Writing Towards Emotional Markers (How to Plot Your Story Arcs P2) | Charlie Aylett | Skillshare

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Writing Towards Emotional Markers (How to Plot Your Story Arcs P2)

teacher avatar Charlie Aylett, www.thestorysmith.com

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
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Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

8 Lessons (30m)
    • 1. Intro

    • 2. Story Arcs in Motion

    • 3. Establishing Context

    • 4. Writing Emotions

    • 5. Developing emotions

    • 6. Filtering Emotions

    • 7. Assignment

    • 8. Some reflections

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About This Class


Part 1 of this series explained big picture story arcing of the protagonist's emotional journey and how to chart the change. Now it's time to talk about how to handle that journey moment by moment in chapters or scenes to inch towards those markers. Designed to give you a basic understanding of progressing an emotional arc through short fiction, this class gears up for the real meat of the subject - plotting a novel arc.

In this class you will learn:

- More on the basics of the story arc

- What is emotional context and why is it important in story telling?

- How to bring characters' emotions to life

- How to create filters and establish emotional context at big picture and chapter level.

Through two short exercises you will practice techniques in writing emotions, building your skills towards the final assignment in your class project. You will write a piece of fiction incorporating both plot events and emotional progress.

This only the second in a series of classes. I intend to add one class per month, so watch out for the rest!

Take the next class in the series: Creating Emotional Identities

Meet Your Teacher

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Charlie Aylett



Been writing longer than I should have. Along the road of those many years, I stumbled into editorial work and currently reside at Flash Fiction Online. I read a lot of stories every month, the majority of which are declined. I’ve critiqued hundreds of novels and short stories, read a thousand more, written a ton of rejection letters and tried to give helpful advice wherever possible. I've always taken pride and pleasure in helping writers understand key fiction writing techniques and give them objective insights into their stories and how to make them stronger, but I found over the years most of the time I was repeating the same advice over and over. Having spent numerous years reading short stories and novellas as a professional reader, and discussing the merits and disappointme... See full profile

