Sunday, December 6, 2009

Doubts and Fears

Let one person offer constructive criticism of my writing and I'm off and running, doubting my ability and fearing I made a fool of myself.

That's what prompted my stinky plotting skills post.  Sound familiar?  I thought so. Since I'm not the type of person to dig a hole for myself and jump in after I've discovered a new weakness or, worse, embarrassed myself, I launched my campaign. 

If my plotting skills are stinky--IF being the operative word--then all I need to do is strengthen them, right?  And surely ALL my plotting skills can't be stinky, right?  [This is my ego talking. I've learned that the best time to listen to it is when fear is nipping at my heels.]

My campaign lasted one evening and all of the next day:  thumbing through reams of notes I've taken on plotting durng the past 20 years--and exhaustive online research.  What I came up with is that I had all the knowledge I needed, I just hadn't put it together in a way that worked efficiently for me.

Several published authors included terrific information on their websites and blogs.  Their insights touched me in a number of ways, pointing out information I already knew intellectually, but shining perspective in a way that permitted me actually GET it.  I compiled an aggregate of information and created for myself a skeleton, an empty outline telling what I need to put where--and when.

The most important message I took with me, however, reinforced one of my personal writing beliefs.  Not every writer embraces it but, if you do, don't ever let it go:  Plot grows from character. Every single event that occurs in your book or short story MUST stem from the character and his/her emotions, decisions, actions, and conflicts.  The two most important questions to ask yourself when you're plotting are:  What if? and What next?

Happy Plotting!


  1. As I read, Linda, I was hoping you'd reach the conclusion you did. My answer to almost every problem - with plot, story, description, pace, etc. - is to trust my characters. I admire the doggedness you showed in resolving the current difficulty and I'm glad it was your characters who eventually led you through it. I'd add one more question to the two you mentioned, though - Why?

  2. Yes, Bill, "Why?" is the most important motivating question. Who, what, where, and how aren't bad runners-up, either.

  3. Yes, Linda. That's what I learned as well from the first book to the third. I didn't understand my characters well enough in the first two. But I haven't been able to do all of that in advance in this one either. They still surprise me and I occasionally have to stop and look at their motivations. Enjoyed your post. I like the second question - what next? oh, and why?

    Got here from Bill's blog. Isn't he wonderful?

  4. Marley -

    Thanks for visiting and sharing your comments.

    And yes, Bill is wonderful. I just love the way his mind works. (He's not bad looking, either!)

    Do visit again and I'm planning to "check out" your profile, website, and blog.

  5. Yes, the characters should always drive the plot. However, I have another trick I use in addition to that one (to enhance the characters' actions, to provide twists, etc.)

    I call it theme-driven plotting. I blogged about it here:

  6. Yvonne, I really enjoyed the theme-driven blog post. It's excellent, especially the example you provide with the abusive family. Thanks for sharing!