The Plot: Avoiding Glitches


*

Vision 73

 

The Plot: Avoiding Glitches

By

Dr Bob Rich

Copyright © 2013, Dr Bob Rich, All Rights Reserved

Some writers grow a book organically. This is my preferred method now. I have a concept, get a general idea of what I want to achieve, create some people, and then get off the stage and let them take the story where they will.

However, this takes oodles of experience. When I tried it as a beginning writer, I ended up with incomplete stories that went nowhere. My first successful novel was plotted in considerable detail, although I modified the original plan many times. A plot is not meant to be set in concrete.

An intermediate technique is to carefully design a number of key episodes in detail, then fill the gaps between, writing intuitively. These episodes will include the opening and the ending, which hopefully will be the climax.

I think that even writing without a plot has an implicit structure. It goes where it needs to go because it is subconsciously designed.

It's like this. A beginning cook will read a recipe and implement it word for word. As experience is gained, the cook can substitute one ingredient for another, vary quantities and cooking times, improvising more and more. Eventually, the cook might produce a lovely meal entirely without a recipe, but this doesn't mean that there are no rules. The rules expressed in an explicit recipe are there, but don't need to be stated up front.

OK, so how do we construct a plot? The best way is through successive expansion:

1. Tag line. Summarize the entire book in one sentence.

This is essential, however the writing was done, because people won't wait for you to make an oration about your book in answer to a simple question.

2. Blurb. The blurb is a 30 to 50 word expansion of a tag line. It will be a major marketing tool.

3. Elevator speech. You are in an elevator and someone asks you about your book. You need to finish your speech before one of you gets out. This will be 200 to 300 words.

4. Back of book or inside cover. This could be about 500 words.

5. Chapter summary. Now write a tag line for each chapter, or each scene if a chapter has more than one of these.

In a similar way, expand each item in the chapter summary until you have considerable detail.

By then, you'll know who the people in the story are, the setting of each scene (physical environment), and what happens. Writing it all will then be easy, and there should be little or no "writer's block."

Constructing a story this way will avoid a number of annoying problems:

1. Discontinuities.

2. Repetitions of content.

3. Unintended changes in characters, places and other information. You don't want Joe to become Jim, or his blue eyes to turn brown.

4. Impossible time sequences. In my current work, someone is told that a court hearing will be in 3 weeks' time. The crime was committed on the 12th of July. If you calculate the passage of time as days and weeks have passed, this will have to be the 1st of November. It's a good idea not to have it at any other date, because some obsessive reader will work it out to be wrong.

Of course, the above is for fiction. However, exactly parallel considerations apply to nonfiction writing too. In fact, an intuitively written nonfiction book is almost guaranteed to have discontinuities, and repeated or missing content, and this is not a good idea.

 

Check out Bob Riche's "Ascending Spiral" -- 23 reviews, all of them 4 and 5 stars!  http://bobswriting.com/ascending.html