30 books

#BookADayUK Book Tour

30 books

I love the #BookADayUK trend happening through June on Twitter, and I thought it would be fun to share my 30 books with a little tour of some of my shelves.

I’d love to hear your 30, too!

Links are to Goodreads. They are not affiliate links. If you want to buy these books, please look for them in a local, independent bookstore! Keep printed books alive.

Day 1— Favorite book from childhood: Number the Stars by Lois Lowry was my favorite book growing up. Lord knows how many times I read it. I haven’t read it for years, though. I’m afraid I won’t like it as much as an adult.

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Most of my books are sorted by color. These are my young-reader and chick-lit books.

Day 2—Best bargain: After reading somewhere that Lorna Doone: A Romance of Exmoor was voted the favorite novel among men at Yale (in 1906), I had to check it out. But I couldn’t find a copy anywhereso I started reading the e-book. I loved it right away. A few weeks later, I stumbled across a GORGEOUS copy in an old book store. It’s a 1912 edition, and it’s seriously drool-worthy. I bought it for $7. Here’s a picture of the inside. The outside is shown on #10.

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Day 3—A book with a blue cover: I organize my books by color, so I have a lot to choose from, but this book of Irish Fairy Tales is my favorite hue.

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Never thought I’d have a wedding photo up on this blog…

Day 4—Least favorite book by favorite author: I was a hard-core Lord of the Rings fan in high school (yes, I even taught myself some elvish), but I still can’t finish The SimarillionThis is why, though I love some fantasy novels, I don’t love the genre. Too much world building and exposition for me. But give me a fantasy with great characters and action (LOTR, The Two Towers, esp.) or a fantastic voice (C.S. Lewis, Princess Bride, most Neil Gaiman works), and I’ll drink it up.

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The bookends were my great grandmother’s. The LOTD sculptures are whistles I made in high school

Day 5 —Doesn’t belong to me: I stole this collection of Anne of Green Gables from my mom. Still haven’t read them…But I will! Also, that copy of A Wrinkle in Time has my 5th grade teacher’s name in it. I saw her several years later, mentioned that I found it in my house, but she told me to keep it. I don’t remember stealing it or even borrowing it! But it’s mine now, anyway.

Day 6—Books I always give as gifts: I generally give gift cards to book stores instead, but I’, always recommending The Power of One to everyone as well as The DreamerFun Fact? This is Volume 3 of The Dreamer graphic novel, which I copyedited! I’ve been a fan of Lora Innes for several years, so it was awesome working with her. You can read pages of her historical fantasy / YA romance online.

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Day 7 —Book I forgot I owned: I didn’t forget I owned Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows so much as I forgot I *didn’t* own Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which is my favorite of the series. All seven books were re-released as paperbacks. I’m patiently waiting until they are all re-released as hardcovers, and then I’ll buy the whole set. (Yes, I’m THAT superficial that I want to wait until the redesigned covers come out. I’m a designer. I totally judge books by their covers.)

Day 8—More than one copy: My husband and I have multiple copies of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis books. My original set of LOTR has fallen apart, I think he gave his away, we have several different illustrated versions of The Hobbit, and we both have several of Lewis’ religious books, which are spread all over the house.

Day 9—Book with a movie-tie in. I can’t even remember how I found Stardust so many years ago. I think it was shelved by The Princess Bride as a new releaseBy the time the movie had come out, I had read it several times. I really should get the hardcover edition, but I keep buying new books! The Hunger Games I had heard of, of course, but I didn’t read it until a few weeks before I saw the movie. In both cases, the books are certainly better. Same for The Princess Bride.

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The dictionary page hedgehog was a Valentine’s Day gift from my husband.

Day 10—Reminds me of someone I love: Tuck Everlasting reminds me of my childhood friend’s mother, who was a second mom to me. I’m not sure why I associate it with her, but I remember seeing it in her house. She probably gave me this copy. Hopefully she didn’t lend it to me, because here it is, on my shelf, a hundred years later.

Day 11—Secondhand book shop gem: Probably 75% of my books were purchased secondhand. But this book is the one I bought most recently, and it’s a serious gem. The illustrations and photos will transport you to 1950s suburbia, and I love it. It’s also my favorite color. (This photo shows the detail, but not quite the right color. See #14 for a better representation. This book is the background.

