Simple Plot Development That Doesn’t Plod

If you ever struggle with plotting, or feel as though your planning process is going kind of slow, here is a method to help you ease with swift, speedy awesomeness through the process.

Plotting That Plods

When you sit down and tell yourself to come up with an interesting plot, you may find yourself running dry of fascinating devices.

It’s hard to be clever on the spot, or to draw up complex, intriguing plot sequences on command. The end result, sometimes, is plotting that plods along and is boring to plan and boring to read.

Snappy Plotting

The opposite of boring, staid plotting is snappy, intriguing plotting. How, though, to come up with a snappy plot?

The key here is use where you are and what you are to serve your creative purposes. Have you ever heard that old adage, “Write what you know”?

For the purposes of plotting, this doesn’t mean so much that you need to write whatever you actually live, but that you follow the surge in natural impulses and curiosity in your spirit and mind.

Ask the Questions

You can always come up with a great plot if you start out with a good question. A ‘what if’, if you will. I like to begin with a short character sketch and then stretch the parameters of the implied scenario into a plot.

Once I have one scene (which gives me a character, some supporting people or locations, and a base premise of what the character is doing and why they are where they are), the rest of the plot can be formed around that initial starting point.

I do this, and it can easily be done, by asking pertinent questions about the information you’ve already established.

Urgent Topics

If we start with a base character and a scenario (for example, Dina has three days to procure the miracle drug Finfanfu and save her own life), then we turn our minds to the first, most interesting question that presents itself, which forms the most urgent topic at hand.

The first question is: what’s wrong with her, and what will the miracle drug Finfanfu do for her?

Once we answer that first question, we’ll have uncovered mounds of new topics, contextually connected scenarios, and related characters, which will lead to many more useful and urgent questions.

Once we have a strong question leading to a satisfying finishing answer, we can form a plot.

Examples

Really Bad Writing

Dina’s face was not doing well. Her arms, also, were doing unwell. Dina figured that she would be able to hang onto some of her skin for another two years, as long as she held to the best-recommended practices and wore her protective coverings all the time.

She wore them at work. She wore them at her few free moments of play. She even wore them when she slept at night, and the scrubbing, dull feel of the scarvel cloth made her insides squirm with discomfort.

She had never been happy at home, and she was least happy now than she’d been before because exciting things were starting to happen in the city.

Dina was sick, but her doctor was pretty sure they could keep up the treatments and make her live longer. He thought there would be a breakthrough, and she would not die at all, because the social-sharing method of medical advances, when they came, was so fair and sound that Dina was sure everyone would help take care of her.

She was pretty sure she wouldn’t die at all, even though she was in the process of dying now.

Good Writing

Dina’s face and arms were literally falling apart. She kept herself wrapped in silky gauze, and moved as little as she could when she went home at night. She had to move during the day, but she kept her artificial skin coverings on religiously, and only used her gun when it was really necessary.

As an enforcement officer on the western Strand, Dina could not afford the replacement skin treatments that could have preserved her flesh for a few more years. There was no real hope for her; she was rotting away, losing flakes of her skin every night and getting gradually more pink and raw.

On Tuesday, the night after Dina had gotten drunk and thought about living more dangerously in order to eke some enjoyment out of her shortening future, an announcement came over the subway intercom that she hardly listened to at first.

“That would be good for you. Will you go in for the trials?” the women next to Dina asked.

“What?” Dina asked. Her voice came out muffled through the heavy artificial skin.

“That new drug. Weren’t you listening?” the woman asked.

In Conclusion

Start with where you and use what you are to ask basic, driving questions about your character and the scenario they’re in. These pertinent questions reveal theme, create obvious plot points, and eventually form all the plot you’ll need for your snappy, awesome novel.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and I’m starting work on a science fiction blurb.

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The Fool As A Touchstone In Plot

A nonsensical, foolish character is a valuable tool to illuminate and frame morality and provide context and perspective to a novel’s plot.

What is a Fool?

Stupid characters are delightful, even more so when they are able to be laughed at without emotional pain.

I knew a kid a long time ago. He was blind, because of an accident with a gun. He was a very nice kid, but very stupid. I never made fun of him, and I never saw anyone else make fun of him, either.

