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Laura Pauling | Category Archive | Plotting a novel
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Snowflake Part III Character motivations

Some of you might be thinking, ‘Wow that Snowflake Method sure focuses on plot. What about the characters?’

Before using the Snowflake, I never got past the short synopsis. I wanted to jump into the writing.

And this time, I finally (yes, I’m slow to catch on) worked on the characters.

Here’s what I did:

  • Per the Snowflake, for each main and important secondary character, I wrote down their story goal, conflict, epiphany, sentence summary and paragraph summary.
  • And then, I wrote a characters synopsis for each of them – taking a few paragraphs to tell the story as if they were the main character. (Wow! Enlightening.)

I’ve barely started writing, but I feel as if I understand my villain, and I’m friends with my characters. But, knowing all this and creating 3D characters on the page are two different things. I have a lot of hard work ahead.

And I need all the help I can get. How do you make sure your characters are fully developed? And, what are some techniques to bringing them to life on the page? (Other than blood, sweat and tears.)

Comments { 12 }

Snowflake Part II Short and Long Synopsis

So, I’ve dreamed, plotted, nixed bad or hack ideas and finally figured out what my next project will be.

I’ve written my logline.

Next, I expand the one sentence to a paragraph. (Not for query purposes.) (This is based on Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method.)

Sentence one:    Set up.
Sentence two:    Events up to first disaster. (End of Act I)
Sentence three:    Events up to second disaster. (Middle of Act II)
Sentence four:    Events up to the third disaster. (dark moment and End of Act II)
Sentence five:    Climax of final confrontation and ending. (Act III)

Not easy. At. All.

Next, the short synopsis – one paragraph for every sentence.
And then the long synopsis – three paragraphs to every one paragraph in the short version.

Honestly, this step kinda freaks me out. Fifteen paragraphs? It seems like climbing a mountain with my legs tied. I try my hardest to talk myself out of it. I don’t really need this. I’ve written a story before without it. Why waste time when you could be actually writing? In the past, I’ve listened to these arguments. And did fine.

But this time, I decided to it. And I’m glad I did. Connections were made. New secrets developed. And as better or different ideas came, I went back and revised.

Is this written perfectly? No. It’s just me getting my ideas down.

Is my synopsis cast in cement? Absolutely not. As I write the first draft, if new ideas come, I’ll go with them. But usually, I don’t stray too far.

So does following the Snowflake method appeal to you or totally turn you off? I’m sure if you’re a pantser your skin is crawling right about now. (Or you stopped reading a while ago.)

Comments { 19 }

Snowflake Part I The One Sentence Pitch

I’ve got an exciting idea, my major plot points or disasters, the main antagonist, and my main character. But I haven’t fleshed out any details or know how all the subplots will connect. Or even exactly what will happen in the climax.

Now what?

I’m ready to open my Snowflake software and get to work. (The snowflake method was created by Randy Ingermanson. Check it out.)

First, I write the logline: a one sentence pitch that covers my main character, her goal, the conflict, the stakes, and possibly the antagonist. (I don’t include the antagonist if that is meant to be a surprise.)

For extra help, I read pitch contests on blogs. Great research. Is my idea there? (Hopefully not.) Which ones stick out at me? Which ones would I pick if I were an agent?

The ones I like are all unique and specific. And they sound interesting. In other words, they had a great hook.

No phrases like:

…and her world is turned upside down.
…and he has to fight for his life.
…and she discovers a terrible secret.
…and her past comes back to haunt her.

These are vague and don’t say much about your plot. Be specific. Be unique.

How many of you form a one sentence pitch before writing? As a pantser, do you have that information in your head?

Comments { 25 }

Stop the plotting Ferris wheel! I want to get off!

When I started writing, I took the first idea that came to me and ran with it. No stopping me. Not even a bulldozer on full throttle.

  • I didn’t think about the market.
  • I didn’t think about what publishers were looking for.
  • I didn’t make sure my idea wasn’t just a derivative plotline.

And now, I know better.

While revising my current project, I’ve also been dreaming and plotting my next project. Like a Ferris wheel, I’ve been going round and round and round – for three months! Yikes. I’ve completely ditched 2 separate outlines. I’ve looked at a shelved project. But slowly, an idea has transformed and grown into something I can be excited about.

The other ideas weren’t bad, but I wasn’t doing cartwheels around my room with excitement either. And when I brainstormed plot points, not much came. Or not much good came.

So how do I know when I’ve found the right idea?

  • It’s not the first idea. More like the tenth.
  • It’s not based on movies or books I’ve read recently.
  • It’s not based on my mood that day or week.
  • It’s a book I’d love to read.
  • It’s an idea I’m willing to stick with for the next year.
  • Characters appear that fit with the plot. Not cliché either.
  • It’s an idea I’d want to be a debut novel.
  • It’s a genre or character I could continue writing about.

But I know for absolute sure when the plot points come with ease.

Some might say I waited too long. That I could spend forever diddling around with plots and never be happy. And that might be true. But I couldn’t move forward until all the signs were there and I knew in my gut.

How do you know when you’re ready to move forward with an idea?

Comments { 20 }