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Day 12—Pretend to have read it: I skimmed through most of the books I was assigned in school, reading only enough to write killer papers on them. The skimming is why I ended up creating a new major. I was able to pick the books I wanted to read after finishing all the required classes.

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The off-white shelf

Day 13—Makes me laugh:  You know how some people have an ugly cry? The Georgia Nicolson books make me ugly laugh, even ten years later.

Day 14—An old favorite:  The Giver. I didn’t realize until college (maybe after!) that my two favorite books growing up were both written by Lois Lowry. I never paid much attention to authors’ names as a kid.

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Day 15—favorite fictional father: I’m pretty sure everyone has had the same answer, but Atticus in To Kill A Mockingbird. I mean, come on. He’s AWESOME.

Day 16—Can’t believe more people haven’t read: The Bible. It’s a significant part of cultural literacy, definitely. But I’m more surprised at people who call themselves Christians (the majority of Americans, for example) but have never actually read the book. That’s like printing out your name in a calligraphic font and saying you’ve got a college degree. I read Proverbs many years before I became a Christian. I think everybody could do to read more wisdom literature. (I’m looking at you, YouTube commenters)

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The painting was done by my great grandmother.

Day 17—Future classic: The Ocean at the End of the LaneIt really is everything it’s cracked up to be. This is Neil Gaiman’s unexpected masterpiece.

Day 18—Bought on recommendation: I don’t really buy books on recommendation; I borrow them. I buy books that I’ve either read and enjoyed or that are really nice to look at. But I picked up Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging (see #13) after reading an excerpt from Book 2 in a magazine. Does that count?

Day 19—Can’t stop talking about it: Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter.

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Day 20—Favorite cover: Besides many of the books mentioned above, I have to include this hardcover Robin Hood. Because it’s Robin Hood. And it’s illustrated. Check out some of the interior illustrations here.

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Day 21—Summer read: If you haven’t yet read The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, go read it. I know that plays are meant to be performed, not read, but I love reading plays and screenplays. TIOBE is my favorite play. Other favorites include George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion (on which My Fair Lady is based) and Shakespeare’s comedies. If you aren’t into plays, see #19 as my recommendation for summer reading. #13 for guilty pleasure reading. Poetry: Billy Collins or Li-Young Lee are great for summer. Both really approachable poets.

Day 22—Out of print: Okay, this is where I get ridiculously nerdy. I picked this book up from the library when I was trying to find a resource on medieval hunting. I don’t like hunting, mind. But this book was so unbelievably interesting, I found myself ignoring the novels on my bedside table to read through this. After a couple of chapters, I wanted to write fan mail to John Cummins. (I honestly tried. Couldn’t find contact information). I never thought I could turn into a medieval hunting fangirl, but there you go. Granted, I picked this book up for research. If you are even remotely interested in Old English or the different breeds of dogs used for different purposes in medieval hunting, then you’ve got to find a copy.

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Day 23–Made to read at school: I’m going to be honest, most of the books I was assigned to read in school, I didn’t read. By my sophomore year in college, I realized that perhaps I shouldn’t be a literature major after all. But of all the books I was assigned, I’ve loved a few, and I have copies of most of those. The Power of One (#6), To Kill a Mockingbird (#15), Sophie’s World (#26), The Outsiders, and Elie Wiesel’s Night were my favorites from high school. The Things They Carried I was assigned to read in college, but only the first chapter, in its original form as a short story. I loved the short story so much (I love LOTS of short stories), I bought the book and read it instead of reading all the other required lit books, like #12. I don’t read dramas usually. When I do, they are about the horrors of war, and the voice is what keeps me reading.

Day 24—Hooked me into reading: I was always a reader. I entered into preschool as a silent reader. I can’t remember a particular book that I read over and over again, but I read A Midsummer Night’s Dream when I was ten, and I wrote & acted in an adaptation of it that year. Shakespeare is what/who got me into theater and, consequently, writing. If you think it’s impressive that I read unabridged Shakespeare as an elementary schooler, know that I hit my peak at about 12. Now anything above a 9th-grade reading level makes me go cross-eyed. I like to blame the internet.

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Day 25—Never finished: Pride & Prejudice. I know. While I liked it, and I thought it witty, I couldn’t get through it. I plan on picking it up again, someday. It’s still on my shelf. I’ve started at least three Jane Austen novels, and I’ve never finished one. Again, I blame the internet. My attention level is as bad as my preschooler’s. When my kids are in school, and I have more than 15 minutes a week to read, then I’ll start up with the classics again.

