It’s #ThrowbackThursday, 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.
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?
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?
I’m much more of a pantser than you are. I’d hate to say I’m a 1, but… definitely the lower half of the scale, no matter how much I wish for a cleaner draft. I can revise better than I can write something I’ve already outlined.