Mid-week Technique: shifting goals

Keep those awesome writing questions coming! Today’s query: “what to do when your character goals change mid-story?”

So, let’s talk about the two types of character goals: internal and external. The external is a tangible thing, a want that the character is pursuing at the start of the story. This can be a wife, money, status, boyfriend, a new job, an object, escape from a terrible relationship, etc. In my latest book, A Precious Inheritance, both my hero and heroine desperately want the unpublished manuscript of a deceased best selling author. In my first book, my hero needs answers to his past.

The internal goal is something deep inside that character – a need, a desire – that drives them to action. Your characters are more often than not, unaware of this internal goal – to them, it’s all about the external. Your hero is not going to stop and think “I need a wife to gain control of my father’s shares and in the process will fulfill a deep-seated need for love and loyalty I’ve been lacking.” 😀 The internal is an emotional, unseen, driving force that enhances and feeds into their external goal. For example, your heroine may want to buy a home because deep down, she craves that sense of security and belonging that were lacking when she was growing up. I made a comprehensive list of goals (or wants) ages ago, so here they are:

  • Freedom
  • Adventure
  • Unconditional Love
  • Honour
  • Acceptance
  • Money/wealth
  • Family
  • Status quo
  • Status
  • Respect
  • Revenge
  • Justice
  • Power
  • Security/home
  • Knowledge

I have more on my Write a Novel in 3 months articles here and here.

The internal goals do not shift. That is the whole point of your character’s journey, their driving force that gets them from Chapter 1 to The End. Their internal goal has been formed and shaped throughout their lives, driving their choices.

What can change is their external goal. For example, a girl desperately wants to seduce her hot neighbor, so gets her male best friend to give her seduction techniques. At some point in the story, her external goal (the hot neighbor) changes to the best friend. In one of my works-in-progress, my warrior hero’s external goal is to escape captivity to live a life in solitude. Of course, this goal changes after he meets the heroine and they have to battle together to overthrow the evil king. What doesn’t change is his internal goal, which is peace and acceptance.

The other thing to consider is WHY their external goal changes. Is it because your character’s beliefs have changed? Has something happened? Have they gotten new insight or new information into a previous situation or happening that prompts the change?

Changing your character’s external goal is not bad. It can enhance and enrich your story, provide plot twists and keep your reader hooked. But be aware of why it’s changing. As long as it is in keeping with your character’s core beliefs then go for it!

Mid-week Technique – Deep POV

So here’s a question from a writer: “should I put everything into deep point of view when the heroine is doing stuff or only when she is thinking. Where is it good to keep 3rd person?”

Okay, let me preface this by saying I sometimes have NO CLUE what I’m doing when it comes to technical, writerly stuff 😀  That said, I’ll attempt to answer this question by providing insight into the way I write.  It may work for you, it may not.

So, what is deep point of view?  Simply, it is where you are in one character’s head so deeply that you’re no longer the author telling the story, you are your character.  It also means the absence of tags e.g. she thought, he wondered.  It’s a technique that adds an extra layer of emotional depth and punch to your story.  For example:

BEFORE:
John looked at his father, angry roiling through him.

AFTER:
You bastard.  Anger roiled, thick and all-encompassing.  I hate you.  I’ve always hated you.

By removing ‘his’ and ‘him’ which can distance you, I’ve focused on internal dialogue and the physical/emotional impact of that anger.

DPOV is also about using signature actions/reactions unique to your character, and can include phrases, internal thoughts, particular movements or ticks.

Should you put everything into deep POV?  And where is it good to keep third person?  You’re not gonna like this answer but… it depends on the story.  Told you :smile:.  I like to use DPOV at highly emotional moments – love scenes, black moments, emotional revelations – to create greater impact for the reader.  I like the immediacy of DPOV and the fact that we’re in the character’s head, thinking and feeling their emotions.  Anything that is done well, and creates a better way to tell the story is all right by me!

