PLOT DEVELOPMENT by Maxwell Alexander Drake
Accept what type of writer you are. Whether you’re a pantser or a plotter or a little bit of both, know how you work and work with yourself. If you must outline things and spend time on the front end plotting out arcs and character development, spend the time and get it right. If you prefer flying by the seat of your pants and discovering what your story is by writing it with lots of rewrites later, go for it. Either way if you think about it, you’ll be doing the same amount of work either on the front end or the back end, but neither way provides a shortcut (if you want the best story possible).
And know that if you do outline you don’t have to stick to it like it’s written in stone. If your muse takes your story in a different direction, let it. Likewise as a pantser, if you get to a point where you need to take some time and write a few things down, it’s okay to do that too.
Being prepared as a writer does cut down on writer’s block (in Max’s experience). He prefers working out the details up front so that he has a good idea of where he’s going when he does finally sit down to write it.
Create a story that resonates with the reader. As yourself: Is this story going to have an impact on the reader? It’s okay to write things for yourself, but if you’re in the business of making a living off of your writing you’re going to have to consider your audience and what will resonate with them. You can’t just right things solely for the purpose of pleasing yourself. Although you should still be passionate about your project, otherwise it won’t be a good story.
SO YOU HAVE AN IDEA FOR A STORY. WHAT NOW? (as a plotter)
Look at base archetypes or tropes. It seems cliche, but these structures have been resonating with audiences for thousands of years. And if you’re going to do fantasy or any other kind of epic tale you’ll definitely want to take a look at these. There are many character archetypes in stories. Use them as a base to start your character idea from.
One of the most common tropes: The Hero – The Mentor – The Villain
Archetypes are starting points. They’re not there to limit you.
The Narrator. POVs are the vehicle that will take you through the story. Who is the most affected by the story? Who is the most interesting? Who will survive your story? Who can your reader identify with? You have to decide on what POV and which will give your story the best tone. Each has advantages and disadvantages.
(Max recommended the The Writers Journey by Christopher Vogler. He calls it the less boring version of A Hero With A Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. But he did recommend you try reading both for differing perspectives of the same subject matter.)
Good story development comes from good scenes. The plot MUST arc. Scenes are just like your plot. Scenes arc as well. All scenes should fit into the main story arc.
As an example of a scene that added nothing to the main story arc, he mentioned the Tom Bombadil in Lord of the Rings. For those who have read it, ask yourself what it did for the story? Why would he use this as an example? (Note: it did not make it into the movie. And I agree with him, I absolutely hated Tom Bombadil!;)
The scene should give the reader something new and move the story forward. If it doesn’t have both, don’t write it. Each element is important to the end product. A good story is like a good stew. Even though you plan it, you still have to let the muse tell the story.
**end of PART ONE**
Since he did a two-part class, I’m going to split it there and give you the rest tomorrow since it’s so long.
What do you think? Have you read Hero With a Thousand Faces? Have you learned a lot from it? Do you use tropes when you’re planning? Are you a pantser, a plotter, or a mix of both? What have you learned about yourself as a writer that has helped you better compose your stories?
2 thoughts on “LUW Conference – Notes Part 4”
I LOVE Joseph Campbell! That book changed the way I look at the world..I also adore the power of myth!
I love it too! Maxwell was saying he liked the book but thought it was soooo boring. I kept thinking, sure it’s academic, but boring? Nah. *shrug* It’s been awhile. Maybe I was more academic back when I read it? Glad someone else enjoyed it as well. 🙂