Showing posts with label Plot. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Plot. Show all posts

Thursday, February 3, 2011

High on Plot Pot (*waves to Jessica*)

One drop at a time, I'm filling the 'plot pot' for my revitalized WiP.  Formerly known as Overcome, the story has changed on many levels.  It feels like a brand new project.  The inciting incident and the character who instigates it are virtually all that remain of the original storyline.  And that character, once the antagonist, is now the story's hero.

The new working title is Safe in Captivity, which hints at a major theme that will weave throughout the story.  I'm very excited about it, because the theme manifests itself both as physical and psychological elements that will play parts in every major character's motivations and inner conflicts.

I have twenty-five  scenes sketched so far that take me from the opening, across major turning points, to the ending.  As I ponder individual scenes, connecting points blossom in my head.  It's amazing how the process allows you to capture details, shows you more about the characters, more about the settings, more about the story.  My notebook is filling up.

Today, I'm working on a loose timeline, to organize the scenes in chronological order.  I have some online research to do, too.

Amazon Info HERE
Nothing happens by chance. I happen to be reading Dark Places by Gillian Flynn, and I'm completely inspired by it.  The organizational decisions Flynn makes to tell Libby Day's story are brilliant.  Her scene choices cut right the heart of the story, and her ability to weave exposition into a moment so that the pace actually increases has been, for me, an education in itself.  And the descriptive quality of her voice?  Nothing short of brilliant.  I'm still 50 pages from the end, and already I give it a five-star rating.

I'm not going to make the same mistakes with Safe in Captivity that I did with Overcome.  This plotting stage will be brief.  And while the energy is high, I'm going to write the draft.  Straight through, resisting the temptations to revise or backtrack.  I'll add notes to myself as I go, when I realize something from an earlier chapter needs an addition or subtraction.  My minimum goal is 8,000 to 10,000 words a month.  Feel free to hold me accountable :D

And don't forget to sign up for the February 16 Bernard Pivot Blogfest!
It's going to be quick to post and easy to read everyone else's posts, so join in the fun!

Have a fantastic day,

Friday, March 19, 2010

Snowflakes in Spring

I've plotted out short stories before writing them, and I've written stories by-the-seat-of-my-pants. The end results were the same, in that I was pleased with the success of the final drafts. I can't say for certain which method took me longer, since I never paid attention to timing.

With my novel-in-progress, I've tried both pantsing and plotting. Draft #1 was nineteen chapters of NaNoWriMo word vomit -- pantsing to the tenth power. Realizing I needed some structure to move forward, I attempted to construct some sort of outline from what I'd already written, taking into account the major character change I made to the protagonist which dictated scrapping half of her chapters, anyway. I had major breakthrough #1 the other day when I sat down with index cards, sketched already-written and new scenes, and put them in tentative chronological order. Then, major breakthrough #2 happened last night.

I was blog-hopping when I found the articles, but when I navigated away from the blog I couldn't remember where I'd been. [If I find you again, awesome blogger with the link, I'll definitely give you a big shout-out chez moi !]

I'd first read about Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake Method after it came up in a regional meet-n-greet for NaNo participants. The funny thing about knowledge is the timing has to be right. At the time, all I had was a premise for a novel, and I was geared up to try the much-touted stream-of-consciousness writing embraced by NaNo. The Snowflake Method seemed complicated and tedious, and not for me.

Last night, I read through it again. Epiphany! Ingermanson's Snowflake Method is a ten step process in which you prepare your novel starting with a one sentence summary. Each step builds on that sentence, that summary, until by step ten you're ready to bang out your first draft.

Ingermanson's repeated disclaimer is that not all writers will be successful with the method. He says many "pantsers" will think the method too left-brained, that it dams up the creative flow. For a total right-brained writer like me, and where I am creatively right now, I think the method will provide exactly the kind of structure I crave. I've pantsed the plot for five months now, and I still don't know exactly what's going to happen by the end of the story.

