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The Team Victory Skeleton

Last week, we explored the Science Fiction skeleton. This week, we explore the building blocks for the Team Victory skeleton.

The overall story problem is an underdog who needs to win or achieve something. 

The reader asks, "Will they win?"

 Usually they should. If they don't, they have to still feel really good about it: almost was good enough. Usually the other coach or team needs to be taught a lesson.

These are mostly action and plot-centered tales that make people feel good. These stories are usually about athletic events: tennis, baseball, football, soccer, cheer leading, skiing, etc.

People like to root for the little guy. Like the con or heist, there is typically an assembling of a team. The coach or leader of the team is considered the protagonist. The
 coach often has something to prove or to regain his winning streak.

In the Team Victory story, the antagonist heads up the opposition. There can be additional antagonistic forces at play, but the antagonist is the owner, sponsor, star, or coach of the opposing team.

External Conflict scenes are all about the competition. These are the games or events that lead up to the final face-off. They will win some and lose some. These are the cheerleading competitions, the dance recitals, the school debates, or the spelling bees. The climax is the final confrontation, win or lose.

Antagonist Conflict scenes, depending on the points of view, are the exchanges between the two coaches or team leaders. They follow the opposing team coach as he fuels the flames of competition or the opposing boxer who is being blackmailed into throwing the match. The antagonist’s POV can be explored in this story. These are the scenes where we see him urging his team toward victory or where the head coach or player brags about his prowess. It can also be scenes where the antagonist and protagonist face each other alone to exchange threats.

Interpersonal Conflict scenes reveal how the individual team members succeed, fail, fight, and work at crossed purposes. The underdog shows his talent. The friends and foes manipulate and undermine and cheat to win. The opposing team member throws a game on purpose to help the other team.

Internal Conflict scenes show the coach wondering why he is being punished this way. We find out about his drinking habit. Or we find out why the head cheerleader is so insecure. We find out about the fight he threw or the relationship he destroyed by his need to compete. We watch him struggle between what is right and wrong. How far is she willing to compromise her integrity to win? She struggles with the abusive parent or the overachieving sibling. Maybe he wants his wife back or to win the respect of his father or his child. Maybe he needs to overcome low self-esteem or repay a gambling debt.

Next week, we explore Thriller and Suspense subgenres.

Check out the newly released Team Victory Build A Plot Workbook available in print and e-book.

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.

Science Fiction Skeleton

Last week, we examined Science Fiction subgenres. This week, we examine the story building blocks for Science Fiction.

The overall story problem pits good against cosmic evil.

The reader asks: Will the hero, find, change, or stop something in time?

These stories explore the boundaries beyond what is known, therefore anything can happen. There is usually a protagonist on a quest to find, change or stop something. Something happens to threaten the existence of a place, humanity or a group of beings. Science Fiction stories, by definition, have some element of plausibility.

They can be set in space, on earth, in the future, or an alternative version of the past or an alternate version of the present. The stakes are high. The villains can be mad scientists, aliens, earth-like tribes, viruses, evil rulers, robots, androids or bands of intergalactic bad guys bent on conquering the planet. 

The conflicts involve how the characters deal with this cosmic problem. They often explore the effect of science on civilization, especially science gone wrong.  It can be about exploring the galaxy or atoms. They sometimes feature aliens but don’t have to. The Planet of the Apes is an example of exploring the earth in a different way.

You must have a well-developed story world with rules of what can and cannot happen in it. You must stick to those rules or you lose your  audience. You cannot change them mid-story. Audiences will go with you anywhere in the Sci-Fi realm as long as you make the cause and effect tight and logical. These stories allow us to explore themes from our own world: wars, famine, disease, genetic tinkering, technology, space exploration, industrialization, and genocide. Setting these stories in a different world removes the need to be politically correct and themes can challenge our current beliefs.

In Science Fiction stories, the protagonist is the star ship captain, the head Klingon, the research scientist, or astronaut. It is the person responsible for attempting to restore cosmic or scientific balance.

The antagonist is the source of the threat. This is the lead Klingon, the mad scientist, the out of control space captain, or the leader of the Planet of the Apes. It can be a virus, but if there is a team investigating the virus, someone in that team needs to offer some resistance.

External Conflict scenes focus on the central conflict between cosmic good and evil. The star captain leads the charge against the aliens, the arctic station is attacked by giant insects or the Klingons invade the star ship. Scientists make an important discovery. A spaceship wrecks on a distant planet. Everyone is involved in this cosmic fight. These are the battle scenes, the interplanetary council meetings, and the smaller battles leading up to the final battle. These are scenes where the entire planet awaits the streaking asteroid, the Klingons fire on the Vulcan ship, or the Men in Black face the giant cockroach. 

