Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Heading to New Mexico . . . and teaching

First things first--happy birthday to my Mom!

I'm heading out tomorrow for Glorieta, New Mexico, and since they only have dial-up at the retreat center, I'm going to pre-write several blog posts and hope I'll be able to click "send" every day.

Since I'm heading off to teach the fiction track, I thought I'd share what I've developed to teach writers of all ages about plotting. Now--I know about Randy's snowflake and Vogler's The Writer's Journey. I've read tons of books, and my skeleton isn't necessarily a tool for plotting, though I've had great success in using it for that purpose. You can use it merely as a tool for analysis, if you like. (Recently I got stumped in MAGDALENE and forced myself to stop and sketch out the skeleton. Almost immediately I found my story problem--the bones weren't fitting together properly.)

Anyway . . . people who call themselves "seat of the pants" writers relish the joy of being free to discover new things in the process of writing. But I can't sit down without an outline; the very idea of not knowing where I'm going scares me spitless. I need a destination or I know I'll wander all over the place, and I can't stand the thought of wasted effort. On the other hand, writers who plot out every single development before hand--well, I'd find that too limiting. I need the freedom to listen to the characters because they come to life as I work with them. I don't know all their secrets in the first draft. I have a much better handle on things by draft three.

So--I came up with the plot skeleton. It's bare bones on purpose. It will give you a basic, solid structure without limiting your desire to add additional things. And it's simple enough for a third grader to understand.

The other day I realized that all of us were (or should have been taught) how to construct a five-paragraph theme in high school. You know, the old intro, thesis sentence, three main points, conclusion. I wrote more of those than I care to remember.

Yet we were also often told to "write a story" and I don't remember EVER being given clear directions or any kind of blueprint. I think our teachers thought that anything would be okay and frankly, it isn't. Fiction needs a structure, too. (If it's going to hang together properly, that is.)

So, beginning tomorrow, I'm posting a mini-workshop on plotting. Enjoy.



Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!!!

Carrie said...

Can't wait!

Betsy said...

That is an answer to a prayer