Tag Archives: Plot & Structure

Reading Circles – Plot & Structure {Part 5} And What’s Next

It turns out this post will have to be a case of hit and run. On less than a day’s notice, my husband and I need to catch a midnight train to Bangkok. Well, actually, it’s a 5:00 train…but it’s an overnight ride! I don’t even know how long we’re going. I may need to pack for three days or a week and a half.

So let me be brief.

Last week, we read the chapter on Endings from James Scott Bell’s book, Write Great Fiction: Plot & Structure. There’s one great piece of advice in there that really called to me, and it was this:

Don’t rush. Take the time to consider multiple alternatives, complex alternatives. It’s easy to be in a hurry to finish when you’re so close to the end, but take the time to consider the best way to have an ending that not only ties up all your loose ends, but does so with resonance.

Was there anything that struck you?

So what’s next from here? In the next week, I encourage you to finish the book. It’s got some great chapters on scenes and plot patterns and how to develop your characters throughout the whole of the book. It also has some great advice on how to deal with some common plot problems.

Next week, I have some exciting new prospects on the horizon. We’ll talk about the next read and a big announcement. So stay tuned and check in right here next week!

And with that, I’d better go pack! Have a great weekend!


Reading Circles – Plot & Structure {Part 4}

When I write fiction, my work is almost always about some kind of internal struggle, often involving an impossible decision that, whichever way the character chooses to go, ends up defining and shaping them thereafter. Those are the kinds of conflicts I personally find compelling.

But listening to a whole bunch of inner dialogue without anything else going on is not. I like literary…but not that kind of literary.

(Waiting For Godot, anyone? All right, that was dialogue, but please, shoot me first if I ever have to read that again.)

Anyway, so the point is, how do you engage readers throughout your story, and especially in my case, where the demons are often inside the protagonist herself? Bell provides the answer in his chapter on Middles: set up opposition. Whether it’s a villain, a disease, a ticking time bomb, or just plain old obstacles, make things tough for your character. And the opposition must be credible: significantly stronger, bigger, more powerful than your character, or else there’s no challenge. So, because of Bell’s advice, I now make sure I have some other, linked, conflict going on — and it turns out it helps me a lot too because the outside forces continually push my characters to deal with the internal conflict, so the two become inseparable.

Was there something you learned about setting up opposition in the Middle, or increasing and sustaining tension?

All right, next week, let’s read the chapter on Endings. After that, we will move very quickly through the rest of the book, and on to the next. Sound like a plan?

Have a great weekend!!

Reading Circles – Plot & Structure {Part 3}

Happy Friday everyone! Did you come across anything interesting in the chapter on strong beginnings this week? I really liked the part where Bell talked about not needing much exposition right up front; that readers will follow a character doing something even if they don’t know anything about who that character is. It’s such salient advice because I know I always feel compelled to give a lot of backstory up front.

But I’ve observed this advice in action and I learned how powerful it is to not give too much right away. I learned this while reading Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. What compelled me to keep reading the book from the start was the sense that the characters’ world was familiar but there was something very wrong with it and I was dying to know what was going on. It wasn’t the plot that compelled me; it was this mystery provoked by the juxtaposition of familiar and foreboding, both comforting and strange. I used that lesson to guide my own writing: to leave a question unanswered as part of what compels the reader to keep going.

What stood out to you? What would you do differently, now having read this chapter?

All right, next week let’s read Chapter 5: Middles, or: how to get from here to there. We often have great beginnings…and then peter out. This read prevents the peters!

Have a great weekend, everyone and we’ll see you next week!