Plotty Training

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As a writer in training, just out of diapers, so to speak, it’s time I got plotty-trained. Gone are the days when I can put my creative hat on, rub my wisdom tooth, boot up my laptop and start typing. I need plots with structure, plots with arcs, subplots that enhance the theme, scenes dripping with conflict and tension, and characters that change.

My How-to-Write library (now with well over 20 books) contains four classic books on the subject. Here they are in the order I read them:

1. The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler
2. Story by Robert McKee
3. Scene and Structure by Jack M. Bickham
4. Save the Cat by Blake Snyder

All of these are fabulous books, but of the four, only Jack Bickham’s targets Fiction Writers generally; the others are all aimed at Screenwriters.

Blake Snyder refers to McKee and other authors on screenwriting:

Syd Field – Screenplay (and 6 other books)
Viki King – How to Write a Movie in 21 Days
Joseph Campbell – Hero With a Thousand Faces

The thing is, I’m writing a novel, not a screenplay. So I’m wondering how much of the screenplay-guru wisdom is applicable to the novel.

I have the basic idea: the setting, the main character and his sidekick, and several ideas for the main storyline. I have the Inciting Incident, the Story Question and a hazy idea of the overall Theme. I even have a complete outline, and I’ve written the first few chapters. But do I have a viable plot? In Syd Field’s words: Is my story structure dramatically effective in holding my story line together?

Ho hum.

I’m off to buy lots of card-index cards, coloured pencils, some drawing-pins and a cork-board. Once I have all these hyphenated-accessories I should be able to start.

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