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1. Intro: Hi. Welcome to the second class in the Siris of how to plot your story arcs. I'm Charlie on a writer, andan, associate editor, short fiction magazine, The colored lens. In this workshop, we're going to discuss the basics and big picture emotional arcs. How emotional context comes into play both in the grandest game of things and on chatter level and how to tackle emotions within scenes So you are able to progress towards your emotional markers. There will be some simple writing exercises where you can practise the skills your need for your class project, which is a piece of flash fiction of about 2000 words. This project would enable you to employ emotional arc plotting in conjunction with plot events with a clear and straightforward approach. The first class in this Siri's covered the emotional art from a bird's eye view with examples of how the art was tracked within a published novel. You could go back and take that class for free if you haven't already and gain some initial insights into the concept of the character out. All of the classes in the Siri's can help you pre plan your story or revise and identify the arcs and emotional indicators and an early draft, giving you the confidence that you will step into your next draft with purpose and an end point in sight. You might be just starting out as a writer, finding that it's not diseases you thought it might be finding. There's a lot of rules you don't really understand. Well, maybe you've already written a book and are disappointed with the results. Don't worry, we've all been there. There's a lot to learn, but it's not about rules, nor confining anyone into a set writing formula about underpinning concepts and fiction techniques. Once you know them, you can choose when to use them or when to discard them. Even if you have been writing for a while, I guarantee you will pick up some extra nuggets from this class. I ain't explaining clear, concise and logical order what the techniques are, how went to use them on what are important in fiction. But I also understand that fitting study into an already busy schedule is hard. That's why these classes designed to fit into your lunch break or your commute to work. So what is the character, Arkham? Why do you need it well. The orchestra tracks the emotional impact off your plot on your protagonist and other characters in the story. Successful storytelling works best when the writer incorporates some kind of emotional are to support the main plus events. If the central character, all those around him, do not learn anything significant nor change in some way over the course of the tale, this story will let much needed depth sensing flimsy or unsentimental another. Perhaps more significant reason is in regards to the actual writing process. If you have an idea of your character arc either before writing your book or after a first draft, when you have more of an idea of the emerging story, you will have a more started guys. How to characterize your cast accordingly at each stage. So you're going to need two envelopes on DSM paper and a pen for this class. By the end, you will have a basic but solid idea of how emotion works across the whole story and how to write emotions within saints and sentences. So if you are after guidance on how to progress with your story, make it more meaningful. This is the class for you. Hit the button, join may the next 20 minutes or so and see your writing transform 2. Story Arcs in Motion: you joined. Brilliant. I'm so pleased you've decided to enroll. But before we get into writing about emotions and seeing just wanted to talk briefly about the big picture arc a little more partly as a recap but also toe add on to what we covered in the Niles cast in the Siri's In short fiction, I've read for the mag. I must often find that the character arc seems to be more common and can work without also incorporating a more action type of plotting. Where you sit a gulf your protagonist place obstacles in his way. This is especially true with crush fiction, but much like plotting out a novel. Short stories require those crucial three emotional markers working as a backbone to the whole piece. The emotional context of the beginning, stepping stone at the midpoint, the completed transformation. By the end, the end works best when it reveals the protagonist to be oven opposite standing toe. How they started at the beginning to give the Ark It's for his curve. Think about where your character will begin and end emotionally. Unlike writing chapters, these two emotional status is will be at opposite ends of the spectrum so to give you some examples of this, uh, take these examples from Phil. Overly protective father gives his daughter away in marriage comes with Father of the bride . Dorky scientists becomes dynamic savior of the world that comes from the Fantastic Four and scared little Man becomes brave adventurer. That's from the film, the first film in the series of the hobbits. In the middle of these opposing ends, stepping Stone is needed something to indicate the swing of change. But the completed transformation must be confirmed by the end by your character doing something to show they have truly changed. In Father of the Bride, Steve Martin is initially and over attached, overprotective parents and against his daughters are coming marriage. When his behavior causes trouble between the couple, he realizes her fiance truly loves her, that she has become an adult and that he must let go. By the end, he gives him away at the wedding. This is the external gesture that confirms the emotional growth in the fantastic. Full dorky scientist fancies hot girl but has no confidence that he is deserving of her. He gained superpowers and uses it to fight evil, which bolsters his self confidence. After saving the world, he finds the coach to ask the girl out. That last part compounds the external plot on emotional arc, convincing the viewer that he has grown as a person. And it's not just playing the parts In The Hobbit, Bilbo leads a quiet village life safely tucked away from harm, provoked by fear that he will never experience the big wide world. Here's cajoled into a quest and forced to fight not just for his own life but for the life of others. In the