5 Steps to Using A Q Factor

by Ane Mulligan, @AneMulligan, +AneMulligan

I learned about the Q Factor from James Scott Bell years ago at the BRMCWC. He’s given me permission to share it here.

So what is the Q Factor?

It’s a great tool that comes from Dr. Q, in the James Bond movies. He’s the one who gives Bond his gadgets, so during the crucial scene where Bond is dangling by his ankles over a school of piranha, he manages to get his thumb on a cuff-link. That cuff-link turns into a small, rotating saw, which he uses to cut through the restraints on his hands and legs.He then reaches into his jacket pocket and pulls out a fountain pen. The pen holds a compressed nitrogen charge and shoots a small grappling hook and line across the piranha pond, enabling Bond to swing to safety on the other side of the pool.

Now, if we had been reading along in the story and come to this point, and Bond simply produced those items for the first time, we’d all be groaning. How convenient! What a cheat! And we’d never trust the author again.

But Dr. Q did the set-up, and because we saw these items before, we accept them when they’re used.

The Q factor in a novel

In fiction, the Protagonist should reach a point near the end when everything looks lost. In figurative terms, she is dangling over a pool of piranha. She needs courage for the final battle, to face the ultimate test.

This is where the Q Factor can help. It is something set up early in the story that will provide the necessary inspiration or instruction for the character when she needs it most.

In Chapel Springs Revival, my Q Factor is Claire’s late Great-aunt Lola. The first time her husband went to work without kissing her goodbye, she left, went to Hollywood and became a big star in silent films. Claire remembers that when her hubby leaves for work without kissing her goodbye. This sets up the story question: will Claire leave her husband?

In the middle the story, Claire thinks about what Aunt Lola would have done. Now we cut to the black moment, when Claire’s husband walks out of the house in anger, after he learns something she did. At the appropriate time, Claire goes to the attic and reads Aunt Lola’s journals. In them, what she learns helps her make a decision.

Another way to look at it is this: so many stories are about overcoming fear. The fear manifests itself most when all the forces are marshaled against the Protagonist. Fear and common sense tell her to give up, run away.She knows she can’t. So give her a Q Factor, an emotional element that comes in when she needs it.

To do that:

  1. Select the element (item, mentor, moral sentiment, negative character, etc.)
  2. Write a scene early in the story that ties this element emotionally to the Protagonist.
  3. Refer to the Q Factor subtly in the middle section, as a reminder.
  4. Find a trigger point in yourProtagonist’sblack moment where the Q Factor can be reintroduced.
  5. Show your Protagonist taking new action based on the Q Factor. If you’ve embedded the Q well enough up front, the readers will pick up what’s happening without you having to explain it to them. Just let it happen naturally.

The Q Factor is just another tool to add to your technique box. I like collecting these and finding new ways to incorporate them.

Now, it’s your turn. Share a favorite writing tool from your technique box.


Life in Chapel Springs

Life in Chapel Springs has turned upside down and inside out.

Is it a midlife pregnancy or … cancer? Claire will keep her secret until she’s sure—but it isn’t easy. Between her twins’ double wedding, a nationwide art tour and her health, life is upside down. Shy Lacey Dawson was happily writing murder mysteries for the community theater, but a freak accident results in traumatic injuries. When the bandages come off, Lacey’s world is tuned inside out. Gold has been discovered in Chapel Springs and the ensuing fever is rising.

While a large, floppy straw hat is her favorite, Ane Mulligan has worn many different ones: hairdresser, legislative affairs director (that’s a fancy name for a lobbyist), drama director, playwright, humor columnist, and novelist. Her lifetime experience provides a plethora of fodder for her Southern-fried fiction (try saying that three times fast). She firmly believes coffee and chocolate are two of the four major food groups. President of Novel Rocket, Ane resides in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband. You can find Ane on her Southern-fried Fiction websiteGoogle+AmazonGoodreadsTwitter, and Pinterest.

 

To Follow or Not to Follow the Yellow Brick Road of Writing Rules

by Ane Mulligan, @AneMulligan

When I added novels to my writing, I quickly learned I knew nothing else about writing fiction—other than dialogue. I picked up a couple of mentors and bought a few books on the craft. I absorbed and followed those “rules” of good writing until I had a good handle on them.

I remember hearing new writers complaining about published authors breaking the rules, so why couldn’t they? There’s a very good reason: an experienced author has mastered those rules learned how to break them. We can’t stop on the first broken rule and camp there, saying, “If they did it,so can I.” If you keep reading, you will discover most of the time they don’t break them.

That yellow brick road is there for a “readson.” That word—readson—was a Freudian slip. I meant to type “reason.” But I left it because the rules are for the reader’s experience.

If we follow the guidelines of good writing, our readers have a better experience.

