The Starman Saga

Monday, October 30, 2023

Build Your Novel: Essential Elements


A story is the tale of a person in a place overcoming a conflict. While that might seem obvious, each of these elements is essential for a story to be told. The tale is the necessary exposition of the action, the history, the culture, and the consequences of actions. The person is the protagonist with whom the reader relates and through whose choices the reader experiences the story. The place is the setting in which the story takes place; it frames the actions that occur and restricts the choices available to the characters. The conflict is the antagonist that forces the protagonist to make choices that result in actions with consequences. These elements need not be described equally, but they must all be present. 

A story is the result of a protagonist making choices and taking action in opposition to an antagonist. Importantly, one of the primary elements should be interacting in every scene of the story; a novel will contain many different arrangements of protagonist, antagonist, and setting. Each of these is related to the primary arrangement of protagonists, antagonists, and setting known as the primary conflict. As the story progresses, these essential elements will be used in various combinations to provide context and scope for the primary conflict by setting up and resolving multiple non-primary conflicts.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Build Your Novel: Rough Outline

The rough outline will guide your progress through your novel. It ensures that you stay on track by developing plot points so that each section is building towards an end goal. It maintains the reader's interest by providing complications and resolutions at appropriate intervals. It provides you with writing goals that enable you to chart your work. Importantly, your rough outline is a framework upon which to build, not a straightjacket to confine your writing. The rough outline forms the structural layout of your story by specifying the important events, complications, plot twists, and resolutions of your novel.

The structure of your rough outline begins with an instigating event, continues with one or more waypoints, concludes with a resolution, and finishes with a denouement. The instigating event is the impetus for the story; without this event, no other events would be set in motion, and the characters would have no choices to make. In a 50,000 word novel, this guide waypoints at 10K, 20K, and 30K words. This allows for three major plot twists or complications. Each plot twist or complication must serve a specific purpose in the story that advances the plot towards the resolution. The resolution occurs at 40K words, which allows time for all of the complications to be resolved. The novel finished with a denouement in which any remaining plot threads may be resolved or addressed, and in which the characters can be given a form of closure in their arc.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Get the Build Your Novel Worksheet

 Find the worksheet right here.

Download it. Print it out. Leave it in your shared folder.

Do whatever you need to do to make it work for you.

But whatever you do....

....get scribblin'!

Monday, October 16, 2023

Build Your Novel: High Concept

Your book begins with a High Concept. The High Concept statement will not be seen by your readers, it is for you alone. It's purpose is to help guide your writing by keeping you focused on a single set of information that will be consistent throughout your story. A strong High Concept helps keep your story consistent in its plot direction and presentation of elements. A weak High Concept means your story is more likely to be inconsistent, with elements that don't mesh well overall. Importantly, your High Concept is not set in stone. As your story and outline develop, you will revise your High Concept until the story is finished and the editing process begins.

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Forward the Foundation

Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series is most well known as the winner of the Hugo Award for “Best All-Time Series” in 1966, the only series to date to which the award has been given. Asimov himself assumed the award had been created to honor J.R.R. Tolkien and was surprised to receive it. The original short stories were published between 1942 and 1950 in the pages of Astounding Magazine. These were later collected, and additional material added to form the novels known as the Foundation Trilogy.

The impact of the Foundation stories has been felt in every form of series fiction written since its time, and most significantly in the fiction written for tabletop and electronic gaming. Until Foundation, attempts to build a cohesive mythology around an entirely fictional setting had been mostly accidental and abortive. It’s possible that Asimov’s work was taken more seriously than E.E. Smith’s Lensman series (with which it shares many similarities) due to Asimov’s emphasis on science and problem-solving rather than action, and his choice of humans as the protagonists instead of Smith’s Arisians. It also seems likely that Asimov’s writing was more approachable than Tolkien’s heavily literary style.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Book Talk! Author Catherine Gruben Smith talks about the Sojourners series.

Catherine Gruben Smith writes introspective science fiction in a post-apocalyptic world of kingdoms founded solely on surviving books.

The Sojourner's Kingdom is attacked and conquered when their foundational book - a King James Bible - is stolen. Traveling minstrels Joe and Cobeau rescue the twin brother and sister of the Sojourner's Judge, the only survivors of their family. Together, they embark on a quest to recover their stolen Bible. But all is not as it seems to be, and their bonds of faith, family, and friendship will either be refined in the fire or burned into ash.

Find out more about Catherine Gruben Smith and her books!

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Atomic Robo the RPG by Evil Hat

Atomic Robo premiered in 2007 as a six-issue mini-series, quickly gaining a cult following and branching out into the two ongoing titles “Atomic Robo” and “Atomic Robo: Real Science Adventures”. The story chronicles the adventures of Atomic Robo, a self-aware mechanical man created by Nikola Tesla. Each story arc focuses on a different era in the life of Robo, beginning in the 1920s and continuing to the near future. The stories imitate the pulp action novels of the 30s and 40s, with a healthy mix of Tom Swift in the recipe. Robo's foundation, Tesladyne, employs “Action Scientists”, which pretty much sums up the book's approach to storytelling. Recurring antagonists include Dr. Dinosaur (an intelligent deinonychus) and the ghost (phasically fluxed corporeal entity) of Thomas Edison. The creators premiered a free webcomic release for the entire series in January 2015 as a promotion for the tenth volume of the series, “Atomic Robo and the Ring of Fire.”
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