Welcome

Welcome to my blog. Every month I publish insight into my writing and editing experiences as an independent author.

If you’re looking for my official author website, you can find it at Kyrija Publishing’s Mikhaeyla Kopievsky page. There, you can sign up to become a member of my VIP Street Team and gain access to exclusive content and priority status at special reader events.

In the meantime, you can grab your copy of my debut novel, Resistance (Divided Elements #1), here.

Please click on the menu bar to access my bio and contact details as well as information about my books (in development and published) and upcoming events.

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Enjoy!

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“A book that would appeal to fans of dystopia (Think 1984, George Orwell) Resistance is an utterly thought-provoking and subversive book in this genre – Highly entertaining, poignant and brutal by shades, Divided Elements is an original novel, pushing the boundaries of this genre – and Mikhaeyla is surely a writer to watch out for.” Sachin Dev, author of ‘The Fate of the Nines’

“Resistance is a harsh, gut-wrenching story about Anaiya, a top-caste Fire Elemental who has been chosen to infiltrate a resistance cell of lower-level insurgents who have been spreading anti-establishment messages throughout the city; a trend that could topple the fragile balance…Kopievsky has done an incredible job of establishing both a setting and society that is unique, while at the same time portending of a future that could all too easily become our own reality.” Jamie Marriage, reviewer at Marianne DePierres

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Rinse & Repeat – The Four Act Novel Structure

by Mikhaeyla Kopievsky

Recently I reached the midpoint in the first draft of Divided Elements (Book 2). As anyone who has read my blog would know, I am not a fan of drafting ‘story middles’. After smashing through 5000-word weeks while drafting the first act, I watched with dismay as my production levels dropped and my indecision set in.

So, I did what I always do – I went back and reviewed my story structure. 

Like most advice on novel plotting, my own story structure model is great for guiding a writer through the first and final act – the breakdown in structure is clear and detailed and logical. But looking at the middle acts and it all breaks down. The gaps between the single turning point (the Midpoint) stretch for too long and the detail of what is required is reduced to ‘Plan A’ and ‘Plan B’. Not very helpful, is it?

I’m not alone in that department, though. Even the legendary Save the Cat (Snyder) only gives us ‘B Story’, ‘Fun and Games’, and ‘Bad Guys Close In’. Story Engineering (Brooks) makes it even simpler, ‘Reaction’ and ‘Attack’.

Looking back on my plot outline, I knew immediately that the ambiguity around my story middle was the issue. Whereas all the other acts had detailed notes and clear plot points, Act 2A and Act 2B were notated with bare, broad-brushed statements – narrative equivalents of ‘Reaction’ and ‘Attack’.

I needed more detailed advice and guidance, so I started to analyse movies to find a common structural breakdown (I tend to find movies easier and quicker to analyse…). And what I discovered was surprising.

All story structure can be broken down into four acts. And those four acts essentially follow the same structure consisting of five elements. 

To draft this story I didn’t need to plot five turning points and the gaps in between, I just needed to write the first act four times.

“What??” I hear you say.
Stay with me…

The Rinse & Repeat Story Structure

So, this is my new and improved model of story structure, which borrows heavily from the old model but re-imagines it from a completely new perspective:

  • There are four acts: Act 1, Act 2a, Act 2b and Act 3
  • The main story elements still apply – the inciting incident, the plot points (or doorways), the pinch points, the midpoint, the dark night of the soul, the final battle, the denouement – they’re all still there, but they’re framed differently.
  • There are five elements to each act – i) Status Quo, ii) Incident, iii) Initial Response, iv) Escalation -/+, and v) Decision
  • Each act deals with these elements in slightly different ways

The Matrix - Smith Clones

And this is how it plays out when plotting a novel:

Act 1 – NO ACTION or WRONG ACTION | Protagonist Mission: Maintain 

  • Status Quo – The Normal World – Showing the current state of play and hinting at why it shouldn’t (or can’t) continue on the same trajectory…
    • Introduction to protagonist in a characteristic moment that hints at their strengths, their ‘armour’ (what they draw comfort, protection, stability and strength from), and their critical weakness (their ‘fatal flaw’, ‘wound’, ‘misbelief’)
    • Introduction to the story world or environment that hints at its dark underbelly, vulnerability or weakness
    • Early indications, emerging issues and/or opportunities for a potential incident
  • Incident – The ‘Inciting Incident’ – the incident that threatens the status quo or (as is often the case in sequels) exacerbates it, and that calls the protagonist to action
  • Initial Response – Lack of engagement due to avoidance, resistance, ignorance, inability or error
  • Escalation -/+ – Increased Threat (the negative) followed by the Removal of the Obstacle to Action or emergence of a New Incentive for Engagement (the positive).
  • Decision – ‘Plot Point 1’ –
    • Conscious decision to engage, and
    • Articulating the goal or desire that will drive the protagonist forward from this point on.

Act 2A – ACTION WITHOUT STRATEGY | Protagonist Mission: Survive

  • Status Quo – The New World – Showing the Protagonist challenged by and reacting to the new world they find themselves in
    • Pandora’s Box – Removing the obstacle to action has introduced a whole raft of other obstacles to the protagonist goal
      • Introduction to other players – who assist, distract, antagonise, mentor…
      • Introduction of subplots – to deal with the various new obstacles presented
    • ‘Promise of the Premise’ – Let’s get tropey! – this is what Snyder calls the ‘Fun and Games’, it’s all the stuff you imagine when you hear ‘alien caper film’ or ‘time-travel romance novel’.
  • Incident – ‘Pinch Point 1’ – Hints at the true nature of the threat encountered in Act 1 and raises the level of tension and expectation. Requires a ‘boosted’ effort by the protagonist – i.e. deciding to engage isn’t enough; they need to interact with the threat (note: this is unlikely to be the true antagonist at this stage and more likely to be a manifestation or cronies or similar…)
  • Initial Response – Failed attempts. This is the heart of ‘all action, no thinking’. Everything is reactive, incoherent, unorganised – either because the protagonist and co are acting in the heat of the moment or because they don’t yet have what they need (information, resources, expertise, collaboration, etc) to develop a strategy. In this part of the story, the protagonist is still approaching the new problem the way they would in the old world.
  • Escalation -/+ – Threat of overall failure (the negative) – This needs to be HIGH STAKES! In the face of total failure, the protagonist can not have the option to just walk away. “Failure is not an option!” Immediately followed by a new understanding, revelation, or insight (the positive) that changes everything the protagonist and/or the reader knew (also the ‘Midpoint’)
  • Decision – To take on the antagonist – To deal with the real problem, not just its manifestation.

Act 2B – STRATEGY WITHOUT CHANGE | Protagonist Mission – Win

  • Status Quo – New Imperative – the frenetic action of a new plan coming together. Anticipation, excitement, urgency. Preparation and initial implementation/roll-out.
  • Incident – ‘Pinch Point 2’ – Highlights the underestimated strength of the antagonist and the continued weakness of the protagonist. Sets tone of menace even though the plan seems to be going swimmingly.
  • Initial Response – Continued implementation of the plan, building towards confrontation with antagonist, stringing together small wins, meeting the interim milestones needed for the plan to ultimately be successful. Building towards the False Victory. (This is the opposite of the Initial Response in Act 2A)
  • Escalation -/+ – The plan fails in the worst possible way and all seems lost (the negative) (also the ‘Dark Night of the Soul’). Immediately followed by a reprieve – an indication that success can be obtained, but that it will require facing impossible odds and taking extreme risks.
  • Decision – ‘Plot Point 2’ – The possibility of success is worth the risk / the threat of failure demands that every chance of success is pursued. The greater good takes precedence over personal safety.

