27 June 2009

Pacing Your Plot

The energy of a story rises and falls in a somewhat predictable nature based on the Universal Story Form Consider, therefore, the placement of your scenes that carry the highest emotional impact. 

The scenes in the Beginning (1/4) have less conflict, tension, and suspense than do the scenes that come in the End (final 1/4). Think of story as energy rising ever higher to each of the major turning points (End of the Beginning scene, Halfway point scene, Crisis, Climax) and often falling after each of those turning points only to rise again to the next major scene.

A writer places a high emotional impact scene in the Beginning which her critique group criticizes as not working where it is. In reaction to the feedback, the writer cuts the scene all together. However, when that same scene is moved to after the Crisis and on the ascent to the Climax, the scene works wonderfully on a multitude of levels. The scene centers around a natural disaster that turns out to be the perfect metaphor for the swirling emotions the protagonist feels after confronted with the dark night of the soul scene at the Crisis. 

During the consultation, I was again struck by how it's all always right there in front of us and how it's up to us as writers to take the scenes that come through the miraculous thing called the muse or inspiration and reorder them to craft the perfect story.

22 June 2009

Mystery and Romance Genres

In filling out the standard Character Emotional Plot Information (see **below), writers who write in the mystery genre invariably list the character goal as solving the mystery. Writers who write in the romance genre invariable list the character goal as finding love or to get the guy. This is fine.

However, to create more complexity to your plot, you may want to give the protagonist an additional goal(s) as well. 

The protagonist has a life, and thus, goal, before the mystery hits or before the love interest arrives on scene. In other words, the protagonist has a goal before the story itself begins. Identify that goal and you create an additional plot line in the story. Create a personal goal that conflicts with the solving of the mystery goal or the getting the guy = added drama. 

**Character Emotional Plot Information

1. What is this character's goal?

2. What stands in the way of the character achieving his/her goal?

3. What does the character stand to lose if he/she does not achieve his/her goal?

4. What is the character's flaw or greatest fault?

5. What is the character's greatest strength?

6. What does the character hate?

7. What does the character love?

8. What is the character's greatest fear?

9. What is the character's dream?

10. What is the character's secret?

14 June 2009

Best Websites for Writers by Writer's Digest

Writer's Digest Magazine recently award Plot Whisperer for Writers and Readers as one of 101 Best Websites for Writers in 2009.

Whittled down from 2,700 nominations, this year -- the 11th -- the list of 101 Best Websites for Writers is divided into eight sections. 

That Plot Whisperer fit in "Publishing Resources" makes me consider the blog differently than I have in the past. 

Plot Whisperer is the blog for Blockbuster Plots for Writers. As such, it started as a place for writers to read weekly updated tips about how to create plot and find ways out of some of the plot (plot being defined in terms of character, action, and theme) and structure pitfalls that confront all writers when creating novels, screenplays, musicals, memoirs, short stories, music videos. 

Plot Whisperer is a blog. As such, I often poll other bloggers on their "take" of the writing process. I was surprised at how blasé many bloggers are to the idea of plot and planning and rewriting and revisions. I slowly have come to understand that blogging is a vastly different forum than the writing those writers do who come to me for plot consultations and help.

Based on writers and bloggers feedback and now this award, I understand that I speak best to writers who have been published and want to be again, and those who want their work published for the first time -- whether a blatant desire or a secret kept even from themselves. 

To be published, a story has to speak on a multitude of levels to the reader as much, if not more, as to the writer herself. 

Thank you Writers Digest both for this prestigious honor and for helping me hone in on what exactly I do offer. 

And thanks to each of you who follow this blog; offer your comments, questions and support; have signed up for the free monthly Plot Tips eZine; and nominated this blog for this wonderful award and recognition. 

You keep Plot Whisperer alive to support writers everywhere make their dreams come true.

11 June 2009

But Am I Good Enough?

Though not often spoken aloud, I hear the fear whispered in many of the plot consultations I provide to writers. 

I know answering a question with a question is not always helpful, but the query begs a list of qualifiers:

Are you good enough for what?
Good enough to make time for your writing?
Good enough to put the right words together to evoke just the right emotion?
Good enough to come up with a compelling plot, engaging characters, a deeper meaning?
Good enough to finish what you started?
Good enough to find the right agents to query, land an agent, land a publisher?
Good enough to deserve a fair advance or, better, a great one?
Good enough for the story to garner good / great reviews?
Good enough to find a readership, be invited to the Oprah show, make a best seller list?
Good enough to make money with your writing, earn a Pulitzer Prize, Nobel Prize?
Good enough to write another story?
Good enough to finish that story?

