Plotting and Structure—A Road Map for Your Writing
Guest Post by Marlene Bateman, author of; For Sale by Owner
When writing, you must know along the way what you’re doing and where you’re going. Plotting provides a proper structure for your story so you don’t drift aimlessly. Structure also helps you avoid major mistakes, resist the temptation to wander off on tangents, and saves time since you won’t have to go back and make constant corrections as you write. By having a clear understanding of what your plot is, and how to make that force work for you, you will have a reliable compass to guide you as you write.
For a plot to be effective, there must be something very specific at stake—something vital. Ask yourself what the central conflict is, the struggle that’s the basis of plot. Then ask yourself how to show, rather than tell, why this is so important to the character and how to best make the reader understand, empathize and care about what happens.
The Three Parts of Plot and Structure
Part One is the Setup. Here, you introduce the protagonist and a dramatic event occurs, which shakes up the protagonist. The beginning of the book is always about the who of the story. Get him out of the ordinary and into confrontation. You’ll want to hook your reader here—make them care about your lead. At this time, present the story world, a little about setting, time, and immediate context. Avoid excessive description, just get right into the story. You’ll want to introduce the opposition at this time. Who or what wants to stop the lead?
Every effective beginning needs to do three things. The chief of these is to get the story going. The second is to introduce and characterize the protagonist. The third is to engage the reader’s interest in reading on. These three jobs are absolutely vital in the first few pages of a novel. You can hook the reader with a revealing opening, promising something to come. Don’t explain, just something a reader can understand immediately just by watching; a parent with a raised hand, a boy swallowing back tears, a middle-aged woman scanning the want ads, etc.
You’ll also need background notes on careers, hobbies, belief systems, etc. This is doing your homework on setting and characters, and is the iceberg below the surface. Your story is supported, sustained by the great mass of information you have researched and collected. You need to know all of this—but the reader doesn’t! Don’t give in to the temptation to include in your story all of your working notes, though they are fascinating to you. The iceberg should stay out of sight to anchor the whole, not weigh it down.
Part Two is the Response. This usually consists of a series of battles between the lead and the opposition. This is where the protagonist responds to the dramatic event and decides what must be done. Here will be the start of confrontation, a series of battles between the Lead and the opposition. This is where subplots blossom, adding complexity. You will deepen character relationships. Here is where you must analyze the stakes. Ask yourself what the Lead will lose if he doesn’t achieve his objective. It must be something that threatens tremendous loss, either physically or emotionally.
In the middle, you broaden the reader’s understanding of a character, by giving a highly selective account of his past. Emphasize just two or three things that are significant to your present story. Important things, not everything. Broaden the reader’s understanding of a character by giving a highly selective account of his past.
The protagonist tries to reach his goal in the middle part of the book, but is thwarted by the opposition. In the middle, the writer needs to keep readers caring about what happens. Continue the subplots and perhaps even tie up some of them. If you want, you can add another level of complication here, such as a hostage who has incriminating evidence against the mob, making it so the mob needs to get that evidence before the cops do. You can also add another character, one that will make the Lead’s life more difficult. It might be a surprise character from the past, or a character who supports the Lead but makes things difficult, or it could be a love interest.
Part Three is the Climax and Resolution. Set up the final battle that will wrap things up. In this part, you will tie up all loose ends. The last pages are critical. The reader will often judge the book on the ending. It’s critical to come up with good stuff. Try to leave your reader with a feeling of resonance. The best endings leave a sense of something behind the confines of the book. What does the story mean in the larger sense?
A Few Other Tips to Keep in Mind Regarding Plot and Structure;
· Make Tension Fuel Your Plot. Without tension, there is no plot. Remember, whenever the protagonist intention is denied, the effect is tension.
· Create Tension through Opposition. The role of the antagonist is to thwart the intention of the protagonist.
· Make Tension Grow as Opposition Increases. It’s a chain of cause and effect, which builds and produces conflict and tension, which you need to keep the story going. Every time something happens, the stakes grow larger, the actions snowball.
· Make Change the Point of Your Story. We expect events to affect the main character in such a way that they force a change in his personality. Your main character should be a different person at the end of the book than at the beginning.
· When Something Happens, Make Sure It’s Important. Plot is your compass. You’ve got a general idea of the direction you’re headed. If you write something that is specifically related to the advancement of the plot, keep it. If not, chuck it.
· Make the Causal Look Casual. Everything in your writing has a reason, a cause that leads to an effect, which in turn becomes the next cause. For example; If a shotgun is necessary, show it casually—in a way that the reader almost doesn’t notice. But when a gun is called for, readers will remember seeing one earlier.
· Make Sure Your Lead Character Performs the Central Action of the Climax. Keep the main character on center stage with the action. Your main character should act, not be acted upon.
Stressed by a year of intense, ongoing problems, McKenzie Forsberg decides to quit her high-powered job and move back to her hometown. Determined to rebuild her life, Kenzie desperately needs the peace and security she is sure will come from buying the home she grew up in. But when she arrives in town, Kenzie discovers that a handsome widower, Jared Rawlins, has already put an offer on the house. However, he can only close the deal if he sells his own house by Christmas Eve.
When Kenzie unexpectedly runs into a couple who are considering buying Jared’s house, she unthinkingly gives them information that changes their mind. Jared, who had been more than a little interested in Kenzie, has second thoughts when he begins to believe Kenzie deliberately tried to sabotage the sale of his home.
Despite his misgivings, and Kenzie’s own concerns, sparks of attraction between Jared and Kenzie grow into something more. Then, Kenzie makes a stunning discovery about her past. In that moment, everything changes. Will the power of love be enough to bring Jared and Kenzie together and allow them to find their happily ever after?
For Sale by Owner is published by Covenant Communication and is available at bookstores such as Deseret Book, Seagull Book, and others. It can also be purchased online at:
Seagull Book; https://goo.gl/yQboNh
My website: www.marlenebateman.info
Marlene Bateman Sullivan was born in Salt Lake City, Utah and grew up in Sandy, Utah. She graduated from the University of Utah with a Bachelor's degree in English. She is married to Kelly R. Sullivan and they live in North Salt Lake, Utah with their two dogs and four cats. Marlene has been published extensively in magazines and newspapers and wrote the best-selling romance/suspense novel, Light on Fire Island. She has written three other mysteries; Motive for Murder, A Death in the Family, and Crooked House.
Marlene has also written a number of LDS, non-fiction books: Latter-day Saint Heroes and Heroines, And There Were Angels Among Them, Visit’s from Beyond the Veil, By the Ministering of Angels, Brigham’s Boys, Heroes of Faith, Gaze into Heaven; Near-death Experiences in Early Church History, and The Magnificent World of Spirits; Eyewitness Accounts of Where We Go When We Die.
This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