Got Plot?

Side note: Saw this picture and had to giggle. Get it? Plots? 🙂

~~~

So, we’ve just finished a loooonng week of VBS (note to Jon: let’s hold off for a little while on having kids, okay?) where I team-taught the 4 and 5 year-olds with my cousin, Katie and my sister, Cayce.

Fun. Exhausting.

So, I didn’t get a lot of writing done. Mostly because I would come home, fall onto the couch and just sit quietly for the next hour.

But, without further delay, I present: Got Plot? The next installment in these few little writing tips. Once again, I’m not a very experienced writer and most of the “writing tips” I have are ripped straight off the pages of writing manuals and teachers I’ve heard. And half of what I’ve learned, I tossed out and made up something that works for me.

Example: I talked to one writer who told me to write 10 pages and nothing less every day.

This sounds like a great plan to pop out a novel every 36 days, but at the same time, what if I don’t have anything to write? What if I came home from VBS and wrote 10 pages of “Much as I love kids, I love giving them back to their parents when they’re screaming”?

It wouldn’t be too beneficial to my book. So, I didn’t heed that advice.

Or, the classic – and the one we’re talking about today – “You need to outline, outline, outline, Erynn.”

Three things wrong with this:

A) I don’t think that far ahead when I write. I sit down, write the first sentence and find out what’s happening in my story as I write it.

B) I don’t outline because I feel constricted then when things change from when I had originally imagined them (in Miss Match, I didn’t even know Ryan would be a character when I started writing it. And he became a huge part of the series!).

C) If I don’t even know what I’m doing in the next 14 minutes, how in the world can I expect to plan out my characters lives?

So, basically, I don’t outline.

I do however start with a general plot idea. Miss Match was: Girl who is convinced she’s staying single decides to start setting up all of her friends.

Pretty loose. I like it like that – it lets me expound and write and add characters as much as I want. Everyday when I sit down to write it’s a completely new day – anything can happen!

For those of you who love to outline, definitely check out Brandilyn Collins’ website (brandilyncollins.com) or James Scott Bell’s site (jamesscottbell.com). Both of them are not only friends, but excellent writing instructors. (Also, check out christianwritersguild.com – Brandilyn is teaching this year at their annual writing conference in Colorado Springs).

For everyone out there who is like me and can’t think that far in advance, read on!

So, the next question becomes, how does the plot advance?

Here’s a really fun exercise to do when you’re writing, writing, writing and then all of a sudden the wheels grind to a halt and there’s that slight smell of brain brake fluid (too many metaphors. My bad). Start with your character and the general idea for the story like we talked about earlier.

Character: Millie.

Idea: Millie is an average girl who gets abducted by aliens.

Okay, now, let’s say you’ve gotten as far in the story as her being picked up by little green Cupie dolls. Then, you don’t know how to expand this idea further. Here’s where it gets fun. Ask yourself: What is the worst thing that could happen right now?

Well. Millie could be deathly afraid of zero gravity. She could’ve spent her whole life holding onto fence posts when she walked and avoiding bungee jumps.

See how that works? We add in a major fear. In Miss Match, Lauren Holbrook is afraid of what? Things changing. She’s more like her dad than she realizes.

So now, Millie is not only coping with green Cupie dolls, she’s also facing her worst childhood fear. Add in a cute space nerd and maybe a couple of planetary setbacks and you’ve got a great plot.

Important Thing To Remember: It’s very important to decide at the beginning of the novel what will be driving the reader to finish the book. Will it be the characters or the plot? If you’re writing suspense, it’s automatically the plot – the characters could be anyone. If you’re writing a more contemporary book, it will most likely be the characters. Whatever is the main reading drive, make it the most elaborate. But… DO NOT NEGLECT the other one! I’m pretty sure all of us have read books that dragged on for years because they were missing a plot. Or, have read suspense novels that you couldn’t remember the main character’s name because you weren’t even sure if there was a main character!

Keep in mind the stories you love: Pride and Prejudice has awesome, awesome character development. And we definitely keep reading to find out what’s going to happen to the Bennett sisters. But – if we didn’t have the plot of the Mr. Darcy/Elizabeth friction, the Bennett’s lack of fortune, Lady Catherine’s outrage, etc., we would probably not be able to finish the book because of sheer 20th Century boredom. We care about the sisters because of the plot.