The question speaks to a fear buried much deeper than the words themselves.  

Writing, like every other endeavor, is an outer activity which affords the opportunity to learn more about your inner self. As most of you know, in my down-time when not consulting with writers on their plots, I use what I know about plot and the universal story form to delve deeper than the words themselves. 

At that level, the question indicates that the writer is becoming overwhelmed by the external demands of writing, enough so, she is losing her passion for the writing itself. 

Rather than carry the pain of all the hundreds of things that can interfere with your writing life, focus your attention instead on the one thing you can do right now in this moment. 

Trust that if you are called to write there is a reason for it.

07 June 2009

Formatting for Submission

Same writer as in the previous post has finished her outline, synopsis, and bio, and her entire book has been edited and is now ready to go out to interested agents.

In making sure her attachments can be opened -- some problems arose earlier because instead of word doc files, she had gif files and docx files I could not open -- this time I could open. When I did, I caught a couple of issues which I addressed in an email, a portion of which I include here:

Comments on formatting (these are no biggies, but I believe industry standards???):
1) Appears you've justified both margins, meaning the words begin and end on each line at the same place. It's best if the right margin is more ragged-looking and you only justify the left.

2) You've place the page numbers on the bottom right. "Should" be at the top right.

In sending these comments to you, I can hear a short story friend rant about picky rules when submitting to literary contests. She's highly creative, bigger-than-life writer, as I imagine you to be. She rails against such "left-brain" sort of rules as I imagine you do. I do, too. Most of us do except those lucky ones who like organization and order and rules...

These submission guidelines are yet another challenge -- antagonist -- writers must overcome. Yes, there are those writers who are picked up who break all the rules. They are the exception. Yes, you, too, can be an exception, but if you can, why not format your submission in such a way that all the agent notices is the writing.......

P.S. -- Yes, I am quite aware that this is not a "plot" issue. Yet, I am confident that most of you reading this blog will, if you haven't already, one day hit this phase in your writing life -- the submission process -- and may benefit. That's my hope anyway...

03 June 2009

The Writers Submission Process

One of my favorite writers recently attended at a meet-the-agents day in NYC where she pitched her latest writing project to a slew of agents. She returned home with a headache and a long list of interested agents. Now that the excitement and nervous energy is abated, she's left with burn-out and overwhelm.

Following is my sympathetic response to her experience.

...as for your burn-out. I'm not surprised. All that interfacing and the nervous energy from all the writers around you. Congratulations for taking time to rest and take care of yourself.

Once you are rested comes the tedium of sending out all the different packets --not the easiest thing for any of us, but especially difficult for right-brained, highly creative types such as yourself. You just have to put your head down and do it, one submission at a time.

The submission process is a brutal business fraught with more rejection that one person should have to endure. However, it's a part of the life we have chosen and one we have to toughen up for. 

There are agents who will love what you've written -- they are the ones you're looking for. 

Rejections from the others have to be brushed off without the sting allowed to pierce your body. These agents are those who either have just signed on a new writer and don't want to take on another, promised to clear their desk today and send out a sweeping stack of form rejection letters. Others are in a bad mood and take it out on the stacks of awaiting submissions. And the list goes on... 

There are as many reasons for rejections as there are agents and writers, Many, many, many of the rejections have absolutely nothing to do with your project at all.

01 June 2009

Plotting the Climax of Your Story

In the End -- the final 1/4 of the entire page or scene count, the protagonist still has foes to confront and overcome. Only now, she is armed with a new understanding of herself. For the first time, her goal is within reach.

The Climax at the end serves as the light at the end of the tunnel. The protagonist moves toward the light -- one step forward toward the ultimate transformation, three steps back, a fight for a couple of steps, being beat backwards.

The Climax is the crowning glory of the entire project. The Climax is where protagonist "shows" in scene her acting in a transformed way -- in a way she could not have acted in any other part of the story because she first needed to experience everything she does in the book to get to the final stage.

The Climax spotlights the character in full transformation demonstrating the necessary new skill or personality, gift or action.

Ask yourself what scene will most dramatically show her demonstrating her transformed self?