Warning: scandir(/home/content/j/d/u/jdudleystudios/html/_sites/laurapauling_com/wp-content/uploads/ithemes-security/backups) [function.scandir]: failed to open dir: No such file or directory in /home/content/82/6039282/html/_sites/laurapauling_com/wp-content/plugins/better-wp-security/core/modules/backup/class-itsec-backup.php on line 273

Warning: scandir() [function.scandir]: (errno 2): No such file or directory in /home/content/82/6039282/html/_sites/laurapauling_com/wp-content/plugins/better-wp-security/core/modules/backup/class-itsec-backup.php on line 273
Laura Pauling | Category Archive | Plotting a novel
Archive | Plotting a novel RSS feed for this section

Plot Busters – Heist Society break-down in 15 sentences!

You know I love breaking down story structures to learn and grow as a writer. And Heist Society was terrific!


1. Opening image: (the before snapshot of the protagonist)

When at private school, Kat tries to live a normal life, but the headmaster’s sports car is placed on top of the fountain with water shooting out the headlights, and Kat is blamed or framed.

2. Theme stated: (What is the story really about?)

And at every turn Kat is debating – how far should one go for family? And who is family?

3. Set-up:

When a man named Taccone believes Kat’s dad stole his paintings, Kat joins the family business again to resteal the paintings and save her father.

4. Catalyst: (the game-changing moment or inciting incident)

Taccone gives Kat a ride to the airport and spells out to Kat that her dad has two weeks to return the paintings or else.

Kat experiences the true evil behind Taccone. And if she walks away from this, her life will never be the same. Now that is a catalyst.

5. Debate: (asks some kind of question of the main character)

Kat is constantly asked, by others and herself, the same question: Is she truly a part of the family, or not?

At the end of Act I, after meeting with Taccone, Kat ends the debate. On returning to Hale’s house in New York, she wakes him and announces that they are going to steal back the paintings.

6. Break into two: (protagonist must make a proactive decision)

When Kat visits her Uncle Eddi – it’s a statement: I’m back, I have a job, and I need your help.

No more indecision. It wasn’t a flashy scene, but the significance isn’t lost.

7. B story: (the love story – not always romantic)

While Kat works on planning and setting up the big con, we see her relationship with her “team” and her love interest, Hale.

8. Fun and Games: (the heart of the book – why we read it)

Clue after clue, Kat tries to figure out who stole the paintings while she works with Hale to build their team.

9. Midpoint: (stakes are raised significantly; another big game changer)

Kat figures out that a Visily Romani stole the paintings and hid them in the Henley – an impenetrable museum, so she meets with her crew and announces they will be robbing the Henley. (mouths drop)

10. Bad guys close in: (Things get even worse.)

While Kat and crew are casing the Henley and planning out the con, Taccone steals her away and shows her pictures of all her loved ones, her family and close friends. He means business.

11. All is lost

On the eve of the caper, Kat meets with Taccone and names the place and date for the exchange. Not a super strong All is Lost but it fit Heist Society perfectly.

12. Dark night of the soul

Hale fully admits to getting her kicked out of school and even gives her a full admission, so she can clear her name and go back to school – if that’s what she wants. Again, not a true dark night, but served its purpose of offering Kat a choice.

13. Break into three: (External and internal conflicts combine for the solution.)

Kat breaks into Act III with all the swag and confidence of a true thief: with help from her cousin, Kat walks down the stairs and looks hot!

This is not the girl from the start of the story who wanted to walk away from her family.

14. Finale: (the climax)

If you haven’t guessed by now, the climax of HEIST SOCIETY is the actual robbery of the Henley – with some twists that I loved!

I can safely tell you that they steal the paintings because there is never any doubt she would. The fun and suspense came from watching how she pulls it off. And it’s worth the read.

15. Final Image: (Opposite of the opening image.)

At the start, Kat was with her new family at school. At the end, she’s with her real family, embracing the life and not looking back.

Final note:

What comes after that heist is what made me fall in love with this story. Ally Carter does a magnificent job making the impersonal caper, extremely personal, and then ended with another surprise. I loved it.

And you’ll have to read it to find out how she did it!