For further reading, I’d recommend this most awesome article at the RT BookReviews site.

And finally – anyone care to share your before/afters?

Midweek Technique – where to start your story

How many of you answered “at the beginning – DUH!” ? 😀

Yes, it does seem obvious, doesn’t it?  But just where do you determine the beginning? Where your main characters first meet?  When your heroine wakes up?  When the killer is stalking his next victim?  Or when your hero is ruminating about this two-year old divorce?

As a contest judge, I see so many entries that start in the wrong place.  Definitely one, sometimes two chapters of slow, plodding narrative/introspection/description that really let a good story down.  Now, short of me reading your stories and saying “ah-HA!  Forget all that other stuff – here’s where you should start!” you’re going to figure it out yourselves.

So where do you start?  At a point of major change.

Chris Vogler (he of the awesome The Writers Journey), Michael Hauge (he of the awesome Writing Screenplays That Sell) and various other writing legends (Robert McKee included) call it The Call To Adventure.  It is your character’s ‘jolt’: some event or realization that shocks them out of their Ordinary World and shakes up their life.  They have to make a choice when confronted by this call – if they can ignore it and go back to their normal lives without a backwards glance, then it is not a true call.

To elaborate and get you thinking, here’s an example:

Your heroine is about to walk into an interview for a new job.  She’s sat in the reception area, thinking about how desperate she is for this job, how much this money would mean to her family, to her sick father who’s just finished another round of chemo and the bills are mounting up.  She wonders about her brother, who’s conveniently living overseas and unable to contribute.  Her dead mother who was a saint when she was living and would hate to see her little girl now working 24/7 to support her father.  She ruminates about her last few low-paid jobs, her terrible bosses and wonders what this new one would be like to work for.  She’s heard he’s demanding but fair – the same can’t be said for the man’s son who seems to be content spending his time surfing and partying.  Partying… she thinks briefly about last weekend, where she got to let her hair down for once, and ended up a little drunk and making out with the cute bartender in the parking lot.

This goes on for a page or two, until the office door finally opens and…. yep, the son aka cute bartender stands on the threshold.

So where would you start this story?  Hands up who said “where the office door opens”?

Why?  Because it’s our heroine’s Call to Adventure.  She has a choice – either step up and go right on into that interview (aka Stepping Across the Threshold) or turn and leave.  All that introspection, all that past stuff is past, and can be filtered in elsewhere.  You also don’t need pages upon pages of it because introspection tends to slow the pace – and you want your readers to jump right into your story at Chapter 1, not get bogged down with unimportant details.  A simple “She wanted this job.  No, she needed it.  More than she’d ever needed anything in her life.”  would suffice to show the reader her desire.  Then you can sprinkle in the whys later, through dialogue, deep POV and introspection.

Alternatively, if you do start with your heroine sitting there, waiting for the interview, this can be a good opportunity to get some brief backstory across, enough to whet the reader’s appetite but not too much that will have them skimming the paragraphs.  The key to this is smart editing: knowing when too much is overkill and just plain boring (see example above).

It’s important to note that in category romances, the sooner you can get your hero and heroine together at the start, the better.  Why?  Because it will throw your reader right into the story, as well as highlighting the conflict that will carry your story along.  Of course, this isn’t a rule, but you only have a short word count so you have to make every.  Word.  Count.

Midweek Technique – switching point of view

Today I’m talking about point of view (POV). Stop me if you’ve heard any of these before:

  1. “You should only be in one character’s head per scene – no switching point of view.”
  2. “Readers don’t want to know what your hero is thinking –  it’s your heroine’s story, so tell it from her viewpoint.”
  3. “Whatever you do, don’t head hop!”
  4. “You should stick with just your hero and heroine’s POV.”
  5. “If you write first-person POV, your reader won’t empathise with your other characters.”

Now, while I’m not going to argue the pros and cons of these (sadly, all-too-real) statements, I will talk about effectively and smoothly switching from one character’s POV to the other.  And it is really, really simple.