Act 3 – CHANGE AND TRANSFORMATION | Protagonist Mission: Resolve

  • Status Quo – Final preparation. Coming to terms with what is being risked. Shedding the ‘armour’ and confronting the ‘misbelief’.
  • Incident – ‘Final Battle’ – Confronting the antagonist in the ultimate battle – a zero sum game – only one can survive.
  • Initial Response – The protagonist stumbles. This is the moment in The Karate Kid when Johnny sweeps the leg, or the moment in Rocky when he’s down for the count, just before the music builds and he lurches himself into one final effort.
  • Escalation -/+ – Threat of overall failure is palpable (the negative), immediately followed by new and extreme resolve (the positive).
  • Decision – The last ditch effort. All-in.

The Decision of Act 3 doesn’t lead into a new act, instead it progresses to:

  • Outcome – the Protagonist defeats the Antagonist (and either survives, or dies (literally or metaphorically) in the process)
  • Impact – the ‘Denouement’ – the resolution of the story. The impact of defeating the Antagonist. The ‘true’ goal of the protagonist is achieved – the intangible, bigger picture, ‘thematic’ goal (e.g. happiness, closure, forgiveness, etc)

 

I hope this helps you with your novel drafting and editing as much as it helped me. Can you see this structure playing out in your own book or favourite movies? Does it work? Let me know in the comments!

Rinse & Repeat – The Four Act Novel Structure

*Resistance* Book Launch – Event #1 – Excerpt Reading with Author

This event is NOW LIVE!! Purchase your copy of Resistance (Divided Elements #1) on Amazon, iBooks, Kobo or Nook.     Share your feedback in the comments below!

Source: *Resistance* Book Launch – Event #1 – Excerpt Reading with Author

*Resistance* Book Launch – Event #1 – Excerpt Reading with Author

#Spotlight on Mikhaeyla Kopievsky of Resistance (Divided Elements #1)

It was great to be interviewed by one of the first readers of my blog! You can read the original post over on Lit World Interviews, a great site which supports authors and introduces them to new readers.

Lit World Interviews

MIKHAEYLA KOPIEVSKY is an independent speculative fictionML Profile Photo author who loves writing about complex and flawed characters in stories that explore philosophy, sociology and politics. She holds degrees in International Relations, Journalism, and Environmental Science.  A former counter-terrorism advisor, she has travelled to and worked in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

Mikhaeyla lives in the Hunter Valley, Australia, with her husband and son. Divided Elements | Resistance is her debut offering.

  1. What’s Resistance about?

Resistance (Divided Elements #1) is the story of Anaiya 234 – a Peacekeeper of the Fire Element who patrols Otpor’s streets enforcing the Orthodoxy. In Otpor, a future post-apocalyptic Paris, Reistance book covverlife is a utopia – debauchery, security and stability are all provided by the Cooperative and maintained by strict adherence to the ruling ideology. Wrong action is termed Unorthodoxy and punished in a way similar to how crimes are dealt with in these days – retraint…

View original post 985 more words

#Spotlight on Mikhaeyla Kopievsky of Resistance (Divided Elements #1)

Resistance (Divided Elements #1)

The day has finally arrived! My speculative fiction / dystopian novel Resistance (Divided Elements #1) is now available for purchase!

resistance-read-now

To celebrate, I want to share with you some of my favourite excerpts from the reviews I have been getting on Goodreads. It has been such a beautiful and humbling experience to hear what readers have to say after finishing Resistance. Enjoy!

“A whirlwind cross between Fahrenheit 451 and Divergent. This novel grabs your attention and keeps it locked in place for 34 chapters.”

“Resistance isn’t like other dystopian novels you’ve read.”

“I couldn’t put this book down. Or I didn’t want to put this book down because I had to put it down many different times throughout the day and each time, I was incredibly disappointed that I wasn’t in the middle of the action of the book. I needed to know what was happening next and if I wasn’t experiencing it, I wanted to be.”

