Monday, February 20, 2012

My Brain Is Dead!

I have honestly wrote 2 different posts for today and erased both of them. Apparently they weren't making the grade. OR... maybe the fact that my daughter tackled some unknowing child at church yesterday, has me a little out of sorts. Honestly - that girl is going to take over the world one day. I just have to channel her energy for good and not evil. So far... well, you heard about the tackling. *sigh*

I attended a fun class by EJ Patten at LTUE this year. It was called "Building a Bare Story." His first book, RETURN TO EXILE, just came out this fall. You can find it on Amazon, HERE.
I'm not going to go into all of that, but I'm going to show you the picture he shared with us.
Ta Da!
Fun, right? Many of you may have seen something similar to this before. These are the 3 main elements in any story.
  • Plot - WHAT is happening.
  • Milieu - WHERE it's happening, WHEN it's happening, and WHY it's happening
  • Characters - WHO it's happening to
Not all stories are created equal, and not all elements are given equal attention in a story. Go ahead... think of your favorite book. Which element is represented the strongest? 
With a thriller, or mystery, something with suspense --- the "plot" is usually the main factor of that story. Everything else is just a pawn or piece of the puzzle, getting the story where it needs to go.

Romance you say? --- most likely the "characters." Right?

If you look at a dystopian or fantasy --- the "milieu" usually play a big role in those stories.

This isn't by the book. This is merely a generality of the types of stories. However - when writing, we need to have something going with each element. It may not be the key player or major theme to our book, but we always want to have more than one thing going on. That way, when one problem is solved, there is still another problem that they need to work on. One of the fun things about these elements is that they show you what the writer cares about.

In my current WIP, my strongest element is probably the characters. The story is based around them, although I hope the plot creates some suspense and surprises and the milieu keeps it interesting.

What element is the main focus of your MS?


Angela Cothran said...

I love when things are broken down simply like this. It puts things in perspective and sometimes you can see what you are missing :)

Nicole Zoltack said...

Most of my stories have characters are the strongest element.

Samantha said...

Your daughter is awesome :D

I really like the picture! It's those kinds of things that really help you focus on what is important when you lose track.

I think the strongest part of my WIP would be the milieu. Given that I write historical fiction, the setting is kind of a big deal.

Great post as always!

Morgan said...

You are fast becoming one of my favorite blogger people, Leigh :D Your positivity and humor is so fun. I'm still laughing at the child tackling church moment ;)

I'm more plot driven... but I'm trying to change that. With my WIP, I'm doing everything I can to focus on character... it's a struggle because I love plot! But without the character, who cares, you know? Great post. :D

Emily R. King said...

Great breakdown! I agree that romance is centered upon the characters, but the setting is a huge part of romance, too.

Laura Marcella said...

i like seeing things broken down like that. I'm a visual learner so that's probably why!

Too funny about your daughter! She's just a little rambunctious. I'm sure it's a good kind though!

Lara Schiffbauer said...

I was just thinking of this very question while I was exercising this morning. I really lean on the action/plot side of my current WIP, but characters are a close second. I think. :)

I love (just a touch of sarcasm :)) when my kids do stuff that I'm like "What the heck! Where did that come from!" It's a good thing we love them, huh!

Joanna said...

I am quite a visual learner so I do love this Venn Diagram.

The picture book I am revising right now seems to have all three in pretty equal measure. Hope that's OK!

Krista M said...

I went to a Father/Daughter dance with my dad last night and we saw two little girls, about the age of 3 tackle each other. It was actually funny. Little girls. :)

I think the characters are a big part of my WIP, but without the circumstances... they would be very different. :) Great post!

S.P. Bowers said...

Is it bad if I can't judge what my strongest element is? I'm way to close to it right now. Maybe after I send it to the betas.

Kyra Lennon said...

Characters are almost always my main focus. :D

Cortney Pearson said...

I love your posts, Leigh!! Thanks for sharing that diagram! It really does depend on the genre you're writing, doesn't it? For my latest WIP I'm really trying to do some MAJOR character-development, and the MC's house is actually a character, so it's fun and hard at the same time!! You're awesome, just had to say it. :D

Kathryn Elliott said...

Very show-don't-tell! Great post!

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

A Venn Diagram is so mathy in a world of nothing but English majors.

Aldrea Alien said...

In my current wip, it's the characters.
In my previous story, it was the characters (with the other two sharing second place).
In the wip that'll follow my current, it's the characters.

Do you sense a theme? ^_^

Patricia T. said...

Very simple mind map -- and it has all of the elements a journalist uses to write the first paragraph of a story - who, where, what, when, why, and how. Amazing how all writing techniques overlap, but may be used a little differently. I like mind maps. I the simplicity of what you shared. Excellent post and suggestions.

Sorry you had one of those days -- I had one yesterday. Know how you're feeling. :)

Iain said...

My MS is a YA Adventure – It’s plot driven. Although, in my latest set of revisions, I have beefed up the character element a lot :o)

Sharron said...

Even though my current one is fantasy, the characters are the focal point. It's more about learning who you are, even if your world isn't like mine, that's the important thing.

Ah - church tackling. Rumors say it might be an Olympic sport by 2020.

L.G.Smith said...

Sadly, this dystopian writer is better at character than milieu. Working on that.

And, hey, nice example of the rule of 3 at work. :PP

Anonymous said...

Excellent visual! So clear and so free of clutter. I'm this kind of learner...visual and simple. Great job!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Crap, I'm way off then. Both of my books focus on characters and they are science fiction.

RachelMaryBean said...

The one I'm polishing is definitely plot driven. The one I'm writing now is more character driven.
Ps. Your daughter sounds kinda' awesome. Good luck with the good vs. evil. ;)

Kelley said...

I think mine is my characters. Yes, definitely my characters :)

Mark Koopmans said...


You sound like me (only sub "girl" for "boy.")

For me, it's all character, all the way - but you know why :)

Trisha said...

Maybe the tackled girl did something to deserve being tackled? Your daughter sounds energetic! ;)

I like to think that the characters are the main focus in all my stories. But I must admit that with one I started for last year's NaNo, probably the milieu is the main source of richness. I want to change that during revisions though, i.e. want more emphasis on character development.

Maggie said...

I think my current WIP is focused on plot, which is a new thing for me. I'm usually much more character driven.

Anonymous said...

Mine is focused on plot.

Hayley N. Jones said...

Characters. Nearly always. I tend to start with character; the plot and setting follow on from the characters, so the elements are indivisible. I'm a great believer in Thomas Hardy's view that locations create character, so I've been trying to use milieu to enrich my characters.

Tara Tyler said...

thanks for bringing us conference tidbits!
mine is seems like plot, but all are pretty equally spaced for the futuristic thriller

Talli Roland said...

Definitely characters! They always drive the plot through their mistakes and flaws.

Sorry to hear about the tackle!

Elizabeth Seckman said...

My second son, we always worried we'd one day be telling a judge, "Cole isn't bad, he just does bad things." He was so full of energy and orneriness, he was always in trouble. Glad to say, he's 15, still ornery, but NEVER in trouble. YAY US!!!
Good luck with your little spirit. :)

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

If I knew the answer to your question, maybe my WIP would get past page 30 :)

Kate Coursey said...

This is very interesting! I've never thought of it before. Thinking back on books I've read, I'd have to say that my all-time favorites have had an almost-equal mix of all three. I love me a unique plot, strong characters, and an interesting world! It's what I strive for in my own writing.

eva fhadilah said...

Banned complain !! Complaining only causes life and mind become more severe. Enjoy the rhythm of the problems faced. No matter ga life, not a problem not learn, so enjoy it :)

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