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Composing The Scene

Once you have the scene outlined, it is time to develop the content.

1. Opening Line: Set up the conflict in the scene.


2. First paragraphs: Orient us: where are we, when is it, who is present, and what do they want? 

3. Introduce theme and make sure the goal is understood.

4. Follow a logical chain of eventsThe action or conversation is followed by a visceral response, then a conscious response, then recovery/thinking/planning, then the outcome which should result in a new goal.

Make sure you show a recovery after all key scenes and turning points.

5. Vary the speed to create a flow that keeps a reader interested. 

1) Slow, fast, slow. 
2) Slow, medium, fast.
3) Fast, medium, slow. 
4) Medium, fast, slow. 

Vary sentence structure. Vary the speed within the scene. Nonstop action without resting beats is too fast. All internal narration and narration without action beats is too slow. Highlight the fast parts. Are there peaks and valleys? Have quieter, slower conflicts between big turning points and reveals.

Every tense action scene should have a rise, impact, and fall. Every tense conversation should have a lead up to a tense exchange, a verbal zinger, and a response. Show the recovery, leave a hook with the new complication.

Slow speed includes blend of description, narrative, internal dialogue and narrative, and exposition (i.e. background information). Long cumulative sentences are slow (use sparingly). Facts, review, summary, backstory, and flashbacks are slow.

Use Medium/Normal pacing when the  story is progressing but nothing special is happening. Good for setting a scene or transitioning between two dramatic scenes. Give readers a break from the action and slow down the pace. Use an even blend of description, dialogue, narration, and exposition. Include step by step detail. Use compound sentences with limited detail. Use fleshed out dialogue interposed with action beats and short internal thoughts. Focus on a specific encounter or activity.

Use Atmospheric pacing to create a mood or feeling in a chapter. Set a scene, establish tone, or foreshadow events, often all at the same time. Blend physical and psychological description to set the mood. The story is moving forward but the blend of descriptions suffuses the scene with the desired effect.

Use Suspenseful pacing to keep readers on the edge of their seat. Focus on step by step detail and action that work toward but delay the ultimate payoff. Use short, choppy rhythm, then long beats, then short, choppy beats. Suspense is slow but seems fast because the reader speeds up as he rushes to see how events play out. 

Someone is being hunted or struggling. Allow the reader to feel anxiety. Dialogue with a little action and description thrown in can be suspenseful, tense. Use description to set up scary mood. Drag out tension. The verbal camera is at a wide angle. The catalyst could be sights, smells, sounds, touch, anxiety. Zoom in closer until on the face or inside head. The climax should be in virtual slow motion, blow by blow focus on the words and actions.

Use fast pace to create tension. Dialogue is fast with little action or thoughts and lots of white space. High action scenes or characters engaged in emotional confrontations are fast. Short summary can be fast. Short dialogue and action beats, base clauses, and short sentences add speed. The verbal camera is zoomed in all the way. Save high speed for important turning points. Focus on one element to the exclusion of all others, just dialogue or narration of action. Leave out description beyond physical action. Use short snappy sentences. Avoid details like left and right that force your reader to think about it. Once involved in the action, switch to longer compound and cumulative sentences. Pause when characters pause to maintain the illusion.


6. Closing line: End with a hook to set up next scene and convince the reader to turn the page.

For more about how to craft plots using conflict check out, Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of conflict available in print and e-book and check out the free tools and information about the series on my website.

The Scene Construction Sheet

Now that you have the basic concept for your plot and have developed ideas for scenes, it is time to write them. Let's examine what constitutes a scene.

A scene consists of specific characters in one location going after a specific goal at a specific time. Characters can enter and exit a scene. Characters can move from one location to another. The  important part is to not waste page time on the boring details of transport from one place to another and to avoid timeline plot holes with starting out in the morning and having it pitch black night ten minutes later. In every scene, we need to know where we are, when it is, who is present, and whether they get what they want.



