Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Distance makes the plot grow snappier

So I was on the phone to my CP yesterday, and she was telling me about her WIP. She'd been brainstorming new ideas for like a hundred hours, but she gave me the fifteen-minute condensed version, with only the ideas she'd decided to keep. She got to the end of what she'd done, and said, "Yeah. And now I don't know what should happen next."

Pause. "Well, it's obvious, isn't it?"say I.

My CP: "No."

Me: "C'mon. You've set everything up perfectly. It has to be {insert plot here}."

Stunned silence. "Damn. Why didn't I think of that?"

Does this happen to you? Me, all the time. I work on an idea so much that I get too close, and I can't see the big picture any more. I get confused by all the little details, and the overall structure gets obscured. MY CP gave me the Reader's Digest version, and I was able to jump on the key points, where all she could see was mess. Cool, huh?

So leave it for a while. Work on something else. Get some distance, and then go back to basics.

Yesterday, in fact, this worked for me too (yeah, it was a busy day: save the world, cook up WIP, rescue CP's sanity, bake cookies). I was designing a new trilogy-based series. I had the backstory and characters all worked out, and knew kinda what happened in book 1. Then I spent an hour all confused about what should happen at the end of book 2.

Well, duh. Book 2 is like a 2nd act climax. The bad guys have to succeed, and the hero gets smacked down. Whatever your hero wanted at the beginning? It just got taken away. Big time. Along with everything else they've decided they wanted along the way. And more than that -- the very idea of what's good and bad in the book should get turned on its head. What they're striving for looks hopeless.

"Luke, I am your father. Oh, and I just cut your arm off. And guess what that means? The Dark Side of the Force is stronger than you, you puny little weed. You'll NEVER win."

So when I get stuck, I go back to first principles: what does the MC want? What do the bad guys want that's opposed to the MC's goal? And what could they do to make it as hard as possible for the MC? What's the worst thing that could happen to the MC, not just at a specific plot point, but in the big scheme of the story?

How the hell is the MC going to fix the mess you've made?

Answer? Who cares!! If *you're* asking that question ,you can bet the reader will be too. And that's exactly what you want.

Anyway. Later. Gotta fix book 3 now :)


  1. The 'Star Wars' touch worked well to bring the point home. And the novels, I can recall from so long ago, added a lot more. I recally in 'Return of the Jedi' until Luke started really fighing Darth Vader at the end, it had never occurred to him that Darth might actually lose to his son. Guess Darth probably should have strove for a bit more distance when devising his plot to overthrow the Emperor and rule the Galaxy with his son.

    Have fun with fixing book 3!

  2. Hello Miss Hayes,
    I was curious, if I wanted to start reading your books could I jump in at Poison Kissed (the story of yours that caught my eye first) without confusion? I mean, would I need to know the characters from your previous novels to understand the story of Mina? Or should I just start at the beginning with Shadowfae?

    Either way I intend to buy one of your books in the near future.

    Thanks much, your future fan,


  3. I just read your FAQ on your website.

    My questions are now rendered moot, and I feel like a huge dummy.

    I will now crawl into a corner and die of embarrassment.

    Thanks much, your future (shamed) fan,


  4. Hi Veronica,

    thanks for dropping by! And good question...
    I'd like to say you could start with POISON KISSED, as it's intended to stand alone, and many people have started with that one and had no trouble.
    But I do know of a couple of readers who've started there and gotten a little confused about the backstory.
    So to be safe, I'd recommend you start at the beginning with SHADOWFAE. Unless you're feeling a little adventurous and want to jump right in!

    Whatever you choose, I hope you enjoy it!

  5. Ha ha :) just saw your second comment. LOL! Don't be shamed. It's a good question, and I only just recently added it to the website :) hope you enjoy!