I spotlighted this book, The Dance of Character & Plot, a few months ago in an interview with my Craftsman mentor, DiAnn Mills. You can check out that interview here. Now, I’m going to shine that spotlight on one part of the book, Chapter Seven.
Here’s her opening statement: “We all want our novels to dance. Our characters are authentic, fascinating, and irresistible. We’ve researched our setting so thoroughly, we know the area inch by inch. But if our novel lacks a substantial plot, our story will never receive an invitation to join the dance of a publisher’s list of new releases.”
What makes up a good plot? Let’s look at it.
One thing I love about this book is that everything she says is just gold. You can take it to the bank. She’s done successfully what many others have tried and failed to do. She changed genres, and has won awards from her suspense novels. I reviewed one of them here.
Here’s another quote from the book, “Superb novels require two essentials: strong characterization and an exceptional plot. They go hand in hand.”
Elements to Plotting
Stress – put your character in a situation that is very uncomfortable. If the character loves quiet, throw into a very noisy situation. If the character is shy, throw them into a scene necessary for interaction with people they don’t know.
Tension – the character’s emotions begin to run wild as their comfort level continues to drop. Then ask yourself, what would be the most nerve-wracking thing I can put this character into?
Conflict – “Conflict results from characters struggling to achieve their wants and needs. It involves inner and out battles, and your book must have both.” (pg. 52)
Let’s take conflict and expand it a bit. There are five kinds of conflicts: 1) with another person; 2) with nature; 3) physical; 4) mental; 5) spiritual. In Meghan’s Choice, I made sure that both my hero and heroine had all these conflicts. The jury is still out as to whether she’ll be published this year, but I tried. Just using Meghan, I’ll show you what I did.
Meghan had conflicts with several people: her father and the two men she met who court her. Because my novel is set in Kansas, there must be something with nature, think the Wizard of Oz. Meghan gets shot early on, it’s not serious, but it’s still challenging to her. Just when she’s trying to make it on her own, she’s forced to depend more. Meghan had a lot of mental challenges with her emotions, ultimately leading to the last one – her spiritual choice. Did she want a relationship with the One she worshipped, or would she keep it “head” knowledge, not “heart?”
Another thing to remember about plotting – the scene is where something happens. The “sequel” is where the POV character processes what just happened and makes a new goal.
The Dance of Character & Plot, by DiAnn Mills is available where books are sold.
What are you working on? Did you ever think of writing as a dance? Leave a comment and let me know.