Making Readers Care e-book manual

This new book will be published towards the end of February as an e-book, price £4.50. To pre-order, please email me. Watch this space!

Cover of Making Readers Care with Psychology and Structure: The Complete Guide To  Writing Totally Gripping Novels, Film & TV Scripts  by David Thorpe

It is for anyone who wants to write a ‘page-turner’ – a compelling narrative that readers ‘can’t put down’ with characters that ‘jump off the page’. These phrases in inverted commas are frequently used by editors, producers and agents to describe what they are looking for.

The way to achieve this result is by making readers care what happens to your characters, regardless of whether they are likeable or not.

My aim is simply to help you get the best from your own story, whatever it is; to uncover inside it the seed of the perfect narrative just waiting to be discovered and guide you in making it as gripping as possible.

I have taught many hundreds of hours of scriptwriting and creative writing classes, during which its content has been developed and refined from feedback with students.

It concentrates especially on two things: human psychology and structure. It provides a methodology.

Many readers, and many beginner writers, think writing is just about inspiration. Of course inspiration plays a part. But discipline and method, ruthlessness and determination contribute the rest.

Film, TV, publishing: they are highly competitive industries. Millions of dollars are at stake. To succeed you need to be working at a top professional standard.

This book contains the secrets of success for writers in these industries. The only other things you will need are your time and hard work.

Contents:

Introduction 13

The nature of storytelling 13

How to use this book … 14

10 steps to a first draft! … 14

 

SECTION A: PREPARATION

1. Choosing the right idea … 17

Research the market 17

Exercise 1: Finalise the idea 17

2. The four basic plot types … 19

How to decide your story’s plot type 19

1. Conquering the Monster … 19

2. Rags to Riches … 19

3. Voyage and Return … 19

4. Rebirth … 20

Exercise 2.1: What's the plot type? … 20

So are there really only four plots? … 20

Exercise 2.2: Practice the plot type … 21

Exercise 2.3: Your plot type … 21

3. The challenge of creating compelling characters … 22

Be honest 22

Exercise 3.2: Know your characters … 23

Exercise 3.3: Practising honesty 23

Issue-based characters … 23

4. How to create characters that jump off the page 24

Exercise 4.1: Make a basic character sheet … 24

Hear their voices … 24

Complexity … 24

Exercise 4.2: Creating complexity … 24

Inner conflict 25

Ways of creating inner conflict 25

Exercise 4.3: Life scripts and inner conflicts 27

5. The ‘but’ equation … 28

Upping the stakes … 28

Exercise 5.1: Write a 'but' equation … 28

What’s at stake? … 28

Exercise 5.2: What's at stake? … 29

How do conflicted characters behave? 29

Exercise 5.3: Plot goals … 29

Make mistakes … 29

6. The really interesting thing about superheroes … 31

7. The story writing map … 32

8. The four story endings … 33

Exercise 8.1: How does it end? … 33

Story arcs … 33

Exercise 8.2: Check the ends … 33

9. The three act structure and the sentence summary 34

The three act structure … 34

The three sentence summary … 35

Exercise 9.1: Analyse a story … 36

Exercise 9.2: Write your three sentence summary … 36

10. Loglines … 37

How to write a logline … 37

Exercise 10.1: Write a logline for another story … 38

Exercise 10.2: Write a logline for your story … 38

11. Research 39

How to do research … 39

How to use the research … 39

12. Themes and subplots … 40

The use of subplots … 40

More than one theme … 41

Exercises 12: … 41

13. The Hero’s Journey … 42

Too formulaic? … 43

Exercise 13.1: Look out for the plot points … 44

Exercise 13.2: Map your hero's journey 45

14. Fleshing out the story … 46

15. Character development … 47

You are what other people think of you … 47

Making an attitude table … 47

Exercise 15.1: Make an attitude table … 48

Stakes … 48

Exercise 15.2: Sharpen the stakes 49

16. More on psychology and dramatic storytelling … 50

The shadow self … 50

Exercises 16.1: What is the shadow self? 50

Life scripts … 50

Exercises 16.2: What are the life scripts? 51

People have ‘parts’ … 51

Triggers 52

Exercises 16.3: What are the triggers? … 53

17. The Storyline … 54

Weaving yarns … 54

The Storyline … 54

Exercise 17.1: Make a storyline 55

Things to look for: … 55

Exercise 17.2: Plant the plants … 56

Exercise 17.3: Plant the props … 56

Exercise 17.4: Perfect the storyline … 56

18. The scene cards system … 57

The scene cards … 57

Exercise 18: Make your scene cards … 59

19. The synopsis … 60

Exercise 19: Check for plot holes … 61

20. What is suspense? … 62

Three ingredients of suspense 62

Levels of suspense … 62

Ways to increase and vary suspense: … 62

The payoff … 62

Timescales … 63

Layer your anticipations … 63

Be aware of pacing … 63

Relation to story structure: … 63

Exercise 20: Monitor the suspense … 63

21. Flashbacks and framing devices … 65

Framing devices … 65

22. Interlude: Imagination, inspiration and in-betweens … 66

Empathy and imagination 66

Courting the unexpected … 66

Breathing space … 67

Exercise 22: Tap your subconscious … 67

 

