Plotting a Beginning

Ann H Gabhart Ann's Posts, One Writer's Journal

Time to Begin Again.
How to begin? How do you begin anything that must be done? A long journey – by taking the first step. An unpleasant chore – by grabbing the mop or hammer or paintbrush or whatever tool is necessary to get started. A novel – by discovering the character or event that will push you to the edge of the story cliff and then trick you into jumping off. Once you are in the open air of the story the worrisome fear might start coursing through you that this time you might not be able to grab hold of the story balloon. This time you might plummet down into the rocks of rejection and failure below. But at the same time you rejoice in the breath-taking freedom of a new page. What’s the story going to be? What are the characters going to tell you? What’s going to happen?
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I have a little book, Craft & Technique by Paul Raymond Martin that’s chock full of short little pithy bits of writing advice. About plot he says, “In your everyday life, avoid trouble. In your writing life, revel in it.” So that’s why so many characters have such a talent for stepping into the quicksand of life. Then a writer has to write them out of that impossible situation only to let them be carried away by a flood of new problems. Most readers want something to happen. There has to be conflict whether it’s emotional or physical. As Martin says in another place in his book, there are three themes in most fiction: Life is a struggle, humans are resilient, and effort will triumph.
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And so I am posed on the edge of the story cliff searching the horizon for that character that will be the enticement I need to jump. But at the same time I keep getting pulled back from the edge of a new story by other writing tasks. This week I need to edit the page proofs for Angel Sister and so I’m backing away from the story cliff to do the final polish on that book. But very soon I’m going to say “what if I have a Shaker girl who…?”
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Also very soon – in four days – I’m going to be drawing for the winners of my birthday giveaways. But it’s not too late to throw your name in the hat if you want. Check out the details on the Event Page of my website. And for heaven’s sake stay out of trouble. Leave that for the characters in the books you read.
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P.S. The clock is a Shaker clock. Some of the communities had very skilled clock makers.