Wiring Your Story

Lynn Viehl (39 novels in 5 genres) is fast becoming my favorite blogger. Her Paperback Writer blog of July 28, 2008 is terrific. It’s titled VW#1: Power Plotting (I think VW = Virtual Workshop). I’ve heard of stories compared to building before, but her use of electricity as the power and the wiring as how it moves through the story, and is delivered, just works for me.

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So, what happens next?

In Poetics, Aristotle called plot the “arrangement of incidents.” More informally, plot is “one damn thing after another.” It’s the answer to “what happens next?” In order for a story not to feel episodic, this has to be answered satisfactorily. Even if the next event is thirty years in the future, it has to feel right.

Crawford Kilian says, “[t]he plot of a story is the synthesis of the plots of its individual characters… If all literature is the story of the quest for identity, then plot is the roadmap of that quest. Every event, every response, should reveal (to us if not to them) some aspect of the characters’ identities.”

Every character in the story has a plot based on their ABCs—Agenda, Backstory, and Conflict (ABCs based on notes taken at Willamette Writers’ Conference at Eric M. Witchey presentation).

Agenda—everybody wants something.
Backstory—everybody has a past that brought him or her to this moment that created the agenda.
Conflict—what happens when one agenda bumps against another agenda.

I bring this up because I am stuck. I actually know what happens next. I’m just stuck on the conflict. The scene is too boring. Even I get tired typing it. People will throw the book (I know it’ll get there to be a book thrown) against the wall in its current state. The conflict is there. I just have to root around a little more.

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