Thursday, July 20, 2006

Lesson 19: Turning Points

Good Thurday, friends! Is anyone within reading distance of this blog going to the
Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference (GPCWC) in August? Well, me and my best blogging buddy M.C.Pearson (Mimi) are going for the whole three days. This will be great fun because we've been friends for about a year and a half. But we live so far away that other than the net and phone calls we've never met face-to-face.

This will be a blast! So if any other bloggers are going, let me know and we can make it a party!

Today we continue with Donald Maass' Writing a Breakout Novel. This is a fabulous book and I encourage each of you to buy it. What I'm presenting here is by no means a full lesson and there is a wealth of insight and additional info that will help you.

In case your just joining us...What I am attempting to do here is present truncated versions of each of the lessons in the workbook. We're done with Character Development, now we're moving on to Plot Development! Today's lesson is in Section TWO: Turning Points.

A turning point in a story is when things change. It could be new info coming in, a shift in events, a reversal, a twist (like revealing another role for a character), a challenge, or a disaster.

Figuring out turning points is easy enough. Making them as dramatic as possible is another story...LOL...Heightening takes work. Sometimes it is as simple as letting go of an old way of looking at things.

Take a look at the turning points throughout your manuscript. Are they as dramatic as they possibly can be? No...I guarantee it. Go back to work on them. Use stronger words, hand objects, dramatic gestures, more evocative settings...whatever it takes to wring out of them all that they have to give.

Step 1: Pick a turning point in your story. It can be a major change of direction in the plot or a small discovery in the course of a scene.

Step 2: Heighten it. Change the setting in some way. Make the action bigger. Magnify the dialogue. Make the inner change experienced by your POV character as cataclysmic as an earthquake.

Step 3: Take the same moment, and underplay it. make it quieter. Take away action. Remove dialogue. Make the transition small and internal, a tide just beginnning to ebb.

Note: Which works better, heightening the turning point or underplaying it. How did you change the setting, or use it differently? How did you make action more dramatic? Did the dialogue get louder, sharper, harder, more cutting? If a realization has taken place, how did it deepen?

Follow-up: go through your novel and find the turning points in twenty scenes. find ways to heighten (or pointedly diminish) them.

Conclusion: Many novels do not strive forward in pronounced steps. Many authors are afraid to exaggerate what is happening. That is a mistake. Stories, like life, are about change. Delineating the changes scene by scene gives a novel a sense of unfolding drama, and gives its characters a feeling of purpose over time.

And here's a bit of jockularity!

(A) The Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.

(B) On the other hand, the French eat a lot of fat and also suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.

(C) The Japanese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.

(D) The Italians drink excessive amounts of red wine and also suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans

(E) Conclusion: Eat & drink what you like. It's speaking English that kills you.


  1. Bernita said...
    This is a great lesson, Bonnie.Thank you.
    Have an absolute blast at the Conference.
    ~know you will~
    Ballpoint Wren said...
    You guys will have loads of fun!
    M. C. Pearson said...
    We are gonna boogie! Wahoo!

    Good joke too, babe.
    M. C. Pearson said...
    If speaking English can kill you, than those in the south should suffer far fewer heart attacks than either the French or the Japanese.

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