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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: plot templates, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Storytelling: One Surprising Approach to Plotting

Find Darcy Pattison Books in the iBook Store

Plotting is probably the hardest thing I do. I can explain to you 29 different plot templates. And I often write about plotting a novel. Theory, I know. And I know that I can plot a story pretty well. It’s just HARD.

The problem is that there are a series of inter-connected scenes which build to a climax. The structure of events, though, needs to progress from an introduction of a character goal, dramatizing problems and obstacles to getting that goal, and then, finally some resolution, either a happy or sad ending.

OK. I can slot events into a novel structure from a structural viewpoint. For example, at the mid-point of a story, the hero’s journey, the Snowflake method and other plot paradigms might ask you to provide a bleak moment for the main character. There should be a mini-death: the death of hope–the character will never reach your goal; the death of a feeling of safety, and so on.

Knowing that is easy. The exact type of mini-death that is best for the current WIP, and figuring out how to dramatize that event (Show, Don’t Tell), is hard.

Storytellers Statue on Buena Vista Street in Disney California Adventure Park. One of the most amazing American storytellers that ever lived.

Storytellers Statue on Buena Vista Street in Disney California Adventure Park. One of the most amazing American storytellers that ever lived.

We are in the Business of Storytelling

What’s my answer to this straight-laced method of working? Storytelling.
Several articles recently reminded me that I am not just a writer, but a writer of stories. I am getting way to hung up on the theory and I am forgetting that i can just tell the story and have fun with it. Sure–I know that certain plot elements will make the story stronger, but those things are killing my joy in writing. So, I started telling my story.

Once upon a time, there were two water worlds. One world—Rison by name—was dying, the result of misguided scientists trying to act as God and control the natural forces of the planet. The inhabitants knew their time was limited and sought a refuge, a new home. The other water world—called Earth—caught the Risonian’s attention because the inhabitants only lived on land. Surely, they could share their water, the only place the creatures from the dying world would ask for.
Ah, but therein lies the problem. Sharing.

How do creatures put aside their own fears and self-interest and share? And, how can creatures do so willingly? When would the long-term benefits outweigh the short-term problems.

This could cause a war: if you don’t give us room on your planet, maybe we’ll just take over your planet.

The voice isn’t right. There’s not an opening scene. But right now, none of that matters because I don’t know the story. The first draft is to tell you the story; every draft after that is the question of how to craft the story in the most dramatic and compelling way for your readers. Right now, I’m just trying to tell a story. Crafting that into a novel will come later. Come. Listen to my story. . .

A side note: Did you know that if you have an iPhone, you can ask Siri to tell you a bedtime story. She’s told me so many bedtime stories, that she refuses to do it again–unless I beg.

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2. 3-Act Structure: Solving a Top-Heavy Problem

Using the 3-Act Structure: Adjusting Expectations

Most writers use a 3-act structure and for good reason. It works.

  • Act 1:
    25% of the length, sets up the story conflict and ends when the main character (MC) commits to doing something about the conflict.
  • Act 2:
    50% of the length, develops and deepens the conflict and ends when the main character begins to make a last, heroic effort to solve the problem.
  • Act 3:
    25% of length, is the last attempt to solve the problem and eventually ends in either success or failure (tragedy).

Top-heavy manuscripts fall over!

Looking at my WIP, I had structured it as a quest, which meant that Act 2 should begin at the point where MC crosses over into a new fantasy world. But that point was coming MUCH later, maybe half-way through the novel.

Somehow, in all the revisions, the structure has become top-heavy. Skimming those chapters or laying them out in a shrunken manuscript revealed that several scenes repeated; there was escalation with each repetition, so it wasn’t all bad. Still, I wondered if I could cut a considerable chunk from the first section.

Today, I cut 2000 words! Hurrah!

But, with a sinking feeling, I realized that it is still top-heavy. Could I stand to cut another 8000 words? Probably not. That would gut too much of the emotion and story.

Restructure the 3 Acts

The only answer then, is that I must restructure the story, must think about it differently, set it up differently. Fortunately, there are 29 plot variations or plot templates and at least three types of character arcs. Will one of those work?

As is, it’s set up as a quest: now in a quest, there should be character growth and often what the character sets out to discover is not what they need, not what they find. But it’s that definitely stepping into a “new world” that is bothering me in this story. The new world can’t be the fantasy world they find in the story because that now comes at about halfway through the story.

IF I consider this a story about maturation, and not a quest, then the current structure is very close. At page 21, out of 80 (single spaced, small font—just the way I like to work; I will reformat before I send it out), there is a first step of defiance of Father, a step into the world of adulthood, if you will. That’s about the 25% point and works perfectly. Likewise, the rest of the plot points fall into line.

Making this type shift is subtle: it’s not about the plot or actions, per se. Instead, it’s about setting up expectations in a reader’s mind. They intuitively understand this deep structure of dividing a story into acts, and subconsciously expect it to happen. If I set up the story, with subtle word changes, as a story of maturation, I think it will work. That crucial transition from Act 1 to Act 2 will be the move into the world of adulthood, of bei

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