Thursday, July 26, 2012

Something for the Readers: More Down With Cupid Shorts or Shortish

Sometime around April or May I decided to put up a longterm free read. As I'm sure you've seen, at least on Smashwords and ARe, I've had some titles for free a time or two. I'd write a cute little short. 7,000 words tops. It'd be out in no time and that would cushion the months between when I'd write Tony's story and the release of that book.

The short turned out to be much more longer than I hoped. At the moment, it tops around 17k. So, I decided, ok, that'll be a real release. (Tony's story got put on ice when my laptop ended up stolen and I lost 13k of that novella.) I'll be smart and write a prequel and make that free.

The plot to the novella is that they spent a weekend together and never planned to see each other again. But voila, they work in the same business. (PR) Nicole Harrison's boss sees a chance to bring someone onto the job who is savvy and shark-like and bam Sebastian Clark is hired. What do you do when your weekend lover becomes a full-time problem? So, I'd write in full about the weekend. It'd be 3k tops.

It's currently 7300 words and I have at least one more scene to write. *headdesk* I do this for you, guys. Really, I do. And, because these two characters won't shut up.




Saturday, July 21, 2012

Brick by Brick: Turning Points, part 2


How Do You Know It’s A Turning Point?

So far I’ve talked about what turning points are and what they do. I always thought the hardest part of understanding turning points were how to spot them.

This is what I wanted to know for months on end when I first learned about turning points. I understood what kind of things happened, what it was, and why it was important to have them. The one elusive quality was how did I find turning points within my own story or other people’s stories. Now, I may be off base to some, but this is how I find them.



1. The adventure gets more complicated.
It sort of feels like an oh, hell moment. You wanted me to do X and Y. Now you're handing me Z? Are you serious? Or, better yet, it's like a Simpson's episode. The episode starts off simple enough and then something happens and that simplistic opening is blown to smithereens.



2. The doubt increases. (Am I doing the right thing? Who am I? If I make this choice what are the consequences? If I do nothing, because I really want to do nothing, what are those consequences?)

3. The alternatives become limited i.e. the blur syndrome. Things are moving so fast the first choices that come to mind are the only ones you have the time to think of, so it’s either those choices or nothing.

4. The choice the character makes is final. They cannot backtrack. In a romance novel, even in real life, there is no such thing as un-kissing someone. You can not kiss them anymore, but you can’t take back that one kiss.



Every scene has conflict, which means every scene is emotionally charged in some way. Turning points are definitely emotionally charged. Every scene pushes the character to where they need to be by the end of the novel. At turning points the character is closer to getting there.

I know some people embrace change. My character, and everyone else’s character, is not one of them. Otherwise everyone would be writing short stories.

Even with those cues above in the list, the one common thread I found when looking for a turning point is the character gave a little (or a lot) on their never stance. The give is preluded by a choice they’ve faced before and decided to go with the established reaction, but this time the reaction is different. It’s the sigh before the mother says yes after being asked a hundred times Can I have candy? 

Example: In When Harry Met Sally you get these beautiful sections of the story. They're stories within a story. But one never Sally has for the first half of the movie (hell, 3/4s of the story) is she'd never date Harry in a million years. He's the annoying, gross guy after college. Years later, while on an airplane, he's the smug, pessimistically optimistic guy she once had to sit next to on an airplane.

Sally would not, could not spend another moment around him. These are special circumstances, meaning she couldn't jump out the car or airplane to get away from him.

They meet a third time but now she's gotten her heartbroken. (Although, she doesn't yet feel that heartbreak. Or admit it to herself.) She's lonely and he's there. He's not so gross now. Yeah, he's still pessimistically optimistic, but she's changed. The break up has changed her and she gives slightly on her never.

Sally's established reaction is to get away from Harry as soon as it's physically possible. Her new reaction to become his friend. If you've seen the movie then you know how that one decision, one she can never take back though she tries, snowballs.

