Aristotle’s 6: The Elements of Compelling Fiction

Guest bloggers visit my website twice a month on Tuesday and Thursday. If you would like to be a part of this, feel free to check out the Be a Guest Blogger page.

This week’s guest post is brought to you by Rollan in which he discusses Aristotle’s six elements of drama. Thanks, Rollan!

Aristotle's six elements of drama

Centuries ago, Aristotle discovered the six substances of compelling art. Why art? Sure, Aristotle coined them for drama, but these elements apply to all forms of art. They are the elements that draw us to mediums: movies, music, paintings, speeches, etc. I like to apply them to writing. Like a general contractor wielding raw materials, these elements determine the type of structure we will create, and make it livable, or even more importantly make it enjoyable.

What are the elements and their purposes? How much of each is one to use? That depends on the type of structure we want to create. Continuing with the structure analogy, let’s explore each element’s purpose.

Plot (The frame and the foundation)

Some buildings have an elaborate frame segmenting various types of rooms, some are minimal and more open. The same goes for the plot. In a story, plot determines where everything goes. Plot-focused works are like an office building. Plot points are rigid. They need to be placed in proper order (not necessarily chronological) to keep a story compelling. Mystery and Thrillers tend to be heavily plot-centric. Other element-focused works may be more like a studio apartment (or a teepee). Even then, if the sequence of events flow illogically or dully, it can kill a story.

Character (The walls and roof)

Frame, walls, and roof are the essentials of a building. They are enough to protect us from the elements. (Not enough to make us want to live there.) Add walls and a roof, then a house looks like a house. Likewise, add characters to a story, then you have the elements to drive a plot. I mean, how can you have conflict without characters conflicting. But, character is more than a driving force for the plot. It’s a work’s personality.  It’s an audience’s means of injecting themselves into the medium. We want someone (or something, people aren’t the only ones with personality) to identify with. Dramas and comedies are often character-centered.

Diction (Wiring and Plumbing)

A structure’s wiring and plumbing work out of sight, as does diction (sort of: depending on its purpose and how well it’s done). An oversimplified definition of diction: word choice. The purpose of diction is choosing and organizing words in a manner that lets people fully understand your message.  A connotative understanding. It’s the seeking and straining for the right words to express our thoughts, to get others to feel the way we what them to.  We do this primarily via grammar and voice. Grammar, eh, following those universal rules that the masses have agreed to adhere to. Voice adds the shades of meaning that enable an audience to get inside the artist’s head to understand them deeper.  And, diction’s function is not to draw attention to itself.

Music (Décor)

Nothing invokes certain moods in a house more than the décor. The color of paint, the plushness of the furniture, the fabric of the curtains. Décor creates an atmosphere, as does music in art. Music, however, is not solely our denotative understanding of the word. In Aristotle’s understanding, it is the overall flow and rhythm of a work. In painting it is the length and shape of the strokes. In writing, it can be word choice according to the way words sound or flow. Sentence and paragraph lengths. I sometimes find, diction and music butting heads. One word describes something better, while the other word sounds prettier, or harsher, or more monotone (all depending on the mood I’m going for). Songs (obviously), poetry, musicals, and operas are all music-centric works.

Theme (The Family)

Yes. A house is still a house even if no one lives there, but it is pointless. And, a story is a story, even if it doesn’t have a theme. Themes are what we have to say. What we want others to learn. What we want our audience to think about. I don’t know how many struggle with what they want to say, but I struggle with how to express my themes. I could go right out and say, “I believe you should…” But, compelling art gets people, even those who rabidly disagree, to ponder themes. The more radical the theme, the harder it is make our expression of it compelling.

Spectacle (Wow Factor)

A flashy car pulls into the garage, an infinity pool whooshes in the back yard, and marble counter tops make even spoiled fruit look tempting, these all get the neighbors to drop their jaws. But, they are not necessary. Aristotle said spectacle was the least import of the 6. Although, many modern day action flicks start with spectacle and then build the other elements around it. Well… Who doesn’t love a good explosion? So, what is spectacle? Anything that makes us say, “Whoa, that was cool.” In writing, it might be a detailed fight scene… Or a graphic something-or-other scene. Maybe, it’s a good gimmick.

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Take Over And Far Away

Today is October first which means… one more month until NaNoWriMo! Yeah, it’s already that time of year again. Scary, huh?

So, despite homework, work, babysitting, whatever else I have going on in real life, I need to buckle down and get myself back into a writing/editing routine so that I can work hard on NaNo.

Before I begin, let me explain this: I was planning on writing Detective Florence 3 for NaNo because I was going to outline that novel as well as finish editing Detective Florence 2 this month. Well, I never even finished typing up the second draft to the first novel. Thus, I never started editing the second novel.

