Plot Walk

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I seem to get stuck–a lot. I’m writing along, and all of a sudden my story takes an odd turn, a character turns up that I have no idea what her purpose is. Or sometimes I have a scene that goes nowhere, or takes a twist that just convolutes the whole story. I’ve set my novels aside for a bit because I can’t figure out why that character showed up, or why my scene decided to take it’s own path.

That’s where the plot walk comes in handy. That happened in Soulfire . I’m writing along and hello there ma’am, what are you doing here and how do fit in my story. I only wanted to take Zephenia for a stroll through the market place when, Rachael showed up. I left her in the story, mainly because I was intrigued by her back story and her association with my main character. It wasn’t until I was near the end of the story that she was a key element for the twist that happens toward the end of the book. Discovered that on a plot walk. I’m not going to tell you, you’ll just have to read the book. By the way, you can purchase the book in soft bound or Kindle on Amazon here.

Another story that took a weird turn was Identity. I wrote a scene intended to have a character murdered. As I fleshed him out a little more on a plot walk, I just grew too fond of–rather, I fell in love with Brent. If you’ve read this story, you know why I just couldn’t kill off such an amazing, loyal man. So I killed his wife instead and pinned the blame on him. That made for an interesting twist in the story, for sure. You can order a copy here.

Currently, I’m working on a fantasy series called Mystic’s Tale. I only meant for it to be three books, but somehow I’ve ended up wanting to write more. And again, I just couldn’t figure out who the real bad guy was. That’s when I took my hubby and future daughter-in-law with me on a plot walk.

Now you really want me to tell you what a plot walk is. That’s where I take a stroll and use whoever is with me as a sounding board. It’s usually just my hubby. He always offers such great ideas. This time, there was total synergy as the three of us hashed things out. Both offered great twists to the plot.

So if you get stuck, take someone with you on a walk and bounce ideas around. It just might help unstick your writing. Now I can hardly wait to get back to my story.

What do you do when you’re stuck writing?

Pantsing Verses Plotting

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Do you think about your novel for weeks on end? Do you lay out the chapters and scenes in great detail before you ever begin writing? Or are you the kind or writer that sits at the computer and declares to the empty page that you will create an amazing story as you go? Or are you like me, and think about your story a lot, but then let the organic feel of discovery often take over your characters?

I’ve tried plotting, honestly I have, you know, using plot points, pitch points, midway….etc. But when it comes down to it, I love to discover what my characters are going to do next. One of my favorite characters is Rachael from Soulfire. I outlined the whole story, after all, it was my first real novel. And then somewhere between chapter one and chapter two Zephenia, my main character, met Rachael in the market place. I had no idea who she was and what she was doing in my story. I left her in, not quite knowing what to do with her.

Long about chapter four I had this great AHA!!!! moment. Now of course if I tell you who Rachael really is I’d spoil the end of the book. So you’ll just have to read it and find out. But my point is that often times the joy of discovering the story has such an organic feel to it, and I love that.

I’ve started another story and every time I try to plot it nothing is working. Where is my characters mid point? What is her first crisis? These are things I just can’t seem to solidify. So I wrote chapter one, with no real idea if I’d even started my story in the right place. But I decided I’d try this one completely pantsing it. And guess what? I’m really enjoying the process much more than if I’d plotted it out. I even woke up in the middle of the night, sat up and said, “His name is Trevon and he’s a scoundrel.” That’s the character who showed up in this book. I even think I know who he is, but for new he’s a knight in not so shining armor (literally).

Will I have to revise this new story because I didn’t plot it? Most likely, but that’s okay, too.

So whether you are a strict plotter, a loose pantser or somewhere in between, writing is about enjoying the craft.

Why do we need story structure?

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Some people think that story structure makes every story the same, that it limits creativity. K. M. Weiland compared story structure this way: “Because every ballet incorporates the same movements, therefore, every ballet must be the same.” If you’ve ever been to a ballet, you know that the same type movements are incorporated in every dance, yet each dance is as unique in style and execution as each story.

So where do we begin with our story structure. Dan Wells likes to begin with the end in mind, or at the end of the book. Know where you’re going is a great place to start. For instance, if you know that you want to have your main character strong at the end of the book, then he will probably start with him weak. If your character is lonely, then your character will end with having friends. Look at your character and figure out what your character will be like by the end of the book. So starting at the end of the book will give you direction throughout your story.
Now that you know how your book ends you’ll want to start with a great hook. After all, if you want your reader to make it all the way to the end of the book, you want to start with some something that draws your reader in and makes you care about him, and the sooner you can make this happen in your story the better. The best place for a hook is certainly by the end of the first chapter, but even better if it’s on the first page or what about the first paragraph? The best of all is a beginning sentence that completely sucks us helplessly into the book.
Act I
After your great hook you launch right into Act I. Here is where we get to know the characters, what’s at stake for them? What does the main character stand to lose. And most importantly is why we should care.
Inciting Incident
This is the part of the story where we are faced with a conflict or crisis. Always in the first part of Act I. This is usually something that happens to the character that he has no control of. The main character merely follows along because he has no choice.

Plot Point 1
The first plot point is an event that changes everything and becomes a personal turning point for the main character.
The first major plot point is one of the most exciting moments in any story. Hit your character with something so cataclysmic that your readers will keep turning pages. This again will be something that forces the character to react.
Act II (the first half)
At this point the character is still reactionary. He reacts strongly to what is happening around him. This also needs to be a foreshadow of how things will play out.
Midpoint-halfway
This is almost exactly halfway through your story. At this point something drastic needs to happen to your character that forces him to act instead of react. It’s the point when the character takes control of what is happening. Even if he is powerless to change events, he now takes charge of his actions.
2nd half of Act II
This is the character’s epiphany, his self-realization. It’s his “Aha” moment. From here until the climax is where things really start to roll at a break-neck pace. Make sure that the character is changing and growing, perhaps in unexpected ways. Pay attention to his relationships to other characters.
Act III-No escape
This is the point in which all seems lost. The main character faces the antagonist. There is no escape.
Climax
The climax of a story is at the end of the No Escape and should have readers on the edges of their seats, biting their nails. At the end of the climax is the victory, in happy-ever-after stories, or the death in tragic books.
Resolution
This part of the book that ties up any loose ends. It’s the character’s reactions and shows him moving forward with his life as a forever changed person. It’s the last time the author has to leave his reader with any final thoughts or feelings. It can be a reiteration of the theme.


One final thought on resolutions. There are two kinds of resolution. One is external conflict like the kind we have in a plot driven novel and the other is internal conflict like that found in a character driven novel. And as Dan Wells so brilliantly put it, “If you can have both types of conflict in your novel, your book will be even that more powerful.”
Now with all that said, go check out story structure by visiting Dan Wells on YouTube. Be sure to watch all 5 episodes. You will learn so much!

What do you find the best way to structure you story? Are there any elements you add to your structure?