Continuing Education 6: Forging Ahead: Growing Your Audience And Your Craft
Davis Bunn broke his ACFW conference class sessions into three areas:
- The outlining process
- The heroic/post-modern structure
- And the break out story .
Bunn focused on helping authors understand the post-modern worldview of today’s readers in order to both maintain their interest and combat their false belief systems through entertainment.
Four goals for outlining
- Energize and heighten your creative urge by allowing you to rejoin the story world quickly.
- Balance the story by showing action rather than backstory.
- Aim at the black moment and show you, as the writer, know where you are going.
- Strengthen the art in your novel.
Using these goals, he showed how imagery in brainstorming allows him to visualize plot with these targets in mind: the marketable pitch, three big “bangs” in the plot, a three-dimensional antagonist, and the story climax. His goal is to marry action and emotional connection for the reader.
The premise must ask a question answered by the climax. When a novel has two prongs to the story question, the reader gains experiential satisfaction. The character’s internal conflict should mirror the external conflict to heighten commercial appeal.
The heroic vs. post-modern structure begins with the Greek Method. Based on the epic poem, Gigamesch, portions of the poem emerged throughout the ancient world, but the structure of it stayed the same from one culture to the next.
Heroic story: In this structure, the author challenges the hero to an action that has an impact beyond the hero in order to present a universal lesson. Teaching a universal lesson is one of the oldest archetypal stories and is a subconscious desire. The audience expects a flawed hero put in jeopardy. This structure is marked by questions like: His worst nightmare—how far will she go? What will she die for? Why is he the only person for the situation? What is the hero’s bond to the antagonist?
Post-modern story: This structure relies on pluralism, where truth is cultural and an individual expression, no truth is universal, diversity is accepted, but parental assumption of superiority is rejected. The ground rules include personal well being, holism (fulfillment and happiness comes from integration with the world, nature, and ecology), assigning divinity to everything including rocks, trees, and other cultures’ gods, and that community is vital while the individual carries consciousness of the group or adapts to another group.
Bunn said that in order to reach today’s audience, writers must use the power of entertainment through story to interpret and reinforce a biblical view of the world. To better understand how to reshape this view, he suggested reading books by Stanley Gentz, a Wheaton professor.
The issue of post-modernism is hopelessness. A key element of our novels that challenge this view, must have the hero leading the reader to hope. Use the techniques of visual media to write a good novel.
Four facets of successful novels
- Sweep the reader into a different realm, captivate the reader.
- Have unforgettable characters that are larger than life, balanced with problems bigger than life.
- Their main events are unusual, dramatic, and all have importance to arrive/solve/connect at the climax at the same time.
- The story must have potential to change a worldview but doesn’t have to be a big worldview. Involves the writer’s depth.
How do you go deeper as a writer? First find a secret issue or realization. Then, allow yourself to feel those emotions and translate them into whatever your character is yearning for in the story. Ask: What if God has a different plan? How does my character discover that? Do the same with your antagonist. Then expose their vulnerabilities.
A writing tip
If you find yourself in a writing slump, get past it by reviewing the plot line before going to sleep. Then let your subconscious work on it. Get up when you can’t sleep. Reread pages you don’t like. Go back to sleep. Your mind will often work out the issues by morning.
Suggested writing tools
- Writing the Breakout Novel, by Donald Maass
- Writing the Blockbuster Novel, by Al Zuckerman
- Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, by Christopher Vogler
- Stein on Writing and How To Grow A Novel, by Sol Stein
- Bestseller: Secrets of Successful Writing, by Celia Brayfield
- Story: Substance, Structure, Style, by Robert McKee
- Ken Follett’s online Masterclass: The Art of Suspense
Book image courtesy of Idea go/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net