Here’s a paragraph I prepared earlier:

Jenny gasped, the breath in her throat burning the way the whiskey had done only moments before.  Jason’s hand on her wrist tightened, fingers digging into her soft tender flesh and her anger flashed behind bright blue eyes.  He smiled, knowing he was affecting her, judging by the way her pulse leaped under his fingers.

Gosh, it’s actually painful  to leave that badly written paragraph intact :angry: !  Argghh!!  So, what do we know about this para?

Sentence 1 – we’re in Jenny’s POV.  Why?  Because of ‘the breath in her throat burning’.  This is something she feels, that no-one else can.

Sentence 2 – we start out in Jenny’s POV (his hand on her wrist tightened) but end up in Jason’s because of the ‘anger flashed behind her bright blue eyes’.  Because she can’t see her anger, and she wouldn’t think ‘my bright blue eyes’.

Sentence 3 – In his POV, because he feels her pulse beneath his fingers.

So how to fix it?  Before I do that, here’s some important things about POV switches:

  1. not every POV switch should start with an extra line space – in fact, if you do this in the same scene, it will only jar your reader, because ‘extra space’ means ‘later on’ or ‘this is a new scene’.  Yes, some publishers do it and it annoys the hell out of me!
  2. too many POVs in one scene and you start to lose the tension of the moment, plus annoy and possibly confuse your reader
  3. an effective way to start a new POV is with a new paragraph, and the character’s name, followed by something only they would know/think/feel

So, rewriting the above sentences (plus making our hero a little less like a violent jerk…):

Jenny gasped, the breath in her throat burning the way the whiskey had done only moments before.  When his Jason’s hand on her wrist tightened, fingers digging into her tender flesh, and her anger flashed behind bright blue eyes surged, giving her enough strength to break his possessive grip.

“Don’t touch me!”

“That’s not what you were saying last night.”

Jason He smiled and let her put distance between them, even though his entire body ached to get up and personal with that luscious mouth of hers.  A now-scowling mouth that had only been too willing to open up for him last night.  He sure as hell knew he affected her too,  knowing he was affecting her, judging by her those flashing blue eyes and her leaping pulse he’d briefly held leaped under his fingers.

Somewhat better 🙂

So to reiterate: when you are in one person’s head, use words and thoughts that they would say and feel, and describe stuff via their eyes.

Easy Way to Count your POV Switches

Use either the highlighter option in Word, or do a printout and use highlighter pens (I do blue for my hero, pink for my heroine).  So when you spread your scene out across your table or floor, you have a visual representation.

But how many switches is too much?

Well, I can’t answer that for you.  But I can tell you I had to rework one scene in my last book because I was all over the place with those switches.  It started off in his POV, then went to hers, then back to his on the same page, then back to hers, then his>hers again.  Gave me whiplash!

I’ve heard writers say “think about who has the most to lose in the scene and write it from their POV” but honestly, this is a bit hit and miss for me.  I work out whose head I’m going to start in based on a) how I ended the prior chapter or scene, plus b) what the reader needs to know about this character right now in the story.   My rough draft will be riddled with way too many POV switches and it really only takes minor editing (after I highlight my scene) to cut those jumps.  And sometimes that information in that character’s head can be best used in another scene, at another time.

Midweek Technique – what does your character want?

wouldn’t mind this house, too…

Everyone wants something.  I want a new pair of winter boots, a hot tangerine computer bag, a holiday in Hawaii and a summer house in the Gold Coast.  Materialistic, sure.  But hey, they’re my genuine wants!

Your characters, however, are not just average people.  ‘More money’ isn’t a justifiable want for a billionaire unless there’s a reason behind it.  That reason will keep the reader turning the page, wondering if they will actually achieve their goal of getting that want.

