Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Waitress, I Need Two More Plot Points

What I'm reading: One Last Breath, by Laura Griffin

Thanks to Patrick for his helpful tips on editing yesterday. Lots of meat there.

Quick wildlife update: A glimpse of red in an aspen outside our bedroom caught my eye. I didn't recognize the bird, so I mentioned it to the hubster. I could sense skepticism as he asked me to describe it. I'm sure he thought I'd seen one of our regular visitors. And, of course, it had flown away by the time he came upstairs to look for himself. He poked through his field guide and showed me 'what it probably was'. I said no. It showed up a little while later, and indeed, it was a new bird. Not only new to our house, but one he'd never seen before. Ever. A Red Crossbill. Points for me.

I will confess that not a lot of writing got done yesterday. Our stalwart crew of two showed up with a jackhammer type device to break out the tile in the kitchen area. Actually, not a lot of thinking got done, either. However, on a serendipitous note, they had to take out the old range to get the tile out from underneath it. In doing so, they found that there was a capped gas line already in place, so they won't have to deal with installing a new one for my new gas range.

Also, the installer for our window treatment showed up on schedule, so he was in and out putting up our shades. We should have a dark bedroom—maybe I won't be up at 5:30 in the morning anymore. And with a covering for my west-facing office window, I can continue to work after 6 PM.

However, I did work on the manuscript Monday.

Plot Points – which, for some reason always makes me think of the Jimmy Buffet song, "Boat Drinks" only I hear it as … "waitress I need two more plot points…" Because a scene needs at least three plot points to justify its existence.

I've had lots of ideas, and lots of plot points I need to get across. It becomes a point of deciding exactly when, where, and how to put them on the page. It's kind of like having this huge pile of construction materials in the garage. Eventually, they'll all be put in their proper places, and we'll have a shiny new upstairs.

But you can't just use whatever's on top. The person who arranged them did it with transport in mind. They had to fit onto his truck, and they had to be balanced so they wouldn't topple over in transit.

Those materials are something akin to the ideas I stick on my idea board. Things that need to happen somewhere in the book, although I might not know exactly where in the beginning stages of writing. In the scene I was working on Monday, I had a number of things to reveal to the reader.

The considerations: Reveal through narrative or internal monologue, or reveal through scene, with two characters interacting. And when to reveal them, remembering that you can reveal things to the reader that you don't reveal to a character.

For example, before the book begins, Grinch's ex-wife and her husband are killed, leaving him as the custodial parent of his biological son. But he hasn't seen the child since he was 18 months old, and they are total strangers. Grinch is doing his best, but he appears to be an incompetent parent to Elizabeth, the heroine (who is, of course, the consummate maternal figure). Does Grinch tell Elizabeth outright? Does he reflect on his fate so the reader understands, but Elizabeth is still in the dark? Or maybe their respective children talk about it and tell their parents. All will get the point across—that Grinch is dealing with fatherhood on a trial-and-error basis.

Or another fact—why Grinch is living where he is, in his childhood home. I want the reader to respect Grinch's parents even if they never appear on the page. There needs to be a reason that they wouldn't rush home as soon as they discover their grandson is back in their lives. I've decided that before the book begins, his parents had decided that they'd had enough of the rural life and wanted to spend their golden years globetrotting. They didn't sell their home, but Grinch hadn't lived there in years. Nor had he paid frequent visits home, given his line of work as a pilot for a covert ops team. But it's the perfect place to raise a child, so he moves in. When should the reader know this? When is it important enough to appear on the page, and how should it get there? Is this something that should be saved for an intimate moment between Elizabeth and Grinch, or could it help the reader understand the story better if they know this early on?

I've mentioned writing chapter 6 from my villain's POV, the first time he's actually on the page. Looking at it, I'm wondering if the plot points in that chapter might be needed sooner. Since the chapter is virtually independent, it would be simple to say, "You're now chapter 3."

The contractors have been making minor adjustments to the order they're going to do the work. They've decided that given the layout of the house, they can't lay the hardwood from the back bedrooms (our offices) until after they deal with the kitchen. While, I don't want to see my contractors experimenting to see if they want to put tile or hardwood in different areas of the floor, or save the installation of the toilets until last, from a writing standpoint, it's nice to be able to move plot points around to see if revealing something earlier will make the plot stronger, or if it should be held back.


Lou Belcher said...

I think you chose a good day to take a break from writing. Can't imagine working with all that going on...

Now, back to work...