SCENE WORKSHEET
Scene# ___ 
Goal:____________________________________________________________
POV:_________________________________________________________________
What are the obstacles involved?:
_____________________________________________________________________
It the goal achieved? ¨Yes   ¨No   ¨Yes, but    ¨No and furthermore
Type of Conflict: ¨External # __  ¨Antagonist # ___   ¨Interpersonal #____ 
or ¨Internal # ____
Source of Conflict:_____________________________________________________________
Who is involved: ¨ Protagonist  ¨Antagonist  ¨Love Interest   ¨Friends # ___________   ¨Foes#_______________
¨Main Plot or ¨Subplot____
Setting/Timeline:________________________________________________________
Physical Location:(geographic, room or building, outside, inside, in a vehicle, etc.).
____________________________________________________________________
Date: ____________________ Day of Week:_________________________________
Time ___ o’clock
¨  Morning  ¨ Mid Morning   ¨Noon   ¨Afternoon ¨ Evening  ¨Night
Season: ¨ Spring   ¨Summer   ¨Fall   ¨Winter
Holiday or other special occasion_____________________________________
Weather or Room Conditions:____________________________________________________
Opening Line: __________________________________________________

Closing Line:___________________________________________________
For downloadable forms please visit http://www.dianahurwitz.com.
For more about how to craft plots using conflict check out, Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of conflict available in print and e-book and check out the free tools and information about the series on my website.

Layering the Plot

Once you have the premise, the antagonist, the friends, foes, and overall story problem. It is time to break it down into layers. By coming up with at least ten scene ideas for each conflict layer, you can keep the plot moving forward in satisfying curves and twists, keeping the verbal camera on the move.

Layer One: External Conflict

What is the main story problem that all of your characters are dealing with? 

These conflicts will test the protagonist’s courage, nerves, and determination.

List at least ten things that will happen to escalate this conflict: snags in the plan, unexpected discoveries, increasing levels of threat, and arrange them in an order that will make the most impact with the final scene being the resolution.

(Examples: finds gun, interviews suspect, confronts best friend, goes on date, looks for answer, can’t find someone).

At each step is the protagonist moving toward or away from the goal?
Layer two: Antagonist Conflict

How will the protagonist and antagonist face off? Use these scenes to reveal how they will pursue and evade or influence one another. 

These conflicts will test the protagonist’s knowledge, ingenuity, and strength. 

They are battles of will and wit. If the story involves multiple points of view and the antagonist is one of them, these scenes would be written following his or her point of view. All of the conflicts lead to the climactic confrontation with the protagonist.

List ten ideas.

Is the protagonist moving toward or away from his goal?

If these scenes follow the antagonist's POV, is he moving toward or away from his goal?
Layer three: Interpersonal Conflicts

How will the protagonist be affected by his friends and foes? 

These conflicts will test the protagonist’s friendships, and loyalties.

Friends and foes can be used in any combination of scenes that fit with your story line. Make a list of Interpersonal Conflicts and who they will be with. Remember, not all are negative. There can be positive encounters. 

List ten ideas. 

Which friend or foe is involved? Are they helping or hindering?
The fourth layer: Internal Conflict

These scenes test the protagonist's will to continue the fight.

These scenes explore the personal dilemma of the protagonist that will lead to the point of change. He can do this through internal dialogue or dialogue with someone acting as his foil. 

This is where you reveal the event that happened in the past and how it changed him. This is him dealing with the death of his partner, the loss of his wife, the child he didn’t save. These scenes can show him struggling with a habit or addiction or an ailing parent or wife. 

This often culminates in the section after the climax, where we find out if the protagonist is going to live happily ever after. It can also culminate just prior to the climax. That does not mean other characters cannot be in these scenes or that he is not doing anything. It means his thoughts, reactions and actions illustrate the dilemma that is driving him toward his point of change. 