Using the Four Turning Points To Write A Novel:

If you know your overall goal or picked it out of the ether, you know where your character is and you know where your character is going to end up. Turning points are the roadmap. You can create them beforehand or write to them. They'll likely change as you get to know more about your character. That's all good. The wonderful thing is if you write them down and fill up the space between you've got story. I'm not saying you're going to start outputting Great American Novels. I'm saying writing and revising that Great American Novel will be somewhat easier.

Some questions you can ask yourself:

What is the embodiment of my character's fear?

What's behind the locked door?

What wouldn't they do to open that locked door?

My favorite question: what can I make them do?

What are the worst things that can happen to this character? And, how would it change them?



*Fodder For the Turning Points

The fodder comes from story and story comes from character. Fodder can also come from plot and plot comes from character. Fodder comes from theme and...you get my drift. If all else fails, find out more about your character.

Tip: Watch a movie or re-read a favorite book and find what you think are the four turning points.

A big tip: Even though the character changes internally make sure you show the change externally. Put your story where your mouth is.

*****

Ok. Is that clear as mud? Good. Next up I'll be putting this big chunk of turning points into the bigger picture of the Three Act Structure.

As usual I'm more than open to questions or outright disagreement. Do so in the comments.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Brick by Brick: Turning Points

When I look at the pages this subject takes up...I'm breaking it up into two posts. Even I know when I'll likely lose people. It doesn't happen often. You should write this down. On to the lesson.

Before I cover turning points I need to go over short definitions of external and internal as it relates to fiction. Simple definitions:

External is tangible.

Internal is intangible.

External is the gun pointed at the heroine’s head.

Internal is the fear the heroine feels though she’s starting to feel a little courageous.

External is the heroine grabbing for the gun.

Internal is the way heroine feels now that she has finally stood up for herself.

In a story the external conflict feeds into the internal conflict. Same with plot points. You not only have to look at what happens, but how the character feels while it’s happening.

What does that have to do with turning points?

The mainstream definition of a turning point is a point in a story when the character’s path is redirected in a new and unexpected way. It’s a good core definition, but what does a turning point consist of?

The basic ingredients: an action and a reaction. A turning point is an external change that creates an internal change. It’s the point of the story when Dorothy makes a cameo to say, “We’re not in Kansas anymore.”

So, turning points can also be thought of as points of no return. Once a character has passed them she can never go back. In every sense, Dorothy couldn’t go back home. She couldn’t un-see in color again. It's like graduating from high school or being at your high school weight—it's never going to happen again.

The Touchstone To Turning Points:

Again, the core understanding of a turning point is that it's a changed action that changes the character’s reaction. Something happens in the story and the character reacts to it on the page.

Like most structural tools, it's a step by step progression from point A to point B. How the character would react on page 1 is not how they would react on page 350.

Turning Points Serve Other Functions

1. Turning Points raise the stakes.

At each interval a turning point threatens the character’s want. In The Mummy, the heroine wants greater recognition, specifically from her intellectual peers. The heroine cannot get that if she believes in curses and mummies. If they do exist, she can’t get that if she were the one to actually release the plague against humanity. Oh wow, curses and mummies do exist and now she has bigger troubles–saving all of humanity. If she can save the world how could her intellectual peers not give her the accolades?

2. Turning Points helps your pacing.

The dreaded, sagging middle didn’t get its name because it’s pleasant for everyone to write. (Yes, I’ve met some authors who love to write the middle.) Doesn't matter if you're writing 30,000 or 100,000 words, the middle is an oasis of words. If you're building toward a changed action and reaction it can serve as a guidepost.

How exciting could a trek through the desert be? As with The Mummy it can turn out to be a horrifying experience. The heroine watches as the villain sets out to kill the hero and her brother. Not only that the mousy, clumsy librarian can be more than a damsel in distress. She can attempt to distract the villain so that the hero and her brother can get a chance to defeat the second plague on Earth.

3. Turning Points show progress within the character.

Series can be frustrating because it can seem like the character has learned absolutely nothing from their experiences. If you read book 1 you're reading the same type of character in book 6.

