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Jason Henry Evans
While recovering in a hospital in Antwerp, a distant relative arrives to dangle an irresistible offer in front of him: The Royal Irish army. All of Ireland is in open revolt and Queen Elizabeth is going to war. The time to strike is now. As the army trains in Dublin, it will need experienced English officers to lead it. Buoyed by the chance to fight for Queen and Country, Philip accepts, bringing along some old friends who also survived Calais.
Once in Ireland, Philip meets two Irishwomen. Nualla asks for his aid while Colleen asks for his heart. Will he be able to protect either of them from the coming violence?
As Philip trains his new company, old grudges tear at the fabric of the army. Meanwhile Irish rebels and Scottish mercenaries raid and the survivors whisper the name of a monster: Solomon Red Beard O’Donnell. Will Philip and his friends have enough time to turn Irish peasants into soldiers? If they don’t Solomon Red Beard will spread the rebellion and Ireland will be lost.
Word Count: 129600
Genre: Historical Fiction
Available: The Gallowglass will release July 10th on Amazon
Jason always wanted to be an author, he just didn’t know it. After attending college and working in education, Jason’s life changed when he fell in love with the Fetching Mrs. Evans. After over a decade as a teacher in public and private schools, he discovered the wonderful writing community in Colorado, where he still lives. Jason is an educator, a writer, and a historian (as well as a bon vivant,) who is active in the Colorado writing community as a teacher and speaker.
If you’ve read my Pikes Peak blog this month and have come over from that site to continue our discussion of story, then welcome. Here we will get a little more in depth about the issues of story. Unfortunately, people have built entire university classes, how-to books, as well as initiating blood feuds on the proper way to right a book.
First of all, unless your name is George RR Martin, JK Rawlings, or Stephen King, you cannot sit on your high throne telling people how to write books. Please understand this is NOT what I’m doing. I just want to share some insights that I made while writing my first and second unpublished novels.
The Story Arc: Three ACT Structure
I have come to believe that the three act structure (or the five act, if you’re doing the Freytag model,) is not only logical, its biological. Our human brains just don’t want to process a story that doesn’t have a beginning, a middle, and an end. That’s why the vast majority of stories, plays and films follow it. But let’s dig deeper.
Within the three act structure are some hurdles your character must face, or else the story falls flat. Each act has these beats and your character must hit them in order to move the story along.
(Remember, I use Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat organization system, so grab a copy if you want more details.)
This is that moment when the protagonists world changes. She becomes aware of an issue that will push her out of her comfort zone. For Catniss Everdeen, it was the lottery where her sister was chosen. For Luke Skywalker, it was finding the 3d video of princess Leia. The hero or heroine hasn’t decided to go at this point. All that has happened is they are presented with a glimpse into another world.
The Call to Adventure, the Debate and its Acceptance.
At some point a wise old person shows up, hints at what may happen next, and gives the call to adventure. Your protagonist isn’t really sure they want to go. They might have loved ones to take care of, or they’re scared of change. Maybe they lack self-confidence and just need to believe in themselves. Regardless of the situation, they need to think about the offer.
Eventually, they accept. (We wouldn’t have a story if they didn’t.) Whether they boldly go, or are timid, or even petrified, the protagonist must choose on their own.
I saw Suicide Squad in theatres, like a lot of people. While it was a fun romp, the story had many flaws. There’s a scene, just about at the end of Act 1 where the characters have micro bombs implanted in their necks to make them compliant.
While I know this is a trope from the comic book, it kills a lot of the story. 1.) These villains aren’t redeemable because they’re forced. 2.) There’s little tension among the team because at no point in time will anyone try to run away after Slipknot. 3.) When their second opportunity for redemption comes around after Col. Flag destroys the remote controlling the bomb, we know its hallow because you can make a pretty good guess that the real bad guy, Amanda Waller, has her own version of that box. Your protagonist has to choose on their own, to be the hero.
This is where all the marbles are. This is the point where your hero’s true character begins to show. The plot directed threat is either minimized or non-existent at this phase. Any failure is a personal failure and not directly the fault of the antagonist. Any victory is stale and leaves the tastes of ashes in her mouth.
It’s at the midpoint that Roy Hobbs, the hero in Bernard Malamud’s debut novel, The Natural, is riding high on success and fame. He’s even dating the team’s owner’s niece. But it all goes bad. The fame and celebrity turns sour as the team’s winning streak ends.
The midpoint is also where we foreshadow all the bad stuff that’s going to happen to our protagonist, very shortly. She thinks she’s figure it out. That she’s conquered her fears, her enemies and her obstacles. Heh, heh, heh! Boy is SHE IN FOR A SURPRISE!!!!!
