Plot, part 2

» Posted on Oct 31, 2006 in Blog | 3 comments

I am involved in another blog (Writers…Interrupted). I am posting a blog about pacing on that blog. You might want to check it out.

I am a visual learner. I know a lot of people are. I need to see things written for me to understand them so drawing out my plot makes sense to me. This is only one way of doing it. A writer must find what works for them and use that method. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t always try to refine how we do things. Change can be good. To keep yourself sharp and on your toes you need to always be open to new ways of doing things.

I’ve recently started going through my completed novel highlighting certain threads (example: hero’s conflict in blue, heroine’s conflict in pink, faith element in yellow–the colors don’t mean anything, wherever you like) to make sure the elements progress the way I want in my book. We read and live our stories so much that sometimes we feel we have adequately covered an element when we haven’t. Or the reverse could be true–we’ve beat a certain thread into the ground. This method can help you decide. After I’ve read the story, I go back and only read from beginning to end in order one colored thread to see how it flows. Is it in the correct order? Did I give too much away? Not enough away? This helps me to see if I need to add to explain more or cut because I’ve explained too much.

Below is the structure of a romance. There will be valleys and peaks to your story. When you are in a valleys, you are building toward the next peak in your story. When you reach a peak (think top of a mountain), an important part of the story has been dealt with. Often this will change the direction of the story. In What the Heart Knows after my heroine discovers her teenage son has schizophrenia (about two thirds of the way through the book) then she must learn to deal with her son’s illness (with the hero’s help, of course). I built toward the revelation that her son had schizophrenia actually for two thirds of the story. You can build toward several peaks at one time–they will just peak at different points in the story.

These are the part of a story and what needs to be cover in those sections. A story is like a three act play.
Part I (or Act I)-about a third of your book
Set up characters
Introduce back story
Establish the physical and emotional attraction for a romance
Establish conflict for your main characters (internal/external–and I think you should always have both to make a good story)
Establish the faith element (for both hero and heroine)
Part II (Act II)-about a third of your book
Show emotional attraction and connection for a romance
Crisis Changes New goals (possibly new motivations)
Spiritual dilemmas thrown at characters
Delve more deeply into the external and internal conflicts
Part III (Act III)-about a third of your book
Climax (which is the black moment):
Rift Reunion Commitment
Tie up loose ends on all plot elements

You see from this abbreviated chart of a book’s structure that you can have a lot happening in the middle of a book so it doesn’t need to sag.

I want to give you a word of warning when you are plotting your story. Don’t be episodic. When I first heard this (believe me editors look at this), I didn’t understand what this meant. The definition of episodic from Webster is: divided into episodes, often not closely related or well integrated. You need to have something that drives your plot and holds it together (consider it the glue that holds your story together). What brings your hero and heroine together? You can’t have them go through a series of scenes that reads like a series of episodes that have nothing connecting them together. Example: in Once Upon a Family both Peter and Laura are working together to start the Henderson Foundation. Or in Heart of the Amazon Kate and Slader are looking for her brother who is believed to be lost or dead in the jungle. That is what connects each scene together and brings your hero and heroine together.

3 Comments

  1. Another great lesson. Now if I can just incorporate all these gems…

  2. Thanks for these great lessons.

    Breaking it up into individual threads just sparked a lightbulb moment for me. I’m visual, but also very linear with my thinking. (great for collegiate debate, bad for complex plots!) I just drew out my threads, internal, external and spiritual conflicts, the same way I would have drafted a debate. Now I can see how to braid them together, but follow each thread.

    THANK YOU!!! You always have such good things to share and great encouragement, too.
    Cheryl

  3. Thanks, Patricia and Cheryl. I will be putting up more of these lessons I have from an online class I taught.

    Margaret

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