If you're reading a novel that stands alone it can feel the same way if the character doesn’t change. Unless that is the author’s purpose. Stasis can be very frustrating to a reader. Turning points serve as checkpoints to the character’s growth. Turning points show the reader how the character is striving for what they want and the obstacles they're facing to get it. Each change should show the progress the character is making to who they need to be.

What Is The Action and Reaction?

This is the hardest question to answer, because it depends on your character and where they are in the story.

Imagine her (insert your character’s name) in front of a locked door. Your character has to open it. There are a million things she would do, except one.

Under any other circumstances the character would walk away, but what's behind that locked door is what they have to have. It’s the universal question of what do I have to do in order to get what I want? For you, the author, it’s showing what the character needs to do and them refusing to do it. What is the million things they would do? What is the one thing they will never do? That never is what the character fears the most. It's the fear she faces at each turning point. It’s the need of her overall goal.



Example:



The commitment-phobe would have to face committing. This fear can be embodied as inheriting a house from her beloved mother. If a cousin had willed the heroine the house she would have sold it without an ounce of guilt. So, she bargains with herself. I'll stay for X amount of time to clean it out so I can rent the house, then I'm out of here.

Let's call that the established reaction. It's what the character would normally do. Also, let's call this character Mel. This house is in a small town where she grew up.



1st turning point: Mel finds out the house is in disrepair. It needs to be fixed before she can get a decent price for rent. The established reaction would be to bulldoze the home and sell the land for a pretty penny.

The problem is it's her mother's house. The same house Mel grew up in. Under these circumstances she can't make that choice. Mel's reaction is to repair the house, but no way is she staying for a minute longer.

2nd turning point: Though Mel has tried to avoid making friends, or connecting with old ones, she's really starting to like the people in town. Mel starts to understand why her mother stayed here until she died. Still that doesn't mean she's not leaving. She's enjoying herself. That's all.

3rd turning Point: The repairs on the house are almost finished. She finds a photo album that brings up old memories of why she left in the first place, and why she doesn't need to commit to this town or house. Despite being faced with her reasons for the established reaction, the stirring to stay gets stronger.

4th turning point: The house is ready. She has potential renters in sight. The plane ticket out of there is burning a hole in her pocket. Where Mel's headed no one who knows her. No one who would care to bring her chicken noodle soup if she's sick. Can she go back to that existence?

*****

I'm going to stop here and let that disgust for a bit. Next up will be figuring out what IS a turning point within your story. There's a big difference in knowing what a turning point is and pointing at one and say that's a turning point. Some writers, bless them, make it clearly obvious. I have a love/hate relationship with those writers. Yes, it's great I can see your turning point, but I've stopped reading the story to go Hey, there's a turning point. As a reader I like my stories to be seamless. I don't want to see the man behind the curtain. But, of course, I love to see the character is progressing.

I digress.

That's for the next blog post. As usual I'm more than open to questions or outright disagreement. Do so in the comments.

[I've got a rambling turning point break down for The Mummy and Back to the Future. Other people may see the turning points differently, but these are the ones I think the story hangs on. Follow the Google Doc link. ]

Monday, July 09, 2012

Brick by Brick: Revising a Scene


Lucky you. Since I'm using the same tools to revise a scene, the bulk of this lesson happened in the last post. This post will be short. I'm sure many of you are glad for glad for this reprieve. On to the lesson.

Revising a scene using structure is the same way as writing one, just in reverse. Many times I've had a scene that didn't work. The scene didn't add much to the overall story or bring new insights to the character. I'd get so caught up in the details I'd lose sight of the heart of the scene.



Character X discovers mother's secret life.

Character Y wants to go to the grocery to buy a bottle of gin.

Character Z kisses the hero.



When it should be:

Character X's core beliefs are shaken.

Character Y, once again, butts heads with her need to control everything.

Character Z finally let's go.



Back to the Scofield's definition of a scene, something important happens that can't (shouldn't) be summarized. That's why it happens on paper (or e-ink) in real time. That reason plays into the overall goal of the story. A summary of Aiden seeing Megan for the first time would not have sufficed.

