Posts Tagged ‘plot’

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Night Writes

March 16, 2015

Like many writers, there are nights I can’t sleep. I ruminate; think about my characters, my kids, my teaching job, and sometimes, I’ll obsess about the little things in life—like world peace. Other nights, I compose long letters or witty, creative comebacks that I’d wished I’d said to people, but never did. And during a few sleepless hours, like tonight, I get up and write.

The middle of the night provides a dark, quiet space where mysterious magic can happen. When I find myself caught in the web of midnight mania, I go with it, letting go of plot and voice and structure and other writerly work. Instead, I write my stream of consciousness, fingers flying. Eventually, my eyes tire and I wander back to bed, falling into a deep sleep. The next day I read my words, many of them silly and useless, but often I recognize a nugget of creativity, inspiring better plot and voice and structure in my working manuscript.

I don’t recommend nightly trips to the computer, but on occasion they can prove useful, at least more useful than the running to do list. That never changes.

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Plot Arcs in Oz

June 6, 2014

What’s a plot arc? In general, writers fall into one of two camps: those who are character driven and those who are plot driven in their technique and style.  As a character/voice writer, plot does not come easily for me. I’ve had to work at it.

A plot arc begins with a small introduction, maybe a chapter or two to get the story started, and then launches into an inciting incident. Although this event does not need to be action packed, it does need to affect the protagonist and change their direction or life path in some way. From there, the protagonist moves forward toward his/her goal or quest. The author must give them small challenges and obstacles along the way. The climax of one’s story is the protagonist’s final confrontation, and from there, the story winds down with one or two last chapters.

Still confused? I think it can be best understood by following a movie plot, like the Wizard of Oz. The first scene takes place in Kansas, introducing us to the characters. Once the tornado strikes and blows Dorothy to Oz, the plot’s hit it’s inciting incident. The yellow brick road is loaded with obstacles and challenges, pushing the story forward. The wicked monkeys that terrify young viewers are followed closely by the melting witch and the meeting of the great and powerful Wizard of Oz . Ultimately, Dorothy realizes that she need only click her heels together to find her way home. It makes for an action packed climax. The final chapter of the movie sets her back in Kansas, explaining her “dream”.

While not all plot arcs are as easy to chart as the Wizard of Oz, once you look for a pattern, you should be able to plot the arc of a movie or a book fairly easily. The tricky part is doing it on your own. Good luck!

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Puzzles and Organization

March 2, 2014

Each holiday season, mid-winter break, and sometimes during the summer, my family sets up a puzzle. We all have different styles piecing it together. My oldest daughter does none of it, so there’s that. My son doesn’t do much, but when he does, it’s small and specific. My youngest chooses sections by color, steadfast and determined. And of course, my husband dives in like a vulture to fill the last few holes. Watching them lurk around the board, finding their style reminds me of the way writers choose to organize their work.

For me, my thought process for a manuscript is similar to the way I organize a puzzle. I start by looking at the big picture, gathering ideas and plotting my method. Deciding where to start is most definitely the most difficult. Edge pieces? An obvious easy section? Develop one particular character? Outline the plot? There are many options, but usually, I go with organization as a good starting spot.  At some point, frustration sinks in, and I move location on the puzzle and in my book. Sometimes I pause to re-organize, look at what I’ve accomplished, and plot a new plan of attack. I celebrate finding the lost piece, both on the board and in the writing. I walk away. I come back. I walk away. I come back.

The writing, of course, requires much editing— an extra step in the process. But when I’m in the final stretch; when the puzzle is almost complete and the manuscript is almost ready to pitch, an odd, unsettled flow of emotions roar through me. I’m scared and sad to be at the end, yet thrilled at the same time. I sit with my feelings and then move forward.

And just like that, the final piece is snapped into place and the final word typed on the screen. Voila! I sit back, smile, and take some time—then I begin again.

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Got Plot?

November 24, 2011

My last blog concentrated on voice. I love voice. Developing snarky or surreal characters fuels my creativity. On the other hand, I’m not a fan of plot. Of course you can’t write a book without plot, so I’ve had to learn.

Best summarized, plot must follow five steps.

Step One:  Set-ups and Firsts

            What’s the problem?

Who? Introduce main characters

When? Time period

Where? Setting

Why do we care to read on?

 

Step Two:  Trigger Hook

            –A major incident, beyond control, high excitement

(ex. Think of the tornado in Wizard of Oz)

            –Hit it by chapter 2-4

Step Three:  Quest

            –a character must search for something or solve a problem

-protagonist must overcome a series of obstacles (and maybe fail a few)

Step Four:  Climax

-think: battle, injury, betrayal, fall, storm etc.

-protagonist is met by their final and most challenging obstacle

-add a twist and a surprise if you can

 

Step Five:  Resolution

-How has the character changed, evolved?

-How did the problem get solved?

-Remember to resolve all subplots

In the end, plot is really step number one, but stretched throughout the book. The tricky part is presenting the plot, without giving away the result, in chapter one. Outlines help and as always, so does rewriting. Write away!