I don’t even know if I’m doing it right, but writing a mystery series is pretty tough. There’s so much information and there are so many plot holes that need to be filled (just like any other genre, but I feel like mystery is worse). There are so many characters to keep track of: bad guys, witnesses, victims, and so on. I do have a good handle on it, but since I’ve gotten far behind from what my schedule originally was (thanks a lot, school) I decided to take a break from it. I might pick it back up in December, but I make no promises to myself at this time.

With that being said… usually the month before a NaNo session I outline (well, try to) whatever I’m going to write for the month. Except now that I decided not to continue on with Detective Florence for the time being, I had no idea what to write.

I looked through my extremely long list of novel ideas and nothing really jumped out at me. I didn’t even know what genre to write. So, I looked through my flash drive and decided to be a “NaNo Rebel” this year and finish something that was already started. Thus, I came across Far Away again.

I thought it might be nice to work on a stand-alone novel for a change so I clicked on it to see where I was. Now, I don’t remember this, but apparently back in January I wrote about 20,500 words of this story. It was about 64 pages long. So, I’m pretty far along in the novel. I just need to read through it to make sure I remember what is going on. Thus, the outline. I’m going to outline Far Away this month so I can finish it for NaNo. Since I’m already 20k words in and my goal for NaNo is 50k, I’m going to have to have Far Away be at least 70k words, which I think won’t be too hard. The good news is, since I’ve already started it, I should be able to finish the manuscript if I meet my goals during November.

Speaking of stand-alone novels… about a month back I decided to work on two projects. One being the Detective Florence series (which since then has changed because I’m going to take a break from it) and the other would be Take Over. Does anyone remember that one?

I wrote it back in April 2013 for Camp NaNo. I decided to work on this because it is a stand-alone novel. I would like to get something worthy of publication soon, and I figured a stand-alone would be the best way to do it. I would like to have it ready by this time next year. So, in addition to outlining Far Away, I’ll be editing Take Over. In order to finish that by the end of the month, I need to edit about eight pages a day. I think that’s reasonable on account I have work and school on top of everything else. If I don’t finish it by the end of the month, it’s no big deal, but at least I’m going to try to have it done by then.

I hope everyone else is going to start getting ready for NaNo. 30 more days! Plus, the first day of November is on a Saturday. I can finish my homework early that week and of course I don’t have work on Saturday, so I’m hoping to make the first day really count!

A Dumb Story

Here We Go…

So I realized that I haven’t really talked too much about my writing on here lately. I can’t really say that things haven’t been going well, but I guess they haven’t really been going all that great, either.

Ever since I got stuck with my novel Cybertra back in July for Camp NaNoWriMo, I’ve been kind of stuck on all of my writing. I’ve been trying, but I don’t really know what to do with myself.

I went on vacation for a week in July and that was one whole week that I didn’t write. I played Pokemon instead. So that also slowed me down a bit, too. But I can’t complain because I think I needed a break from writing for a little bit.

But when I came back from vacation I realized that I really needed to get back into the swing of things. I have three young adult novels completed, why aren’t I editing them? I have three other novels started, why aren’t I finishing them?

Kris and I went to Barnes and Noble together last week. I took out my laptop and was beside myself. What was I supposed to write? I had no idea. Kris found a cool writing prompt app on her phone in which we both downloaded. She wasn’t too sure what to write, either, so we each picked a prompt. Mine was, “Everything is ruined because…” Again, what was I supposed to write about?

In the end, I wrote a small short story that was about four pages long. I’ll post it on here tomorrow. It was probably the dumbest thing I had ever written in my life. I wasn’t too crazy about the way I had written it, the story line was kind of weird, and the characters were just…odd. It certainly was not my best work.

But it was soon after that that I began to write again. That same day at Barnes and Noble, I whipped out my Hunter & Comet story and wrote a little bit of that. Then, for some strange reason, I got into the mood of writing one of those cliche high school drama novels. I have a couple of ideas for those and ended up starting one. It’s called Union Academy. I have no idea what the plot really is…it’s just one of those drama stories where things never seem to go right for a group of high school girls.

The time we went to Barnes and Noble after that, the latest time we’ve gone, I ended up writing that. And I got a good chunk done, too. So I think I’m over my little writer’s block. Not only that, but I actually started editing Hunter again.

It just goes to show that whatever writing you’re stuck on, just write something, anything. Even if it’s terrible. And it will help.

Mind Blown

Ready To Be Confused…?

 

First things first: I lost count of my word count. Seriously, I thought I was doing really well with the word count and keeping up with it, but I just calculated everything out and I was about 4,000 words off. The word count on here was higher than what my calculator said. So I decided to change it. I’m adding the words from Take Over, Saving Each Other, Seeing Things, and so far of The Blank Page because that’s really all I have written for 2013. So the word count is a little less, but oh well. I think I might have gotten confused because of the NaNo count, as well.

