Monday, June 16, 2008

Writer's Buzz...

... Finishing What You Start...

Yeah. Easier said than done, sometimes. Is there a secret? A formula? Some sort of ritual that can be used?

The secret formula ritual is to KEEP WRITING.

Shocking, isn't it?

But, but, but, but... there must be MORE. That can't possibly be IT. Can it?

Well, yeah, there's probably more to it than that.

It's not enough just to have a brilliant idea. It helps tremendously, to be sure, but you need more than The Most Wonderful Idea For a Story Ever Imagined. Let's take a look at one Very Important Element necessary for all stories.

You need a PLOT.

Plot: “a plot is is the process of generating questions around the outcome of a story's dramatic purpose that gives a story a dramatic shape and outcome fulfilling to an audience.” (

Plot’s function: “raise dramatic questions a reader or viewer will follow a story to its conclusion to get answers.” (

An integral part of any story being told. Plot, essentially, is what drives the story. Plot determines why the characters do what they do, why the events that happen happen. At its most elemental, plot is “Boy meets Girl. Boy and Girl interact. Boy and Girl have Big Misunderstanding. Big Misunderstanding is resolved. Boy and Girl live happily ever after.”

Simply, plot is the drama created around the characters in pursuit of their goals, and that their actions serve to advance the story to the resolution. Actions create obstacles that must be overcome along the way to the final, fulfilling resolution. The plot must escalate to continue moving forward toward resolution.

To make the plot more interesting, we add characters to drive it forward, learning and growing along the way to the Happily Ever After. There are many, many plot points that can be added: suspense, comedy, drama—for example—to broaden the scope and appeal of the story.

Things to remember about plot:

Like characters, the plot must be believable. Unless you’re writing a paranormal story, if it can’t happen in Real Life, it can’t happen in your story.

KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid. (A thousand thank you's to whomever came up with this acronym! I love it.) Remember, the more you put in, the more you have to keep track of and make work with the entire story.

If you put a bear in the canoe, you need to have an excellent reason for doing so, and that reason needs to drive the story forward. Beefing up your word count is a very poor reason to inflict that bear on your characters. For example, Holly Heroine has finally met the Man of Her Dreams. He’s Perfect. Dreamy. Kind to small animals and children. They are Falling In Love. Holly Heroine has stars in her eyes and can feel the ring on her finger already. Then McPerfect Dreamboat’s ex-girlfriend shows up and suddenly, McPerfect Dreamboat is distancing himself from Holly Heroine. Exxie is making Holly Heroine’s Life miserable. How is this moving the story ahead? Why is McPerfect Dreamboat growing distant? What does Exxie really want? How is Holly Heroine going to handle this? How will it ultimately bring Holly Heroine and McPerfect Dreamboat together and strengthen their relationship?

Watch out for Plot Holes. What are Plot Holes? Basically, weak points in your story where your plot falters or falls completely apart. Like a house, a story/plot needs a good strong foundation to hold it up and keep it up. One reason your plot falters or falls apart completely could be that the conflict isn’t strong enough to sustain the storyline to the conclusion. Re-examine the conflict, redefine it, add to it—strengthen it. Have you looked at the conflict from all angles? What bear could you put in the canoe at this point that is realistic and shores up the plot? What bears should you put at previous points to strengthen and define this conflict? What future bears in the canoe does this couple have to look forward to, and how are you going to get them there and through it? How is it affecting your characters? Is there any growth going on as they struggle to overcome the obstacles on their way to their Happily Ever After?

Tie up all your loose ends, or “No Plot Point Left Behind.” Self-explanatory. Don’t leave Uncle Herbert out on the back porch, ready to race in and Save the Day, for example.

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