22 July 2010

Cause and Effect in Plot

Without cause and effect there is no plot. Without cause and effect, events are simply episodic happenings.

Writers who write by the seat of their pants, or pantsers, versus plotters, those writers who pre-plot before and during writing, are able to craft entire stories through cause and effect.

This past weekend at the SCBWI retreat in Northern California, I met a classic pantser, Kathleen Duey an outrageously generous and creative and successful author of more than 50 books for children, middle graders, and young adults. She, and others like her, are able to write scene after scene by asking: because that happens in this scene, what does the character do next? Because of that, what does she after that?

I used to say simply, because that happens, what happens next? Kathleen's more focused strategy is even better. Because of what just happened in that scene, what does the character do next?

Not all scenes can be or need to be linked by cause and effect, but the more scenes that are causally driven, organically rising up from the action that takes place from one scene to the next, the better.