So what is a want?  The online dictionary offers up these choices: need, desire, wish, goal, crave, demand.  So, realistically, let’s take a few examples.  In Star Wars, Luke Skywalker wants to get off Tatooine and have an adventure.  Simple.  Princess Leia wants to blow up the Death Star.  Indiana Jones wants to find the Ark of the Covenant.  Ben Gates (National Treasure) wants to find the Templar treasure.  Lightning McQueen (Cars) wants to win the Piston Cup. The Beast (Beauty and the Beast) wants to break the witch’s spell.

Whatever the want, your character must be actively pursuing it.  And the desire for that want will be formed and shaped by their past, what they had and didn’t have growing up.  A want is as individual as your characters and their past.  Did they have a lot of money growing up?  Or none at all?  Do they come from single parent family? Were they adopted? Did one parent leave? Did they have an idyllic childhood or was it abusive?  If, for example, you want to write a hero who is distrustful of people, think about the ways in which a person logically comes to distrust.  Was he betrayed at some stage in his life?  Lied to? What situations was he in to form his distrust?

I had that same issue with the hero in my latest book, A Precious Inheritance (Desire, October 2012).  Chase Harrington has major issues of trust and I had to create a traumatic background to realistically reflect that.  I put that poor guy through hell, actually 😀 But it worked because the more you uncover about him, the more sympathetic you become.

Now, from your character’s want comes your Story Question,  a major question which is posed at the beginning  (in Act 1)  and which carries through to the end, forming the driving force of your story. So if we use the above examples, the story questions will be:

  • Star Wars – will the rebels blow up the Death Star?
  • National Treasure – will Ben Gates find the missing Templar Treasure?
  • Cars – Will Lightning McQueen win the Piston Cup?
  • Beauty and the Beast – will the Beast break the witch’s spell?

yeah, cool skyline but I’d want off this planet too…

Now, at some stage in your story, the answer to this Story Question will look like a big, fat NO.   It will be a black moment (sometimes The Black Moment) were all seems to be lost, where the bad guys look like triumphing, the treasure will stay hidden, the race will not be won or your hero has lost the heroine’s love forever.  For those of you familiar with the Three Act Structure method, this generally comes at the transition between Act 2 and 3.

So here’s some homework.  Have a think about what your character wants, then form your Story Question.  A physical want will often reflect an internal need, for example your heroine may want a promotion (external) because it will gain the love and respect of her father (internal).

Cue the thinking music….. aaaaand….  done?

Midweek Technique – From No to Yes: The Six Stages of Change for your Characters

if only this came standard…

I recently read an interesting article about the decision making process of people suffering from addiction problems and how they are motivated to change.  It’s not such a  gloomy piece as you may think: it gave me a fabulous idea for a brand-new article.  What I’ve done is taken those headings and descriptions and expanded on them, just for you.  So, here we go!

The Six Stages of Change are:

  • precontemplation
  • contemplation
  • determination
  • action
  • maintenance trials and failures – I’ve used artistic license to rename this!
  • termination – a new person – ditto

Precontemplation



This is the stage where your character is oblivious for any need to change.  They may think they are perfectly happy in their ordinary world,  or if they’re not, don’t see the issues as any major problem.

There’s four reasons to be in precontemplation, and they are “the Four Rs” —reluctance, rebellion, resignation and rationalization:

  • Reluctant precontemplators – lack knowledge or inertia to consider change. The impact of the problem has not become fully conscious.
  • Rebellious precontemplators – have a heavy investment in making their own decisions and are resistant to being told what to do.
  • Resigned precontemplators – have given up hope about the possibility of change and seem overwhelmed by the problem. Many have made many attempts to change or gain control of their situation before
  • Rationalizing precontemplators – have plenty of reasons why they don’t have a problem or why others have the problem and not them

Contemplation

Characters at this stage of change are willing to consider the possibility that all is not right in their world.  However, they are highly ambivalent to changing.  This stage is not a commitment for them, and many may be interested in seeking out scenarios to their ‘problem’.  For example, a heroine unhappy with her career may check out study opportunities or read the employment section, or discuss her situation with a friend or colleague.  But even with all the negatives, they still cannot make a decision to change.

