*Pauses for Patting*
It's been a challenging week. Monday's Mary-Sue post caused an explosive response, which started out awesome and positive but swiftly degenerated into a lot of people leaving comments and sending me emails telling me to do anatomically impossible things with myself and/or die. Some of those comments attacked other authors that I had mentioned in the post, a consequence I hadn't considered, and which made me feel (irrationally) guilty for bringing them into the line of fire. I've never had this many people even read a post that I'd written before, let alone reply, so it's all been a tad overwhelming.
As of now I won't be reading or replying to anymore emails on this topic from email addresses I don't know. I'm not even going to open them. And I can't keep up with the comment trail anymore either - it's eating my brain. Thanks to everyone who left interesting, thoughtful comments, whether you agreed with me or not. You may carry on with the discussion yourselves if you want to, with my best wishes.
Moving swiftly on, regular Dear Readers will know that I've been following the YA Rebels for ages, and simply love their vlogs. So when I found out that the Rebels were putting together a new line up and were holding open auditions for three spots, of course, I made a vlog and uploaded it. Here it is:
A reminder to that next week is...well, ME Week over on The Book Memoirs. I'll be linking you over to their blog every day next week and I hope that you'll click through to reward Kate and Elle for their hard work in putting everything together. They're going to be collecting questions from readers throughout the week and I'll be answering as many as I can on Friday, and there will also be giveaways, so it's well worth checking it out.
And now, onto today's real topic, which is:
TURNING IDEAS INTO PLOTS PART #3
Hello, my lovelies. It is now time to launch into the third part of the Turning Ideas into Plots workshop.
You have your basic diagram, like so:
(For more information on what this means, flick back to Part #2).
You have enough solid story events now fixed in your head to be able to fill in two or three of the points on the diagram, which means you're on your way. You have, effectively, the skeleton of a plot. Possibly when people ask what you're writing about, you can give them a brief summary which touches on those main plot points, and they go 'Wow, sounds interesting'.
But you still don't have a STORY. Because the story is like the flesh, the blood, the muscles and skin that cover and fill the gaps between the bones. Without the story, the plot is useless.
This where that commonly held saying comes from that ideas are ten-a-penny, but execution is key. The execution of the story, the way you put those muscles together, the texture of the skin, is what turns your story either into a beautiful, vibrant, living creature - or a hulking, mouth-breathing Frankenstein's Monster.
To illustrate this, let's take a story that we all know well. Cinderella.
It's fairly easy for anyone to pick out how the main points of Cinderella's story fit onto the plot diagram I showed you. Hence:
However, the way I normally work this out is to try and fill in the first side of the diamond in as much detail as possible before I start writing. Then I put in whatever details I can think of on the other sides. Like so:
Because although I'm an outliner, and although I like to know in detail what I'm aiming for, how to actually write those events, what the character feels about them...that I like to make up as I go along. And usually I find that by the time in my first draft I've reached point two (Character Action) I've grown to know the world, story and characters well enough to be able to go on ahead and fill in the next side with a few more details too. The story teaches me about it as I go on. By the time I hit the halfway point I've got something that looks like this:
This is a story now, not just a plot. It includes scenes not just of action but reaction. It shows you what events I (as the author of this particular Cinderella retelling) think are significant enough to dramatise (lots of emphasis on the magic), how I'm going to handle the romance (love at first sight), the emotional significance of events (Cinderella calls to the spirit of her dead mother before the fairy appears - could it really BE the ghost of her mother?) and it makes you ask questions, rather than just being a bare list of events.
The way you chose to write these events - in a grim, gothic style, or a funny irreverent one, or a poetic lyrical one - will be the skin of your story. The outer appearance that people will probably react to first and with the most conviction, just as humans react to the colour and form of other people's outer shell in real life. But without the plot skeleton and the muscle, flesh and blood of the story underneath, the skin is worthless. All the bits of the story's anatomy need to be working together.
So, this is how *I* turn ideas into plots, and then a plot into a story. I hope it's been useful. Remember that the important thing - the only really important thing - is to work the way that helps you most and makes you feel most comfortable. Use a circle instead of a diamond. Don't draw at all, if you don't want to! There is no such thing as a 'right way' and anyone who says there is? Is talking like the B*tSh*t Crazy Lady (remember her?).