Part 14: Rising Actions

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Dear Reader,

In this chapter, I’m going to talk about the plot diagram again. So far, we’ve covered the exposition box and the conflict box, but now it’s time to move into the rising actions and the climax.*

Let’s start with rising actions. Rising actions are the meat and potatoes of the story, so to speak. This is all of the drama and all of the events leading up to the main action of the story. The main event is called the climax, which can occur very close to the end of the book or earlier depending on what needs to happen to close the story afterwards. And what does this mean for your rising actions? Well, they can take up a lot of the story, or can end pretty early.

The main point of the rising actions is to keep your reader interested and reading while you build up the situation that truly frames the climax. If you don’t build up the suspense, then the main event isn’t as interesting.

Look at it this way, and I think I may have used this example before. If it’s a kids birthday, then you don’t just tell them what’s in the present. You give them hints or you go on and on making them guess for days before they actually get to open it. If you don’t tease the kid with what’s in the box, they aren’t as excited to open it, and when they do, it’s not as fun. But if they are really involved and they NEED to know what’s in the box, then opening it up is that much more exciting.

So if you have good rising actions, then your reader won’t be able to put the book down when they get to the main event, or the climax. Below are a few things that I’ve learned to use when getting the reader interested and involved with the story, and are also things that could be included in your rising actions if you want to lead up to a great climax:

Foreshadowing

You don’t notice this as much when you are reading a book, but it is very important when you are writing it. You need to keep your readers interested. To do this, you foreshadow, or hint around what might come next. For example, if you are writing a situation where the character is making a huge decision, you might want to hint around what will happen next if she chooses one way or another.

It’s like when you’re watching netflix, or any television show actually, when something huge happens and you think, “Well I need to know what happens next. Maybe just one more episode…” And two hours later you realize that you had eaten a whole bag of chips while watching Pretty Little Liars.

I don’t speak from experience or anything.

For others it’s like reading a really good series and you finish one book that had just been leaving hints about how something might happen, but it doesn’t yet. And you think, “Well, I need to know if this does end up happening. Just one more book…” And a couple hours later you realize that you finished the series and that it’s two in the morning.

Again, this has totally never happened to me.

The point is that hooking your reader isn’t enough. It may get them to pick up your book and read chapter one, but you need to hook them again and again. You need to keep make them wonder what will happen next by telling them what could happen. And you don’t always have to follow through with that original possibility, either. You could just use it to get them to turn the page, and then surprise them with something completely different.

Relate to the Reader

Think about a book you love. One that you really and truly would read again and again because you loved it so much the first time around. Here’s what you may realise: you can put yourself in the character’s shoes. This applies almost all of the time, with the exception of The Great Gatsby, where Fitzgerald wrote it in a way that is a great story, yet you are kind of supposed to hate all of the characters. There is an exception to every rule, and for this one it’s The Great Gatsby.

Anyway, you need to be able to adjust your character to your target audience so that you can help the reader get into the character’s shoes. When they are visualizing the story, you want them to be looking at it from the character’s perspective, not from their own.

And how do you do this? Picture your target audience. Okay, good. Now think about fone detail about them. Let’s say your audience is young children. They don’t have jobs or mortgages or that many responsibilities compared to other audiences. So in your book, you wouldn’t want to put in a bunch of stuff about money and loans from the bank or real estate, would you? That would just push them away, since they aren’t interested in that kind of thing.

See how simple it is? Just add in things to your story that would appeal to your audience, because then they will like your story more. And when they like your story more, they keep reading.

Drama and Twists

The rising actions can go on for quite a while in some cases, so you can’t just keep doing the same things over and over. Small revelations are nice to keep things interesting, but every now and then you need something huge to happen. Like, for example, finding out that someone has terminal cancer. In The Fault in our Stars, by John Green, finding out that Gus is going to die isn’t the climax, but it is something that foreshadows what is going to happen next, and you keep reading. Another example would be finding out that two tributes can win in the 74th annual hunger games, no just one. That was a huge game changer, but it wasn’t the climax.

See what I mean? These are the things that make you go, “Dang. This book is good.”

And then you turn the page.

These are also known as plot twists. When the story is going one way, you can create a plot twist by adding in something that makes it turn around. Right when you thought that there was no hope for the gladers in The Maze Runner, they figure out how to solve the maze.

Overall, the rising actions are what push the story forward and make you keep reading so that you can get to the best part. And now I will make a Hannah Montana reference: “Life’s a climb, but the view is great.” The climb is the rising actions and the view is the climax.

Enough said.

Next I’m going to go into what will help you with your climax, but that deserves a whole chapter within itself, so keep reading next week when I move on to that.

Have fun writing the meat and potatoes of your story, and I hope all of this helped you. Thanks!

-Kelli.

*The link from which the plot diagram photo was found is here: http://www.portnet.k12.ny.us/Page/10210 . I don’t any rights to this photo so I’m giving this website the credit, but you should check out that site for more things like it that can help with writing:)

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Part 13: Conflicts

Dear Reader,

This Saturday I think we should go a little further on that plot diagram, don’t you think? Well, after the exposition would come the conflict. If you look at the plot diagram below, you will see a circle with the word “Conflict” Next to it is an arrow linking the conflict to the words, “Protagonist vs. Antagonist”. Underneath there is a blank vs. blank.*

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A conflict, technically is a struggle between two forces. Allow me to explain.

