17 October 2007

Plot and Subplots

The following are questions Livvy had after my responses in the 10/11 post below.

Q: I did have a question on your Folly example (note: Folly is a mystery by Laurie R. King). You said to use one color to write “arrival” to note Dramatic Action above the line? Then you said to use another color to write “fragile” to note the Character Emotional Development below the line? So am I supposed to plot two points for the same scene? I thought it was either or. Or are you saying for the initial CED, to just note it underneath “arrival” above the line in a separate color just to distinguish it from each other as the beginning emotion? So then for future CED tracking, do I keep it below the line?

A: Yes, to your first question. Both the Dramatic Action (DA) notation and the Character Emotional Development (CED) notations go above the line with different colors to distinquish from each other. Why above the line? Because in the arrival scene we know that the Character is not in control due to her emotional state and the reality of what she has undertaken. Therefore, there is conflict, tension and suspense in the scene and so, belongs above the line.

No is my answer for your second question. The only CED notations that go below the line are the ones where the protagonist is in control. For instance, when she throw away all her medication, we know that in that moment she is in control. This dramatic action is a major symbol of how she is trying to become even more in control of her life.

Q: Are the CEDs that are plotted below the line supposed to show just the progression of the protagonist’s internal flaw or is there a way to show a relationship subplot as well?

The way I look at it, I view the Dramatic Action as the “A” story (or Plot) which is the problem in the outer world that needs to be solved. I am thinking that CED would be the “B” story (or subplot) which is the internal conflict or fatal flaw, which reveals what the protagonist needs to achieve internally in order to help resolve the external goal of the plot. So basically, Plot is dependent upon the Fatal Flaw or “B” story for resolution. But then you need a “relationship” subplot or “C” story to validate whether or not that internal change has occurred in relation to something in the outer world.

A: If how you "look at it" best serves your writing, I recommend that you proceed that way. Personally, I find that the different plot threads can't always be separated in this way, in that they are too interdependent on each other. For example: sometime after she has thrown her pills into the water, she becomes paranoid of sounds she hears. Feeling compeltley empty, she wades into the water. We, the reader, find this alarming attempt at squelching her paranoia, putting an end to her suffering, an act of trying to commit suicide. Yes, what triggered the paranoia is external, but also internal, too.

Folly is definitely Character-driven, but is also a mystery ~~ who attacked her at home and is out to get her? A subplot also turns the story into a murder mystery when she attempts to find out who murdered her great uncle.

In the end, when she shows in the Climax behavior that she could never have demostrated at the beginning or even middle of the story due to all that came before, we know that she has been tranformed at depth by the dramatic action throughout the story.

Q: Can some of the scenes / summaries that are plotted Below the line in the plot planner show Thematic significance? Or does Theme details only correlate with scenes above the line?

A: Thematic details, if you're deliberate about including them, happen in scenes both above and below the line. They are not dependent on tension, conflict and suspense.