visible desire

October 16, 2008 | 4 Comments

I’ve decided to post my notes from the Michael Hauge workshop. They are rough, undigested notes on the day, but I thought they might be of interest to the writers out there. Michael is one of the best lecturers I’ve ever heard. If you ever get a chance to see him in action, run don’t walk! My notes include asides about Lakeshore Christmas, my work-in-progress. Doing this always makes the story sound so pedestrian! But it’s a good exercise. It’s lengthy so I’ll post it in parts over the next few days. Here goes:

first draft - not a pretty sight
first draft - not a pretty sight

The hero is the story’s protagonist. It’s a generic term so the gender pronoun doesn’t matter. Briefly, the hero is the one whose goal drives the story. His goal is the finish line the reader wants to see the hero reach.

The ultimate goal of a story (fiction, narrative nonfiction or memoir, film, drama) is to elicit emotion. This is achieved by creating a character who has a powerful desire, facing a conflict that keeps her from fulfilling that desire.

A story’s first audience–agent, editor, first reader, etc.–wants to know how this story is going to sell. Who are we rooting for? The most consistent problem with stories is that they are overcomplicated. The solution? Make it simpler. How? By understanding plot structure.

A story exists on two levels, the outer (visible) journey and the inner (emotional) journey or arc of growth (or deterioration/failure).

In the outer journey, the desire is visible. It’s a journey of achievement or accomplishment. What tangible thing does the hero want? It should be something the reader can see. (In Lakeshore Christmas, Maureen wants to save the library.) There is a visible finish line, and the hero’s outer motivation is also visible.

The conflict must also be visible. (Again in LC, the library lacks the funds to stay open and the facility is going to be sold to a developer.)

There are 4 general types of goal/conflict setups in most commercial stories (including novels, narrative nonfiction and films).

1. To win – a sports contest (Rocky), the love of another character (most romances)

2. To stop something from happening –most thrillers seek to keep a disaster at bay

3. To escape–character must get out of a bad situation (The Count of Monte Cristo, anything with “escape” in the title)

4. To retreat–quest stories in which the character must go and get something and return with it.


Michael calls these the 4 basic Hollywood goals.

This is the outer plot. There is also a second level underneath the visible plot–the inner journey. A journey of fulfillment and/or transformation.

The love story is a great tool for developing a character arc.

Who is your character and what does he desire? What sort of plot will your story follow?

(In Lakeshore Christmas, Maureen Davenport is the town librarian who wants to keep the library solvent. She’s also in charge of the annual Christmas pageant, and she has to work with bad-boy Eddie Haven, who has been court-ordered to help her as community service.)

Michael created a chart showing a 6-stage plot structure in 3 acts. There are 5 key turning points in a story. Tomorrow, I’ll post his general structure for the OUTER journey.

Mr. Inspiration

October 15, 2008 | 5 Comments

I just love this shot of Michael Hauge. With the light streaming down on him, he looks like Moses! This was taken in my yard this morning. Last Saturday, he was the Bard of Bainbridge as he lectured to a packed house on uniting story structure and character arc. It was such a fine lecture that I will be posting my notes and asides over the next few days. I’ll post the first batch tomorrow. Prepare to roll up your sleeves and get to work on that writing project. 

Michael Hauge, the Bard of Bainbridge
Michael Hauge, the Bard of Bainbridge

I left my heart in Ketchikan.

October 14, 2008 | 3 Comments

photo by Hall Anderson
photo by Hall Anderson

Now this is what you want every author appearance to be. Avid readers, good-hearted fun, friends old and new. Thanks to Charlotte Glover of First City Library, to Parnassus Books, to Hall Anderson, photographer, and Leila Kheiry, staff writer, of the Ketchikan Daily News. A historic room at the New York Hotel, a walk along Creek Street, and all was golden. Best lagniappe of the trip–the lovely and talented Stef Ann Holm just happened to be there doing research for a book. I’ve known Stef Ann from 1980-something and I just love her and her books. Her new one, All that Matters, will be out any day and I cannot wait!

forbidden by the TSA 🙁

Travel tip: Don’t even THINK about bringing an ulu chopper in your carry-on bag. Nor can you have a little snow globe with flecks of gold in it. And anyone who knows me knows I never bring more than one small carry-on bag. I hope the TSA is enjoying my souvenirs. 🙁

Things that made it back in my carry-on luggage: a “spawn till you die” t-shirt, a pair of hand-made earrings, several books on Alaskiana and lots of great memories. I wasn’t tempted by the reindeer hotdogs, trust me on this.

