Thanks to all of the lovely people in writing.ie for having me back again!! On the 22nd of February I was guesting in their Better Fiction Guides. This time, as part of the blog tour for Secrets We Keep. At that stage, in the real world I was just going back over the next draft of what’s to come next! Plot was my main focus and here’s a blog post all about it!!
And here’s the post:
Losing the Plot by Faith Hogan
They say a good story has a beginning, a middle and an end – but if you want to have a great story, you’re going to need a little more than that.
That’s where plotting comes in. It doesn’t matter if your story is character led or an action fest – it won’t be much of a read unless you have thought about your plot. Plotting takes planning and to be honest, it’s best to do this at the beginning. Seriously, you could save yourself endless re-writing and you’ll have better characters and story for it.
I take the view that each of my characters has within them a resolve. I will sit for a very long time getting inside their heads – maybe as much as they get inside mine. You see, characters are just like us. They are propelled through story by their wants, needs, desire, fears and, of course, love – just as we are in life. Knowing your character, their motivations and their goals will hand you a plot that is both plausible and authentic.
Many of us start our novels with a fair idea of where we’re going. As the writing develops, so too do the characters. They will drag you down side streets and back alleys and sometimes they will lead you to short cuts – and, from time to time, down dead ends! But, sure, isn’t that half the fun of writing?
When I come to the end of the first draft, more often than not it is the plot that will bother me. That’s when the real work starts – you know, the sitting there and staring into space work! Unlike at the beginning, when you’re looking at an empty field, now you’re working within a couple of restrictions, you have characters to think about and there are some things they just can’t do for you. Here’s where you get to play a couple of my favourite plotting games.
This is where you settle down, lap top on knees and let your eyes and mind wander across the story, picking up random threads and playing out the ‘what if’ scenario in your mind. At this stage, it’s best not to actually interfere with that precious document – for now a pencil and paper will do nicely – after all, this time you want your plot to play out from beginning to end. You’re not going to actually change anything until you have the final bullet shot or those last lips kissed!
Would she or could she?
Again, lots of staring into space, this involves broadening and deepening your characters and seeing where this leads in terms of how they affect or effect action. You might think about their childhoods – if they had an unhappy childhood, would it drive them on to that worst-case scenario?
Call for back up.
If you’re feeling brave, you could ask someone else to read your story. This takes guts and you must remember that their feedback is just that – feedback. You need to ask someone you trust, someone who likes to read and someone who will give you gentle but honest thoughts on your work. Obviously, you don’t have to listen to them, but I promise you, that as soon as your manuscript is in their hands, the ideas will come flooding in fast. You know that feeling? Why didn’t I think of that before, duh?
Read your way through it.
I have a couple of go-to books that are always close at hand, at the end of the first draft and these I would recommend no matter where you are on your writing journey:
The Artists Way by Julia Cameron. (Great for kick-starting you if you feel creatively empty.)
Story by Robert McKee. (Super for prompting you to action – think big movie moments.)
Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction by Patricia Highsmith. (Just because she is, well, Patricia Highsmith!!)
There are many more books out there; actually there are so many good books, you could spend your time reading and never get around to writing a single word. So perhaps for now, just take a look at the super National Emerging Writers Programme on writing.ie – just saying!
(c) Faith Hogan
About Secrets We Keep:
Two distant relatives, drawn together in companionship are forced to confront their pasts and learn that some people are good at keeping secrets and some secrets are never meant to be kept.
A bittersweet story of love, loss and life. Perfect for the fans of Patricia Scanlan and Adele Parks.
The beautiful old Bath House in Ballytokeep has lain empty and abandoned for decades. For devoted pensioners Archie and Iris, it holds too many conflicting memories of their adolescent dalliances and tragic consequences – sometimes it’s better to leave the past where it belongs.
For high-flying, top London divorce lawyer Kate Hunt, it’s a fresh start – maybe even her future. On a winter visit to see her estranged Aunt Iris she falls in love with the Bath House. Inspired, she moves to Ballytokeep leaving her past heartache 600 miles away – but can you ever escape your past or your destiny?