List ten ideas. Is the protagonist solving or complicating his dilemma?
Now arrange the conflicts in the order that work best for your story. Try not to stack too many scenes of any one type together. Keep the flow steady.

For more about how to craft plots using conflict check out, Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of conflict available in print and e-book and check out the free tools and information about the series on my website.

Framing the Plot Part 4: The Synopsis

Let's take the information we've developed and place it into a basic synopsis.

In my (word count) _________________ (genre)_______________________ novel,

(title) ____________________________________________________________,

(protagonist)____________________________________________is confronted by

(inciting event)_______________________________________________________,

leading to (overall story problem)______________________________________

and forcing him/her to (story goal)_______________________________________

Along the way he/she needs to resolve (personal dilemma)_____________________

which results in (point of change)________________________________________

Standing in his/her way is (antagonist)_____________________________________

who is determined to (antagonist’s goal)___________________________________.

 As a result, the protagonist:
o succeeds and feels good about it
o succeeds and feels bad about it
o fails and feels good about it
o fails feels bad about it)

and learns (theme)___________________________________________________.

These are the bare bones of a synopsis. Making it sparkle requires your word polish.

For more about how to craft plots using conflict check out, Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of conflict available in print and e-book and check out the free tools and information about the series on my website.

Framing the Plot Part 3: Foes

Let's continue to add layers to our our story architecture by examining the role of the foes, those working against the solving of the overall story problem. They are the secondary characters that complicate things.

FOES
List the foe characters and their motivations and/or opinions on the central theme. List how these characters complicate or advance the protagonist's achievement of his goal.
Foe #1 Character Name:  ______________________________________________
Enters the story in Scene#___________     Exits the story in Scene#___________
This character complicates or advances the protagonist’s achievement of his goal by:________________________________________________________________
Foe #2 Character Name:  ______________________________________________
Enters the story in Scene#___________     Exits the story in Scene#___________
This character complicates or advances the protagonist’s achievement of his goal by: _______________________________________________________________
Foe #3 Character Name:  _____________________________________________
Enters the story in Scene#___________     Exits the story in Scene#___________
This character complicates or advances the protagonist’s achievement of his goal by:_______________________________________________________________
Foe #4 Character Name:  _____________________________________________
Enters the story in Scene#___________     Exits the story in Scene#___________
This character complicates or advances the protagonist’s achievement of his goal by: ______________________________________________________________
Foe #5 Character Name:  _____________________________________________
Enters the story in Scene#___________     Exits the story in Scene#___________
This character complicates or advances the protagonist’s achievement of his goal by: _______________________________________________________________
Foe #6 Character Name:  _____________________________________________
Enters the story in Scene#___________     Exits the story in Scene#___________
This character complicates or advances the protagonist’s achievement of his goal by: _______________________________________________________________
Foe #7 Character Name:  _____________________________________________
Enters the story in Scene#___________     Exits the story in Scene#___________
This character complicates or advances the protagonist’s achievement of his goal by: ______________________________________________________________
Foe #8 Character Name:  ____________________________________________
Enters the story in Scene#___________     Exits the story in Scene#___________
This character complicates or advances the protagonist’s achievement of his goal by: ______________________________________________________________
Foe #9 Character Name:  ____________________________________________
Enters the story in Scene#___________     Exits the story in Scene#___________
This character complicates or advances the protagonist’s achievement of his goal by: ______________________________________________________________
Foe #10 Character Name: ____________________________________________
Enters the story in Scene#___________     Exits the story in Scene#___________
This character complicates or advances the protagonist’s achievement of his goal by: ______________________________________________________________
List of tertiary characters (these are the walk-ons or any character that doesn’t have a motive or stake in the overall story problem):
Extra #1 Character Name: _____________________________________________
Appears in scene(s) #:_________________________________________________
Extra #2 Character Name: _____________________________________________
Appears in scene(s) #:_________________________________________________
Extra #3 Character Name: _____________________________________________
Appears in scene(s) #:_________________________________________________
Extra #4 Character Name: _____________________________________________
Appears in scene(s) #:_________________________________________________
Extra #5 Character Name: _____________________________________________
Appears in scene(s) #:_________________________________________________
Extra #6 Character Name: _____________________________________________
Appears in scene(s) #:_________________________________________________
Extra #7 Character Name: _____________________________________________
Appears in scene(s) #:_________________________________________________
Extra #8 Character Name: _____________________________________________
Appears in scene(s) #:_________________________________________________
Extra #9 Character Name: _____________________________________________
Appears in scene(s) #:_________________________________________________
Extra #10 Character Name: ____________________________________________
Appears in scene(s) #:_________________________________________________
Extra #11 Character Name: ____________________________________________
Appears in scene(s) #:_________________________________________________
Extra #12 Character Name: ____________________________________________
Appears in scene(s) #:_________________________________________________
Extra #13 Character Name: ____________________________________________
Appears in scene(s) #:_________________________________________________
Extra #14 Character Name: ____________________________________________
Appears in scene(s) #:_________________________________________________
Extra #15 Character Name: ____________________________________________
Appears in scene(s) #:_________________________________________________
Extra #16 Character Name: ____________________________________________
Appears in scene(s) #:_________________________________________________
Tune in next week as we turn our skeleton into a working synopsis.
For more about how to craft plots using conflict check out, Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of conflict available in print and e-book and check out the free tools and information about the series on my website.

