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Writing Lectures/Objectives Sixteen through Twenty
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The First Crisis - Internal

Definition of Internal - Present or rising from within, interior, inner, or inside.

Definition of Crisis - 1) a turning point for better or worse, 2) a decisive moment, 3) an unstable or crucial time or state of affairs.

This week you're going to be writing about your central character and a turning point in his or her life for better or worse–a decisive moment rising from the inside from the central character's own thoughts, words, or actions.  It should be a small one in comparison to turning points yet to come.

Objective 16 - The Internal Crisis   The internal crisis is the first crisis your CC will encounter on the new path to getting off their duff. In the life changing event, the CC resolved to do just that. Remember?  Following the life changing event, your CC climbed out of his or her rut.  While this was certainly a crisis, it was more like the final wake up call.  It was the attention-getter opening the door to a whole new set of adverse circumstances that now begin rearing their heads as obstacles.  Don't confuse the life changing event with one of the Big Three Crises, the new roadblocks looming ahead as a consequence of the life changing event.

For the next three weeks, you'll be writing about the adversity that springs up once the CC tries to get his or her life turned around.  You will be looking at two types of adversity: the self induced version and the type that springs up from the world around us as the CC tries to defy the physics of choosing a path they were not predestined to follow, a course that nature would have served up had they done nothing at all.

Sound confusing?  Well it isn't really.  This week focuses on the Internal Crisis - the First One – the smallest of the three you will end up having in your larger story.    This first, smallest one (relative to the others) is one that the CC has brought on him or herself.  Now, I realize there are countless variations to what I'm asking you to do, and your story will no doubt vary from this model.  However, be gracious and indulge me. I want you to practice the self-induced crisis and, concurrently, think about starting small and building momentum as you get to the bigger ones that will follow.

In the process of doing you will be putting on your "Operational Hat." You are asked to number the chapters one through ten.  The vignette you write will be Chapter Seven.  This means there are some unwritten chapters before chapter seven and several afterwards.  This is called "Expanding."  Tactically you will be writing chapter number seven while keeping in mind chapters four through six that come before and chapters eight through ten that will come after. By giving the chapters functional names like Placid Waters, Caught in the Current, and Over the Falls, I have a good idea of your growing understanding of Operational Writing.  You're be surprised at the amount of information a functional name conveys.  When you write your first draft you will probably change the functional names to names more appropriate. Naming all the chapters gives you an idea of what the first third of the novel is going to look like.  It includes the first crisis.  Keep in mind that you don't have to cram the whole shebang into chapter seven.  There will be set-up happening earlier, maybe some small hurdles coming before, and afterwards will be some set up for the next hurdle, foreshadowing, analysis, lessons learned and all that.  In your chapter seven vignette the reader needs to see the scope of adversity facing the CC, his state of mind and some semblance of a plan for dealing with the crisis. 

Objective 17 - Building Momentum   The objectives in this assignment dovetail with one another.  This one has to do with the idea of starting small and getting bigger.  In football, they say scoring the first few points is always the hardest.  Once that is accomplished, a team can begin to build momentum and go on to bigger and better things.  To take that analogy a bit further, consider the first points you score will be like a field goal.  It is the first step, only three points, but a first step.  In the second crisis, think of this as a touch down.  That is harder to do; however, it builds even more momentum.  Finally a team faces the game winning moment. That is the biggest hurdle of all.  This is the idea here. You get the ball rolling in this assignment with the small crisis. Let it gain momentum in following assignments as it rolls faster over a medium crisis. Finally, let it overwhelm the final and most daunting obstacle of them all.  That is the climax, if you haven't already figured that out.  *Bigsmile*

Objective 18 - Our Own Worst Enemy   It is a great irony in life that some of the dumb things we do become our own downfall.  Everybody likes to think the reason he or she falls short is because of some external force, but the truth is the real cause for failure is more often ourselves than some external force.  I have yet to walk into a bar and hear someone say, "The reason my life is so 'Fracked Up' is because I've made a mess of it."  Instead, I delight in hearing the unending litany of blame heaped on bosses, teachers, politicians, and clergy. Do I need to go on?  Readers delight in listening to this absolute BS and the more inebriated the CC becomes the more it gets heaped on.  So, for your story's first crisis, I want the first obstacle on the road to redemption to be one that is self induced.

Objective 19 - Self Doubt   This is always an exciting moment in the story.  This is when the CC begins to question themselves and wonder if they are going to make it.  This is where the voice of the naysayers begin to whisper in their minds telling them, Failure!  Who the heck do you think you are anyway.  Once a bum, always a bum.  Using the football analogy (I like that one) the question becomes, Will I be able to kick that field goal, complete a thirty yard pass, play or take the ball and score the winning touchdown? 

To a writer, that is a well-known state of mind.  It sets up a moment where the CC pushes through self-doubt and assaults the crisis and in most stories succeeds.  He or she might nick the hurdle, or bounce off the tackle, or make a shoestring catch, but the efforts are more or less successful.  Success builds confidence.  The readers see the CC growing, and they thrill in seeing how the CC does on the next even bigger challenge.  Another dimension of this is margin of error.  It is always more interesting if the CC barely succeeds rather than makes an easy triumph. How fun is that? It's the squeakers that make the audience's hearts go pitter-pat, pitter-pat.

Objective 20 - A Rock and a Hard Spot   There is a tension that builds between the visible and the invisible in a story.  It cries out from the Subtext.  Then there is the dramatic premise and how the CC is doing using that a yardstick.  There are the various themes at work showing the character's struggle between expectation and reality.  Then there is the struggle between what I was and who I want to become.  Of course, there is also the struggle between truth and facade (More Subtext.)  This is the underworld world of the story exerting a pull on the CC, independent of the transparent events unfolding in front of everyone.  The inconsistencies are abrading, and they create friction and heat and often flare up without warning in the emotions and actions of the characters. The CC wonders, What is that all about? The reader or audience knows even if the CC doesn't.  These are elements of the story the writer needs to incite. Readers love this tension simmering below the surface as they see the CC between a rock and a hard spot.       

Percy Goodfellow - Workshop Instructor
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