For instance: Showing vs. Telling. When we show what’s happening, the reader experiences the action with the character. Can you imagine a Dean Koontz suspense novel that simply told you what happened? Where would the breath-stealing suspense be? While there are places for telling, like in summary, showing the action involves the reader in the story.

Another good “rule” is using strong verbs instead of a lot of adverbs. She walked quietly becomes she tiptoed. Tiptoed provides a visual for the reader, where walked quietly is so broad, it doesn’t draw us into the action.

There will come a time when you have those rules mastered. And now you have an ear for what works and what doesn’t. I always say if you’re going to break a rule, do it with panache so the prose sings. You don’t want to break the rules only to leave your reader experiencing flat writing (pun intended).

If you’re new to this writing gig, do yourself a favor. Learn the basics—the rules—so well that your ear is tuned to what really works and what doesn’t.

Then have fun.

TWEETABLES

The Yellow Brick Road of Writing Rules: to follow or not to follow? by @AneMulligan on @NovelRocket #writing http://bit.ly/2haJOKK

If you break the rules, do it with panache. @AneMulligan on @NovelRocket #writing http://bit.ly/2haJOKK

If you break the rules, make sure the prose sings. @AneMulligan on @NovelRocket #writing http://bit.ly/2haJOKK

_____________________

Life in Chapel Springs
Life in Chapel Springs has turned upside down and inside out.

Is it a midlife pregnancy or … cancer? Claire will keep her secret until she’s sure—but it isn’t easy. Between her twins’ double wedding, a nationwide art tour and her health, life is upside down. Shy Lacey Dawson was happily writing murder mysteries for the community theater, but a freak accident results in traumatic injuries. When the bandages come off, Lacey’s world is tuned inside out. Gold has been discovered in Chapel Springs and the ensuing fever is rising.

While a large, floppy straw hat is her favorite, Ane Mulligan has worn many different ones: hairdresser, legislative affairs director (that’s a fancy name for a lobbyist), drama director, playwright, humor columnist, and novelist. Her lifetime experience provides a plethora of fodder for her Southern-fried fiction (try saying that three times fast). She firmly believes coffee and chocolate are two of the four major food groups. President of Novel Rocket, Ane resides in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband. You can find Ane on her Southern-fried Fiction websiteGoogle+AmazonGoodreadsTwitter, and Pinterest.

10 Tips for a 1st-Time Conferee

by Ane Mulligan, @AneMulligan

Someone recently said they were about to go to their first ACFW conference and they asked for advice. As a conference veteran—I’ve attended close to two dozen—I offer the following:

1. Don’t be terrified. I promise you’ll love it. Look for names you recognize. Don’t be embarrassed to look at name tags. ACFW gives you Zone (regional) stickers to add to your name tag to help recognize other zone members. If you’ve been active on their e-loop, you’ll likely recognize names. Look for your favorite authors.


2. Volunteer.
If you can, go a day early and volunteer to help stuff packets or work the registration table. That gives you a few friends right from the start. At my first ACFW conference, I stuffed conference bags with Mike Ehret and we became friends. More amazing, we still are. We recently published a novella collection together.

3. Don’t push yourself. If you start to feel overloaded, skip a class or a general session. Do something else or take a nap. There is no way you’ll remember all the information you hear. You can always get the MP3 of that class later. My mantra is: if you take away one golden nugget of learning that moves your work to the next level, it was worth it.

4. If you’re feeling lost or overwhelmed, find someone else who looks like they are, too. Reach out to that person. After all, you know how they feel.By befriending them, you’ll find you no longer feel so lost.

5. If you plan to pitch to an agent or editor, practice at home and with friends. Covenant with a couple of pals who will call you at random unplanned hours and ask, “Tell me about your book.” Do that until you stop swallowing your tongue or stuttering.

6. Remember, agents and editors are people, too.
They are there to find the next great book. It might be yours! So use lunch and dinner to pitch at the tables, but don’t monopolize the conversation. Practice until you can deliver your pitch in 30 seconds. Then close your mouth. If you babble on for a long time and don’t give anyone else a chance, the editor/agent will think you do that in your writing, too. A good byword is: Less is more.

7. Networking is as big a part of conference as the classes and pitch sessions.
That’s how I met my critique partner, Lisa (Elizabeth) Ludwig. We met at the ACFW conference and have been writing buddies ever since. That was back in 2005 in Nashville.

8. Warning: Never …I repeat…never follow an agent or editor into the restroom to pitch! Elevators are okay, after all they can’t escape if they’ve already pushed their floor button. But the restrooms are off limits. And don’t think it never happened. Just ask Steve Laube or Chip MacGregor.

9. Expectations: Most of all, don’t set wild expectations. You will NOT be handed a contract at breakfast. Sorry to burst your bubble. It usually takes 3 or 4 books written before you’re ready.

10. Belong:(especially if you’re a fairly new writer) simply sit back and enjoy being among people who actually “get you.” After all, we’re not “normals.”

