Posted by: jeannineatkins | January 23, 2009

A Bit about Plot and Character

Thank you for the cheers as I plowed onward with revision. After my early morning whining, I managed to rearrange a few chapters – I mean notes made in caps and arrows drawn–before heading out for some café writing time, where, with big mugs of frothy caffeine, Jo and Holly and I did more talking than writing. But the talk helped nudge a few things in and out of place. When we started talking about how all of us found plot difficult, Holly said, “Oh, you’ve been writing poetry, which is all about the moment, and that’s so different from moving things forward.” Yes, I could contemplate that teacup and explicate forever; but I’ve got an Arctic adventure to keep going! No glacier gazing, or very very little. Holly said the Aristotle triangle of rising action, climax, and falling action never made a lot of sense to her, but two overlapping triangles did. One is to be more about dragons destroying or being destroyed, that sort of the thing, while the other is about what’s happening with the people who deal with dragons and each other. The arc of character development, with one climax following the other.

I’ve been reading The Magician’s Book by Laura Miller, a wonderful sort of memoir of her changing reactions to the Chronicles of Narnia, (which I hope to blog more about sometime.) Milller notes that The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe wouldn’t have been so great without Edmund. I’ve always adored Lucy, so focused on her, but of course Miller is right about the need for a bad guy, and this made me realize that my main character is a little too good. He needed more of the flaws we all have. Talking about this seemed to help Jo solve a revision problem, too, so yay!

Now I’m back making piles on the kitchen table, getting through the morning without burning oatmeal or sloshing tea (the pot’s top is broken; must point this out to handy husband!). I feel more confident the novel will get done and it will get done pretty well!

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Responses

  1. Hi Jeannine!
    I’m so sorry for all the chatting. I’m glad though, that it helped us both! And of course chatting is always good for the soul. It was wonderful to see you, as always. Best of luck with the revision! I know it will sing. It sounds like a beautiful story.
    xo

  2. Okay, ANOTHER book for my pile. Yikes! I agree with Miller about Edmund, but less for the lesson he had to learn in the first book and more, I think, for the perspective he brought to the rest of the books he was in. Eustace, too, after he went through his growth. The characters who have been “bad” can understand that aspect of the world in a way, I think, that the others can’t. Those two always seemed to me to have a little bit more SENSE about what the enemy was capable of. This is a quality I want to make sure to weave into my WIP–I don’t want my hero to be naive; I have a feeling that’s death to a YA.
    My only way of figuring out forward movement is to come back EVERY scene to what my hero wants AT THAT MOMENT, then try and see how they’d go after it and what would stop them. Seriously basic, and I’d love to come up with something better, something that has more layers to it, but not yet!

  3. The chatting was great! Nourishing in every way. Good luck with your revision, too. May we find just the right things to put in and pull out!

  4. You know I love piling up books for you! This is a great one — it’s nice because the chapters are pretty self contained — I’ve been reading it off and on for weeks, while finishing other library books that are due.
    I think you’re very right about Edmund.
    And this was some of what we said — really, you have to write just about everything before you can figure the plot or fix it.

  5. So glad you had some good writerly conversation! Nothing like that to cheer away the revision megrims. And thank you for the Miller rec — I’ve been wondering if I should add that to my pile, and now I think I will.

  6. That Holly is one smart cookie! The transition from poetry to novel prose is always difficult for me. Okay, much (most?) of the actual writing is difficult for me.
    But revision? Love it. Love it. Love it. It’s my reward for making it through all the crappy stuff.

  7. Two triangles – interesting notion.
    I’m glad you’re making progress!

  8. Thanks, Kelly. I appreciate that!
    One step forward, two or three back… but… somehow there is progress.

  9. Yes, it’s all difficult! I do feel more comfortable with moments than sweeps of time, but am trying to challenge myself to go where I haven’t gone before.
    The downslope of revision, when things finally fall into place: I’m looking forward to that, though there are a few little clicks — ah, I got it — that are pleasant!

  10. Novel!
    Jeannine,
    Moving on a novel! Cool! New year, new president, new challenges. new novel…VERY COOL!
    Blart (NOT the movie!)


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