Day 26—Should have sold more copies: Sophie’s WorldThis was the textbook for my high school world philosophy class. It’s a novel. Buy a copy.

Day 27—Want to be one of the characters: I’ve already mentioned The Princess Bride a few times in this list, but I thought I’d put it here. Because though I read to escape, I don’t think I’d actually want to be any of the characters. I wouldn’t want to go to Hogwarts when Voldemort is out to kill one of my classmates. But if I can be Inigo Montoya, then I want to be Inigo Montoya.

Day 28—Bought at favorite independent bookstore: I adore The Book House. I got English as She is Spoke there. Mark Twain loves this book, and so do I.

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Day 29—Reread the most often: Probably Number the Stars. Otherwise The Lord of the Rings. Or The Dreamer. I don’t reread books very often. I tend to skip to my favorite parts and read those over and over again.

Day 30—Would save if house burned down: I used to have an autographed copy of The Outsiders, but I gave it to a friend on her wedding. I’d probably save my annotated copy of The Princess Bride, our audiobooks and teleplays of The Lord of the Rings, or, if we’re going for sentimentality, my copy of Steven Kellogg’s Best Friends was given to me by my aunt, who met Mr. Kellogg and got it signed for me. Ponies and puppies and best friends. I mean, what more could a kindergartener ask for?

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POV Part 3—e.g. (examples)

POV part 3—examples of omniscient, limited omniscient, and first-person narratives #POV #writing | writelarawrite

Today is my third (and final?) post in a short series on Point of View. First was an introduction to terms. Second, a comparison of the different choices of narration. Now, examples of each type. As always, feel free to ask any questions in the comments!


  1. First-Person Narrator
  2. Third-Person Omniscient Narrator
  3. Third-Person Limited Narrator, Light
  4. Third-Person Limited Narrator, Deep
  5. Third-Person Cinematic/Objective Narrator

First-Person Narrator

Next morning I awoke, looked out the window and nearly died of fright. My screams brought Atticus from his bathroom half-shaven.
“The world’s endin’, Atticus! Please do something!” I dragged him to the window and pointed.
“No it’s not,” he said. “It’s snowing.”

To Kill a Mockingbird

In first-person narration, the narrator is a character in the story and uses the pronoun “I.” We never see into anyone else’s head, unless there is more than one narrator.  The narrator  is aware of an audience and needs to have a reason to tell the story. As in omniscient narration, the voice of the first-person narrator must be distinct, interesting, and well-crafted.

In first-person movies, we usually hear the thoughts of the narrator but see the character. In fiction, however, the narrator should not be remembering scenes as an out-of-body experience. In other words, there shouldn’t be any filtering.

In this clip from A Christmas Story, we can see Ralphie most of the time, but we can also hear his thoughts and sometimes see from his visual point-of-view.

First person novels: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Great Gatsby, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Frankenstein, Dracula

Third-Person Omniscient Narrator

There have been five great kisses since 1642 B.C…(before then couples hooked thumbs.) And the precise rating of kisses is a terribly difficult thing, often leading to great controversy…. Well, this one left them all behind.

The Princess Bride

The omniscient narrator knows what is going on in any person’s head at any time, in any place. The narrator is its own voice and can make its own judgments about the characters. It’s the least intimate of the POVs, but the distance can be comic distance, used effectively for humor. This style of narration calls attention to itself (remember, it’s presentational), and it carries the story.  Omniscient narration must be interesting and exceptionally well written. It can have a distinct voice that makes comments, like in the narration at the beginning of 500 Days of Summer, or throughout Amelie.

A fair warning, though. Many people consider omniscient narration to be sloppy or lazy, and “head hopping” is a common mistake made by writers. Unless you are writing comedy or are briefly creating an establishing shot, you might want to consider using Third Person Limited Omniscience.

Third person Omniscient novels: The Princess Bride, parts of The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, books by Terry Pratchett and Kurt Vonnegut and Jane Austen

Third-Person Limited Narrator, Light

It was, he thought, the difference between being dragged into the arena to face a battle to the death and walking into the arena with your head held high. Some people, perhaps, would say that there was little to choose between the two ways, but Dumbledore knew—and so do I, thought Harry, with a rush of fierce pride, and so did my parents—that there was all the difference in the world.
― Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Third person limited omniscience, light penetration consists of a neutral narration which sometimes dives into the head of a character (or two or more, but only one per scene—it is limited). This POV is usually replaced by deep penetration during emotionally tense scenes that need to be more fully experienced. In movies, soliloquies are the closest thing to hearing the characters’ thoughts, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is full of them.

