May 28, 2013

Polti’s Perennial Plot Points

Feeling at a loss for how to create conflicts in your story?  Georges Polti, a French writer and critic, comes to the rescue with his own list of dramatic categories seen in any kind of story.  

Here’s the rundown (36 points in all):

1. Supplication:
·         Persecutor
·         Suppliant
·         Power of Authority (PoA)

How it works:
The persecutor accuses the suppliant, and the PoA judges against the suppliant.

2.  Deliverance:
·         Unfortunate
·         Threatener
·         Rescuer
How it works:
The unfortunate has caused conflict, the threatener wants to pursue justice, but the rescuer comes to help the unfortunate.

3.  Crime Pursued By Vengeance:
·         Criminal
·         Avenger
How it works:
Avenger takes justice in his/her own hands to punish criminal.

4.  Vengeance – Kin Upon Kin:
·         Guilty Kinsman (GK)
·         Avenging Kinsman (AK)
·         Victim
How it works:
GK and AK are in conflict over the victim who’s related to both.

5.  Pursuit:
·         Punishment
·         Fugitive
How it works:
The fugitive runs away from the punishment for a misunderstood conflict.

6. Disaster:
·         Vanquished Power (VP)
·         Victorious Enemy (VE) or Messenger (M)
How it works:
The VP falls from grace after being defeated by VE or alerted of such fall by M.

7.  Falling Prey to Cruelty/Misfortune:
·         Unfortunate (U)
·         Master or Misfortune (M)
How it works:
The unfortunate suffers at the hands of M.

8.  Revolt:
·         Tyrant
·         Conspirator
How it works:
Conspirator plots against the tyrant.

9.Daring Enterprise:
       Bold Leader
How it works:
Bold leader takes an object from adversary.

10.  Abduction:
·         Abductor
·         Abducted
·         Guardian
How it works:
Abductor kidnaps Abducted from the guardian.

11.  The Enigma:
·         Problem
·         Interrogator
·         Seeker
How it works:
Interrogator poses a problem to the seeker who must resolve it.

12.  Obtaining:
·         Solicitor
·         Adversary
·         Object
How it works:
The solicitor is against the adversary who owns an object he/she desires.

13.  Enmity of Kin:
·         Malevolent Kinsman (MK)
·         Hated Kinsman (HK)
How it works:
MK and HK conspire together.

14.  Rivalry of Kin:
·         Preferred Kinsman (PK)
·         Rejected Kinsman (RK)
·         Object
How it works:
The object of rivalry chooses the PK over the RK.

15.  Murderous Adultery:
·         Adulterer 1 (A1)
·         Adulterer 2 (A2)
·         Betrayed Spouse
How it works:
A1 and A2 conspire to kill the Betrayed Spouse.

16.  Madness:
·         Madman
·         Victim
How it works:
The madman goes insane and wrongs the victim.

17.  Fatal Imprudence:
·         Imprudent
·         Victim or Object Lost
How it works:
The imprudent loses the object or wrongs the victim.
Forbidden Love by Tyshea
18. Involuntary Crimes Of Love:
·         Loved
·         Beloved
·         Revealer
How it works:
Revealer betrays the trust of the lovers.

19.  Slaying Of Kin Unrecognized:
·         Slayer
·         Unrecognized Victim (UV)
How it works:
Slayer kills the UV.

20.  Self-Sacrifice For An Ideal:
·         Hero
·         Ideal
·         Creditor
·         Person/Thing Sacrificed
How it works:
The Hero sacrifices a person/thing to the creditor.

21.  Self-Sacrifice For Kin:
·         Hero
·         Kinsman
·         Creditor
·         Person/Thing Sacrificed
How it works:
The Hero sacrifices the thing/person for their kinsman, which is then taken by the creditor.

22.  All Sacrificed For Passion:
·         Lover
·         Object of Fatal Passion (OFP)
·         Person/Thing Sacrificed
How it works:
A lover sacrifices a thing or someone for the OFP, which is then lost forever.

23.  Necessity of Sacrificing Loved Ones:
·         Hero
·         Beloved Victim (BV)
·         Necessity for the Sacrifice
How it works:
The Hero wrongs the BV because of the need to sacrifice them.