On the other hand, I knew another boy who was not blind and who made a game of trying to give himself homemade piercings with safety pins.

Lots of people made fun of that kid (I don’t generally make fun of people, so I didn’t, but other people did). No one, including the piercings kid, got particularly ruffled over the process, because he knew he was being stupid and didn’t care.

Shakespeare’s Fools

Bill of the pirate-style earring had a knack for using smart, morally sound people as fools, which does a couple of things to his plots:

  1. Using a morally clear character allows the fool to act as a frame of reference for the plot as a whole
  2. Everyone in the whole story says whatever they are really thinking to the intelligent fool, because there’s no social pressure when you’re talking to a walking dumpster fire

Fools in Contemporary Fiction

How can you make your very own walking dumpster fire? There are a few key elements here.

  • Your fool should be more damaged, in terms of past abuse, than any other character
  • Drinking helps
  • The fool must have processed, in a healthy manner, nearly all of his own emotional pain
  • Some reference to sexuality is usually wise

Examples

Terrible Fool

Rodgen drew the covers of his bed over his face most comfortably and sighed as he slept heavily through the alien alarm.

His roommate, Baris, had already gotten up and was almost ready to put on his shoes. Baris had no idea how Rodgen could sleep through noise like this. I wish I could, Baris though, and he pulled on his sock. The alien slave ship made an uncomfortable rock to the side, and a wave of alien water leaked through the door and crashed over the whole room, spilling into Baris’s open shoes.

Rodgen, not waking up much, spat some drips of slippery alien water out of his mouth and turned over to go back to sleep.

“Rodgen, my shoes got wet!” Boris said irritably, looking down at his soaking shoes.

Rodgen, being asleep and very wet, did not reply.

Baris was tempted to throw a soaking shoe at Rodgen’s head, but he put the wet shoe on instead, and felt angry at himself for not leaving his shoes in the cubby where they would have been dry.

Excellent Fool

Rodgen pulled the covers of his bed over his face and pretended not to be hearing the blasting alarm. He knew the aliens would dump something wet on him if he didn’t get up this time. They’d warned him, and he didn’t care.

Damn, how I hate Monday mornings on the alien slave ship, Rodgen thought, as he braced himself against the inevitable bucket of amniotic fluid that crashed over his head when he didn’t get up in the first minute.

Rodgen spat some drips of burning alien fluid out of his mouth and tried to go back to sleep.

“Rodgen!” his cell-mate roared.

“I’m tired,” Rodgen said from under his blanket.

“You got my fucking shoes wet, Rodgen! Seriously, get out of bed and take a nap on the floor next time! Shit!” Baris threw a soaking shoe at Rodgen’s head, and the impact was, at last, enough to motivate Rodgen to remove himself from his soaking bed.

“I don’t like living here,” Rodgen said with dignity.

“Gosh, and here I thought you were on vacation in the fucking Ritz. Jesus, Rodge. Give me your shoes. Are they dry at all? I’m taking yours.”

General Qualities of a Fool

  • A quality fool has foundational morals and an unerring grasp of sexuality and interpersonal ethics
  • The fool has extensive personal history of abandonment, addiction, or abuse
  • The fool is absurd and/or funny
  • The fool is emotionally detached enough to make commentary on other characters
  • The fool becomes the touchstone of the plot when they encapsulate the essence of the theme in a living body and become, for all intents and purposes, a mouthpiece for the novel’s intent

In Conclusion

If you haven’t got a fool in your current work, think about utilizing one in your next piece. Fools are charming, pleasant things, and if you make your fool the central character, you might accidentally end up writing Hamlet.

You’re reading Victor Poole. Your pediatrician probably hasn’t read this book, but you could read it this weekend.

The Tiny Guide To Integrating Your Creative Soul

Is your energy scattered and frenetic? Here’s how to get a surge of creative potential throbbing through your body.

Your Natural Energy

I invented an energy form because all my actors were broken. Incidentally, this form works well for writing good fiction. I will now share the method with you.

Using your natural energy means hooking up the disparate parts of your energy mechanism, the parts of you that are set up to work as a natural, living animal, and channeling them into service of creating a fictional world.

