In my last post I talked about how it’s character that makes each story unique, not plot, and ran over some of the history of human endeavor trying to codify story-forms and my personal creed of creating characters. However, characters don’t exist in a vacuum. They require a plot in which to exist, space in which to gain momentum and careen and bounce off the walls and other people.
The reality of publishing is that most modern commercial fiction – read as genre fiction – is plot driven. How do you write compelling plots?
A plot is only effective as its cast or dramatis personae, the protagonist(s), antagonist(s), and supporting characters. If a main character is flat or unrealized, then the plot will be sluggish. If I’m writing a horror novel and my audience has no engagement with my characters, then I can place the characters in [...]
Continue reading John Hornor Jacobs: A Few Thoughts on Plotting
James R. Tuck
Character and Plot. The two things you need to make a book. (Please don’t cite me examples of books that have one but not the other. Those are outliers and not the main thrust of books.) Generally speaking those are the requirements.
Now for most folks, myself included, character is actually pretty easy. They come swaggering up in our heads all badass and near fully fleshed out. The plots? They’re a different story. Plots are tricky little devils and hard to get hold of sometimes.
But that’s because we overthink them.
We do. As writers our brains are moving 90 to nothing and cruising top speed down multiple tracks. We mix our plot up with the following things: Character, Backstory, World-building, Themes, and Motives.
But we don’t need that for the actual plot.
The plot is the skeleton you hang all that meat [...]
Continue reading PLOTTING WITH BUNNIES (or whatever other animal you like. Want a hippopotamus? By all means, plot with hippos.)
This week I will begin writing Dead Man’s Reach, the fourth book in the Thieftaker Chronicles. For those of you who are fans of the series, don’t panic. Book three, A Plunder of Souls, is not yet out and won’t be for close to a year. Authors are almost always at least a full book ahead of the publication schedule. On the other hand, if you haven’t yet read book two, Thieves’ Quarry, all I can say is what the hell are you waiting for…?
I spent part of last week outlining the book, and thought that I would return to the subject of outlines and pantsing, since it is something that still comes up quite a bit on this site and also in panels. I know that we talk about there being no single right way to do any of this, and I still believe that. But in this [...]
Continue reading On Writing: Outlining Vs. Pantsing Revisited
James R. Tuck
Whew to the Dragoncon.
I miss it. I miss my peeps. It is always awesome seeing my fellow magical words family although Dragoncon is SO busy we only get to spend minutes together. (Lucienne, I still owe you that drink and AJ I didn’t even SEE you) But after Faith and John ‘s excellent con reports I have decided that this will NOT be about Dragoncon.
Instead I am going to talk to you about writing. (Inspired by a panel at Dragoncon)
I know, crazy right?
Let’s talk about character. Character is story. Some of you are looking at me going: “No James, PLOT is story. Characters are the subject of story.”
You’re kinda right, but not really. You see your plot is determined by your characters decisions. Every character, from the main protagonist to the most minor walk on character can radically change your story if they make their [...]
Continue reading OMG WRITING Y’ALL (or not another con report)
Protagonists are the reader’s conduit into the story — without them, the story pretty much wouldn’t exist. Often I think there are two ways writers come up with characters: either the characters come first to mind and you then figure out what story to build around them, or you come up with a story and you then figure out what character to put into it.*
Either way, at the end of the day what you want to end up with is the right character for the right story (or the right story for the right character). There should be a reason *this* character has to tell (or experience) *this* story. There’s an interlocking relationship there. If we can pull out the character from a story and replace them with someone else without affecting the story, then the relationship between plot and character isn’t strong enough. The same is [...]
Continue reading On the relationship between plot and character
Last week, we talked about backstory, about ways to fold in information about our characters’ past, in ways that don’t bore our readers to tears. This week, I want to share some techniques for examining backstory in works in progress.
Character Sketches: Many authors create extensive character sketches prior to writing a novel. For purposes of practicing your backstory, challenge yourself to create a new type of character sketch. Record only those character elements that are vital for the current story. Rank those elements, in terms of importance. Consider where you can seed those elements into the main narrative, planting the least important items first, then the more important ones, ending with the final element that makes the entire character make sense.
This exercise will help you to identify the elements of backstory that are truly important. It will help you to spread out those elements throughout your work, rather [...]
Continue reading Continuing the Backstory — Writing Exercises
Diana Pharaoh Francis
In the last two weeks since my last post I have been moving. Packing, cleaning, unpacking, driving many many miles (about 4000) and generally going a bit frantic. The odd thing is that I’ve been managing to squeeze in some writing. A lot of the writing has been the kind where you stare out into space, or down the road over miles and miles. The daydreaming has been for the current WIP is that I really don’t know the plot. I dislike that intensely. I want to know where I’m going. The funny thing is that I have all sorts of subplots and a lot of side characters. I just don’t know what the central plot is. I know what part of the conflict is, but after that, it’s murk.
So I’ve been doing the staring-off-into-space method of writing. In this method, I’ve been thinking through potential scenes, character conflicts, [...]
Continue reading daydreaming method of writing