Plotting To Be Scene – Part One
My next area of study is plotting. I am using James Scott Bell’s Plot and Structure as a companion piece. I am plotting a new project, Scepter’s Sacrifice, and hope to use some of his techniques in finalizing the overall story. His first chapter, What’s A Plot Anyway,includes three exercises at the back of the book. I will bravely post my answers.
EXERCISE ONE – ANSWER THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS:
(a) When reader read my novels, I want them to feel the way I feel about the characters, and their journey. I want them to feel the joy, the sorrow, the tension, grief, and the final triumphs. I want them to feel as if they lived it, and became part of the adventure at the end. That’s because, to me, novels are stories that take me out of myself. I might still be in my present circumstance, but I really want to go somewhere else, to meet new people, to do something meaningful. And, if I am with a Main Character that does that, if I can feel what they feel, if I can see what they see, if I can do what they do, the writing entertains me. I want to know that the Main Character has meaning, that their struggles are important, and that they reach down inside themselves to preserver. Along the way, I want it to be fun. I am a happy-ever-after kind of person, and those are the books I like to read. I like to discover new things about myself, but I do not like to be preached too. I don’t have a lot of time, so I want the novel I am reading to be well written, will constructed, with clever twists.
(b) What kind of plotter does this make me? I am a wanna-be plotter. But, I do like twists and flights of fancy. They system I use needs to be flexible enough to allow me to explore, but still give me the tools to bring everything back on track, and get to the ending.
(c) How would my writing be strengthened by plotting? Of course, as long as I can keep the originality and spark of spontaneity that comes with free form writing. And, to be honest, if I have any hope of being published, and getting people to read my book, I must write well enough to engage them, yet give them a framework they are comfortable with, and let them kick back and enjoy the story without being pulled out of it by clever tricks or spectacular word choices.
EXERCISE TWO: Take one of your favorite novels off the shelf and analyze them using the LOCK system. See how each element is at work in the books you love. Use these questions to help you,
(a) What is it about the Lead character that captures you? Rand al’Thor from The Wheel of Time. Rand tries to be an ordinary guy, wants to go through the coming-of-age journey that all boys entering manhood must take. He is honest, uncomplicated, and mysterious. We get hints that his father is not his birth father, and he is far from the Three Rivers Country.
(b) What is it the Lead is trying to get or get away from? Rand flees for his life when mysterious people chase him, and equally suspicious people help him. He needs time to discover the special forces and powers within him, and master them before the evil people kill him.
(c) When did the story kick into “high gear?” It kicks into high gear after he leaves his home, and go to get help with the mysterious Aes Sedai. When he and Matt become separated from their friends, the adventure begins.
(d) What was the main opposition to the Lead’s objective? The opposition is the Dark Lord. For a long time, we meet his servants, and, only, over time, come to realize he has real, physical power, and is more than a myth or a legend, but it real, and powerful.
(e) How did the ending make you feel? Why did it work? The ending was only the end of Book One. Rand knew the answers to some of his questions. But there were more questions to be answered, which was why I bought the next book, then the next, and the next, and…
EXERCISE THREE: Write a quick plot for your current idea. Use four lines, one line each for LOCK.
(a) My lead is a foreign-born Princess, who is now the wife of the Duke.
(b) Her objective is to make sure that their first son, now two years old, will grow up to succeed her husband as the Duke, and to succeed her Father as the leader of her nation, bringing both Peoples together under a single leader.
(c) She is confronted by her brother-in-law, the Duke’s brother, and by two of the five clans under her father, after her husband’s assassination, who oppose her because combining the two nations endangers racial homogeneity, challenges the existing power structures, and creates an uncertain future dependent on the success of the united Peoples.
(d) The ending will be a knockout when she kills her brother-in-law, and finds a Regent who will work with her, protect her son until his majority, and make sure that the basis for the future union is solid, and can go forward.
So, what does this all mean?
I am willing to give plotting a try. I wrote my first novel, Forbidden Footsteps, without much of an outline, and no clear idea how to finish it.
Since then, I have written a number of flash fiction stories that, because of their length, I was able to get away without a clear outline. I cheated, and let the readers read a plot into them. Once I got to a larger piece of Flash Fiction, one thousand words, I exposed my lack of plotting.
If I want to be successful as a serious writer, I need to understand my plots before I invest a lot of passion and energy in words I will have to throw away.