Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Author a Book: PRIMAL URGES and The BSBS Sheet

Hello fellow writers. Another week has gone by with my fabulous Seven Peaks writing class. The students inspire me and teach me something every week. The lesson we are on on this blog is PRIMAL URGES and the BSBS worksheet.

Although, in class this week, I brought supplies in for the students to make their own dream boards. Every writer needs a writing break sometime. Dream boards are a great distraction and a fun outlet for creativity. We'll talk about them on the blog next time.

I have mentioned this book before SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder. He breaks down how to write screenplays in a step by step way that will surely get you to the end of your script. I am using this book for this class for novel writing, along with a few other amazing books…

  • WRITING DOWN THE BONES by Natalie Goldberg
  • A WRITER'S GUIDE TO FICTION by Elizabeth Lyon
  • SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS  by Renni Browne & Dave King

Also great reads for any writer:

  • THE WAR OF ART by Steven Pressfield


Every character you write, whether she is the main character, a sidekick, the protagonist or a random person the MC comes in contact with --- must have a primal urge. 

So, what is a primal urge? It's the character's motivation --- why they do what they do. 

  • Survival
  • Safety
  • Hunger
  • Love
  • Protection
  • Fear of Death

To get readers on your character's side and rooting for them give your character one of these primal urges. Everyone relates to them We've all been there before. 

Give your main character the most emotional issues - readers will respond to them and want to go along on the journey with them. 


What is the BSBS sheet? It's the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet. Now, I have gone through Writer's Boot Camp in Santa Monica and we worked with beat sheets there. There are versions of beat sheets you can find on the internet. All of them are great, but for me, the BSBS hits the spot.

What is a beat?

They are considered breaks - where the readers can take a second and think about what just happened. It's the music of the book. And the beats have to be hit at certain times and yes, on certain pages. There is structure to every movie and every book - some have weak structure and so they don't get watched or read as much as those that have strong structure --- or beats.

Blake believes there are 15 beats in a movie and I tend to agree. But I write books, not movies, not yet. Yet, the 15 beats works for novels just as easily as it works for movies. The only difference are the pages the beats happen on.

BSBS 15 Beats:
  3. SET-UP
  7. B STORY
  14. FINALE

Below is the BSBS set up for novels - I found it on Belinda Crawford's blog. ‎

Blake Synder's Beat Sheet, with template |

In SAVE THE CAT - there are 15 questions that go along with these 15 beats. I suggest you buy the book - make a word doc of them and then answer them about your main character before you start writing the first chapter.

If you can answer the 15 questions you are well on your way to creating a complete and exciting novel.

OPENING IMAGE = this is the tone of your book - the mood and image of your main character before anything great, horrible or exciting happens. What's going on in the MC's life before everything changes?

There you have it - lesson 3 --- go get the book SAVE THE CAT and start answering the 15 Beat Sheet questions. 


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Author a Book: Lesson Two LOGLINES

My amazing class at Seven Peaks is in it's 4th lesson - but for you, following along on the blog, we are on number two -- Loglines.

Loglines are a great way to capture your story in one line. You have to be able to tell people what your book is about, in as few words as you can, but still make it intriguing and awesome. Because, it won't matter how many things you're going to blow up, how great the love story is or if it's the best mystery in the world -- If you can't sum it up in the best way possible, you'll lose the interest of the people you need to get your book published - the agent, editor and/or publisher. You have to think about everyone who will see this logline before the book ever hits the market for readers. 

If I haven't mentioned it before - go out and buy SAVE THE CAT! by Blake Snyder -- right now. It was written for screenplays - but it rocks for novels, too. A screenplay is just a short 120 page novel, after all.

Blake talks about LOGLINES in his book. And it's worth the read. Especially if you are in the query stage of your book - but even before you begin - before you write one single line in that amazing first chapter - you should have a logline. Like a beacon, it will keep you headed toward your goal as you write each chapter.

What is a logline? 

Logline: A good logline tells what the story is in the most creative and quickest way. 

Examples I found on the web: (you can find some easily if you type in LOGLINES for movies)

   FORREST GUMP: A Southern simpleton has a bumbling hand in some of the 20th century’s biggest events in this touching story of love, courage over adversity and snappily-named shrimp chains.

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL: Blacksmith Will Turner teams up with eccentric pirate “Captain” Jack Sparrow to save his love, the governor’s daughter, from Jack’s former pirate allies, who are now undead.

THE HELP: An aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960s decides to write a book detailing the African-American maid’s point of view on the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis.

·  The Legend of Nina Simone: After hearing a legend about the lost recordings of Nina Simone, a young boy teams up with his friends on an adventure to find the treasure in hopes of saving his dying grandfather.

     E.T. : An alienated boy bonds with an extraterrestrial child who's been stranded on earth; the boy defies the adults to help the alien contact his mothership so he can go home.

The best way to come up with a logline of your own is to copy others first. Take one of them from above and pop in your characters/ideas. Play with it until you have changed all of the words and made it your own.

When writing loglines - Ask yourself these questions:
  • Who are your main characters?
  • What happens to them? Good and bad?
  • What is the most important thing that happens in the book? 
  • What makes the MC dive into action? 
  • Why did you want to write this book in the first place?
  • What is the big ending? 
  • How does your MC grow?
  • What is the main story at its root?

The book I am working on right now is called: 

Here's the logline: When her mom dies in a seaplane crash, a disconnected and depressed teen is sent to live with her crazy 1/8th Tununak Indian Uncle in Alaska where he forces her to confront her spirit guide and there she discovers that she's the missing link between an ancient Alaskan Tribe and the old magic of the Egyptian people. 

It's still a bit long and I'm working on trimming it down but you can get the idea of the book from this one line. 

1st Attempt to trim the logline:
   A depressed teen is sent to live with her crazy Uncle in Alaska where she discovers she's the missing link between an ancient Alaskan Tribe and old magic of the Egyptian people. 

I definitely cut it, but it lost too much of the interesting parts. 

2nd Attempt
   A depressed teen is sent to live with her crazy uncle in a mixed Indian Tribe Alaskan commune where she unwillingly confronts her spirit guide and discovers she's the missing link between an ancient Alaskan Tribe and old magic in Egypt. 

This is a good mix of both the longer version and the super short one. I'll keep it for now. 

    So that's it - that's a logline. You really should have one. You can think of it as your elevator pitch. It's good to be prepared in case you ever are in front of your wish-list agent and she/he asks you what you're working on. 

Your assignment is to come up with the best LOGLINE for your book before the 3rd lesson.