We like the sign. The meat...notsomuch.
We like the sign. The meat...notsomuch.
New York Hotel in Ketchikan
New York Hotel in Ketchikan

no excuses

October 10, 2008 | 3 Comments

If you are ANYWHERE CLOSE to Bainbridge Island, Washington tomorrow, you totally have to come to the Michael Hauge workshop. No excuses–they will take your money (cash or check) at the door. He’s the kind of speaker who will bring out the storyteller in you, even if you don’t think you’re a writer. If you ARE a writer, he will inspire you to push your stories to a new level. I’m not kidding. I’ve written like 30something books, and I plan to eagerly attend, busted arm and all.

October 11 (Saturday)

Special Event. “Uniting Story Structure and Character Arc” with Michael Hauge.
This is a special event for writers of all kinds – authors of fiction, narrative nonfiction, memoir – anyone who has a story to tell. In the best novels, movies and short stories, the heroes must achieve two compelling goals: an outer journey of accomplishment; and a deeper, inner journey of transformation and fulfillment. In this special, all day seminar, Hollywood script and story consultant Michael Hauge, best-selling author of Writing Screenplays That Sell and Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds: The Guaranteed Way to Get Your Screenplay or Novel Read, presents his unique approach to mastering these two essential components of your story. Topics include: the primary goal of all stories; the single key to creating character arc and theme; creating believable and fulfilling love stories; the essential conflict all characters must face; and turning plot structure into a simple, powerful tool you can apply to every story.

MICHAEL HAUGE is a story consultant, author and lecturer who works with writers on their novels, movies, screenplays, and television projects. He has coached writers, producers, stars and directors on projects for Will Smith, Julia Roberts, Jennifer Lopez, Kirsten Dunst, Charlize Theron and Morgan Freeman, as well as for every major studio and network. More than 40,000 writers and filmmakers have attended his writing seminars and lectures throughout the world.
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Bainbridge Pavilion Cinemas, 403 N. Madison, Bainbridge Island
10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Lunch break from 12:00 noon to 1:30 p.m.

Two local restaurants have offered us the use of their parking lots should the cinema lot be full. These are Four Swallows, directly to the north of the cinema lot, and San Carlos to the south. Please honor their generosity by being sure your car is moved by the evening hours when these restaurants open for business.

Fee: $75 – September 1 – October 9
Groups of 5 or more registering together: $60
Cancellations: Registrations are refundable up to and including September 12, 2008. After this date, refunds will only be made if the event is sold out and your place can be filled from a waiting list. All refunds are subject to a $10 administration charge.

While pre-registration is preferable, you can register at the door on the day of the event. Please note we can accept cash (exact amount will help) or checks only.


dick in a can

October 08, 2008 | 5 Comments

I don’t know about you, but when I see something like this, I am forced to buy it. This can be found at Cost Plus World Market. Get enough for your friends. You know they’re gonna want it! Even the Daily Show can’t resist.

Dig in!
Dig in!

It’s served with a white, creamy custard sauce which only makes it sillier. Immature, I know. But c’mon.

Arm update number one from Suzanne

October 05, 2008 | 3 Comments

So my friends are keeping my spirits up with food that can be eaten with a single nondominant hand, trashy celeb magazines, music CDs and things that open one-handed. Jay has learned how to braid hair. I miss being able to tie shoes. And the supertalented suzanne selfors reminds me to keep a sense of humor about this:

suz knows me well
suz knows me well

A word from the daughter

October 03, 2008 | 13 Comments

Hi all, Elizabeth Wiggs here. I sneakily hacked into my mom’s blog to share some news from yesterday with you. My mom was getting ready to take Barkis on a walk and he ended up tugging her down, dislocating her left elbow. Yipes! Here’s the amazing part: she managed to see through the pain enough to call for help from the guys working next door! She’s a warrior woman. She spent all day at Swedish Hospital. She’s fine now, but she’s left-handed and it’s her left arm, so writing is going to be tough for her for a little while (remember, she handwrites her first drafts!). There’s nothing to be super worried about, but make sure you send her good thoughts!

Here’s a before & after photo of the X-Ray.