Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Plotting Failure

Plot should really be a very simple thing.

Something bad happens to someone.

Then things get worse.

I'm pretty good at heaping on trouble, I'm just not sure that in the end, any of it makes any sense. Being a sort of "sit down and see what happens" writer, the whole process of discovery thing when I'm writing a book is great. The horrific result of writing this way, however, is that I spend years rewriting in order to figure out how the plot sticks together.

Character, setting, dialogue: I started out being pretty strong at character, worked real hard at setting, worked my ass off at dialogue, and now I feel competent at all of this. What has continued to elude me is... plot.

Not even "something bad happens. Then things get worse." Oh yes, THINGS GET WORSE. But why? How do I tie all that together and make it resonate?

I just sat down and revised an old story of mine from Clarion, the template character for the one I'm currently writing several books about, and I managed to tie up some of the themes so that when you get to the end you go, "Oh." (Well, *I* went "oh." It has yet to be seen if anyone else will). It's taken me seven years to make this story something more than a "so what?" story.

And that, at core, is I think what my problem is: when I'm not careful, I can write a lot of "so what?" stories. That's all well and good if you're content to go running around a wacky world with fucked up, wacky (often violent) people, but it's not usually until halfway through the story that I either find my point, or... I don't, and I have to trash the story. Then, once you actually find your point (if you do at all), you have to go back and make sure you set all that up at the beginning. If I'm *really* cool I can write forward by constantly looking back at the beginning of the story and trusting that everything I need for the end was totally frontloaded at the beginning by my really kewl subconscious.

Right now, that's sort of how I'm swinging things, but I want to be really good at plot, the nuts and bolts kind, not just the bordering-on-didactic kind. I want all the world's political pieces to come together. I want everybody running on their little plot highways to smack into each other and make the reader go "Oh! Of course!"

Basically, I want to be BRILLIANT.

So I suppose that's nothing new.

2 comments so far. What are your thoughts?

the bluest light said...

Being brilliant is a great goal to have. And with the dedication and comittment to writing that you have, and the skills you've already developed, you'll get there.

And you're doing better than me- I have serious issues with plot, dialogue, setting, character and writing in full sentences. But if you want 900 word internal monologues from a teenage lesbian perspective, I'm your gal.

ScottM said...

While I doubt this is anything you haven't already encountered, maybe these posts will help with it.

Sequels and Scenes.

I also think The Great Swampy Middle was pretty good about plot and sustaining plot.