Example:

*****

A few days earlier Aiden had saw Megan. The sight of her could still tie his stomach in knots.

*****

Er, no, just no. I skated over very important reasons why a scene happens and why that particular scene should happen at that point in the story. But when a hero and heroine meet in a romance, the reader should know why this match-up is a catastrophe. The reader needs to know (maybe not know know) what stands in the characters' way of a HEA.

In See Megan Run it's the simple fact they used to date. They were one step away from getting married. Everyone assumed it would happen, but Megan just up and left. There would have been no story to write if Aiden didn't care.

Seeing Megan again was a big event and there was no way I could have gotten away with the above. It's like writing an erotic romance and closing the door on every single sex scene. Not only are you going to piss off readers (and really you're lying to them about what the story IS), but you're shortchanging the hell out of your story. A scene with the character seeing their ex for the first time in twelve years, that he's still in love with, needs to happen on the page. /soapbox

Questions to ask yourself:

Did I write a scene that needed to be summarized?

Did I summarize a scene that needed to be written in real time? (If I cut out this scene would no one miss it? Would no one think, hey, what the hell?)



If you have those questions answered and the scene still isn't working, look at the simple structure:

Who is the protagonist?

What does she want?

Who/what stands in the way?

What does the antagonist want?

Why does the protagonist stand in the way?

As the scene stands, how does it play into the overall goal?

Did I stray from the heart of the scene?

Did I reveal character or story?

 *****

Next up I get into truly, truly murky waters—turning points. They are a little more understandable than beats of a scene, but these are wily suckers. And, we're back to epically long posts. This might be the longest one of all of them combined. Yeah...

Tip: For those really organized souls, you can create a simple spreadsheet to keep track of scenes. You can include the scenes protag, antag. A short description of the heart of the scene and the result.
As usual I'm more than open to questions or outright disagreement. Do so in the comments.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Brick by Brick: Scene


In Sandra Scofield's The Scene Book, she defines scene as, “ . . . those passages in narrative when we slow down and focus on an event in the story so that we are in the moment with characters in action."

She goes on to say, "It's not a summary of what happened." That's the key: Something has to happen in a scene, in real time.

Simple structure of a scene

Protagonist wants A.

Antagonist wants B.

The protagonist/antagonist gets what they want or they realize something else stands in the way of getting A/B, or both.



That's the mystery of a simple scene structure, but, of course, that's not what makes it complicated. There's a scene protagonist and a book's protagonist. Often they are one in the same, but you can have a scene antagonist that is not the book's antagonist. The best examples for this concept are stories that involve solving a mystery.

Jayne Ann Krentz's Smoke in Mirrors is a romantic suspense about Leonora Hutton and Thomas Walker uncovering the truth about the mysterious deaths surrounding the Mirror House. These two characters share an antagonist (for the book), an unknown person. Yet in the first chapter Leonora is the scene's protagonist and Thomas is the scene's antagonist.

Simple Structure of this Scene

Protag wants A: Leonora wants to pack up her half-sister's house and finally put the memory of her sister to rest.

Antag wants B: Thomas wants Leonora to help him find the money her half-sister stole from an endowment fund.



In this particular instance, Thomas literally stands in Leonora's way until she agrees to consider his proposition. He blocks the door, uses threats and speculates about her half-sister's death. The last part brings up more questions (more wants)for Leonora. By the end of the scene you know the protagonist doesn't get what she wants: to put her half-sister to rest.

You can write a novel in this episodic way. Someone wins or someone loses. What makes all the scenes cohesive for a novel is the overall goal. The first scene weaves it all in. Leonora and her half-sister have been friends since college. Her death bothers Leonora because of the manner—suicide.



Thomas needs to find the money to protect his brother. Also, his brother's wife died in the same mysterious and out of character way. Both Leonora and Thomas want to find out what happened. Both of them have separate needs and that's the seamless thread in every scene.

I'll admit, it's easier to find a scene's protag and antag when two people are arguing. What about when two people want the same thing?

