I failed to mention that Laurie Schnebly Campbell gives workshops regularly. When you sign up for one or attend one at a convention or club meeting, you get dandy worksheets with which to play and craft your story.
But as Laurie said, there is no one way to write; if the worksheet doesn’t work for you, you don’t need to use it. It can be an experiment. Or it can be ignored. Whatever works.
The worksheet starts by asking the writer to explain what the book is about in 100 words or less. You need to include key points as to what the hero and the heroine wants. So I created my own story just for this class. I don’t think I will actually write this one, but it was fun to plot it out.
Made From Scratch — A baker (heroine) wants to expand her shop into a franchise (external goal) because she believes her low carb and tasty cakes and cookies can be an important part of healthy lifestyles (internal motivation) but she needs an investor to give her the funds to do this (goal related conflict). A regular customer (hero) hears her talking about it. He asks if he can invest (his external goal). He looks like he doesn’t have enough money to buy another cup of coffee so she resists (part of her ups and downs on the way to resolution). He comes back the next day dressed in a nice suit and convinces her to take a chance.
She wants to be known across the West Coast as the best producer of baked goods. She knows her product is amazing and she only needs a bit of cash to start on the path of expansion. Because she was told she could never expect to be more than a one-shop baker by her ex-husband. (The lie she believes but knows isn’t true.)
He wants to do a good deed to make up for the rotten person he was when a teenager (his internal motivation). Because his parents were disappointed in him and then they both died, he couldn’t change himself for them (part of his life’s ups and downs). He got all the money as an only child.
After many ups & downs, her Life Lesson is: Taking a risk is often the best choice. His Life Lesson is: He can’t change the past but he can keep the present full of opportunities.
In the end, her goal-related conflict is resolved by selling the business and living her life on the proceeds. His is resolved by learning how proud his parents were of him, in spite of the trouble he caused. Okay, these two need work. I can’t imagine anyone liking a story where the heroine has a goal the whole time and resolves on just giving up on it in the end. His resolution is more realistic and works for the story.
The worksheet goes on to Character Arcs. The process is taken in quarters, not of equal size.
The first question: in the first quarter of your book, who will we meet?
Our heroine, Janey Hayworth, owner of the Made from Scratch bakery.
Our hero, Greg Abbot, an unemployed millionaire who feels totally in need of a job.
Secondary characters: Kendra Mason, head baker at Made from Scratch. Tiphanee Updyke, a friend of Greg’s who wants to marry him. Mary Updyke, daughter of Tiphanee whom Greg really likes, she’s 5.
For each main character, say in about 30 words or less why we’ll want to read their story and cheer them on. Then what motivates each character at the beginning. Use first person statements to get into the character’s space.
Janey: I used to think I had to do all the expansion work myself but now I see letting go makes the work faster and easier.
Greg: I used to think money was my least favorite thing in the world, but now I see how I can help people with it, not by giving it away but by supporting their projects.
Kendra: I used to think I would be working this job forever without getting any farther along than I am. And I was okay with that.
Each characters’ goals at beginning of book need to be clearly stated. Power. Forgiveness. Dreams. Janey wants the power to run her own business. Greg wants to earn the forgiveness of his deceased parents. Kendra wants to follow her dreams.
What gets in the way at the start? Janey’s self-doubt and low bank balance at the end of a week. Greg’s belief that everyone will want him to step in and pay for everything. They only like him for his money. Because he was a rude boy back in the day. And Janey’s marriage failed because of her dedication to the bakery.
Things will start to get in the way. Often the main characters will do things that are not intentionally bad but that result in pain for the other character. By the second quarter, we are into the external obstacle that involves both MCs and their ideas on how to resolve that problem.
Let’s say a big-name restaurant reviewer shows up and gets a really horrible donut. Janey tells the reviewer to get out of her shop and keep his horrible opinions to himself. Then she has to apologize to him and bring him a dozen donuts to show she’s sorry. Greg makes a plan to expand the business without consulting Janey and when he takes her to see the new shop, she bursts into tears.
Greg tells her he will keep the new shop but it will be up to her if she wants to use it for a bakery. Janey realizes that Greg wasn’t trying to make her feel incompetent, he only wanted to help in a big-step way.
Conflict continues to surface, pushing them apart while also pushing them together. By the third quarter, the author needs to share what each of them is going to do about the problem. Will they give up? Will they keep going? Is there a sacrifice or a change they dread facing? Of course, there is!
By the fourth quarter, they all think they have been through the worst of the process but each discovers something they really want to make different. This will be the final struggle. This will be the Now or Never moment that actually causes the situation to get worse. The only way to turn it around is to work together and communicate openly.
In my rough worksheet story, Kendra buys the shop, while Greg and Jayne adopt Mary then go live in Australia. Yeah, that’s not a good ending. And until I think of something, this will continue to be a simple worksheet story. However, you might have used the items I’ve listed to create something you are proud of. That’s great! Now, work it into an outline and chapters. Another best seller is born.
Thanks for reading this and thanks for being patient for the actual blog to post. I’ll get my act together any day now.