Thursday, July 11, 2013

Keeping the Plot Straight

I don't know about you, but I'm sort of a "by the seat of my pants" writer. I have a new idea, think about it for a little while, and get started on my new book.

Problem is, I might be halfway through my book only to discover that the plot isn't working.

This has happened, but not recently.

Photo by: @Doug88888, courtesy of Flickr
A few years ago I attended a great class by a friend of mine. She laid out plot in an easy to understand fashion. But not only that, the plot ideas she shared were not heavy and didn't make me feel as if I'd be spending days on the plot without ever getting to write.

I may have shared this before, but in case you missed it, here it is again:

1. Who is your main character? Describe everything you can think of, from hair color to personality traits. Lay out your secondary characters.

2. Describe your main setting. Where does the main character live?

3. What is the problem of your main character? The problem needs to be large enough to take the character through the entire book.

4. What does your main character do early on in the story to try and fix his/her problem? Why doesn't it work?

5. What else does your main character try that doesn't work?

6. What else does your main character try that doesn't work?

7. What else does your main character try that doesn't work?

8. What else does your main character try that doesn't work? (These are not typos. You need to take your character through at least 5 issues that aren't resolved before he/she gets it).

9. Finally, what does your character finally do that works?

10. How does your book end? Is it a satisfying read without being obvious? (Sometimes I know this early on, at other times I am midway through the book before I know).

That's it! The main think is to have a strong character, one who struggles throughout your story before a final solution is made.

Here's an example from my book, A River of Stones.

Samantha's mother has just divorced. Her mother remarries a couple of years later and brings along a new husband and a new step-brother. Early on, Samantha tries to pretend everything is fine. She keeps herself busy with the neighborhood kids and tells her friends there is a vampire living up the street, among other things. The life of fantasy has become appealing.

But this doesn't work. Her father hasn't returned to visit, and she is angry at her mother. And so on...I could give away the entire plot but I want you to read the book. Suffice is to say that Samantha, (and no one else) discovers how to make her life good after the divorce and subsequent re-marriage of her mother. I don't believe the end is obvious, and the reader is left feeling as if the ending is as it should be.

Does this help?

Keeping the plot straight doesn't have to be difficult if you keep the main issues in line. And it helps to write a bit of information down to keep you straight before you begin.

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