Example:

Protag: Heroine wants to have sex with hero.

Antag: Hero wants to have sex with heroine.



If they both want the same thing what stands in the way? In Sophie Kinsella's The Undomestic Goddess this is the exact set up for a scene between Samantha and Nathaniel. Now what gives this scene conflict is that it shoots to the need of the book's protagonist.

Samantha needs to stop and smell the roses per se. In an earlier scene she says to the hero it'll only take them six minutes to get the deed done. The hero is not having it, but he doesn't say no to sex all together. Nathaniel simply wants her to help him garden later. By knowing the character's need I can change the simple structure of the scene.



Protag: Wants to have a quickie just to get the deed done because that's all she knows.

Antag: Wants to take the scenic route.



What the hero wants stands in the way of what the heroine wants, even though, in the scheme of things they want the same thing—to have sex with each other. The details can be the contention. In this example the hero embodied the need that directly conflicted with the heroine's want.

Finally, this last thought is debatable within fiction. In a scene the protagonist can be their own antagonist. This concept comes up when a protagonist is alone in a scene or even a book/movie. Castaway comes to mind. Who or what is standing in their way? The simple answer can be the classic theme of man vs. self, man vs. nature, etc.

So let's just say my opinion is that as long as there is something preventing the protagonist from getting what they want then it can work.

The Heart of the Scene

The heart, you can say, is like the overall goal except it’s the scene’s core. The next example comes from my second book, See Megan Run. The heroine, Megan, left town 12 years ago. She also left behind her high school sweetheart Aiden. Before this excerpt Megan is pulled over for speeding. She’s doing her best to get out of town as fast as she can. Yet, the purpose of this scene is to see Aiden’s unexpected reaction, which of course creates more wants. (I should say SPOILER!!!! All through these blog posts. Sorry!)

*****

His day had been going pretty good until he saw the silver Camaro pull out of Dead Man’s Curve at eighty miles per hour.  He stared down into Megan’s eyes, dark as chocolate, keeping all her secrets from him like they always did. His stomach clenched when he noticed that her skin, smooth and radiant, had darkened, which made her seem much more beautiful than the eighteen-year-old girl he remembered. The same one he’d given his heart to and the same one who’d left him. Yup, it was turning out to be a crappy day.

His hand tightened into fist in his pockets. Aiden figured he could handle this two ways: play it cool and let her off with a warning, or–a smile tugged at his lips–give her hell.

*****

Exacting a little revenge on your ex who broke your heart into a million little pieces is not the core of the scene, but it definitely made my character feel better. The next part comes at the end of the chapter when he’s decided it’s best to ditch the plan for revenge and just get away from her.

*****

Out of instinct he reached to stop her and knew it was a mistake the moment his fingers brushed her forearm. He snatched his hand back, but Megan eyes widened, and he knew she’d felt it too. His day was getting worse by the moment.

You need to drive careful. If Shep had stopped you, he’d have had your car towed, just to make a point.”

A smile pulled at her plump lips, making his gut twist again. She shouldn’t have been able to get that reaction out of him. He crossed his arms to keep them from doing anything else on their own. He had to do some type of damage control.

*****

Within the next few passages Aiden finds out that Megan isn’t aware of one fact: her mother is marrying his uncle. Forced proximity will ensue and he can barely keep it together as is. The heart of the scene shows Aiden isn’t over Megan as he should be.

Protag: Aiden wants to exact a little revenge on his ex-girlfriend.

Antag: Megan wants to get out of town.



Megan get’s what she wants. Aiden is left with the knowledge he’s not completely over her. He’ll have to find a way because soon she’ll be back in town.

Questions to ask yourself to get the simple structure of a scene:

What do the characters want to happen?

What does/could the scene reveal about the character?

What does/could the scene reveal about the story?

In the end, what happens?

