Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Plotting Your Book ( Part 2)

By Pamela Moeng

My previous research on plot and planning your book only whet my appetite for more, so back I went to the Internet and I found more helpful tips for plotting my next book.

Continuing with Randy Ingermanson I found his four pillars of fiction enlightening: Story World (the setting, know it inside and out); Characters (the players, capable of rational thought and feelings; know them better than you know your family); Plot (the storyline, what happens when your characters meet conflict); and, Theme (the deep meaning of your story, best written with a light touch).

Ingermanson says the average novel may have betweeb 50 and 200 scenes. He also says, to my relief as a fly-by-seat-of-my-pants writer, that not every writer should outline her book or use his Snowflake Method. "Write the way you are meant to write," he urges.

That said, Ali Hale on Daily Writing suggests that using Nigel Watt's 8 point story arc or structure can help you craft a novel that is sure to be published. The 8 points follow:

1. Stasis - everyday life of your character
2. Trigger - something beyond control that occurs to destabilise life for your character
3. The quest - positive or negative trigger results in the quest
4. Surprise - takes up most of the middle of your book, includes pleasant and unpleasant obstacles which should be unexpected but plausible
5. Critical choice - often when the "real" character of your player is revealed usually in making a choice, I.e. Good but hard/ bad but easy
6. Climax - highest peak, e.g. Your player in front of a firing squad
7. Reversal - consequence of critical choice, climax, e.g. child standing up to a bully
8. Reversal - return to Stasis but your player is wiser, changed, enlightened

Hale says a novel can include arcs within arcs.

Aristotle discussed the perfect drama in his Poetics, where he outlined the three act form: the inciting incident in Act 1, rising action in Act 2, and the xllimax and resolution in Act 3.

All the websites advise using plotting as a tool, but plot should flow naturally from your setting and characters.

There are a number of books available on plot, many of them available on Elements of Storytelling by Peter Rubie, Elements of Fiction Writing by Nancy Kress, Elements of Scene and Structure by Jack Bickham, Elements of Conflict, Action and Suspense by William Noble and Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schmidt are just a few.

If you have tips on plotting that you want to share, please let Damaria and I know. What works for you may be just what another writer needs to know.


po said...

This is the kind of stuff that makes so much sense on paper, but when I try to come up with an idea to fit that, for some reason I just come up blank! Very frustrating.

Damaria Senne said...

@Po- If plotting like this doesn't help, use whatever works for you. As Pam says, we're all different and there is no right way.

But if you want to try it, what I did was use point 1-9 to outline my 2 main character's story arcs for a short story I'm doing, to see if it would make sense. I just started at the beginning with:
statis - who's Ben Kravitz? What's his life like and just wrote. When I ran out of words I went to the second point (trigger/main event that changes his life) and then the third (the quest/how he starts to deal with the new changes in his life). Obviously each character's story arc impacts on the other characters, so that pushed the plot forward quite a bit. I ended up with over 4000 words of background and plot points, which is quite a bit for a short story. I hope my take helps a bit:-)

Rebecca E. said...

this is a great help, I think I don't do teh "ending" few points all that well. I'll have to write this all down, like a checklist of sorts.... good info, thanks to both of you!

Pamela said...

I'm so glad it helped you because it certainly helped me think beyond my seat-of-the-pants style of writing. I'm going to try it along with my free download of yWrite5 but I may just revert to my natural style as Randy advises. :-)

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