21 March 2007

Character Development Plot versus Dramatic Action Plot

The writer tells me scene by scene her children's picture book story.

As I create her own individual Plot Planner, it becomes obvious how each scene flows one into the next in flawless cause and effect. The tension rises in each scene greater than the scene before. She reads me a couple of short scenes. Her writing is lyrical and her voice unique. I listen intently, becoming more and more immersed in her story. Convinced of the merit to her story, I wonder aloud about her next step -- has she researched agents? The energy of her story builds to a terrific and fitting Crisis. She leaves us guessing, and then reveals a surprising Climax. Wonderful resolution.

I study the Plot Planner in awe, and then it hits me. She has written a compelling children's story filled with Dramatic Action which is tough to do in so few pages, but the story is almost completely devoid of any character development and thus little or no meaning.

Quickly I scan the PP. There, in the first scene, she effectively "shows" us the protagonist's flaw. And that's it. The Character Development Plot is then dropped entirely. With very little effort, the way to the character's transformation -- the heart of every great story -- becomes clear. Insert a more apt reaction here. A more profound understanding there. Before the writer knows it, both the Character Plot and Thematic Significance weave effortless into the strong and effective Dramatic Action Plot.

Wonderful example of how a story can work effectively on one level only. In this climate of so many stories competing for the marketplace, however, stories must deliver on more than one level at a time.

Soon this writer will have herself a lasting story. First she has to incorporate all three plotlines:

Dramatic Action
Character Development
Thematic Significance

She has done the hard part. The path to completion is right there in front of her. I wish her the best of luck and look forward to reading her story when it's published.

16 March 2007

Archetypes -- People Who Exhibit A Particular Trait Strongly

Archetypes appear more clearly in people who exhibit one trait strongly.

I am inclined to study the people I work with. Most plot consultations take place over the phone, so I rely on overt comments and breath, perceived posture, expressions, and movements. For help on a deeper level, archetypes shed meaning.

Over and over she laments her uncertainty. She blurts out doubts in herself, her abilities, the actual presence of others. Why bother, she cries out? A writers' life demands more from us than we think we are. When called, if we fail to show up, we are haunted, hounded, and worried to death. The writer's eyes dart in opposite directions. They do not track like a paired event and it's difficult to follow her because I'm not exactly sure where she is physically.

However, I can track her perfectly on a archetypal level. Her worry over not being worthy fills her every cell. It drifts out of her pores and affects the rest of us. Her dance of self-doubt feels like it will go on into eternity. To see what each of us struggles with on such a concrete level allows us to better understand our own lives. And thus, our characters' lives.

Fear and doubt, insecurity that verges on the edge of self-destruction, we all have it. No matter if we succeed or fail, we are still hounded. We measure ourselves. How courageous are we? How much of ourselves do we commit? How do we keep going in the face of such doubt?

Either you don't. Or, you do...

01 March 2007

Trying Too Hard

After today's plot consultation, plotlines and subplots, flashbacks and time jumps still linger.

The writer is guilty what many of us are ~ he tried too hard.

At some point in every writers life, we ask ourselves ~ who would want to read this? And, why? In our fear of not measuing up or worried the story falls short, we add another subplot here, switch events around, change the point-of-view, and mess with the format.

I think this is part of the writer's personal journey. Our egos keep our minds so filled with fear and uncertainty we trip over the story itself. Yes, the writer's craft is to take what flows out on the page and craft it into a story. So long as we focus on the story, I think we get it right. It's when the writer gets in the way that the process weighed down. Tricks and too many twists can pull the story under.

I hope when the writer sees his very own individual Plot Planner I created for him during the consultation and finessed with plot tips after, I hope he'll reconnect with the core or heart of the story itself. When we try too hard, we tense up. The story tenses up, too. To trim and snip and cut isn't always easy. I hope when he sees his story minus the words, he'll see the story is worth the time and attention it is going to take to get it right.