SECTION B: WRITING THE FIRST DRAFT

23. Writing the first draft … 69

A suggested work pattern 69

How many drafts should you write? … 69

How long should your novel be? … 69

Assemble your tools 69

24. Honesty and writing … 71

25. Choosing the point of view … 72

Exercise 25: … 72

26. Present or past tense? … 73

Exercise 26: Play with tense … 73

27. On Dialogue 74

Exercise 27.1: Plan a scene … 74

Exercise 27.2: Dialogue vs. silence … 75

28. More on dialogue … 76

1. Intention … 76

2. Pauses and attributions … 76

3. Multiple topics in a conversation 77

4. Long speeches … 77

5. Grammar … 77

6. Phonetic spellings 77

7. Don’t use characters’ names too often 78

8. Don’t have long stretches of dialogue only … 78

9. Reported speech … 78

Exercise 28.3: Showing not telling … 78

29. How to plan a scene (1) … 79

The definition of a scene … 79

Exercise 29: Prepare to write a scene … 79

30. Transactional analysis of a relationship … 80

31. How to plan a scene (2) … 82

Exercise 31: Make the scene grip the reader … 82

32. Suspense and structure … 84

Exercise 32: … 84

33. 20 tips on scene writing … 85

34. Beats and how they work … 86

Exercise 34.1: List the beats … 86

Exercise 34.2: Check the beats … 86

The relationship with adjacent scenes … 87

Exercise 34.3: Check the scene … 87

35. How to keep it simple and fast-paced … 88

Tense and sentence structure … 88

Exercise 35.1: Active-passive … 88

Word choice … 88

Use short chapters or segments … 88

Cliffhangers … 88

Jump cuts … 89

The secret of good storytelling 89

Exercise 35.2: Cliffhangers 89

36. Pacing … 90

What is pacing? … 90

When to slow down … 90

When to speed up … 90

Exercise 36.1: Speed check … 90

Exercise 36.2: Overwriting check … 90

Action scenes … 90

Cliffhangers and pacing … 91

Summaries … 91

Extending the dramatic scenes 91

Jump cuts … 91

Short chapters … 91

Word choice and sentence structure … 91

Exercise 36.3: Read it out … 92

37. Set-pieces … 93

Exercises 37: … 93

38. Show, don’t tell … 94

Exercise 38.1: Noticing 'telling' … 94

Exercise 38.2: Read and critique … 94

39. Scene setting and the reliability of the narrator … 96

Exercise 39: … 96

40. Everything is particular: the art of writing descriptive prose … 97

Exercise 40: … 98

41. The extended metaphor … 99

Cold Comfort Farm … 99

Exercise 41: … 100

42. Using humour … 101

Types of humour … 101

Types of humour in relation to character type or to genre … 101

Narrative forms and humour … 102

Types of verbal humour … 103

Sample list of humorous books with types of humour … 104

Other notes … 104

Exercises 42: 104

 

SECTION C: EDITING

43. Editing your work … 106

Seeing it afresh … 106

Exercise 43.1: Overview … 106

Exercise 43.2: Settings check … 106

Exercise 43.3: Style check 107

Exercise 43.4: Chapter or scene level checks … 107

This is about making the reader care 108

Show don’t tell … 108

Transitions … 108

Making it flow … 108

Exercise 43.5: Copy-editing … 109

Exercise 43.6: Proofreading … 109

44. Openings … 110

Things that a beginning needs to do … 110

How to do this … 110

Exercise 44: … 111

45. Notes on formatting … 112

For the manuscript … 112

46. Jokes for editors and writers 113

Explanations for the jokes … 113

 

SECTION D: SUBMITTING

47. Agents and editors … 118

48. What to send … 119

Cover letters when submitting to agents/editors … 119

Synopses … 119

49. How to grab the attention of an editor or agent … 120

50. How to deal with rejection and feedback 121

How to respond to feedback … 121

51. To self publish or not? … 122

Self-publishing and publishers’ services … 122

Acknowledgements … 123