Monday, November 21, 2011

Plotting 101: The "Secret" Formula

  So, you’ve got an idea for a story you want to write. Now what? Do you need an organized, detailed outline or can you write by the seat of your pants? It’s been successfully done in both extremes and points in between. The answer is yes—as long as you know the formula. There are many who will tell you methods they’ve devised or used, and searching these out proves beneficial to many. At the least, you’re armed with more information. At the most, you may find one that fits you perfectly. The main thing is to get it all out on paper. Revisions will come later and there is much to learn to turn your work into the kind of quality of which to be proud. Now back to this not so secret formula.
   In any good piece of fiction, certain elements must exist that the reader expects in order not to be disappointed. What it boils down to is having a main character with a goal and high stakes. That’s the formula. Of course, this includes a few obstacles placed between the MC and his/her goal and high enough stakes to make that character do what it takes to succeed, but we often wonder if he/she will because the danger is real.
  Each scene has a structure similar to the above and should be a story in its own right, according to Kirt Hickman in Revising Fiction. A scene should contain: 1) A hook that draws the reader into the scene, 2) A goal for the characters to accomplish, 3) An obstacle between the characters and their goal, 4) Action performed by the characters to overcome the obstacle, 5) Some reaction in response to the characters’ action, and 6) A problem leading into the next scene.
  Ingermanson's Snowflake Method works from a one sentence summary of the novel in fifteen words or less and expands from there.  This concise summary is similar to a query letter that reveals what the MC's goal is, what stands in his way, and what will happen if he doesn't succeed (motivation). Same formula.
  Okay, that should get you started. I’d love to hear how your work in progress is coming along. Happy writing.


Canda said...

The lists sound so easy when we number them out--harder when we try to implement them in a scene. That's the challenge and the fun of writing.

Renae W. Mackley said...

Yes, and harder when we try to analyze it on our own. Gotta remember that Fun part. Thanks, Canda.

Tasha Seegmiller said...

I had about three major conflicts hit me like a ton of bricks this morning. Was all I could do to get to a computer to write down the ideas before they left. Best feeling ever. I had been thinking about how it would happen though for about 6 weeks. Marinating ideas are the best.

Great post - new follower :)

Renae W. Mackley said...

Yes, marinated conflicts are the best. Thanks for following, Tasha.