That’s not what I meant by the confusion, though. Although I am pretty confused about the word count, but whatever. What I was going to mention about being confused is the fact that I am trying to write four books at one time right now. Yes.

I have been trying to stick with one book at a time to make it easier on myself and to force myself to be more organized. So far, it’s been working. The only thing is that I have Seeing Things started, but I plan on finishing that as soon as I finish The Blank Page.

Speaking of the The Blank Page…you know how that novel is about three writers getting together once a week to write their own novels? Well, three novels plus The Blank Page, equals four novels. There you have it. I am going to be writing four novels at once.

When I first started writing The Blank Page (before my flash drive died) I thought about writing their novels along with the real one because I thought it would help me keep track of their progress, figure out their own writing styles and habits, and I could get their plots straightened out. I never did, though. I don’t know why and I got confused a lot and there were a lot of holes in The Blank Page…holes that my characters found and jumped through as I tried to continue on with the novel. So not only did I have no idea what was going on, but they decided to play hide-and-seek on me…and I lost.

So I decided to write each novel as I write The Blank Page. It’s going to be tough, but I think I will be able to get through it. I hope I can, anyway. It’s tough right now because I gave each of them their own way of thinking on how to write a novel. For example…

Adair is writing fantasy. She doesn’t know the title of her novel and she doesn’t think. She just writes whatever comes to her mind because to her, editing is when the real writing begins so the first draft is going to be crap no matter how well she writes it. She just wants to get the editing process sooner rather than later. Her novel is single-spaced, but she still has more pages than the boys because she types a lot faster.

Justin is writing a young adult drama and he is the complete opposite of Adair. He knows the title and he thinks a lot. He has a notebook filled with notes and, outlining for this novel. He knows the exact beginning, middle, and end to his novel to make sure that he doesn’t get stuck behind writer’s block. He hates editing, which is another reason as to why he plans it all out. He also types really slowly to try not to make too many mistakes to make editing easier, as well. His novel is double-spaced “as it should be.”

Dominic, in a way, is a mix of Adair and Justin. He came in not even knowing the genre. Apparently, he has written mystery, suspense, and thrillers before, so he decided to write a mystery after Adair told him to. His is double-spaced, but still has the least amount of pages. He doesn’t plan, as he didn’t even know the genre, but he hates editing. He has no idea what the title is and he has no idea where the plot is going to end up. He doesn’t even really have a plot at the moment.

So as you can tell, it’s a little tough because I have to write two novels entirely from scratch and I have to plan out Justin’s novel. Well, I don’t have to, but I want to. It’ll be a good exercise to step into my characters’ shoes and get to know them a little more. I’m just a little afraid of what I might find.

 

2013: 119,319/350,000 Words Written
2013: 1,749/18,250 Pages Read

Day Thirteen and Booky Questions

Interviewy Stuff….

 

Hey everyone! I was invited to do some interview-like questions. So I’m going to post that first and then give you a quick update on my progress!

The other day, Tiffany Metzger commented on my blog and told me about Blog Hopping and Booky Questions and tagged me in it. I am more than happy to participate in it. Thanks, Tiffany!

So here are some questions of my work-in-progress novel:

What is the (working) title of your book?

Take Over.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

As weird as this is going to sound, I thought of the idea when I was at work. I work at a preschool and the other teacher took the kids outside while I stayed behind to clean up the classroom a little bit. While I was setting up the art table, the idea just randomly popped into my head. I started saying to myself, “Remember when you were little and everyone was always wondering why the kids never took over the school? Because it’s obvious that the students out numbered the teachers.” Everyone has though about that sometime or another while they were in grade school, right? I thought it would be funny to turn it into the novel, but I wasn’t serious about it. Then I was in the shower a few days later and I thought of the idea again. I started coming up with characters and scenes and all that fun stuff. I got really excited and really into the idea, so I decided to write a book about what would happen if a group of students really did take over the school. I have no idea what made me think about it, but I’m glad I did.

What genre does your book fall under?

Young adult drama. High school stuff, just like any other young adult drama. The only difference is that none of my characters sleep around with any of their teachers, no one smokes or does drugs, and none of the girls fight over one guy.

Which actors and/or actresses would you choose to play your characters in the movie rendition?

