Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Hatching a plot

Yes, that’s right. Vacation is over and it’s time to write again. I’m so excited!

So let’s talk plotting. Whether you sit on your idea and incubate it like a prized egg or you dream up your idea from a mere sliver of a concept, you’re all doing the same thing: plotting.

It’s simple to say no book can exist without a plot. I know you want to say “Duh, writer girl” but you’d be surprised about how many books, novellas or shorts are published daily and there’s no common thread, no spine, to hold them together.

Without a spine, you’ve got a lot of loose ideas flowing around and nothing to anchor them in. Your story requires a butterfly net in order to keep a reader’s attention and that is not a good thing.

Plot can either be character-driven or event driven.

Hmm, I can hear the groans now. Need an example? (Here’s me rubbing my hands together and cackling) Now remember, I'm by no means an expert and this is just the concept as I see it. Please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong :-)

Let’s say our hero is your average guy, content with his life working in a bookstore. Now let’s say this bookstore specializes in the rare and the obscure. Life’s great for our guy. In walks a customer. Normal, unassuming woman who’s innocently browsing the books, looking for oh let’s a say a reference book on ancient curses and hexes since she’s a writer. Because she’s got no clue about the darker side, she cracks open a spellbook, reads one of the entries aloud—and opens up a swirling vortex of a time portal which immediately suck our hero and his unwitting sidekick inside.

That’s an event. With huge potential. How to get back home? How to deal with the new world on the other side?

Or, if you want the more mundane, hero is behind the counter, heroine is browsing books and an earthquake happens, leveling most of the street, putting countless lives in danger. Another event where countless things could take place. How will the h/h survive the trauma? Will they help people along the way? Or perhaps hero needs to reach a loved one across town.

Need another example?

Let’s say our heroine is a chef of small acclaim. She rules the roost of a local bistro. Life’s good until our hero shows up with more credentials to his name and is there to critique her work and teach her the finer points of cooking.

Reaction between the two is fast and immediate. She hates him because he’s arrogant and bossy, flaunting his skills around. He dislikes her because she refuses to learn and thinks her way is the best. Tying the two together is sexual tension and the common thread of shared interests—cooking.

This is character driven. The story hinges on emotions and reactions to each other and will drive your plot forward toward a common goal—dominance in the kitchen and the relationship. Working together to make a better product.

Sure, in both of these examples we don’t know the characters’ back story, but that’s the fun part for a writer. Your plot is built up of conflict, great or small.

Man vs. Man—the battling chefs. They both want to bring the other down but they’re also battling their feelings toward each other.

Man vs. Nature—the hero in the bookstore when an earthquake happens. This will require your hero or main characters to acquire confidence to overcome the situation and call on inner strength to survive

Man vs. Self—Let’s say our hero is afraid of natural disasters because he lived through a hurricane or some other major event. Or let’s say our heroine was abused by men all her life and wants nothing more than to succeed in a man’s world.

Man vs. Work—Or, especially in sci-fi, let’s say our hero has done experiments with genetic bending on himself. The results of these tests makes him a monster, bent on killing, etc. Or let’s say he’s a biologist who’s released a contagion into the water supply of the city, as an experiment gone wrong.

I could go on and on, but then you’d get bored.

Anyway, speaking of plot, might I remind you that I’ve got a book releasing on Friday? THE ART OF FANG SHUI is finally going to be set free into the world for all of you to read and enjoy. I’m very excited about this because it was super fun to write and it’s the book that triggered my love of the paranormal.

Wanna know more about it? I’m talking it up at the Nights of Passion blog. Please join me over there!

Or you can already purchase it for your Kindle through Amazon.
Until next week, happy writing and reading kids!


Linda Swift said...

Hi Sandi,
I found your blog very interesting. A lot of food for thought here. Right on.
I wish you much success with your new book release.

P.L. Parker said...

Good morning. This post was great. I loved it. Laughed at the various scenarios. For some reason, while I'm taking my relaxing bath at night, that is when my mind conjures up my stories (based on something I've seen on the Discovery Channel most likely). Anyway, good post and good luck with sales.

Sandra Sookoo said...

Thanks ladies! I'm glad you gained inspiration and laughter :-)

J Hali said...

Good luck, Sandi, I'm going over to rustle up a new recipe. *grins*

carrie-on said...

morning all!

great post Sandi....I like to write plot driven, but am trying to do a character driven one at the moment, so your explanation helped alot!


Annie Nicholas said...

Great plots when are you going to write the time vortex story?

Sandra Sookoo said...

LOL Annie! I'm pretty busy at the moment but the time travel thing has always been at the back of my mind. Maybe someday...

Pamela Hearon said...

A great explanation of the differences between the two. I lo ved all of your plot ideas. Will we be reading any of them in the near future?


Mary Ricksen said...

Sandi, I know where I'm coming if I need some inspiration! The ideas just pop out of your head!

Tiffany Green said...

Wow, super great post. Thanks for the refresher. You've got my juices flowing. (Okay, a little pun intended.)

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Sandra,
Very interesting and informative article.


Sandra Sookoo said...

Thanks everyone for dropping by :-)

Z(Aasiyah/Nolwynn) said...

Great post, Sandi! Loved it. You hit the nail right on the head in every instance!



Jana Richards said...

Hi Sandy,
Thanks for the great post. I guess I'm mostly an "events" or plot driven writer. I always need to start with an event.

Good luck with your new release. I wish you great sales!