The Writer’s Toolbox
The Purpose of this Post
A while back, I had written a fairly lengthy post on the Three-act Structure, which included links to my Three-act Structure (Template)—a tool I use to organize my novels before and while I write them.
A reader requested I go into a bit more detail regarding the stakes key which uses terms Shawn Coyne included in his book The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know, loss, gain, double-loss, double-gain. This reader also asked about moon phases and their purpose.
So, here’s my answers to said reader, but first, more pitches for books to read.
Books to Read: Textual References
The information I’m sharing below is based on what I learned during my MFA and three books I’ve linked before, but there they are again:
- The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know, by Shawn Coyne
- Screenwriting Tricks for Authors: Stealing Hollywood: Story Structure Secrets for Writing Your Best Book, by Alexandra Sokoloff
- The Screenwriter’s Bible, by David Trottier
Three-Act Structure: Gains & Losses
As I wrote in my previous post, Writer Resources, Part II: The Three-act Structure and a Simple, Free Tool, Shawn Coyne’s method of breaking down scenes in The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know (22–23) is a system where “the POV character either gains something or loses something in each scene: something positive or negative happens.” This all increases the stakes or the character’s bid for success toward the end of the novel. Remember, chapters may have one or more scenes, and the number of scenes impacts pacing. Therefore, a character may experience multiple gains and losses by the end of the chapter.
Of course, no one wants to see a character succeed all the time. There needs to be moments where they fail: loss. However, readers also don’t want to follow a character who always fails; there must be success or hope: gain.
Here’s a quick example: A character flees a mugger yet reaches the locked safety of their car: gain! However, the car’s lights were left on, so the battery is dead: loss! The mugger finds the character’s car, shatters the window with their bat, and pulls the character out of the car: double loss!
Three-Act Structure: Gains & Losses
Then there’s the moon phases I included on my Three-act Structure (Template). I keep track of Moon phases in all my novels. For me, it impacts scenes heavily; however, the reader may only get allusions to or brief mentions of the moon.
Most of my novels are set on an earth’s past ranging the 1960s to early 2000s, yet the supernatural is real. Therefore, I maintain date-accurate phases of the moon to maintain realism and connection to our earth. Will a reader track correct phases in my novels? Who knows? Some may. Some may not. The point is, it’s important to me and my writing, and if a reader checks on the phases and finds I’m right, then awesome! I’ve got a dedicated reader.
How would or should the moon phases impact a scene? Well, how does it impact real life?
Setting illumination: A full moon brightens a scene while a new moon covers it in darkness.
Symbolism: The horned moon (waning crescent like horns moving from east to west across the night sky) is typically associated impending evil or danger. That’s just one symbol. I’m sure there’re others, but you get the point.
Use those phases of the moon however you choose, or not. It’s up to you. You’re the writer. Do moon phases affect your story? No? Don’t use them. Yes? Use them. It’s as simple as that.
Hopefully this clears things up a bit. If not, please ask in the comments below or send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org), and I’ll be glad to help.
My Next Post
I think I’ll be taking a step back and looking at the posts I’ve written over the past two years. There’s probably something I missed, something that I intended to go back to, to expound upon.
I keep detailed notes of these posts, so I see that I intended to go into the difference between reflections and flashbacks and another post regarding special writing tools that supposedly help writers. There may be others, but we’ll discover those together.
In addition, if there’s anything you’d like me to review or if you have suggestions on future posts or anything you’re curious about, just send them my way, and I’ll see what I can do.