Well, there are six main characters. I honestly have no idea who would play who. Most of the actors and actresses I really know are adults and my characters are 17- and 18-years-old. So I guess I’ll just use Disney Channel stars as an example even though I would never want them playing any of my characters. David Henrie, he’s hot, so he can play Simon. Selena Gomez, I love her, she can be Roxana. Although they would be weird because they used to play brother and sister, but whatever. Dylan and Cole Sprouse could definitely play Jay and Darren, who are twins. That leaves Bella, the airhead…Bridget Mendler. Not that I’m saying anything against Bridgit, but I can just picture her being good at play a space cadet.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

To make history and be the most epic senior class of their high school, a group of five seniors with the help of their junior friend decide to take over the school without realizing the consequences and thinking about how out of hand everything can get. <—Synopsis’ suck. That’s all I have to say.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Not self-published, but I don’t really plan on getting an agent.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

So far, it’s been about a month and a half. I haven’t finished the novel, yet, but I am super close!

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

The Wave by Todd Strasser. I read that book my sophomore year of high school and I loved it! It’s about a group of students who don’t understand the Holocaust. They don’t get how people can just fall in line behind someone so bad. So the teacher, trying to help them understand how easy it is to be a follower. He starts “The Wave” where he is the leader and all the students are the followers. However, when it’s time to stop, the students keep going with it and things get out of control. I highly recommend it.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

I have wanted to be an author since I was ten-years-old. I have been writing novels left and right since then and I never finished them. The novels I did finish, I had no motivation to edit. However, when I can up with this idea, I just got so excited. I love the characters, I love the plot, I love everything about the novel. I usually know the beginning and end and get stuck in the middle. That didn’t happen when I wrote this book. Idea after idea kept popping into my head and my fingers never rested once on the keyboard. So I guess what I’m trying to say is, the actual idea itself inspired me to write this particular book.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Honestly, I believe everyone has once asked themselves why no one has ever taken over the school before and this basically has the answer, even though it’s my version of what might happen. All the characters age in this book. Minds are changed and some grow up while others don’t. Roxana is against the idea, the twins and Brad love the idea, Bella and Simon don’t know which side they are on in the first place. And, of course, love is also in the mix.

Now I pass this Blog Hop along to:

Again, thanks to Tiffany for including me in this. Maybe I’ll post those questions for all of my books, who knows? Feel free to post this on your own blog, as well! I have no idea who started this, but it was a good idea and I thank that person.

Now, I don’t have big news to update. I wrote 557 words today. My boyfriend and I are going away this weekend. Remember I said I wasn’t going to change my word count in case I couldn’t hit 50k this weekend? Well, it’s a good thing I was right because this getaway is totally last minute. Anyway, I tried to write a lot this morning because I’m not going to be able to write tomorrow and possibly not Monday, either. However, I just didn’t have the muse to do so.

I do plan on taking my notebook with me so if I have time to get anything done I can write a few notebook pages of Far Away. However, that is not going to count towards my NaNo word count because I have 20 pages so far and I do not want to count all of that up. When I finish the notebook, I’ll type it up and then count all of the words. Then it will be added to my 365,000 word count goal.

In other news, this week is April vacation. I still have school, sadly, but I do not have work. So I plan on writing big time when I come home this weekend. I plan on getting to 50k right when I come back and then hopefully changing my word count goal to 75k. We shall see what happens!

Anyway, I won’t be posting again until either Monday or Tuesday. So everyone better get a lot of writing done! 😀

 

2013: 119,084/350,000 Words Written
2013: 1,749/18,250 Pages Read

Here I Am

Once Again Bored Out Of My Mind…

 

Today is Tuesday which means that I am stuck at school until 2:30. Only today is different because I get to leave at 2:15 to go to the doctors! Boo. Anyway, it’s almost eight in the morning and I thought to myself, “I’m stuck at school all day…why not get all my homework done so that I can go home and get some writing done on account I don’t have work.” It was the perfect plan… *dramatic* But it turns out that it’s not going to happen that way.

I have my teaching class and my health class today, so those were the only books I brought. I thought I had homework in those two classes to do, but I don’t. So I looked on my online class…I did all the homework for that class yesterday while sitting in school. The only written homework I have is math and science and I left those at home…dilemma.

So I guess I’m going to have to wait to do that homework for when I get home. So I figured I might as well get some writing done now. So it’s the same plan, just flipped. Easy enough. Except that the internet is in front of me and I don’t like the internet. Notice that I’m updating my blog now instead of after writing saying, “Hey, I was productive today!” And maybe I will be productive today, but at this rate…no. I am way too tired to do anything whether it be writing or homework. And it’s cold.

Then there’s the problem that I don’t know what to write. Should I continue on with A Job to Get Done or that short story thing? This is what we also call a dilemma. Of course I have to leave for my first class in less than an hour, anyway…but then I have a two-hour break, so maybe I can figure out what I want to do now and then work on it during my break.
I’ll post again tomorrow or something telling you my exciting adventures of being productive…or not.