Monday, August 29, 2005

Plotting--Day 8

Wow, Monday already. Welcome back, BGs.

Thanks for the comments left for Friday’s post. Very much appreciated! Y'all make my little heart sing.

First, I need to respond to two questions:

For those of us with full-time jobs, it's tough to spend any time interviewing, watching trials, etc. Do you have suggestions for, say, finding and interviewing a detective or prosecuting attorney? I picture these poor overworked folks saying, "Oh no, not another wannabee writer!"

Finding people to interview may not be as hard as you think. First start with people you know in a related field. If you want to interview a prosecutor, do you know anyone who knows someone in the police department? Or works in the courthouse? You call that person and ask what prosecutor he/she might put you in touch with. You use the name of the person who sent you (with their permission.) You’ll be surprised how many people are willing to give their time. People like to talk about their work. And they’re always glad to hear a novelist wants to “get their field right,” rather than winging it.

Once you interview the prosecutor, ask that person for the name of a defense attorney you could interview. And the name of a homicide detective. Etc. Work one person off another, again using the name of the person who referred you. I’ve done this again and again. For Violet Dawn, for example, I needed to interview someone in law enforcement in a small Idaho town equal to the size of my fictional Kanner Lake. I asked a friend to lives in the Kanner Lake area if she knew anyone. She didn't, but she sent me to a friend. That friend hooked me up with one of her friends—the Chief of Police of just the right Idaho town. That Chief has been wonderful, and not only interviewed with me, but has agreed to read my manuscript to catch law enforcement errors.

Bottom line—you can do it. Somebody you know will know somebody who knows somebody. And that somebody will be just the person you need.

I get my protagonist in a situation the reader thinks is impossible for protag to get out of. The hard part is getting them out of it. How do you go about figuring out the impossible?

Hold tight, Gina, we will continue discussing plotting, including twists. I hope the next few days will help you. Your problem sounds more like one that a seat-of-the-pantser would have. These folks start their story--and don't know what's going to happen. I hope all this talk of plotting isn't boring you SOTP types. Really, if you'll take the time to plot the basics, using the triangle and then the Four D line, you'll still have lots of room to improvise along the way. But you'll be on a clearer path, and will be far less likely to end up with the type of problem Gina has mentioned.

Okay, we’ll pick up from Friday. We left off with holding in our paws quite a few bits of knowledge about the book we’re plotting. We’ve taken triangle information about the protagonist, antagonist and crime (or whatever problem is appropriate for your genre) and proceeded to the Four Ds—Desire, Distancing, Denial, and Devastation. Your character’s Desire, you should already know from the triangle work. Now you start plotting the main points of your story—the three other Ds, and the end of your story.

You might want to start with the end. Many authors find this the easiest, because they already have an idea of how everything is going to turn out. Once you know the character’s Desire, the question about the book’s ending will logically form in your head. Will the character obtain his/her Desire, or not? However this question is answered will form the end of your book—what I call the “answering end.” (Amazingly clever title, don’t you think?) If the character’s Desire is two-pronged (and it should be at least two pronged!), you have numerous possibilities for the ending. One part of the Desire may be fulfilled, and the other not fulfilled. One may be fulfilled in a completely different way than the protagonist expected. The protagonist might not achieve any part of his Desire, or he might achieve all of it. Or he might achieve part or all of it, but at a far greater cost than he was ever willing to pay. On and on to myriad possibilities.

You might hear some writers call endings “positive,” “negative,” or positive/negative.” I’ve heard these terms referring to whether the ending is happy, unhappy, or a combination of both. That’s a bit simplistic way to look at it. What we’re really talking about is whether or not the character achieves his Desire. If he does, the ending is positive; if he doesn’t, it’s negative. And if he achieves only part, or achieves it at too great a cost, or perhaps has the Desire within reach and decides he doesn’t want it anymore—these are examples of positive/negative endings.

Once you figure out the Answering End, you’ve got the last point on your Four Ds line. Way over at the beginning, on the left, you started with Desire. Now at the end, on the right, you have how your story ends. Now alls ya gotta do is figure out how to get from the former point to the latter. Hey, piece a cake, right? Next thing you know, your book will be written.

Tomorrow we begin to tackle the other three Ds.


Unknown said...

Thanks Brandilyn. I'm learning a lot. I'm actually a half-plotter, half SOTP writer. Haven't written myself in a corner yet. But it seems the tougher you make it for your protag to get out of, the tougher you make if for yourself. I guess if it was easy, everyone'd be writing suspense.

Stuart said...

All good stuff Brandylin :)

I tend to have the beginning, end and a few key scenes in mind when I start plotting.

The triangle method is interesting, and I'll have to try it out sometime. Though my books tend to have more than one antagonist and they aren't always exemplified in a single person. :) (Though two do have specific characters rise to the front from time to time).