Or, for example, a more plot driven work: Bourne Identity. The plot is the main thing we’re worried about – why is he good at killing people? Why does the government want him back? Why does he have to deal with that gross assassin who pulls the pen back out of his hand? But note the key word in every sentence: him. We care about the plot because of Jason Bourne.

Hopefully that was stated relatively clear. 🙂

Next week we’ll talk a little bit about follow-through (which I’m horrible at). How do you keep writing past the 2nd page, 2nd chapter, 2nd novel?

I LOVED everyone’s comments with the first writing tip. Let’s keep it going! What do you guys do to come up with plots? What are ways you make a simple plot more elaborate?

Have a fabulous week!

Erynn 🙂

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5 Responses to “Got Plot?”

  1. Christy Says:

    Great post today, Erynn!

    Like you, I am anti-outline. Back during my Bible School days, my teachers often extoled the wondrous advantages of outlining, but it’s just not in my nature. Everytime I’m forced to do one, I find myself reaching for a paper bag… Let me out of here! I’m claustrophobic! 😉

    I loved your tip for adding an element of fear into your novel to liven things up a bit! I will definitely file that one near the front of my mental rolodex of writing tips.

    Btw, how are things going in Maya’s corner of the world? I’m sure you want to keep most things under tight wraps, but is there anything about her you can tell us? I’m anxious to meet her!

    Take care and keep writing! You’re an inspiration to so many!

  2. Jessica Says:

    Ahem… I regretfully inform you I am also a rule breaker (:)) and do not like to outline my stories. I can’t think that far ahead or else I leave behind my great ideas. One story I’m thinking about now is “what would happen when I mix megnetically opposite people.” For example, a lady mechanic and a male doctor, or vice versa. The story and characters really write themselves!!

  3. Kathy Says:

    I agree with the no outline thing. My English professors at college hate it because I always ask if I am required to do an outline. They simply frustrate me. How am I supposed to know what my characters are going to be doing in chapter fifteen when I can’t figure out chapter two. I like to let my stories grow not plan them out meticulously. They change too much if I try the planning thing.

    Great post, and I look foreward to reading more. You’re awesome and thanks for sharing your thoughts and writing.

  4. Anna Says:

    Wow, I’m so happy to hear you’re anti-outline. You have no idea. My teachers actually require an outline for our senior theses, and it was just about what killed me. Seriously, just let us write the paper our way! It’s like the high school physics teacher counting off because you didn’t solve the problem using his ridiculous created method! Ah, life. It goes on. Anyways, thank you so much for the tips. I love seeing other young writers make it — I hope to be published one day and am just about to start with the Christian Writers Guild’s Apprentice course. I actually never would have heard about it if I hadn’t read your unbelievable books! Basically, Laurie Holbrook is my best friend (meaning she is exactly like my best friend). My point? It’s nice to read about characters that are actually realistic and not plastic. So I thank you most profusely. Keep writing, and God bless!

  5. Charity Says:

    Hey Erynn!! I love your books so much! I’ve tried to e-mail you, but it has not been working. So I’ll just type to you on here. I started reading your books at 11 years old. I know that probably wasn’t the age group you intended the books for, but I LOVED them anyway. Reading is one of my favorite hobbies, and like you, writing is my passion. If I can, I will send you part of the story I’m writing. I’d love to get one of my favorite authors’ opinions on it. When I saw your book in the little Christian book store near me for the first time, I was looking for a good book to read while I waited for the next book in the Warriors series to come out (My favorite books!!). I was just browsing, until I laid eyes on MissMatch. I immediately picked it up, briefly read through the back, and bought it. Something TOLD me to buy it! As soon as I started reading it back at home, I was hooked. I had it done in about three days, and wanted more. When I checked out your site, I discovered ReMatch wouldn’t be out for a LONG time!! It crushed me for a while, but I started reading some great classics. Then as soon as ReMatch came down, I swallowed it without chewing, but then went back and read some things over again. Now that I’ve recently finished MatchPoint, even though I’m sad it’s all over, I am very pleased with the ending, and couldn’t ask for more (well…Unless Laurie was to have kids that is. he he). Also I thought I might add, we are a lot alike, from the amazing love of chocolate, to the same slippers. Well anyway, thank you. Thank you so much! I absolutely adore your writing and your personality. Please keep writing and post any new books on your site. Oh, and congrats on your new husband! =) God bless you both!

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