Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Writing Tips Plotting continued

This is part 2 of Plotting. All stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. Before talking about the beginning, there are several things to remember.

Three places to begin your tale.
1. A moment before the action that will force a change in the hero or heroine's life.
2. In the middle of the action.
3. A moment after the action has taken place.

Another important series of three to remember. Each scene, bit of dialogue should do one of the following things. If you can bring two about, that's great. Hitting all three is wonderful.
1. Reveal something about the character.
2. Advance the plot.
3. Impart an important piece of information.

Keeping these things in mind, it's time to begin. The beginning of the book can be as much as a third of the book and must show the characters in action, to learn about their motivations, establish the conflicts both internal and external, show the setting and the time period. Often the book is started too soon or too late. There are times when I write a chapter one and find the only value is for me as the writer, not the reader. It's time to scrap that chapter. Other times I start a book too late and have to go back and do a scene before the one I originally intended to be the opening scene.

There are problems that happen during the opening of a book. Often times the first paragraph is intriguing. Then the writer spends pages giving the back story of the characters. A sentence or two won't bother the reader but paragraphs about the hero or heroine's life are more for the author's benefit than the reader. Save this kind of the story for times when it can be done in a sentence or two of through dialogue. Another problem is when the author becomen enamoured by the setting and spends paragraphs describing a house, a vista or something. In fantasies, sometimes more time is needed to establish where the characters are but these are details that can be brought into play during the action.

The opening scene is where the writer has to give enough information to intrigue the reader to comtinue reading. There are several problems that can creep in. There's the information dump that provides the reader with too much information. This can be back story or it can be scenery or other descriptions. There is the cast of thousands start where too many charactera are thrown into the mix in the first few pages. For me this is one of my faults. There is also starting with a dramatic scene like a car chase ro a volcano erupting and the hero or heroine fleeing from some drastic event. Problem here is how can the tension be maintained for the entire book. A hard act to follow is what I call this kind of opening.


Terri said...

The tension caused by the car chase or the exploding volano do not necessarily have to be maintained. In fact, the act of fleeing or escaping the volcano should be somewhat resolved, ratcheting the tension into another place: out of the frying pan into the fire, between a rock and a hard place.
I recently came across the following on someone's blog. I want to say it was a well-known writer, but I took it down in long hand and don't remember who, or where I stumbled across it. For some reason, I'm thinking it must have been Roxanne St. Claire. In any event, this is what she strives for in each scene:
1. the character's goal is clear
2. there is tensionn regarding that goal and other goals
3. an arc is completed --there is a beginning, middle and end
4. the story is furthered and complicated
5. the reader has more than she had before
6. the reader wants to turn the page.

Shana Brodsky said...

Good stuff, thanks for the tips!