Tag Archives: novel

One simple way to plot out your story

Hi there, a quick tip about how to plot your story in a very easy way. And bear in mind you can always refine and elaborate it later when better ideas arrive. It is a starting point or a fresh way of thinking.

Firstly, imagine a steep hill.

At the top of that hill is your protagonist’s goal. They do have a goal right? You need a clear goal. What does your protagonist need? What will they die for / strive to achieve? What do they want more than anything?

To achieve that goal your protagonist must climb up the hill and overcome every challenge you can throw at them. The harsher the challenges, the more engaging the feat. There need to be setbacks. There need to be barriers. There need to be twists.  BUT and THEREFORE are your friends. X wants something BUT and THEREFORE X does this…

Now, find a big piece of paper (A3 or bigger). In pencil, draw a steep sigmoid curve from bottom (left)  to top (right)  – this is your Plot Hill.

In pencil, at the bottom of your hill write the protagonist’s starting place and their status. These needs to be pathetic or loathsome and far from their goal.

Starting at the bottom, add each step in your protagonist’s journey up the hill, one on top of the other. Add the challenges and the setbacks. Add whatever places, people, events you like. Include your twists in position.

When you have a continuous journey from ‘nowhere’ to your protagonist achieving their goal, you have the bare bones of your story. And now you can refine it, add to it, or start over again, Because it is visual and a mind-dump, it should freshen up your thinking. It should also be fun,

For other character’s sub-plots, draw a fresh hill with a fresh goal and add the relevant steps. The two Plot Hills can be later intertwined into a larger hill. And then you can write it up as a sequence from your beginning to your middle to your end. Bear in mind, that you might want to start telling your story in the middle.

If you have ideas with sufficient drama, you will already have low points, barriers, confrontations, set-backs, twists and such like. If not, back away, find a fresh piece of paper and try again a few days later. And note – you need a clear goal that is difficult to attain and lots of intervening sub-challenges and events. The rest is your protagonist’s journey up your Plot Hill.

Here’s a quick example (read from the bottom up):

Hilltop Goal : Recover the Black Pearl

Sails the Black Pearl away, leaves the captain

Defeats the Pearl’s captain & steals his booty

Boards the Black Pearl at night with his allies

Lures the Pearl’s captain to a deserted cave

Tricks the Pearl’s captain with promises of gold

Reaches Tortuga and finds the Pearl’s crew ashore

Pleads with Calypso to raise the wind

Becomes becalmed at sea, with no wind

Follows his magical compass

Sets course to find a hidden island in the fog

Escapes from the British

Steals a British Naval ship by tricking some soldiers

Recruits a miscreant crew from a rowdy public house

Finds Gibbs and sobers him up

Escapes from jail

Convinces someone to help him

Pirate, in jail, waiting to be hanged

         START HERE – and read back up the hill

Try it and see how you get on. It should be quick and painless, provided you have enough ideas. If not, come back later when your subconscious has got to work. And don’t worry about the order of the events – you can refine those later.  What is more important is getting down the main elements of the story you have in mind and refining it. You did write in pencil?

Happy plotting.

D M Jarrett

Author of Sean Yeager Adventures
Awesome books for bright, young minds

 

 

 

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Self-Editing – character & dialogue

Hi,

Further to my blog post about how to manage editing and the stages, here are some specific things to review and correct. I have gleaned these through research, reading, and writing experience. Hope they help.

Character

Ensure your characters are active – they must : speak, act, think, decide, react
Not be passive or described through narrative alone. And limit that narrative.

Describe characters briefly through impressions / metaphors and pick out a few personal details relevant to the story.
Don’t ramble on for pages in narrative form about your character’s many attributes.

Each character should have their own voice, agenda and attitudes which come through in how they – speak, act, think, decide and react.
Avoid having each character appear identical in voice, actions, thoughts, agenda etc.

Major characters must have objectives, agendas, something they strive for and these must be made clear to the reader.
Correct and rewrite major characters who appear unfocused, bland, random in action.

Major characters need to develop as your story unfolds. This needs to be seen by the reader in how they change in: speaking, acting, thinking, deciding, reacting. Show the struggle, down points, their resolve, how they change, their actions to overcome, their elation / dejection at the outcomes.
Steer away from major characters who do not change during your story, especially your hero / protagonist and antagonist.

Dialogue

Keep it snappy, focused and get to the point. Less is more.
Avoid rambling dialogue with unnecessary words or topics.

Use dialogue to show key conflicts between characters & how they work things out (or not).
Don’t miss the opportunities to show how characters differ and want different things.

Written dialogue is not the same as real world dialogue, stay lean and pristine most of the time.
Only deviate when an effect is needed to show a reaction or character trait.

Minimize the use of speech attributions and stick to ‘said’ as much as possible. Often it is clear who is speaking without the label. Said becomes invisible to the reader, variations such as (replied, stammered, shouted, cried, retorted etc.) do not.
Steer clear of passages with lots of: he said, she said, he said, she said. It becomes wearing.

Ensure each character speaks in a way consistent with who they are, what they know and how they have behaved so far in your story.
Avoid making random speeches or having characters sound the same.

Use dialogue as a natural interaction between characters to further your plot.
Don’t have a character expose the entire back story or unexpected plot points through dialogue alone – exposition needs to be limited. Such as if characters are reflecting on a clue or next action or piece of information they have discovered.

Remember to leave gaps for the reader to figure things out for themselves. No one tells people everything they are thinking or feeling.
Avoid explaining every detail to tie up all the loose ends. Over reflection or over explanation can soon become dull and can spoil the plot.

 

Note – these are guidelines to improve the quality of what is left on the page. The ‘because’ is always – to polish and improve the quality of the book. There will be exceptions here and there to the above. However, from experience I find these guidelines to be pretty much on the money.

On a personal level, I seek to continually ‘sharpen the saw’ by reading, researching and writing / editing. These blog entries are from the coal face so to speak.

Hope this helps.

Happy writing.

D.M. Jarrett

www.SeanYeager.com

www.seanyeager.com