Framing the Plot Part 2: Friends

Last week, we began our story architecture process with the protagonist and antagonist. This week, we continue to answer questions and add layers.

FRIENDS

List the friendly characters and their motivations and/or opinions on the central theme.
Friend #1 Character Name:  ____________________
Enters the story in Scene#___________     Exits the story in Scene#___________
This character complicates or advances the protagonist’s achievement of his goal by: ________________________________________________
Friend #2 Character Name:  ___________________________________
Enters the story in Scene#_____  Exits the story in Scene#____
This character complicates or advances the protagonist’s achievement of his goal by:__________________________________________________________________
Friend #3 Character Name:________________________________________
Enters the story in Scene#_____     Exits the story in Scene#____
This character complicates or advances the protagonist’s achievement of his goal by:_________________________________________________________________
Friend #4 Character Name:  ___________________________________________
Enters the story in Scene#______ Exits the story in Scene#____
This character complicates or advances the protagonist’s achievement of his goal by:__________________________________________________________________
Friend #5 Character Name:  ___________________________________________
Enters the story in Scene#______     Exits the story in Scene#______
This character complicates or advances the protagonist’s achievement of his goal by:_________________________________________________________________
Friend #6 Character Name:  ___________________________________________
Enters the story in Scene#________    Exits the story in Scene#______
This character complicates or advances the protagonist’s achievement of his goal by:___________________________________________________________
Friend #7 Character Name:  ______________________________________
Enters the story in Scene#______    Exits the story in Scene#_____
This character complicates or advances the protagonist’s achievement of his goal by:___________________________________________________________
Friend #8 Character Name:  ______________________________________
Enters the story in Scene#______     Exits the story in Scene#_____
This character complicates or advances the protagonist’s achievement of his goal by:______________________________________________________________
Friend #9 Character Name: ____________________________________
Enters the story in Scene#_______     Exits the story in Scene#_________
This character complicates or advances the protagonist’s achievement of his goal by:____________________________________________________________
Friend #10 Character Name:______________________________________
Enters the story in Scene#_____    Exits the story in Scene#_______

This character complicates or advances the protagonist’s achievement of his goal by:____________________________________________________________
Next week, we continue to add layers by developing the foes.
For more about how to craft plots using conflict check out, Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of conflict available in print and e-book and check out the free tools and information about the series on my website.

Framing The Plot Part 1: Protagonist and Antagonist

Over the next few weeks, during the month of NanoWriMo, I thought I'd walk you through my process of outlining a story based on my theory set out in the Story Building Blocks series of books.

