#NaNoWriMo Day 2: The Antagonist’s Ordinary World

Day 2
Word count: 2,259 words
Word count goal: 4,000 words
Mapping the Hero’s Journey: The Ordinary World – Antagonist
Save The Cat: Theme stated / Set-up

I love this painting by Alex Rubio (first image on left). If you would like to learn more about his work, here’s a video on YouTube where he talks about it.

Today, I’m focusing on my antagonists. There are many in my novel. One is a fireworks distributor, thus the fireworks labels. Plus, Frankenstein lighting an M-80 is just fun.

#vss very short story

Peter found some old fireworks tucked in the back corner of the garage. After lighting them off, he drove to the courthouse and had his name legally changed to Frankenpyro.

Plotting with Tarot

For today’s reading, I’m going to focus on my main antagonist. Though all of my antagonists committed crimes and are very bad guys, only one is the guy “whodunnit”. Let’s see what the cards say for his Ordinary World reading.

Antagonists Ordinary World

Ordinary World: Page of Swords- someone who spurs you on with discomfort and irritation rather than command

What he likes: Knight of Swords – passionate thinking and mental determination

What bothers him: The Fool – a new beginning, an impassioned start

My interpretation:

This reading makes sense for my character. He is the type of guy who is constantly coming up with a new “business venture”. He likes finding the business idea and starting it, but then, when it doesn’t work out, he hates the disappointment. He would like some security for his family and a constant pay-check, maybe some benefits, but then he discovers the “next great idea”.

Ask Your Character

  • How has your life been different than what you imagined?
  • How would you like to be remembered?
  • Do you have any regrets?

Word Of The Day

imbroglio: n. a confused, embarrassing situation

8 Action Verbs:

accomplished          briefed          constructed          distributed

generated                led                   presided                 searched

Poem prompt

What symbols represent your antagonist? Pick one and use it as a metaphor for your antagonist’s ordinary world.

King Of The Forest

pride
fiercely protective
awareness to competition
long and steady, not quick and easy
he knows he is king of the forest lands

strength
the elk calls his herd
to cross the river
he smells other elk
drawn to the salt, he licks

stamina
the still air cracks
he runs until he falls
chest heaving with final breaths

Awesome Sentence Challenge

Simile: Imagine a person or object. This is the A of a comparison A is like B. Make a list of everything A is like. Try to get as abstract and creative as possible. List 30 to 40 things A is like. Look back through your list and choose your favorites. Compare A to B using like or as.

Similes are important for describing sensual information, so you may want to choose a sight, smell, taste, or texture for A.

Today’s Simple Task

Focus on your genre. Write a genre specific scene. If your novel is humor, write a comedic scene. Writing a thriller? Write a scary scene. Writing a mystery? Write about a red herring.

Warm-up Exercise

Set a timer for 15 minutes.  What does your antagonist want and why? What’s the first thing they will do to get it? -prompt inspired by Diana Gabaldon (Nano poster)

Recommended Word Crawl

Since today is about antagonists, I recommend the Mean Girls word crawl. Then, once you’ve reached your word goal, you can relax and watch it Mean Girls.

Have a great day of writing and reading!

 

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The Misadventures of Moxie Sharpe: Conflict and Suspense in Practice

The Misadventures of Moxie Sharpe serial banner

 

My current area of interest is conflict and suspense. How do I write scene after exciting scene to keep my readers turning pages?

I realize that to become a better writer, I can’t just read about writing suspense and read suspense novels, I need to write using the techniques I learn.

So, for our enjoyment, starting next Sunday afternoon I will be writing a weekly serial called The Misadventures of Moxie Sharpe. Each Sunday I will post a new installment of Moxie’s story with all the conflict and suspense I can muster and cliff-hangers to keep you coming back for more.

For inspiration, I spent some time on archive.org checking out the great trailers for the old serials like Radar Men from the Moon, Zorro, and Mysterious Doctor Satan. If I manage to apply my studies and follow their example, you can look forward to:

Moxie Sharpe in a punch-packed, lightning-paced, sensational adventure of world-shaking importance. She will dazzle and surprise and her courage will thrill and chill. Each episode will be filled with pulse-pounding, jet-propelled excitement. And as Moxie’s electrifying, explosive adventures unfold, we’ll have a lot of fun and hopefully learn something about writing page turners.

Don’t forget to sign up for the Experience Writing Newsletter. I filled up this first one with useful information and techniques for getting to know your readers. You also get a free conflict and suspense study plan!

I want it button

I am planning a detailed explanation of my Read to Write: Suspense, Conflict and Tension study on Wednesday.

Oh, I can’t wait! The suspense is killing me! Right?

Part Two The Worrying Wave of Weak Verbs: a cautionary tale of the murderous search for to be, to have, to do, to get, to go and to make

Action verbs

He went down the slide.
He slid. He zipped. He whooshed!

