M. B. Weston’s Writing Diary: Plot Structure to the Rescue! 01/23/15

In case you were wondering, typing on the floor of a bathroom in a hotel room is tedious work. I highly recommend sitting on the bathmat because cold tile will suck your body heat out of you. I also don’t recommend trying to sit on the toilet (lid closed of course). Your legs will go numb much faster. Fortunately, I’m in a large enough hotel bathroom that I can lean against the edge of the tub and stretch my legs out flat on the floor. (The rest of my family is sleeping in the hotel room, and I had to get my writing done somewhere…)

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I figured out that in order for me to discover more about what my villainess was up to, I was going to have to get inside the story. What I didn’t tell you was that I needed my hero, Michael Lodestone, to sneak into the living quarters of her accomplice. I fixed him up with lock-picking skills (because I’m the author, and I can give him whatever skills I need him to have, plus it makes sense) and sent him into the house. Surely, I decided, I would find what I needed to keep the story going.

Well, it sounded good in theory.

Maybe it was the cold tile, or the slow numbing of my gluteus squished beyond recognition, but I only managed to get some great back and forth conversation for a while. I couldn’t find anything worth finding, and neither could my hero. (Duh.)

Then I remembered: plot structure. The story arc! That lovely little thing we learn about in writing class and on writing blogs and at writing conferences. You know, the important how to write stuff we all eagerly pay attention to when we first start out.

I’ve got a few posts on plot structure in this website, but not as many as I had hoped. Here’s a quick breakdown of the backbone of all stories:

  • Introduction: Introduce your character and setting.
  • Inciting Incident (aka your hook): This is where the main conflict happens.
  • Rising action: This is where your character works toward solving the main conflict.
  • Plot point two: The part that spins the story to the climax. It’s the beginning of the third act if you like screenplay lingo.
  • Climax: Your character either wins or loses
  • Falling action: This is the part where you tie up all the lose ends in order to make the audience feel good.

Okay, that was rough. But here’s the big point. My exciting inciting incident technically occurred right before this section of the story, but I haven’t really explained it to my audience or my hero for that matter. (I know the end of the story. I just don’t yet know how my characters are going to get there.) Something bad is going to happen if this lady isn’t stopped, but my hero has no idea of her plans. Therefore, he has no reason to hurry and no real conflict, which makes for a boring story no one wants to read (or buy).

Once I took a good look at where my scene was within the story arc, I knew exactly what Michael needed to find in that room. He needed a reason to hurry. He needed a reason to go back on the hunt. He needed to find out that masses of people were going to die.

Oh look, blueprints just happened to appear on the table in the corner of the room! (I also added the table…) And, oh look, a shipping manifest…!

Michael now knows he needs to get his butt in gear.

And I need to get my mine off this hard bathroom tile before it goes completely numb.

How about you? Has looking at story structure every helped you figure out your story?

Toodles!

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About M. B. Weston

M. B. Weston is an award-winning fantasy, pulp, young adult, steampunk, and paranormal author. Her attention to procedure and detail gives her works an authentic gritty, military feel that takes an adventure tale to the level of a true page-turner. Weston’s writing attracts both fantasy and non-fantasy readers, and her audience ranges from upper-elementary students to adults. A gifted orator, Weston has been invited as a guest speaker to numerous writing and science fiction/fantasy panels at conventions across the US, including DragonCon, BabelCon, NecronomiCon, and Alabama Phoenix Festival. She has served on panels with such authors as Sherrilyn Kenyon, J. F. Lewis, Todd McCaffrey, and Jonathan Maberry. Weston has spoken to thousands of students and adults about the craft of writing and has been invited as the keynote speaker at youth camps and at several schools throughout the US.
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