22 December 2007

Plot Question and Answer

Loads of plot consultations this month. Writers scramble to achieve this year's goals, before it's too late....

Haven't had time to debrief here, what with the holidays. But I was just feeling on top of Christmas, had a quiet moment, and decided to tackle emails. The first new email unanswered by me -- 12/5 -- is the following... I haven't blogged lately, so I thought I'd post and answer her email here at the same time, to save time.

I hope her question and comments might help other writers interested in character growth or character emotional development.

Writer's Question and Comments:
I can't begin to tell you how helpful your two DVD workshops and book have been to me! They are so clear and well-done that I do believe I've got it! (The Great Gatsby and Tom Sawyer).

I have my story in mind and have outlined all 60 chapters, about three scenes each, and examined each scene and plot. However, I am weak in developing the other characters in my story and how to show their growth or lack of growth. I feel I'm contriving a scene to show how main characters deal with one delay after another to build tension. Could you recommend a method or specific one of your DVDs to help with this? For example, I'm reading Pillars of the Earth by Ken Fowlett right now ... there is one escape scene where the main character is attempting to saddle a horse and get away from the antagonists and she keeps dropping the reins and is unable to quickly get on the horse to make her escape. This seems like such a simple device and yet a couple of pages are dedicated to describing how it's going for her. I can hear your "voice" so clearly that I laughed out loud ... yes, this is exactly what you mean when you say to have it get bad for the protagonist, then make it worse, and then make it worse several more times. The tension that scene built was palpable!

I plan on consulting you when my project is complete for a full analysis. Since I am really just beginning, I don't have enough for you right now.

Thank you again. I do hope you can recommend something for me. I'd really appreciate it.

Writing in North Carolina,

Dear Nancy,
Thank you for your kind words! What a wonderful gift. Thank you.

I feel like you're asking two questions here:
1) How to develop "the characters in my story and how to show their growth or lack of growth."
2) How not to contrive "a scene to show how main characters deal with one delay after another to build tension."

#1 is about the character. I hope this isn't redundant since you've seen the DVD, but I recommend using the Character Emotional Development Profile info to help.
The Beginning 1/4 of your project, you introduce the flaw and fear and hate.
The Middle 1/2, you develop the flaw and fear and hate.
The End 1/4, you show the transformation.

In other words, you don't have to show the growth until The End. Should be smooth after you've written the Climax (last big scene of the entire project.) Once you determine how the character will show her transformation in the Climax, just go back into the scenes that build to the Climax and show the character as she moves closer or further away from her goal.

#2 is about character, too, but is mostly about the dramatic action.
Which one probably depends on whether you are a character driven writer or dramatic action driven writer (there's a test at http://www.blockbusterplots.com, if you're not sure which you are).

In other words, are you building a scene to show character growth first and the dramatic action second?
Or, are you building an action scene first, and have the character react to the action second?

Either way, if you're writing scenes through cause and effect, your scenes can't be contrived. If each scene grows out of the scene that came before --- "because that happens, what happens next?" -- then the scenes are organic and formed out of causality.

Great good luck on your project.

Winter Solstice tonight -- tomorrow the days begin getting longer........

Lots to be grateful for, including your generous words.....