Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Essence of Plotting

A movie commentator once said about a particular motion picture:  "This movie had the best actors, fantastic lines, but no plot."   

What was missing? 

Plot is the essence of any story.  Essential to a substantive plot is quality characters set in a place where conflict lurks. They should reach out and yank readers into the pages of their journey from the first word to the last. 

A good plot begs readers to cheer, offer advice, weep, or complain out loud about the decision making process of the characters. 
"Why didn't you ________ . 
Couldn't you see __________ coming? 
Now look at the mess you're in!"

The result?  Readers stay up way past their bedtime turning one page ofter another.

Perhaps this will help:

This summer, my husband set piles of weathered treated wood, tools, cement mix, wheelbarrow, screws, and etc. in our backyard.  While he had everything he needed to build the deck sorted, it wasn't the final product.  Quality products and their needed tools are like great characters and their lines, the former is not a deck, and the later is not a story.

While assembling the deck, my husband had problems with pieces not coming together properly  and other hair raising issues.  Once he worked out the problems, the deck came together.  So also our characters must face difficulties presented in a logical, sequential order which build to a major climax and  calms to some resolution.

To add essence to your plot, check to make sure your story continually moves forward.  

Things to watch for:

1. Has any sub plot taken over the story?
2. Do exciting distractions prevent your character from returning to the main journey?
3. Does the climax build like a rolling thunder storm in the distance looming
       close until it crashes down?
4. Should anything be modified to enhance the plot:
                a.  first person instead of third person, etc.
                b.  story told from a different character's point of view
                c.  starting the story later or earlier.


Review your plot. 
 How could you enhance the essence of your plot to cause
an editor to want your current  manuscript?

11 comments:

Sherrinda said...

Nicely put, Mary! It's all about the conflict, isn't it? I'm always thinking....Now what can I do to my heroine? Muwahahahahah.....

Mary Vee said...

Ahhh the power of the keyboard :)

Casey said...

That is what I like about writing, nothing is set in stone, something can always be fixed. The problem is... knowing what needs to be fixed. Good food for thought...

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Good tip to make sure your story keeps moving forward. This is why it's so important to know the characters goals up front so you can put everything in the way to stop them :)

Sarah Forgrave said...

Oh, I want to be one of those authors that everyone hates because they lose sleep! Thanks for the tips on how to do that. lol

Mary Vee said...

I agree Casey. Thats where our super crit partners come into play. We may not agree with what they point out...but it will stir our thoughts into a new direction.

Mary Vee said...

Cindy,
I love the way you put it "put something in the way to stop them." Thats exactly what we're aiming to do. Great thought.

Mary Vee said...

Sarah
I would love to be one of those authors as well. Just imagine some kid with a flashlight under his blanket, some mom capturing her only free moments immersed in your story, some dad burning the midnight oil to finish your chapter.
Just imagine.....its not impossible!! :)

Pepper Basham said...

Great post, Mary.
Ooo, subplots taking over? I can see myself doing that. So many interesting characters, so little time.
Great reminders and a nice quick reference for plot-review.

And I agree with Sarah - I want to be a writer that readers stay up WAY TOO LATE to finish reading :-)

Mary Vee said...

putting the coffee pot on...

JEFritz said...

Those things to watch for are great, as in, I'm going to copy them down to look at while I'm editing my book. Wonderful writing about writing.