end, he finds up bravery is, in fact a marvelous and exhilarating adventure, and he pledges himself to the dwarves plight no longer out of fear but with willing. With each story you can see there is an emotional context established at the beginning. At the midpoint, there will be a major or profound external action or event that finally stirs to change when, at the end there was a gesture that confirms the changes permanent. Another thing to note about these three example stories is that the emotional journey has a different amount of focus. Father of the bride has much more of an emotional core to it, whereas in the fantastic four emotional arc is more subtle. Favoring the action with the Hobbit is more evenly balanced. The main character's emotional growth is as important as the action. You've seen the film. So is the growth of the other key characters. But think about what kind of impact that has on the viewing experience. I would say that Father of the Bride is over sentimental with not enough strong plot points , and it's a really remember much about the story. Rose. The Fantastic Four is much lighter on emotional content that seems a little superficial. Both of these films are more like light entertainment than anything too taxing. The hobbits, on the other hand, is well balanced with both action and emotional arcs and seems to have more complexity. Obviously, that's not the only reason, but, I would argue, is a big part of it. At the other end of the spectrum to all these examples is the film Black Swan, starring Natalie Portman. That plot is driven by a tightly focused emotional journey. Now, even though these examples are from film, it's still bare bones story structure, and the depth of complexity still applies to fiction writing, depending on how much focus you place on the emotional content for a deeper understanding of charting the emotional change, I recommend enrolling in my first class in this series called The Big Picture if you haven't already. But from this lesson, just remember that all stories established three stages. Emotional context made a stepping stone. Tools change the final action or gesture confirming the transformation. 3. Establishing Context: so you have your three million emotional markers that will give you a rough guides to where your protagonist is heading. But what about that scene or chapter level? At some point early in the chapter, you'll need to establish some kind of emotional context for your protagonist. Why Emotional context is an important factor in tracking the change in the protagonist over the course of the story, but it's also needed to provide indicators to your reader of how their emotional state changes during the course of a scene and what the emotional fallout is once the main prop point comes into play. This might seem obvious to some, but you'll be amazed how often writers overlook these indicators in pursuit of navigating the narrative towards the next plot point. In big picture plotting, emotional context is all about your characters psyche and how they view the world from their unique perspective. It's about what they believe in and what moral standards they hold to and things like that . It's more like a state of being moulded by their life experiences. Your character's emotional context will motivate every decision they make and how they act . How they act creates plot. As that context changes subtly over the course of the story. Their motivations are held by at well, like the changed, too. And that is the purpose of the character are they will learn to take a different approach to problems in order to succeed on chapter level. The second layer of emotional context is emotional status. That's the swifter changes in mood that happened moment by moment. These are fleeting emotions rather than a state of being. They contribute towards tension and drama insane by being the reactions to the plot events . What emotional context is forever in the background, taking it all in and incrementally changing a deeper, more subtle level? If you've taken the first class in this series and think back to how greats perspective changes from someone who thinks above her place into accepting her lowered place on the social ladder, you can see how that subtlety is shown in the background throughout the book. If you haven't taken that class yet, it's free so you can go back on DA fill in the gaps with time spent on emotional context, convene slower pacing while your character reflects and re evaluates his options, depending on how introspective your narrative is in this instance, providing the emotional context near the beginning of chapter works. Best that you are free to build on it and increase the dramatic tension through changing emotional status is as you steer towards your chapter's main focal or plot points. Plotting out a chapters Emotional Arc can work much the same as the big picture starting point bridging point and change by the end, not necessarily for every chapter, depending on what story or writer some chapters might require. A more subtle shift in perspective than opposing emotional status is it can still be plotted out using this three step process. 4. Writing Emotions: we're now going to turn towards how to write. Emotional status is on sentence level so you can understand how to approach them. We're going to do a bit of writing in this lesson. So have your pen and paper ready when conveying emotions. It's always good to try and show them in action. This means that loved and telling the reader she was happy. You show the reader how the character feels through their actions, such as she laughed so hard her cheeks hurt in her sight began to fog. You see the difference. The second version is much stronger and creates a sense of the person concrete in your characters. Feedings through action will more often than not, resonate more deeply with your reader than simply telling them. Here's a couple more examples. She was unsure versus She looked around the room for one person to the next, unconsciously rubbing her chin, and he was so embarrassed he's always widened as if he'd suddenly swallowed a fly, and he turned bright red. Then he bolted out the door. These are the types of micro details that will bring drama to your narrative. Give your read of the necessary