Think of this as exercise for your soul, to make you bright, shining, and sexually attractive. My main shtick, as a theatre specialist, is making actors unbearably hot, as in, attractive and “zing”-y. I’m very good at that.

Good writing has a zing, and a body and soul that is aligned effectively creates more adaptive, fertile fiction, which opens the reader’s soul. That kind of shared openness leads, if the conditions are correct, to mental sex, which is where commercialism and profit come into play.

How To Do It

Your body, naturally, is an animal, and has chains of impulses that, if they’re connected, fill you with energy, bursting life, and vitality. If you’ve ever watched a cat walk around, or a really healthy animal of any kind, you’ve seen the power and flexibility in their shoulders and hips, the kind of easy, confident fluidity that runs in their muscles and shoots out through their eyes.

This is why show biz people say, “Don’t work with children or animals,” because little kids haven’t gotten deeply screwed over yet, physically, and so their eyes and muscles shine with power, just like animals’ do.

The good news is that your body already knows how to do this instinctively. You just have to plug in the main breakers for your impulse chains, and your body, as it releases civilized crap and old emotions, will embrace the method automatically.

Pelvis

The root of motion starts down in the pelvic cradle. Imagine, if you will, a champion jumping horse, like one of those slick creatures at the Equestrian Olympics, or a hunter type of horse. When the horse gathers itself at a fence to jump over, the body coils in and the wide, enormous pelvic cradle of the animal acts as a kind of powerful spring that launches the body up into the air.

Your pelvic cradle is the root of your motion. It’s probably closed up and tangled together right now, like a slinky, a toy metal slinky that got twisted up and caught against itself.

Imagine your pelvis is a box that is a little squished and crushed in. Open the sides to straighten and make the box a proper cube shape, and make the top and bottom level and parallel to the floor. The key is to be at square angles to the floor, and to avoid any tilt or internal collapse in the sides and floor of the pelvis. If you go and look at a well-muscled ballet dancer, you will see a very open, stable pair of hips and a strong, balanced pelvic floor.

Ribs

We want to have a stable, open pelvic cradle, and to let the surge of energy, the spring that naturally rests in your body to bounce up into your ribs and freely up through the rest of you.

Now we move on to your ribs. If your ribs are stiff and holding tension, you probably aren’t breathing very much, and if the muscles between your rib bones, your interstitial muscles, are hardened, which they probably are, your impulses are getting caught into a traffic jam at your floating ribs and not making it up through your body.

What we want is to soften and open the rib cage, from the very bottom of your floating ribs all the way up to your clavicle. We’ll do this the same way we worked on your pelvis, by imagining the rib cage as a box. This time the box is rectangular.

Again, we want to have stable, perpendicular sides and a level top and bottom that are parallel to the floor and matching up exactly to the box of our pelvic cradle.

Now that we’ve softened and aligned our ribs, our impulses are flooding straight from our pelvic cradle up to our ribs; now it’s time to open the channel into our face, to get that intriguing light and power pouring into our eyes.

Face

The face is the part of the impulse chain that makes you distinctive, and that adds a personal flair to your work. Actors learn to focus the majority of their energy into their facial muscles and their eyes, which is why movie stars look so incredibly distinct and individual. They carry a stamp, a proprietary branding of energy shaping and impulse style.

Your writing spark, your stamp of self in your personality and your eyes, is what will eventually make you unforgettable, but you have to free and loosen the impulse chain to trammel in an open river from your newly-stable pelvis, through your emotionally-softened ribs, and into your distinctive, one-of-a-kind face.

We’ll do this by opening the tunnel of our necks and imagining hot, molten power pouring up from the pelvis straight up through the actual bones and muscles of the ribs, and into the bone and muscle of your face.

And Getting To Work

Now that your body is full of energy and light, get to work as a writer, and your words will start to jump and spring a little, just like our champion jumping horse leaps over barriers. You’ll have hiccups, and your body will jolt and adjust over time, but if you embrace your natural impulse chain and let yourself settle into the form your body wants to take, your writing will get stronger, better, more distinctive, and much more flavorful to the reader.

In Conclusion

Utilizing the natural energy in your physical body will strengthen your writing and empower your style.

