Thursday, August 25, 2005

Plotting--Day 6

Well, here ’tis Thursday, the downside of the work week. However, I am not working this week. I haven’t told y’all I’m on vacation in our Idaho home. Have been since last Friday when my family came up to stay until Labor Day. Now you see why I was working like mad to finish Violet Dawn last week. I didn’t want to be working when I needed to be spending time with the family. My husband works ridiculous hours and travels quite a bit, so when we set aside vacation time, it’s sacrosanct. Except that I have faithfully continued to write this here blog. :)

Responding to some comments/questions from yesterday:

My crime is a kidnapping, not a murder...yet. No one finds a body, only clues that someone has disappeared. Does this complicate the plotting especially since there really isn't a crime scene to investigate?

There’s a lot to investigate when a person goes missing. Lots of people need to be interviewed. Who saw the person last? That person will be high on the cops’ list of people needing to be cleared. A photo and info is disseminated to media. Depending upon the type of disappearance (when and where the person was seen last), search dogs and/or cadaver dogs may be called in. The area where the person was last seen will be thoroughly searched. Lots of protocol here. Don’t worry, you have plenty to work with for your book. You will need to interview police to understand what would be done in the situation you’ve chosen for your story. Even if your story doesn’t center around the police investigation, but more around characters tied to the missing person, these characters will find themselves caught up in the investigation. So you’ll have to include at least some aspects of the investigation in order to have a believable story.

I like the outline. I'm going to take it and view my stories through its order-producing lens. There are lots of possible variations to make for other types of novel. Sometimes there isn't a bad guy; instead the antagonist is a society, machine or natural disaster.

Oh, absolutely. In my suspenses, the antagonist is going to be a bad guy. But antagonists come in all different forms. Adapt the basic triangle idea to your needs.

Hi, Brandilyn. I started reading your blog about a week ago and read through all the posts about how you got here. Thank you for sharing your story; God truly is amazing, and it was good to hear how He helped one writer get published, even though it took a long time! Where are you from in Kentucky?

Lyndsay, so glad you’ve joined us. But you cheated, you know. The BGs who’ve been here since way back had to read that story day by day and be left hanging overnight—and sometimes over the weekend—to see what happened next. You got to sail right over the hooks. :) As for Kentucky, I grew up in Wilmore (close to Lexington), home to Asbury College and Seminary.

Okay, yesterday I promised you more “dual mazes” talk. Here’s the skinny. Remember, this is for my books. It may not apply to yours—yet. But who knows, you just may find yourself in the same sanity-bending situation some day. (If you’re writing suspense, you’d doggone better have some surprises.)

I may begin to sound like I’m digressing here. Actually, I’m, er . . . laying the foundation. There. Sounds a bit more erudite.

My stories are known for their twists. (We will talk about creating twists soon. You see, there is a method to my madness.) So in my plotting, I always have to figure out what the final twist will be, and then what the smaller twists will be along the way. My goal is to surprise the reader. Now, this gets harder and harder, because my readers keep getting smarter. See, they know what I’m up to. They got this little “figure-it-out” gig goin’ on every time they pick up a Brandilyn Collins book. And, oh, do I hear it when one of ’em figures something out ahead of time! The person is so doggone proud of himself (or herself), that he just has to let me and the world know. And it’s often preceded by some statement like, “You’re probably going to hate me for this, but . . . ”


Let me set y’all wonderful BGs straight. I will not “hate” you for figuring out something in my plot ahead of time. I will not even be disappointed. Somebody better figure at least part of the twists out. If nobody figured out anything ahead of time in my books, I’d worry that I didn’t include enough foreshadow. Yes, I hide my foreshadow in all sorts of dastardly ways, heh-heh. But it’s there. And somebody who’s really paying attention just might see it. Of course, everyone is supposed to see it once they’ve finished the book-----ye ol’ hindsight being 20/20. (“Oh, for heaven’s sake, it was right in front of me all the time—why didn’t I get it?”)

When I teach on writing suspense, I remind students that they will be writing to a wide spectrum of readers. On one end of the spectrum is the first-time suspense reader, who has no idea how to spot clues and will only recognize them if they’re humongous. On the other end of the spectrum is the person who reads suspense/mysteries constantly and is highly cognizant of clues. The latter is what I call the “smart” reader of my books.

With such a wide diversity of readers, who do I write to? Somewhere in the middle? Uh-uh. Always, always, I write for the very smartest reader.

The smart reader will keep me on my toes. This is the reader who will demand that my foreshadow/red herrings/clues be well balanced. Therefore, in writing to this reader, I keep my foreshadow/clues veiled. And, practically speaking, the majority of my readers are the “smart” readers, because they are regular consumers of suspense. If they’ve read my books before, they are particularly aware of the mind-bending roller coaster ride I aim to take them on. I do expect that some of these readers will guess one or more of my twists. Some may guess the ultimate twist. And that’s okay. Because you see, for these readers, it’s a game. They don’t mind guessing the twist. In fact, as I’ve said, they’re proud when they get it right. But they have to be highly entertained—and highly challenged—along the way. And, even if they guess the ultimate twist, I still want to surprise them with something. I will include things in the story that will cause these folks to doubt their guess for a time. I want to jerk these readers around a bit. And believe me, if they’re jerked, the rest of the readers are thoroughly twisted.

Now. Are you beginning to see the conundrum I place myself in? Why I find my stories so very difficult to write? I am writing two stories in one. I am writing the story I want the reader to think happened. And I am writing what actually happened. Everything in the story—including events, dialogue, character thoughts and perceptions—must fit either scenario. And sometimes I have more than two scenarios going. I can have three, or four, or whatever. As the writer who knows all about the story, I must always keep in mind what the reader only knows. I have to remember what I want the reader to think, while I know the whole truth. If I change one detail in the surface story—and this could be as little as a single word in some cases—I can throw off the details in the underlying, what-really-happened story.

See? I do have a reason for being insane.

More madness tomorrow.

Read Part 7


Gina Conroy said...

Great post on plotting and twists. I'm getting to the point in my WIP where I'm trying to cast suspicion on the Red Herring and must make sure he doesn't have a great alibie. My head is already swimming (Yes, a floating body part)with every thing I need to keep track of. No wonder you feel insane. I feel I'm on my way.

Unknown said...

Hey, Gina's of the web unite! (Sorry.)

I hope it's okay to comment about a previous post. I went back and read your NES (never ending saga). Oh my goodness. I wanted to cry for you. I've been writing for 8 years, novels for only 2 and wouldn't you know I feel sorry for myself sometimes because it ain't happening fast enough.

Shame on me. That is the most amazing story. I'm going to post about the long road to publishing on my blog tomorrow and direct every writer who feels like giving up over to read your story.

What an inspiration!!