2 Stories at the Same Time; Reading on Plot & Structure

I am stuck on my WIP (the still unnamed Book Three, sequel to We All Fall Down and We Are The Tide). I *was* stuck on my WIP. I felt like it was getting away from me and things were running rampant all over the page without any sense or structure. It was very frustrating. It's been a long time since I've felt like that and I started to panic that my writing spell was drying up, that I would go back to half-finished ideas and an overly vocal inner critic that prevented me from finishing stories.

I fell asleep and woke up with an entirely different complete story in my head. It's a different genre (YA contemporary vs YA dystopic sci-fi), different age group (these kids are just out of their freshman year of high school) and a totally different plot. It's more John Green than Suzanne Collins, if you get what I mean. It's very unlike anything I've written, but I'm excited about it.

And then I took some time after structuring that story to read a few books on structure, plot, conflict and suspense.

I tend to get annoyed at "How to write a novel" books, but sometimes they're helpful. Here's what I wrote down from each of these.

Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell

  • Readers are asking: 
    1. What's this story about?
    2. Is anything happening?
    3. Why should I keep reading?
    4. Why should I care?

I found this important to remind me that I'm not writing for me I am writing for an audience. The audience is thinking about those questions every step of the way. All my writing and all my scenes should be going towards these questions.

  • What the reader seeks is an experience that is other
  • LOCK System
    L -- Lead (character) must be compelling
    O -- Objective. This is the driving force of fiction. Objective is either to GET something or to GET AWAY from something. L&O form story question--you will want the readers to worry about whether L will get O
    C -- Confrontation (opposition, obstacles)
    K -- Knockout (we want to see a knockout ending, something not particularly gray)

The Master Plots by Ronald Tobias

  • Tension comes from opposition--they should increase in parallel together
  • Plots of the body (force, power, strength, physicality)
  • Plots of the mind (wit, cleverness, mentality)

 The Plot Whisperer by Martha Alderson

  • Use goals of your own and insert them into the story
  • If you're stuck, start writing at the climax and work backwards
  • Color code
  • "Right brained writers: intuitive, big picture, top down. Right brained writers think in pictures more than language and begin writing by developing characters right with sensations, thoughts, emotions, and physiological responses."
  • Greatest hurdles for a right brained writer will be: create structure for her story; manage inner critic

I am a right brained writer all the way.


So I went back and I wrote a very simple piece of paper.

I wrote down my Lead Characters' names and then their objectives. This may be the first time I wrote down their objectives? Oops? 
Then I wrote down "What is the opposition?" and answered myself with the opposing force and their objectives.
Then I wrote "This is a plot of the mind and body!" because my plot is one where my characters must outsmart their opposition, but it's a very physical plot with murders and a quest. 
Then I drew a line across the page and because several of the books used play acts as a good way of mapping and outlining, I wrote my story out like it was a play.
Act I
Scene 1 (what happens)
Scene 2 (you get the picture
Act 2
Scene 1 (etc)
Act 3

Once I did that, I saw clearly my plot, my subplot, my characters' objectives being met (or not), the obstacles they faced, and how to revise my poorly written first draft.


So I'm currently revising and finishing that story (and this is a long process) and drafting my YA contemporary story at the same time. This is the first time I feel like this is balanced. They're so different from each other they can't bleed into each other, and they're a break from each other as well. You can only write so many murders and violence and fights before you really want to write a teenager on a tire swing talking about a boy she met to her best friend. 

That's all for now!