Third-Person Limited Narrator, Deep

It was stupid, pointless, irritating beyond belief that he still had four days left of being unable to perform magic…
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Marvolo Gaunt’s ring lay on the desk before Dumbledore. It was cracked; the sword of Gryffindor lay beside it.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

I’ve given the two examples above to illustrate different examples of deep penetration in a novel that is primarily light penetration. In the first, the narration is what Harry is feeling, though it doesn’t say, “he thought,” and it stays in third person rather than switching suddenly to first. In the second, we have come from seeing Harry seeing through the pensieve—using filtering words like “Harry saw,” “Harry noticed,” etc.—to seeing the objects for ourselves, without filtering.

Like first person, in third-person deep, we see into someone else’s head and everything is told from his or her point of view, but the narration uses third person pronouns instead of first. This can actually be more intimate than first person, because the reader sort of becomes the POV character. Think of it like having a dream. In a dream, you can be someone else. You know it isn’t you, hence the third-person pronouns, but you still see from someone else’s POV. No filtering is used—no “he thought” or “she thought,” and any separate narrator disappears so that the POV character becomes the narrator.

Imagine a movie like Cloverfield, in which we can also hear the filming character’s thoughts. This is what reading first person or third person deep penetration should look like.

Third-Person Cinematic/Objective Narrator

I can’t really give a short example of an objective point of view, because for all you know, the next line might have a description of someone’s thoughts, and objective narration is characterized by what it isn’t rather than what it is. If you’re reading a suspenseful tale that has a scene featuring the villain or suspect, chances are, that scene is told in objective narration. To see into the mind of the bad guy would give up his motive.

If you really want to see this in practice, compare Voldemort’s scenes in the first few Harry Potter books, in which we/Harry can see into his head, to the first chapter of Deathly Hallows, which is so cinematic, none of the characters are named until after they are physically described. The reader is forced to make guesses and assumptions about the characters, because the narrator is completely silent.

In a cinematic view, we can’t see into anyone’s thoughts, so we rely on our own observations of the characters and their dialogue.

Most movies never go into the brain of a character, which is why this style of narration is called cinematic. So to illustrate, I’ll pick a scene that is painfully, obviously cinematic, from The Hunger Games.

In the books, we see everything from Katniss’s brain. It’s written in first person, present tense, and the effect is immediacy. We hear her thoughts as she has them. In this scene of the movie, the director relies on clunky sports commentary to explain what Katniss may or may not be thinking. It’s insulting to the viewer. The director assumes you aren’t smart enough to figure out what’s going on. If we really couldn’t figure it out, all Katniss had to do would be to mutter, “It’s mined.” Or even, “It’s a minefield.” Or, hey, even, “Well, I declare! I do believe they have taken the mines from under the launch pads and moved them there, to create a booby trap!” It’s not like humans never say anything to themselves aloud. I assume they wanted a sort of pinch point, to remind the audience of the Capitol, and they probably wanted to get Stanley Tucci some more screen time, but UGH.

Here’s how it plays out in the book, and notice how, even though she doesn’t have to, she whispers OUT LOUD:

I realize I’m grinding my teeth in frustration. Foxface has confirmed what I’d already guessed. But what sort of trap have they laid that requires such dexterity? Has so many trigger points? Why did she squeal so as her hands made contact with the earth? You’d have thought … and slowly it begins to dawn on me … you’d have thought the very ground was going to explode.

“It’s mined,” I whisper. That explains everything. The Careers’ willingness to leave their supplies, Foxface’s reaction, the involvement of the boy from District 3, where they have the factories, where they make televisions and automobiles and explosives. But where did he get them? In the supplies? That’s not the sort of weapon the Gamemakers usually provide, given that they like to see the tributes draw blood personally. I slip out of the bushes and cross to one of the round metal plates that lifted the tributes into the arena. The ground around it has been dug up and patted back down. The land mines were disabled after the sixty seconds we stood on the plates, but the boy from District 3 must have managed to reactivate them. I’ve never seen anyone in the Games do that. I bet it came as a shock even to the Gamemakers.

