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I am a writer - late developer since I wasn't published until I was 50. I have now written 23 novels, numerous short stories and articles.

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Tuesday, 3 November 2009
How I envy the plotters. I imagine the security they must feel as they embark on their novel, no false starts or ending up in cul-de-sacs of dead plot ideas. There it is, all laid out for them, their journey secure. However, the devil in me thinks how boring! I would hate to know what is going to happen and from that I work on the principle that if it surprises and amuses me hopefully it will do the same for my readers. So, I’ve no idea how to plan a plot, sorry. But I can tell you the principle of plotting and what makes a successful plot and the dangers to look out for. There are books which are driven by plot and those that are character led. Scott Fitzgerald said “plot is character and characters plot.” This is true but then not strictly true. There are books which are led by their characters and what they get up to makes the plot. However there are novels with abstract concepts, there are thrillers, crime, science fiction books with more plot than characterisation. Plot. A plot is created from significant events which create consequences which enable the plot to evolve and for it to continue. Plot grows and changes in the telling. It is driven by these events. Character led. It is what it says, it is the characters and what happens to them which controls the events which unfold and the story develops out of the characters experiences. There may be one main character, there might be a group, but all are on a journey of some sort – emotional or intellectual. And, as in life, along the way, these characters change, evolve and reach a conclusion, a solution. But, it is not a case of simply relating what is happening to them, there needs to be a framework – consequences appear which create tensions, which enables the story to evolve. And when character led it is essential that the reader cares about the characters and can identify with them. Don’t forget though, that to care does not simply mean to be concerned but can also mean that one cares that they get their just deserts if you’ve chosen to write a baddy. And you would be wise, simply because you’ve created a fabulous character, not to try to fit them into a plot where they don’t belong. All my novels are character led for it suits middle market fiction. Control. Once the plot or story line has been decided, it’s a good idea to try to keep it under control since plots have a way of meandering off on their own – arriving at dead ends and a lot of wasted time. So, it’s wise to keep a grip on it, and be constantly evaluating if it is working, if what you are putting down is relevant. It helps to keep asking the Ws: Why? As in why are they doing this. When? As in when are they doing this in relation to before and after. What? As in what happens next. Who? Is this relevant to the character who is doing it. Where? The place, and why there? Skeleton. It helps me to think of the plot as a skeleton. And as the bones in our body need to be strong or we can’t stand up, so it is with your novel. Everything else is added to this skeleton – character, scene setting, viewpoint – just as nerves and muscle are joined to the skeleton. This, I think is enough for today for it is a big subject so we’ll return to it next week. I’m sorry I was late but a frantic social life got in the way!

2 comments:

  1. Those Ws are important to have in the pback of my mind this month as I plunge forward to NaNo- now over 5k in and I'm beginning to know my heroine and she will hard to reign- I can tell aready!
    lx

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  2. I plotted my novel, then as the characters developed and changed the plot, so I re-wrote pre determined scenes. But my story always came back to the original plot line throughout the book and I was able to fit it around the the characters new interactions.

    Outling a plot before writing my novel also helped during those moments when I felt blocked.

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