Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What is Plot?

I’ve finished my 90,000-word novel Kokoweef. So, for the last couple of weeks, I’ve been working on a book proposal. The hard part of writing begins soon. Pitching to agents and editors.

Now that your nest is empty, you too may have dusted off that old dream of becoming a world-class novelist. But, you ask, where do I begin? With a plot and characters. These basic elements create the narrative, which consists of a beginning intent, a middle that contains a series of actions and reversals, and an end that is the logical outcome.

Let’s look at plot today. Plot isn’t the same as story. The story consists of a chronology of events. For example: She got up, grabbed some coffee, and caught the bus to work. This is all action, so it is story. Plot is the story, plus it answers the question why by using a pattern of actions and reactions. Example: Exhausted from cleaning offices all night, she overslept. She grabbed some coffee so the children could have the last of the cereal then rushed past her broken-down car to catch the bus to work. The story tells us about a woman that is late for work. Plot is revealed as we see a single mom struggling to provide for her family.

Basically, there are only two types of plots, either ones that address the physical or ones that address the mind. Physical plots are action driven and usually don’t answer any great moral or intellectual questions. They include adventure, mystery, thriller, western, sci fi. Those that address the mind are character driven. They explain ideas, human nature, relationships, beliefs, attitudes, and the search for meaning.

What fuels plot is tension. Tension in turn is created by opposition. As opposition grows, the tension grows until the narrative reaches a climax where there is some change to the main character.

Deciding on your plot is the first step in writing your novel. We’ll explore character next time.—Quinn

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:31

 Remembering those who died and those who were left behind.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Do You Have an Article in Mind?

After I graduated to the empty-nest phase of my life, I decided to write fiction. You, however, might prefer non- fiction. Articles are a good place to start, and you have a vast store of experience to draw from. People contemplating home education might benefit from a how-to article. Moms in the April doldrums might be uplifted with a humorous story or encouraged by how you handled similar circumstances.

As with story, articles have structure. A beginning, middle, and an end. In addition, they often include sidebars that contain tidbits that don’t fit into the story but add to interest, provide further information, or answer frequently asked questions.

The beginning is the opening paragraph or paragraphs, often called the hook. It is supposed to grab the readers’ attention and pique their curiosity. To avoid sounding preachy or like an encyclopedia, use a conversational voice and incorporate dialogue, description, or a bit of action.

The middle is the main part of your article. If the story is about something that happened, write chronologically. If it informational, supply details for the topic mentioned in the opening. You can show cause and effect, comparison and contrast. Embellish with quotes, anecdotes, and opposing points of view.

The ending can be a logical conclusion such as the finished product in a how-to article or the end of a journey in a travel article. You can also end with practical suggestions, an invitation to further exploration, or with a request for a new conclusion. As I am about to do, you may also return to your beginning paragraph with a slightly different focus.

If you are a serious writer there is one thing that might steer you toward non-fiction. It pays better. Much better. First, you’ll want to find a market that features your type of article. Many public libraries have directories of periodicals in their reference section. Look up a magazine that fits your story and follow their submission guidelines. A very popular guide is Writer’s Market, published by Writer’s Digest. Sally E. Stuart produces the Christian Writers Market Guide that lists periodicals covering everything from apologetics to youth issues. Both are available on Amazon.—Quinn