Monday, October 12, 2009

Could Anyone Help Me?

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My new WIP is adventure based.

I tend to write more character driven novels.

I am trying mightily to combine strong characters with some fun middle-grade adventure. It is a tall order for me, but I am determined to give it my best.

I have some fantastic ideas brewing



side note: have you ever had the kind of idea where you don't dare telling anyone because you think the concept is so fresh? Well, a tiny part of my story is that way and it is exciting to have something that I don't think is in very many novels going on in the life of my characters.

Anyway - my problem comes in on the adventure side.

I am compiling a list of elements of a good adventure story.

So far, I have:

unanswered questions about a character

chases

desperate plans born out of panic/fear

last second escapes

suspects arriving when he/she is not expected

mystery elements : footsteps, darkness, doorknob turning

What more can we add to the list? Can you think of any elements that can be incorporated into a fun adventure story? Would you be willing to offer up some suggestions to a struggling writer like myself? No specifics, mind you....just basic elements.

I may or may not use them all -- but I'm thinking it would help to have some classic scenarios that I can incorporate into my specific storyline. And, maybe a few of you out there can benefit from what others add as well.

Could anyone help me?
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ALSO: This weekend, I am going to the Bouchercon Mystery Writers Conference in Indianapolis. Anyone else out there going to be attending? Let me know if you are!

35 comments:

lucent1 said...

lots of cliff hangers -- literally!

Suzanne said...

someone who isn't who they say they are.

Scott said...

I agree with Lucent1 - lots of cliff hangers.

Oh, and don't do too many last second escapes. Too many, and the reader knows that the character will easily get out of every dire situation. There's a book out there like that, and I was bored because the characters always, always, miraculously escaped . . . at the last second. Too much of a good thing is, well, too much!!

For me personally, the only adventure aspects in your list are the chases and - maybe - the desperate plans. The rest sound more like things I'd see in a mystery novel.

So, is it a Mystery Adventure or an Adventure Mystery?

Best of Luck!

S

Adventure - unknown places, mountain treks, mysterious caves, a quest for treasure - LOTR trek through Moira, the trek to Moira, the adventure after leaving Lorien. Put your characters in unexpected situations and don't make the outcome easy or contrived. Make your characters work - snow drifts, Barlogs, Orcs on the far side of the river, flapping footsteps in the darkness (sorry, slipped back into LOTR mode).

Charlie said...

unexpected letters in the mail...
you're out of town and see someone that supposedely died a few years ago...
reading a blog post that describes what's happening to your MC from a different point of view...

Caroline Starr Rose said...

Something that could be misunderstood ties in a bit with someone who isn't who they say they are. This can make a more plot-driven piece have the insight of a character-driven one.

Tess said...

lucent: a good tip!

Suzanne: yes, that needs to be on the list *jotting down*

Scott: you make an excellent point - it is something that bugs me about some adventure/mystery stories as well so I will be double certain to use light sprinklings of these things - and to try to make them feel organic.
and - an adventure mystery ... yes there is a search for something and a dark, secret society.

Charlie: love love the unexpected letter or bumping into someone who is supposed to be something or somewhere else .. that ties into Suzanne's perfectly.

Caroline: that is exaclty what I am striving for .. a plot driven piece w/ rich characters. Aren't we all, though? lol.

all good tips and ideas..thanks, guys! any more out there??

Michelle said...

A moral dilemma. Bruce Coville spoke at an SCBWI conference I attended a couple of years ago. He said that all good books have at least one belly laugh, one tear, and one moral dilemma. In kids' books it's often choosing between staying out of trouble and doing what they know in their heart is right.

SJDuvall said...

I really agree with lots above, but I want to add that while you don't have too many narrow escapes, also don't make sure that everyone escapes unharmed. I'm not saying kill or maim anyone, but not everyone gets away from everything 100% of the time. Maybe someone smashes a thumb or really scrapes their arm or you get the picture...

Tere Kirkland said...

There's always the close call, the near miss, or the saved at the last second situation. The beauty part is, if your characters are as fully fleshed as you want them to be, and one's a little crazy or not too bright, these situations will just HAPPEN.

Good luck!

Novice Writer Anonymous said...

There's always the adventure fantasy element of some sort of prophecy or force outside the MC's control that keeps bringing danger and the antagonist closer.

Tess said...

Michelle: I so agree and this is a great reminder. MG novels must always include a moral delima of some sort...

SJ: wise words. I'll take you up on your suggestion and make sure a few injuries result of the injurious situations ;)

Tere: love the 'off' characters that add to the drama - good suggestion.

NWA: hmmm...that's something I hadn't really considered but might fit nicely into my WIP because of the secret society element. Thanks!

Jill Kemerer said...

This isn't an idea, but a suggestion. Keep the pace fast and the tension high. And have a blast!

Davin Malasarn said...

