I have a special visitor for you today! Kelley is one of my crit partners and SHE.IS.FABULOUS! Seriously, I canNOT give her enough praise. I just had to get her over here for a guest post, so you could all bask in her awesomeness! And... if you can't get enough of her... which I'm sure you can't - then head over to her blog, Between the Bookends and enjoy more of her words of wisdom! Take it away Kelley!
Thank you so much for having me Leigh!! This is my first guest post EVER so everyone can feel free to leave their honest opinions.
The World is a Stage – Plot Development
I think I’ve always been an actor…in my head at least. Frankly I had never stepped foot on a stage until I was a sophomore in high school. I was always the jock and there was never a season I wasn’t on a court, field or diamond.
However, freshman year basketball practice didn’t start until 6:00pm. As I lived 45 minutes away from my high school, I had to do something to pass the time from school dismissal at 2:30pm till practice. So I curled up in the back of the auditorium and watched musical rehearsals.
By sophomore year I thought, ‘this is silly’. I might as well be in the musical if I’m going to watch every rehearsal anyway. So I auditioned. And found a part of me that was missing.
You’re probably wondering what this has to do with plot development since that, in fact, is the title of this post. You are very astute, yes you are. J Well, I shall tell you.
In my three years of high school theater which then led me to take a number of theater courses in college (yes…I did consider double majoring in Theater and Engineering. Didn’t work out though. There aren’t really any classes that overlap for those majors. I would have been in school FOREVER.J) I learned a lot about human interaction. Cause and effect. What do you want? Why are you asking? How do we get from here to there?
When we create plot, create action there has to be a reason for it. It can’t just happen. Our readers are too smart for that. As writers we have to think about where we want to go in the paragraph, scene, chapter and consider what cause would force our characters to react the way we need them to.
I distinctly remember a play my junior year in high school. I was a teacher and the script told me I was mad at my student when the scene opened. A few lines in my director stopped the scene and asked me why I was mad. Well…because the script says I am, I responded, knowing that was the WRONG answer. Even though the script didn’t clue me in, in order to ‘sell’ the scene, the action, the conflict, I had to have a reason in my head why I was mad.
In order to create a convincing plot, action and conflict that grab at our readers and won’t let go, we have to make sure everything the characters do feels authentic.
When we’re plotting we know we want to get our story from point A to point B. There are MANY ways we can do this (usually). To create the most authentic plot we must try all these ways out on our character(s) and make sure their reaction is what will get us there.
Now, when I say ‘try all the ways out’ I don’t mean write them all down. Think about them. If you forced this certain criteria on your character, how would they react?
Let’s say we’re writing a story about a boy wizard who’s scarred with a mark from the most feared wizard in the world. (Don’t you dare say the feared wizard’s name ;))
We must first give the exposition, the information needed to understand the story. This comes with learning about our wizard’s history, how he interacts with others, his knowledge and lack-there-of, the rules of our MC’s world. If the readers don’t fully understand the exposition they won’t understand the causes which then lead to the effects.
Then we give the complication, the catalyst that begins the major conflict for our story. If the exposition isn’t laid out clearly, if the reader doesn’t believe the characters actions are authentic, that they in fact are just going along with the motions because the story has to go this way, the tale will fall flat. If the boy wizard wasn’t a good kid, if he didn’t suspect his Potions teacher, if he didn’t fear for the lives of his friends and enjoy the new life he had just come to live in, we wouldn’t be totally engrossed in the climax of the story and wouldn’t believe he would risk his life to make sure the shiny stone stayed out of the bad guy’s hands.
The climax is the big guy, where our characters try to resolve the conflict. This is where we cry, laugh, cheer for our characters because we believe in what they did. We believe in them.
Lastly, the resolution lets the story float to a close. Usually our characters are slightly different than they were at the beginning of the tale. If they were to start the same journey over as the ‘new’ character, they would probably do things differently and as such we would have a completely different story.
And that’s the scary part about plot development. As we learn more about our characters and about the world they live in, we might realize they wouldn’t choose a direction we had them going in, which could in turn change much of the story.
That’s why when I write I always revert back to my ‘theater training’. After EVERY action and reaction I ask myself if it’s authentic. Would the audience/reader believe it?
And remember, conflict is usually the most exciting to write, especially that climax. But it will be more fun and more rewarding if you’ve got the exposition and the characters locked down.
It will be as if you’re acting it all out on a stage. (Without the stage fright.)
See ---- I told you she was awesome! Now, I added in a couple interview questions just so we can get to know her even better. Check it out...
1. In 40 words or less, tell us something about you that we don't already know.
I haven’t taken an English or Writing course since my senior year in High School and I’ve NEVER had to diagram a sentence. (Not doing a good job of selling my critiquing skills, am I? J)
2. What genre do you write, and tell us a little about your current WIP... don't forget to mention the awesome request you got from posting your 250 words & query! Holla!
Oh man…you’re making me blush…
I write Young Adult. I’ve dabbled in YA Dystopian, Contemporary, Thriller and Fantasy. I think my strength lies in the YA Dystopian/Fantasy realm. My current WIP is a YA Fantasy called FRACTION OF STONE and yes, it did just win ‘An Agent’s Inbox’ contest over at Mother. Write. (Repeat.). Which means it’s in the mystery agent’s inbox right now. (I think my refresh button is broken waiting for a response…haha.)
FRACTION OF STONE is about Rydan and Akara. They are the only two left in the world who can wield magic and the story opens with their nations at war with each other. Akara’s side loses and she is sentenced to death. Rydan’s okay with that until he finds out she has the same mysterious mark as he, tattooed on the back of her neck. They come to find that the mark is that of an extinguished tribe and the tribe was in fact destroyed by the very two nations who raised them. But sifting through the muck of who they are is the easy part. The journey really begins when they decide to shoulder the responsibility of their departed ancestors.
And to know what their ancestors were responsible for, you will have to read the book which will hopefully be in print someday J.
3. If you could be any literary character, who would you be? And why?
Whoa…hmm…can I ask the audience on this one? Haha. I think I’d like to be Tris from the book DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth. She’s forced to make tough decisions but does them for all the right reasons. She doesn’t have any magical powers, just determination, courage and humility. Though, the next books in the series haven’t come out yet so I wonder what happens to me…
4. If you were a soda pop - which one would you be?
Well I drink diet soda. But I’m not sure I would want to drink myself…that might be kind of weird. I think I would have to go with Sprecher’s Orange Dream. I waitressed for five years and after the place closed for the night the staff would gather in the bar and drink for a bit. I wasn’t 21 for some of the years I was there so while they all had their booze, I had my Sprecher’s Orange Dream. I guess I associate the beverage with being done with work so that’s the one I’d like to be. J
Thank you again for this opportunity! I had SO much fun!
Thank YOU for being here today! It has been an honor to have you! I appreciate all the advice and I love the answers to your interview questions. Especially your reasoning behind the soft drink. It's so perfect! Now everyone show Kelley some love!