Pantser Special: Using Story Structure Models to Write a Synopsis (& Tighten Your Plot)

Not long ago, while editing my novel, it occurred to me that eventually, I’ll be expected to provide a synopsis of my story whenever I do get around to submitting to agents. (The horror!) As someone who started this ginormous project as a bonafide pantser after failing to produce a likable manuscript going the outlining route, well, the idea of writing a synopsis seemed like a big fat joke…until I realized it really wasn’t.

Without a coherent, logical structure, my story would be DOA.

So…when a YouTuber I follow named Shaelin Bishop posted a video about a 15 Beat Plot Structure this week, I decided to tune in and watch. Perhaps, I reasoned, I could learn something useful.

Boy, did I ever!

Now, I’ve read articles about all sorts of story structures in the past—some more detailed than others—but this “15 Beat” one just seemed to really “click” for me. Maybe because I already had my story pretty much figured out this time around; maybe because it’s actually meant for the visual medium of movies, which I tend to see more than I read, and I’m a very visual person. Anyhow, while listening to Shaelin explain it, I was nodding my head along, mentally listing the ways my story already seemed to align with the plot progressions she was explaining.

Phew! What a relief. I guess, without really thinking about it as “creating a plot structure,” that’s exactly what I’ve been doing all along!

Well, this came as a great relief to the-pantser-that-is-me. Maybe, I thought to myself, I should actually try being organized for once and write down this plot of mine now—y’know, just to make sure I’m telling a coherent story. (It certainly is an easier way to examine plot without the multitude of details of worldbuilding and dialogue and what have you getting in the way.) Within a half an hour of drafting my story structure in Word, I realized that this whole little exercise could actually help me tighten my plot.

It could also, potentially, become the starting point for my synopsis!Read More »

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Neo-Noir, Dark Themes & Fantasy

As I comb through my finished draft of The Elementalist: Rise of Hara (TEROH from here on out), reading it out loud for awkward sentence structures and flowing cadences, I’ve come to realize that my novel has a surprising amount of dark writing themes—surprising to me only because I never intentionally sat down and told myself, “Hey, I’m gonna write a dark fantasy novel!” All the same, it’s making me seriously consider whether my story is even a bit neo-noir.

It’s very much dieselpunk and fantasy, sure, but that doesn’t describe the tone. Not that a series of labels for a novel has to, per se, but if I want to give people a better idea of what they can expect from TEROH, then I wonder now if I should also be adding “neo-noir” to the mix somewhere. (Depending on what version of my blurb I use, I could see people interpreting the story as a light-hearted, swashbuckling type, which could be misleading. Especially if I use my shorter “under 200 words” version versus my slightly longer “under 300 words” one, the latter currently showing on my site.)

Before I get ahead of myself, let me explain why I suspect my novel may be neo-noir.Read More »

8 Sentence Sunday #6: Business & Pirates

In this week’s “8 Sentence Sunday,” Voi and Paul, her business partner and one of her best friends, are contemplating the state of AeroTaxi, their air charter and touring venture. This is just after their only tour for the day falls through early on in the story. Business has been increasingly slow–and while Voi is inclined to remain optimistic, Paul sees things differently.

Paul has always been skeptical about government, big business and large organizations in general–to the point of becoming a mild conspiracy theorist. While he and Voi fly planes, Paul is suspicious that a recent airship heist scare, combined with the wild success of a particularly large airship company, is somehow negatively affecting their ability to conduct small business.

Here’s a look at how he sees their current situation as opposed to Voi’s viewpoint. (Aside: both Voi and Paul are from a country named Apexia, though Voi holds dual citizenship in Borellia.)

Note: this snippet contains brief adult language.


The Snippet

“One measly Borellian cargo ship—not Apexian, mind you—goes missing, and suddenly everyone thinks Haran pirates are back.”  He looked outside again.  “As for the rest of us with real problems, a hot-shot Borellian war hero practically shows up out of nowhere and opens his own airship company after the war; it does amazing.  A handful of naval mechanics who’ve been working the ship yards practically their entire lives do the same with Skyward Enterprise, and they don’t last more than a year against Neverri before he buys them out.

“A fucking monopoly is what that’s shaping up to be.”

Voi took off her leather gloves and stuffed them into one of her pockets, shrugging.  “So he’s successful.  That’s no crime, is it?”