Have you read Heist Society? What’s your favorite caper story? Have you tried breaking your story down into 15 sentences?

Comments { 26 }

That one-two punch at the end of a story. (Plot Busters)


Okay, this is our last day to spend with this middle grade story that packs a lot of humor and heart.

Let’s talk about Act III. The ending. What some people claim to be the most important part!

Break into three: (external and internal conflict combine for the solution)

I wouldn’t say that the external and internal storylines combined here but they do later. I knew Act III started when her and her mom have a pow wow to make plans with one day left!

Finale: (the climax)

I loved the climax of this book. I’ll just say that Sherry meets the ghost one on one in a graveyard to “catch” him. The climax was everything it should be: suspenseful and emotional.

The cool emotional stuff that really sold me on this book is what made the climax though. Sherry gives the ghost some real time with his sister.

And then, she makes the biggest self sacrifice of all. She realizes that she talks to her mom on and off, where her brother doesn’t at all. So she gives up her 5 minutes that she’s been working toward and gives them to her brother! I was bawling. And honestly, it made this book rise to the top!

Final Image: (Opposite of the opening image)

In the final couple chapters, everything comes full circle. Sherry is respecting the Ruler. She’s being more accepting of her best friend’s boyfriend choices. And she has grown by giving up her real time to her brother.

Best ending ever for this story.

What worked for me?

  • Personal conflict was tied to the mystery
  • Personal motivation to solve the mystery
  • Character arc
  • Hilarious cute voice
  • Sherry became an extremely likeable character with her self-sacrifice.

Have you read any stories lately with an ending you loved and you knew you’d read the next one?

Comments { 13 }

How to bring emotion to your plot. (Plot Busters)

In Act II there is something that Blake Snyder refers to as the B story (or basically the subplot).

And this is where you bring in the emotion, the personal stakes.

I figured with a humorous mystery like I SO DON’T DO SPOOKY that the emotion might be on the weak side. With the focus being on the mystery.

Boy was I wrong.

Barrie Summy does an incredible job balancing the main storyline or the Fun and Games of the first part of Act II with the B story.

In other words, the mystery is there but we connect to Sherry when we realize how much she misses her mother, which makes us care more about the mystery.

The emotion of the B story provides the motivation for the character to solve the mystery.

Below is a one-sentence break down of Act II

Break into two: (protagonist must make a proactive decision)

Sherry and her best friend, Junie, make a plan to follow leads.

B story: (the love story – not always romantic)

Sherry misses her mom (who is a ghost) and wants to earn some “real time” with her by solving the mystery.

Fun and Games: (the heart of the book – why we read it)

Sherry investigates and follows clue after clue – some of them leading to a dead end, but others set up the midpoint and climax.

Midpoint: (stakes are raised significantly – another big game changer)

In her undercover work, Sherry is found out and dropped off in the middle of a desert where she learns that the Ruler’s stalker is a ghost!

Bad guys close in: (Things get worse.)

Sherry goes ghost hunting with a “real” ghost hunter and learns how to catch a ghost and she learns who the ghost might be.

All is lost and Dark night of the soul:

The mystery continues and more truths are revealed but I didn’t find a true dark moment where Sherry feels all is lost. She does feel the stress of time running out, but that’s not quite the same thing.

And this ends Act II.  So without that dark moment how did I know where Act III started? With an obvious Break into three. But that’s next Monday.

How do you add emotion to your main storyline so it works? Share your tips.

Comments { 15 }

I SO DON’T DO SPOOKY – Act I breakdown.

Welcome to Plot Busters and the story structure breakdown series of this terrific middle grade mystery.

Act I:

Opening Image: (before snapshot of the protagonist’s life)

Sherry is getting ready for school, and the Ruler asks for Sherry’s help to find her missing car keys. We see Sherry’s poor attitude, learn about her boyfriend, her family; and because it’s the third book in the series, we already know a bit about her.

Theme stated: (What is the story really about?)

Not finding a specific statement, the theme was obvious as I read it. It’s about family and self-sacrifice.

