Chris: I’ve learned a lot over 20 years of writing and studying writing. Some of this came from classes, workshops, or reading books and magazine articles on writing, but much of it came from trial and error, or critiquing others’ work. There’s nothing like critiquing a few hundred stories to show you what works and what doesn’t.
It’s not too hard to learn some of the basics, such as “Your main character should have a problem or goal” and “Your main character should solve his own problem.” But strong writing involves so much more. I wrote articles and developed workshops on techniques such as pacing and cliffhanger chapter endings -- things I rarely saw discussed, which may be why I see even published books that don’t make use of powerful techniques. Ultimately, when I had enough material, I wanted to share it in an organized way. Thus Advanced Plotting was born.
Here’s an excerpt from one chapter, How to Write Vivid Scenes:
Each scene is a mini-story, with its own climax. Each scene should lead to the next and drive the story forward, so all scenes connect and ultimately drive toward the final story climax.
A work of fiction has one big story question — essentially, will this main character achieve his or her goal? For example, in my children’s historical fiction novel The Eyes of Pharaoh, the main character hunts for her missing friend. The story question is, “Will Seshta find Reya?” In The Well of Sacrifice, the story question is, “Will Eveningstar be able to save her city and herself from the evil high priest?”
In my romantic suspense novel, Rattled (written as Kris Bock), the big story question is, “Will Erin find the treasure before the bad guys do?” There may also be secondary questions, such as, “Will Erin find love with the sexy helicopter pilot?” but one main question drives the plot.
Throughout the work of fiction, the main character works toward that story goal during a series of scenes, each of which has a shorter-term scene goal. For example, in Erin’s attempt to find the treasure, she and her best friend Camie must get out to the desert without the bad guys following; they must find a petroglyph map; and they must locate the cave.
You should be able to express each scene goal as a clear, specific question, such as, “Will Erin and Camie get out of town without being followed?” If you can’t figure out your main character’s goal in a scene, you may have an unnecessary scene or a character who is behaving in an unnatural way.
The essay goes on to explore the four potential answers to a scene question (Yes, No, Yes but…, and No and furthermore…). This is the kind of detailed plot advice, with specific examples,
I wanted to share with other writers. Writing great stories starts with dreams, imagination, and creativity, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn specific techniques to make your writing even stronger. I want Advanced Plotting to help.
Learn more about Chris and read excerpts of her work at www.chriseboch.com (for children’s books) or www.krisbock.com (for adult romantic suspense written under the name Kris Bock) or see her Amazon page at http://www.amazon.com/Chris-Eboch/e/B00