Author James Scott Bell wrote a lovely little help-me guide called Write your Novel from the Middle. In it, he says the following:
At this point in the story the character looks at himself. He takes
stock of where he is in the conflict (and) . . . has either of two
basic thoughts. In a character driven story, he looks at himself
and wonders what kind of person he is. What is he becoming?
If he continues the fight of Act II, how will he be different? What
will he have to do to overcome his inner challenges?
The second type of look is more for plot-driven fiction. Its where
the character looks at himself and considers the odds against him.
At this point the forces seem so vast that there is virtually no way
to go on and not face certain death. That death can be physical,
professional, or psychological.
(Bell, p. 22-23)
Most great stories have powerful midpoints where the character is facing an internal challenge. Once the character has figured out why she is really struggling against and fighting for, then we can go back to the external challenge.
The Dark Night of the Soul
The Dark Night of the Soul mirrors the midpoint in many ways. But just because it is a reflection of the inner turmoil, doesn’t mean it has to have the same structure. The midpoint, as I wrote on the Pikes Peak Blog, can either be a false victory or a false defeat. Why? Because the space between the midpoint and the Dark Night of the Soul should be real defeat of the protagonist.
With a solid loss in their column, their mentor dead or missing, the protagonist must figure out a new way to do things. She has to work it out on their own and come up with a how and a why.
Think of the Dark Night of the Soul as a mirror image of the Catalyst and Debate from Act 1.
Again there world has changed, again they have a choice to continue on or turn back. (or even die.) The must choose.
Like Act 1, Act 2 end only when the character chooses on their own to continue the struggle. Our Heroine will answer this second call to adventure with an affirmative.
WE’RE NOT DONE YET!!!!
Now our heroine has to find allies, create a new plan, attack the problem/villain, and win the day! It’s all downhill from here! This is the fun part of the story. Things are coming together. The heroine has learned her lesson and has conquered her internal problems so she can face the external.
This is where the reader gets his payoff for sticking with your story. This is where the satisfying ending comes in! This is where the heroine achieves victory – or not.
Your protagonist could still lose. Tragedies can be fun, too. Three of my favorite movies are Rocky, Glory & the Empire Strikes Back. The protagonists don’t win in any of those films. The story is better for the loss.
Or, how about Gone with the Wind. Scarlet loses the man she loves at the end of that book. (Movie, too.) Yet we know she is stronger for it. We also know she has clarity in her life – for once she is clear that Ashley is not for her.
Or, you could give a bittersweet ending.
Roy Hobbs never plays baseball again at the end of The Natural. While we are saddened for him, we know he is content because he has won Iris and is now a family man.
Just remember, the good guys don’t always have to win.
NOW I get to impress you with my French! The Denouement is the final scene of the story, after the climax and the resolution of the external struggle, or plot. The word comes from the French word denouer, meaning to untie. It is in the final scene were the tension of the story is resolved. The loose ends are gathered. The questions answered – for good or for ill.
I have read a lot of authors who seem to mail this ending in. The Climax seems to be the real ending to a lot of stories, so this post climax scene sometimes feels awkward to me.
If you’re working on your first story, I challenge you to make this scene memorable. As memorable as the climax where the bad guys get what’s coming to them! Give the reader some peace of mind that the protagonist is finally happy & at peace.
(Unless you want a sequel.)
This entire blog post has been about the story arc. The ups and downs of your character. But I hope you noticed something. Every part of the story arc we’ve gone over today, The Catalyst, the Call to Adventure and its acceptance, the Mid-point, the Dark Night of the Soul, the move into Act 3, and the Denouement, can all be used as frameworks for your character arc.
See, a character arc is a set of scenes in your novel. They are a story within your story about how your protagonist grows as a human being. They should have weaknesses that the story exposes. Later on in your story, the bad guys or problems should force the heroine to improve herself or get lost. The six scenes I’ve mentioned earlier perfect opportunities sketch out that character arc.
Whew, we did a lot today! Before I go, I would encourage you to think about the structure of your story. Now, if you’re a pantser and not a plotter like me, it doesn’t mean you can’t use what I’ve written about in both blogs. As a seat-of-your-pants writer, your plot will be more organic, than structured and that’s OK. Just keep in mind the three act structure as you write your kick ass novel.
