Writing about writing ... instead of actually writing. But I figured out a plot problem today and the solution was interesting, so I decided to make a post about it.
There was this interesting post
about the "mid-book slump", i.e. writing middles of books, at marthawells
today. This isn't quite
what she was talking about, but it got me thinking along similar lines.
On my current novel (poker players on a cruise ship) I've been stuck for days on a particular chapter. There are two things I wanted to happen in it, during the Big Game that is currently taking place: a supporting character is accused of cheating, and the protagonist runs into somebody he hasn't seen since he was a child.
And I just couldn't get it to work.
I'd written part of each scene, and they were just lying there, flat. I could've just slammed out something terrible and moved on to the next bit, but these scenes were going to influence the details of the next one, so I felt like I had to get them nailed down before I could move on.
What I realized was that I could switch around the order of the scenes -- instead of the current "meeting, then cheating", I could make it "cheating, then meeting" and have the childhood-friend meeting result directly from that character's attention being drawn by the altercation that came out of the cheating accusation. The problem, I think, is that in the original version, the two scenes just happened,
as opposed to one being directly caused by the other. Which meant they both had equal weight to the reader, so there was this stuttery "event! -- then relax -- then event!" thing happening.
Okay, the only way these "drawn in 20 seconds on my Wacom" graphics could be worse would be if I'd figured out how to do them in ASCII, but ...
Sometimes you'll run into stories where the plotting basically has this choppy staccato feeling, like this:
You get it in chaptered WIP fanfics a lot, for example. A thing happens ... and then another thing ... and then another thing. Each of them might be an interesting thing by itself, but after awhile it starts to feel very self-similar and dull, because it doesn't seem to be going anywhere. There might even be a plot progression happening (for example, the main character finds a clue, then another clue, then yet another, and now they have enough clues to put the mystery together) but the scenes still
feel repetitive because the emotional stress and plot tension is roughly the same in each one.
As opposed to the first thing directly leading to the second thing, and the second thing causing the third thing, which feels more like this:
... because it's subconsciously cranking up the plot tension on each iteration. #2 couldn't have happened without #1, which in turn causes #3, etc.
Which, when you see the graphic, is basic plotting 101, right? Like this.
But it's hard to see it in practice, when you've got a number of different events plotted out that are supposed to happen, and the connections between them might not be obvious. You might have to create those connections, especially if you're shifting back and forth between different storylines, which is what I was doing here. And it helped me a lot to stop thinking, as I had been, "how can I make this scene happen, and this other scene happen" and instead start thinking in terms of, "I have these two scenes happening together in the same chapter; how can I make one of them directly result in the other?"
It doesn't even have to be a big, important connection. This definitely wasn't. But it made the whole thing feel like a unified whole, instead of some different things that just happened to occur in the same chapter.This entry is also posted at http://sholio.dreamwidth.org/1060401.html with comments.