Thursday, April 12, 2012
The Art of Writing No 11
What I have found useful in developing plot lines is as follows. Given that in these blogs I crudely dichotomise writers into two camps, lego and clay, let me look at how narratives are developed in each. Plot lines of the clay type writer are a little more mysterious than those of the lego. For the clay writer they are much more organic and evolve from an alchemical mix of characters’ psychology, previous action and the environment. There is a sense of the plot unfolding as the heady mix of interactions go on. To some extent you are at the behest of the characters that you have created, their will being stronger than your (maybe) desire to control them and speak through them! On the other hand, lego writers like to create a predestined pattern or formula for their plots, particularly in, say, crime fiction. What both camps desire is that the ending of a narrative cannot be guessed until it happens, whether this means that the guilty party is revealed or that an illumination of character and circumstance occurs which makes the foregoing plot line suddenly translucent.
The problem we have as writers is that we plagiarise unwittingly (if we are honourable!) and so it is easy for the reader to latch on to what has become a plot cliché. We borrow from films, books, the internet, news stories without realizing it.
So – before you go too far, whether you are clay or lego, ask yourself whether you can remember anything similar to the events you are portraying and, if so, scratch out and start again. Horrible to do. I have said on Twitter that writing is an addiction but editing is cold turkey! (@profjacksanger.com)You may have to take extreme measures to make your plots unique but also believable. Some writers begin with an extraordinary ending and then work towards it, some write bits of plot and character on study cards and then riffle them and try to cohere the new pattern of events. Some set up a group of characters and then introduce an act of god to see how they will behave.
I don’t see myself as a crime writer but have one book of that genre on kindle under the pseudonym Eric le Sange. In it I use a little knowledge of chaos theory and work out how a Private Dick solves crimes utilizing it. By this introduction of a novel detection technique both plot and character become different. Add to that the notion of a womanizing detective who is shamed and blamed by most of the women he meets and a richness evolves. Good luck!
The Strange Attractor by Eric le Sange, kindle e-books, Amazon