Thursday, January 28, 2010

Guest Blog Post - Teresa Frohock

As the final of our January guest blog posts, I'd like to introduce Teresa Frohock. Teresa is a fellow OWW critter and the author of some deliciously creepy horror, and she also runs a very informative and helpful blog for aspiring writers. I'm happy to leave you in her capable hands as she talks about the "Quiet Moment".


When writing fantasy or horror, I think we often focus too heavily on the action and adventure aspects of the story to the point of cheating ourselves and our readers of a very special moment. It's when the protagonist experiences the psychic change that carries him or her through the story's climax. This turning point is as pivotal as the inciting incident that sets the story in motion, and handled well, gives the reader a logical reason for the protagonist's actions as the story is propelled toward the climax.

The quiet moment of your novel is where your protagonist stands in the eye of the hurricane and makes a decision that will affect him, and those around him, for the rest of his life. All action stops in a freeze frame as you enter your protagonist's mind and show the reader a reflection of his thoughts and your theme.

Here you must use the lightest of touches, the simplest prose, and the fewest words to convey what can sometimes be a complex emotional choice. Too much, and you're beating your reader over the head, too little, and your protagonist's actions won't make sense in the end.

Since I use the three act story structure, I like to place the quiet moment between the second and third acts of my story. This is the portion of the tale where my protagonist has been brought to his knees by the events around him; things could not possibly become worse.

All the pain, all the grief my protagonist has suffered coalesces until he has no choice but to change or die. I want him to reach inside himself and draw from an inner strength he either didn't know he had or forgotten he possessed. This is the point where my protagonist begins their emotional journey back into the light. Sometimes it's a sentence, a paragraph, or even a brief scene, but the character dictates the moment.

I love reading and writing the quiet moment in a novel. What about you? Does your novel contain a quiet moment? How do you handle the pivotal moment of your protagonist's change in your novel?

20 comments:

  1. I just passed the quiet moment in my manuscript a few days ago. I look forward to revisting it with these things in mind. Thanks for the post!

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  2. Hi Jonathan! Boy, you're fast. ;-)

    I think it's hard to know just how much to expand on the moment. I really rely on my critiquers to help me.

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  3. I was excited to see the collaboration! Just out of curiosity, how have your critique partners' opinions on the moment differed from yours?

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  4. Actually, they didn't have a problem with the actual moment, but I did have a couple of critiques suggest I strengthen the conflict prior to the moment. They felt I had allowed Lucian to defeat an adversary too easily, and when I looked at it again, I realized they were right.

    In my next round of edits, I'll be working on the fight scene prior to the quiet moment.

    I suppose that would be a good subject for a companion post: how to be mean and miserable to your characters. ;-)

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  5. I never thought of it that way, but then again, I am bad about not thinking about the structure in my novel - but, when these things are pointed out, I can see more how all novels have some kind of structure--- I did learn a lot of this from Alexandra Sokoloff, when she gives her 'lectures' on screenwriting and how to use that with fiction writing - it doesn't help me when I'm actually writing, since my brain won't accpt structure in my writing at all (sigh), but, I can understand it in a bigger picture kind of way after the novel is written.

    I do think I know the quiet moment for Virginia Kate....yes....I do...

    Love this post -

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  6. Beautifully said, Teresa. I struggle to identify the most important quiet moments because I have at least a few paragraphs of taking stock and growth in most chapters. Hmm. Hard to identify which ONE is the most important. This makes me wonder if I need to focus!

    *waves* Hi Peter!

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  7. Hi Kathryn! Thanks for stopping by! I know when Virginia Kate's quiet moment came, but it was hard for me to see the words, I was crying so hard. ;-D

    I'm like you, I didn't plan Lucian's quiet moment, it just happened as I was writing the scene; something clicked and my brain went: OH! This is it! After that scene I started thinking about it and realized all of the novels I've really loved and remembered had moments like that.

    Kelly, I know when Lara's quiet moment comes (hehe). When I'm looking at the final draft, I'll mark it for you. You're also right that sometimes you can have several moments (or perception shifts) as your character grows.

    That's what I love about finding that special moment, usually it just happens and you can go back and say - ah-ha, that's when everything changed.

    PS: Peter, I haven't thanked you for your lovely introduction, so now let me say, Thank you. I'm going to have "deliciously creepy horror" printed on my business cards. ;-D

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  8. Nice post, Teresa!

    I find that for me, one of these moments tends to happen right at the final act climax, or the last chance, if you like -- the point where the MC must either learn their lesson and act accordingly, or die (literally or figuratively). It's that 'now or never' moment.

    Sometimes it can actually be a really noisy moment :) the middle of a fight or something. But yeah -- if you don't take a few lines to explain what the character's thinking, the whole impact of the character arc can be lost for the reader.

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  9. Teresa - you're very welcome! I hope to see one of those business cards one day soon :-)

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  10. "Here you must use the lightest of touches, the simplest prose, and the fewest words to convey what can sometimes be a complex emotional choice. Too much, and you're beating your reader over the head, too little, and your protagonist's actions won't make sense in the end."

    I think this is fantastic insight. It is that balance that is my struglle at times. I fear I have a tendancy to not put enough filler in between the blanks and only 3 out of 10 will see precisely what I meant. It is a good thing that groups are there to point out our shortcomings that we don't always see ourselves.

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  11. Erica, thanks so much for dropping by! You build your characters so nicely, the decision to change doesn't come as shock when it happens but feels like a natural progression of the character arc.

    You're so right in that how that moment is handled depends so much on the character and the dynamics of the action.

    Thanks again for dropping in on the discussion!

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  12. That's not always bad, Jennifer! I like it when the author allows me to draw my own conclusions from their prose.

    I don't know why I didn't see your post when I responded earlier today! ;-)

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  13. That's a lovely way to frame it, Teresa! As you said in your comment, I think the Quiet Moment is often discovered in the process of writing - and now I'll be looking out for it. Thank you for sharing.

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  14. Hi, thanks for sharing. I find this topic interesting. I like to give the Quiet moment scene a sort of static feel, a sort of contrast to previous material in the story.

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  15. Hi Carrie, thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. It was a fun article to write, and I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    Hi Lawrence, it's nice to see you here. I like your idea of making the moment stand out in contrast to the rest of your story.

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  16. 17 comments? I think I'll have to get you here regularly, Teresa....

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  17. Let me add a comment for your count, Peter. :)

    Thanks for sharing this post, Teresa. I'm an action-adventure junkie (sorry OWW peeps, but I cringe every time I have to read a bathing or meal scene with no conflict--not even character conflict!), but I would definitely say that an action-packed story is what makes those quiet moments an extra treasure. I don't think you only get to have quiet moments at pivotal points either. I love it when you get those gentle touches that show a character maturing or two characters finally coming together in a meaningful way.

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  18. I think that's a great point, Lindsay.

    I like to interpolate my slower moments between some of the action to give the reader a break from the tension from time to time too.

    And Peter, anytime! Let me know. ;-)

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