Category Archives: Plot

Writing a Book Together: Character Moves Plot

When I started this novel with you (I sorta have ideas for it but I’m not quite sure yet how the story is going to unwind) I thought I had a perfect couple of first lines. They were funny and said a lot about the star of the show.

There was the plastic fern and a girl who’s shy and the fact that she cleans doctor’s offices with her dad’s cleaning company. A girl and a guy and a dad who’s watching over his kid. Almost immediately the story changed itself with the addition of a character. Another fella. (Hello! says Dad.) The tension rose with the addition and I saw huge possibilities with it. My excitement rose. I could already see conflicts for my main character.

Many years ago, someone, I can’t remember who, taught me this: Character moves plot. The decisions your character makes, and her choices when something is presented to her, point the direction to the climax of the novel. Character driven novels that follow this simple idea can have both plot and those ‘real people’ that make this type of book so appealing.

Adding a stumbling block (dad) and an extra character (new fella) can shake things up. Allowing complications within the main character and all around her, give her the opportunity to make choices as to what might happen in her book life.

Perhaps you have an idea where you want your novel to go. Perhaps you have a few incidents already in your head that you’re excited to write. Don’t force them into the story. Let the story come about naturally as your character makes decisions on which way she should go.

 

4 Comments

Filed under Character, First Line, Plot

Writing a Book Together: Before the Beginning

This year I thought it might be interesting to write a book from scratch with you. From start to finish. Together.

Can we do that? I think we should try.

At this point, I don’t have anything to work on. There are only thoughts. No real facts or characters or ideas. No first lines. No plot points. No anything. I’m starting off fresh with you.

But in this moment I have learned something. Just now. Here it is:

  1. Sometimes, in order to come up with an idea, I have to write. Sit down and write.

Maybe it’s practice or muscle memory or training, but I can feel I am already headed in the right direction. I’m thinking.

Here’s what I’m thinking–I have an editor who’s interested in a romance from me. Could that be the novel I work on?

I’ve wondered for a long time if I might write a sequel to The Chosen One. That wouldn’t be fun, but it would be possible.

I could try my hand at fantasy. Hahahahahah! Okay. We all know that isn’t possible!

Here’s how I will decide: At the beginning of a novel, when I know absolutely nothing about it, I sit at my computer and stare off into the distance. This is when I’m hoping a character will introduce herself to me with a first line. So that’s what I plan on doing today. I’ll open a blank page on the computer and sit there.

Staring off into space is work! Daydreaming is something you can put on your novel writing resume!

Later today, I’ll sit around awhile and see who asks to be let in. See what she has to say. Maybe this book, whatever it’s going to be called, will come to me a little differently. If so, I’ll let you know.

How do you find that seed that grows into a novel? Are you inspired by history? People? Emotions? A first line? Something that happened to you? Something someone said? A creature? A bad dream? A kiss?

Let’s meet again tomorrow and see what we’ve come up with. I know for sure we’ll all do this writing experiment differently. Whatever I do is right for me and that’s mostly what I’ll talk about. But I’ll also see what published people are saying about their books and their writing. I’ll try to learn more about this crazy part of writing I’m calling Before the Beginning.

 

 

9 Comments

Filed under Character, First Line, Plot

Conflict Quotes

Not all these quotes are from writers. But they get the idea across. And, if you’re interested, there’s some further learning.

 

William Faulkner at the Nobel banquet in 1950

There is only the question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.

https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1949/faulkner-speech.html

James Frey

The greatest rules of dramatic writing are conflict, conflict, conflict.

Margaret Heffernan

For good ideas and true innovation, you need human interaction, conflict, argument, debate.

Margaret Heffernan: Dare to disagree

Patrick Lencioni

I don’t think anyone ever gets completely used to conflict. If it’s not a little uncomfortable, then it’s not real.

 

4 Comments

Filed under Plot

Exercises in Conflict

13 Questions/Thoughts/Exercises to Help the Conflict in your Novel

  1. What IS the conflict in your novel?
  2. What does your main character want?
  3. What five ways do you keep your character from getting what he wants?
  4. Do you start the story in the right place? Is it the day something new happens? Is a conflict hinted at on page one? Is the major conflict revealed as the main character moves forward into the beginning of the middle of the novel?
  5. What is the part of your story that creates the most tension? Why?
  6. Write your main plot as a yes or no question. In film, this is the major dramatic question (MDQ).
  7. What is the definition of “inciting incident?” Joseph Campbell says it’s a call to action for the main character. What does this mean?
  8. What is the inciting incident, or that first point of no return, for your main character?
  9. Write the inciting incident from several (at least three) points of view. How does each character view this event? Is your main character the most interesting?
  10. Remember these? What is your book and why?
    1. Man against man
    2. Man against society
    3. Man against self
    4. Man again nature
    5. Man against technology
  11. Make sure you have only ONE main plot or you will wrestle trying to control and write plots of equal weight. While you should have subplots, none should be more important than that problem you reveal in the MDQ.
  12. I think some of the best conflicts result from relationships. What are you finding in your book?
  13. Our good friend Richard Peck said, “You are no better than your first line.” And that’s the truth with everything. Make sure each thing you write, is your best. Always.

1 Comment

Filed under Plot, Uncategorized