Category Archives: Meme

Meeting like minds is so refreshing. I so this just for fun.

Author Toolbox #1: Plotting, Sub-Plotting, and Series Threads

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.

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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:

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.

Sub-plotting:

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.

Not always.

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.

Some links:

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.

IWSG 36: Caves Around British Columbia

This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group where we share our encouragement or insecurities on the first Wednesday of the month, to join the group or find out more click here.

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What is the weirdest/coolest thing I ever had to research for a story?

My answer: The caves in BC.

I did quite a bit of research for a little piece called: Mirrors of Ash.

The world building:

There wasn’t too much world building. The majority of the setting was either underground or following a road that leaves my hometown and loops back after several miles. I took the liberty of creating a mountainside called Swallow’s Cliff that could be seen from that loopy road.

Underground:

I’ve never been underground. Well, that’s not exactly true. I’ve been in a basement, the SkyTrain when it traveled into downtown Vancouver, the lower floors of a store or mall. But I’d never gone into a mine, or followed a cave into a mountain.

Luna Farris, my hero, not only goes deep underground, she goes back to her old childhood playground–the caves of Swallow’s Cliff. However this round she goes deeper than ever before to face a family nemisis.

Since I’ve never felt the need or curiosity to do this, I had some research to do. I found YouTube posts on the local caves around my neck of the woods. I’d watch one in the dark to get into the right state of mind.

Skaha Caves/Fissure in Pentiction.

Cody Caves Provincial Park

Not for me

I actually felt claustrophobic as my character worked her way through the gaps; and not being as thin as she was, I knew I wasn’t as physically fit either.

Luna used earbuds and listened to music as she move within mountain but I listened sounds of a cave. It bumped up my imagination as Luna squeezed into places that I wouldn’t dare go.

Sounds of a Cave

Other tidbits of research

  • I looked up some detail about shotguns
  • That the name Faris meant Knight (I was torn between Faris and St George.)
  • Swallow banks (Just because they looked cool and I wanted labyrinth of sorts that my hero needed to work through to find her prey.

FYI:

Still like listening to the sounds of caves as I work. It helps me focus on the story and not be distracted by all the going-ons within the house. Lucky discovery that.

Checking out all the posts

I’m looking forward to the other posts this month. So curious on what all of you discovered. No doubt, I’ll be taking notes are more than one subject. Thanks in advance.

IWSG 35: Passing On The A to Z Challenge

This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group where we share our encouragement or insecurities on the first Wednesday of the month, to join the group or find out more click here.

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April IWSG Day Question: Have you taken advantage of the annual A to Z Challenge in terms of marketing, networking, publicity for your book? What were the results?

Co-Hosts:
Christopher D. Votey Madeline Mora-Summonte
Fundy Blue Chrys Fey

To be honest when I look at different ways to promote my stomach clenches. So I will probably never participate in the A to Z Challenge. Although, I’ve thought of different things I might try.

Telling a story in 26 pieces is the one that appeals most.

But here’s the thing, I’m too insecure to post a story without an editor going through it.

The only thing I’ve put out there without the professional touch is my blog and no doubt there have been glaring errors I’ve missed that my readers did not.

So what’s a girl to do? I have a rep to consider.

I’m nervous enough when a trained professional has given it their approval. Even then I still feel like I’m running around naked. Trust me. No one deserves that.

What about you? Would you publish anything (besides a blog) without professional help?

IWSG 34: Novice Enthusiasm vs Crafting Rules

New IWSG BadgeThis post was written for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group where we share our encouragement or insecurities on the first Wednesday of the month, to join the group or find out more click here.

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Co-Hosts:
Tamara Narayan | Patsy Collins | M.J. Fifield | Nicohle Christopherson

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Some writers visit old fairy tales. Others do fan fiction when the muse hits. I look back at old works of mine and wonder if it’s worth tackling.

I’ve dabbled in middle grade and adult fiction in fantasy, science fiction, and mystery. Sometimes I’ve surprised myself at the skill of my old work. It has passion and life that is all instinct, but it’s also full of clumsy mistakes.

By studying the craft, I’ve learned the mechanics of story structure, testing the outline for holes and increasing tension as it progresses. I can do this before I write a word.

Then there is the execution.

That all natural passion that was full of wide-eyed instinct seems to be harder and harder to find. I’ve lost it and to be honest, I’ve been struggling to get it back.

Then there is the flip side.

The first chapter of my middle grade mystery is off. Some feedback was too many characters introduced at the same time. As I’m choosing who has to go something else niggles in my bones.

All the enthusiasm in the world doesn’t hide the fact nothing is happening. All my hero does is sit at the counter of a pizza joint drinking pop and drowning his woes. NOT GOOD ENOUGH!

vintage-1849411_1280So there it is. I need to find the balance between what I can do when I let loose emotionally and following writing rules to create work someone will actually want to read.

What would you do? Should it go back in the drawer?

IWSG 33 – Why Avoid Writing Devices + Recipes

New IWSG BadgeThis post was written for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group where we share our encouragement or insecurities on the first Wednesday of the month, to join the group or find out more click here.

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C0-Hosts: Misha Gericke, LK Hill, Juneta Key, Joylene Buter

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Not only has being a writer changed how I read, it has changed how I judge all stories. Let’s take television.

The Good:

Story structure and its plot points stand out during television shows. The commercial breaks appear immediately after the hook and the mid-twist are set, and the final conflict begins.

The Not So Good:

Long ago a friend, rather bored, commented, “Here’s the part when the star gets a knock on the head.” Apparently she noticed it happened every week. After I paid closer attention, I had to agree. It DID happen every week.

She also told me that nothing more than a knock on the head would ever happen to the star. Why? Because there would be no show.

She opened my eyes.

Worse:

I discovered the racing to save someone device on my own and laugh aloud when the stars jump in a car to race across town. We all know this can be done in five-to-ten minutes. (Nope, don’t think so.)

So as the bomb ticks down or a person is being murdered the hero races across town. Although the actor is very good at hurrying. They make all the appropriate faces and skid around corners.

One question always pops into my head: Why don’t they call for the closest police car to save them instead?

Not All is Lost as Long as We Are Awarecolorful-1300128_1280

What I’m getting at is, storytellers need to realize readers/viewers need more than recipes and devices. Eventually, the fans see through them.

Some writers get it. As Bossman, my son, said, “That’s why I love Game of Thrones. It’s unpredictable.”

What other stories or storytellers are unpredictable? I’d love to check them out.