January 29th, 2011

Polaroid

In Which We Plot


Or, Who's On First?
Or, You Must Be This Tall To Ride


So I threw my back out last week, and, just as I recovered, got my first cold in something like three years.  Seriously.  Sometimes a body just can't win.  Sigh.

This nasty state of affairs, however, did give me a chance to think about my key scenes.  Key scenes, as put forth by Aristotle, begin with an opening scene, move upward to inciting incident and plot point 1, the latter of which ends Act I of the three act sequence.  Act Two, the longest of the three acts, continues to stretch forth to Midpoint in the middle, in which Everything Changes, and hurtles onward to Plot Point 2 for curtain.  Finally, in Act Three we have a final push to Climax, and falling action to the closing scene.

My first semester English teacher in the eighth grade, whom I will never, ever, forget, called this state of events Plot Mountain.  And proceeded to describe, in graphic detail, a roller coaster ride in line with these key points.  To this day I'm a roller coaster fanatic and avid searcher for these same points in every tv episode, movie and book I entertain myself with.

I can hear the debate already beginning.  You're not a staid Planner.  You're a dedicated Panster, mooning the world with your creative talent.  Good for you.  Now siddown while I 'splain.  Some of techniques I've learned from TWN may keep even the most dedicated panster from tripping over their own hems.

I don't care how much of a free-wheeling spirit any one writer is.  Because every writer has the same Archnemesis, the dread Infernal Editor.  This evil supervillain needs a dasterdly plan to distract it so you can get on with the writing.  Eventually you're going to have to stop the creative process that is the lovely, unassuming, Dr. Jekyll and release Hyde to conquer the nasty--the synopsis, the query, revisions, etc.  The key scenes are key for a good reason--these are the plot points to focus on when writing the synopsis and query, the truly important bits.  Knowing what just these few points are ahead of time (really, are seven destinations on a 100,000 mile journey too much to ask?) also gives the writer perspective and goals to reach for that unbeatable feeling of accomplishment.

If these scenes are written first and deepened, so is the rest of the writing deepened without a lot of lollygagging that will have to be edited later.  There is still a discovery part of the journey, so the freewheeler in all of us won't be left out.  Not by a long shot. 

But we're getting ahead of ourselves here. 

While laid up I spent a lot of time thinking about my key scenes (yay brainstorming!).  Here's what I came up with, with manuscript completion percentages to keep my word count on track.

OPENING SCENE (0% Completion Mark): FK Returns Home.  Reunites with friends and family.
INCITING INCIDENT (10%): Nearby port town destroyed.  Romantic Interest discovered in shipwreck.

PLOT POINT 1 (25%): Fallout from mysterious WMD (Weapon of Mass Destruction)
MIDPOINT (50%): All The King's Men--occupation in the guise of aid, WMD believed to be in the area.
PLOT POINT 2 (75%): Siege (aka Big Freakin' Battle).  FK steals a royal naval ship and WMD.
CLIMAX (90%) Battle at sea
CLOSING SCENE (100%) Haven found.

Next week, we continue to Plot Again, this time in one of two character cycles-the Mythic or the Heroic.

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