emotional indicators on plot events and ensure characters closer towards their emotional markers. You have a go start your class project by rewriting these emotions into sentences that show them in action, instead mixing dialogue if you wish. What composers seen that incorporates all three. My local writing group found themselves furiously scribbling away with this exercise, even though they were only supposed to write a few simple sentences. So if you find an idea pops up for a longer work, go with your inspiration. You might also find it helps to set yourself a time of 10 minutes to prepare you into it. Post your sentences or scenes, a new class project. And if you can, I think it would be great if you could get some feedback to a fellow student. If other people have been posting, I'm sure people would appreciate that. 5. Developing emotions: rial lives. Emotions can seem to come about suddenly to outside observers, but it's more from the case that we've been brewing for a while. If you've ever found yourself snapping the kids of a partner suddenly to them it might be a shock and seemed to have come out of nowhere cause everything's about them right? And what on earth could they have done wrong? But it's highly likely other irritants or at work. It could be your just frayed from a long day. It could be that you're stressed with mounting pressures from work. What could be that? You're anticipating some bad news and you're worried. Writing fictional emotions works in exactly the same way. You don't gradually introduce these emotions and incremental, increase their intensity and just put the mood on the page as and when it's needed to fit the plot. Your reader will be just like your kids or your partner what the looking chicken is going on here. It's all about giving the reader the right emotional indicators to create anticipation what is going to happen and when tensions will blow. So fictional characters emotions are a bit like a pot of tea. They need a good brewing before they're ready to pull on the flip side how your other cast members react to your main characters. Emotional cues can be just as important. For instance, if your character loses his temper, a shocked reaction by those around him could suggest it's out of character, implying your embassy is under pressure. Someone rolling their eyes as if they've heard it all before, works the opposite way, implying that it's a habitual characteristic when writing our point of view, characters, emotions. You could be easy to forget that other people in the story might react to that. And their reactions can be used to mirror your point of view, characters characteristics and provide signals to your reader of deeper context. It's a case of thinking beyond just what your character feels about the situation or how they are affected. Remembering other people see and feel things, too, and they will have their own emotions relating to those events. So when writing emotions, remember this. Show your characters emotions in action. Remember to brew them properly throughout the chapters before they blow and the other cast members reactions provide indicators to 6. Filtering Emotions: as we've already discussed in our previous lesson about emotional, for example, Imagine if you took a work colleague out on a tour of your life without filling them in on any context. To them, it might look a little like this. They took me to a house in a nice cold, a sack, another tree by a river and under a concrete Passover covered in graffiti. But to you it might resemble something a bit more like this. I took them to the last place. I remember having a happy family life, the spot where my partner proposed to may in the place where I tried my first cigarettes. So how character views things can really depend on what associations they have with those things, but it's worth bearing in mind that they might have so emotional attachment to seemingly ordinary items or places. Why does it matter when developing the story arcs characters of replications of human beings, and that's emotionally motivated in the same way. Once you understand how they are motivated, you can anticipate how those emotions will bleed onto plot. Let's just say that the oak tree by the river was marked to be chopped down for a property developer, and the main character whose partner proposed to them onto the tree, finds this out and tries to stop it from happening. For that, for that sentimental reason, they could end up drawn into a battle with, said Developer. That one seemingly minor emotional motivation has already created three plot points. The discovery of the intention to of the trade, the action to stop it on a bigger site that could take all sorts of twists and turns. It could be that developer is corrupt, and in the emcees determination to stop them, he or she finds out all sorts of secrets. The threat of those secrets being exposed could lead to the corrupt developer taking drastic action. Well, maybe dangerous action. Who knows? It could be anything. Do you see how one tiny emotional motivation can explode into a huge story? This variation of filtering also applies to how characters feel been sharing a singular experience or when experiencing changes of mood and emotions. Consider these two ways of describing the same thing. The mushrooms arrived on the plate. Big, fat and juicy, melted butter glisten tantalisingly over the little creases of their ball. Besides, my stomach gurgled in anticipation is the worst of garlic hit my nostrils, sending me almost light. Headed with hunger, it would practically be a crime to cut into to such perfect specimens. What are well, such were the trials of life. An example to the overpowering stink of garlic was still not enough to master unmistakable slimy scent of mushrooms crawling out from beneath. I was bought when the plate of fat brown fun guy was placed on the table opposite May. Melted butter over spilled down their wrinkled sides as if they used grease from a central phantom. Put my napkin up over my nose, hoping my stomach would stay put. As you can see the essential details of the same for the word choices placed nuances that creates different emotional slants on each and create entirely different tones. These differences could be applied to either one character viewing the