By working through a series of questions you can build a basic story skeleton.

1) What is your initial premise or set up?__________________________________

2) Which will drive your story?
 1 If your story is plot driven, it will sit on a genre shelf.
 1 If it is character driven, it will most likely sit on the literary shelf.
 3) In my story the main character struggles with the overall story problem and learns (Theme):  _______________________________________________________
4) My protagonist is: __________________________________________________
Enters the story in Scene#___________     Exits the story in Scene#___________
5) If there is a love interest, he or she is: ___________________________________
Enters the story in Scene#___________     Exits the story in Scene#___________
6) As the result of the (inciting event) the protagonist is forced to face the overall
story problem:_______________________________________________________
7) The inciting event forces the protagonist to make a decision or take action to (story goal):  __________________________________________________________
8) Achieving this goal is complicated by his/her having to deal with (personal dilemma): ___________________________________________________________
9) In achieving (or not achieving) the story goal, the character resolves his/her personal dilemma in this way (point of change): _____________________________________
10) The characteristic/ability that keeps the protagonist from ignoring the story problem is (character flaw or weakness): _______________________________
 11) The characteristic/ability that enables him to solve the story problem is (secret weapon):______________________________________________________
12) Directly opposed to the protagonist’s goal is the (antagonist or antagonistic force such as god, society, nature, self): ____________________________________
Enters the story in Scene#___________     Exits the story in Scene#___________
13) The antagonist’s wants to (antagonist’s goal): ____________________________
14) The reason the antagonist is capable of stopping the protagonist is (antagonist’s secret weapon):______________________________________________
15) But in the end the antagonist is unsuccessful because of (antagonist’s character flaw):_______________________________________________________
16) The antagonist fails in his goal and (antagonist point of change if there is one or his disposition at the end: changed, dead, locked up, free to strike again):
__________________________________________________________________
Tune in next week as we continue to build our story skeleton.

For more about how to craft plots using conflict check out, Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of conflict available in print and e-book and check out the free tools and information about the series on my website.

THE HORROR GENRE: INTERNAL CONFLICT SCENES

We have picked a subgenre, developed external scenes that affect the story world, antagonist scenes where the hero and evil face off, and interpersonal scenes where friends and foes help and hinder.

Internal Conflict scenes are where the protagonist debates his belief in ghosts or wrestles with his depression over the death of his mother. 

The scientist wonders if he should finally ask his co-researcher out for a date.

He struggles with whatever force is driving him to kill the monster or prove that aliens are out there. 

These scenes are sometimes missing in the horror story, unless it is psychological horror. Personal stakes and character change enrich any story.

Whatever his internal struggle is, it should make solving the overall story problem difficult, if not impossible.

For more information on the Horror genre, visit http://www.horror.org.

For more about how to craft plots using conflict check out, Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of conflict available in print and e-book and check out the free tools and information about the series on my website.

THE HORROR GENRE: INTERPERSONAL SCENES

We've selected a subgenre, created external scenes and antagonist scenes. Now let's take a look at how the friends and foes complicate the situation.



Interpersonal Conflict scenes are where the protagonist consults a priest about banishing the demon. 

He learns from the librarian that all ghosts have unfinished business.

His buddy tells him he is crazy for believing in ghosts in the first place. 

This is usually where they learn the monster’s Achilles heel. 

The hero finds someone to let him into the witch’s castle. 

People will encourage him to stay and fight and some will beg him to flee. 

Some people will act for him or against him.


Next week, we'll finish up with internal conflict scenes.


For more about how to craft plots using conflict check out, Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of conflict available in print and e-book and check out the free tools and information about the series on my website.








THE HORROR GENRE: ANTAGONIST CONFLICT SCENES

You've chosen the subgenre and developed ten scenes dedicated to the impact the evil has on the entire story world.

