Advice — martha alderson

Character Emotion Makes the Plot

Posted by Martha Alderson, M.A. on

Some writers excel at pithy banter. Others create dramatic action. The writers I most admire are the ones who in their own natural style convey a character's emotional personality in scene through active, non-verbal communication with just the right frequency and intensity.I have written extensively about how moviegoers and readers identify with stories through the characters' emotions. When we connect with the characters on an emotional level, the interaction become deep and meaningful. Well-written scenes that include characters' emotions allow the audience to viscerally take part in the story and bond with the characters.In my work as a plot consultant,...

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Plot Depth through Thematic Significance

Posted by Martha Alderson, M.A. on

Plot involves at least three primary threads: Dramatic Action, Character Emotional Development, and Thematic Significance. Of these three elements, writers are equally divided between those who begin a project by concentrating on the Dramatic Action and those who begin with Character Emotional Development. Dramatic Action writers tend to thrive on the excitement of what happens in the story. The first draft of a Dramatic Action writer is full of excitement with lots of conflict, tension, and suspense, twists and turns, chases and confrontations, and usually contains little character development. Often, a reader's comment of this first Dramatic Action draft is:...

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The End is the Beginning

Posted by Martha Alderson, M.A. on

An agent flings a promising work against the wall. When asked why, she rages about all the times she has read entire manuscripts only to be disappointed in the end. She softens as she explains how, by the time she reaches the final quarter of the story, she longs for the work to succeed. If it fails, disappointment stings all the more. Agents, editors, directors, audiences, and readers alike expect the scenes of a story to add up to something meaningful in the end. The End is the Beginning T.S. Eliot said, "The end is in the beginning." The beginning...

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Connecting with Audiences Through Character Emotions

Posted by Martha Alderson, M.A. on

Moviegoers and readers identify with stories through the characters. The most powerful way to reach an audience is through the characters' emotions. For only when we connect with the characters on an emotional level, does the interaction become deep and meaningful. Well-written scenes that include characters' emotions allow the audience to viscerally take part in the story and bond with the characters.In real life, we meet and interact daily with other people. Unlike in stories, many of these interactions are fairly superficial. Though some audience members rather enjoy a more distanced, intellectual challenge, most want to engage with characters in...

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Scenes to Cut, Those to Save

Posted by Martha Alderson, M.A. on

Most writers end up writing at least twice as many scenes as needed to produce a compelling story. One skill that defines a good writer is the ability to know which scenes to keep and which ones to kill off. As a plot consultant, I developed two visual plot tools to help writers select those scenes that best advance the story and then make those chosen few truly great. The Plot Planner approaches plot from the overall story level and The Scene Tracker breaks down plot at the scene level. Both of these tools support writing plot as a layering...

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