Thursday, February 04, 2010

Non-Plotting Workshop, Phase 2

First, The winner of a download of Wynter Daniels' upcoming ebook is Wendy Marcus. Please email Wynter using the contact page on her website -

Now, back to planning my workshop presentation.

From yesterday's post: this is my basic starting point for writing a romantic suspense, but it's not much different for any commercial fiction genre.

H/H trying to get on with their lives
They meet/interface/at cross purposes
Bad stuff happens
They fix it and have a HEA.

And then there's the character sketch GMC. (Goal, Motivation, Conflict) Their goals:

Randy wants to be a good cop.
Sarah wants to have a successful business.
Randy and Sarah want each other.

Continuing on: My next step will elaborate (very slightly) on some of the conflict potential in the book. Since this book is a sequel, most of the character back story was established, which cuts back on how much time I had to spend figuring out their basic personality traits.

Sarah wants to be independent. She wants to prove she doesn't need to rely on anyone.

Randy wants to take care of people. That's why he became a cop.

There's plenty of room for those underlying character goals to be at cross purposes. Remember, only trouble is interesting, so it's a good idea if the character's goals can create friction between them.

With that established, it's time to think of possible scenes that will put the characters into situations that show who they are. Some will be relationship scenes, some will be scenes showing the characters getting or not getting what they want.

Scenes in the book can be broken down into several basic categories:

Randy on the job
Sarah on the job
Randy & Sarah in a relationship

Within that framework, we can brainstorm more specific possible scenes within each category, and see how the scene can be used to build conflict and tension. I'll use that to demonstrate the "idea board".

A 90 minute presentation really doesn't have time to develop a scene by scene tracking board for a 30 chapter book. I decided to use the first 10 chapters, which should demonstrate the basics, so my tracking board will be built up, layer by layer for that much of the book.

I gave 2-3 sentence summaries for each scene and wrote them on sticky notes, which I'll go over one at a time. Then I'll add the layers, including the locations, time, secondary characters, clues, reveals, and anything else.

As the writer, my goal was to keep Randy and Sarah apart (I'm nasty that way). But I'm not totally heartless, so the book opens with a relationship scene, where Randy and Sarah are having dinner together at a restaurant after he's been away for six weeks. Of course, I couldn't make it too easy, so just when it looks like they're going to have a very hot reunion, he gets a call and has to report to a crime scene.

I decided to make it a murder scene, and a complex one. Something out of the ordinary, something that would challenge Randy's cop abilities. I gave him a dead body to deal with. At this point in the book, all I knew was Randy had to be doing cop stuff (to irritate Sarah), and it had to be something that would keep him away for at least the entire night, preferably more. So I gave him a body that had absolutely no identification. I stuck it in a remote field, naked, with his face blown off. Did I know who he was? Nope. Who did it? Why they did it? Nope. Not yet. Didn't need to, not the way I write. I have chapter one on the page at this point, and I can work forward from there.

I'll continue with this next week. Tomorrow we're going to the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland for my Friday Field Trip. Thanks to Jessica for the pictures.

Like this post? Please share.


Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I like the way Sarah's independence puts her at odds with Randy's desire to take care of others. Lots of opportunity for conflict!

Mystery Writing is Murder

Terry Odell said...

That was about all I had to go on when I started writing Finding Sarah. But as the cliche goes ... every journey begins with a single step.

Terry said...

Only trouble is interesting:) So true. I'm liking your non-plotting strategies. (other Terry)

Mason Canyon said...

I'm loving the story. I can see a beautiful female having ties to this murder victim that would really push Sarah's buttons when Randy starts having to deal with her.

Terry Odell said...

Other Terry -- thanks.

Mason - The answers will all be in the books! But read Finding Sarah first. :-)

Annabelle Ambrosio said...

I liked reading the blog because I wondered about the plotting board. I'm aiming to use it soon. thanks for sharing.

Terry Odell said...

Anabelle. My pleasure

Carol Kilgore said...

I love seeing how other writers write. You're much more analytical than I am. That's probably a good thing.

Mary Ricksen said...

You're giving me a brain freeze. I'm lost on another planet.
I must be deranged or at the very least flippy.
Panster here!

Terry Odell said...

Mary, you're probably forgetting that I do this all AFTER I've written the chapters. I have no idea what they're going to be until I write them. All I started with was that 4 line first bit.

Sheila Deeth said...

I joined a local writers group challenge to write a novel in February (so I guess I should be writing.) Had to visit here though since you are part of what inspired me to let the challenge challenge me into trying to write in an organized manner too. I've just been writing characters and aims and conflicts and I'm beginning to see what the scenes might be.