*****    

This ends today's long-winded lesson on simple scene structure. Yes, there is tons, and I mean tons, more you can learn about scene structure. This is just the tip of the iceberg. But, this is what I use to write my scenes when I'm stuck. It's simple but helpful to know where I'm going when I've lost my way or I have no idea what comes. The thing is a big portion of writing is instinctual. Without thought you probably set up your scenes in a similar way. So, I'll say if it ain't broke don't fix it.
Anyway, next up I'll show you how to use simple scene structure to revise. As usual, I'm more than open to questions or outright disagreement. Do so in the comments.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Brick by Brick: Overall Goal


It may seem strange to start with the birds eye view of a novel, but it's the reason why you're writing the story. Something about the story idea, plot or characters spoke to you. Or, if you're anything like my friend, a hero/heroine showed up in your head and refused to shut up.
Depending on how you write, or even where you are in your novel–first draft or fifth revision–your story has an overall goal. So far all you may know is the theme, or the plot or just a character’s name. The important thing is this will be the focus of your novel. The O.G. drives your story. (I got tired of writing overall goal. And, yes, I do chuckle that's O.G. is slang.)

How does it drive your story?

The O.G., in a way, is your character's quest. His/Her purpose is to complete their journey as the victor. Not only does everything she do push you toward the end, but it dictates their actions throughout the novel.

Knowing the Overall Goal Strengthens Your Structure

The O.G. becomes your touchstone. What your character wants or the lesson they need to learn happens in baby steps. If you get stuck while writing a scene you can ask yourself, does this play into the overall goal? If not, how can it? Why does it play into the overall goal?

The O.G. is a compass and it can tell you a lot about your character when you ask yourself the above questions. By knowing this you can avoid scenes that don't lead your character to their goal. That's not saying your character won't take the scenic route to the end, but it's easier to discern a tangent.

Distinction: Character Want

What a character wants can easily be found in your plot. In my first book, How Much You Want to Bet?, Neil wanted to become a Worksite Manager. Even if it meant working with the most irritating man she’d met—Gib.

Scarlett O'Hara wanted Ashley above all else. (She also wanted to save Tara.) She managed to save Tara, though, she lost Ashley. But all of her actions worked toward those wants. Those were her overall goals. (Yes, you can have more than one goal.)

In gods in Alabama, Arlene Fleet wanted to keep the knowledge of Jim Beverly’s disappearance a mystery.

In Smoke and Mirrors Leonora Hutton wanted to find out what happened to her half-sister. While Thomas Walker wanted the money that had been stolen from an endowment fund by Leonora’s half sister.

Think of the plot as the character’s problem. What does the character feel she needs to fix in her life at that moment? Does she already have a solution? Will she apply her solution like a battering ram throughout the story? In how many different ways can she apply the solution?

Distinction: Character Need

Within a character’s want you will likely find what a character's need. Though Arlene Fleet wants to keep Jim Beverly buried deeply in her past, she needs to let go of his ghost.

Again using Gone With the Wind, Scarlett O'Hara wanted to save Tara for a myriad of reasons. The root is that she needed stability, i.e., holding on to tradition.

Yes, one can go deeper about the real meaning of Tara. To keep the discussion simple let's leave it at that. For those same reasons, stability and tradition, she loved Ashley. He was the fantasy and embodiment of those ideals.

Yes, Scarlett needed tradition, but not in a way that would only stifle her growth. Rhett Butler was what she needed all along. A revelation that came to Scarlett by the end of the story.

In Tell Me Lies by Jennifer Crusie, the heroine wanted to protect her daughter from the harsh reality of life. When what she needed to do was tell her daughter the truth.

The major distinction is that a character may know exactly what she wants. As I said, it’s likely the plot, but what she need may be something only you the author knows. The character should get to that point by the end of the book. So what a character wants may change. Yes, frightening, but what she needs never changes.

Some questions to find out what a character needs:

Who is she on the first page?

Who does she need to be on the last page?

What happens in between is your story.  Doesn't matter where you are at this point, you can find the overall goal.

Here are some methods to find it:

Use Your Plot to Find Character Want/Need

In the examples above, I used the plot to find what the characters needed. What does your character want? What is it that you see the character needs? Meaning, when you look at your plot (your character's want) does she actually need it? What path does the plot take her? Right into the hero's arms? What is it about him that will change her? Why is that change better for her than say anything else you could imagine?