“This was an amazing book. A fantastic book. Something that I would read again in a heartbeat (and probably will, once I’m done with the next book on my list). Any book that makes me want to read it again and again to absorb everything it’s made of is something rare and I don’t think it’s going to happen more than a handful of times in the next year.”

“At first, you might think this is your typical dystopian future civilization YA novel. And you’re kind of right. But you’re also kind of wrong.”

“I would highly recommend this novel to fans of dystopian fiction such as George Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World. The novel also reminded me of the video games République and the post-Paris cyberpunk adventure,Remember Me in setting and tone. But none of these other works do the novel justice: in Resistance, Indie author Mikhaeyla Kopievsky manages to create fresh and new dystopia worth exploring.”

“I’m excited to see where Divided Elements goes from here. It’s definitely a series to keep an eye on. If you’re looking a dystopian novel that’s original and entertaining, no look further.”

“I freakin loved this book!”

“I loved this as a first book in the series. I really hope that the rest of the series would be as amazing. I can’t wait for the next book to come out!!!”

“This is a delightfully complex story and I enjoyed immersing myself in this richly detailed otherworld.”

“This book. Is. Awesome. It’s Divergent’s bigger, badder, tougher, realer older sister. So much more than your basic dystopian fill-in-the-blanks, Resistance has amazing, almost magical worldbuilding.”

“I was attracted to this book by its cover and for once I was not disappointed.”

“This is probably one of only a handful of sci-fi books that I have read and liked. The plot is engaging and a one of a kind story that is fresh and interesting.”

“This was an interesting and quite quirky dystopian science fiction novel in which the author shows alot of flair and heavy doses of imagination.”

“I loved Resistance! It was well written, the characters were amazing and the story was awesome.”

Resistance (Divided Elements #1)

5 signs you are living in a dystopia

by Mikhaeyla Kopievsky

It’s getting harder and harder to separate fact from fiction these days. Is art imitating life or vice versa? To help you make sense of all this craziness, here are five signs that might tip you off to the fact you are living in a dystopian novel…

5. Ideas are illegal

In functional societies, only actions are judged on their legality. It all goes back to Common Law – illegality was just another way of saying “you messed up and, because of that, someone is now worse off”. But, as law has evolved, people have realised that it is a very useful tool for controlling large populations. Now, anything can be illegal. Including ideas.

Where you’ve read this:

In 1984, George Orwell painted a pretty bleak picture of a Government that controlled everything, including ideas. Thought police monitored the population of Oceania, looking for (and swiftly dealing with) any hint of Thoughtcrime, those unspoken beliefs or doubts that oppose the ruling party.

In Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury gives us Guy Montag – the story’s conflicted protagonist whose job it is to burn outlawed books.

resistance-kindleIn my book, Resistance (Divided Elements #1), the utopian conditions of debauchery, security and stability are provided by Otpor’s Orthodoxy, and the ultimate crime of Heterodoxy is the simple act of holding and perpetuating an ideology at odds with the status quo.

How you’ve lived this:

Book bans – did you know that Huxley’s Brave New World was Banned in Ireland and Australia in the 1930s and Orwell’s Animal Farm is still banned in North Korea and censored in Vietnam? Even Dr Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham has been banned (China, 1965)! The burkini ban in France. Calls for the banning of Halal certification in Australia.

4. Protests are not tolerated

In functional societies, citizens are able to express both their satisfaction and dissatisfaction with the ruling class and other institutions (corporations, international bodies, universities, etc). Protests are a way for the masses to mobilise support and show their strength (and dissatisfaction) in numbers. But, people in power don’t like protests – it’s not a good look and it’s definitely not the kind of attention they want. So, they find new ways of shutting them down.

Where you’ve read this:

In The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins shows what a violent response to a peaceful protest can look like. The simple act of a three fingered salute can result in extra-judicial executions and mass violence on the spot.

make-roomIn Make Room! Make Room!, Harry Harrison gives readers a terrifying glimpse of an extreme reaction to a peaceful protest by ‘eldsters’, involving some memory-core barbed wire dropped from helicopters and lashing out like frenzied cobras (my analogy, not his).