They may also consider the pros and cons of their behavior, and the pros and cons of change. They may think about the previous attempts they have made to change, and what has caused failure in the past.

Determination (Commitment to Action
)

This is also what I refer to as “the Call to Action”.  Something happens that forces your character to want to change.  Changing may not be their choice, but to do nothing would be more painful, uncomfortable or unacceptable than changing.  Whatever forces your character to change is rooted in their back story – what do they want most out of life?  What do they fear the most?  What are they not willing to concede?

Whatever happens to change their minds, they are now fully commitment to doing something.

Action (Implementing the Plan)

Your character will put their an action plan into motion, whether it be a formal contract, a to-do list, a verbal agreement with another character, physical move or just a mental commitment to themselves.  This may also require help and/or encouragement from others – a mentor, friends, relatives, work colleague.  Even the memory of a person close to their heart may be the encouragement they need to get moving.

For those of you using the Three Act Structure, this is your turning point from Act 1 to 2 – the ‘opening of the door to a different world’.

Trials and failures ( learning from their mistakes and getting better)

Change requires building a new pattern of behaviour over time, and with that will come tests, challenges and obstacles for your character.  Of course, in order for them to succeed and deserve their reward, they will have to fail and learn from those failures.

This is also where the character gets to the “I hate this/I can’t do this, I want to go back to the way things were.” stage.  A very powerful pull indeed.  But of course, things have changed so much (or they have changed!) that they cannot.

The experience of failing, then regrouping, then trying again, often strengthens a person’s determination to stay on the path they have chosen.  They may get encouragement from others (a mentor, or an enemy who believes they will fail) and will think about why they originally chose this path, which in turn makes them stronger.

A new person 



The original article referred to this stage as the sufferer ‘terminating’ their addiction need.  Not so good when talking about the triumph of a character 😀

In romantic fiction, the ultimate goal in the change process is happiness for your character, whether it be a new job, gaining freedom, respect, finding the love of their life or simply being happy that they succeeded at an insurmountable  task.  The journey they took has had an impact on them, teaching them a valuable life lesson.  They will be a different person with a new life outlook, have gained greater understanding or simply achieved peace within themselves.

Midweek Technique – writing a novel (or series) for the busy writer

I was actually going to call this post “writing for the shark brain” (on account of sharks having a three-second retentive memory) but I think  ‘busy writer’ is nicer and implies that we’re all doing other, just-as- important things, right? 🙂

Here’s the thing.  I am hopelessly disorganized and tend to forget stuff that goes on in my stories.  So what I’m going to do for this post is share with you a method I’ve been using that will (hopefully!) keep you organized so you can devote more time to the actual writing.

For the past :ahem!: few years, I’ve been steadily working on an epic medieval fantasy novel that will most likely end up as a series. The first thing I did – after writing down a heap of notes and the first 40 pages, then getting confused as all hell because I hadn’t properly organized everything – was to set up a bible.  I had some experience a few years back with our Diamonds Down Under mini series for Desire, so I knew what needed to be done.  Here’s what I started with:

  • A ring binder for each book.  I love color, so this binder must be appealing.  I sought out some bendy, A4 two-ring binders because they weren’t huge (I could carry them around) and felt really nice
  • a bunch of page indexes.  I got see-thru colored ones slightly larger than an A4 page, because sometimes I need to add pictures and magazine snippets in plastic sleeves, and those would normally block out the tabs.  I also have a labeller, which again makes the tabs more visually pleasing than my scrawly writing

Of course, you could just as easily organize your filing system on your computer.  Scrivener for Mac is apparently great, and I have a cute iPod app called aNote too, which has tabbed folders.  But I like physical pages, like flicking through them and grabbing a pen and writing down stuff.

