conflict

NaNoWriMo Tips: How Many Ways to Write a Scene

A novel is a collection of scenes, held together by chapters. During NaNoWriMo, you will write dozens of scenes, each one adding to the plot, taking the reader, and your characters, on a journey.

Think about a single scene. How many ways can you write it?

Let’s set the stage. A woman is sitting in her car in rush hour traffic, going nowhere. The man in the car next to her turns his head and looks at her.

How many ways can we tell this story?

  • From the perspective of the woman?
  • From the perspective of the man?
  • From onlookers watching the two from their cars?
  • What if it is hot out and their windows are open?
  • What if it is cold and they have to wipe the condensation from the window to even see each other?
  • What if one of their cars has smoke or steam coming out from under the hood?
  • What if one has a coffee cup or a lunch bag on the roof of their vehicle?
  • What if one vehicle has a low tire?
  • What if one of the car is an expensive luxury car and the other isn’t?
  • What if one of them is poor and just evicted from their home and their car is their only safe place?
  • What if they know each other?
  • What if they knew each other as teenagers?
  • What if they are married?
  • What if they were married and just drove away from the lawyers office after signing the divorce papers, and each are the last person they want to see?
  • What if there is a dog in one car?
  • What if one of them is depressed?
  • What if one of them just got a raise and is overexcited?
  • What if one really likes the look of the other?

We could go on and on with all of the perspectives, points of view, and what ifs.

What if the scene is critical to the story, and you don’t want to go off on a bunch of wild “what if” theories. How could you tell the story differently and keep the story line the same?

  • What is the emotional state of the characters? Can you change one or both of them?
  • What is around them that they have to or might interact with? A gear shift? Squeaking brakes? The steering wheel? How would they handle it?
  • Use your senses. What do they smell, feel, temperature, body pains, body positions, hear, see? Which details add or subtract from the scene?
  • What if you threw another character into the mix? A person pops up in the backseat or someone honks behind them? How will each character respond?
  • Can you show the scene from the perspective of a memory?
  • What if they are anticipating seeing each other in traffic and it hasn’t happened?

Other than changing the location, time, and weather, brainstorm all the different ways you could write the scene and then pick from these when it is time to edit – in December.

You can find more writing tips, NaNoWriMo prompts, and writing tips for NaNoWriMo on our Writers in the Grove site.

NaNoWriMo Tips: What Ifs

If you get stuck in NaNoWriMo, bring out your what ifs.

What if questions can be fun. They can break the writing rut and break open your imagination.

Begin by looking for opposites. Identify your characters strengths and weaknesses and consider how they would behave if they were switched, their strengths suddenly became weaknesses. If it is raining in the scene, make it sunny and dry, just to see how the characters would behave if the weather was different.

Change locations. What if this scene happened in the middle of the night on top of a skyscraper? Or early morning in a car park? Or instead of the desert, deep in a forest? What would change? Would the characters behave different? Would the story change? Sure, it would, but how?

What if your character was different? Instead of skinny, was obese? Instead of Latino, was Russian?

Then ask yourself other what ifs like:

  • What if the characters knew each other in grade school?
  • What if they were meeting for the first time and had no history?
  • What if their parents were in the room?
  • What if they never completed high school?
  • What if their life was really a lie?
  • What if their next actions would get them put into the witness protection program?
  • What if their parents died when they were young?
  • What if their parents died in a crash two weeks ago?
  • What if one parent was a philanderer?
  • What if one or more of the characters escaped from a cult in their past?
  • What if the character decided to give up everything they had, their life, work, everything, to join a cult?
  • What if the character lost everything and became homeless?

The what ifs can go on forever. Some lead from one thought to other, so keep writing out your what ifs before you start answering them. Pick one or two when you are ready and write them up. It could get your writing juices flowing again, and possibly help you understand your characters and the story better.

It could also lead to a sequel. Never know.

You can find more writing tips, NaNoWriMo prompts, and writing tips for NaNoWriMo on our Writers in the Grove site.

NaNoWriMo Tips: The Ticking Clock

The Ticking Clock is a writer’s device to add tension to a scene or the plot. The clock is ticking, time is running out, the character(s) are up against a deadline and there is no escaping the ticking of the clock.

If you are having trouble writing ticking clock scenes in your plot, here are some questions to consider.

