Monday, February 6, 2012

Back to Basics - an Ephinony

I have been struggling with getting my plot in order. I have it sort of mapped out, but, as much as I love structure, outlining is something I'm terrible at.

I understand where beats go, and what's suppose to happen when. I really do, but when trying to apply that to my work, it's like herding cats. Difficult and full of little claws.

A book about plot passed by me at work, so I stopped to read the first chapter. I didn't think I was going to learn anything new from reading the first few pages of this book, but I'm always willing to learn something new so I gave it a shot.

Or maybe just get inspiration.

As I was reading the book, I realized that I had forgotten the basics. Years and years of study of the craft and I forget my foundations because I'm so worried about alliteration. Step one of writing a book: Who's your main character and what's their motivation. How could I have forgotten that?

Halfway through writing my first draft I realized that my original MC (The Flamingo Princess - a spunky girl who'd been a flamingo for quite some time, and had become comfortable in her skin) wasn't actually the MC. It was West, originally a side character who acted as the catalyst for change in my flamingo's life. He undergoes the most character change throughout the piece, and I knew then, that this was actually his story. So, when I went to rewrite, I knew I was going to drop some scenes to focus more on him.

But when looking at my plot, I kept feeling overwhelmed and dazed. I didn't know what scenes were missing, and which ones to cut. Who to cut out and who to leave. How to change this to West's story. Because I never thought of it in terms of my MC's motivation.

West wants to go home. Why can't West go home? Because his father kicked him out, and he has to return with a knight's reputation. So, if West wants to get home, now I can look at every conflict as "How is this preventing West from getting home?"

Bingo. I feel like I found the missing link.

As much as we write and rewrite, it's important to always remember the basics. This is perhaps the easiest thing to forget.

So, early in the revision process (before going back and outlining) we need to state: who is this story about and what does he/she want? Then we can look at every scene and say "How is this scene helping/hindering that goal?"

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