Tuesday, December 08, 2009

A New Plot Predicament

Remember how I said that each of my manuscripts demands its own, unique plotting method? Well, this book is no exception. ::le sigh::

As I struggle with this current manuscript, I’m discovering that there are a few structural things that are forcing me to look at this book’s plot in a completely different way.

For one, it is the first book in which I’ve changed locations this many times. It starts off in Cairo, then moves to Luxor, then the action moves to An Undisclosed Location, then back to Luxor. Even harder, the travel part is not necessarily part of the dramatic action, so that is dead time story-wise, and better left off screen. The travel sequences also rather neatly bisect the book into four acts.

Normally I write to the turning points; the big moment of dramatic action, the big reveal, or a reversal of some sort. However, the turning points in this book don’t exactly happen at the change of location moments, but since those so firmly feel like act breaks, I’m stuck having to factor those into the plotting momentum somehow.

What I find is that I am writing the acts as individual pieces of a whole, rather than writing to the turning points, which might be a matter of semantics. Or not. I can’t quite tell yet. But the process feels different, and that’s why I’m kind of stumbling around.

Hm. This just occurred to me. (And this is why I blog—just talking about this stuff brings clarity.) The reason it feels different is because normally when I write to a turning point, I leave one act at a moment of high drama which then propels us into the next act.

But by writing each act as individual units, I find that the highest point of drama comes just before the act ends, then there is a minor moment of resolution or transition before proceeding into the next act, which takes place in a new location. It mirrors the structure of the end of the book, with a climax and resolution, rather than a turning point acting as climax and building on that. So it's like four separate little stories (structure wise, not thematically) with their own completion rather than a set of building blocks.

I’m trying to decide if this is good or bad or just different, and how much energy, if any, I should spend fixing it or trying to massage it into a different shape.

Needless to say, this whole structure thing has made me painstakingly aware of the logistical difficulty of traveling during a story, which I will blog about in a separate post since it is a big enough issue to warrant its own topic.


Anonymous said...

My guess is that if you keep pushing through as you're doing (as painful as it is), you'll have a better sense of where/how to massage when you're thru. At least that's what I'm hoping for you! For us, it's just a relief to hear that we're not the only ones that go through this! Good luck. :)

Katy Cooper said...

I second what Becky says. I think that's such a macro-issue that the only way to know whether it works in the story as a whole is to have the story as a whole written...

Suzette Saxton said...

Love your blog!

Robin L said...

Well, I don't have any choice, really, but to keep pushing forward. I am, however, keeping one eye focused on this in case it looks like it might jump up and bite me in the rear.

Welcome, Suzette! So glad you enjoy the blog.

Paul Greci said...

I'm working on a story that is basically a journey that has three main stops before the climax. I'm going to play around with your idea of structuring each location as a mini story in terms of structure. Thanks!

Robin L said...

Here's hoping the technique works for you, Paul!