Novel Makers Week 7: Use story turns to delight and engage

This week is about learning how to use story turns to delight and engage your readers.

Your Goals

Your goals are to:

  • See and feel story turns in action
  • Memorize story turn concepts
  • Continue to write, meeting the time or word goals you have in your plan
  • Turn in your first 4,000 words for feedback

Discovery Questions & Activities

Question: What is a story turn and what do they do to the reader? (2 hrs)

First, watch the bootleg video on story turns. As you do, answer the main question above. Write your answer in the comments.

Next, read Follett’s bit on story turns in his Master Class, then write your answers these questions in the comments:

  • He says a story turn changes what? Please give an example.
  • How often does he suggest a story should turn?
  • Why?
  • Are his definition and mine different?

Now go back to the passages we read last week plus the new one by Dean Koontz and mark every story turn you see.

How often did each story turn on average? What did each of the three stories have in common with the types and ways they used turns? What did they do differently? Be ready to share your answers in our meeting 🙂

Write (8 hrs)

Continue writing your novel. You should have created a plan last week with goals that are based on target word-counts or hours drafting. Make the time to meet your goals.

Attend meeting and share findings (45 min)

I will set this up so we can share what we found in the reading passages.

Turn in the first 4,000 words of your novel in for 3 grunt feedback

At the end of the week, email the first 4,000 words of your novel to me and the other four people in this group for 3 grunt feedback. Reading and marking will be part of your learning activity for the last week (not this week). We will end that week with a 90-minute meeting where each of us reports our experience.

Optional study (1-5 hrs)

Do NOT take time away from the activities above to do either of these activities. The most important thing you can do is write. But if you can make extra time, there’s some great learning to be had.

  • Read chapters 6 and 8-9 of Writing and Selling Your Novel by Jack Bickham. Write in the comments 3 insights about story turns you picked up from the reading.
  • Read the first 3 chapters of two of your exemplar novels, identify the minor and major story turns, and calculate how often those books turned in those chapters.
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7 Responses to Novel Makers Week 7: Use story turns to delight and engage

  1. John McClain says:

    1. What is a story turn and what do they do to the reader?
    Story turns are changes (or data presented to the reader) that raise in the reader: curiosity, hope or fear for a character, or anticipation that something dramatic is about to occur.

    From Ken Follet’s Master Class:
    2. He says a story turn changes what?
    Dramatic content. An example would be the bank robber’s getaway car running out of gas.

    3. How often does he suggest a story should turn?
    Every 4 to 6 pages.

    4. Why?
    If you have two turns in 4 pages, you’re not getting the full dramatic effect. Pacing is too fast.

    5. Are his definition and mine different?
    At the most basic level, no. However, yours focuses on the reader’s response to the turn and his focuses on the story’s dramatic content.

  2. Greg Baum says:

    1. Story turns are changes (or info) that raise:
    • Curiosity
    • Hope or fear for a character
    • Anticipation that something dramatic is about to occur

    2. A story turn is anything that changes the basic dramatic situation. Example: Trying to escape the Overlook Hotel and finding the snowmobile has been sabotaged.

    3. Story turns should happen every four to six pages.

    4. Any more time, readers get bored. Any less, you’re not getting enough out of the scene.

    5. The definitions are similar, but John’s focuses on a range of effects on the reader, while Ken’s focuses on the narrative (or what he calls the dramatic situation) with a correlated interest in the reader’s boredom/interest.

  3. Anthony says:

    What is a story turn and what do they do to the reader?

    A story turn is some additional bit of information that causes anticipation, excitement, or fear in the reader. It causes the reader to feel uncertain about something that they previously had no reason to feel uncertainty about.

    He says a story turn changes what? Please give an example.

    The basic dramatic situation. Example: From Words of Radiance, When Kaladin speaks the second oath, and the relationship between him and Syl changes.

    How often does he suggest a story should turn?

    He suggests every 4 to 6 pages.

    Why?

    For pacing reasons.

    Are his definition and mine different?

    Your definition and his are different. Yours is focused on the effect on the reader, while his is focused on the change in information presented in the narrative. They can describe the same event in the story, but the different focus will result in a different presentation of the turn.

  4. Rich says:

    Over two hours treating Cornwell and Patterson. Yet to do the Koontz one.

    What is a story turn?
    A story turn is anything in a story which raises, extends or satisfies a curiosity, hope/fear, or anticipation. (I’d add drama to this list, since it was so in the video.)

    What do they do to the reader? They make the outcome unclear.

    What does Ken Follet say a turn changes?
    The basic dramatic situation.
    Example: Party defeats a dragon and wins its hoard of gold. . .when one of the party examines a piece of cold, he discovers it’s poisoned.

    How often does he suggest a turn?
    Every four to six pages.

    Why?
    He says if you go longer than six pages, the reader will get bored; two story turns if four pages and you’re going too fast and not fully drawing out the drama and emotion of each scene.

    Are yours and his definitions different?
    Yes and no. While they boil down to the same thing, his is vague where yours expands–and in so doing contradicts small portions (like the number of turns within a few pages)–but they describe “turns” as the same basic thing. He uses “drama” as a blanket term, and you break it down (to changing the situation, affecting the progress, raising questions, fostering anticipation, and surprise).

    I’ll add the Koontz breakdown later, but both Cornwell’s and James Patterson had turns every couple paragraphs (sometimes every paragraph). Cornwell had both the quickest turns and the most spacious between. I’ll save the other tow answers (which I still have to ponder) for the meeting.

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