I’m heading out tomorrow for Glorieta, New Mexico, and since they only have dial-up at the retreat center, I’m going to pre-write several blog posts and hope I’ll be able to click “send” every day.
Since I’m heading off to teach the fiction track, I thought I’d share what I’ve developed to teach writers of all ages about plotting. Now–I know about Randy’s snowflake and Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey. I’ve read tons of books, and my skeleton isn’t necessarily a tool for plotting, though I’ve had great success in using it for that purpose. You can use it merely as a tool for analysis, if you like. (Recently I got stumped in MAGDALENE and forced myself to stop and sketch out the skeleton. Almost immediately I found my story problem–the bones weren’t fitting together properly.)
Anyway . . . people who call themselves “seat of the pants” writers relish the joy of being free to discover new things in the process of writing. But I can’t sit down without an outline; the very idea of not knowing where I’m going scares me spitless. I need a destination or I know I’ll wander all over the place, and I can’t stand the thought of wasted effort. On the other hand, writers who plot out every single development before hand–well, I’d find that too limiting. I need the freedom to listen to the characters because they come to life as I work with them. I don’t know all their secrets in the first draft. I have a much better handle on things by draft three.
So–I came up with the plot skeleton. It’s bare bones on purpose. It will give you a basic, solid structure without limiting your desire to add additional things. And it’s simple enough for a third grader to understand.
The other day I realized that all of us were (or should have been taught) how to construct a five-paragraph theme in high school. You know, the old intro, thesis sentence, three main points, conclusion. I wrote more of those than I care to remember.
Yet we were also often told to “write a story” and I don’t remember EVER being given clear directions or any kind of blueprint. I think our teachers thought that anything would be okay and frankly, it isn’t. Fiction needs a structure, too. (If it’s going to hang together properly, that is.)
So, beginning tomorrow, I’m posting a mini-workshop on plotting. Enjoy.