same thing, depending on what mood or emotional state they are in what could be applied to separate characters experiencing the same event. Those filters can also change in accordance to the plot events you place on your characters has your protagonist emotional context changes during the story is worth remembering how it effectual word choices, which in turn creates tone. It's also worth remembering when writing not just your main characters emotions but off the other members of the cast, especially if you are using multiple points of view. So let's just have a quick recap on using filters to establish emotional context. The emotional filters very. In accordance with the environment, mood and previous life experiences, the filter can affect word choices, which in turn affects the tone of the scene and the emotional slant of the character. Shared experiences are subjective between characters, and singular experiences are subjective between changes of mood. So just what you do a little quick exercise by doing the same resided with the two different perspectives on mushrooms. So that is just right. Two short paragraphs, each describing the same thing from different perspectives. But it doesn't have to be too long. Mine weren't so, you know, just keep it brief, Um, as she can in this instance, because of the next lesson, we're going to tackle the assignment, which is a much bigger piece of writing 7. Assignment: before we tackle the main assignment, let's just remind ourselves off all the topics we have covered in this class. We've talked about the overall swing off the central protagonists emotional context from one outlook to the opposite outlook. During the course of the story, we've identified the midpoint emotional swing that bridges the gap between these opposing contacts. We've also discussed why it's important to establish emotional context both on big picture level and within chapters. And we've put into practice and short exercises or writing emotions insane and creating filters. Now it's time to put this transformation of emotion into action. Yes, it's time for your assignment, so the first part of your assignment is on a piece of paper to write down all of the moods and settings that you see on the screen. Then I want you to tear off the mood pairings into individual pieces. That is to say, keep each pairing together that each pairing must be separate from the other parents, then tear actual list off settings into individual pieces as well on place. All of the moods and one envelope and all of the settings and another envelope pluck one of each out at random in your setting, either right yourself as the character or use a fictional one of your own. Starting with the left hand side, moved off your chosen pairing. You can use either an event from your past or it could be a fictional situation. You're going to incorporate a minimum of two events, but you three, if you wish to gradually change that, moved to the other opposite mood at the end. Think about how you would chart that emotional change through action. Remember, the change will be incremental and increasing intensity as you move towards the ending. When writing this pace, try and remember establish some emotional context at the beginning by showing how you actors in the start out mood So the mood is happy. Maybe you sing to yourself. Maybe take extra care of your food and out funny decorations. Try and avoid things like I was happy that morning until the cat came longer pooed on the floor. Then always grumpy. You're trying to show the emotions, not tell them I am for around 500 to 1000 words, but don't get too hung up a word count. Go with what suits you and how much you have inspired. Um, I don't want to curb your creativity, So I do encourage you to post your assignments for the class to see and give feedback giving feed that teaches you to approach your own draft with an analytical eye when it comes to revising, so is massively important. Is your development as a writer? However, if you're reluctant to post your work in this culture forum, for whatever reason, please do let me know in the community board. If there's enough willing participants old look to create in some sort of private four room where you can post work for the pope. Purpose of critics. Okay, well, I look forward to reading your stuff, Thanks. 8. Some reflections: you started your object in one mood which served is your beginning. You then introduced on event, which pushed your character in the direction of change. The following event should have tipped them firmly towards the opposite mood and created the middle. Then a possible third event would have continued to push in through to your ending. With each event introduced, you have to provide an emotional response to it. This is plotting by the emotional arc and gave you a beginning, a middle climax on a resolution. As you introduced the second maybe third event, you may have found your objects mood or emotional state intensified as external forces pushed it forward. This is how climatic tension comes about by intensifying external events and also the internal emotions reacting to those events until the situation is somehow resolved. All ending is that resolution, so you begin to see how emotion affects plots in a bigger picture level. Another thing you may have noticed is that for every event that happened, your character had to react to that event in some way to show their mood in every action might even have led on to the next story event this is a very important aspect to remember when writing for every action there was a reaction. In this instance, we are using mode, but it's fair to say it can be applied in all areas of plotting from ST Level Two big picture events. If you want to know more, I'll be exploring the topic of action and reaction later in the series and have the emotional arc and action arc sourcing together. But for now, that's all you get. Keep your eyes out for the next class and please. If you've enjoyed this class, hit the yes button to recommend or levy of review. Even better. Tell your friends, share it with your fighting buddies outside of skill share and bring them on board or dual free. If you want that for good, I would be very much appreciated. Whatever eso total for now, I hope to see you next time. Chow