July 26, 2015
I bought this book on Sunday. I read through it once, then as I walked through the steps with the story kernel I had in my head, I read through it again. By Friday I had completed a first draft of 12,000 words, and by Sunday night I had published my book in the Kindle Store.
Prior to this, the last story I finished was over 5 years ago (and that was about 2,400 words long). I always felt I was meant to be a writer, but I have always had trouble creating plot and keeping things moving forward. I was comfortable writing description, and I enjoyed writing dialogue, but I never knew what to make my characters say or do!
I have attended multiple writing workshops, and read about a dozen books on writing, but none were as clear or as practical as this one. As Randy says, it's not for everyone. But if you have tried a bunch of methods and they didn't exactly get you rolling, try this one out.
(On a side note, I had read Randy's popular blog post on the Snowflake Method a bunch of times over the years and tried to implement it, but the blog post is nowhere near as detailed or useful as the book. So buy the book.)
With this method, you are not creating *plot*, you're creating story. There is a lot to this book, especially considering how short it actually is, but I want to talk about two sections that absolutely blew my mind and (I know this sounds like massive hyperbole) probably changed my life forever.
1. When thinking about your characters, think about this: values --> ambition --> goal. This simple formula will create great characters. Let me explain why. You ever hear a writer say something like, "the character came alive on the page" or "I just sat back and let the characters determine the direction of the story?" Yeah, me too. I read this all the time, in great books like Stephen King's On Writing. That's all well and good, I always thought, but how the heck can *I* do that? This little values-ambition-goal thing does that for you. In particular, I have found that the "values" portion of this trick is the most useful for me.
Here's what you do. You give your characters two values. As an example, off the top of my head, I'm gonna say my character believes that: a) Nothing is more important than upholding the law, and b) Nothing is more important than the safety of my family. Now, think of a situation that might put those two values in direct competition with each other. Say my character's teenage daughter is being stalked by some creepy older dude, and the authorities won't do anything about it. Now, does my character take the law into his own hands? Or does he sit back and let the situation play itself out? Either way, you know something is going to happen, and whichever way it goes (maybe my character kills the stalker, maybe the daughter gets abducted, maybe the character has an argument with the daughter and she runs away), it will lead to tons more story. And whatever happens then, we look to the values of the character to determine what they might do in that situation down the line. It leads to consistent characters and weirdly, focusing on the mind of the character gives us stuff for them to do!
2. Character synopses. So, the Snowflake Method basically recommends the three-act structure. (To paraphrase poorly: three escalating disasters with the final one being the ultimate showdown and resolution of the central conflict.) But in this book, Ingermanson also recommends you not only write a synopsis for your book (i.e. your main character) but also do a one-sentence and one-paragraph synopsis for your other characters. Holy moly, this floored me. By looking at the central story from the perspective of the secondary characters, you get great ideas that add dimension to the world of your story.
Even if you don't tell the reader everything about your secondary characters (and you shouldn't), it might be useful for you to know that the creepy stalker guy developed his crush on the teenage daughter at a daycare she attended and he worked at. Hmm, maybe that might impact your story in some way? YA THINK? It takes you into directions you didn't expect, and again, gives your characters well-rounded edges, instead of the paper-thin one-note characters you find in books like [redacted].
Last night, I swear, I couldn't fall asleep because my head was overflowing with one story idea after another, all of which I could easily write into short story, novella or novel form.
Also, while not exactly an outline, after I had completed the steps of the Snowflake Method the picture I had created in my mind of the story I wanted to write was so clear that I was writing upwards of 2,000 words per hour for my first draft, basically just dictating from my brain to the paper. It was magical. But it was because I had already thought through the important parts of my story.
Alright, I have gone on long enough. Please buy this book. I have barely scratched the surface of its awesomeness. And anyway, it's cheap! And it's short, so if you don't like it, you didn't waste much time or money. But if, like me, you have always found it hard to find stuff for your characters to do, this book will likely help you. Don't worry about the Goldilocks/Three Bears/Big Bad Wolf story. It's just a dumb story Randy uses to illustrate the point of the book. Some people here are taking it way too seriously, like he meant for the story to be published in The New Yorker for gosh sake.
I love this book. I love Randy Ingermanson. I feel like this book will be the main reason for igniting my writing passion and, spaghetti monster-willing, career.