Archive for the ‘Plot’ Category

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Watch Yer Step!

September 3, 2010

Recently, I reviewed my plot–only to discover I’ve got a few plot holes. Er. Maybe more than a few.

I panicked. I went into problem solving mode. I tried to outline. I tried to explain every thing in a rational manner–which is a good way to make an outlandish plot seem even more outlandish (well, you see…ahem…it starts with this ‘mysterious message’…).

I tried to revise old scenes so later ones made better sense. I put in a few explanatory paragraphs, even though they disrupted the flow. I thought about adding explanatory footnotes…but no, that would be taking it too far!

Finally, I had to lie down in a dark room with a cold cloth on my head and tell myself: STOP FREAKING OUT!

This is a first draft. I just need to get it out and get it down. I can smooth out the details later, I told myself. Just finish the dang thing!

I’ve been working on this novel for 10 years. I need to finish it! I need to point myself in direction of the Finish Line and just go, go, go. I can’t let a few plot holes stop me from getting a completed story on paper…it might be a flawed story, but at least it will be FINISHED!

So, sorry, no time to stop and panic. I’m just going to tape up the small holes, leap over the large ones and try not to twist my ankle when I land–and dash away–onward–to THE END!

PS. How do YOU deal with plot holes? Ignore until the end, like me? Or do you fix as you go? Or some other approach? *curious*!

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I Don’t Want a Saggy Middle!

July 25, 2010

While on holiday, I finally managed to nail down my troublesome “Mr. Elliot Scene”, thereby launching myself out of the ‘beginning’ of my novel (all conflicts introduced and accounted for!) and into the ‘middle’ of my story (where the conflicts progress!).

**Moment of congratulatory silence to honor the passing of this great milestone**

Yahoo! I have never made it to the middle before! I used to just re-write the beginning over and over. Whew! That only took about 10 years to accomplish!

So here I am, hands on my hips, looking forward towards the next horizon, wondering…NOW WHAT?

Technically, I know what comes next in the story. I just set up Conflicts A, B, C & D. Now there are logical ‘next steps’ I need to take to get to W, X, Y and Z. Mind you, I don’t know all of the steps in between (I am not one of those keen outliner types, who nail down every plot detail beforehand…I like the pain…er, I mean fun…of on-going discovery…)

But I do know that for my conflict/plot to immediately progress, my main character has to do a few tedious chores. She has to write a few important letters, for example. She has to attend Mr. Elliot’s lecture. She has to have a specific talk with her aunt.

BO-RING!

I am not satisfied with these next steps! Something else needs to happen right now: something really exciting. It’s like I want a car chase (carriage chase?) or for something to blow up (the wine cellar?). I want Mr. Elliot to kiss her (but its too soon for that?) or for Lord Byron to suddenly show up in the drawing room and go on a drunken rampage, smashing all the Wedgewood china…

I started my novel in one genre (the Jane Austen-type rom-com-mystery) but I feel this urge now to stand the whole thing on its head somehow. I’m not sure what I’m meaning by this (zombies, anyone? Ha, ha!) but I’m getting impatient with my usual Regency shtick: dinner party, dressmakers, musical concerts, picnics at the country estate, carriage rides, marriage mart, etc.

Something needs to break it up a little…I don’t want my middle to sag! (As was recently discussed in #scribechat, this is an affliction which many otherwise decent novels suffer from: its the lull that sometimes happens in a story after you’ve gotten past your initial conflictual introductions.)

Honestly, I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m stuck. Stalled. (Panicking!) Mulling things over…

-Perhaps I should re-visit my outline, give it more detail
-Perhaps I should channel the darker side of the Regency period, include more elements of the Romantics, the Gothic…(Lord Byron, Mary Shelly, Ann Radcliffe, et. al.)
-Perhaps I should suddenly switch perspectives for awhile
-Perhaps I should switch to a diary/letter/story format for awhile
-Perhaps I should skip this part and go write another part
-Perhaps I should re-read what I’ve written in its entirety, get the ‘big picture’
-Perhaps I should consult the Tarot!