I feel a little like I'm playing Family Feud. I don't really have many more suggestions, but I was thinking of Indiana Jones, and the word "quirk" came to mind. Remember how he saved his hat at the last minute? Remember how he was afraid of snakes?

Also, make sure you go for the adrenaline rush!

Linda Kage said...

The only main element I can think up for an adventure story is the "Golden Treasure" everyone is trying to find. Doesn't have to be literal gold of course... Just some reason to spark the journey in the first place. Then again, I'm sure you wouldn't have a story idea without some kind of goal to make the protagonist GO in their adventure. So, okay, I'll shut up now!!

ElanaJ said...

Someone goes missing. I'm reading a tense MG right now and her parents are suddenly gone. Yup. Just gone. I think that raises the stakes and ups the tension a lot. And the adventure could be to find them... Which is sort of where this book is going.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Whoever or whatever the antagonist is should be stronger (or at least seem so) than the MC at the start, so that the task seems impossible. Each obstacle should be difficult and cost the MC something to overcome as the story builds. And somewhere at the mid-point of the story should come information that changes things. Also, don't forget to have something at stake if the MC fails, so that there is a sense of urgency throughout. I know this is general but it's a good roadmap to set your specifics on. Have fun with it!

L.T. Elliot said...

I'm not a great mystery writer but Josi Kilpack is! Her books (and I can't define exactly what) keep me turning pages. I'd check 'em out if I were you.

Tamika: said...

Add an outward vice, someone who was maybe an friend in the beginning. Change them from friend to foe.

Keep it deep with cerebral tension.

Happy writing!

Crystal said...

Hey Tess,

You've gotten a lot of GREAT suggestions! I don't know if I have much more to offer, but as I read your post this morning, I thought back to the very first mysteries I read as a child: the Nancy Drew mysteries, and what I liked about them. So . . . here's my 2 cents:

--Keep even the "slow" scenes moving, i.e. keep the reader guessing along with the main protagonist

--BUT you don't want to move too quickly to a conclusion either. So I guess the key word is PACING.

--Maybe have main character get out of trouble sort of easily the 1st time, not so easily the 2nd time, and let the 3rd time seem like ALL IS LOST.

--If main character is following a map/written directions, let him/her take a wrong turn/wrong path leading to, of course, more obstacles

--Lastly, perhaps write the story as if even you don't know what's going to happen in the end

Hope this helps! :)

Sherry Dale Rogers said...

Wow those are all great suggestions, I always love a book in a story that can reveal secrests. Someone acting odd out of the norm, things like that. Good luck.

Novice Writer Anonymous said...

No problem, Tess. Hope it all works out. I look forward to the day your books hit shelves.

MG Higgins said...

Wow, I have absolutely nothing to add; you've gotten some great suggestions!

Robyn Campbell said...

Tess, hmmm, *thinking, thinking* You've had so many great suggestions. Just remember to make sure the antagonist couldn't be anywhere around when the bad thing happens. He has an air tight alibi. Even befriends the protag. And the protag is led in all the wrong directions. Make the reader scream with feeling for the protag. And then BAM! :) I'm writing a mystery right now and I'm having so much fun! Good luck and friend I appreciate you more than you know! :)

Kelly H-Y said...

How exciting to have an idea for a book that you haven't seen in others! Congrats! And, have a great time at the conference!

Lady Glamis said...

Okay, I can't compete with any of this! Looks like you got some great advice!

Hope you have a great time at the conference. I would love to go if I could!

Tess said...

Yes, some fantastic ideas. Thank you all sooo much - my mind is bubbling over with possible scenerios.

lotusgirl said...

Who can come up with anything else? That's what I get for coming late to the party. Great ideas.

Sarah said...

Tess, for me, adventure was all about danger. If the antagonist didn't save the day, bad, bad things would happen.

One of the panelists at the James River Writers Conference made a good point about the difference between thriller/adventure and mystery.

In a mystery, the deed has been done, good guys are trying to figure out what happened.

In an adventure, the good guys are trying to prevent the deed. There's a higher level of danger because the whole point of the story is preventing something horrible.

All that to say, I'd say it's not adventure until the stakes are really high.

Can't wait to hear more about this story?

Sarah said...

That was supposed to be an exclamation mark: Can't wait to hear more about your story!

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

Oh, good luck! Building character is also much easier for me than building plots - so I will definitely be watching these comments for ideas of my own!

Tess said...

Just when I think you all have said everything there is to say, someone leaves another great idea or tip. I am learning, thinking, brewing....

high stakes, deceipt, wrong turns....

yes, yes!

Sharon Mayhew said...

I've been reading a lot of Enid Blyton books. There old books that have groups of kids having adventures. They are a quick read if you can get your hands on them.

Shelli said...

good luck! sounds mysterious

Janna Qualman said...

I can't think of anything else to add, but I'm so excited for you! Good luck with it, Tess.

Anita said...

I don't have anything to add, but I am looking forward to your after-conference report!