January 22, 2012

Anna Katherine's Amazing Author Event

A few years ago, I attended the Northwest Houston RWA’s two-day Lone Star Conference featuring Todd Stone, author of the NOVELIST’S BOOT CAMP. I highly recommend this workshop to anyone wishing to improve writing and editing skills. If you’re unable to attend a workshop, at the very least, purchase his book. Though at first glance it may look intimidating, it is really a very simple to follow, matter-of-fact and easy-to-understand guide.

Today, I’m going to discuss Drill 42 – Take Three Steps to Story Line, page 121.

I’m a panster, so plotting out a story is very hard for me, no matter how much I want to do so. Drill 42 is more or less a lesson on plotting your story in three easy steps. I don’t see myself really doing this for an entire novel. Still, the ideas presented in Drill 42 are worth going over, because if you get yourself stuck on a scene, this may help you get past the problem.

Todd says, “Your concept of operation—called story line—recounts the major actions and events that occur as your protagonist pursues her objective.” The easiest way to build your story line, accordingly, are in the following three steps:

1. Add one of the four D’s: Does, Discovers, Decides or Deals with. They don’t have to be done in this particular order, but all four should be included in your story and at the very least one should start the story journey.

a. Does: In order to attain her goal, the protagonist does something. In my story SALVATION BRIDE, Laure does something by traveling West as a mail order bride. Every does, Todd says, has a consequence. Her actions to marry a stranger, David, results in the consequence of having to give up her career as a doctor as well as having a marriage of love.

b. Discover: The protagonist discovers new information that impacts her quest for her objective. In Laura’s case, she wants a secure, loving home life. She hopes to find that with David. However, she discovers David still loves his dead wife. Now she must deal with a new situation—she must do something so she can still obtain her objective, a secure marriage.

c. Decide: Your protagonist decides to try something new to reach her objective. A decision is NOT an action, it is a conclusion. For the moment, Laura decides that though the situation is not what she hoped for, she at least has a family (in David and his young daughter) and a home to take care of. She won’t rock the boat and end their arrangement. Odd as it seems, doing nothing is the right decision. Quietly caring for his home and young daughter endears Laura to David in a way she didn’t expect.

d. Deals With: Your antagonist takes action, or an event happens and your protagonist responds or deals with it. Laura witnesses a woman being abused by her husband and steps between the man and his wife. This action causes conflict between Laura and David, the town’s sheriff. It is also a turning point in their relationship.

2. Follow with an and so: When you add a D, insert an and so behind it. Doing this should lead you to another D, after which you insert another and so. This sequence helps build a sense of cause and effect, keeps your characters focused on their objectives and keeps your story in motion. You may also use terms like and, then and but.

3. Expand, refine and cross-check. You need to expand and refine your D’s to get to the level of detail necessary to develop your scenes. You will then cross-check the believability and necessity of each detail:

a. Against research for accuracy.
b. Against your protagonist’s objectives, to ensure her actions are focused on achieving those goals.
c. Against the opponent’s objectives, to see what actions the opponent’s might take.

Then expand and refine the D’s to ensure you can insert and so to connect one series of actions with the next. Also important: the protagonist is doing most of the doing. If someone else is doing it, you may need to look over the scene and make changes.  The protagonist needs to be active, not passive.

Following is an example of the opening scenes in my novella SALVATION BRIDE.

Laura Ashton needs the security a husband will give her, and so decides to travel west as a mail order bride. She then discovers that the preacher came to town early, forcing her to deal with an unexpected situation and so she marries David Slade hours after meeting him, when the plan had been to marry a month or so later. She does not tell him she is a trained doctor until after the marriage and so must deal with his refusal to let her practice. She soon discovers that he still loves his dead wife and must deal with knowing her husband will never love her as a man should love his wife. And so, she decides that the security of marriage, family and home are worth a loveless marriage.

I'll give away one copy of SALVATION BRIDE to someone who leaves a comment.

Are you a pasnter or a plotter? Leave a comment on this lesson and how it might help you and you could win.  

Click HERE for more information on SALVATION BRIDE.

Tomorrow's Amazing Author is Barbara Edward at http://barbaraedwardscomments.wordpress.com


Roseanne Dowell said...

Interesting post. I tried to plot a novel at the recommendation of a speaker at our local chapter of RWA. If you're a panster, I don't recommend it. I was blocked for two years on that book, because I was trying to stick to the plot outline. No matter how I tried, I couldn't write even a line until I finally forgot what the outline was. I say if plotting a book works for you, great, go for it. It doesn't work for me and I'll never do it again.

Karen Michelle Nutt said...

I'm not good at plotting out a novel. It's not that I don't have some idea of where I want to go with it, but sometimes the muse has other ideas along the way. lol

Interesting post and I love how you outlined it all for us. :)

Linda LaRoque said...

I'm a panster and plotting is hard for me. I've read Salvation Bride and loved it!

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Hi, Roseanne, Karen and Linda. Thanks for stopping by. As I said, I don't plot either, but sometimes, it's good to have an idea of where you want to head.

Penny Rader said...

Great post! I'm one of those who need to have an idea about where the scene/story is going. Just not all that great at plotting. Thanks for the tips. I will try them out.

Jacquie Rogers said...

Thanks for posting such great advice. :) I absolutely must know where the story is going so mostly a plotter, but I don't need it to be all that detailed and I enjoy surprises along the way. Oh, and I have this book but haven't read it. Sounds like I should.

Caroline Clemmons said...

Very informative post. Thanks for sharing the strategy. I'm a plotter, so this is goof for me.

Ally Broadfield said...

Great post! I'm a confirmed pantster. I usually try to outline a semblance of a plot before I start writing, but it always changes once I get into the story. I like this method you outlined as a check to make sure I'm covering all my bases.

Maryann Miller said...

I like the suggestions you gave from the book. Similar to the "what if" game that I play with an idea. I do not outline a plot in any great detail, but in establishing the main story points, I ask myself "what if X happens? What will the character do?" Drama is all about action and reaction, so Todd Stone's advice is definitely relevant.

Katherine said...

I received a copy of the NOVELIST'S BOOT CAMP by Todd Stone last month but hadn't had a chance to really look at it. The fact that I'm a pantser could have something to do with it. LOL. After your post, I'll have to make sure I find the time to sit down and do that. Thanks for the heads up about Drill 42.

Isabella Macotte said...

Great advice. Thanks!

Isabella Macotte said...

Great advice. Thanks!