Tag Archives: developing a plot

Plot Holes and Other Show Stoppers by Heidi Thurston

They kissed – end of scene; Next scene they are sharing breakfast the following morning. Sounds familiar? Of course it does – at least to many of us at a certain age. Older movies and books left a lot to our imaginations.

That was okay then; we were used to it and easily filled in the rest. We never worried about the missing parts. Now, however, things are more explicit in both films and books. There are more details and we look for explanations and accuracy. We no longer find “plot holes” acceptable.

I recently found this opening sentence at the beginning of a chapter in a book I was reading: “After his trip he stopped to pick her up for dinner.” What trip? On prior pages, the author never bothered to let the reader know this man had taken a trip somewhere. A minor flaw, perhaps; none-the-less, it stopped the flow of my reading.

gator in pot hole

Similarly, there are often problems with numbers – especially, the right numbers! I am no mathematician, but I’m fanatic about matching ages and dates when I read a book. Ages can be tricky, and keeping a family tree in a novel that includes various generations is handy. In a book – written by a fairly well known author – I was informed early on that the main character was born in the year of the Pearl Harbor attack – 1941. This was fine until he celebrated his 40th birthday during one of the 1976 Bicentennial celebrations. Couldn’t have – he was only 35 years old at that time!

While I may dismiss a few grammatical errors, and even read past them, it is hard to overlook inconsistent dates and events. That is where a good editor comes in. At a conference, sponsored by the North Carolina Writers Network, I had the pleasure of listening to a lecture by two experienced editors. They pointed out many common mistakes made by writers – especially new writers – and gave us a list with most of the common pitfalls. Prior to this event, and before writing my own novel, I considered the price of hiring of an editor quite high. After listening to the presenters and looking over my own work, I decided they were worth every penny.

If you cannot afford an editor, or are lucky enough to be married to one, at least have several friends or good acquaintances (preferably English teachers) look over your work; and ask them to be very honest and critical. In return, they might just settle for a lunch out and an autographed copy of your finished book.

Heidi Thurston’s novel “The Duchess, the Knight and the Leprechaun” is available on Amazon and Second Wind Publishing.

 

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Interview with Norm Brown, Author of “Carpet Ride”

What is your book about?

Norm: Near the end of their honeymoon trip across Oregon, Sam Stanley, his new wife Lynn, and her one-year-old son Andy, traverse a steep mountain road in a rented RV. In the middle of a blind curve they run over a long roll of carpeting angled across the road. Sam barely manages to avoid crashing down the mountainside. When he walks back up the road to move the obstacle—it’s gone. Upon returning home to Austin, Sam learns that the crushed body of a business executive from Boulder, Colorado has been found at the site of their reported accident. The Oregon police suspect Sam in the obvious hit and run death; there is no roll of carpet. When deadly “accidents” continue in Texas, Sam realizes they were all supposed to die on that mountain.

How long had the idea of your book been developing before you began to write the story?

Norm: It rattled around in my head for over six months before I actually sat down and began to outline the plot.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

Norm: The opening scene occurred to me when my son and I were traveling on vacation in a rented RV through the Coastal Wilderness of Oregon. While negotiating a frighteningly narrow curve on a steep, lonely mountain road, I couldn’t help but imagine what would happen if something suddenly blocked the way of the big, clunky vehicle. Like most book ideas, it started with that simple question: What if?

Tell us a little about your main characters. Who was your favorite? Why?

Norm: The novel actually has two protagonists, but if I had to choose my favorite it would be Sam Stanley. At the beginning of the story, newly-wed Sam feels almost literally on top of the world. When targeted by an unknown enemy, he discovers courage and strength he never knew he possessed. Carpet Ride is the story of Sam’s evolution from vulnerable victim to desperate defender of his little family.

Who is your most unusual/most likeable character?

Norm: I was surprised by how much I enjoyed writing about the one-and-a-half year old boy, Andy. The growing bond between him and his new step dad Sam added a level of vulnerability that I think helped ratchet up the intensity of the story. The little guy is barely starting to form words, but he actually helps to solve the mystery.

How long did it take you to write your book?

Norm: I’m not a speedy writer at all. I wrote and rewrote for over a year before even considering trying to find a publisher.

How much of a story do you have in mind before you start writing it?

Norm: I know a lot of authors like to let the story unfold as they write, but I’m definitely an outliner. The basic story was laid out in my notes before I started. The details of the plot changed a lot however by the time I finished the first draft.

Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it?

Norm: The action of the story takes place at locations I was already somewhat familiar with in Oregon, Texas, and Colorado. I think that reduced the amount of background research required. I do remember however nervously wandering around a local hospital intensive care unit to get a feel for the layout of a scene. I always feel like an intruder in hospital hallways, and in this case I probably was.

How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

Norm: Although I start writing with a very detailed plot, I find that my characters evolve and more or less define themselves through their actions and words as the story unfolds. One main character, Sam’s best friend John Canton, didn’t even exist when I started the first draft. I soon discovered that I needed him to help Sam solve the murder mystery and he went on to become a second protagonist. Starting out as a rather reckless young man, his development throughout the story is more or less the opposite of Sam Stanley’s. By the last chapter he has noticeably matured and puts his life on the line to defend his friends.

Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?

Norm: I worked most of my life as a computer programmer/analyst. Just as when creating a software program, I need a fairly detailed timeline of how my novel is going to proceed before I start typing. While writing Carpet Ride I kept the timeline updated until very near the end. Once the editing and rewriting phase started, the timeline was still useful as a reference for details.

What do you like to read?

Norm: I read mostly mystery and suspense novels. I particularly like stories that put ordinary people into extraordinary circumstances.

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