Tag Archives: 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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A Very Thin Line by J J Dare

I was in the middle of a new work (yes, another one) and my thoughts started drifting away. Not because there was a Deadliest Catch marathon playing all day on Discovery, but because of a mild epiphany.

My mind was wandering and wondering, where am I really going with this? I was writing a thriller with familiar characters and a familiar plot. Woman – Man – Betrayal – Revenge.

Yawn.

Although my story had some interesting twists and the action in the narrative kept me from boredom, the overall synopsis was a bit cliche. Woman – Man – Betrayal – Revenge.

Familiar plots serve a purpose for the writer and the reader. The writer has less of a chance to be doc-blocked because the scenario is familiar. The downside is the writer is less invested, therefore, less inspired. Weak inspiration shows in a story.

Familiar plots allow the reader to read the story without any nasty surprises. The familiar is comforting. The unfamiliar is unsettling. But, depending on the reader, unsettling is sometimes exciting. It’s a toss-up.

I’m thinking of liberalizing my story. Over the years, I’ve written from the viewpoint of women, men, children, cats, dogs and once through the eyes of a three-legged lizard. Digging deeper into the characters who have graced my stories, I’ve written from the standpoint of a motorcycle-riding middle-aged black man, a pot-smoking elderly Asian woman, and a Middle Eastern youth with a mild Yoo-hoo addiction.

As a writer, imagination lets me become my character, no matter who or what they are. I can transcend race and religion, I can immerse myself in a non-human’s struggle, I can even give substance and personality to a wisp of wind. One thing I’ve never done, however, is write from the standpoint of non-stereotypical gender unions.

I’m not sure why I’ve never done this. It has nothing to do with my view of human unions. After all, as I’ve told my friends who live same-sex lifestyles, I believe everyone deserves the right to be as legally happy or miserable as heterosexuals. It’s only fair.

During my writing pause, I wondered, what would happen if my characters were non-traditional? It’s funny because I realized not much would change. The motivation behind betrayal and revenge would remain the same. The only difference would be that the sexes of the innocent and guilty would be identical. Woman – Woman – Betrayal – Revenge. Or, Man – Man – Betrayal – Revenge.

Interesting. I broached the subject with some friends who could appreciate the character changes. Or so I thought. Like people in general, I have gay friends I would push out of the way of a speeding bus, while I have others I would push in front of it. The reactions were evenly mixed.

For now, though, I’ll finish the story with the traditional male/female roles. But, after I finish I plan to make an identical copy of the story with the traditional roles changed to non-traditional. After that, I have a feeling it will simply come down to a coin toss. Human struggle is human struggle no matter what your lifestyle.

Maybe, my next project could be writing through the eyes of a zombie. Now, that’s a story that will burrow into your brain.

ZOMBIE DOG WILL EAT YOUR HEART WITH LOVE

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and triple digit works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is sharpening intangible knives and co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

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Zigzagging

I walk in the desert, sometimes on straightaways, sometimes on hills. I learned something from the hill walks: she who goes up, must come down. And sometimes “down” means a very steep grade. I discovered that it was much easier to get to the bottom of these steep hills if I zigzagged from one edge of the path to the other. By descending diagonally, I can cut the steepness of the hill and am able keep my footing.

This seems to be a good metaphor for plot. While writing, we zigzag down an increasingly steep slope, never quite letting our readers know what direction they are traveling, but always keeping them on the path to the end. Or perhaps they are going up a hill, but the point is still the same: zigzagging.

I sent More Deaths Than One to hundreds of agents and editors, and the consensus was that my writing style was too matter-of-fact for the overly complicated plot. This from people who never read more than a few chapters. (Luckily for me, I finally found a publisher — Second Wind — who read the whole novel and understood what I wanted to accomplish.)

It could be that as readers head down the steep slope of my story, zigzagging from side to side, the plot does seem complicated, but when they reach the end and look back, they can see that the story is very simple. A straight path. A man discovers that what he knows about himself is a lie, and he sets out to discover the truth. Very simple. All the complications are simply the zigzagging path.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of More Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fire,  and Daughter Am I.

