Posted by: jeannineatkins | October 7, 2014

Plotting Weather

Yesterday I looked up from my laptop to see a V-shaped flock heading south, which broke the resistance, despite yellows and golds, I’ve been holding for fall. If geese can accept the changing seasons, so can I. And I admired their sense of order, their all-about-the-south direction, as I’ve been shuffling and making rows of index cards, thinking of ways various scenes of my can move forward. My work-in-progress has three main problems. Now I’m trying to line up what happens to make each strand move along and wind toward a climax, though alert observers of my photo can see I added a fourth row of subplot, and I’m considering a fifth. I’m mulling over what questions each scene poses and where it will fit best.

indexcard

Building a structure that can be taken apart and rebuilt, like Tinker Toys, as its problems become apparent, is telling me, kindly, what to do. It’s like a dance. If one step is taken here, another must be taken there. As actions on my pink cards grow, the gaps in the green cards remind me to make something happen in that area. And as an event is recorded on a green card, I can see how that effects what happens on the yellow. Of course it’s not about making pretty rows of colored cards, but building a story. Plot reminds us that beyond the energy of each word, there’s a power in pattern. But I need sentences as well as cards. So while I consider order, I break to compose small things made of subjects and verbs. Chapters thicken.

I’m dreaming up some scary things – not creepy, beyond the pale, but dialogue or actions that disturb the status quo. I’m on a quest for arguments that mess up passing-the-time conversations, friendships that shatter or spoil. Which doesn’t always make me happy. The fear of plotting is also the fear of looking under the pretty rocks. It puts me in a bit of an anxious mood, but that’s some of what we want from plot. Not the garden, but the holes readers might trip in, and have to keep watch for, and discover their shoes are muddy.

I’ve never written a novel like this, but have instead dreamed up and gathered scenes and dialogue, usually relying on the given chronology of history for an order. We’ll see how it goes. Or should I make myself a card, and write: “You’ve reached the end. Congratulations!” Maybe I’ll smile as I return to “Go.”

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Responses

  1. Holding it all together seems like a balancing act, too, from what I’m reading about your process, Jeannine. I enjoyed the explanation beginning with “building a structure”. If this, then this? And the fear of “looking under the pretty rocks”. So many questions arise in imagination that I “imagine” sometimes you need to quiet the voice. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I always come away with something to ponder.

    • Linda, thanks for your always-ready kind words. It’s like you carry them with you in a big invisible basket!

      And yes, some voices get hushed if not more rudely muffled while I attend to others. That’s what wide margins are for!

  2. Stop! You’re making me eager to get back to work on my novel. *holds fingertips to temples.* Must. Focus. On. Picture. Books.

    • Carol, is it the lure of colored cards? I guess you could use those for picture books, too. One book at a time. Or not. I’ve got a poem being fixed up today, and some nonfiction copy, and am now switching back to the novel. But focus, however we get there, is a good thing.


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