Antagonist Conflict scenes depend on what kind of antagonist you have chosen. There can be a person or an entity that embodies the horror they are confronting. 

A dire threat like a virus is better if there is someone who wants the virus to run its course. I am reminded of a film that I saw called The Happening. Even though it was directed by one of my favorites, M. Night Shyamalan, the antagonist was a breeze that killed people and wasn’t really menacing enough. There were no clear stakes in the game either. The horror was caused by spores from trees carried on the wind. The deaths were random. Random isn’t as effective as intentional.

In these scenes, the evil and the protagonist face off with each other.

In these scenes, the protagonist comes into contact with the ghost and asks the ghost why it is haunting the house. The evil entity attempts to kill but misses the hero. 

These scenes can also follow the evil entity. 

The antagonist POV is rarely followed in this genre, but if your verbal camera is following the antagonist, this is the place to do it.

The object of horror’s motivation is rarely examined. You see the vampire creeping toward the sleeping girl because you know vampires suck blood. The sea monster slithers down a city street from the manhole and will eat people, because that is what monsters do. The serial killer kills because he must. We rarely follow the swamp monster as he goes about his swampy day. That’s not to say you can’t. If the antagonist is a person or represented by a person, you can follow them in these scenes and explore their agenda.

These scenes are a direct confrontation with the horror that has been unleashed. The verbal camera narrows its focus to the protagonist and the source of the horror facing off or the person or entity enacting their agenda.

Next time, we'll look at interpersonal conflict scenes.

For more about how to craft plots using conflict check out, Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of conflict available in print and e-book and check out the free tools and information about the series on my website.
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THE HORROR STRUCTURE: EXTERNAL CONFLICT SCENES

After picking a subgenre of horror to play with. It is time to put your story idea through its paces to see if you have enough material to turn it into a 400 page book. I put every book idea through this process and if I can't come up with 40 sentences, then I let it percolate a lot longer before I start writing it or decide it doesn't have enough raw material and discard it. You can read more about my process here.

External Conflict scenes follow the effects of the evil on the entire cast or story world.

The intent of these scenes is to scare the pants off of your readers. You have to confine them, torture them with something suspected but just out of sight. The menace has to be believable and constitute a mortal threat to one, some or all. Panic rises. Suspicion shifts.

In these scenes, the protagonist and/or victims are chased down a dark corridor, finds the journal with the ghost’s picture, or searches the library for who used to own the creepy house. They get locked in the cellar by the demon as the house goes up in flames.

In the final external scenes, the threat is removed, unless it is banished to return in the sequel.

List ten scene ideas for how the protagonists and the rest of the cast confront the evil, gain ground, lose, then win (or lose?).


For more about how to craft plots using conflict check out, Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of conflict available in print and e-book and check out the free tools and information about the series on my website.

THE HORROR STRUCTURE: SUBGENRES

No story makes your skin crawl more than the horror story. The horror story takes suspense to a higher, usually more explicit, level and generally contains more graphic material than the Thriller.

The overall story problem in this genre is a mortal threat to an individual or group. Therec can be a mystery at the heart of it, but it is separate from the mystery genre.

Antagonists include the abnormal and paranormal: ghosts, zombies, vampires, serial murderers, killer sharks, giant spiders, viruses, vampires, werewolves or clowns. The antagonist must be nearly impossible to beat and to fail means death. 

The reader expects to be not only thrilled and anxious, but horrified and you need to start from page one. You can start slow and build on the horror, but true fans won’t appreciate a slow, horror-free build-up to a final, horrible truth.

The point of the Horror story is to make the readers squirm, scream, and confront their fears either individually or as a group. The fears can be everyday things such as fear of being alone, of the dead, of the unknown, or of the dark. The horror genre magnifies our fears so we can examine them safely.

There must a sense of being trapped in a room, a house, a town, or on a planet that you can’t escape and therefore must turn and face the threat. 
It’s scariest if the reader doesn’t know where the threat is hiding or where it will strike next. It’s that feeling of “there’s something in the dark, I can’t see it, how can I protect myself from it?” that preys on our elemental fear of being defenseless.