  • How long do the characters have? How much time are you going to give them to succeed before the clock runs out?
  • Could you shorten the time period? To what?
  • What does the character need to accomplish within that time frame?
  • What amount of time would it normally take to accomplish the task?
  • Why is the time period so short?
  • What does the character(s) need to do to “stop the clock?”
  • What will prove that the task is complete and the clock will stop?
  • What are the consequences of failure?
  • What will the character(s) lose?
  • What can go wrong?
  • Will one or more people die?
  • What are the physical obstacles in the way of stopping the clock?
  • What are the psychological obstacles (fears, dreams, risks) to stopping the clock?
  • How does the character(s) handle obstacles (physical and psychological)?
  • How does the race to beat the clock show the character(s) strengths and weaknesses?
  • How long does it take to overcome each obstacle?
  • How does the tension (suspense) grow as the deadline approaches?
  • What are the “cliffhangers” as the character(s) overcome each obstacle?
  • Does stopping the clock start another ticking clock? Is there another task the character(s) must tackle?
  • When all clocks have stopped ticking, then what? How has the character(s) changed? What is next?

You can find more writing tips, NaNoWriMo prompts, and writing tips for NaNoWriMo on our Writers in the Grove site.

Prompt: Generalizations

The prompt this week was on stereotypes and sweeping generalizations. The comment “all red heads have fiery personalities” labels all red heads, but when applied to the individual may not be true.

We discussed stereotype and sweeping generalization examples and how and where they are applied. In general, stereotypes and sweeping generalizations.

In writing, the inclusion and use of stereotypes and sweeping generalizations are also called characterization frames. When used well, the adjectives that define these stereotypes help the reader to make quick judgement calls about the characters. When used expertly, generalizations set the character up for conflict, with others and themselves. An Asian student struggling with the Asian F demand by parents and culture to get only A or A+ (and anything less than that like an A- is considered an F), may uncover a learning disability which puts the character in conflict with expectations of scholastic achievement within themselves, with their family, with the school system expectations and assumptions, and within their society. A fiery redhead who becomes a quiet librarian, encouraging an antagonist to “light the fire within” that just must be there because that is what defines someone with red hair, right? A redhead deals with societal preconceptions and expectations on a daily basis, and such pressures are felt internally as well, trying to live up to those assumptions.

Stereotypes are typically defined by the following:

  • culture
  • expectation
  • adaptation
  • conflict
  • dos/taboos

Culture sets attitudes and expectations about behavior, manners, etiquette, and relationships such as no sex before marriage, the wearing of the hijab, length of skirt, bowing as greeting or handshakes, language usages, etc. We expect certain behaviors within groups and societies, as a large encompassing group or within a small social circle. As we enter a new group, we use cultural norms to start, the expand what are acceptable behaviors within that group, such as a group of high school girls hanging out in the bathroom smoking, trusting the others not to tell on them. People moving into those circles must adapt, or conflict, avoidance or the accepted response in a conflict situation. Teens outside of the smoking girls group learn quickly how to behave around them, even though they are not part of the group. They support the group behavior. Thus, it becomes a social norm and expectation, and conflict arises when they are challenged.

The dos and taboos of a group or society dictate attitude, behavior, and define those social norms. These come in many forms from the innocuous, the choice to wear white shoe in winter, to the dangerous and threatening like road rage.

A character’s actions often define stereotypes, as does their language and thought process. How you choose to use these helps to craft and frame your character.

The prompt is to find a character that is part of a “group” and write about them. What group are they a part of? What are the expectations, behaviors, dos/taboos, and cultural impositions about that group? How does the character behave within that framework? Let us see them in a situation where these sweeping generalizations are challenged, helping us see deeper into the character’s story and development.

November 27 Prompt – Policies

Writers in the Grove NaNoWriMo Prompt a Day badgeThe following prompt is by Gretchen, a Writers in the Grove member, a part of our Prompt-a-Day project to support NaNoWriMo during November 2015. Each prompt was generously donated by our Writers in the Grove members. You are welcome to take this prompt in any direction you wish.

Your character is disagreeing with a policy. What is the policy and their argument for or against it? Why?

November 21 Prompt – Leaving Home

Writers in the Grove NaNoWriMo Prompt a Day badgeThe following prompt is a part of our Prompt-a-Day project to support NaNoWriMo during November 2015. Each prompt was generously donated by our Writers in the Grove members. You are welcome to take this prompt in any direction you wish.

Your character or character’s child leaves home for the first time to kindergarten, college, army, or even a sleep away camp.

November 18 Prompt – Good and Evil

Writers in the Grove NaNoWriMo Prompt a Day badgeThe following prompt is by Everett Goodwin of Writers in the Grove and is a part of our Prompt-a-Day project to support NaNoWriMo during November 2015. Each prompt was generously donated by our Writers in the Grove members. You are welcome to take this prompt in any direction you wish.

Put your character(s) in a situation where they have to explain the difference between good and evil and how it guides their choices.