This post was written for the Author Toolbox Blog Hop where we share our new discoveries on the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, and blogging tips. Posted every third Wednesday of the month. For rules and sign-up click here.
Hi I’m new to the toolbox meme, and I wanted to thank Erika. I read one of her posts and before I knew it I was signing up too. I regularly post about my latest discoveries. When I’ve spent hours root them out, I figure the least I can do is share.
You’ll note I’ve included some links to previous posts. Not because I’m all knowing—we all know I’m not. It’s more of a just-in-case-you’re-interested kind of thing. Enjoy.
This month I’ve being reviewing plotting, sub-plotting and how to drag the threads through a series. Here’s what I’ve gleaned so far.
Plotting seems straight forward to most. A person telling a story around the campfire knows the tension is increasing, and the twist is a surprise from the listener’s reaction.
Not so true when the work is happening in front of a computer. There may be no one but the writer tapping away, throwing in one great idea after another, and topping it all off with a twist or two. Eventually ending it by blowing the reader away.
Well that’s the plan. Okay that’s usually my plan. Turned out if I don’t do a bit more planning I land up with something else.
So now I come up with a core idea (usually a mystery) that I plot along a three-act structure, striving for one thing—increasing tension and at least one surprise. Without feedback, I have to use my instincts; later, when the time is right, I’ll pick on a few beta readers.
How do I know I’m succeeding?
Once I get all my bright ideas and twists down I write an outline. Please don’t judge me. I do this as a substitute for people around my campfire. Without an audience, I have to be quite critical to get it right. The final copy looks very similar to a synopsis and I’ll use it when I’m querying.
Since this rarely lets me reach my word count, I need to find ways to enhance the storyline. Adding some depth to my supporting cast works by giving them plots of their own.
I guess the biggest question is where does all the tension come from? The protagonist needs to get something done and one person is out to stop them.
Personally, if the antagonist showed up on page one in my work and the two of them battled it out, the story is over before it started. As I’m sure you know, mysteries tend to hide the villain until the end.
The supporting cast can fill in for the antagonist and get in the way of achieving the goal… But they need reasons to do so.
One word that always pops into my head is mother. I’m a perfect mother and never annoy my twenty-something son. He never feels I’m interfering or meddling in any way.
But don’t ask him about it, he may tell you the truth. hehehe
So my protagonist always has mother issues. Sometimes best-friend issues and boss issues as well. Keep the list growing and the sub-plots will be plentiful. I’m sure I’m not the only one who noticed that life can get in the way: broken limbs, engine trouble, lenders, borrowers, unexpected ninjas visitors, unemployment, pregnancy, love, hate, and boredom.
Series Threads (and the bible):
I write mysteries and very often mysteries lead to a series. With that in mind I try to keep track of people, places and events. The collection of series’ details is called a bible.
Consistency is paramount when writing something over several books. Be kind to yourself and keep track of it all. Unless the mother figure in the book is constantly dying her hair, losing/gaining weight, and shrinking and/or growing. Plan on some kind of reference material.
It can be as simple as bookmarking a special copy of your work to cutting and pasting a special file for each person, place, or event. No one wants to be the person who has to go all their work looking for their mother’s neighbor’s dog’s name because it is suddenly the crux of the next book.
What have I learned?
That only I know the direction my story is going and how exactly I want to get there. Although I seek out feedback, I don’t always take it. I do, however, give each piece of advice serious consideration, knowing the bones of the story really helps me stay on track.
I work hard at being a good storyteller because only a few have been kind enough to read my work. The ones that do deserve my very best effort and I try to put it out there by doing quite a bit of preparation.
What about you? I know you know something I don’t, so share some of your wisdom that gets you through plotting, sub-potting, and series-fact tracking.