Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Plot Thickens

Now that you’ve worked on an outline of your characters, the high points, conflicts and climax, you’ll see your plot developing. Not all writers start with a plot in mind. A plot can be as flimsy as man meets woman, woman is on the run from the law, man falls in love, woman doesn’t feel the same, they both rob a bank together, fall in love just as they get nabbed by the police.

The plot is the reason behind things. Why does the man fall in love, why doesn’t the woman fall for him, why on earth do they rob a bank? Why does the woman suddenly fall in love? What happens to their lives while on the run before getting nabbed?

As we discussed in the outline, you’ll need a beginning, middle and an end. Without these elements in a story whether a novel or short story, your words will float aimlessly onto the page, never being understood by your reader, and more than likely being rejected by publishers.

A lot of times as you’re writing, the plot changes. Maybe you had in mind the above scenario of man meets woman, but then he finds that she has a child that she’s been hiding from her estranged ex- husband. They no longer want to rob a bank, they want to both see the child safely across the border into another country.

You see? The plot isn’t a set of rules that you play by. Sure someone can say "plan your plot THEN write the story," but as a writer (and as a human being) I find that plans never go the way they are intended. Unintentionally, they go somewhere you hadn’t planned at all. This is where the creative writer expands his/her imagination and delves into the unknown.

Breeding familiarity is not a place for your plot. Your story needs to be UNIQUE, something that ISN’T out there on the shelf right now. A lot of writers try the backward method. And that is writing the last scene first and backtracking to the beginning. Seeing it from this angle, you’re in the midst of creating a plot.

In essence the plot is the WHY your story is taking place (character’s etc.) You character is what’s going to shape your plot. Create a good character, give him/her their own profile, (what color eyes, hair, faults, vices, benefits etc.) With each part of the character’s development, the plot will surface. Always ask WHY and the next paragraph will form itself (in your mind’s eye.) Write your heart out without even thinking of a plot.

Allow the plot to become a mirage way off down the road, the closer you get to it, the clearer the whole picture becomes.

I hope this helps. Now write!

1 comment:

June said...

Excellent advice, Joni, especially for those who plan ahead. It's always good to remember the definition of the word "plan."

Nothing is set in stone (oh my -- more cliches!)....sometimes the characters tell the writer where to go in terms of plot and how to get there.

Sometimes, all the writer need do is to open up and listen to their own characters.

Take care,