Seats of the Pants or Planning to make it through the first Act

Top Hat
Creative Thinking – June Perkins

So I told some writing friends recently about my plotting dilemmas and the fact I don’t want a first draft that is a total mess.I need some navigational instruments and am actively looking for them.

Some of them nodded their heads  in understanding as if this was a challenge for them too.It is definitely a matter of learning to put on a number of creative plotting hats. Remember Debono’s hats.  Well this post is focused on the blue hat (planning) with a touch of the green hat (ideas) and the red hat (emotions).

1. Choose a method that works for you.

The most wise thing I heard today was use a method of writing that works for you!  There is no one size fits all, although there are key things a story has in it that you should keep in mind.

So whether you cover a wall with post it notes with the main crisis and turning points marked out, use a spread sheet, start with a line and write, or do a whole outline of scenes before beginning, nobody can tell you ‘that’s not right,’ as long as it works for you and makes you keep  writing until your first draft is complete!

The litmus test for me, is that if I stop writing for any reason, it’s time to experiment, and try something to kick start the process again.  And what works one day, might not work the next day. Does this mean I need to give up?

No way, it means developing a deeper resource of techniques to keep me going.

2- Tension in scenes

The main thing I am keeping in mind today as I write my chapter book is to put tension into my scenes and think about that goal/conflict/setback structure, that propels the reader to keep coming back.

3 – Be playful and open to change

I  had hoped to begin my first 3000 words written with the assistance an outline of a realistic story.  However my outline ended up combining a more fantastical picture storyboard of the same story idea in front of me.  As I looked at both I decided to combine the two into a new story.

I loved the visuals of the storyboard, and I liked elements of the more detailed outline for keeping me on track for a bigger story.  The result of this decisions was that my story went from being realist to being fantasy – change number 1.

The picture book story boarding was done with Storybird by the way, and was heaps of fun.  It put magic and imagination in visual play into my creating the plot process.

4 – Listen to your characters

Then as I wrote the characters had an impulse to behave a certain way that I had not predicted, and began to come to life. An extra character came into being, and he could be important in the story.  Some characters faded away as not important to the first book in a possible series at all.  I was delighted to see the characters emerge and have possibilities for tension with each other.  Important for scene dynamics.

The setting was still realist as it had been in the draft in some respects, but the initial challenge I was going to have for the character changed. This is a huge change, and it was scary for me to ditch the old challenge.

5- Have a plan B

My outline by this stage looking decidedly shaky, but I kept on with the opening reaching about the right length, and  took solace that I still followed a more general idea of Michael Hauge’s Six Stage Plot Structure.  This resulted in the establishment of my characters, the challenge for the main character, and the reaching of second turning point.

6- Give it a good beginning, edit before moving to the second act

I took the first 3000 words I had written  over two days with my initial plan, and rewrote them with this in mind and was much happier with the text overall.  I tried to build more surprise into the chapters, and tension between the characters, even if they were characters who most of the time get along well.  I rearranged a few things.  Then I kept writing, happy that the editing had strengthened what I had done so far.

The future holds …

Now I am heading into my second act.  I’ll be back to report on that when it’s finished, as this journaling takes up valuable writing and research time from my other projects.  However, I wanted to share and reflect on this process, to see if I find the same thing happening for my next book (that’s promising talking another book after act 1 of the first one).

So there you have it, a combination of seat of the pants writing, and planning.

Now I am going to study two blogs on plotting and creative storytelling from the – Wasted Poet and this post on Pixars 22 Rules of Storytelling  and just go over that opening one more time before moving on.  I think if my set up goes well the rest is going to follow! I feel like jotting down some ideas for scenes, having a cuppa, and finding ways to more me through the next act.

Quiz mastering the inner

Frangipani dreaming – June Perkins

We’ve come along way from the ink blot and skull personality test, or have we?

Today I was surfing the internet, checking mail, facebook,doing writing research wanders on an artist I am developing as a character in a short story and decided to do some quizzes.  You know the ones that tell you ‘your inner self.’

There are some funny ones out there, like ‘what breed of guinea pig are you’, and some more classical ones like ‘Which Greek Goddess are you?’ and for literary types what character you are in particular books.

What is the purpose of these quizzes?  I first came across them in Women’s Magazines whilst waiting at the Doctors or Dentists. I saw them as something to entertain the reader and a partner to astrological charts. I later did some more  serious ones whilst a first year psychology student, and then my children did various ones when being tested for academic giftedness or assessed for counselling to cope with bullying and social situations.

Personality tests were developed in the 1920s, and were a set of questions designed to reveal the psychology and character of a person.

But their origins go back to the psuedoscience phrenology where the human skull was used to determine a person’s personality and propensity to criminality and later proven to be ridiculous.

Science came along and tided this up and now they are used for army entrance, occupational health, employment testing and it’s a billion dollar industry.

One of the challenges with the tests is that participants can choose what they think is the best response, rather than what is an honest response of their true personality. I remember my son absolutely hating all of them and saying ‘it’s so obvious what you should write to be perceived as normal, and someone really strange could just pick all of those without any worries.’ (He is I should add quite a ‘normal’ person (whatever that means), if somewhat shy unless with guitar in hand.)

