Wednesday, September 4, 2013

But for working with your *plot*, plotting's better than pantsing--it's right there in the name!

I'm about 3/4 of the way into draft 2 and have encountered some messy plot problems. Peeps, if you can pants a whole novel and have it come out making sense, more power to you!

In draft 1, people convinced each other to do things way too easily. Or else they argued about it for paragraphs and paragraphs. I forgot that even though my focus shifted to Main Character #2, MC#1 had to be doing something. You can't really have people just standing around waiting for their next scene. Doesn't work for plays, doesn't work for books either. The Bad Guy threatened the friends of MC#1, and I had a whole long scene in which MC#1 tried to convince four friends to leave town or learn to protect themselves. Gee, poor guy's only got 4 friends?

There are worse problems. I've gotten some of it worked out but still have problems with motivations. You and me are friends; a nutcase wants to extort money from you and says he'll break the kneecaps of your friends if you don't fork over. That means you, slick! What do you do? Well, my character got talked out of going to the cops. Yeah. I understand why the guy being extorted doesn't want to tell the cops, but come on, his friend is going to panic and tell somebody.

Don't have that part figured out yet.

I'm now almost at the point where a couple characters get caught in the Rodney King riots. Something important happens to one of them because of the riots, and that something leads directly to the climax. I can't change when the riots happened. My timeline has gotten squashed and plot points are falling out the side. This results in some pretty jerky movements for the characters!

I sat around for a couple days typing stream-of-consciousness "what if" notes to myself, asking "why does he need to do that" and "what would happen if he did not do that". That usually helps but for whatever reason, this time around it wasn't working. I got some suggestions on a couple writing sites; one or two of those made a few pieces click together. By continually asking myself "why" I narrowed down the one thing I absolutely need to have happen. That thing takes place on the same day the riots began, so I started a timeline for that day.

I decided what hour that all-important event needed to happen to fit the timeline of the riot itself, typed that into 8:00 pm, and worked backwards. It's actually a chart. It's not finished yet but I'm definitely closer to figuring out what needs to happen AND WHY. The other thing I did was start a list of the plot points I really wanted to include along with reasons why they should be included. Honest reasons, not thin excuses.

There is one scene I had to think about for a few hours before I realized why it's important. It relates to character development rather than plot movement. I really didn't want to dump it because, as written in draft 1, it's pretty emotional stuff. A character is scared for his life. At the same time, if I couldn't find an honest reason for it to be there, some benefit to the story, I would have had to cut it.

So keep your fingers crossed for me, friends! And listen, if I ever post about wanting to pants another story, you have my permission to break my kneecaps.

photo credit: Cayusa via photopin cc

1 comment:

  1. I'm not laughing at you, really. I'm laughing with you. Mine is not so fraught with timeline stuff. That all works. What doesn't work is a whole other tale that pretty much is forcing me to delete a concurrent storyline, AND that is about half of the book. Oh--don't worry your pretty little head, lolol. I have plenty of book to spare!! lolol

    Maybe we need to start a support group--we can call it the "pantsless writers" Ha!