Plot Lesson

Part lesson, part excerpt. Two birds with one stone.

I got an idea about a year ago, a person in a car accident and a horn blaring loud in the background. However, I had nowhere to put it so I wrote it down and stored it away. Then, about a week after my birthday this year, I walked around school unable to get it out of my head. Suddenly I knew what I wanted to use it for – a new novel, completely separate from my other ideas.

So I typed it up in Scrivener and decided to make the novel have parts, one each for different stages of life, beginning with childhood. I wrote the first scene, with the car horn, and the first meeting of two small child who will be my protagonists.

I stopped.

Why did I stop? Because beyond these two small scenes, I honestly have no clue where I’m going with this. I know a scene in the middle and a scene near the end and I know I want it to be one of those great romance novels up there with Nicholas Sparks’ work. Unlike most of my work, there won’t be any magical elements or fantastical things happening. It’s just going to be normal. I only have one other book planned like that, but while the ideas could be merged, I don’t plan to do that. I want this one to be something fresh. The issue is finding out what exactly I want to happen.

The great thing about a plot is that it usually changes two or three times while writing a novel. The idea stays the same, but how it happens tends to change. I once read the beginning of a guide on how to write a novel in 100 days. One of the things the guide says to do is to write the ending of the book on a note card or  spare paper. Write it as detailed as you want it, stick it in a drawer, and forget about it. Then, once you’ve written the novel, you’ll take out the paper and see just how much it changed.

The exact quote is from Day 21:

Write down the last paragraph of your novel and put it in the drawer. At the end of a hundred days, lets see how close you came to following your imagination.

The guide is more of a how to begin and how to keep motivated up to a good way through, but it’s all good knowledge for a writer. I may even use it late for a ‘In the Words of’ blog. Something else the guide says is to always know how the story is going to end. It may not be specifics, since the last scene will undoubtedly change, but it’s good to know who lives and who dies and what goal is accomplished inevitably.

Right now I’m working on the overall goal and the specifics of my characters. It’s time to figure out what makes them tick so that I can really sit down and write their story – after maybe reading some Nicholas Sparks or David Nicholls or something to really get in the mood.

Are you having trouble with a plot in your novel? I do suggest reading some of the guide up there. Each day up to where I read is about a paragraph long and really shouldn’t take a whole day (things like ‘decide on a schedule of when to write’ or ‘stay confident’ are entire days). One thing it says that I completely agree with is to make your characters and your plot simultaneously, as neither can survive without the other. I’ve got the start of my characters and I’m moving on to decide their pasts, their futures, and their personalities. My plot will grow with them. Yours will grow with your characters as well.

And now, because I’m really kind of proud of it – the first scene with the car horn. Let me know what you think:

The loud tone rang through the evening air like a pathetic alarm clock, one that had lost its purpose and no longer understood it was meant to stop eventually. Several years passed in the slow moment between the first notice of it and the realization of its identity as the horn of a car. It seemed another month passed before all sense of sound disappeared so as to give space to the other sensations. In the place where ears used to work, the other senses flared up. The air was static charged over a turbine, vibrating around the space. Its warmth was a brilliant contrast to the coolness of the round object pressed against her cheek. On the other hand, her cheek was about the only part of her body that didn’t ache in the aftermath of the accident that put her here.

With great difficulty, memories floated in circles around her head like birds in a cartoon. She tried to grab them, piece together why her eyes wouldn’t open and why everything hurt. How long had she been here? How long had she been trying to figure out these answers? Each moment, each passing second felt like a lifetime… or, she believed it must be seconds. She couldn’t have been sitting here as long as she felt she was. The horn was still blaring, although she felt it more than heard it now. It filled her with the immediacy of needing to know. Why was the horn blaring? Why did it not stop? Why couldn’t she remember?

A breeze pushed by her, warm and tingling and smelling of gasoline and air conditioners. She tried to piece the smells together, but the warmth touched her heart and she thought of him before all other things. She couldn’t remember how she got here, but she knew one thing – she hadn’t been alone. Who had been with her, she couldn’t place. Where or why were blurs, but she knew there had been a man with her, and the horn told her to be afraid.

The breeze pushed harder past her face, bringing with it only warmth and no specific smells. She felt her whole body convulse in the effort to remember the last few days, the last few minutes – for she was sure it was minutes and not years that brought her to this place. Then the warmth of the breeze brought to her mind the clearest memory of a green lawn and a summer day. She knew without knowing how she knew that he was nearby, somewhere under the hot July sun that made her brow sweat and her heart die in her chest.

 

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