Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Write On: Finishing Move

(With a special guest appearance by a Video Essay!)

I've always been partial to the Diamond Cutter...
I've just finished my third revision.

Okay, “just” is a little subjective. At the time of this writing, which is about a week before it’ll actually post, I had “just” finished my third revision. This revision includes all of the great feedback I’d received from everyone in my writers group. 

Fortunately, it was mostly polishing – a bit of clarifying here, a bit more depth there. But there was one section that needed a fair bit of work: the climax of the story. It’s not that my climax was bad, but it was occasionally confusing, occasionally redundant, and really needed something more active out of my protagonist. It turned out to be a tougher nut to crack than I expected. I mean, I was doing all the cleaning up and goosing up the group suggested, but it still seemed a bit lacking. It was just fine.

My epiphany came from a most random place: a video essay on how Marvel structures an action scene. 

Unlike the other video essays I’ve featured here, I wasn’t checking this out for writing ideas or inspiration. It just sounded interesting. The MCU has cranked out 19 movies at this point and they have a record of 15-1-3 (that’s wins-stinkers-fine but forgettable, in case you’re wondering – I’ll let you guess what falls where), so they have to be on to something, right?

Indeed. In Full FatVideos’ Marvel’s Home-Grown Action Story Structure, they call out the seven phases in a (memorable) Marvel action sequence. 

You should check out the video, but just in case you’re pressed for time or just too lazy, those phases are:
  1. The Preamble – The protagonist and opposition confront each other and lay out what it is they’re fighting over.
  2. The Players Take Stage – Any and all supporting characters make their appearance known. This is also where the protagonist’s desire – a tangible goal for the sequence – is made plain.
  3. The Money Shot – The action officially kicks off. This usually includes what becomes an iconic shot or moment that is featured in the trailers.
  4. Fun and Games – All that action that had been promised in the lead-up. We’re regularly reminded of the stakes, but things are kept fairly light-hearted until…
  5. The Reversal – Things look really bad for the protagonist
  6. The Grand Finale – The protagonist makes an active effort to achieve his or her goal, often getting an assist from a secondary character.
  7. The Happy Ending (?) – The battle is over and the day is won or lost.

What really surprised me was how well this formula fit the climax of my story. I hadn’t really thought of it as an action sequence until then but… yeah, it’s an action scene. And while I had to fudge a couple things (there aren’t any additional players to take the stage, for example), I think it really enhanced the whole sequence.

And with that, I’m done.

Again, “done” is as subjective as “just” was at the top of the post. I’ve made all the revisions I wanted to make and I’ve hit a new word count of 60,191, so I’m going to leave it be for a while. Now it’s time to turn my attention to getting an agent, and that’s going to require a healthy amount of homework. More on that next time…

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Previously on House of Nolahn...

Hi there. Remember when this blog was about my transition from writing short, cheeky reviews of bad movies to a decidedly not-cheeky novel? I do, though you wouldn’t know it from the past couple weeks’ worth of posts.

In my last Write On post, I talked about the formation of a local writers group and how we’ve been helping each other. Yes, that has included me giving my novel (in installments) to the group for their feedback. In fact, shortly after that post I received the final installment of feedback on my novel from the group.

Here’s the good news: I am still working on the novel – and actively so. I’m not abandoning it or tabling it or taking a break or any such thing. That’s not the issue.

No, the issue is that we’re all caught up to where I am in my process and making the final round of edits takes time… time that I’ve been splitting with writing blog posts (and actually getting outside now that the weather is finally nice, spending time with the kids, working on household projects, etc., etc.). There are only so many hours in the day.

So starting this week, I’m going to slow down the already-not-particularly-rigorous pace of posts here to every Tuesday, at least for a while. That will give me a chance to finish this draft and begin the hunt for an agent. Once I start that process, I’ll have a whole bunch of new things to blog about, honest.

The one exception will be the Bad Movie of the Month pieces, though I’ve been debating changing those up to something else. Thoughts? Let me know in the comments.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Video Essay: How Three-Act Screenplays Work (and Why It Matters)

I’ve been tapping into The Closer Look quite a lot for my featured video essays, and I’m overdue to change it up a bit. Fortunately, Lindsay Ellis (formerly known as the Nostalgia Chick) had exactly the kind of essay I was looking to feature here.

You’ve probably heard the term “three-act structure” dropped a lot as if you’re supposed to know exactly what that means. But what is the three-act structure, and what does it want from us? In this essay, Lindsay gives a great beat-by-beat breakdown of the structure. You’ll be surprised/horrified at how all of your favorite stories fit into this format.

How fundamental is the three-act structure to storytelling? Without even trying, the novel I’ve been working on fits into it very neatly.

First Post: The Story So Far

Hallo. I’m Scot Nolan, though you might know me from reviewing and discussing bad movies over the past ten years as “Nolahn.” But this ...