If they really had to have Caesar Flickerman in that scene, he could have explained that second paragraph after Katniss figured it out, giving the backstory, and not insulting both the protagonist and the audience.

But I digress and rant.

That’s about all I have to say on Point of View for the time being. Let me know if you need something more clearly explained, or if you want to know more about another writing topic. I’m open to suggestions!

The 8 C’s of Plotting: Confrontation to Comprehension

This is Part 6 of The 8 C’s of Plotting. Click here for the whole series on the 8 C’s. Or click the image below to be taken to the General Fiction Feed.

Since last week’s post was a bit late, I’m going to round out the rest of Act 2 today. Buckle up; it’s a lot of new stuff.

Last week we talked about Preparation and Problems, the longest section of the book. We also mentioned a thing or two about Pinch Points.

As you may have noticed, the 8 C’s is based loosely on the 3-Act structure, but there are differences. If you’d like the 3-Act structure broken down into a list of terms and regulations, read Larry Brooks’ posts on StoryFix (while I think his blog is valuable, I will say he tends to ramble, and the last time I visited the site, navigating from post to post was about as easy as scrambling up a fireman’s pole).

I’ve read literally hundreds of blog posts and articles and books about the 3-Act structure, yet I was still dissatisfied to the point of creating my own method. Why? The Midpoint. No one can seem to pinpoint it exactly. There are varying definitions: It’s an epiphany, it’s a change in tactics, it’s the turning point or “point of no return.” Yet people will take a book or movie and argue what the midpoint is. Or, if you are in a literature class looking at Freytag’s Pyramid, what the CLIMAX is. Note, the climactic scene—the highest point of tension at the end of a novel—isn’t the midpoint.

Basically, whenever people talk about the midpoint, they are really just telling you this:

Make sure something interesting happens in the middle of your book, or the plot will sag in the middle.

And whenever they talk about pinch points, they mean this:

Remind the reader about the ANTAGONISTIC FORCE, you know, so they don’t forget. And also to keep the story moving.

I talk more about pinch points in part 5, also.

Blogs like Larry Brooks’ will give you exact places to put the midpoints and two major pinch points: Pinch Point I at 37.5% (3/8ths), Midpoint IN THE MIDDLE, Pinch Point II at 62.5% (5/8ths). Adhere to that if you wish. I probably will whether I intend to or not. But plenty of novelists and screenwriters will throw things around at earlier or later points in the story, and they are just fine. But note, certain strict adherents might blog about your straying from the holy percentage points.

Bottom line: somewhere around the halfway point, make the protagonist change tactics or realize a new goal. In Tangled, the midpoint is the elation, when Rapunzel finally gets to see the lights and realizes that being Flynn’s honey is her new goal. In The Hunger Games, the collapse is the midpoint.

If you want guidelines to shoot for, then take your target word count for age and genre, and apply these percentage points: Change, 10%; Complication, as early as 18%, no later than 25%; Pinch Point I at 37–38% (during Preparation & Problems); Elation or Collapse at 50%; Comprehension somewhere between 70–80% (see below); Final Battle from 90% to 99%.

It’s fine to stray from these targets! Think of the 8 C’s as an accordion. You can stretch or shrink as needed.

Now let’s get back to the 8 C’s.


Like the explosive C-4, the Confrontation is pretty perilous. And like its name suggests, it’s the first confrontation between the protagonist and the [capital-A] Antagonist after the protagonist has prepared and acquired skills and allies in preparation & problems. If your protagonist is a boxer, the confrontation will be the last match in the semi-finals.

I say “Capital-A Antagonist” because in the preparation and problems sequence of events, your protagonist(s) will face a number of antagonists and antagonistic forces. The Confrontation is the “First Battle” with whichever antagonist they will face-off with in the Final Battle.

In The Hunger Games, the confrontation is a physical confrontation between protagonist and antagonist: [the Tracker Jacker scene, when Katniss is stuck up in a tree and the Careers are waiting to kill her below]

(Highlight between brackets to reveal SPOILERS)

In The Lion King, Simba is confronted by an antagonistic force, when we are reminded of his inner conflict: [Simba meets Rafiki, sees vision of Mufasa, who tells him, “Remember who you are.”] 

The confrontation ends with a KO—a knock out. Or maybe a TKO, a technical knock out.  Either way, your protagonist wins, propelling them into…


The victory celebration. This is the moment of the protagonist’s greatest confidence, hope, or pleasure. (You can probably guess what happens in the romance genre during the elation!)