24.  Rivalry of Superior vs. Inferior:
·         Super Rival (SR)
·         Inferior Rival (IR)
·         Object of Rivalry
How it works:
A SR bests an IR and wins the Object of Rivalry.

25.  Adultery:
·         Adulterer 1 (A1)
·         Adulterer 2 (A2)
·         Deceived Spouse
How it works:
A1 and A2 conspire against the deceived spouse.

26.  Crimes of Love:
·         Lover
·         Beloved
How it works:
Lover and Beloved enter into a conflict.

27.  Discovery of the Dishonor of a Loved One:
·         Discoverer
·         Guilty Party
How it works:
The Discoverer finds out about the Guilty Party’s wrongdoings.

28.  Obstacles To Love:
·         Lover 1 (L1)
·         Lover 2 (L2)
·         Obstacle
How it works:
L1 and L2 face an obstacle together.

29.  An Enemy Loved:
·         Lover
·         Beloved Enemy (BE)
·         Hater
How it works:
The Lover and Hater are allied but have opposite views on the BE.

30.  Ambition:
·         Ambitious Person (AP)
·         Thing Coveted
·         Adversary
How it works:
The AP seeks the thing coveted but must first face the Adversary.

31.  Conflict With A God:
·         Mortal
·         Immortal
How it works:
Mortal and Immortal are in a conflict.

32.  Mistaken Jealousy:
·         Jealous One (JO)
·         Object Of Whose Possession JO is Jealous
·         Supposed Accomplice (SA)
·         Cause or Author of Mistake
How it works:
The JO misinterprets the cause or the mistake, and becomes jealous of the SA over the Object’s possession.

33.  Erroneous Judgment:
·         Mistaken One (MO)
·         Victim of the Mistake
·         Guilty One
·         Cause or Author of Mistake
How it works:
The MO misinterprets the cause/mistake and passes judgment on the Victim when it should be passed on the Guilty One instead.

34.  Remorse:
·         Culprit
·         Victim or the Sin
·         Interrogator
How it works:
The culprit wrongs the Victim or commits a sin, and goes against the interrogator who seeks the truth.

35.  Recovery Of A Lost One:
·         Seeker
·         One Found
How it works:
Seeker finds the One Found.

36.  Loss Of Loved Ones:
·         Slain Kinsman (SK)
·         Kinsman Spectator (KS)
·         Executioner
How it works:
The killing of the SK by the Executioner is witnessed by the KS.

Hope this helped you get ideas for your stories!


May 26, 2013

Behind The Scenes: Evolution Of A Book Cover

OK, I admit it, I’m a shallow girl. If I haven’t been recommended a book, I won’t buy a new one unless its cover intrigues me and sparks my imagination before I even pick it up!

So when I set out on this book publishing venture, I knew that I’d want to have the most beautiful book cover possible.  So I turned to my favorite book cover artist, Sammy Yuen, for help. I’d loved his work for the cover of Incarceron, and even more so for Leviathan. 

Once upon a December day, I plucked up the courage to send him a letter with my request and I was most excited when he agreed to work with me (really, I was jumping up and down which, in an office environment, is somewhat frowned upon).

I was sent a very detailed questionnaire, in which I explained (amongst other things) how I’d envisioned my own book cover.  Something a little like this:

Oh how glad was I that I’d found Sammy and that he’d agreed to work with me when he sent me his first drafts!  The original image he had, based on my descriptions, was the following:

As you can see, it already looked tons better than my version.  But Sammy didn’t stop just there, he let his imagination flow and came up with another version:

Genius! I hadn’t even thought of the wings at all, but they were very representative of my trilogy, and elevated the cover to a whole other level!

The third cover Sammy Sent me was a softer version of the second one, so it wouldn’t have a “horror” feel to it… and I totally fell in love:

After that, all I needed were a few alterations:  change the Celtic knot into a Celtic cross (to match the Knights of the Round Table’s school insignia), give the wings a somewhat “fallen angel” look, use the fonts used on the first cover, and
TADAAAAAA!!!  The most beautiful of covers ever was born!

And that’s how the cover for Blood of the Fey was created.  Thank you, Sammy, for your amazing work!

More of Sammy’s portfolio may be found on his website!

