Writing tips

THE THREE ACT STRUCTURE is one of the most popular ways to plot a novel or screenplay. It’s the backbone of countless novels, TV shows and movies.www.cherylsterlingbooks.com

For today’s AtoZChallenge, the letter “T” is for the Three Act Structure.

(Today’s post on the Three Act Structure is an excerpt from The Plot Thickens:21 Ways to Plot Your Novel.)

THE THREE ACT STRUCTURE is one of the most popular ways to plot a novel or screenplay. It’s the backbone of countless novels, TV shows and movies.www.cherylsterlingbooks.comTHE THREE ACT STRUCTURE is one of the most popular ways to plot a novel or screenplay. It’s the backbone of countless novels, TV shows and movies. It keeps the story moving, the reader turning pages and box offices busy. In its simplest form it consists of three parts:

  1. Beginning
  2. Middle
  3. End

Of course, much more is involved. Your daily trip to work has a beginning, middle and end. Hopefully, it’s uneventful, but boring isn’t what you want for your novel. Let’s re-label the three parts into:

  1. Setup
  2. Conflict
  3. Climax

Much more riveting, isn’t it?

Let’s look at each of these in depth.
Continue reading Three Act Structure, Today’s “T” for the AtoZChallenge

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NOT ALL STORIES REQUIRE the addition of one or more subplots. Some main plots are so rich that to add more would detract your reader.

Use subplots to deepen your story

NOT ALL STORIES REQUIRE the addition of one or more subplots. Adding more to a rich, layered, and textured main plot could detract your reader.

NOT ALL STORIES REQUIRE the addition of one or more subplots. Some main plots are so rich that to add more would detract your reader.On the other hand, subplots can:

  • Deepen characterization by revealing flaws, strengths and growth.
  • Deepen theme.
  • Add complexity and momentum by diverting the reader’s attention from the main story, forcing tension until they can return to the main plot.
  • Introduce back-story, which in turn layers inner conflict, motive and invokes sympathy with the reader.
  • Introduce new characters.
  • Develop relationships.
  • Break up long scenes.
  • Control story tension.
  • Deepen conflict, making it more credible and complex.
  • Subplots can involve the main or secondary characters or both.

Like the main plot, subplots must follow the same rules. They should have a beginning, middle and end. At the end of the story, tie them up in the reverse order in which they were introduced. If “A” is the main plot, “B” is secondary and “C” is tertiary, they should be introduced as A, B, C, and closed out as C, B, A.

The subplot should not overshadow the main plot. Whatever happens in the subplot, never lose sight of the main line of action.

The number of subplot scenes should not outnumber main plot scenes.

Do not introduce so many subplots the reader is distracted from the main story. One to three is the rule of thumb. It’s hard to make characters and their problems distinct after that.

Subplots come in two varieties:

  1. Parallel. The characters know each other through a common link—the workplace, a vacation resort, a wedding, but their stories are independent of each other. This can be difficult to pull off, but the characters can learn from each other and influence each other’s storylines.
  2. Interwoven. This is the most common type of subplot. Tie the subplot to the main plot and any other subplots and increase the complexity of the story. The subplots should affect the main plot. If the subplot can be omitted from the story without affecting the main plot, does it belong?

Subplots should cover three areas:

  1. There should be connections between the sub and main plots. Interweave the relationships. The outcome of one affects something else.
  2. They should add complications to the main plot. If the hero is fighting for a promotion, reveal his alcoholic background, have his sponsor fall off the wagon, or he should.
  3. It should contrast the main plot. Don’t repeat what’s established, but explore different tones, purposes and ranges. Portray a variety of experiences to add depth and complexity to the overall story.

Adroit handling of subplots will enrich your story.

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Sometimes, linear writing does not come easy to me.

It’s Throwback Thursday

It’s Throwback Thursday, and I’m reprinting a post on linear writing that originally appeared five years ago. The concept of every story being different is still true. Sometimes, extensive plotting is required. Sometimes, you put your head down and jump in. I’d like to say it gets easier, but I’d be lying.
p.s. The short story mentioned is still on my hard drive. It morphed from a short story to part of a trilogy, all three subplots occurring simultaneously. I still don’t know how I’ll pull that off.

Linear writing doesn’t always mean linear plotting.

Linear writing doesn’t always mean linear plotting. In the debate of pantser vs. plotter, on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being I’ll figure this out later and 10 equaling a hundred page outline), I’d put myself at about an 8. Yes, I’ll admit to creating a spreadsheet or two in my time, but I don’t always know what will happen three chapters from now. I generally have an idea, and I know that P, Q, and R have to happen before Z, but sometimes T, U and V are a bit hazy.

Sometimes, linear writing does not come easy to me.I’m having a haziness problem with the short story I’m working on. You’d think, with a short story, I’d have the opposite problem. With fewer words, scenes and subplots, the way to Z should be clear. Alas, not so much.

Being early solved my plot problem

Last Saturday, I attended a writing retreat. As providence would have it, I misjudged when it started, which left me with an hour of free time. Luckily, I had a fresh legal pad with me. I set out defining the GMC (goal, motivation and conflict)  of my main character, Ray. It didn’t take me too long to realize he lacked two of the three. I played the old game of  “Why does he want it?  Why does he really want it? and Why does he secretly, deep down, maybe-he-doesn’t-know-why want it?” I discovered a lot of his history which probably won’t make it into the story, but it sure as hell gave me his motivation. After that, his conflict was clear. What or who has the power to stop him?

Aliens are my go-to antagonists whether I am linear writing or not.I played this game with his antagonists, the aliens. Yes this is an alien story. I discovered they are my go-to antagonists. After I’d clarified their GMC, I realized they and old Ray have the same antagonist. This brought a third major character (or entity) into the story. There’s all kinds of secret keeping, double dealing and tension that wasn’t in the story before.

This is called the crunch. The juicy element that pulls you in and keeps you in. The bite to the story.

A new way of writing

I know the final scene. The challenge is, I will have to write it in an entirely different way than I normally do, which is linear writing, the comfort of A to Z. In order to preserve the twist, this will be a C, K, R, F kind of story. Non linear. Very Inception-like. Benjamin Button. Look here. No, over there.

I’ve turned to a new page on my legal pad and am working through the GMC of the three main characters and what scenes are crucial for each. I’m sure I’ll have to write them out of sequence then patchwork them together later.

It’s not quite pantsing. It’s a little scary, but it’s the way I wrote my very first story. I woke from a dream with a vivid ending. I didn’t know the characters, I surely didn’t know what GMC was, but I knew I had to get them to Z.

How do you write, and how do you get to Z?

 

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