It can also be the “who will die next” plot.

The reader asks: What brought the danger near and how will they get away from it?

There are several subgenres of horror from suspenseful to gruesome.

Alien Horror takes Science Fiction to a darker place. The source of the horror is either on another planet or something brought to Earth from outer space.

Creepy Kids Horror features children who turn out to be evil, possessed by demons or Satan himself.

Erotic Horror features explicit content: sadomasochism, torture, the dark side of sexuality and the sex trade.

Extreme Horror contains explicit violence and is often a “who dies first plot” with no real rhyme or reason other than to kill the victims off in horrendous fashion.

Holocaust Horror contains mass deaths, either in the past or future. They can be due to human slaughter, a rogue virus, monsters, zombies, etc. They are often dystopian or post-apocalyptic settings.

Humorous Horror combines the horror structure with the comedy structure. It is scary, but also funny.

Mind Control Horror plays on our fear of not being in control – especially of our own minds. The mind can be taken over via sorcery or via technology. Victims are forced to act against their will and nature and are horrifying aware of it – unlike a mindless zombie.

Noir Horror
uses a gritty, urban setting with cynical protagonists who must fight the horror facing himself or everyone.

Paranormal Horror
features a mortal protagonist who must fight off immortal or supernatural threats. These include exorcist tales, possession, ghosts or demons.

Psychological Horror keeps the verbal camera in tight focus on the protagonist. He and the audience are kept in the dark. They aren’t certain what they are fighting until the end. This subgenre can also follow the evil or insane protagonist such as a serial killer, where the protagonist actually turns out to be the antagonist.

Rampant Technology Horror examines our fears that man has gone too far in their technology or achievements. It can feature monster toasters or robots that kill. It can be the ghost in the machine or the machine that steals your soul.

Satanic Bargain Horror features a protagonist who strikes a deal with the devil, like Dorian Gray. They end up paying a horrible price for their decision.

What are your favorite horror subgenres? 
Can you think of others? 

You can learn more about the genre through Horror Writers Association at http://horror.org/ 

You can join their group on Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/Horrorwritersassoc/.

For the month of October, we will examine story building block layers as they pertain to the horror genre.

For more about how to craft plots using conflict check out, Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of conflict available in print and e-book and check out the free tools and information about the series on my website.

Minding Your Manners

#storybuildingblocks,@diana_hurwitz,#writingtips,#fiction,#screenplay
www.dianahurwitz.com
I give credit to an article in Parents magazine for inspiring this one. Are etiquette and chivalry truly dead? In your story world, you decide. 

Tweet: Mores and manners change with the times, but everyone has a set of rules. #writingtips

From knights in clanging armor, to Victorian parlors, to the craziness of Hollywood, every story world has a set of rules for how people are supposed to behave and whether or not your characters choose to.

How comfortable Dick is in terms of asking for something depends on his personality type and whether he likes the person he is asking. The polite way to ask is, "Please may I ...". If Dick says, "Please taking a running leap off a short pier," the game is on.

How comfortable Dick is in terms of receiving things also depends on his personality type and whether or not he wants the item received. 


Thank you's when used appropriately, are the oil that makes life run a little smoother. An insincere thank you can mask anger when Dick would really like to let those rude words fly and can't. "Why thank you! However did you come up with such a creative solution to our current predicament ...Sweetie." If he says, "Thank you for not breathing," the game is on.

When a character interrupts a conversation, even to tell Dick that Timmy is in the well, he is being rude.


How often do your characters interrupt each other? Is it well meant, deliberately intrusive or because the situation requires it? Is it timed to deflect an important or revealing conversation?