Antagonist Conflict scenes are where the opposing sides face off. If you follow the antagonist’s POV, these are scenes that show him hatching his lethal plans. The head Klingon and Captain cross swords or verbally spar. The giant insect rallies his troops. If the antagonist has a strong belief system, this is where he can argue his side of the thematic question to his henchmen. He actively works to achieve his goal. You can explore the antagonist’s personal dilemma in these scenes too. 

Interpersonal Conflict scenes focus on those helping and hindering the protagonist and/or antagonist and those involved in the subplots. The captain and his lieutenant disagree about how to handle the attack. The astronauts plan a way off the planet behind the captain’s back. Some will urge the hero to take the right action, some will stand in his way. He may be distracted by the beautiful young emissary from planet Zircon. His girlfriend might want him to give up alien hunting to settle down on Venus. These scenes can follow the friends and foes and reveal their true motives.

Internal Conflict scenes show the captain wrestling with his obligation to save the world. He debates his sanity or worries about his dying mother. He struggles with his addiction to Vesuvian wine or his past obsession with winning at any cost. This is the demon that drives him, the character flaw that trips him up. He reveals his innermost thoughts about the conflict or debates whether his sacrifice is for the greater good. 

For more information on building the Science Fiction story, check out the newly released Science Fiction Build A Plot workbook, available in print and e-book.

Next week, we examine the Team Victory 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.

Science Fiction Subgenres

Last month, we looked at building blocks for the Romance structure. This week, we look at subgenres of Science Fiction.

1. Alternate History Sci Fi could feature time travel as a device, but is considered separate from Time Travel SF. It explores what our world would look like if a specific historical event turned out differently.

2. Apocalyptic Science Fiction explores what happens after an apocalypse caused by war, pandemics, natural disasters, or nuclear weapons. It can explore the moments immediately following it or project the progress into the future.

2. Cyberpunk Science Fiction is a relatively new subgenre in which stories are set in the near-future and explore advances in information technology and the internet, prosthetics, and artificial intelligence. It explores themes of government and control. T
he protagonist is often a reluctant hero.

3. Hard Science Fiction demands rigorous attention to accuracy in your details. Hard-core “science geeks” will be harsh in their criticism if the research isn’t accurate.

4. Military Science Fiction features conflicts between nations or interstellar forces. The protagonist is usually a soldier. These stories explore military technology, procedures, culture, and history.

5. Social/Soft Science Fiction explores topics such as economics, psychology, political science, sociology, and anthropology. They focus more on the characters and the emotions surrounding the cosmic threats. They can explore alternative Utopian or Dystopian societies on earth or in an earth-like place.

6. Space Opera Science Fiction is more action and adventure than thematic exploration. The attention to scientific detail is slim. They feature Fantasy-like heroes on quests to save the world. There can be an element of comedy.

7. Superhuman Science Fiction explores humans with abilities above and beyond normal for the current era. This can be through genetic mutation, genetic tinkering, or prosthetic augmentation. These stories explore what it means to be human and what we lose if we start altering our DNA, bodies, or minds. They examine the line between human and nonhuman.

8. Time Travel Science Fiction is a subgenre that started with Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, then came H. G. Wells's The Time Machine. These stories explore the question of what happens if you tinker with the past. Can you or should you? What are the repercussions if you do?

9. Space Western Science Fiction combines SF with the Western structure. It can feature cowboys and aliens or take place in space colonies that resemble the Wild West. 

Next week, we explore the building blocks for the Science Fiction story skeleton. For more information on building the Science Fiction story, check out the newly released Science Fiction Build A Plot Workbook, available in print and e-book.

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.

Working with Romance

Several of my past blog posts have dealt with the topic of Romance. Click on the links to continue reading about developing believable lovers, what currency is and how it works, and booby traps to avoid when writing about relationships.

1. Not sure what you want to write? One story, eight options

Romance Subgenres

The Romance Story Skeleton

Dressing Up Your Romance

2. What are the temperament types like as lovers?

Sixteen Lovers Part 1

Sixteen Lovers Part 2

Sixteen Lovers Part 3

Sixteen Lovers Part 4

3. What is emotional currency and how does it manifest in your novel?

Tapping Your Characters' Currency

Currency in Action:

Points of Connection

Obstacles to love

4.  Avoid the pitfalls of bad romance.

Subliminal Messages in Romance

The Trouble With Romance

Bad Romance

Toxic Messages in Fiction 1

Toxic Messages in Fiction 2

You can have conflict without severe dysfunction. Heaven knows the world needs less bad bad boy/bad girl role models.

To learn more about plotting the Romance, check out the recently released Romance Build A Plot Workbook available in print and e-book.

Next week, we will examine Science Fiction subgenres.

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.