Endorphins are surging. In The Lion King, the Confrontation was the midpoint, when Simba decides to stop running from his past and run TOWARD it, backed up by a motivating Swahili chant.

This is the elation scene, and it lasts less than twenty seconds.


In The Hunger Games, the elation segment is a bit longer, which is a nice relief for us readers, who have been on the edge of our seats, getting paper cuts from turning pages so quickly. It’s when Katniss allies with Rue and makes a plan [to blow up the Careers’ stash of food].

Happiness is…making allies with fellow tributes

However long the Elation lasts is up to you. Decide how much relief the reader needs after the confrontation and before being trampled by the…


This is the near-fatal blow to the protagonist. The boxer gets punched in the face and falls to the canvas.

(Major Spoiler) In The Hunger Games, [Rue is killed by another tribute].

In The Lion King, we learn a tip about the Collapse: foreshadow its coming with setting and atmosphere. A few scenes before the collapse, we see the current state of Pride Rock, and it looks like this:

Later, it starts raining with thunder and lightning. You might not be able to control the soundtrack for your novel—your readers may be listening to Miley Cyrus, for all you know—but you can control the mood of the novel with word choice and atmosphere.

The collapse in The Lion King is when Simba sees firsthand the consequence of his leaving, and what is at stake if he fails, when he witnesses [Scar hitting Sarabi, Simba’s mother].

The collapse reminds the audience what the protagonist stands to lose.

Depending how severe the collapse is, you may end your chapter on it. Just be careful that it is a cliffhanger that keeps the reader reading. If it’s a real sock to the gut, then you’ll need at least a glimmer of hope for the reader before the chapter ends, so he or she knows all hope isn’t lost. Sometimes writers add a cliffhanger directly before the near-fatal blow, delivering that sucker-punch in the first line of the next chapter. THAT will definitely keep your reader going, since they know it isn’t the end of the story!


The gloom is whatever follows the collapse, and can be long and drawn out or just a few sentences. Either things can get worse, and they do, or they can’t possibly get any worse. The Princess Bride chooses the former route. Buttercup and Westley hit their elation when they survive the Fire Swamp together as a couple. They are separated in the collapse. For Westley and Buttercup, things only get worse: [He’s tortured to death, and she’s forced to marry the nasty Prince]. Meanwhile, William Goldman takes the opportunity to give lavish backstory on Inigo and Fezzik, to the point that the “Gloom” is the longest section of the original novel. Yet it works! See, there is freedom.

In The Hunger Games, we see what the gloom serves to do when the collapse is pretty brutal. In cases such as these, the gloom should:

  1. allow the protagonist to react to or grieve the collapse, and
  2. provoke the protagonist (and reader) to move on with a new determination

We see both in The Hunger Games when [Katniss buries Rue and grieves for her] and  [Katniss recognizes that The Capitol was the real killer (Pinch Point 2)].

In the gloom of The Lion King, Simba has to face his problems and its consequences: [He tells the lionesses that he was to blame for Mufasa’s death. Then Scar calls him a murderer and backs him off a cliff. “This looks familiar”].

Summary: The gloom is the natural outplay of whatever happens in the Collapse. It is primarily reaction and is a great opportunity to spend some time in other viewpoints or on the B story. The protagonist can only make progress towards the goal again after the comprehension.


This one’s big. It’s the Awakening, either figuratively or physically. When all hope seems to be lost, the Hero learns new information, regains consciousness, or gets help from someone or -thing.

Comprehension aligns pretty nicely with Plot Point II,* and it’s what ends the second act. It’s the BIG turning point. Everything after this is the ending. This is the stuff you won’t see in the trailer, because the Comprehension is the thing the writer keeps up a sleeve to deal at the last, best moment.

*Note: in the 3-Act structure, the second Plot Point may be assigned to anything that happens between C5 and C6.

Let’s look at some examples of C6:

In The Princess Bride, [Westley is resurrected.]

In The Lion King, [Scar says, “I killed Mufasa.”]

In The Hunger Games, [there can be two winning tributes.]

That wraps up Act II! Next week we will talk about endings.

The 8 C’s of Plotting: Preparation and Problems

This is Part 5 of The 8 C’s of Plotting. Read parts onetwo, and three first, if you please. Click here for the whole series on the 8 C’s. Click the image below to be taken to the General Fiction Feed.

