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Friday, November 03, 2006

Fiction Friday: Plot continued

There are many different ways a writer plots--you could say it’s an individual thing. I think as writers we listen and learn about the various techniques that work for others, then we incorporate what works for us--sometimes through trial and error. Some don’t plot at all, but write by what some people have called by the seat of their pants. That method doesn’t work for me because I need to know what direction I am going in or no telling where I would end up. Others plot--some with critique partners, some alone, some with a partner. They write the plot down before starting the book--some in great detail, some with only preliminary sketches of the characters and certain scenes and build from there. As you can see there are many ways to plot and no one way is the best. The best way is what works for you--what gets the juices flowing for you.

The definition of plot is the arrangement of incidents in a play, novel, narrative poem, etc. In other words a plot is a series of scenes that build on one another. It is a series of conflicts (testing the characters) which leads to changes--growth hopefully in the characters. The characters and plot should intertwine seamlessly. The plot should come from the characters.

Action Reaction Choice Action Reaction (a circle)

Debra Dixon gives three things a scene should do:
1. Dramatically illustrate a character’s progress toward his goal or provide an experience which changes the character’s goal.
2. Bring a character into conflict with opposing forces.
3. Provide a character with an experience that strengthens his motivation or changes his motivation. You need to at least do one of these if not two or three in every scene in your book.

Each scene should address at least one main character’s goal, motivation or conflict (which may change in the book and often does). Not only should you develop an external goal, motivation and conflict for each of your main characters but an internal one as well where you can. This will strengthen your plot and give more meat to your story. A note here: of the two internal conflict is the more important in romances. That is the way we will really get into the characters’ minds and feel their emotions.

Also according to Debra Dixon a scene should have three reasons for being in a book. Some common reasons to include a scene in a book are:
introduce suspect/character
discover clues
reveal character’s goal
reveal secrets
comic relief
show a character’s faith
What are some other common reasons to have a scene in a book? Think about your own. I have a chart that I’ve attached that you are welcome to use to help you keep track of these reasons in your book. I use it to make sure I have enough reasons for a scene. The chart is in Excel and you can modify it for your own use. This one is set up for a romantic suspense.

Now think of a scene you’ve just written. Does it have three reasons to be in a book? Does it further a character’s goal, motivation or conflict? Does it set up a subplot, a secondary character? Does it explore a character’s faith or lack of? If it doesn’t do those things, take the scene out. One of the hardest things a writer has to do is cut her own work, but a book should be tightly written. If your writing wanders, the reader will likely wander. You don’t want to give them a reason to put your book down.

Margaret Daley
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