So on the index page for the first book went the following headings:

  • Planet – this includes geographic history, maps/layout, oceans, cities, land and where it lies within the solar system.  How long is a day, month, year?  Does it have a sun and how long does it take to orbit it?  A moon?  Also who and what live on the planet, including flora and fauna.
  • History – this is all about the planet’s history and its ruling classes, invasions, wars, decrees and monarchy
  • The Exiles – the original natives of my planet, now oppressed and in hiding.  What special powers do they possess, what can they/can’t they do, how does their society function?
  • The Court – the current rulers of the planet.  How does their society run, what are their rules and customs, is there a seedy underbelly to this society (oh, yeah, there is 😀  )
  • Myths/Legends – who the natives pray to, who is the God of what and what powers (if any) they were said to possess
  • The Book of Truth – an ancient text handed down from the first living native, chronicling the planet’s history. Basically their bible

You could also go into greater detail and separate the “planet” tab into subcategories like flora, fauna etc.  But for now, this works for me.

My Short Category Novels

Of course, this procedure works perfectly well with category too, but because I’ve had so much practice at those, I don’t need to prepare to this extent (a backstory timeline, GMC, synopsis and I’m ready to go).   For these, one tab in a folder is sufficient, and in that tab I have separate pages:

  • Photos of the hero and heroine – face shots, different poses, suggestions for cover art
  • Home – where each of them live, their house/apartment, location and scenery
  • Their stuff – what means the most to them?  Do they have a fancy car?  A piece of treasured jewellery?  A pet or favourite food?  Pictures of shoes/dresses are also included here

I also do a collage of sorts – my characters’ faces, a photo of something significant, and a home interior – that stays pinned above my desk until the story is complete, then gets filed into the folder.  I also have a back story timeline that keeps me on track with their history, too.

So over to you.  What have you found works for you when you’re writing?  Do you use a bible?  Sticky notes?  A notebook? Or a whizz-bang computer program?

Midweek Technique – Nine Points of Trust

Welcome to my brand-new column!  I’ve decided to devote Wednesdays to writing-related issues, articles or links I’ve found that will (hopefully!) help all you writers (ALL writers, not just romance!) out there.

So here we go – my first topic.  I actually came across this issue as I was writing my seventh book (A Precious Inheritance, part of Desire’s exciting Highest Bidder continuity), and after I handed it in, wondered if other writers had the same issue.  Mainly, the two main characters (in my case, my hero and heroine) start off at the beginning of the story disliking and mistrusting each other, and over the course of the book, they end up trusting, then loving, to reach their happy-ever-after.  But just how do you practically write about that?  How do you show that gradual change of mind – in actual words on the page – that will be convincing to your reader?

This analysis warranted going to the movies, plus my trusty index cards, and I think I managed to pin down Nine Points of Trust.  For ease of writing, I have made the heroine the distrustful one, but this can go both ways.  Plus, for a point of reference, I’ll use one of my favorite movies – I, Robot  (featuring the fabbo Will Smith) – as an example.  So here we go.

1. MISTRUST (internal emotion)

Mistrust is formed either through direct deeds of your character or via others’ deeds.  This creates conflict within your character and arouses strong emotions.  Reasons for this mistrust can include:

  • opposites from different walks of life
  • he stands for something she hates (and vice versa)
  • opposing goals (she wants something and he stands in her way)
  • bad deeds done (e.g. he’s destroyed her father’s livelihood)
  • bad family (tainted by association)
  • tainted past
  • different beliefs

At this stage, there can be attraction or not, and your character can either acknowledge that or not. e .g. “Sure, he was gorgeous, but he also represented ten years of oppression and ridicule.”

2. REITERATING MISTRUST (external/internal)

  • This can happen through observation, an event or dialogue.  Your character observes, or is told/reads about events that seem to reiterate their mistrust.