  • The pelvic cradle is a box of steel or hardwood: make it level, open, and square
  • The ribs are a rectangular box, more like strong cardboard that can give and bend: open the ribs, level and straighten your parallel lines at every side
  • Your face is the key to your zing, your personality and intriguing star power: open the channel of your energy and flood your facial muscles and bones with hot light from the root of energy down in your pelvic cradle

You’re reading Victor Poole, and one of my favorite villains is struggling with the temptation to pound people today, and is resisting the urge.

The Natural Way To Build Character Context

How to use what you already know about people to naturally add intriguing, original context to your characters.

Organic Character Context

When you meet a new person in real life, at first you only know what they look like, how they move or dress, the tone of their voice, and the actual words they say to you. You don’t generally meet someone and instantly know their precise eye color, their favorite memory of a birthday, or the name of the dog they owned when they were seven years old.

Those are facts you might learn later on, if you and the person develop some sort of relationship, whether as friends, colleagues, or romantic partners, but they aren’t things you know right away.

When you build a character with great context, the process, to be organic, begins the same way. You start with a basic introduction, either of the character’s looks or of their words.

Let’s Build A Character Right Now

As an example, I will begin with a gender, let’s go with male this time, and say that his name is, um, Levi.

Now, I’m not going to jump into character charts, or secret planning over here. I’m actually going to treat Levi as if he were a stranger that I was encountering for the very first time right now.

Hello, Levi!

Levi, wearing a denim jacket and a pair of bright pink cowboy boots, along with a very dirty pair of brown leather pants, sauntered into the laundromat looking very much like a gunslinger of old. Instead of a pistol, he was packing two wrapped stacks of quarters in his pockets, and instead of a saddle he had an enormous, noisy black garbage bag of filthy sheets and clothing slung over his back.

Levi swung the garbage bag onto the moderately filthy linoleum, dug a purple bottle of Suds’ Soft detergent out of the mass of dirty clothes, and began to sort through his clothes and sheets. His jaws were busy over a wad of pink bubble gum, which he occasionally snapped and blew into a translucent bubble before bursting and chewing the pink gum back into his mouth.

And Now, Organic Context

When you introduce yourself to a character without predetermined ideas of his past, his predilections, or his particular manner of brushing his teeth, your subconscious goes into overdrive to explain and justify every detail supplied by your working imagination.

For example, Levi chews bubble gum and wears a very ugly and dirty ensemble of clothing. Why? I don’t know why yet, and I also have no specific idea how old he is, aside from realizing he is probably an adult, and might be over thirty.

If we continue to explore Levi, our minds will naturally and organically supply character context that supports our pre-existing details about him.

Adding Context Organically

Why is organic context valuable? Can’t we just slap some authorial homework over Levi that fits our chosen narrative? Well, yes, we could, but that would probably not result in a satisfying story arc or a rhetorically pleasant character in the end.

Your mind is already used to sorting through tremendous amounts of information about people and the patterns their behaviors and habits imply about their lives. Tap into your brain, and save yourself a lot of time constructing painstaking, artificial character context.

If you allow your mind to meet a character from the ground up, just like you meet a new person in real life, your creative vehicle will begin to supply organic context automatically, because your brain wants to understand and label the character, and your subconscious will do that by digging down the roots that you don’t necessarily realize consciously are there.

Artificial Character Context

I had a client several years ago, an author who was working on a project about packs of wild, knife-fighting crime groups in Anywhere, USA. She wanted help to make her project better, and I worked over the draft with her a few times.

She had taken one character in particular, a main female romantic interest, and drawn up a contradictory and artificial context to make the character as pitiable and conflicting as possible.

The Character Forced To Serve Drama

The female character, in the actual work, read like a schizophrenic person, because there was no organic explanation at all for why she behaved or spoke as she did. The author had a predetermined function for the character and set up rigid and artificial constraints around her backstory to force her to create conflict in the plot.

The result was awful, because underneath this artificial context, the natural, organic context of the original character idea was clearly struggling to come through (and was being choked to death by the author’s artifice).

Levi With Artificial Context (Very Bad Writing!)

Levi started his laundry and went to sit down in a plastic chair with a deep sigh, remembering the time on his fourteenth birthday when his beloved dog Rex had perished in a tragic road accident. Levi Nelson, forty-two, was a complex person, and he hated to sit alone.

