Archive for August, 2008

Notes and Quotes

GwenW notes that letterboxers seek to manifest, through their hobby, their belief in the unseen but discoverable.

They enjoy puzzles and word-play. They’re comfortable taking risks outdoors, exploring new areas based on someone elses clues and encouragement. They want to leave their mark to show they’ve passed through this world. They want to know they are not alone on their adventures, they want to see who has gone before them, even if they never meet them in person.


The first draft of Maganda’s Comb was about predation and predators. This draft is shaping up to be about choices – knowing that choices are there, figuring out how to make the right choices, acting on choices, and living with the consequences of choice.


KelvinS notes that Choices must be thought through, then Movements must be acted upon. Often we Choose with our actions, without thinking, and allow Thinking to stop our actions….or something close to that. I’m still trying to figure it out… it’s about not overthinking actions, but thinking through choices and acting based on that choice.


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An Experiment

One of the craft books I read recently (I know, bad me for not remembering /which/ one) recommended taking a favorite book and retyping the whole thing to get a feel for how the story was paced. I really don’t have the time (or inclination) to do that, so I thought I’d try a little experiment. With the help of the cool word count tool on Renaissance Learning, I’m going to try and figure out the pacing/plot arc of a book I’ve read recently:

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Word Count: 90k (375 pages)
Chapters: 22
Average words per chapter: 4000

Chapter 1: I Accidentally Vaporize My Pre-algebra Teacher – Magical world introduced; sense of life/death struggle hinted, major players introduced (Percy, mother, Grover, Mr. Brunner)

Chaps 2-4: Stakes raised as Percy flees from monsters.

Chaps 5-8: Percy faces struggles with peers and comes to grips with his true identity.

Chaps 9-21: Percy searches for object of his quest, encounters blocks in every chapter, escapes several life-threatening encounters with monsters, gets deeper into Greek myth, and achieves quest goal.

Chap 22: Percy learns that although his quest is over, a greater challenge awaits him, and he starts to make his own choices and lets others make their own choices also.

Interesting…This is a fairly straightforward book with a classic plot arc shape. Each chapter builds on the previous one, heightening tension while revealing character strengths and weaknesses. It’s sort of a ‘team’ book, with Percy aided by two other characters.

For comparison, Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt shows the following:

Word Count: 50k appx.
Chapters: 14
Average word count per chapter: 3500

Prologue-Chap 1: Main character and antagonist introduced, as well as social structure and environment. Main problem is introduced.

Chap 2-13: Series of events where main character looks for ways to keep antagonist at bay, instead finding herself more and more involved with the antagonist in positive ways. Main character supported by two friends, pursues several leads to end conflict, interacts with many members of her village.

Chap 14-Coda: Main character resolves conflict and narrative reveals fate of other characters.

The plot of Keturah is less complicated but the characters are more complex. Also a simple rising action plot with reflecting and descending emotional arc.

This gives me good food for thought on sketching out the novel. I’ve found recently that I need milestones to move forward. In my essay writing, I find that I can’t even begin an essay until I have all/most of the quotations I want to cover written and referenced. Once I have those arranged, the essay writing is fairly easy.

So I’m going to try and do the same for the novel, plotting out scenes beforehand, even though I also plan to let the plot take me where it wants to go – having a roadmap is a good thing and a proven method from my storytelling apprenticeship.

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