But along with the serious tests developed by psychologists and social scientists, which try to scientifically collect the data with likert scales (strongly agree to strongly disagree per topic) there are the popular pop quizzes you see pop up regularly as apps, on facebook, and online.

These are presented in a fun way, without scales, and often with a visual basis. They are usually quite short!

From a creative writing point of view I think they would be useful for characters in a novel to do them in waiting rooms, and let the reader know about themselves that way.  Or a scene with two friends discussing their results would be fun!

Playbuzz  has several of them that seem especially popular with my friends.  People seem to love sharing something about themselves after playing these games, especially if they like the results and feel that somehow the quiz really did show them for who they are.

So here are my results for today.

What Greek Goddess are you?

“Goddess of Marriage (Queen of the gods)
You have a very patient and motherly disposition. You look after all of those you care about in one way or another. Your patience is made of steel and you hardly ever get angry. Many say you are gullible but you actually see more than they think…however sometimes you have a tendency to let people step all over you anyways even when you know they are doing just that!”

Which Iconic Character were you born to play?

“You were born to play Princess Leia from “Star Wars”! :You are a real independent, funny, and smart person. You have tons of charisma, you are lovable, talented and people are just drawn to you. Basically, you’re BADASS. You’ll be the perfect princess Leia!”

What is your inner tree?

Cypress Tree: Your friends say you are an old soul. Like this ancient Cypress, you have seen the sands of time wash over the word, and as a result know all of the world’s mysteries. Some may say you are stuck in the mud, others admire your steadfastness and large amount of heart. Keep up the good work Cypress, but don’t forget to shake things up when they start to get to normal for even your old-fashioned tastes.

What genres should you read next?

You got Paranormal! You are interested in something supernatural and interesting! Maybe some mystery and unexplained occurences Recommendation: The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting


One of the challenges of some of these quizzes is if you know anything about what is in the quiz when given a choice.  I attempted the ‘What Muso Type are you?’ but didn’t like or know most of the music listed, so I am not going to bother to do or share that one.  But then there are so many you can just find one that you feel like doing.

The type of quiz you choose may say more about you than the actual quiz.

Are you more Frodo than Sam? (Would someone who hasn’t read or seen or liked Lord of the Rings take this one?)

What kind of gun suits you (really would a peace loving person take this one?)

What Avenger would you marry? (Fictional character)

I am  sure my daughter would do any quiz with guinea pigs or dragons in it.

My eldest son would avoid them all like the plague while my youngest would sit on the fence and do some with his sister for fun.

So what are your favourite personality quizzes, what did they teach you about yourself and have you ever constructed one?

So signing off,

It ‘s June who has discovered she is – Hera, Princess Leia, with inner Cypress, and about to read more paranormal.

Inner Peace

inner peace
Inner Peace – By June Perkins

This poem continues my daily warm ups in poetic techniques and is a Naani, an Indian form of poetry that reminds me of the Haiku.  Its form consists of four lines adding up to a maximum of 25 syllables.

Here is my attempt to write a set of linked Naani. I’d like to write a few more of these to truly master the form.  I do like the potential of it and it lends itself to pithy lines.

Inner peace
With curious questions
To confused inner child
Who rebels only to understand

World peace
Begins with inner peace
Calming the inner child
To make Divine footprints

Divine footprints
Give power
To one so young
To become future ancient

Equality needs one feather more
To assist her flight
To true destiny

By June Perkins

Thinking Toes and Twinkling Readers

Girl Writing
Peagreenchick – Flickr Creative commons- vintage pics

Once upon a time my children and I played you-say-a-line-I-say-a-line, stories.  It was amusing, imaginative and kept us all on our thinking toes, although my daughter had a habit of killing lots of our characters until we had created on that she liked.

But years have passed and we haven’t played the I say-a-line-you-say a-line game for ages!

A couple of days ago I shared a story idea with my daughter and she became excited.   She was delighted with a creature and character I had invented and, being an artist, was immediately keen to draw them both in action.

She so loved the idea of my first two characters (a good sign I trust) that she enthusiastically began to look up names for them and several future characters and take notes!

‘They have to mean something Mum and then we can try different languages,’ and she popped along to some online translator which had audio of how the names would sound.

‘Do you like this name?’ Many words were clicked on, and the computer voice sometimes with a charming accent read them for us, and then we’d vote.

Now a writer of ego might have said –‘this is my story’  but she represents my potential readers and so she is very important to listen to.

Can’t tell you too much detail of our conversations, at this stage they are top secret!

Before I knew it my youngest son heard us laughing, haggling over the characters and generally having fun like the old days, and popped in to see what was going on.

Soon, at his insistence, he was involved and mapping the world.   There were mountains, forests, and more.  My children had become  engaged readers keen to take ownership of a creative world in the making.

The story I shared with them had become a collaboration.   Our past had become our present but now as my sage daughter noted ‘we are more sophisticated now.’

I created a world, and they began to help me fill it out, and paint it.  I felt a connection to two of my readers, or should I say co-storytellers.

I am ready to embark on the journey of this story and take two co-creating travelers with me, although as group leader, they do give me final word on things, after a bit of to and fro.

Not to mention I can work on it when they are at school, in some peace, until they have their next input.

Stephane O – Flickr creative commons