Wednesday, January 6, 2016

January #IWSG: Clear and Present Danger


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Jack Ryan, Jason Bourne, James Bond all have one thing in common besides the first letter in their names: a clear and present danger. The stakes are always laid out before them and are never lost in wordy prose or the muddy middle. It's pretty clear they will die if they don't act. The sense of an immediate threat always lurks in the foreground.

Getting back to the basics of writing this holiday season, I was inspired as I picked up James Scott Bell's Write Your Novel From the Middle. Your writing must have clear stakes whether you write sci-fi, fantasy, contemporary. Knowing the stakes will make your story a page-turner. Great book for both plotters and pantsers!

Over Christmas break Missouri experienced some wild weather. We enjoyed sixty degree days, flash flooding and tornado watches. Last week I had to make a pizza run smack dab in the middle of a storm. Well, I didn't think about the clear and present danger until I had jumped in my car with my youngest teenage son and looked out the window. He said, "Drive, Mom. We can make it." I have two teenage boys. Of course, it was an emergency...to get pizza...in the middle of a tornado watch.




I binge-watched the Bourne movies recently and realized the incredible resourcefulness of Jason Bourne. He drives a stolen car at breakneck speed while pouring alcohol over his non-lethal gunshot wound, tending to his injuries and dodging an assassin and a dozen police cars. He gets away, silently slipping into the night without any recognition that he's awesome or a pat on the back for beating the bad guys at their own game. One thing I love about Bourne is that he never gives up; he never quits. He just keeps pressing toward his goals.

What clear and present goals do you have for this year? Write them down. Stay positive in 2016 as you balance writing with life and kids and laundry and interruptions and pizza runs in the middle of life-threatening weather. Remember, we're in this together!

34 comments:

  1. They do all start with J...
    Clear goals and clear stakes. That's what it's all about.
    Pizza is always an emergency.

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  2. You're so right. We are all in this together! And yes, I love your pizza comment too. All the best to you during 2016! (And I noticed your Dragonfly award. YAY!!! - from a fellow children's author.)

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    2. Thank you! My writer friends keep me motivated and sane.

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  3. A pizza run is definitely an emergency :)

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  4. Putting stakes and character goals into the first pages of novels is crucial! I stop reading books (lots of them) that take too long to get started. Yet people continue not to get this point and write slow beginnings with tons of inner thoughts and nothing interesting happening. Good luck on your writing and on outrunning tornadoes on pizza runs (I so want a pizza now! LOL!), and I hope you get everything you want in 2016! :)

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    1. I'm with you on this one. It is exactly why publishers and agents also put your work down and stop reading. I lose all interest in a book if it takes too long to get into. Thank you and you too!

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  5. I love James Scott Bell. Seriously. I'm all for goal driven writing/living as well, although sometimes other goals take priority. Like living. Here's hoping to do both for the most epic 2016 ever!

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    1. He has another great book on crafting dialogue. Yes, life always sneaks into our fantasy worlds aka writing time:) Thanks!

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  6. Pizza run in a tornado? That's what delivery is for! Let the delivery guy risk his life for a two-dollar tip. Or you, know, keep a stack of frozen pizzas in your bunker along with your canned goods, water purification tablets and automatic weapons.

    Everyone has a bunker, right? That's my New Year's resolution. To give mine a new coat of paint. And to make sure the ramen noodles aren't expired.

    In all seriousness, my resolution is to put more clear and present danger in the opening chapters of my books...

    IWSG January

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    1. *face palm* Next time I get delivery. The boys ate all the frozen ones and the pizza rolls and the ... you get the idea. Yes, what a great resolution! I like to study the first pages/chapters of books for that very reason. No bunker, yet. But we have lots of cool caves around here:)

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  7. You're the second blogger today that made me go WOW. I'm doing a story breakdown for The Bourne Identity next Saturday for a workshop at La Cruz Writer's Group. Small world, eh? TBI is a great example of how storytelling works. Good luck painting, Jennifer. You're a writer after my own heart. I love pizza! I'd drive through a tornado to get a bite. Happy New Year. And thanks for visiting my blog!

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    1. Thank you! And, yes, look no further than Jason Bourne to give us a great story outline and character arc. I would love to attend your writer's group. Thanks for stopping by!

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  8. Bourne sure can break out whatever he needs to get the job done. No Jack Bauer? lol

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    1. or Jack Reacher. What's up with all the Js?? I guess I'm in good company!

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  9. I love to put high stakes and danger into my stories. I do feel they make my stories better. And if I love it, I know readers will too. :)

    Jason Bourne is awesome!

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    1. Yes, always write what you love and your reader's will too!

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  10. Well, pizza is a good reason to go out during a tornado warning. ;) Happy New Year!

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  11. Stakes are one of those things I suck at. :D Maybe that's why life is so easy for me!

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  12. Haha, pizzas are always an emergency, right?! My editor is always pushing me when it comes to stakes...it's definitely something I need to work on in my writing.

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    1. I think it's in our nature as women, moms to not want anything bad happen to our MCs:)

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  13. The reason those characters do so well is that they have an incredible ability to not worry too much about the future. That's something we writers should learn to do too.
    Glad you made it through the weather safely.

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    1. So true. One day at a time. Or in Bourne's case, one bullet at a time ;-)

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  14. Clear stakes. One of the things my novel didn't have in the early stages. Well, there were stakes, but they weren't clear in the beginning. That's a big lesson.

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    1. I'm going back over the ms I just finished and making things bad for my MC. That's what we do.

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  15. Getting pizza during a tornado watch? Okay, that should be in a book (and yes, I would totally do it too if my kids insisted).

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    1. Now you know my secret...I get all of my inspiration from real life and my teenage boys:)

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  16. Write Your Novel from the middle sounds good. I have a plot chart that I use, so I consider stakes from the beginning. Yikes about that weather. We usually get intense weather like heavy storms and tornado and hurricane watches during the spring and fall.

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  17. Sounds like a good reminder about high stakes. They're what hook a reader. We've had a lot of flooding over here too, been terrible. Of course pizza counts as an emergency!

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  18. I don't think I'd race a tornado for a pizza. Now if we were out of vodka, that would be a different story!

    I like the idea of applying the principles of "clear and present danger" in my current WIP.

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