
- There should be an external goal, an important, urgent need or desire for which the character must strive.
- There should be an internal goal, an emotional need within the character that must be met. It usually drives the external need.
- Motivation is basically WHY our characters want this goal/dream, what drives them.
- Like with the goal, it is best if it is urgent for the character.
- A strong motivation will bring conflicts, force characters to adjust their goals.
- Tip: Coincidence is not motivation. A misunderstanding that can be easily talked out by the characters involved is also not motivation.
- There should be external motivation. Every goal must have a solid reason behind it.
- There should be internal motivation that harmonizes with the external motivation.
Oops, here’s where we disrupt harmony.
(As much as we like harmony, conflict is story.)
The dictionary says conflict is: to come into collision or disagreement; be contradictory, at variance, or in opposition; clash.
- Conflict is what keeps them from reaching their goal until the end of the story when their original story goal is either met or changed by way of compromise on the character's part.
- Without conflict to keep the characters from reaching their goals, there is no story.
- Meeting and dealing with each conflict strengthens the character and makes him/her decide how to continue toward his/her goal, or if the goal needs to be modified.
- There should be internal goals, emotional issues that complicate reaching the goals. (such as wanting to belong, to be loved, to be feared, to be rich, to be famous, to control others, to be safe, to be free, to achieve revenge, or to know something.)
- The internal, emotional conflict harmonizes with, and fuels, the external conflict.
- There should also be external goals, events, other people, or situations that work against the characters reaching their goals, anything that happens physically to a character.
TRILOGIES (SERIES) ALSO SHOULD HARMONIZE.
Disclaimer: I know series can be longer than three books, but trilogies are SOOO popular.
Why should authors create a series of books? From what I’ve read and heard, publishers want them. And readers like them. Do you? I do.
There are several things to consider if you plan to write a series.
Books only make a series if there is a thread ties them all together, makes them harmonize.
There are three kinds of series: serials, sequels, and spinoffs.
- Serials follow one particular character throughout many different, mostly unconnected, episodes. Each book could be read as a stand-alone title, but each one that follows tells more about the continuing characters.
- Sequels contain one continuing story in a number of volumes.
- Spinoffs take an existing minor character, setting, or concept from the first stand-alone story and create a new storyline for additional stand-alone stories.
- Plan the whole series before writing the first book. Make each book strong and write each one with an ending that won’t turn away future readers.
- Create a compelling main character whose work and life allow for a series of stories on them. Be sure there’s potential for more adventures for your main character. Also, you need to develop sub-characters and sub-plots.
- Understand timelines and allow for growth and change in the lives of your characters. Stay consistent through the books. Plan carefully.
- Add hooks into the current book that relate to previous books. Be sure you make references back to adventures in previous books, so readers can go find those earlier books and read them too.
Keep the details of each book original. A series must have similarities in plot and style even though the plots are not original.
Keep a physical record of your characters—their ages, birthdays, appearances, wants and fears, strengths and weaknesses, anything that will affect how those characters react moving forward. Be sure to include maps, world-building details/rules, tech and terminology, etc.
I personally like titles that harmonize, like when they have a common word that identifies them as part of a series. Although all three titles of my series got changed, I was pleased to get to keep ‘Ozark’ at the beginning of each one.
My third book, Ozark Wedding, released September 1. Leave a comment today for a chance to win your own copy. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.
How do you keep harmony in your writing? How do you balance writing and personal lives?
Helen Gray lives in SE Missouri with her pastor husband of 50 years. A retired business teacher and church music director, she happily spends her time making up stories--which makes her three grown children think she's slightly nuts. But that's all right. She's growing old graysfully.
Pictures from Helen's recent Wal-Mart book signing!