Friday, August 26, 2005

Plotting--Day 7

Yowsa, it’s Friday!

First, two comments from yesterday:

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 alibi. My head is already swimming with every thing I need to keep track of. No wonder you feel insane. I feel I'm on my way.

Heh-heh. Insanity looooves company.

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!!

Thanks, Gina. It was written to be an inspiration. Hang in there on your own journey. You’ll make it.

BGs, I want to tell those of you who take the time to leave comments/questions how very much I appreciate it. The number of responses to my blog is always a very small percentage of the readership we have here, and I want to encourage more of you to chime in. A blog is best when it’s interactive. When you leave questions, comments, when you challenge me and say “I don’t agree,” we all can benefit. My counter numbers show me that nearly everyone who reads the blog takes the time to also read the comments page. Plus, many times I’m mighty tired when I post, and seeing feedback the next day helps encourage me to keep the blog going. So don’t be shy. You can always post anonymously if you want to.

Okay, back to plotting. We’ve got our triangle outline (adapted to your needs as you see fit). And I’ve talked about the dual writing pattern in my books, because my stories are all about twists. Any of you who’ve read my suspense books will know what I’m talking about. I’ve not given specific examples from my books because I don’t want to give any of the story twists away for those who haven’t read them. (Although surely every BG among us has read at least ONE of my novels. I mean—surely.)

Once my basic triangle work is done, I know details about the crime, the protagonist and the antagonist, but I still don’t know the story. How’s everything going to unfold? And how’s it going to end? Is the protagonist going to obtain her Desire or not? At this point I switch from the triangle to the line of plotting I call the Four Ds—Desire, Distancing, Denial, Devastation. Ah, yes—that Desire word again. I talk about the Four Ds in the Action Objectives chapter in Getting Into Character. For those who haven’t read GIC, a quick summary.

Desire—(really, do I have to explain this one to you again?) Desire is what the character wants, the motivation that will propel him/her through the story. If you’re new to this blog, go back in the archives (either in August or July) and look for the series of posts on Desire. Everything in the story rests on the protagonist’s Desire. Once you know precisely what she wants, you can begin to build in conflict that will keep her from obtaining that Desire.

From the triangle outline, I already have discovered the Desires of my antagonist and my protagonist. Naturally, these Desires will be diametrically opposed to one another.

Distancing—the series of conflicts that push the character further and further off the direct path toward achieving his/her Desire. Distancing conflicts form the bulk of your story.

Denial—the point in the story at which it seems all is lost. Obtaining of the Desire will be denied, and the character might as well give up. The Denial is the opposite of the Desire. For example, if a character wants to survive, it looks like he surely will die. If he wants to win a certain prize, it looks like he’ll never win it. If he wants to stop a crime from happening, it will happen anyway. Etc.

Devastation—turning the Denial on its head. Something even worse than the Denial. Just when the character thinks things can’t get any worse . . . they do. For example, the character who wants to survive, then nearly dies, now is faced with the chance to live—but his beloved will have to die in his place. The character who wanted to win a certain prize now not only will never win it, but the prize will be awarded to his worst enemy, who will use it to wield power over him forever. The person who wanted to stop a crime from happening not only will see it about to happen—but to one of his own children.

You get the picture. The Devastation is the ultimate torture of your character. Bottom line, it’s taking the Denial of the character’s Desire and making it worse. Once the threat of Devastation hits the protagonist, she will have to fight like never before to get herself back on the path toward obtaining her Desire.

For my suspenses, the point of Devastation for the protagonist will likely be the ultimate twist of the story. Once I get my triangle work done, I turn to figuring out what this twist/Devastation will be.

I hope I don’t leave y’all thoroughly confused over the weekend about these Four Ds. If you have a copy of Getting Into Character, you can take another look at the simple drawings that depict the plotting line of Desire, Distancing, Denial and Devastation. If you don’t have GIC, imagine a straight line, with Desire at the left end, and Obtaining the Desire at the right end. Distancing conflicts push the protagonist upwards, off that straight line. Each new conflict pushes the protagonist further up and away from the line. The Denial pushes the protagonist up and even backwards. The Devastation pushes even further up and back, so the protagonist is now at a point even left of where she started. She’s got longer than ever to get back to that line that will take her to achieving her Desire.

If you’re lost, please leave a question. We’ll pick this up Monday.

Read Part 8


Unknown said...

My question is about research. So you may end up postponing the answer for another topic. 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!"

Unknown said...

I too have a question. I get my protagonist in a situation the reader thinks is impossible for protag to get out of.

That's easy enough.
The hard part is getting them out of it. How do you go about figuring out the impossible? So glad I discovered your blog. You are an amazing teacher!

Domino said...

I love the four Ds. I have GIC and always skipped the drawings because they didn't make sense to me. However, this blog makes a lot of sense and brings my story into focus for me.

I wrote out my four Ds and it sounds like a mini-synopsis.

I added an H to the four Ds. After Denial, I added Hope. After she gives up her Desire, the hero brings new life to her dead desire - and off they run to obtain their victory. Then the final Devastation comes.

Of course in a synopsis, I would add in the happy ever after ending.

Dineen A. Miller said...

Branilyn, I'm making a comment about Thursday's post here. I just finished Stain of Guilt (already started Dead of Night). You are amazing at those twists. Just before the halfway mark in Stain, I had an ah-ha! moment and knew who did it, just because of body language in this character. Then you threw all this stuff in the way and made me doubt, just like you said in the blog. And I stayed doubtful until the very end! Excellent! Can't wait to finish Dead of Night. Your books keep getting better and better.

Anonymous said...

One think I really like in learning about writing is how different people think of similar elements in different ways. You have the 4 Ds. Debra Dixon has the GMC, James Scott Bell has the LOCK system. Each is a slightly different approach, but I take something away from each of them. Many times, hearing someone take a different approach on an issue I've heard before causes an "aha!" moment for me.

Just one more thing to appreciate about the quirky ways our minds function.

Anonymous said...


Do you ever feel like your building a layer cake with no end in sight? I'm sure getting there? Learning so much from you and others that is making my book stronger. Each layer will make it richer. So thanks for all the time on plotting.

Cara PUtman

Pammer said...

This is helping me with my wip since I am rewriting (perfect timing eh? especially since I will be taking the rewriting classes at the conference). I started putting writing related articles in my blog and decided to tackle plotting, although I am just learning myself. That is the day you started plotting here, so I am pointing people that read my blog to your blog for plotting tips and advice (I hope you don't mind.). Thanks a bunch for making such a confusing topic understandable. The outline is great.
My assignment for this weekend is to review GIC. :0)