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Stringing Chapters and setting up the Body of a Story
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Operational Writing and the Body of the Story

Operational Writing is an aspect of writing a novel that many fail to appreciate. Putting on your Operational Hat has to do with stringing chapters together.

We won't get into all of that until Lesson Five, but I want some Operational coffee percolating on the back of the stove before we get there to indulge it.

So, here's the deal with these Tactical and Operational hats.

If you can write a vignette (Tactical Writing) you know how to wear a writer's Tactical Hat. Stringing chapters together requires an entirely different mind set, your Operational Hat. Writing six vignettes will give you enough traction to grasp the thread of your novel. This is a big part of Operational Writing.

In Lesson 1 you were introduced to the Three Step Character Development Model. You got to read the example from Pandora's POV and were asked to rewrite it from Kindred's POV. This should have given you a good idea of how the model works and prepared you for using it on a novel of your choice in any genre you intend on writing.

In Lesson Two (Vignette 1) you introduced your Central Character (CC) and showed the CC paddling about in the Story World. Just like in the Model but now using your CC. This frames chapter one in your novel.

In Lesson Three (Vignette 2) you introduced a Supporting Character and begin to set up the Life Changing Event (LCE) for your CC. Just like the Model, use the metaphor, "Caught in the Current. This highlights chapter two of your novel.

In Lesson Four (Vignette 3) you introduce the LCE washing over the CC and leaving her breathless. Again this is just like you practiced in the model. This represents chapter three of your novel.

Please note the next three vignettes. These three will not be contiguious (Touching). These vignettes will be spaced apart and come in the middle of each Phase. It will deal with the part of the phase where the CC comes to realize what they are up against in the looming crisis. From this anchor you'll be able determine the part of the story that came before and what transpired afterwards.

In Lesson Five (Vignette 4) your CC will catch her breath and resolve to do something bold or unexpected. Destiny expects your CC to bow meekly and accept what has just been ladled into the soup bowl of life. However, yours has other ideas. Your CC rejects the do nothing option and decides to act in a manner that Destiny did not script. The result is turmoil . . . it's sort of like your CC is messing with Mother Nature and everybody knows doing that spells Big Trouble. Instead of accepting her lot your CC snatches away the pen and decides to write her own destiny. This is a bold and audacious act fraught with consequence and portentous import.

Enter adversity, a counter force that tries to send your CC back into the box from whence she's broken free. Outside the box is not acceptable, and your CC is warned to play ball or else. Your CC thumbs her nose and sets out on a journey she was never intended to take. It is a dangerous undertaking as soon becomes apparent with the first crisis in the novel.

Your CC faces it—a crisis she brings upon herself that results from her naivety or inexperience. She does something "stupid" and stumbles over her ineptitude. "SEE!" Destiny sneers. "You can't even get to first base without tripping over your own shoelaces. Best you return to the box, admit your foolishness, and beg forgiveness for your headstrong idiocy." Instead, your CC dusts herself off and resolves not to make any more dumb mistakes and continues with the journey.

Note that there are three empty chapters, proceeding Chapter Seven (your vignette) and three more empty chapters that follow.

These "empty" chapters, either side of the next vignette will need to named, fleshed out, and developed more fully later on. This is a part of operational thinking. Let your mind percolate on those empty places/chapters, and for now, move onto the next lesson. This will be the intermediate Crisis.

I know. I know! We aren't there yet, but it's never too early to don your your Operational Hat, move it about your crown, and check the fit. You'll need it even more later on.

In the aftermath of the Life Changing Event (LCE) the Central Character (CC) decides on a new course. Most readers, who fear sacrificing the comfort and safety of life by embarking on a dangerous and unknown course, thrill to a vicarious experience. That is why they read novels instead of risking everything on a bold and audacious venture. A novel is as close as they are going to ever get to what such an experience would entail.

While this is true, many readers will at one time or another, like it or not, have had an LCE thrust upon them with no choice but make the most of it. So, on one hand, readers loath leaving their comfort zone but on the other have some reference and idea as to what it would be like. For example: going to war, a marriage proposal, a divorce or losing everything in the Stock Market.

The joy of reading a novel is seeing how the hero or heroine will deal with the dilemma without having to actually experience that dilemma themselves.

Say, for example, a writer follows the common model. The first chapter focuses on the Story World, the second on an uptempo of events outside the box, and the Third introduces The Life Changing Event.

The rest of the novel deals with the consequences of that change and how the Central Character deals with it. Some call this part The Three Disasters, others call it the Rising Action and still others title it the Ensuing Crises. Whatever you choose to call it there are usually three or more major hurdles that raise their heads that the CC must face. The first one is usually the smallest and they loom ever greater, one following the next. From a practical standpoint you need to diagram on paper or in our mind the treatment that each of these will receive in your novel. The last is the biggest and is referred to as the climax.

Throughout what follows, the CC will experience each wave, hurdle, or crisis and in the process the writer should show change taking place in the CC's character. It could be a loss of idealism, a stronger and more mature presence, or maybe a growing confidence as they rise to levels of accomplishment they never believed possible. A novelist needs to show this growth and change of persona because the reader looks for it. The only novel I can ever recall that didn't show it was Captain Bligh, in Men Against the Sea and the story suffered in my opinion for a want of it. Captain Bligh was the most unchanging character I have ever read. He didn't resonate as authentic.

Percy Goodfellow - Workshop Instructor
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