I heard yesterday there are 27 hills on the Run the Bluegrass Half-Marathon course. That’s two per mile for 13.1 miles and an extra one thrown in to torture the runners.
The s-curve at mile 9-10 is the worse one. So says my friend Jennifer Schilling. It’s very similar to the hill between 109th and 106th Streets in Central Park in New York City. Running that hill in mid-October sent me to bed with a heating pad for three days with deep abdominal muscle cramps. Granted that was early in my running career, and I’ve come a long way since then, but I’m still not looking forward to running the s-curve.
I visualize how I’ll run it. I even have a practice hill. It’s a baby compared to the ones on Elkchester and in Central Park, but it has a psychological benefit. It’s teaching me to get past that first curve. Once I get in the middle of the “s,” I’m halfway to the top. As my friend and running mentor, Ernie Peel has mentioned time and time again, "Hills are our friends."
When I wrote THE RUBY BROOCH, a story that takes place along the Oregon Trail in 1852, there was a built-in course to follow that led straight to the mountains - a 2000 mile incline. It made writing the story easier because I could visually see the beginning and the ending. The conflict between the hero and heroine, in a way, mirrored the obstacles on the trail. And as the trail became steeper and more dangerous, the conflict became more intense.
I didn’t have the luxury of a built-in trail when I sat down to write my second book, THE LAST MACKLENNA. I knew I needed an outline, a road map, a course description, or I’d never get anywhere.
Voilà. I discovered Alexandra Sokoloff and her Story Elements Checklist for brainstorming index cards. I went to my local office supply store and purchased a three-panel foam board and divided it into four columns with the following labels.
ACT 1 (1-100)
ACT 2-1 (101-200)
ACT 2-2 (201-300)
ACT 3 (301-400)
ACT 1 CLIMAX
ACT 2 CLIMAX
Then I took Alexandra’s checklist and attached an index card to each of the empty boxes. The index cards had a list of story elements that had to happen “then and there.” I now knew that in the first box, the first 50 pages that I would have the following:
· An opening image
· Meet the hero and heroine
· Hero/ine’s inner and outer desire
· Hero/ine’s ghost or wound
· Hero/ine’s arc
· Inciting incident/Call to Adventure
· Meet the antagonist
· State the theme/what’s the story about
· Allies or mentor
· Love interest
· Set ups and payoffs
· The stakes
· Time clock
· Sequence one climax
I’m not going to list the remaining story elements that belong in the other 7 boxes. Instead, I’ll send you to Alexandra’s blog where you’ll find a boatload of information. Once you have all the elements necessary for each box, then you can plaster the board with post-it notes scribbled with brainstorming ideas. You can also add pictures that remind you of your characters, their houses, cars, or airplanes. If you get lost while you're writing or a hill becomes too steep, refer back to your storyboard.
This week I'm going to take the map of the Run the Bluegrass course, highlight the hills, and then add pictures of Keeneland, Donamire Farm, horses, and white fences. Then for the next twenty days, I can look at my "run board" and plan my race. Because at this point, the only plan I have is to finish in three hours. Jeez. That's a long time to run.
Happy writing and running, Kathy