May 22, 2013

The Art Of Overpromising and Underdelivering Or The Nerve-Racking Process Of Getting Self-Published

So, as you may or may not be aware, I’m self-publishing my first book (Blood of the Fey, Morgana Trilogy Book I) via CreateSpace.  This post is, therefore, more targeted towards anyone contemplating going the same route, as I’m going to give my two ten thousand cents on this particular adventure.

I first picked CreateSpace because, with Amazon as a parent, I automatically assumed it meant they would be extremely professional.  My first call with them was actually really good—the representative explained how everything worked, answered all my questions, and gave me an estimated time of how long each process takes.

The initial phase, which consisted of setting up the project with them then hiring an editor went by pretty smoothly.  I was actually pretty impressed with the attention to detail the editor showcased, though I strongly encourage you to reread your work afterward, out loud, and several times to catch anything that might have been missed.

The difficulties started when it came time to design the interior of my book.  Because I’d never done anything like it and wanted a bunch of different fonts to be used, I figured I’d hire the true pros instead. 

I had an initial call with a couple of people from the CreateSpace team, during which time I explained what I wanted while at the same time deferring to them for some aspects (again, relying on the fact that they’re pros).   I was therefore greatly surprised when I was given the initial template of what my book would look like: the document looked like what a mid-grader would come up with (I’m only saying that in reference to my own work at that age, and believe most mid-graders are actually way better than I was then). 

But that wasn’t all, over the course of the next few weeks, I realized that half of the things I’d mentioned in my initial conversation with the CreateSpace team had been completely ignored.  

What really rankled me in this ordeal (as someone who has experience in the business world) is how unprofessional this team has been.  I like to get an estimated time of when services  are to be completed (especially as I had to time my marketing around the completion of the book), so that is one question I always asked when talking to them.  The problem was that 8 times out of 10, when I was given a finishing date (and that despite confirming with them on multiple occasions), I found out that the work wasn’t complete.  What is worse, is that rarely was I actually forewarned of the delay and had to find out about it the hard way:
The day would arrive, and I’d be so happy thinking about getting my book back until…I’d notice that nothing was forthcoming, and tadaaa, the evening arrived and still nothing had been returned. 

Of course, that would prompt a call from me to them, at which point they’d tell me that the due date was later (no apologies and, worse, they’d talk condescendingly to me as if I was the one in the wrong).

As I write these words, I’m still waiting to hear back from CreateSpace concerning their latest delay.  I understand that my book wasn’t easy (because of the multiple fonts), but I wouldn’t have written any of this (OK, let’s be honest and call it a rant) if they’d shown a smidgeon of professionalism—meaning:  if you mess up, then own up to it, and don’t continuously let your (paying) client hang without knowing what’s going on. 

This whole process has left me with a very bitter aftertaste, and many tears of frustration.  Hopefully this article will have provided anyone about to embark on this adventure with a tool to avoid the many nail-biting and hair-tearing moments that I’ve had to endure.
City Hunter
PS: For those of you who wish to work with CreateSpace and don’t want to do the designing (aka laying the pages out in book form) yourselves, here’s what I recommend you do:
  1. Expect 2-3 months’ delay (it's always nice to actually have books available before a book signing, after all).
  2. Tell them EXACTLY what you want, where.  For me, this entailed:
    1. Giving them the fonts I wanted (in a zip file)
    2. Telling them where to apply them (passages highlighted and the page numbers given).
  3. Verify the work’s been done correctly (even with all the instructions from part 2 there might still be some mistakes).
  4. Don’t be fooled when they sound nice on the phone and tell you “it’s going to be all right, it’ll be done by then,” they’re just placating you for now, but they’ll proceed at their own time, no discussion.  Period. What I’ve read elsewhere about these services is turning out to be true (to my deepest regret):  these companies don’t care about you or your book, except when it comes to pocketing your money (or their share of your royalties).  Unfortunately for me, I keep falling for it.
  5. Note:  the fancier you want to get, the more delays you should expect.

