background to plot

I’ve re-entered into a plotting stage with my novel. I do this between every draft– write, plot, write, plot. It’s a good way to correct problems with form in your story.

For an example, two of the things I’m dissatisfied in the second draft were the intrigue (far too few characters, relatively little court conflicts), and the state of the rebellious commoners, which is mentioned but never plays a tangible role until the end.

Now, either of these two things could be described. I can paint in the features– a few rumors, some sub-plots, some sparkly court background. I can mention grumbling, unhappy common people and the high price of food. I can even hint at narrowly escaped danger.

Yet neither of these elements will truly become part of the story unless they have not just an effect on the plot, but a plot in and of themselves. More specifically, both must hurt my hero and heroine in a real and tangible way. Their interference must change my main characters’ mind about how they handle things, and cost them something important. Elements mean change in a story. It is vital to its structure.

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5 thoughts on “background to plot

  1. There’s definitely something good to be said about the writer who can paint a backdrop such that certain elements come as a surprise but still make sense due to carefully placed hints along the way. Making it become a direct part of the storyline can hurt it if you’re not careful. meh…just my two cents.

  2. You make a good point – nothing should be in the manuscript that does not have an effect on the main character and the story. Just writing background fluff doesn’t have half as much impact, and can fall pretty flat.

  3. I suppose the question now is whether you want full blown revolts or just the air of panicked rumours that tends to precede them. They both have their uses, but produce two very different atmospheres. If you really want to push the intrigue angle, then the threat of revolt might actually create more tension than its reality, since things are still at the stage where no clear lines have been drawn.

  4. That’s a point… but on the other hand, I’ve been studying the French revolution recently. Things don’t usually just explode all at once. They foreshadow each other, first with minor issues, usually blaming the wrong people, and are encouraged by previous success. It has to make an effect, somehow, even if its not seen directly.

  5. Ah, the French Revolution. Anne Boleyn’s story in particular has always fascinated me.
    I also love this idea of yours to reconstruct the plot outline between drafts. I would think it would help you patch over any plotholes you might discover.

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