It’s day 3 of the tour and today I’ll be featuring a guest post from Quan Williams. I had the pleasure of being a host for his release tour for his novel Godmode back in November, so it’s great to have him back again. I’ll start off by reintroducing to to Quan:
Quan Williams was born and raised in Flint, MI, and has always had a love for stories. He honed his writing craft at the University of Michigan, where he studied creative writing under the tutelage of novelists Jonis Agee (Strange Angels, South of Resurrection) and Tish O’Dowd Ezekiel (Floaters). He also found time to write and illustrate three comic books and work as an entertainment journalist for the Michigan Daily Newspaper for three years.
Since graduating, Quan has jumped at every opportunity to bring his wild ideas to life. He wrote the short story “That Weird Kid” which was published by the web magazine Storiesthatlift.com, before writing the young adult novel The Leopard Man. He wrote and illustrated two webcomics, one of which (The Seizure) was collected and published as a trade paperback. He also wrote the business/family melodrama Double Entry.
Elijah wakes up in a cage, and can barely remember anything about himself or his situation. He fights his way alone to escape a building full of bizarre and deadly monsters, while learning disturbing truths about himself. Once he finds the way out, he has to pass it up and keep fighting to rescue his wife and child from his nemesis.
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Now here’s a great article written by Quan that will have you wanting to run out and buy his book today (I know I’ve been dying to get it for weeks now)!
MOVIE TRAILER WRITING
Okay, if you haven’t guessed by now, I like to write stories. In fact, I have so many story ideas in the pipeline, there is no way I will ever get to writing them all in my lifetime (unless of course, I’m writing full time, and that won’t happen unless you guys start buying my book. wink, wink hint hint). One of the reasons I like to tell stories is to create those “cool” moments that you as an audience love to witness, whether it be reading, watching, or participating in.
I guess this is why most people who know my writing consider me more a “plot” emphasizer than a “character” emphasizer. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love to create deep, complex, interesting characters and follow them around. Heck, the real action of my debut novel “The Leopard Man” doesn’t start until halfway through, after I’ve introduced you to Ashlynn, the heroine of the story and one of the coolest, most likeable characters I’ve ever created. But when I get a story idea, it’s usually before I have characters to fit into the story, so I have to create a story outline that interests me enough to want to write the darned thing in the first place. That means I spend a lot of time coming up with plots that have gripping twists and turns, and plenty of moments where the audience will experience it and be like “whoa. That was pretty intense.” And, of course, everything has to build to that BIG moment at the climax of the story.
Basically, this is something I call “movie trailer storytelling.” When I plot out a story, I’m already envisioning the film version (whether the story is a screenplay or not), and every good film (even a lot of bad ones) has a good, enticing movie trailer. I’ve learned that the best trailers are like ultra-condensed versions of the actual movie, where the first part of the trailer establishes the problem the movie addresses, then crams in a ton of the cooler moments in the movie, throws in some establishing shots putting the stars in an enticing light, and ends with a cliffhanger and/or memorable quote that will stick in your head forever until you go see the movie and find out what happens next. (note to all film makers: your movie will not be considered classic unless it has at least one memorable quote. And “say hello to my little friend” is already taken).
This is what I have in mind when I create my story plots. I want those character-establishing moments which would be the equivalent of the hero shot in film (you know, the shot where the star of the movie walks in and the camera makes him or her look larger than life and all eyes are on him or her). I want those tense, dramatic moments where you don’t know which way things will go next. I want those big action sequences and the inspiring moments where the central character is doing the impossible. And I damned sure want that memorable quote.
I already have it mapped out. I write that quiet moment right before all hell breaks loose, and I progress the story from that. I develop the plot and at every opportunity in the story I add a cool plot point, thinking always of where it would be positioned in the movie trailer. Of course, the ultratense background Hans Zimmer orchestra music is playing in my head as I write this. And when I have the rough outline of the plot done, I go in and refine the big moments for even more tension, and I have to have that one cliffhanger moment where it looks like the proverbial feces is really about to hit the fan (I call it the OSH moment, but I talked about that in a previous blog)
For instance, when I wrote The Leopard Man, I knew the main action was going to be my teenage heroine Ashlynn running for her life from the book’s main villain, her English teacher Mr. Barter. But when I’m writing the plot in Movie trailer mode I had it set up like this:
Quiet moment: Ashlynn goes to school and in a key scene, meets Mr. Barter for the first time.
Moment to change things: Ashlynn’s dream where somebody warns her of the Leopard Man.
(here you go into your emotional soundtrack music)
Key moment 1: Ashlynn is shown befriending Mr. Barter afterschool.
Key Moment 2: Ashlynn gets his first waning from her brother about getting too close to her teacher.
Key Moment 3: Ashlynn nearly runs somebody over in the hallway trying to get to Barter.
Key Moment 4: Barter says something ominous while meeting Ashlynn’s parents for dinner.
Key moment 5: Ashlynn and her mother get into a big argument over Barter
Key moment 6: Ashlynn kisses Barter passionately.
(here the music changes into the overdramatic, somebody’s-about-to-die music that builds to a crescendo)
Key moment 7: Ashlynn gets an ominous warning from her track coach about using her running to save her own life.
Key moment 8: A man in Ashlynn’s dream turns into a leopard before her eyes.
Key moment 9: Ashlynn’s father reels off statistics about kidnapped children and how many of them die.
Key moment 10: Ashlynn and her friend run for their lives, but her friend trips, and Ashlynn watches her friend get grabbed by a dangerous-looking man with a very sharp knife.
Key Moment 11: Barter is seen on the phone with some harsh words for whoever is at the other end.
Key Moment 12: While running, Ashlynn narrowly avoids getting her head bitten off by an angry pit bull.
Key Moment 13: Ashlynn’s mother screams at her while driving on the highway, forcing the car to swerve.
Key Moment 14: in her dream, Ashlynn is cornered by the leopard when she reaches a river.
Key moment 15: A dangerous-looking man startles Ashlynn from behind while she is hiding in a church.
(music stops. Only silence)
Cliffhanger/memorable quote: Ashlynn and Mr. Barter are alone together near a deep forest, when Barter looks down at Ashlynn and asks her “Ashlynn, have you ever been double-crossed?”
Now, does that make you interested in reading my book? If it does, then movie trailer-styled plotting works! Because all of these key moments are in the book. Want to know what happens next? Go to www.quanwilliams.com and download your copy of The Leopard Man for free.