Hi Luna’s Little Library – thank you so much for having me 🙂
Luna: You are most welcome *hands tea* 😉
Sarah Mussi was born in Gloucestershire. After her education at a girl’s school in Cheltenham, she completed a post graduate degree at the Royal College of Art before leaving the UK for West Africa. She lived in Ghana, West Africa for over eighteen years, marrying a Ghanaian and teaching in Accra. Sarah now lives in Brixton and teaches in Lewisham, splitting her holidays between England and Ghana.
The HERE BE DRAGONS Blog Tour
Post Three: The First Turning Point
Hi everybody and welcome back to my blog tour to celebrate the launch of HERE BE DRAGONS, book one in my new trilogy: THE SNOWDONIA CHRONICLES!
In HERE BE DRAGONS, Sarah tried to create her best story ever.
And she interviewed herself about the process. She looked at:
- How she actually wrote the book.
- How she applied the Three Act Structure to the process
- And what she learned in doing it.
So what are we going to look at today, Sarah?
So far on this blog tour we’ve had a look at the hook, the inciting incident and how I used those structures to create drama and order the story beats in the book. Now as we are getting close to the first major set scene, we will be looking at turning points and how to foreshadow them. We can compare this stage of the climb up Everest to:
Camp 1, Valley of Silence
6100 m – 6400 m / 20000 – 21000 ft.
“This is a vast, flat area of endless snow, deep crevasses and mountain walls frequently washed by avalanches. Here we set up camp 1. At night we listen to the deep, murmuring cracking sounds under our tents. It is the crevasses opening and closing deep down in the glacier beneath. You keep your fingers crossed that it won’t happen right under your tent. At least not just now, while you are in it. Pounding headaches torture you. But it is here that for the first time, just a few steps around a corner, we gain first close sight of Everest…”
When I was writing the first sections of HERE BE DRAGONS I very much looked forward to getting to Camp 1, Valley of Silence. But when I actually got there, I realised how very creaky the plot was and if I was not careful, one of those great crevasses might crack open under the story and swallow everything up!
So today I’m going to look at caulking up the cracks, developing tension, foreshadowing the Turning Point One in HERE BE DRAGONS and how, in my self-taught way, I aimed to deliver on the reversal of fortune that every major set scene needs.
When you say ‘self taught’, Sarah, what exactly do you mean?
Well, I mean I have never formally studied Creative Writing on an M.A. course, or anything like that (wish I had). However I grew up in a home crowded with books. My dad was an old-style, literary critic and a published writer. I read widely and eventually after completing an M.A. in Fine Art at the RCA, took a degree in Literature and ended up teaching English at A level and GCSE.
But weirdly none of that really taught me how to become a writer! (Though all those skills came in handy once I’d figured it out!) Here’s a pic of my dad’s hero and best friend with whom I spent much of my childhood – listening to words of literary wisdom, obvs:
So how did you figure it out?
I read a shed load of books on story: so thank you Robert McKee, Christopher Booker, The Elements of Fiction Writing authors and all you other fantastic, wonderful people who wrote huge volumes of information on how to write a best seller, how to fix beginnings, middles and endings, how to create voice and bring characters to life …
In fact I have shelves of books at home all devoted to do-it-your-self fiction writing. They are my well-thumbed-through old friends. How to be a great writer! I love them all. I am addicted to HOW-2B a writer books! Love the Hero’s Journey – here’s a pic:
But how does this connect to today’s blog, Sarah, the First Turning Point?
So I discovered in my hours of reading Write a Bestseller (Teach Yourself), that most readers look forward to something happening and when that something happens – as a writer – you shouldn’t be shy about putting it all in a scene or on the page, so that the reader can live through the scene blow by blow, event by event and really experience every emotional high and low until their nails are bitten to the quick!
So in preparing for the first set piece in HERE BE DRAGONS, I had to foreshadow the action, choose the setting and figure out how everything was going to work out in the story – both before and after the set piece – because the first turning point is exactly that, a turning point – my heroine has to go into the scene one person and leave it another.
That’s interesting. How do you set-up a major turning point of this sort?
Well, I’m a bit of a plotter – but not exclusively – I also fly by the seat of my pants, in that I like to know where I’m going in a story, but I also like to experience it fresh, as I go along – sort of explore the narrative from the inside.
So I had the hook, the inciting incident, the rescue and the snow, but as I wanted HERE BE DRAGONS to be a love story – a timeless love story set on the mountains of Snowdonia – I had to use ‘romantic’ plotting as well as the Three Act Structure. I knew the history of the Mabinogion, of Merlin, of the dragons (see ancient pic of that myth below), but to build up to my big scene, I now needed the boy – why? – because what bigger turning point in your life than when you first meet the boy of your dreams!
Do you not plot a romance then, in the same way as any other story?