Cell phones are rampant. Forcing the people around him to listen to Dick's conversation is rude. Listening in on other people's conversations is considered rude. This can also have unforeseen consequences. People aren't careful when they talk on their phones in public. They aren't careful when dining with their friends in restaurants. Clues can be dropped, sensitive information revealed and a person's true colors exposed.

"It's better to ask permission than forgiveness" is a current favorite. But is it? Sometimes Dick should ask permission, like before he raids someone else's refrigerator. He'll pass on asking permission if he is raiding their safe. Taking something innocent without permission may seem harmless, but may push the wrong button. How does Dick feel about having something taken without permission? Is he amused or furious?

Jane should keep negative opinions to herself. Or between her and her friends and out of earshot of other people. In which case, they can discuss freely and at length over their favorite beverage. Refer to the previous "there's no privacy while dining" scenario. This is especially true when commenting on other people's physical characteristics, clothing, possessions and children. It isn't considered acceptable to offer an insult as a compliment: "My, those tattoos are so colorful." Or "It must have taken hours to do that to your hair." Southern women are queens of the insult/compliment smashup. "Well, bless her heart, isn't she precious? It must have taken a month of Sundays to come up with that outfit."

Jane should take a hostess gift to someone's house when invited for dinner and thank them for having her over and for the good time she had. If Jane is lying through her teeth, you have conflict. If she takes them a present intended to insult, the game is on. Is she thanks them for the most riveting evening she's ever had, the insult might fly right over her host's head.

Sally was taught to knock before entering. This could avert a potential disaster if her husband is in bed with someone else. If she is doing something she doesn't want anyone to know about, locking the door would be a great idea. If Sally never locks a door and suddenly decides to lock the door, there is conflict. Locking the bathroom door could mean the child/person knocking better be bleeding, the house on fire or someone dying. If not, the game is on.

When making a phone call, Dick should introduce himself and ask for whoever he wishes to speak to. With the advent of caller ID this is going out of fashion. The conflict occurs when Dick doesn't bother to ascertain who he is talking to before he speaks. It also occurs when Dick answers someone else's phone, particularly if he pretends to be that person. Wrong numbers and misunderstandings are rife in these situations.

What are your story world rules about profanity? It is considered bad manners to use foul language in public, particularly if sensitive little ears are around to hear them. There are still factions of society insulted by words that other factions of society use as versatile adjective/noun/verbs. Profanity is generally considered crass in business and social functions. If Dick does so, how much trouble will he be in? Is Jane offended by profanity or does she swear like a sailor?

Dick should never call other people names or make fun of them. Until they are out of earshot and can't hear him or retaliate. Unless he intentionally wants to start a fight. Even good natured teasing can be taken the wrong way.

Jane should sit through a play, assembly, lecture or business meeting quietly and pretend she is interested even if she is bored silly. What happens if she doesn't? We've all been in boring business meetings, school music programs or dance programs that - other than our little darling's five seconds of fame - bore us to tears. You may be at a lecture or a workshop. This is where the cell phone issue comes in. The light from the screen is distracting. Jane may be bored, but the parent/participant sitting next to her might not. What happens if Jane is forced to sit there? What happens if she breaks free? What happens if she breaks out her Blackberry?

Sally should cover her mouth when she coughs or sneezes. These days it's an act of terror to spread germs in a public place or airplane.

If he sees someone struggling, Dick should offer to help. This is lovely if an elderly person is struggling with their groceries, a mom with a stroller, or someone drops something and doesn't notice. These situations can be hilarious or deadly. What could a little act of kindness lead to? What could Dick gain by pretending to be helpful? There's the old joke about the boy scout who helped the old lady across the street only to find she was headed the opposite direction. Good intentions rarely go unpunished.

When someone asks a favor, Jane should do it without grumbling, unless the favor is inappropriate. Favors can be dangerous. If Jane asks a favor, she should preface it with, "Would you mind." If she follows that up with "Would you mind sodding off?" the game is on.


For more on crafting conflict to create tension, pick up a copy of Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict available in paperback and E-book.