He stared around the room, which was empty, and then stood up and went to peer into the office door. He thought perhaps he would meet some sympathetic person who would commiserate with his dour mood on this, the anniversary of his father’s abandonment of their family.

A woman was sitting at a desk, combing over a crossword puzzle and looking shallow and unsympathetic. Levi sighed meaningfully, but she didn’t look up with her crystal blue eyes and ask him to explain his obvious sorrow.

Levi, being a tragic and a blasted character, owing to the transient manner of life he led, leaned into the office and knocked at the door.

“Is something broken?” the woman asked, without looking up.

“Hey, you’re so beautiful, and you must have a kindly soul. Do you want to get lunch and fall in love with me?” Levi asked.

“No,” the woman said.

“Do you want to stare soulfully into my eyes?” Levi asked, leaning a little into the door to examine her blonde hair. She made no reply, and he sighed meaningfully and went back to his chair to wait for his wash cycle to finish.

Levi With Organic Context (Good Writing!)

A woman with sparkly silver heels came out of the laundromat office and leaned against a washer. Levi ignored her until he had loaded two machines and started them. He spat his bubble gum into the ratty laundromat garbage can and slid conveniently near to the woman, who was in her early thirties and had a messy bob of blonde hair tied up in a knot.

“Hey,” Levi said.

“You didn’t come in yesterday,” the woman said. Levi’s hand inched sorta kinda near to the woman’s hand. She ignored him, and he grew bold and stroked a finger along a silver bangle she wore around her wrist. The woman stifled a sigh.

“I had to play a private gig until super late,” Levi explained. The woman adjusted her hand so that her skin came under his stroking finger. “Did you miss me?” Levi asked, a hopeful glint in his eye.

“You never missed a Tuesday before,” the woman explained, tilting her head as if she were making up her mind.

“Yeah, but I never got called in to work all night on a Monday before. We didn’t even get back until late yesterday afternoon,” Levi replied, sliding a bit closer. She slid away.

“You could have called,” she said in a reproving sort of way.

“But you won’t give me your number, Val, and you said I shouldn’t call the laundromat,” Levi hedged. She inched a bit closer herself.

“Well,” she said.

“Hey,” he murmured. She made a shuddering sigh and glared at the big windows at the front of the laundromat.

“Well,” she said again. He slipped a bit closer and kissed her mouth. His hand tangled into her hand, and she sighed and snuggled a little against his denim jacket. He pulled his mouth away, but stayed right close to her. “Do you want my number, then?” she asked.

“Mm-hm,” he agreed, and kissed her again.

In Conclusion

Let your brain do what it already does; as soon as you meet a character (by writing them down, and observing as much about them as you would see in a stranger you met for the first time), your subconscious goes to work to explain everything about them, and if you will release into your existing social skill set, an organic and satisfying character context will easily emerge.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and I’m sort of sick today. I have now successfully disposed of my Christmas tree, and it is Thursday today.

The Inside Essence of Science Fiction

What is science fiction, at its core? And are you writing it, really?

Science fiction is an intellectual exercise. You put up a perimeter and a complex, insoluble moral dilemma, and then see what you can do about rationalizing and justifying inhuman behavior.

Fantasy, by contrast, presumes the base, inevitable existence of inhuman behavior and negotiates the emotional fallout of such.

Science fiction starts out with a presumed blank slate of “people are decent” and then plays at corrupting them, usually because of Technology or Exposure to Aliens, and fantasy starts with “people are monstrous in their hearts” and then uses magic or character-driven heroism to ameliorate the overall social damage.

Science fiction is an individual journey, going into the character over time, and getting a tighter and more emotional focus on the dynamic character throughout the story.

Fantasy, by contrast, grows wider and more broad as the story goes on. Fantasy concerns itself with the impact of the individual on society as a whole, while science fiction concerns itself with the moral and intellectual maturation of the individual.

Are You Writing Science Fiction?

Just for fun, let’s see what happens if we take a scenario for a story and tweak it to become distinctly science fiction-esque.

The young man, desirous of adventure, leaves home and meets a dangerous, powerful new friend.