How you’ve lived this:

Tiananmen Square. IMF protests. Arab Spring violence. Police in riot gear with water hoses, batons, capsicum spray and guns. Governments passing anti-protesting legislation – like what’s occurring in Australia, where states are considering and passing legislation to make environmental protests illegal. And in BREAKING NEWS, apparently there is a bill being considered in Indiana that would give police the power to shut down protests ‘by any means necessary’.

3. The Government is keeping tabs on everything you do, say, purchase, send, sell…

In functional societies, there is a healthy distance (and respect for that distance) between the private and public lives of citizens. What you do in your own time in your own home you’re your own resources (insofar as it is not breaking the law) should be your own business. Except that knowledge is power. And governments like power. And what better way to get (and maintain) power, than knowing everything about everyone.

Where you’ve read this:

1984In 1984, Orwell introduces us to the concept of Big Brother, the seemingly omniscient, omnipresent and somewhat enigmatic figurehead who is always ‘watching you’.

In Resistance (Divided Elements #1), the Otpor Cooperative keeps extensive logs of personal information and compliance history on citizen wristplates, which can be accessed and updated by Fire and Water officials.

How you’ve lived this:

Metadata legislation. The Australia Card. NSA Surveillance. Government access to social media.

2. Corporations are the new leaders

In functional societies, governments intervene to correct for market failures – flaws in the financial system that, left unchecked, generate undesirable outcomes and inefficiencies. But, big business doesn’t like being regulated and they typically have the money to entice governments to stay at arm’s length. That’s a lot of power and leverage for a small minority of people who are not beholden to democratic processes and who are motivated by personal wealth and not the greater good.

Where you’ve read this:

In Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, readers are introduced to Innovative Online Industries, the global communications and technology corporation that dominates the internet service industry through its administration of virtual world OASIS and the lucrative market of goods and services within it.

company-townIn Madeline Ashby’s Company Town, the story plays out against the backdrop of a city-sized oil rig called New Arcadia, located off the coast of the Canadian Maritimes and owned by one very wealthy and powerful family – Lynch Ltd.

How you’ve lived this:

Today, the world’s richest 8 individuals hold as much wealth as the poorest half of humanity.

1. It’s all about building walls

In functional societies, diversity is embraced and celebrated. People are excited and inspired by difference, not afraid and sceptical. And yet, humans have always been fearful of the unknown and have sought comfort in keeping close what is familiar and distant what is not – in building metaphorical walls in which to bound their ‘comfort zone’. This regressive human habit finds its most powerful manifestation in the building of literal walls. Building walls is also a very effective ploy of governments who seek to divide and conquer.

Where you’ve read this:

divided-kingdomIn Rupert Thomson’s Divided Kingdom, a dystopian UK has been divided into four sectors to house segments of the population delineated by personality type. The divisions are reinforced and made largely impenetrable by concrete walls, armed guards and rolls of razor wire.

In Suzanne Collins’ TheHunger Games, the Capitol prevents its citizens from banding together and collectively agitating for change by separating them into highly-specialised Districts.

How you’ve lived this:

The Berlin Wall. The proposed US-Mexico Wall. The wall of ocean separating Australia from its detention camps on Nauru.

 

5 signs you are living in a dystopia

Author Spotlight

I’m over on Writing Without Limits for an author spotlight interview. Come on over to hear about I became enamoured with writing and what pushed me into writing professionally…

https://writingwithoutlimitsblog.wordpress.com/2016/11/17/author-spotlight-mikhaeyla-kopievsky/

We here at Writing Without Limits have been honored to host such authors as Hugo award nominated writer, Brian Paone, up and coming writer, Tricia DiSandro and many others. Today, we bring you a lovely interview with Mikhaeyla Kopievsky who is here to promote her latest book, Resistance – Divided Elements: Book 1.