See y’all there!

TWEETABLES
__________

Life in Chapel Springs
Life in Chapel Springs has turned upside down and inside out.

Is it a midlife pregnancy or … cancer? Claire will keep her secret until she’s sure—but it isn’t easy. Between her twins’ double wedding, a nationwide art tour and her health, life is upside down. Shy Lacey Dawson was happily writing murder mysteries for the community theater, but a freak accident results in traumatic injuries. When the bandages come off, Lacey’s world is tuned inside out. Gold has been discovered in Chapel Springs and the ensuing fever is rising.

While a large, floppy straw hat is her favorite, Ane Mulligan has worn many different ones: hairdresser, legislative affairs director (that’s a fancy name for a lobbyist), drama director, playwright, humor columnist, and novelist. Her lifetime experience provides a plethora of fodder for her Southern-fried fiction (try saying that three times fast). She firmly believes coffee and chocolate are two of the four major food groups. President of Novel Rocket, Ane resides in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband. You can find Ane on her Southern-fried Fiction websiteGoogle+AmazonGoodreadsTwitter, and Pinterest.

Recalculating

by +AneMulligan @AneMulligan

Have y’all see the Jeep Compass commercial about recalculating? The voiceover says things like “Go straight to a steady job.” The girl looks up at the building and turns. The voiceover says, “Recalculating.” Another voiceover announces, “Stay single till you’re thirty-four.” Then we see a male hand holding out an engagement ring, and the voice over exclaims, “Recalculating.”

When I turn off the main road to get gas, my GPS recalculates quickly and gives me instructions how to get back on my chosen path. I suppose, as with driving, it’s not so very hard to recalculate your life. After all, you made the decision to change directions. In 2003, I made a decision to write full time and left the corporate world. It was a calculated recalculation.

But recalculating isn’t as simple in novel writing. In fact, it can make an author bang her head against the wall. In one of my books, I was merrily writing away when the character … turned and looked up into the greenest eyes she’d ever seen.

Wait! That wasn’t part of the plan. I wasn’t writing a romance. This character was the deuteragonist. Nothing more than the vehicle for the protagonist to gain her heart’s desire. But planned or not, there I was with romance staring me in the face. I decided to recalculate and follow that path. It worked.

In my current manuscript, I realized I had a threat hanging over my Main Character’s head, but I hadn’t made it actually happen. And I needed to. So I recalculated and did the worst thing that could happen. I wrote the scene and several others in chronological order (the only way I’m ever logical).

But this time my recalculation didn’t work. I had taken what was essentially the black moment and moved it up way too early. A recalculation that got me lost. There was no way I could sustain for sixty thousand words, the emotional level that it now needed. The story would become dark and depressing—and not what I write.

So once again, I found myself recalculating, taking apart the story and saving some scenes for revisiting at a better time.

What do you do when a story needs to be recalculated?

This is where I envy the SOTP writers. They can simply follow the new direction. They’re not concerned about if it works or not, they simply follow the new path. They’ll worry about the editing later.

I can’t do that. I’m not a pantster … I’m a planster. So, I consulted my map, the plan. In this story, the miscalculation won’t work. My story is about more than the resolution of one event. It’s about the camaraderie between the characters, building strong friendships (and all that entails) that will carry the MC through the worst thing that can happen to her.

While novels aren’t formulaic, certain things have to happen to make a good read. My Book Therapy has The Story Equation that works in any genre. James Scott Bell has a structural plan in Plot and Structure that works in any genre. I’ve found if I vary off the tried and true path of story structure, I’m going to have to recalculate.

TWEETABLES

Recalculating by Ane Mulligan (Click to Tweet)

Running into trouble when veering from good story structure~ Ane Mulligan (Click to Tweet)

Recalculating a plot isn’t as easy as changing directions~ Ane Mulligan (Click to Tweet)

Life in Chapel Springs
Life in Chapel Springs has turned upside down and inside out.

Is it a midlife pregnancy or … cancer? Claire will keep her secret until she’s sure—but it isn’t easy. Between her twins’ double wedding, a nationwide art tour and her health, life is upside down. Shy Lacey Dawson was happily writing murder mysteries for the community theater, but a freak accident results in traumatic injuries. When the bandages come off, Lacey’s world is tuned inside out. Gold has been discovered in Chapel Springs and the ensuing fever is rising.

While a large, floppy straw hat is her favorite, Ane Mulligan has worn many different ones: hairdresser, legislative affairs director (that’s a fancy name for a lobbyist), drama director, playwright, humor columnist, and novelist. Her lifetime experience provides a plethora of fodder for her Southern-fried fiction (try saying that three times fast). She firmly believes coffee and chocolate are two of the four major food groups. President of Novel Rocket, Ane resides in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband. You can find Ane on her Southern-fried Fiction websiteGoogle+AmazonGoodreadsTwitter, and Pinterest.