Monday, April 4, 2011

Mired in Plot

Every so often I start writing what I know about the way story works. Usually now I skip over narrative. I think I've got quite good handle on what it is for and how it works and the difference between it and every thing else going on in a story. My short cut is that narrative is the what, when, where and how.

Agency and plot are the who and why.

I put agency first these days because a plot is nothing without someone running the show, someone to generate the action. They're like a chicken and egg thing, which came first? The agent committing the crimes? Or the crimes?

The concept of agency seems simple. In our times of wanting actively-voiced heroes, we'll have the protagonist for that job while leaving the baddie with the reactionary ways to get what s/he wants. In the story I have been writing for the past week, I've had the protagonist acting and the antagonist reacting.

The plotting left much to be desired, I realised only when I hit a much better inciting incident than the one I started with, about seven thousand words in. And even though I'd written a you-beaut no-fail five stage character arc before I began that I was following assiduously.

I reeled.

I wondered if it meant I just had written seven thousand words of back story, or whether I should just hit delete. (I didn't. I'm a squirrel in all things.)

But I stopped. I'm doing this instead.

And I've been re-reading about plotting. First I wished I had a brand new text about plotting. I've read everything I've got in the house about the craft more than a couple of times. But I would have had to wait and I needed to read about it now. You know how it is with time constraints.

In the end I went through my little library on the matter and decided to read something I thought I knew by heart. Because at varying times, I remembered, I'm ready to take in more, or take things in in a different way that could end up being more meaningful than it ever did before. It's probably a common experience. I have it even with knitting patterns. Maybe this will be one of those times.

Reading, reading, reading.

One of my favourite sources is Sol Stein, in this case his Solutions for Writers: Practical Craft Techniques for Fiction and NonFiction. I like the way he doesn't make too much difference between the protagonist and antagonist. It's not a goody/baddy situation but a clash of wills. Both characters need something to strive for and ideally these are radically different. So that they're on stage -- to borrow from theatre -- with completely different agendas.

Yeah! I think I can see something happening in my back story. A thread of this and a thread of that. Maybe leave that second incitement for a second story. Or vice versa. I don't know that part yet. I need to rebuild the world a bit.

That's something we're all doing all the time. We're like a bunch of termites in that respect.

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