I’m back! This week has been a bit crazy, but here’s Preparation and Problems for you, which is usually the longest section of the book.

After the Complication (C3), the action has started and the adventure has begun. (Or the lovers meet, or the protagonist begins a journey of self awareness. I’m going to go with adventure stories as examples because I know them best.)

Preparation and Problems

This is generally the longest segment of the narrative, when the protagonist makes friends and enemies and learns new skills. In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or Philosopher’s Stone, for my friends across the pond that got the original HP series), this is where Harry meets Ron, becomes friends with Hermione, is pitted against Snape and Draco, plays Quidditch, plays chess, etc.

If there’s a skill you protagonist needs to know, or if your protagonist needs a certain tool or ally in order to WIN THE STUFF,* then he or she will acquire that during this section.

*You know, defeat the bad guy, get the girl, that sort of thing.

You can throw in some backstory here if you want, or you can be like William Goldman and wait to add all the backstory for secondary characters (Inigo, Fezzik) until the Gloom section. (We’ll get to that next week.)

The Preparation and Problems is also where the Protagonist’s problems will intensify. Think of it as a two steps forward, one step back movement. Those “step backs” are setbacks or confrontations with the/an antagonist. Don’t let your reader forget the antagonist and what is at stake for the protagonist!

Let’s review the Preparation and Problems for The Lion King and The Hunger Games.

In The Lion King, Simba meets Timon and Pumbaa, he learns Hakuna Matata and grows up into a big strong lion. This is upward movement.

Don’t get too comfy—The camera shoots back to Pride Rock to remind us that there’s still a problem Simba’s going to have to face. This is the first Pinch Point. Highlight between the brackets to see the text, which may contain spoilers: [Zazu and even the Hyenas aren’t happy with the way Scar runs things.].

Here’s what Larry Brooks has to say about Pinch Points:

pinch point allows the antagonistic force of the story roaring onto center stage to announce itself and remind us of its dark intentions and inherent threat to the hero’s quest.  To stick it right into our face so that we may fear and [loathe] that which the hero fears and [loathes].

…Every story has a hero.  Every hero has a journey, a quest, a problem to solve, a need to fulfill.  There are obstacles in the way of that quest, often (usually) embodied in the character of an antagonist, or the bad guy.  A pinch point is when the primary opposition to the hero’s quest comes front and center in the story, showing itself to the hero and to us.

…If the hero is being chased by a bear, the bear will show up at the pinch point.  If the story is about an airplane crashing, something that reminds us we’re about to crash will show up at the pinch point.  If the story is about trying to win back lost love, the pinch point is when the departed lover turns up in the arms of another.

—From “The Help” – Isolating and Understanding the First “Pinch Point”

Then there’s the stargazing scene. Simba thinks about his dad, Rafiki has a realization, and Nala shows up. Can You Feel the Love Tonight?

Now, when I first plotted out The Lion King, I put the love ballad in the slot for “Elation.” Except it isn’t. Nala showing up isn’t the real confrontation. She’s more of a set back in Simba’s plan to forget his past. The real confrontation? We’ll get to that next time.

In The Hunger Games, [The Games begin. Katniss nearly dies of thirst (1), she dodges fireballs and gets burnt (2), she takes refuge in a tree and Haymitch sends her ointment for her burn].

You’ll see that there are two big problems that Katniss has to overcome while trying to stay alive during the Hunger Games. The second one is the pinch point—it’s when we are reminded that The Capitol controls the games. In the movie, the Gamemakers get their own scene.

When you have a pinch point—and there are at least two—you have a choice. You can either have another character remind the protagonist about it (Nala telling Simba what is going on at Pride Rock), or you can actually show it, unfiltered by the protagonist’s eyes (A scene devoted to Scar, showing him doing mean, awful things). The latter is more powerful because the reader will experience it for him or herself.

Depending on the length of your book, I’d shoot for two pinch points BEFORE the Confrontation. One can be direct, and one can be indirect. The rest of the time, you can move the plot along by throwing in other obstacles, like general problems or minor antagonists.

Next time we will be talking about the Confrontation, Elation, and Collapse, and we will relate them to the 3-Act Structure’s Midpoint. I can’t make any promises, but I think I’ll publish another post about the 8 C’s before next Friday, since this post was late.Stay tuned, and Write Now!