Use Your Theme to Find Character Want/Need

Redemption, acceptance and forgiveness are popular themes in romance novels. The tortured hero must somehow forgive all the wrongs done to him in order to have his HEA. The heroine must accept herself. So on and so forth. So does the hero want to revel in his wrongdoings, because he sees it as his due? Or, cheesy as it might sound, does all he need is love from the heroine to see past his flaws?

Use Your Character to Find Character Want/Need?

If no one else was around, and she wasn’t being critical of the answer, what would the character yearn for? The answer doesn't have to be practical or realistic where she is in her life. The answer just needs to be honest.

*****

Ok, that cues the end of today's ramble. Next up will be scene. Not the smallest units one can use to craft a novel, but close enough.
I'm more than open to questions or outright disagreement. Do so in the comments.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Brick by Brick: Introduction




This will be the first post of many. I want to provide something substantive on my blog. If not every day for forever, for the next week or two. I want something in this space people can come back to or discover. In all honesty I've been blogging close to seven years and I think I've covered every subject that can be covered.
When I think about what I can blog about I draw a complete blank. Reviewing is a huge under-taking and it's not really my thing. But, I can talk you to death about writing books. (And that's probably not very interesting to readers. Sorry! I promise when I get more savvy there'll be something here for you too.)
Anyway, this is what my blog will be for however long it takes to revamp a workshop I did long, long ago and post it online. These posts will be epically long, but I'm normally long-winded. Just ask anyone who knows me.
I digress...I liked the quote from Seabisquit that quotes Shakespeare. Hence the name of the workshop. Plus, this workshop, and consequently these blog posts, are about structure. Small units that create a whole. You can build a city brick by brick. You can write a book doing the same, except the bricks are metaphorical.
So... let's start with my favorite quote from Stephen King. In regards to writing a novel he says, “...one word in front of the other.” I've taken this concept and used it to write my novels. No matter the size of the novel it's just more manageable in small parts. Not to mention much easier to revise, especially when you don't know where to start or where the problem is.
Yet, over the years as I've studied craft I've learned that structure is the root of every story I've read or written. I've heard it's the bones of the story. Structure is something you can hang your story on. I've also learned it can be frustrating to understand the different types of structure. Not to mention, understanding the concepts enough to use them.
I'm sure you've heard of the Hero's Journey, The Snowflake Method, and even Scene and Sequel. All structure. (If you haven't that's okay I've got definitions coming.) The important thing for you to understand now is that structure is like any other writing tool. It's something you can fall back on when all else fails. I will say there is no surefire way to write or revise a novel. There is only your way.
In the end it's only what works for you. That's the wonderful part about the journey of writing. You get to explore many ways until one settles over you and you know that's it, that's my way. Here's my way. (Do know this may change. Again and again and again.)
Some definitions to keep in mind:
Protagonist:
The good guy. Also, they're the person standing in the way of what the antagonist wants.
Antagonist:
The bad guy. The person standing in the way of what the protagonist wants.
Do note that despite the definition of antagonist I do not include an evil laugh.
Scene:
Has a beginning, middle and end. It moves the plot forward. It has a protagonist and antagonist. It’s also a small portion of the book as a whole, and it better have a purpose.
Four Turning Points:
It's an event or moment in which the character changes and that changes their path. It can be big or small. Real Life Example: Getting locked out of your car and from that moment on you carry a spare.
Three Act Structure: 
A larger portion of a novel that consists of both scenes and turning points. The first act is usually the set up of the story. The second act is the dreaded middle and the longest of all the acts. The last act includes the black moment and resolution of the story.
Overall goal:
In regards to the main character it means what they truly and deeply want. In regards to you, the writer, it means what the character truly and deeply needs.
*****
For an introduction I think this is more than enough to make your head explode. Next is the beginning. Just as long, probably longer. Book mark or whatever.
I'm more than open to questions or outright disagreement. Do so in the comments.

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