Do you have any suggestions, perchance?

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Writer As Therapist? Discerning Emotional Patterns

July 2, 2010

I am still stuck on a particular scene in my novel, the one that takes place on the Elliot’s ‘garden patio’. It’s causing me problems partly because its such a large scene…I’ve 18 people I need to account for.

But mostly I’m fussing over it because something VERY IMPORTANT happens here.

This is where my heroine meets HIM.

This is where she meets THE MAIN LOVE INTEREST.

Now I have to take a moment to clarify. There are three love interests for my heroine in my story. Two of them are subtle…she initially doesn’t like them much, but there’s an undercurrent of attraction there which the reader is well aware of whilst she denies it…

But the third man. Well! Mr. Percy Elliot, newly returned from adventures in the Far East, is to be the most compelling, the most obvious, the most tantalizing & irresistible of them all…

My question, though, is: how do I play him?

I  mean, my heroine has an emotional history. She’s got a ‘checkered past’ with not much luck in the relationship department. Is Mr. Eliot a continuation of that bad luck? Or is he the one she resolves her issues with?

Out of the three men, who does she choose? And is it for good or ill?

It’s made me realize that on top of a plot graph there is an emotional graph too. My heroine has an emotional arc which follows the series of events, and ends, presumably, with emotional resolution of some kind. Lesson learnt. (And Happily Ever After? Learnt lessons, though, are not always happy…)

I just can’t decide. I’ve tried asking my character about it but am getting the cold shoulder.

I guess it’s a touchy subject.

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Conveying Character: A Few Suggestions for the Dance

June 2, 2010

I’ve been fussing about character lately and I thought for my own peace of mind I might clarify the different means by which character is conveyed.  In fact, I’m going to use my own points to create a character right here, now, on the spot,  just to prove that this method works! Ok. Here we go.

1. Physical description. Their looks. Height. Weight. Age. Eye colour. Hair. Dress. Etc.

I think I’ll make him short. Stout. Balding with gray mutton chop sideburns. Ruddy complexion. Beaked nose. Frowning wiry, heavy eyebrows. And jowl cheeks. Dressed in a finely tailored black jacket and waistcoat with beige breeches, all of which accentuates his significant paunch.

2. Speech. This encompasses both what the character says and how they say it.  Are they loud or quiet? Do they command? Simper? Snap? Titter? Are they breathy like Marilyn Monroe? Do they speak in dialect? Have an ‘accent’? (A Scottish brogue, for instance…)

I think I’ll make this character loud, commanding, gruff & adamant. With a voice often thickened with alcohol, he says things like: ‘it’s my opinion that…’

3. Movement. How does your character inhibit space? Do they mince their steps, slam doors, gesture widely, step on peoples toes, clumsily knock over the floor lamp?

Well, I’d say its pretty clear by now that this obnoxious gentleman must park himself in the most central chair in the room, lean heavily on his cane, gesticulate with a pointed finger at whomever he’s talking to, and slap his knee whilst braying widely whenever he makes an (unfunny) joke…

Is my character starting to irritate you? He’s supposed to. I want him to be felt; visceral. And if he irritates you, he’s going to irritate the other characters he meets…and here come plot!

Sometimes my plot develops just because I’ve put two character types in a room together and then seen what happens. For instance, put this guy in a room with, say, his hot-blooded eldest son eager to gain his inheritance….or the quiet daughter who’s finally worked up the nerve to defy him…and that might be all it takes to get the story rolling…

(Watch out, though. This character might surprise you. Maybe he’ll suddenly start weeping, because ever since his wife died he just can’t cope with life very well.  Or maybe not. Characters can be as deep and complex as you like. It all depends on what you need, what mix you want. And what the character will allow…It’s a dance, after all. Sometimes you lead the dance. And sometimes you don’t!)

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