May 20, 2013

Goodreads Giveaway

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Blood of the Fey by Alessa Ellefson

Blood of the Fey

by Alessa Ellefson

Giveaway ends June 01, 2013.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win
For any interested, I'm giving away 5 signed copies of Blood of the Fey, the first in the Morgana Trilogy, along with 5 bookmarks. The giveaway ends June 1, 2013 (at midnight, at which point the giveaway turns back into a pumpkin!).

PS: the giveaway is available to people in the US, CA, GB and AU.

May 18, 2013

History Of A French Expression

In French, “Bonne Merde” (aka Good Shit) means good luck.  I’ve always known it, but until recently I didn’t know why that was.

Turns out that, back in the 19th century, when people went to see plays and the opera and other nightly performances, they got to the place in a carriage.  However, there being no parking lot, the horses got to empty their intestines right before the building until the whole area was covered in their feces.  Of course, in the dark (lighting wasn’t the best in those days), people couldn’t do anything but step in it and drag the poo with them into the theater.

And the more people came to see a play (or other performance), the more poo there’d be in the theater’s halls, which was therefore associated with success!

Therefore, if you end up in France or Belgium and someone tells you “Bonne Merde,” don’t get offended, they’re actually being very nice!

PS:  Over the years, the expression’s morphed.  Growing up, every time people stepped in poo it was considered good luck (and there I was thinking it was simply because there was dog shit all over the sidewalks!).

May 16, 2013

Atlas of World Mythologies

The Human Odyssey
Here's a cool little map I've found that gives a quick overview of myths and legends around the world.

May 13, 2013

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

I was happily surprised by this book.  I must admit that, as with most books, I'd purchased this one because of its intriguing cover.  But once I started reading it, I was sucked in.  I at first thought this was a ghost story, which literally gave me goosebumps while I was reading.  But it turned out to be a different twist.

But what makes this story unique are all the different, and odd pictures strewn about the story. I believe the author found those pictures and then created a story around it.  And a fun one at that!

“The composition of the human species is infinitely more diverse than most humans suspect,” she began. “The real taxonomy of Homo sapiens is a secret known to only a few, of whom you will now be one. At base, it is a simple dichotomy: there are the coerlfolc, the teeming mass of common people who make up humanity’s great bulk, and there is the hidden branch—the crypto-sapiens, if you will—who are called syndrigast, or “peculiar spirit” in the venerable language of my ancestors. As you have no doubt surmised, we here are of the latter type.”

It's very obvious that this is only the first in a series of books, but I look forward to reading more from this author.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

May 9, 2013

Are You A Psychopath?

So apparently human nature is much simpler than I expected, and our personalities can easily be stamped and filed according to lists .

A famous (or infamous?) one is the psychopath’s checklist by Robert Hare. Check out for yourself if you exhibit any of the traits of a psychopath or not:

  1. Glib and superficial charm.
  2. Grandiose self-worth.
  3. Need for stimulation or proneness to boredom.
  4. Pathological lying.
  5. Conning and manipulativeness.
  6. Lack of remorse or guilt.
  7. Shallow affect.
  8. Callousness and lack of empathy.
  9. Parasitic lifestyle.
  10. Poor behavioral controls.
  11. Promiscuous sexual behavior.
  12. Early behavior problems (prior to age 13).
  13. Lack of realistic, long-term goals.
  14. Impulsivity.
  15. Irresponsibility.
  16. Failure to accept responsibility for own actions.
  17. Many short-term relationships.
  18. Juvenile delinquency.
  19. Revocation of condition release (if had been on probation already).
  20. Criminal versatility (criminal offenses).

Basically, what this tells you, is that if you’re not a well-programmed robot who always does as told and knows from the day you came out of your mother’s womb what your whole life is going to be and never deviate from it, then you might be a psychopath (mild exaggeration mine).

Here’s an interesting article to check out on the Psychopath Test.

Other sources:
List of psychopathy symptoms

May 6, 2013

Of Dreams And Success

"If one advances confidently in the direction of his own dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours."



May 3, 2013

The World Seen Through a Dog's Eyes

So turns out dogs don't see the world in black and white.  It's more like browns and blues (and some grey)...  I wonder how they'd react if all of a sudden they could see... reds, for example.  Or greens...

As it turns out, red is a rather difficult color for dogs to see.  And everything seems... muted (as you can see below).   

Psychology Today
Dr. Sophia Yin