Ah! Good question! Simple answer: No, you don’t. I love, love stories – but writing them is quite hard – the plot is a bit different from any other story – it goes like this somewhat: basically girl finds boy, girl loses boy, girl finds boy again. But in all good romances, we know that the two lovers need to ‘find’ each other – in plot terms that means, be initially be shut up in a crucible for an certain amount of time, so that they can get to know each other – probably through action – by helping each other out – in some kind of a crisis – or at least constrained and locked up together for a period of time, so that they can share aspects of their past, fears, hopes, dreams with each other.
So how did you to do that on your snowy mountain?
What better place than out on a wild mountain in winter! To be forced together – into some kind of building – by the weather, obviously!
However, I didn’t want any heroine who would be daft enough to get herself into a stupid situation with freezing Arctic-type weather on a mountain she knew well. So I had to think very carefully about how she would get caught out in the snow, how she would meet the boy she was about to fall in love with. Perhaps she set out to rescue him? Having realised that’s what I needed to do it, it then became easier to foreshadow that meeting. I wanted a romantic, magical place and a sense of danger and a decent length of time, during which Ellie and Henry would have time to work together, enough time for them to share their hopes and dreams, enough time to start falling in love with each other.
How did writing that First Turning Point scene work out?
I loved writing that scene in HERE BE DRAGONS and here is an excerpt from it.
I took a deep breath. Shelter. Fire. Food. And this strange feeling that I’d somehow stepped into some kind of Narnia.
I fetched the candles from the kitchen. We sat down on the old bench in front of the roaring fire. In fact he got so close to the fire, I was amazed he wasn’t burned. The logs smelt of pine. The room filled with warmth. I adjusted the space blanket and wrapped it round both of us. Firelight sparkled off it in little dancing flickers. Together we huddled under it, until our shivering stopped. Then we opened the cans and stuck them in the embers. While the food defrosted, we carried on warming ourselves and breathing in the scent of burning pine, and shaking out the pins and needles. We dried our clothes. We lit the candles. And soon the beans sizzled and the corned beef fat melted. We banked up the fire. Golden shadows glowed from the old stonewalls, and then we ate.
Both cans of food were burned on the outside and cold in the middle, but we didn’t care. We tipped the beans and corned beef onto the solitary plate. We shared one spoon. We made it last, one spoonful at a time. It was the most delicious meal I’ve ever eaten. It tasted of cinder and salt, and of success. We’d done it. We’d beaten old Snowdon.
And it fed me in ways that I didn’t even know I was hungry for. With every spoonful he offered, I’d look into his eyes and smiled.
And he’d smile back and say, ‘More caviar, my Lady of the Mountain?’
And I’d be unable to answer. (My mouth full of corned beef, which I could hardly chew, because I could hardly even swallow.)
And Henry found two old cracked mugs and filled them with fresh snow. And we stood them by the fire until they melted. Snow tastes funny; but we toasted each other with that melted snow as if it were the finest champagne.
‘To you, Ellie, The Finder of Paths in the Darkness,’ he said.
‘To you, Henry, the Maker of Fires in the Coldness,’ I replied.
‘To us,’ we laughed together.
‘I’ll always come to your rescue,’ I said.
‘And I’ll always tell you not to,’ he said
‘And how come you pushed that door in?’ I added.
‘One day I’ll explain,’ he said.
‘And?’ I said.
‘Don’t…’ he said, ‘Don’t spoil it.’
So I didn’t.
For my heroine, Ellie, it certainly was a HUGE turning point – from here on she realises she cannot go back to the old Ellie she used to be in her ‘previous life’. She also meets him on Christmas Day.
I like putting in metaphors.
Christmas Day, the time for gifts – near the end of the old year ready for the new year to come.
I like to draw on deep references – coming down from the mountain with revelation – the word of God – tablets of stone etc. – very deep powerful archetypes.
I used all this to foreshadow their meeting: My first major scene and turning point: when Ellie meets Henry. When Ellie falls in love. I totally believe in love at first sight! I’m totally romantic at heart and I also totally believe in the spell that a mountain like Snowdon can put on you – that certain places have very deep hidden enchantments.
How could Ellie ever come down from that mountain the same girl?
Ok – that’s all for now – Ta Ta and thank you for having me Luna – see you at the next plot point on my blog tour on 8th September with Tales of Yesterday!!
Ellie Morgan wants a boy who’s all hers. Just for once, it would be nice to meet someone that Sheila the cow hadn’t got her claws in to.
A remote farmhouse on Mount Snowdon is hardly the ideal setting for meeting anyone – unless, of course, you count her best friend George or creepy Darren (which Ellie doesn’t). But when a boy, glimpsed through the mist and snow, lures her up to the Devil’s Bridge, Ellie realises the place she knows so well still has its secrets …
The stronger her feelings for this strange boy become, the more she is in danger: a battle as old as Snowdon itself has been raging for centuries and now Ellie’s caught in the middle.
Something has left its lair.
It’s out there stalking her.
Who ever said true love was easy?
To be in with a chance of winning a copy of Here Be Dragons, answer this question: who is Ellie’s best friend?
The answer can be found by following this link: https://www.v-publishing.co.uk/books/categories/fiction/here-be-dragons.html.
Email your answer to email@example.com and one winner will be picked at random each week of Sarah’s blog tour.