Terry Odell said...

Yes, Lou--today they're laying tile, which should be a lot quieter.

Roseanne Dowell said...

Good article. That is one of the things I have the most trouble with. What to tell and when.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

It drives me a little batty having people I don't know in the house. I always feel like I should be offering them sweet tea. And although I'm glad they're there, fixing things, it just makes me feel like I can't focus on the writing.

I'm with you on the writing part of the equation, too...when is the best time to fit in some info? I struggle with my clues and red herrings--when to reveal? Who should reveal them?

Wynter Daniels said...

I don't think I'd be able to write with all that noise, either. We have insulation being blown in today so I am planning a non-writing day. Good luck with the story and all the house adjustments.

Terry Odell said...

Roseanne - Sometimes I think you have to try it several ways. And sometimes it means going back and adjusting what came before (which is why I can't write straight through--I have to fix those things or fear the entire structure will crumble)

Terry Odell said...

Elizabeth--this job is going to go on long enough so they won't be people I don't know. I've already added coffee creamer to my shopping list for one of them.

And I think I'm going to go find my story board--that helped me track the reveals.

Terry Odell said...

Wynter - definitely take the day off. I was seriously considering going down to the local deli with its free Wi-Fi (although it would be smarter to avoid Internet distractions, wouldn't it!)

Maribeth said...

Cars, trucks and playing children I'm used to blocking out. I don't even want to think about a jackhammer!
It's one thing to know others have problems with things like plot points, but when I see it print then I really KNOW it's not just me.
Thanks Terry and everyone.

Giggles and Guns

Carol Kilgore said...

I love watching men work. They tackle problems in a way that is usually totally different from the way women do.

You are much more analytical than I am. I learn a lot from reading your posts. Thanks.

Terry Odell said...

Maribeth - I don't think I could ever adapt to jackhammering (we won't talk about the dust). Not exactly the same as a ticking clock you don't hear after a while.

Carol - These guys tried several approaches to getting the tile out, and jackhammering seemed to be the only one that worked.

And I'm glad you both find my posts helpful.

Debra St. John said...

I love the construction analogies. I can totally relate. I am also totally stuck on some plot points, and need to really dig around in my story to figure some things out.

Terry Stonecrop said...

I can't imagine writing with all that noise. A jackhammer is just beyond human endurance.

Helpful post, again. Thanks.

Lyn said...

What a creative way to express your ideas plot points & flooring. You'd think plot points would be easier to move. Unless you've ever revised a novel. :) Thanks for a fun and informative post.

Mason Canyon said...

Oh, I can't image trying to work with all the construction going on. But then again, I could see using that somewhere in a story where it causes someone to go a little nuts and kill someone. Best of luck writing.

Thoughts in Progress

Kathy said...

Interesting ideas Terry. I have a summary for my story of what it is about. That is as close to plotting as I've gotten. I don't know how to plot it all out I don't know what will happen in that much detail lol. I'm managing to squeeze in words while we pack to move. I keep remembering when you moved how you mentioned there were no restrooms at the picnic areas. That is because they all stop at gas stations along the way to go. I know we all do it here in TX and even we did it twice yesterday lol. Usually when we stop we gas up but sometimes is just a pit stop. I worked in a convenience store aka gas station and didn't mind people traveling it was the ones local that I was like geez you can't make it home? LOL. Hope your house soon is just perfect for you. We will be living with my sister for a bit while we find a place to rent. Might buy after a year or so not interested in trying to buy until I find a job.

Terry said...

Debra - moving stuff around is easier in writing!

TerryS - I agree! I think I wrote under 200 words.

Lyn - I've revised a novel (being re-released next month!) and I was lucky that it didn't need too much 'remodeling' - -just a little 'renovation'

Mason - You should have heard me trying to be polite to the cell phone customer service rep--between phone failure and construction noise, I was ready to throw things.

Kathy - thanks for the info about TX rest stops. Still makes no sense, but we learned to use gas stations instead of looking for rest stops. Good luck with your move.

Kathy said...

Thanks Terry the big thing will be tolerating my annoying sister. I told my niece "I think I pissed your mom off today and I need to quit doing that." She just laughed she'd received the same annoying text and my response didn't sit well when I replied ok lol. But it was a move we'd have to make but our landlord pushed out the door before we were ready to do this. Now it's store our stuff while we hunt for a place to live and tolerate living with my sister.

Sheila Deeth said...

Enjoying catching up on your posts.