Set-up:

For me, there is less flexibility with structure when it comes to mysteries. Early on, the mystery needs to be introduced, clues planted, and the detective introduced, who has motivation to solve the mystery. I SO DON’T DO SPOOKY has all of that.

Hero:

Sherry, a middle schooler, with emotional lessons to learn, takes on any challenge with spunk and fight.

Goals:

Outer: Sherry and her mom must figure out who is stalking the Ruler.

Inner: Sherry must be more respectful to the Ruler while solving the case, or she won’t be allowed to work with her mom anymore.

Stakes:

For sherry, it’s all about spending time with her mom, but evolves into saving her step mom. For a middle schooler those are high stakes.

Six things that need fixing: (or the plants in the plant and pay-off concept)

1. Sherry does not respect her stepmother.

2. Someone is hiding the Ruler’s stuff in the house and the Ruler blames Sherry.

3. Sherry misses her mom.

4. Someone is stalking the Ruler.

Okay, so it’s not always six.

Catalyst:

In chapter one, someone is playing pranks on Sherry’s stepmother and Sherry is getting blamed. Call it a clue or the inciting incident. But everyday life has changed. The question is – what is Sherry going to do about it?

Debate: (asks some kind of question of the main character)

Is Sherry going to help her stepmother or continue to be disrespectful?

In chapter 4, the real mystery is stated. Sherry meets with her mom and her mom’s counselor. Together, they are given the mission to protect the ruler and find her stalker. With one rule – Sherry must show respect to the Ruler.

She might not have come to that conclusion on her own, but what middle schooler would?

The debate section in this story isn’t huge. Honestly, I think the question of how Sherry treats the Ruler is more a part of the character arc than the debate. What do you think?

And with the introduction of the official mystery, Act I ends.

Do you have all these elements in your Act I? Or do you not even pay attention to that sort of thing?

Comments { 15 }

Plot Busters – I So Don’t Do Spooky – Is it high concept?

Surprise! I’m giving you a dose of Plot Busters early. On Monday, myself and 24 other self published and indie published authors are launching The Indelibles blog. There will be chances to win a Kindle Fire and all our books in a blog hop. So be sure to check it out!

Now let’s move on to I So Don’t Do Spooky by Barrie Summy. I just love this series.

Logline: (from book) Thirteen-year-old Sherry helps her mother, a ghost, to investigate who is stalking Sherry’s stepmother, but Sherry is also very busy with school and friends, while her mother is also striving for a gold medal in the Ghostlympics.

Eh, this logline is just okay. I like my shorter version below.

Thirteen-year-old Sherry solves the mystery of who is stalking her stepmother to earn real time with her mother’s ghost.

High concept?

Let’s see. Ghosts, a mystery, high emotional stakes – I’d say yes. (I end up thinking that every book is high concept when the emotional stakes are high. So technically, this book might not be high concept. But that’s just semantics.)

1. Does the character offer the most conflict for the situation?

I love Sherry’s shopaholic, peppy personality. This is a mystery series and I love that we don’t have a noir detective, but a cute middle schooler who just wants to hang with her friends and boyfriend.

It’s not her personality or flaws that bring conflict to this mystery. It’s the fact that she wants to spend more time with her mom’s ghost. High emotional stakes.

2. Does she have the longest way to go emotionally?

In some ways, yes. Her dad has remarried one of Sherry’s teachers, who kids call the Ruler. And we can see from the first chapter, that Sherry is struggling accepting her as a mother figure.

3. Demographically pleasing?

I’d say yes. This is a perfect mix of contemporary with a bit of paranormal to make it fun. This story would appeal to middle schoolers and elementary age girls.

4. Is it primal?

Yes, definitely. Sherry misses her mom and longs to spend “real time” minutes with her. Without this emotional aspect, the story would not have carried the same level of impact.

If you’re wondering how to add emotional impact to your humorous middle grade or young adult story, look no further than this book. Summy does a masterful job. Lots to learn.

A week from Monday, we’ll cover Act I. So if you want to join in the fun and give Plot Busters a whirl, pick the book up at your library and break down Act I! We’ll compare notes. (Because really this is not my area of mavenness. I’m learning, just like you.)

Comments { 13 }