3. 1ST SEED PLANTED LEADING TO FIRST DOUBT (external/internal)

  • Something happens that the character either witnesses or experiences first hand that plants the first seed of doubt
  • The hero may be compared to another character in a scene, and the other character comes off worse.  For e.g. the way your hero treats servants, waiters, colleagues and the less fortunate will say a lot about his character.  If you have a scene where your heroine can see him interacting with others in a positive light, this will cast that shadow of doubt. Chivalry, politeness, courtesy are all good qualities in a hero.
  • Your character knows there’s something ‘not right’, but cannot put their finger on it.  The ‘not rightness’ can be acknowledged as attraction.  The body thinks ‘attraction’, but the head can think ‘just another reason not to trust him.’
  • At this point, if your heroine’s mistrust is founded, she can walk away from the situation with no qualms.  She is not emotionally invested.

4. OUTSIDE INFLUENCES CREATE STRONGER DOUBT (external/internal)

  • Your heroine is getting a stronger impression of who your hero really is, which clashes with her beliefs
  • Other people/events occur to create a stronger comparison.  This can happen via family, friends, work, exes and/or events in which they’re thrown together
  • Remember, others may also have a stake in the heroine’s mistrust of your hero, too

5. 2ND SEED PLANTED – EMPATHY AND TENTATIVE TRUST (internal/external)

  • This is a coming together of goals – familiar traits/past/events are shared and a sort of ‘kindred spirit’ is formed
  • The hero could inadvertently help the heroine with a problem here, or stick up for someone who is close to her
  • At this stage, it would create emotional impact if her trust was misplaced now

6. OPENING OF THE MIND (internal)

  • Big step forward, where the heroine must make a choice of opening her mind to the possibility that her impression is wrong
  • She may take stock of past events to ensure she’s doing the right thing

7. 3RD SEED PLANTED – MAJOR EVENT (external event)

  • Heroine is now committed.  If mistrust is founded now, she will be emotionally affected
  • She realizes the hero is not a bad guy, she may even rationalize and think through some of the prior ‘bad deeds’ and come up with a healthier scenario
  • At this stage, she can also sway either way ==> there can be another event where she places even more trust in the hero OR something could happen that makes it impossible for her to reconcile the guy she’s come to know with the guy she thought she knew.  She knows in her heart that he’s a good guy

8. BLACK MOMENT AND REVELATION ***

  • Major point where all trust appears to be unfounded – it’s her worst fear realized
  • This is plot driven, and goes back to your initial story question that sets up the plot of the book – e.g. will they solve the mystery/fall in love/find the killer?

*** Depending on your story, Point 8 may not be needed.  Why not?  Well, sometimes (in short category, especially) it could be a bit of overkill: you’ve spent all those pages getting from distrust to trust, taking your readers on that journey and now something happens to seemingly blow it all out of the water.  I’m not saying it never works, but it could throw the story prior to that point into disarray.  For e.g. if the heroine can believe the hero is still the awful person she thought at the start of the book from one action/misunderstanding/revelation, then what was the point of the journey?

Of course it’s up to you, the writer, to make the point 🙂  I do have one moment in  book # 7 where the hero thinks the heroine is behind something illegal but after he thinks it through, realizes that’s a stupid thing to think.  Then he consequently beats himself up about it, believing he doesn’t deserve her if he can automatically doubt her integrity.  It’s not a chapter or a long scene, rather a few paragraphs, but it was a logical thought for this character, so I kept this step.

9. TRUST

  • Your character is now totally convinced of the others’ integrity.  This doesn’t mean they are blind to flaws
  • She knows the hero is a good person – this may involve some verbal communication, an apology or talking over their previous mistrust
  • They can see behind the mask to accept them, flaws and all

At this total point of trust, it doesn’t mean that’s the end of your story.  You will also have to tie up loose ends in your plot/secondary characters/backstory/character goals etc.  But it does mean that your characters will be working together for a common goal.

