As most of you may already know, I've been diligently attempting to make the switch from Pantser to Plotter. Granted, I'm not a bona fide rendition of the latter--at least I don't think I am--but I do try and plot ahead at least 3 chapters (which I totally need to do this weekend, because I'm so behind) and keep myself immersed in story and characters at all times.
I've also tried to implement more "how-to" books into my regime. Now, I know what you're thinking: "Uh, but you said you don't condone the use of how-to's..." and I don't. But! Deb Dixon recommended Les Edgerton's Finding Your Voice, which is awesome and incredibly well-written and loaded with all kinds of helpful tips, information, and exercises. While reading through Les's fabulous manual on voice (with yellow highlighter, thank you very much), I happened upon yet another how-to: James Scott Bell's Plot & Structure. And here's the really cool part: I got it on Amazon Kindle for $1.99.
I know, right? That's how you get sucked in with the Kindle, folks. Just sayin'...
Anyways. I've only just begun P&S--while simultaneously reading Finding Your Voice, mind--and already I'm amazed at 1) the quality of the writing & how interesting Mr. Bell made his how-to and 2) the basics and ease of plotting out your very own novel.
So, for today's post, I thought I'd share a tidbit of Mr. Bell's theory on plotting. He calls it the L.O.C.K. system. As a disclaimer, this system belongs totally to him and is a vital part of his teachings on plot. None of this came from own personal thoughts, save for the added comments.
L is for Lead -- Every strong plot begins with an interesting Lead character. Compelling and memorable, this is someone we just have to watch throughout the course of the novel. And this doesn't mean we have to entirely sympathize with this person. It just means we need to be in this person's head. We're in for the long haul. Can't wait to see what happens next.
|Harry Potter -- Jo Rowling's Lead Character|
O is for Objective -- The character must have an Objective. A want. A desire. A desperate need. This is the driving force in both literary and commercial fiction. The forward motion that keeps the Lead from just sitting around, staring at the walls and flipping through television channels. According to Mr. Bell, an Objective can take either of two forms: to get something or to get away from something. He goes on to say that solid plots have one and only one dominant Objective for the Lead character. And this forms the great story question: "Will the Lead realize his/her Objective?"
C is for Confrontation -- Simply put, this is the opposition from characters and outside forces which brings your story fully to life. Keeps your Lead from reaching his Objective. If the Lead goes on his merry way without hitting any roadblocks, where's the fun in that? Seriously, our readers want to worry. Bite their fingernails. Fret and invest that sacred emotion which blossoms upon finding a really good story with memorable characters. Mr. Bell quoted an ancient scribe who said, "Get your protagonist up a tree. Throw rocks at him. Then get him down." Shove obstacles in his way. Make matters difficult. Never let him off too easy.
|Voldemort & his Death Eaters. The main Confrontation for Harry and his|
friends. Weaved throughout almost every conflict, Harry must
consistently find ways to "defeat" this band of misfits over & over.
K is for Knockout -- This is the ending. The summit. The moment we've all been waiting for, hung on through the course of six hundred and eleven pages to see... All right, hopefully not that many. The end of your novel MUST satisfy the reader. Why do I say this? Simple. Do you really want your reader to be disappointed? To read the last line of your novel and say, "Wow. Ah, that's it? Really?" And proceed to throw your hard work upside the nearest wall--or worse. You, the writer, must take the Lead through the journey toward his Objective, remembering to throw some Confrontation along the path. He may make it to the end victoriously. Or... he may fall tragically. Either way, the end should prove both compelling and satisfying.
|Harry & Voldemort finally battle. Mano-a-mano. Or, as it were, wand-to-wand.|
After all, all of us want to make someone's Keeper Shelf, right?
What tips do you have for creating a compelling novel? Do you start with a character, then think of all the evil ways you can mess up her life? Or do you start with a plot, then add the characters? A little of both?
Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,