Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Writer Wednesday: Beth Fred's Tips on Plot

Please welcome my good friend and fellow author, Beth Fred. In addition to writing, Beth teaches courses on plot and writing book blurbs. She knows her stuff. So, without further ado, here's Beth!

Thanks for having me here to talk about plot today, Kelly.

What's the big deal about plot? Well, it's the structure of your whole story. Take a hardback fro your bookshelf. If the spine is in tact you can flip through it and not have to worry about what falls out. You can probably even stand it up, and it will stay because it has a backbone. The true backbone of that story is the plot. What really makes it stand up and stand out is the plot. It's true every now and then you come across a phenomenal book that made your faves list for other reasons like theme or characterization. Still it had to have some kind of plot even if that wasn't it's biggest strength. But most modern day bestsellers have a strong plot.

My favorite device and the plotting technique I teach is the three act structure. It's been around since the Greek plays. The three act structure is commonly used in films because it's all about keeping the tension up to push the story further and further along until it explodes into a climax and evens out in falling action. It's so popular right now because with the action scenes and sequences we are bombarded with in film and television, this is the pacing we are used to. The three act structure is by no means the only way to write a book. But it's perhaps the most common. It's in my view best and it's the one I use. 

Another likely option is GMC. Goal, Motivation, Conflict. Debra Dixon wrote the book on this, literally, and you can find my review here. I had the opportunity to meet with Debra and she says that if you are using GMC the seven pivotal scenes of the three act structure are already in your story. But GMC works like this. Your MC has a goal for some reason (motivation). Conflict is whatever gets in the way of that goal but your MC will do whatever it takes to overcome the conflict and accomplish goals because well motivated human beings just don't like things getting in their way. This is a logical pattern and the book does a good job of showing how to use this for plotting. I just think it works better for characterization.

But, Beth, I'm a pantser. Well, so was/am I. That's another thing I love about the three act structure. I start my books with a seven sentence outline. That's it. Anything more is too much.

Do you plot? How so?

33 comments:

  1. I used to plot, because I was so influenced by movies. But I believe it also kills creativity as a writer may feel forced to go a certain way with a story while it can be something more original when you just go with the flow.

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    1. I tend to plot but allow my characters to stray from that plot if they come up with better ideas. And they always do. ;)

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    2. I only outline seven sentences. This allows me to still be creative.

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  2. I plot. For longer works, I write an outline. For the shorter ones, I have the outline in my head. It's not set in stone; if the story is alive, it will probably steer away from the outline a bit (or more), but the backbone and the general sense of direction are still there.

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  3. I love both these approaches. For me, I start with a solid beginning, ending, and a couple major turning points. I try to structure them so they fit with the three act format, but in reality, I find too much structure can restrict the flow of words, so I have to leave it open--at least for drafting. It's the editing where I force the story into it's structural corset. =)

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    1. Yeah, you definitely don't want the formula to stifle creativity.

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  4. I like both structures but it all depends on what is going on in my head; creatively. Sometimes, I like to plan out my plot and at others, my plot likes to make plans of its own=)

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    1. The book I'm drafting now definitely has a mind of its own.

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  5. Nice post, Beth! I definitely utilize the three act structure, but I'm also a fan of GMC.

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    1. I like GMC but more for characterization.

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    2. I think both technics work well. I've used each depending of what the story calls for.

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  6. I plot- the genre I write in demands it. But characters still have a way of taking me by surprise and leading me in a different direction.

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  7. Definitely bookmarking this post!

    P.S. You know me and my sticky board, LOL :-)

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  8. I LOVE GMC! I thought that was so old, nobody would remember it. I attended a workshop hosted by her in the late 90s, right after the book came out. That book endures, doesn't it?! I still use its concepts today.

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    1. She's still doing workshops too. I went to one in 2012.

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    2. I think if something works, it sticks around. Apparently it works for a lot of people.

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  9. I have a three act plot template in Excel and Word that I use. I found it on a blog and modified it into a chart. I didn't use it for my first book, but I've used it for all books thereafter.

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    1. I think it works really well for some books but not others. I'm a big proponent for doing what works for that particular book at that time.

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  10. I'm definitely a plotter, and have used the three acts/nine parts schema. It allows me to reign-in the story and bring it home. What the bit-pantser in me gets to do is take flights of fancy inside these acts, ones that even surprise me.
    Thank you Beth (and Kelly) for this good post.

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    1. I love when my characters surprise me. :)

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  11. Thanks for sharing, Beth!

    Awesome tips. I plot, but I stray. :)

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    1. I just totally pantsed my way through my last draft and it was very freeing. We'll see what revisions are like though. lol

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  12. Great article, Beth. Up until now, I've never really plotted a story. Since I'm trying the Fast Drafting though, I'm using the three act form and discovering it's helping me know where my story is going. Hopefully I can finish a manuscript faster than I have in the past.

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    1. Woo hoo for fast drafting! I just fast drafted a novel. I worked my butt of this week and finished this morning. :) Good luck with yours, Beverly!

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  13. It's good meeting/reading Beth. :) I usually write my story draft through then check on GMC during revision. I'll be sure to check out Debra Dixon's book!

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    1. I like the kind of backwards method, but that might be because I sometimes start writing the ending and go back from there.

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  14. I like the idea of using both--the three-act structure (which I also use) for the plot, and GMC for the character designs. I think great characters are what carry a book, but they don't have anywhere to carry it TO without a good story! Thanks for the post, Kelly and Beth.

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    1. Yes, I agree, Kiersi. Great characters are what I love but there has to a good story too.

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