I felt excited and inspired while reading through the article, and as of this morning, steps one and two are complete. I look forward to each step in the process, especially getting to writing the actual draft. Here's what Ingermanson says during his explanation of step ten:

"This stage is incredibly fun and exciting. I have heard many writers complain about how hard the first draft is. Invariably, they are seat-of-the-pants writers who have no clue what's coming next. Good grief! Life is too short to write like that! There is no reason to spend 500 hours writing a wandering first draft of your novel when you can write a solid one in 150. Counting the 100 hours it takes to do the design documents, you come out way ahead in time."


Have you tried the Snowflake Method before? Are you a plotter or a pantser? Or are you like me and describe yourself as somewhere in the middle?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

How to Avoid Weak Story Endings

A story, like all “good things,” must come to an end. The ending, also known as Denouement, is as important to the story as the Beginning and the Middle . A good ending leaves the reader with a sense that the story has come to a logical, satisfying conclusion. For writers, it's important to remember what an ending shouldn’t do. By understanding what constitutes a weakly executed ending, we're more likely to avoid these pitfalls in our writing.

A story ending SHOULDN’T:

Leave Unanswered Questions – Regardless of the length of a story, be it flash fiction or a novel, the ending should tie up all the loose plot strings. All issues, minor or major, introduced in a story must serve a purpose and move the plot forward. By the end of the story, the reader should have answers to all questions posed in the narration and have learned how the character(s) cleared all their obstacles.

Make the Reader Decide What Happened – You want your reader to feel satisfied by the outcome of the story. This doesn’t mean you need to spoon-feed exactly what happens in a play-by-play commentary. Readers enjoy having enough information to imagine what happens next, beyond The End. What frustrates most readers is realizing the story has led them to a plot intersection, and the author has placed on their shoulders the burden of deciding how the story ends.

Be Too Abrupt – Have you ever read a story that was chugging along at an enjoyable pace, and suddenly it was over? This usually happens when the climactic scene is pushed up against the ending, and the writer skipped right over the falling action. Authors need to be mindful of the pacing of events and manipulate the emotional impact each moment has on the reader. The reader should be left with the impression the ending was the natural conclusion to the story, the terrain that leveled out at the bottom of the hill, rather than feel like the plot had been pushed off a cliff.

Be Too Long – Another pacing problem occurs when the time between the climactic scene and the story’s end is too long. The story seems to fizzle out. All the excitement of earlier scenes is forgotten. If your ending is too long-winded, you risk boring your reader.

Be Illogical – Your ending must make sense on two fronts, Plot and Character(s):

*Bullet* Plot: Resolution of the central problem has to be achieved by means of a logical chain of events. Suspension of belief is sacrificed when the ending promotes a breakdown of cause and effect. The reader simply won’t buy it.

*Bullet* Characters: If during the story’s ending, a character behaves in a way that is in direct contrast with his or her established personality, with no logical explanation for the shift in behavior, the reader is going to raise an eyebrow. The character, and the ending, will feel false and contrived.

Be Too Predictable – Readers love a story with a twist. It doesn’t have to be something earth-shattering. However, a creative ending that sheds new light on what the reader believed to be true will ‘up’ the entertainment factor of the whole story. On the other hand, if the reader has suspected a predictable ending since the rising action, s/he will feel let down, and the entire story will seem uninspired and weak.

Have a “Night in Shining Armor” Save the Day – Readers want to feel emotionally invested in the main character’s future. They embrace the hero or heroine, who is flawed with conflicts s/he must rise above in the course of the story. When readers have been rooting for the heroine, cheering her on through her struggles, they aren’t going to appreciate someone else swooping in at the end of the story and saving the day.

The ending you write is important to the overall success of your story. It will show how far your characters have come since the beginning and wrap up their story. A clever ending leaves your readers inspired, satisfied, and intrigued. And even the strongest writing will fall short on the reader’s entertainment yardstick if the ending is weak.

The following article is a must-read! Willie Meikle explains ten overdone, clich├ęd endings that he feels, (and I agree!), should be avoided at all costs:

10 Story Endings To Avoid

I just finished reading The Giver, by Lois Lowry. (Look for my review in tomorrow's post.) The ending is cryptic and could be interpreted in several different ways. Do you like endings that ask you to interpret their meanings? Or do you prefer an ending that gives you the sense that you know what has, or will, happen? Is a "good ending" a "happy ending," in your view?