So now, let’s get to know this amazing up and comer, Mikhaeyla Kopievsky!

How long have you been writing?

I still remember writing my first story as a child. I had a short attention span, so it wasn’t a tome of War and Peace proportions, but it was a classic three-act structure effort with a nice hook ending that left the door open for a sequel. If my memory serves me correctly (read that in your best Iron Chef voice), it was a cracker of a story about a dinosaur that was set for certain doom until he somehow managed to turn things around and escape (there may have been a deus ex machine moment…hey! I was six years old!). I still remember the ending – “Was it the end of the dinosaur? No. But it IS the end of this story.”

I finally got back to writing stories when I hit high school and my parents splashed out on a Commodore 64. I loved that thing. The hours I would spend on it playing California Games, designing random (and probably very dodgy) pixelated artworks in paint, and writing the first pages (sometimes first chapters) of a new story…

For a long time, that was my problem – I would always start stories, but never finish them. It wasn’t until three, maybe four, years ago that I finally found out why I was afflicted with this problem. Turns out I always stopped because I never knew where I was headed. I had understood the three-act structure as a six year old, but had long forgotten it in my adult years.

Rediscovering story structure completely changed my writing life – Finally I had the tool I needed to craft stories I wanted to read. I no longer needed to rely on (and inevitably be disappointed by) the stories out there that almost sated my thirst for a certain type of story, but never fully delivered.

…Read the full interview at Writing Without Limits

 

Author Spotlight

Your First Act is not a plot device

By Mikhaeyla Kopievsky

Lately I’ve read a few stories that had something not quite right about them. At first it was difficult to place the troubling gremlin – these stories had great characters, nice pacing, interesting conflict. It was only when I reached the end of these books that I realised I still had a lot of unanswered questions. And then I realised – most of these questions were the ones that were raised in the First Act.

It hit me: These stories were introducing tension in the First Act not as the central theme or core conflict, but as a plot device – a way to get the protagonist to where they needed to be in the Second Act. 

Imagine a story where all your protagonist wants is to protect her little sister – from their incapable mother, from a dangerous and unforgiving world, from nightmarish memories of their father’s death, from poverty and disease. Then imagine this character gets the ultimate opportunity to do this – by volunteering to take their little sister’s place in a macabre and brutal spectacle that pits child against child in mortal combat for the general entertainment of the masses. This act sends the protagonist away from their little sister and thrusts them into a entirely different world.

And then imagine that the ensuing conflict has absolutely no relevance or reference to that stated goal and tension – where the little sister is forgotten and thoughts of protecting her from the big bad world are no longer plaguing her. Where the central conflict of Act One was just a means to an end – a way to force the protagonist into this new world, and nothing else. Where the Third Act answers a completely different question to the one posed in the First.

questions

Thankfully, in Hunger Games, this is not the case. Katniss ‘adopts’ a surrogate sister, Rue – an action that helps to maintain her humanity in an inhumane situation. The need to protect her sister, Prim, also permeates throughout the series (to varying degrees) and eventually evolves in a need to protect/save everyone. Especially those closest to her.

There is something deeply satisfying, for a reader, in following the evolution and resolution of the core conflict established in the first act (and, indeed, the first book of a series). Stories that forget about this central question – will Katniss save her sister from the evils of Panem? (Hunger Games). Will Mark Watney be able to ‘science the shit’ out of his lonely and tenuous existence on Mars? (The Martian). Will Montag succumb to his Fireman role or break free from it? (Fahrenheit 451). Will Anaiya break free of her legacy and bring down the Resistance? (Resistance (Divided Elements #1)) – are in danger of ‘losing their soul’ and creating forgettable stories with no emotional resonance or connection.

 

What do you think? Have you read (or written) a story where the First Act conflict was forgotten by the time the Third Act rolled around?

 

Image courtesy of Emily via Flickr Creative Commons
Your First Act is not a plot device