Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Guest Blogger - Anita Clenney
Nah. Probably not. But speaking of plotting, that’s our topic today. What makes a good plot? What gets you on the edge of your seat with your toenails digging into your cozy slippers, ruining your nice pedicure, goose-bumps crawling over your arms?
Whether you crave a good murder in a quaint English village, a tough detective pitting wits against a serial killer, a funny heroine who walks into trouble like other people walk through doors, an emotional romance, or you just want to be transported to far away worlds where imaginary creatures battle to survive, plotting is at the heart of any story. Right there with the characters who will live and breathe this plot. Take Janet Evanovich and Harlan Coben. Both very successful, and both favorites of mine, but very different writers.
So how do we successfully design a story that will leave the reader thrilled and wanting more? How do we combine action, suspense, emotion, compelling characters, a great mystery or puzzle to solve and make it magic? Larger than the page? I think some people are born storytellers and others have to work hard at it. I work at plotting. It’s my favorite thing about writing. I lie in bed at night, or drive in my car, brainstorming, talking to myself, creating worlds and characters to my heart’s desire. There’s just something euphoric about building an entire story from start to finish, and adding in the twists and surprises.
My Modern Day Highland Warrior Series started with a dream. In the dream, my car had broken down and my young son and I were forced to go to this castle for help. A man opened the door and graciously invited us in and offered us lunch while we waited. We were eating while we waited on a taxi, and I saw this look pass between the man and woman and my heart just died. The look was so evil, so full of anticipation. I knew we weren’t just going to die. We were going to be entertainment. I can’t explain the horror of that dream, knowing I had to get my son out before they realized that I knew we were in danger. I pretended to take him to the bathroom so we could sneak out, and of course I woke up as we were trying to escape. The dream was so disturbing, I tried to go back to sleep so I could successfully escape, but no luck.
That dream stuck with me and the story was born. It’s changed some, doesn’t have the broken-down car or my son, but I still have the castle and the evil man hiding behind a pleasant face. The series is about a secret clan of warriors appointed by the Archangel Michael, who have to protect humans from demons hiding among us, and the quirky historian who stumbles upon them. Sounds dark? Not really. If you’re interested, you can learn more at www.anitaclenney.com.
Anyway, I’m always curious how others plot. Where your ideas come from, what makes them grow? Those tidbits of mayhem and magic that make your stories work. Are you a plotter or a pantser? Or as a reader, and most writers are, what kind of plot gives you thrill and chills?
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