Tink...tink...tink...anyone out there? Hi! I'm Barbara Donlon Bradley - Author - editor and slightly crazy - ask anyone in my family. I hope to use this blog to talk about writing, editing and whatever pops in my head. Hope you enjoy.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Writing Down the Bones: Common Plotting Faults and What to do About Them

Found another one of those gems. There is no author attached to this so I don't know who to give credit to but please enjoy.

  • Symptom: Story line wanders - never seems to go anywhere.
  • Diagnosis: Author has started writing their story without any clear idea of its direction.
  • Treatment: Give the main character a stronger motivation and make things more difficult for them. Recommend you rewrite without looking at the old version.
My comment: Now I'll be honest I'm a pantser not a plotter so I can't say that I have a clear cut direction when I start but I always have a goal to work toward and I figure out how I want to reach that goal pretty quickly.

  • Symptom: Story is confusing - too many characters - too much going on.
  • Diagnosis: Author has not decided who the story belongs to, or hasn't figured out how focus the narrative on their main character.
  • Treatment: Reduce the number of characters - replot and rewrite.
My comment: Remember most of these handouts were written in the 80's and for romance writers. So many people wanted to write for Harlequin that a lot of these thing were aimed at that. In romance you're supposed to keep your cast of characters down to the hero, heroine and nemesis, maybe a side kick or two (best friends, relative, that sort of thing). More than that and you could have been rejected because it didn't fit the norm of the time. But you don't want to have a lot of walk on characters. It does get confusing for your reader trying to keep up with all of them. In Dominated by Desire I had several walk on characters who said a few things then never showed back up again. They became Fridon who is now one of my larger characters in my The Vespian Way series.

  • Symptom: Plot looks complete, but the story seems pointless.
  • Diagnosis: The author has forgotten that their reader needs to care about the main characters and care about what happens to them.
  • Treatment: This isn't a plot problem. All you need to do is go back and build your characters more.
My comment: Your characters need to be as three dimensional as possible. They need to be real to your readers. They need to bond with them and root for them when all the odds are against them.

  • Symptom: The ending disappoints.
  • Diagnosis: The ending is disappointing because it is too obvious. The author didn't plan ahead for the ending.
  • Treatment: Don't treat the just the ending. Go back to the beginning and replot.
My comment: You do need to know where your story is going, have that climax always in your mind. As you write your scenes you should be asking does this lead me to the climax? Does it foreshadow something important? Does it develop my characters or their relationship?

*This one was hard to put in my own words and I felt some of the items listed were a bit harsh - that's my personal opinion.

1 comment:

  1. Nice synopsis. I'm working on book 4 of a series right now, and I struggled with how to introduce new readers to the characters from the previous novels. Readers of the whole series (and that included my critique group) *knew* who everyone was already.
    It's a delicate balance -- I didn't want to provide so much information "old" readers would be bored, but I did need to orient new ones.

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