What are your impressions of Paul?

Do you think there’s a chance his concerns are legitimate, or is Captain Neverri’s imminent “monopoly” over the airship industry (and aerial transportation in general, in Paul’s eyes) as innocent as it seems? Also, what can you make out about the role of pirates in recent history?

Granted, this is all based on a short series of snippets, so this is just for fun. 😉

8 Sentence Sunday #5: The Aethercraft

For this week’s “8 Sentence Sunday,” I wanted to share one of Voi’s big, exciting moments in my WIP. It’s probably the most “dieselpunk-y” of my snippets so far.

As a pilot, Voi gets to fly a very experimental plane known as the “aethercraft” that was designed by her newest employer, Captain Neverri. After the basic mechanics of this craft are explained to Voi while they stand in a hangar, the captain reveals it to her for the first time.

This is what she sees.

The Snippet

No one spoke as Voi drew near to examine the machine.  She found herself holding her breath in reverence; surely Colonel Snipes was correct in comparing it to one of Ramboit’s controversial abstract masterpieces.

Its polished metallic body was exceptionally streamlined and much flatter than that of an ordinary plane.  A gentle bulge ran along the length of its almost nonexistent fuselage, which was smoothly riveted to conjoin with its swept-back wings so as to seem comprised entirely of wings.  Here, within this bulge, was also a cockpit enclosed by a clear canopy—perhaps an acrylic construct, Voi guessed, knowing the captain’s penchant for innovation.

Propped up low on its landing gear, the aerocraft reminded Voi of a slick, thin manta ray—like the ones her mother used to take her to see at the Aquiriem du Habour Tuccila in Tryste as a girl.  So sinuously crafted were the wings that Voi was very much left with the striking impression of a work of art…if she dared venture that far in her opinion of a metal aerocraft.

Well, the captain certainly has an eye for aesthetics.

What do you think?

What kind of aerocraft does it look like Voi is getting ready to fly? Can you tell some things that might be different in Voi’s world as compared to our own? Also, is there anything new you can infer about Voi’s character–her attitudes, beliefs and such? (I feel like I’m writing a lesson plan or something, haha.)

8 Sentence Sunday #4: Introducing Captain Andre Neverri

Every writer has their favorite characters, and ideally you’d think it’d be the main protagonists in their stories. As much as I love Voi, I’m afraid I love one of her employers even more. (That’s gotta be some sort of writerly sin!)

Captain Andre Neverri

Ah, Captain Andre Neverri…where to begin…

Aeronautical engineer, airship navigator, former air guard captain, pirate hunter and war hero, entrepreneur, multi-millionaire, gentleman inventor, expert on aetheric mechanics, and knife-throwing enthusiast…

Well, what isn’t this man capable of, dammit!

Ronny hates him, Milia can’t stand him and even Voi has her doubts about the man. Though, at the end of the day, in the middle of a crisis, Captain Neverri is probably someone you want on your side. He does have a reputation, however, for being a queer lone bachelor who keeps a crazy wife locked up in the attic (or local institution, in his case)… Though, *ehem* I digress.

Prolific resume aside, he’s a bit of a headache, to be honest, though that’s just my opinion. I’ll let you be the judge.

Below is a snippet showing the first time both Voi and Milia meet Andre. They were walking into a room full of men who were supposed to be working. Everyone is somewhat oblivious to their surroundings, as they’re all engaged in various conversations and activities.

Enjoy!


The Snippet

Without warning, an object came soaring through the air.

Voi froze instinctively, though Milia dodged more quickly than Voi could process.  A blink of the eye later, she realized Milia was holding a combat knife in her hand, hilt clutched at eye level.

Male voices cried out at first in appraisal, apparently thinking the knife would hit the center of the target board pasted on the wall behind the ladies.  Their cheers, however, were cut short as Milia slowly directed her gaze towards them, seeking out the owner of the deadly projectile.

Every wide-eyed soul in the room turned to the lone man sitting at the drafting desk some distance away.

“Whoops!” he declared blithely, tossing his hands into the air.  “Looks like you walked right into our little game!”


What were your first impressions of Andre?

And was it just a little bit absurd that Milia caught a flying knife mid-air? (Hint: the answer should tell you that there’s a lot more to Milia beneath her diplomatic title of “special envoy.”)