We take the dynamic of leaving home, which implies the abandonment of family, much farther, and turn the powerful friend into a more intellectually compelling transformation of the inner self of the young man. Ergo:

Science fiction:

The young man, desiring to leave his home, secretly sells his family to an alien race in exchange for a serum that transforms him into a powerful and dangerous fighter. The young man takes up his lifelong dream of becoming a bodyguard to celebrities. He discovers over time that the serum he bought from the aliens is transforming him into a kind of alien creature, and that if he can’t obtain another chemical to reverse the process in time he’ll be enslaved by the aliens, used as a household pet, and someday eaten.

Now, just for the sake of contrast, let’s see what happens if we take the same original scenario and apply a fantasy bent.

The young man, desirous of adventure, leaves home and meets a dangerous, powerful new friend.

Again, we take the leaving of home a bit farther, but this time we add in a pre-existing flavor of disaster and looming evil.

Fantasy:

The young man, outraged by the destruction of his family and homeland, dodges the universal draft for the evil army and seeks out a famous magician, who purchases the young man’s and gives him help and training. The young man spends years becoming a potent magic-wielder and sets out with a band of similarly-brooding companions to avenge his family and help his magical master wrest control of the continent from the ruling overlord.

Fantasy Grows Out, Science Fiction Tightens In

Over the course of a story, science fiction comes closer and deeper into the psyche and emotional development of the main character, while in fantasy, the main character integrates over time into a wider social circle, and often becomes a focal point to the world at large, or to a vast segment of the local population.

Science fiction is usually about internal, emotional development and psychological maturation of the self, while fantasy, by contrast, is generally about the healing, through the initial efforts of one individual and eventually through a much larger band of companions and then a wider group of cooperative beings, of society as a whole. Fantasy gets a wide, broad focus by the end of the story, and science fiction gets a tight, very personal focus by the end of the story.

Now, To the Point

 

Humans are emotional creatures, in their hearts, and so the exercise of writing science fiction is one of outside-in manipulation. Can you create an intellectually invigorating “wrong” scenario feel eventually “correct” to the reader, by dint of context and the continual internal development of the main character?

And does your focus grow gradually tighter and more introspective, in your main character’s development?

You’re reading Victor Poole. I got stuck behind a train for a few minutes last night on the road, and had a nice time watching the graffiti flash by. I’ve been forgetting to write 2018 all morning, but that sort of thing happens to me every January.

The Truth About Story Parameters

Do you follow through on the parameters promised in the overall setup of your story? And does the reader feel they got what they were promised in your opening?

Parameters of the Premise

Every story has an overall structure, a promise of what may happen that either is or isn’t followed through on by the end.

Some plots are so formulaic as to be reducible to a sentence or only just a phrase: romance, murder mystery, etc. Many other stories create individual promises in the opening that are then expounded on throughout the rest of the work.

For Example

There’s that age-old story about the young man setting out in the wide world to make his fortune. He may or may not leave a sweetheart at home, and may be tackling piracy or some more honest method of industry as his approach, but the promise in the story opening is that something will happen throughout the book in connection to the young man’s efforts.

The reader, in short, expects the story to have to do mostly with whether or not the young man succeeds.

Breaking a Premise in the Middle is Ill-Advised

If our tale of the earnest young man transitions, in the middle, to a story about how the forest elves are battling encroaching parasitic beetles, and we lose sight of our hero entirely as we follow their ecological saga, the story has failed. The reader was lied to, for the framing of the plot started out with one picture and went on to illustrate another image entirely.

The Truth About Story Parameters

Staying on topic is paramount, when it comes to following through. What this means, for your actual writing, is that every sentence you write needs to tie back in a clear and logical fashion to the original premise given to the reader.

Fantastical sagas concerning irrelevant backstory, side quests and charming tertiary characters, if they do not reaffirm and highlight some vital aspect of the main parameters, really ought to go.

Examples

Right now I’m working on a series about gangsters and their attached lovers. One of my characters is after a very specific outcome, and so each bit of information given throughout the books has to build and illuminate how his work is going. With each new scene, and each revealed piece of backstory, the reader wants to know, and my job is to tell the reader, if Character A is getting closer or farther away, if his goals are growing clearer or inching out of reach.