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Staccato: Novel Tie-In – by Deborah J Ledford

Continuing with how my upcoming suspense thriller Staccato came to be, I thought I would discuss how important the music element was to the overall aspect of the novel.

Countless hours were spent selecting the piano pieces featured in Staccato. It was my full intent to implement the ideal classical musical compositions that would convey the mood of each scene where music was indicated. The highly-charged scenes were ideal for crashing concertos, whereas the scenes of reflection feature soothing sonatas. Each and every piece was selected to emphasize the mood, setting and characters’ feelings as this psychological suspense thriller progresses.

In writing the novel, the music became a motivating factor as well as a subplot—as if composing a complicated piece of music…with words.

 Because of this, I’ve considered adding a CD tie-in to the novel which features the classical music I have showcased so that readers have the full impression of what I have presented to them.

Would this be an endeavor worth pursuing? I would be very interested to know what you think about this idea.

Deborah J Ledford is the author of the debut suspense thriller novel Staccato, scheduled for release by Second Wind Publishing, September 15, 2009.

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Diversity Among Colleagues

[A few months ago several Second Wind authors were having an open discussion in which their inner anxieties about literary unworthiness were being expressed.  To be sure, Alfred Adler was correct when he said, “To be human is to feel inferior.”  So we all feel inferior and we’re all imperfect, but the fine writers who make the unique college of Second Wind Publishing authors have nothing to be ashamed of.  In part to encourage and in part because of the heartburn I feel toward the traditional publishing establishment, I replied to the authors.  Today I’d like to share these thoughts here on our blog.]

It’s just not that hard to believe in good writers who have produced good stories that are well told.  I would not expect this extremely individualistic group of authors to agree on the process of writing, the end goals of writing, how to edit what is written or anything else about our “art and sullen craft” (wasn’t it Milton who called it that?).  The truth is that everyone at 2nd Wind does have a few things in common: 1) an inexplicable need to write (that separates us from 95% of the population); 2) the ability to  produce a coherent novel length, consistent, literate story (that separates us from about 90% of the 5%); 3) each of the novels you all have written is engaging–drawing the reader in to the world you have created (that slices the remaining 10% of 5% by another 50%); and finally 4) a willingness to trust a total stranger you met online with your most precious internal creative art (that whittles it down to about two dozen people out of the rest of the human race).

But among these two-dozen writers, the differences are astounding.  No two of the romance authors even have the same style (not even the two who are sisters).  No two of the crime/mystery writers have remotely similar interests.  There is no common thread among our mainstream novelists except that they have extremely readable, distinctive voices that people need to hear.

I would encourage everyone, as you participate in this list serve, to share your thoughts and to share what works in literature, in promotion and in the creative process, knowing that what is helpful for me might not be helpful for another.  The worlds being created by our romance authors are not necessarily accessible to the people who have not written a worthy romance.  My point is, the writing being done by each of the writers in this loose association is unique according to genre and individual voice.

That sounds trite until you ask yourself this: what is the plot of the Hollywood movie.  I say “the” rather than “a” for this reason.  The next time you see a big budget Hollywood movie, the plot will be as follows: an engaging, attractive hero/heroine will become caught up in a worthy effort to change/protect/ restore/create something against great odds; after some initial discouraging resistance, our hero will make progress to a degree and encounter an attractive person of the opposite sex with whom he/she will have a problematic relationship; just when it seems our hero is about to succeed, there will be additional complications and, at just about 90 minutes into the movie, our plucky hero will at last accomplish his/her goal!  Is it any wonder people aren’t wowwed by Hollywood anymore?  Well, the publishing industry is in the process of doing the same damn thing to fiction novels.  One of my personal goals is to allow each writer published through 2nd Wind the opportunity to express his or her literary voice without editorial homogenization (which is not to say you won’t be challenged if I think something needs to be fixed!).

In the meantime, don’t expect your readers or even your colleagues to always get what you’re doing.  I don’t necessarily agree that great writers write alone.  Rather I think that great writers stand their ground when they have something original to say.  My job is to let you say it and to get people to read it.  –Mike

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