Now, on to the practical application of I, Robot.  The interesting thing here is that some points are actually grouped together and are in a different order.  Lemme show you:

gratuitous shirtless shot of Will Smith

I, ROBOT

Susan Calvin is a driven scientist dedicating her entire career to building and integrating robots into human society.  She is logical, clever and literal, and also appears to be lacking in humor.

Detective Del Spooner is a cocky charmer, hates robots and suspects one of killing the co-founder of United States Robotics, Dr Lanning, even though his death was deemed a suicide.

TOTAL DISTRUST

  • Dr Calvin is assigned to show Spooner around the USR building to complete his investigation.  His charm and flippancy clashes with her literal, scientific mind right away.  Then Spooner suspects a USR robot of killing Dr Lanning but Calvin is convinced the Three Laws (that govern all robots and protect all humans) are perfect ergo, a robot killing a human is impossible.  When Spooner shoots Sonny (the robot hiding in Dr Lanning’s office) Calvin’s mistrust is reiterated.  Then when Spooner starts shooting other robots to draw out Sonny (“they’re just lights and clockwork”), it just cements her mistrust
  • Spooner is determined to prove Sonny is the killer.  Calvin is adamant a robot cannot kill and believes Spooner to be irrational

REINFORCING DISTRUST

  • After a malfunction with a demolition bot at Lanning’s house, Spooner goes to see Calvin, but she refuses to believe his ‘killer robot’ theory, rather she says he has a ‘vendetta’.  They argue and Spooner says she likes robots because they’re cold and emotional.  She says it’s because they are safe and can’t hurt you.

SEED OF DOUBT PLANTED

  • When Spooner leaves, he hands her a photo of Calvin and the Doctor that he recovered in Dr Lanning’s house, and says “the problem is, I care.”  She chokes back tears and realizes Lanning meant something to him, too.

OUTSIDE INFLUENCES (leads to) ==> OPENING OF THE MIND

  • Calvin discovers Sonny is a completely new version of robot, one that has no USR uplink and can override the Three Laws if he so chooses.  He is unique.  He appears to have feelings and dreams, which throws doubt on everything she believes.

2ND SEED PLANTED – EMPATHY AND TENTATIVE TRUST and 3RD SEED – MAJOR EVENT

  • She hears Spooner has been in a car accident and goes to him to tell him about Sonny
  • When Calvin notices Spooner’s scars he finally tells her Dr Lanning gave him a robotic arm and lung after a horrific car accident, and also reveals a robot saved his life but not the girl’s in the next car.  The robot had analysed the survival probability and deemed his life to be the logical choice.  Spooner says a human would have saved her, thereby revealing his deep emotional mistrust of robots.
  • Calvin and Spooner go to the lab to talk to Sonny, where more clues are revealed.  Spooner calls Sonny “someone” instead of “something”, thereby increasing Calvin’s trust.

BETRAYAL

  • When they’re both discovered in the lab, Calvin’s boss tells her Spooner was suspended from duty, which shocks her.  Then her boss plays on her commitment and passion for robotics and convinces her Sonny must be terminated for the good of the robotics program and USR’s reputation.  Spooner believes she’s betrayed Sonny and is not interested in getting to the truth: “Somebody gets out of line around here and you just kill them.”

TOTAL TRUST

  • Spooner follows the clues on his own.  He leaves a message on Calvin’s phone, saying the old robots (who would have protected humans) are being destroyed by the new ones, but her personal robot intercepts the call.  Calvin witnesses her robot’s deception and suddenly realizes a) Spooner was right all along and b) she’s trapped in her apartment with a possible killer robot.
  • Spooner rescues Calvin.  She tells him she couldn’t kill Sonny – he is too unique – and they both sneak into USR to get to the bottom of who’s controlling the robots

Now, I realize these points are not gospel 😀  There could possibly be flaws and things I’ve omitted, but hey, that’s the beauty of discovering a different writing method, right?   Love to hear your thoughts!