Saturday, November 10, 2007

Plot/structure series--part II

Okay, now that you've figured out just what's at stake in your ms and studied other books, it's time to make sure everything in the book feeds to that point. There's a piece of merry-go-round-like playground equipment by my house. It looks rather like a mushroom. It has a strong central pole. Ropes spread out in all directions from the top of the pole to connect a series of concentric rope circles. There are also a few support ropes down below to keep the thing steady. If you're a kid, you then climb on top and get someone to spin it, and around you go. This thing is like your plot. Maybe not every rope touches the central support pole--but every rope is inextricably tied to it. If you removed any one of the ropes, the thing wouldn't work. Think of your plot this way.

The most important part of the plot is that central pole, which is your main character. Remember last time? That central goal your MC has and his/her plan to reach that goal is your central pole. Which means that your MC has to be in the driver's seat. They need to react, true, but most of all, they need to be causing things to happen. When you have a series of events but they aren't causative, you get a sag in the action. When your MC acts, meets the consequences of the action, and reacts by making another choice, you get tension, rising action, and an interesting plot. No, that doesn't mean it has to be car chases. One of the loveliest "quiet" books with plenty of tension based on character choice and the consequences that follow is Cynthia Lord's Rules. Go read this book, it's put together extremely well. (Not to mention the lovely prose, likeable characters, and perfect mix of humor and poignancy.)

Assignment: Pick a few books in your genre and find the climax. Then, working backwards, ask yourself what caused this to happen? (And more importantly, who?) Trace the line of event to initiator all the way back to that first decision. Then do this with your own WIP.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

I like this assignment.
This is what my WIP--the first revision--needs. I'll try working backwards.