Friday, July 22, 2005

I Got Questions, Day 3

It’s Friday!

I’m continuing with some questions from Wednesday. Don’t want to forget them amidst the new ones from yesterday.

I've been thinking about beginnings again, but with a twist. I'm writing a trilogy--the 3 books, 1 story kind. In many respects, the inciting incident of book two occurred in chapter 1 of book 1. In your opinion, should there be a secondary inciting incident? Also, the characters are the same. How much reintroduction should there be? (Something I'm sure you face in a series).

In a series, typically each book needs to stand as its own entity. I know there are exceptions to this, where book one ends and there’s really no resolution; you have to go on to book two. But it’s not something I would suggest for a first-time author. So yes, your second book needs its own inciting incident. As for reintroducing characters, you do need to do some of that. You can’t assume your reader has read book one. If he/she is picking up book 2 first, they need to understand who's who. Also, even when a reader has read book 1, it may be a year before book 2 hits the shelves, and a reader won’t remember everything about the characters.

Oh, yeah, one more question. How come Blogger doesn't remember me any more?

I have no idea. Are others having problems with this?

My question is, (and this may turn into NES part 2!) how do you plot out your story? After you finish kicking the cabinets, etc. Could you take us step by step through the "BC (that's you) plotting a book strategy"?

Oh, haha, no second NES here. Truth is, I don’t have much of a strategy. I come up with the premise, I decide what the final twist will be, then I figure out how to make that twist believable, and what twists need to add up to it. And, of course, I discover who my characters are. I do tend to write some things on note cards, but once I’ve written it, the stuff is in my head, and I probably will never even look at those cards again.

I have tried to follow others’ formulas. I just can’t do it. Maybe it’s because I have developed an innate sense of what it takes to build a story, so trying to build something point by point isn’t really necessary. But I so wish it worked for me. Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake method sounds wonderful. I’ve tried it for two books. I can’t make it work, even though it’s great for many people. So I just flounder around until I finally get what I know I can use. And still, the finer nuances of the story don’t happen until I’m writing.

Sounds bad, doesn’t it. Evidently I have no idea how to plot. Am I fired from being your blogger?

Here's a short paragraph from my wip. POV character is the pastor...
Sandra drew near, every motion fluid, gaze fixed on the blonde imp wriggling under Pastor Gillespie’s grasp. The gentle scent of wildflowers wafted through the air as he rose. Was that the sweet fragrance of heaven he detected?
Is this telling or showing?

It’s showing. You’ve used some interesting verbs and described well enough to set the scene. You’ve used more than one of the senses. No telling problems here.

Here's another "rule" question. Active and passive verbs. There are times when I think a passive verb is more appropriate. For example, when a character starts something that won't be finished before another character begins a new action. For example, from my current wip (going from memory here):

My hero is getting an "offer he can't refuse" over his cell phone. My heroine is standing next to him, listening in:

"I'd like to make a proposal that we can both profit from, Mr. Keane." Megan produced a notepad and began scribbling furiously.

Ryan scowled. "I'm not much of a businessman, pal.

"The notepad appeared in front of his eyes. "Accept his offer" was written across it.

So, my point here is where Megan "began scribbling." Is that appropriate because she doesn't complete the action until after the next paragraph? Or, as my crit partners tell me, it should be "Megan scribbled..."?

I’m a little confused here, because you started out talking about active vs. passive verbs, but your question ended up being about the “began” verb. A “began” verb isn’t passive. Active verb means the subject is doing the action. Passive verb means the subject is being done unto by someone else. Your last sentence ("Accept his offer" was written across it) is a passive verb.

As for began scribbling rather than scribbling—“began” is a weak verb. That’s why we’re told to avoid it. And you should, in most cases. Rarely is it needed. In this case it would be better without it. Scribbled is a verb that implies a continuance of motion, if only for a few seconds. So “began” doesn’t really add anything.

I went back and looked at the one time I used “began” in our AS edit, and now looking at it with fresh eyes, I’d delete the word there, too, even though there are plenty of strong verbs around it. The word just isn’t needed.

This isn't to say never use began. There are always exceptions to the guidelines you'll hear. That's why they're guidelines, not rules. I'm far too independent and stubborn to like rules anyway. (Just ask my mother.)

And now I’m up to date on all BG questions. And guess what, the weekend cometh. Methinks I shall have to come up with a topic for Monday. Hm . . .


Ron Estrada said...

Thanks BC. I see I'm confused between active, passive, and weak verbs. Now I see why my partners are kicking my tail on this.

Lynette Eason said...

Ha, No, you're not fired.

Actually, I'm completely relieved as that is pretty much how I write also. I thought maybe something was wrong with me since I couldn't get Randy's snowflake method to really work right and sticking to Ron's 13 points made me bleary - although it did give me some good direction. I just can't seem to make it work the way it's supposed to...

So, no, you've made my day! And you OBVIOUSLY know how to plot...that's why I asked that question...'I wanna be just like you when I grow up.'...hehehe


Cara Putman said...

Brandilyn, I continue to learn so much from this Blog. Thanks for taking the time and energy to write it. I can't wait to see what the new topic is... I have a feeling the weekend will drag :-)

ValMarie said...

Brandilyn, the break for questions was fun. Lots of interesting little things on one page.

For the bloggee who said that Blogger didn't remember them anymore, did you recently delete all your cookies on your internet browser? Because that will do it.

Karen Wevick said...

Thanks Brandilyn. I enjoy reading the blog every day and I'm learning a lot. It's great to get it in bite size pieces.

Becky said...

Valmarie, thanks for weighing in about my Blogger problem. No, I haven't deleted any cookies, and the thing is, on other Blogger sites I am still remembered (but not all). The look here is slightly different--no place to check "remember me"--so I thought it was a Blogger deal, but maybe something the site owner could choose (since I don't have a blog, I really don't know how it all works).

Brandilyn, thanks for your input re story beginning. Yeah, I do not recommend trilogies as the way to break into publication. Hahah--problem was, when I started writing, there was soooooo much I didn't know ...

Lee Ellen said...

Hi Brandilyn,
I love your blog! It is my favorite. Thanks for taking the time to share.

Dineen A. Miller said...

Brandilyn, I'm right there with you on those 'rules.' Makes me hot under the collar, but I'm trying to behave since I'm not pubbed YET. And I do respect them, I really do…really…uhum. :-)

C.J. Darlington said...

I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who couldn't make Randy's snowflake method work (sorry, Randy!). In fact, I didn't even try because I knew it was totally going to mess me up. I find that when I plan too much I freeze up. Don't know why. I wish I could have my whole plot outlined and ready for me to just write the scenes, but it just doesn't seem to work. Yet. Maybe this will change as I grow in my writing.

Let's see. Have you come up with a topic for Monday yet? What about if you shared with us one of YOUR paragraphs that your editor said must change? And how you fixed it? Just an idea, of course. :-)