Monday, February 24, 2014

Writer's Notebook: Cause and Effect

Sometimes I find that the best inspiration for Writing Belle comes from children! When I teach, I always go back to the basics of writing. Once you understand the core mechanics of stories and writing, you can do anything. So today I'm looking at the Cause and Effect format. Basically, it works like this: 
Cause: I'm hungry. 
Effect: I go make myself a sandwich. 
Yes, it's simple. But simplicity is always best. 
Another example? 
Cause: I dropped a glass vase. 
Effect: It shattered when it hit the floor. 
And, being the imaginative people that we are, we can also assume that once the vase hit the floor, the glass shattering wasn't the only effect. Somebody will have to clean it up. You'll have to put on shoes (you don't want to get glass in your bare foot!) and you'll have to take the glass to the trash can. Somebody might get in trouble for breaking the glass, which might make somebody else cry. Like dropping a rock into a pool of water, the ripples will spread far and wide. Every cause has a corresponding effect. And when we write, correlating these points of change is a great way to add quality and depth to our stories. 

The effects of a single action are often what kickstart novels. In my book, State of Emergency, the "cause" is an electromagnetic pulse. Its effects are devastating, and each effect has an impact on every individual in my story. In Divergent, by Veronica Roth, Tris's adventures are the direct after-effects of the fact that she doesn't fit into any one faction of society. "They call it Divergent," as Kate Winslet says in the commercial. Creating a strong cause and effect situation for your characters is one of the best ways to write a story. Rather than having a character simply start her adventure randomly, give he or she a reason. In Rot and Ruin, by Jonathan Maberry, Benny Imura and his friends travel across the zombie-infested ruins of the United States because they saw an airplane. Not because they just wanted to go on a really long hike. But because they wanted to know if the airplane would lead to civilization, a better life and safety. And those are good reasons. 

To sum everything up, I've been giving some good thought to the cause and effect format lately, especially as I've been writing the fourth installment in The Collapse Series. You might find it helpful to do the same!

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Get fictional - it's fun! Thanks for stopping by, and I hope to see you again soon!