In my last post, I shared an amazing discovery, a  little book full of helpful tips called The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier by Bonnie Trenga. At the end of exploring Chapter Seven, you’ll recall I encountered a “there was” problem in my manuscript. After my battle with “there was”, I moved on to Chapter Four: The Delicious Drama of the Weak Verb. Finding specific verbs is important, interesting and sometimes fun, but I didn’t find it delicious.

In Bonnie Trenga’s words:

“Weak verbs are everyday, normal verbs we use all the time. However, they’re often repetitive, passive, wordy, or too general. These verbs frequently fail to clarify the action, and they make readers work too hard.”

Which verb does she start with? You guessed it, our friend “to be”. Along with the battle of “there was” that we discussed last time, she also mentions “it was” and “this was”. Because “there was” introduced me to my worrying workload of weak writing, I won’t linger on “to be”, but introduce you to the other worrying weak verbs and how I began to weed them out.

action verbs

He got up the rock wall.
He climbed. He hauled himself up. He tested his upper body strength.

As the title of this post suggests, other weak verbs include: to do, to get, to go, to have and to make (Trenga also suggests to occur and to use). Because my manuscript is written in past tense, I started my search for the past tense of each verb: did, got, went, had and made. When I typed “did” into the find bar in Word an astounding, heart-breaking 826 instances came back. However, a friend and fellow writer, Sherri Ann DeLost offered a very helpful tip: when typing a word into find type a space before and after it, so the results only include the word not the letters within another word (such as candid). This made a large difference bringing my did count down to a reasonable 180 or so (though many “didn’t”s may still need to be dealt with).

After seeing the staggering number of verbs in need of more specific replacements, I decided I needed lists of specific action verbs at the ready. I started with my thesaurus and found some replacements.

Did: acted, performed, achieved, executed, completed, concluded, determined, ended

Had: kept, controlled, enjoyed, held, owned, possessed, retained, included, contained

Got: acquired, gained, obtained, took, received, knew, bought, gathered, understood

Went: moved, exited, left, retired, escaped, traveled, ran, walked, passed, wended

Made: initiated, originated, started, created, produced, shaped, formed, crafted, built, constructed, fixed, readied

These are only a few examples of the words I found, but I didn’t feel like I had enough replacement verbs, so I searched online. I printed out these three lists:

http://www.westga.edu/~rmcrae/FYW/Awesome-Action-Verbs.pdf

http://www.cvisual.com/film-techniques/writer-action-verb-list.pdf

http://cdn.writershelpingwriters.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Active-Verbs-List.pdf

and here are some other lists you may find useful:

http://www.fourcornerslearning.org/TechTips/Resources/Action%20Verbs.pdf

http://www.wellesley.edu/sites/default/files/assets/departments/cws/files/complete_list_of_action_verbs.pdf

http://www.owlnet.rice.edu/~cainproj/writingtips/preciseverbs.html

http://www.momswhothink.com/reading/list-of-verbs.html#verbs%20list

I created a key: D=did, H=had, W=went, G=got and M=made and scoured my lists, writing the correlating letter or letters next to the strong verb that could replace the weak verb.

With all of these active, descriptive, precise verbs at the ready, was I prepared to attack my weak verbs? Some of them.

Here’s an example from my work in progress with the verb “got”:

“Ben grabbed a handsaw and got up on the step ladder while Anna attempted to twist the branch and tug at it to help it along.”

Ben grabbed a handsaw and climbed the step ladder while Anna attempted to twist the branch and coax it along.

I found stronger replacements for hundreds of  weak verbs, but I also found new issues. Many of these weak verbs were like parasites in symbiotic relationship with other words to create a different meaning than the replacement verbs I so obsessively collected. Example:

“Went back” led me to find as many words as I could for returned.

“Had to” led to must, needed, and wanted.

“Did his/her best” to = I don’t know. I’m still working on this one.

After I worked through each of the weak verbs, examining my sentences over and over again, I thought it would be fun to do a new word cloud of my manuscript to see if this exercise had changed my overused words. I was sure changing so many “went back”s would get “back” off of my list at least. If you haven’t read my earlier post about overused words, you can make your word cloud here. Sadly, “back” was still there, but more shocking was “make”. Hadn’t I just spent an entire day replacing make?

The answer was no. I had focused on the past tense of the weak verbs and, like “there was”, led to “there is”, and “there were”, I needed to search for each of the other weak verbs in all of their variations.

“Make” presents interesting challenges: “Make any sense”, “Make sure”, “Make it look like”, “Make this work”. At least one or two “make sure”s can become “ensure”. I would greatly appreciate other suggestions.

As you can see, verb choice presents unending challenges and sparks the neurons.

This week I will be reading my entire novel for content: plot, action, consistency, etc. I will also pay close attention to whether my verb choices have changed the distinctive voices of my characters. I tried to keep that in mind as I made changes, but I’ll only know for sure after I’ve looked at the big picture. Wish me luck.

Happy Writing!