I do want to leave you with my bibliography of books I use to organize and write. Here they are:
|Blake Snyder||Save the Cat|
|Blake Snyder||Save the Cat goes to the Movies|
|Blake Snyder||Save the Cat Strikes Back|
|James Scott Bell||Write Your Novel from the Middle|
|Stant Litore||Write Characters your Readers won’t Forget|
Leigh Michaels On Writing Romance This book taught me the structure of Romance stories. It was clear and concise with lots of examples. Good stuff!
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If you’ve moseyed on over from the Pikespeakwriters.blogspot.com, welcome to my website. If you’ve stumbled upon my site, welcome too! Today we’re going to talk about those crazy ideas you have for your historical fiction. We’ll also touch upon the logline again, to be clear why it’s so important.
So, where do your ideas come from? Are you inspired by a book you read? Or, maybe a comic book/graphic novel? How about a film you saw, or a television show you watched? All of these are legitimate inspiration for your book. But before you crank up your word processor and begin writing, let me say this first.
Inspiration is not enough.
You have to do the hard work of forming and shaping this idea into a story.
Stories have several components. There is character, plot, setting, conflict and theme. Usually, when I get excited about an idea, it’s because one of these story elements have danced in my head over and over again. Which is it for you?
Do you have a major or minor character that you keep fantasizing about? A plucky immigrant with guts? Or maybe a girl blossoming into womanhood who must now act as a spy when she should be playing with make-up?
Or, do you have a plot in mind? A twist that sticks out in your head? (It wasn’t the butler, it was the masseuse!)
Or, do you have an idealized setting taking up all your time? Maybe it’s the Peninsular Campaign of the Napoleonic Wars? Perhaps you are fascinated by the culture of 4th century Persia?
Perhaps you see a conflict? Maybe a political movement that splits families, like abolition did in the U.S., or Suffrage did in Britain? Maybe you envision a particular war as the conflict in your story? Keep it. Use it.
Finally, there is theme. The argument you are trying to make in your story. The actions of your characters can all represent this theme. In Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the theme revolves around the myth of the protective slave owner. That slavery is bad because the owner will always put his or her self-interest above that of the slave, regardless how kind they are.
In The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, the theme is that you can’t trust capitalists with the best interests of the people. They will poison your food, fire you, and take advantage of you.
Whatever your starting point, you need to tease the story out. You need to develop this idea you have and make sure it connects with the others.
If your starting point is with a character, ask that character some questions. Find out what makes that character unique. What are his or her strengths? What makes them likable? What are their weaknesses? (Weaknesses are particularly important because the best stories are sometimes about characters discovering their weaknesses and overcoming them.)
Let me tell you about my first manuscript, The Gallowglass.
First of all, Gallowglass are a hereditary mercenary class of soldiers that existed in Ireland up through the middle of the 17th century. My story takes place in Ireland, towards the end of Queen Elizabeth’s reign in 1597. It just so happened that a MAJOR rebellion against English rule was occurring at the same time. That is the setting of my story. So how did I get here?
I was watching The Last of the Mohicans starring Daniel Day Lewis. There was that one battle, towards the middle of the film? The Massacre at Ft. William Henry? Yeah. That battle scene was EPIC! I was 21 when that film came out and it haunted me.
A couple of years later I read a book called The Twilight Lords, by Richard Berleth. It described the rebellion against English rule in the 1590s. The stories in that book captivated me. The story of Anglo-Irish lords trying to carve out some independence from England. The futile attempts at converting the Irish to Protestantism. The fear of Spain getting seriously involved in Ireland. Why hadn’t anybody turned this into a film?
In the book Berleth writes about the greatest defeat of the English under a Tudor monarch. It happened in the county of Ulster and is called The Battle of the Yellow Ford. I read Berleth’s account and it reminded me a lot of The Massacre at Ft. William Henry. So much so I started writing a screenplay in 1995. Then a book, in 1998. None of it came to any fruition. I finally got serious about it in 2015. I wrote a first draft – which was awful. It had all the mistakes you shouldn’t make in a book; head hopping, bad grammar, no central character and no action.
So in January of 2016 I decided I would settle in on one POV character. I would focus in on action and tension. I then added a love interest.
For me, a setting or conflict wasn’t enough. I had to figure out whose story I was telling and why I was telling it. I had to do the work of crafting a story.
This is why a logline is so important to your book. It will focus your attention on what your story is about. It will bring you back to the heart of your story. So let’s review the logline formula again.
An adjective to describe the protagonist
An adjective to describe the antagonist
A compelling goal we identify with as human beings
It should offer the most conflict in the situation
Show the protagonist has the longest way to go emotionally.
I hope this has been helpful. Next week I’ll have a book review for you. Next month at PikesPeakWriters.blogspot.com, I’ll talk about organizing your story before you write.
Have a great day!