Bad Writing:

Bartho the whore was an ethical slut, who never slept with anyone without their paying him in full first. Bartho believed that he was reinforcing decent behavior on the part of his clients, and felt morally superior to all other whores by being exacting in his accounting of his time and energy.

Bartho, in truth, was on a personal quest to improve conditions for all paid sluts everywhere, and he felt firmly in the right when he turned poorly-behaved clients in to the local mob bosses for whatever slights he could dig up in their pasts.

Good Writing:

To be honest, the above example was such a complete waste of time and story effort that it simply wouldn’t come into the novel at all. Therefore, there is no good example of how to handle Bartho, because Bartho, in the parameters established by my opening, has nothing to give the reader in terms of following through.

In Conclusion

Following through on the parameters of the premise allow for easy editing, as in: I am writing about a hunt. Therefore: How are my men doing on their hunt, how does each new piece of information change or affect the status and success or failure of their hunt?

Anything not dealing directly with illuminating or building the importance and impending finish of the premise has no valid place in the rest of the story.

You’re reading Victor Poole. Happy first day of 2018!

Are You Building A Bridge To Your Readers?

Is there a disconnect between your intention and the reader’s understanding? If so, here are a couple of approaches to bridge the gap and make clarity sure.

Back in the old days, when I taught acting, I developed a reputation for lecturing actors about gender and sexual presentation in theatre. Most of my actors were adorable messes of gender confusion, which is perfect for normal life and disastrous for live stage performance.

One time, I had a meeting with several of my actors and one young woman (brown hair, moderately tall, svelte), said something to the tune of, “Oh, no! Now Victor Poole is going to make me feel guilty for not wearing high heels and makeup all the time!”

A Disconnect Between Writer and Reader

This female actor was hearing something that I wasn’t saying, and, being a diligent person, I took note and adjusted my phrasing to suit her mind.

Yesterday I read a scene to my editor, and I’d phrased one sentence in a way that led him to completely visually misinterpret the remainder of the scene. We had a laugh over the misunderstanding and I added two more sentences, which made my original intention completely clear.

When You’re Writing, Make A Bridge to the Reader

  1. Readers are coming from a different planet, most of the time.
  2. Luckily, their planet is connectible with your planet if you build a bridge.
  3. Only 1% of readers will bother to build a bridge to you, so you have to take responsibility for making the bridge to them

You Are the Builder of the Bridge

Here are some easy tricks to help you successfully connect your writing to the understanding of the reader, with as few hiccups as possible.

A bridge has some method of support that holds it up. A bridge also has a foot-path upon which the reader crosses over. The supports are underpinning writing qualities, and the foot-path is the plot.

Here are some of the heavy-duty methods that support a bridge between the intent of your writing and the received understanding of the reader:

  • described visceral, sensory input (sight, hearing, smell, etc.)
  • realistic physical mammalian response common to human beings
  • psychology
  • universal emotional experience

One You Have Supports in Place, the Rest of the Bridge is Story

It’s possible to have functional supports, but no plot, and it’s possible and common to have a plot, or a foot-path of a bridge, without the necessary supports to make it walkable.

My earlier snafu with my editor was due to some missing visual description; once I added in a couple of clarifying sentences, we were off to the races again.

You need both supports for the bridge (sensory description to allow the reader to ground their mind, emotional scenarios that resonate with the reader’s lived experience, etc., etc.) and you need a plot, or a surface upon which the reader can cross over from their mental world into theirs.

In Conclusion

If you are finding that your readers aren’t always hearing what you’re saying, look at your material with the analogy of a bridge in your mind, and separate the parts of your writing into two general camps:

  1. Supports to the story, which, again, are things like: sensory descriptions, usage of proven psychology, emotionally evocative scenarios, etc.
  2. Plot, or story, which is the actual foot-path upon which the reader crosses from their mental planet into yours

If you remember that you are ultimately responsible for building and maintaining a useable and attractive bridge, and you keep in mind the two very different and totally necessary parts of said bridge, you will be able to share a marvelous common experience with the reader, and both of you will be deeply satisfied by the experience of  sharing and understanding your work.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current novel, poor John, the fabulous handsome man of yore, is having his heart broken on a stairwell in his adopted son’s building this morning. I pity John, who has been ill-used, and is due for a happy ending. I intend to give John an overwhelmingly happy ending.