how to plot a book

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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Story Genius' core message is to know your character's why. It emphasizes the importance of the author's knowing the origin of the main character's world viewpoint.

For this month’s contribution to #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop, I’m reviewing Story Genius by Lisa Cron. A member of one of my Facebook groups recommended it to me.

Story Genius’ Core Message

Story Genius’ core message is to know your character’s why. The author emphasizes the importance of you knowing the origin of your main character’s world viewpoint. Story Genius' core message is to know your character's why. It emphasizes the importance of the author's knowing the origin of the main character's world viewpoint. What specific event happened before the story started that has significantly driven all of her life decisions?

The “Know Your Why” concept is something I explored in my book, The Plot Thickens:21 Ways to Plot Your Novel, in the chapter “5 Whys”. A member of my former writing group, Lisa, always drilled down to the character’s motivation. She force me to answer why they make current decisions based on a specific turning point in their early life.

For example, in an unpublished work of mine, the main character, Naomi, is fiercely loyal to her adopted family. She makes wrong and unethical decisions to salvage her brother’s reputation. Her “Why”? Peeling through the layers of her past, at age eight, she witnessed her birth parents’ murder/suicide. She vowed to do anything necessary to thank her adoptive family for taking her in. She validated their decision with her loyalty. This causes multiple problems from the start of the story, pushing her through the rabbit hole of bad decisions. Ultimately, she has to question her misbelief to attain her true goal.

Questions the author asks you to ask your characters

My very first, official writing conference I attended was Deb Dixon’s, based on her book, GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict: The Building Blocks of Good Fiction. Since then, I’ve always looked at my character’s motivation, but Story Genius, asks you to look further and question more.

  • What early event changed your character’s view on the world?
  • How did it form a false belief  that has stopped him from getting what he really wants?
  • What inciting event at the story’s start pushes against his misbelief and causes him to make more and more wrong decisions as the story progresses?
  • What ultimately forces him to confront his misbelief and allows him to reach his goal?

Story Genius, the Subtitle:

How to Use brain Science to go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel

The book’s subtitle is misleading. While the author touches on how humans are hardwired for story, she did not delve deep enough into the biology of explaining how our beliefs affect our behavior. For the best, in-depth explanation on that theory, pick up a copy of The Biology of Belief by Bruce H. Lipton.

The Biology of Belief does a much better job of explaining how our beliefs affect our behavior than Story Genius

In Conclusion

Story Genius reinforces a story tool I’ve used since the beginning: the character’s “Why” matters and drives the plot. I have not sharpened this tool lately, as I tend to gallop from one plot point to another. I now have to step back, ask questions, and make it clear to myself and my readers why my character makes the decisions she does. If I can bring her “Why” to the forefront, I’ll have a realistic, flawed character the reader can identify with.

What do you think?

Do you explore your character’s background before writing? How deep do you go? I hate character interviews. Who cares if she hated chocolate milk in the second grade? (unless her classmates teased her, warping her sense of friendship that carries on into adulthood, and clouds her view of society). See, that’s what I’m talking about.

Please comment if an event in your character’s past (B.S., before story) shapes the decisions he makes A.S. (after story).

More about #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

#AuthorToolBoxBlogHop is a monthly blog hop for authors who want to learn more about being authors.

#AuthorToolBoxBlogHop is a monthly blog hop for authors who want to learn more about being authors. Held the third Wednesday of the month, the members participate with “posts related to the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, blogging tips for authors, reviews of author-related products, anything that an author would find helpful.” If you would like to learn more or become a member, go here.

I’ll be back in July with another AuthorToolBoxBlogHop tip, and twice a week (fingers crossed) with other writing information and happenings in my life.

Blessings,

Cheryl

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Preparing to write NaNoWriMo:Plotting Your Novel

Preparing to write NaNoWriMo:Plotting

Prepare for NaNoWriMo:Plotting

Last week, I wrote about using archetypes to create characters in anticipation of NaNoWriMo in November. My project next month is a retelling of Red Riding Hood and the Big, Bad Wolfe as a romance. I’ve already established a world in Snow White and the Eighth Dwarf (available in January) that I can use.

This week’s self-assignment was to take the strengths and weaknesses of the archetypes I drew from Caroline Myss’ card deck and add them to my plot.

Plotting the Hero

The hero of the book is Mr. Wolfe. Oliver Cox Wolfe (yes, I did think of naming him Oliver Fox, but then the title would be Red Riding Hood and the Big, Bad Fox). Using his archetypes, I examined their weaknesses and arrived at the following plot points:

The Warrior—Weakness:trades ethical principles for victory at any cost. How used in plot:Uses trickery to preserve his kingdom.

The Shapeshifter—Projects any image that serves his personal agenda at the moment. How used in plot: Takes advantage of his position of power to maintain his position of power. Lets his assumed feelings for the kingdom overshadow his feelings for the heroine, not realizing his motive is a way of coping with self-doubt.

The Child-Wounded—Blames any dysfunctional relationships on childhood wounds. How used in plot: His traumatic childhood darkens his ability to love and stunts his growth as a man.

The Athlete—Has a false sense of invulnerability and entitlement. How used in plot:Uses people around him to get what he thinks he and the kingdom wants.

As you can see, Oliver has a lot of baggage. He’s a broken man at the beginning. He’s inherited a kingdom in disrepair and feels obligated to prove his father’s opinion wrong. To battle these conflicts, Oliver needs a good woman at his side. Let’s examine her weaknesses.

Plotting the Heroine

Roswynn is a baker for the village. She learned most of her skills from her grandmother, with whom she lives. Her recent bout with a strange fever resulted in the shearing of her hair, making her hide what is left under a red hood. Her greatest desire is to perfect her craft.

The Hermit—She withdraws from society out of fear or judgment of others. How used in plot: She runs from a royal decree to make the food that hinders Oliver’s shapeshifting abilities.

The Dilettante—Pretends a much deeper knowledge than she possesses. How used in plot: Convinces Oliver she has the formula when she doesn’t. She says so out of self-preservation, as losing the royal baking contract will ruin her and her family.

The Monk Nun—Negative, judgment of physical world. How used in plot: Negative opinion of Oliver and what he’s doing to preserve his kingdom.

Other factors involved in this plot:

  • The true heir to the kingdom makes a claim.
  • A trusted advisor isn’t so trusted.
  • The things Oliver and Roswynn would never do that circumstances and decisions make them do.
  • The conflicts of Oliver being a werewolf.
  • Oliver’s growing love for Roswynn.
  • Oliver’s resolve to be a better king than his father to prove his father’s opinion of him wrong.

Many, many other details need to be ironed out before November 1st, but I am steadily working on them.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look at how to put together a novel. I’ll be updating it as I progress.

Blessings to all, especially those who accept the NaNo challenge!

 

 

 

 

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