Okay. This is one of the most important parts of your story. I say that about everything I have in this story, but it’s true. The conflict is where you introduce a problem in the story, introduce the thing that the character has to go after, or the thing that makes things change.

This can be confused with action that wouldn’t normally occur in daily life, and that could be true, but not always. Say, for example, the first chapter starts out with a gun-to-your-head scene. Now, for most people, this is something that they don’t exactly see everyday. This could be part of your conflict, but not necessarily. This could be an everyday thing for your character.

The conflict is necessary to drive the story forward. How about a real text example? Yeah? Well, if you insist.

In The City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, the conflict is introduced very early. In the beginning of her character, Clary’s, story, someone breaks into her house while she is away and kidnaps her mom. This isn’t something that happens everyday, true, but that’s only a part of the conflict. She goes on to unravel truth after truth, so that the conflict continues to grow bigger. This would be helpful if your story is part of a series, so that the conflict is so big that it can span over several versions of trying to solve it.

If you are writing a single book, though, you might not want your initial conflict to lead to more and more conflicts.

Anyway, here’s the meat and potatoes of conflicts: there are two types of conflicts.

Internal conflicts happen within the character, the things that cannot be seen.  There is really only one kind of internal conflict:

Character vs. Self

This is when your character has a problem inside that other characters can’t truly see. They may see that the character is sad, but they wouldn’t know what is really going on. This could be them trying to make a tough decision, trying to figure out who they really are, or something else that they are struggling with inside.

They are things that would cause things to change because they make the character act a certain way. If your character had just found out that they were adopted, their internal conflict would be trying to figure out if she can still trust whoever didn’t tell her, who she really is, or even trying to figure out what to do next.

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External conflicts happen between things that can be seen. Like your character finding out that they are adopted, for example. This would be external because anyone could see it, and it is a visible cause to change things.

There are some things that you need to know about external conflicts. There are three general kinds that are well known, and each of them are different in how they can drive your story forward:

Character vs. Character

This is when one character in your story struggles against another character, or even groups of characters struggling. When your character found out that they were adopted, there could be arguing between him or her and their adoptive parents. This would be character vs. character because they are visibly struggling against each other.

How can this drive your plot forward? Think about it If your character has an argument, the things that were said could lead them to acting differently, or doing things that they would regret later. This moves them from emotional point A to emotional point B, and the story just keeps on moving.

This is also what the plot diagram means by protagonist vs. antagonist. The protagonist is your main character, and usually the good guy. The antagonist is who they are struggling against, who is usually the bad guy.

Character vs. Nature

This is when your character is pitted against some sort of natural problem, like a snow storm keeping them from leaving their house, or a wild animal attacking in the woods. If you’ve ever seen Jaws, then you know what I’m talking about. Shark attacks are a good example of nature and your character struggling to coexist peacefully.

This can move your story forward because it will force your character into something they wouldn’t usually do. They could lose an arm in a shark attack, or have to take cover during a tornado in a place they wouldn’t usually go. These are things that could push things forward because it is a chain reaction, starting with a tornado and leading to something that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

This is a great way to manipulate your story, too. If you need to get your character somewhere or have them run into someone, but don’t know how, add in some kind of natural problem that would get them where they need to go. It is a lot more interesting than having two people randomly run into each other coincidentally, or making something happen that wouldn’t usually happen just because.

Character vs. Society

This is when your character is running into problems because of where they live, or the beliefs of people around them. I have two great examples for this. In Footloose, one of my all time favorite films, the main character runs into the problem of the laws in Beaumont, a small town where he just moved. These laws restrict playing loud music and public dancing, and the characters all band together to abolish the laws.

The Hunger Games series. Do I even have to explain? I will anyway. The characters in this series stand together against the capitol to change things. This can drive your plot forward because it could be a main conflict that gives your character a goal to work towards, or it could change the way your character acts and what they might do, based on their surroundings.

What to do on the plot diagram

Since there is only one blank on your plot diagram, and I do recommend printing it out and filling it in, then just write your main conflict in the blank. This could be internal or external, but chose the one that drives your plot forward the most, the one that REALLY changes your character’s life.

I keep a notebook were I plan out my books. What I did, and maybe this only works for me but I would recommend it too, is make a list. For each story I’m writing, I have pages and pages of conflicts. If you look closely enough at any story, there are conflicts between side characters, little things that aren’t important but still have to be there, or even in the main character that you don’t notice. There are also other kinds of conflicts, tons, but I’m only providing you with the basics right now. Character vs. machine, for example is a common one too, but I couldn’t possibly name them all.

I write down a phrase that makes me remember what I’m talking about, and then I label the conflict. For example, I might write “She never knew about him.” That would only make sense to me, but it would help me remember what part of the story I’m talking about. Then I would fill in a blank vs. blank beside it. Finally, I would write a brief description of the conflict and what or who is involved in it.

This is very helpful for planning out stories so you don’t forget anything, and I literally have pages and pages and pages for even just one short story.

I hope this helped and that this is something that will make your story better. Thank you for all of the support!

-Kelli.

*The link from which the plot diagram photo was found is here: http://www.portnet.k12.ny.us/Page/10210 . I don’t any rights to this photo so I’m giving this website the credit, but you should check out that site for more things like it that can help with writing:)