The How-to Of Creative Writing - Joining Up The Dots

Posted at 18:35pm on 13th September 2008

LINKS TO PREVIOUS SESSIONS

How did you get on with the last session? I hope the update on all the previous tutorials was a help. For those of you who’ve just joined, the post titled The How-to of Creative Writing – What Makes A Story A Plot? – will link you to all relevant sessions.

STORY & PLOT

In the last post, I stressed the importance of conflict in plotting a story. That is as true of an inspirational true-life story or testimony as it is for a novel. We looked at E.M.Forster’s definition of the difference between a story and a plot, given in a series of lectures titled, Aspects of the Novel, in 1927.

  • a story is a narrative of events arranged in their time sequence .
  • ‘The king died and then the queen died’ is a story.
  • a story can only have one merit: that of making the audience want to know what happens next.
  • a plot is also a narrative of events - the emphasis falling on causality.
  • ‘The king died, and then the queen died of grief’ is a plot.
  • The time-sequence is preserved, but the sense of causality overshadows it.


SO WE CAN CONCLUDE THAT:
A PLOT IS A STORY WITH A TIME SEQUENCE
CONFLICT
CAUSE
AND EFFECT.

But that still doesn’t tell us much about the process of plotting

PLOTTING IS A ROUTE MAP

How would you go about plotting a story? Many beginning writers think of the process in a linear fashion, a flat line beginning at the beginning, and finishing at the end. The time sequence is all important in their eyes.

I want to show you a different way of looking at plotting. In the last session I wrote about Compass Points and joining up the dots. We have also discovered, over the past few weeks, that:

  • Theme is the purpose of the journey which, like a railroad, keeps you on track.
  • Characters are the drivers, not merely travellers.
  • Story is the vehicle.
  • Plot is the journey itself.

Can you see a thread emerging? A thread which suggests that plotting a story is a process of travelling – metaphorically speaking. A moving from one point to another. It’s like planning a journey by plotting points on a map.

At this point (in time!) you probably feel that it raises more questions than answers – and I don’t want to overload you. So let’s separate each strand of the thread and look at it in more detail.

  • If Plotting is a process of getting from one place (the beginning of your story) to another (the end), how do we go about it?
  • Crucially, all of the elements above are involved in that process – what does that mean?
  • Far from being a flat line, the journey will be rising and falling – why should that be so?
  • We need to establish the departure point and destination – when should my story begin and end?

In the next session, we’ll look at the answers to those questions.

HOMEWORK

Make a time-line for your story. That’s a simple flat line with a time sequence for each event.

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NEXT WEEK

We’ll take a look at that timeline, and see how it compares to a short story that’s been around for a few thousand years. Then I’ll show you the plot.

© Mel Menzies, September 2008

The author of a number of books, one a Sunday Times No. 4 Bestseller,
Mel is also an experienced Speaker
and has addressed live audiences of between 20 and 700+
in addition to participating in TV and Radio chat shows,
and leading Family Forums, Marriage Enrichment, and Writers' Workshops..

Her latest novel ‘A Painful Post Mortem’ may be purchased online on my books’ page, at: Booklocker ; or at Amazon

ALL Profits - approximately 35% of book sales - are for charity.
To book her as a Speaker, contact her at: author@melmenzies.co.uk

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