Tag Archives: story arc

Who’s Driving Your Story?

I got in my truck this morning and my knees scraped against the underside of the dashboard and the steering wheel smashed into my ribs.  You might think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not–much.

You see, Dear Daughter drove my truck last, and she’s all of five foot nothin’. 

Writing is similar to driving.  One person must steer the car, but input can come from the passenger seat or even from a backseat driver. 

A story is typically about a central MC.  (Don’t freak on me, I said almost, not the absolute always.)  Sometimes the MC has a BFF that helps guide the events or a significant other waiting at the destination as motivation to not get lost along the way. 

Other times, characters and events can feel like a navigation system.  “Turn right here.”  These directions can send our characters on a clear and true path, lead them along the scenic route or nearly drive them off a cliff. 

In my humble opinion, it’s important to realize that stories unfold in a variety of ways depending on who’s behind the steering wheel.  Your MC’s personality plays an important role in how much or how little advice she’s willing to take along the way.

“I know, Mom” is my DD’s mantra when speeding up to a stop light and the car idling just in front of her bumper.  “Jeeze.  Let go of the door handle.”

There is no mistaking who drives the car when DD sits behind the wheel. 

Who drives your story?  Do events dictate your MC’s actions, does conflict detour your story line or does an end goal motivate your MC to push forward despite all obstacles? 

If we’re lucky, we have a healthy balance of all three.  If not, we are on a road trip from hell!

Series Writing is Like an Umbrella

This post is inspired by a fellow scribe tagging me in a “Writing is like” challenge.  It’s also inspired by the crummy weather that continues to plague my little corner of the world.

It’s been pouring on our little prairie–again.  Over the past weeks, I’ve witnessed people pop open umbrellas while they go about their business.  The thin, waterproof fabric repels rain, keeping the user dry and happy.

Not a planner, I usually get caught without so much as a hood to cover my head.  By the time I reach my destination, I usually look like a hamster that fell in the toilet.

This non-planning/pantster mentality applies to my writing.  Outlines scare the bejeebies out of me and I don’t stick to them anyway.  But an umbrella, now that might work.  I’m still outside in the elements, trekking my merry way from point A to point B, but without contracting Drowned Rodent Syndrome. 

Since writing a series is much different from penning a single title, I knew I needed some sort of framework.  One massive story arc to cover the series and little story arcs to encompass each individual book.  You can read about it here if this is new to you.

I drew my big arc on the top of my page.  Along the bottom edge, I drew lacy arcs from the starting point to the end of my series.  Hmmm, it looked suspiciously like an umbrella.  To complete the effect, I sketched in spokes that radiated from each point to the middle of the top arc.

Yep, definitely an umbrella top.

Series Umbrella In Progress

On each spoke, I penned a key phrase summing up the resolution of each book.  I titled the mini-arcs with one word conflicts.  Everything tied nicely together.  Except…

…the handle. 

While my umbrella top summarized my over-all premise–inciting incident, MC’s progress and ultimate conclusion–it didn’t really address the antagonist.    My umbrella was incomplete, because even though I had an overarching premise, a physical antagonist was still necessary.  One central evil that propelled my MCs forward.  A villain to defeat, if you will.

This upped the stakes and gave me something to focus on.  Now when I write, I’ll be able to visualize exactly where each story must begin and end, how the conflict relates to the over-all arc and what central conflict my MCs are up against.

I’m still not writing to an outline.  Each chapter book within the series will be allowed to pants it’s way onto my keyboard.  But, thanks to my umbrella, I won’t get halfway through my journey and realize I started out for the grocery store when I really should have been on my way to a photo shoot. 

And we can all picture what that would look like if I got caught unaware in a storm. 

What tricks do you use to keep your writing focused? 

Derailed: writing caution

Once upon a time, DH and I made our way down south for a job interview.  While driving along, we came upon a very recent train derailment.  The damage was incredible.  Cars tipped over a football field off the track.  Cargo scattered across the ditch in ways that defied logic.

Thankfully the train troubles occurred outside of town and far enough off the road that nobody was injured.

Upon our return, the mess had been cleared away and we completely missed seeing the site of the accident.  Virtually all traces of the derailment were gone.  And while the train company must have dealt with extensive  and far-reaching damages, the casual observer would have missed the fact that twenty-four hours earlier, a near catastrophe had occurred.

Our writing is like a train track.  We have a story arc that begins in one station and ends in another.  Along the way, we transport our precious cargo.  We may make switches along the way, dropping off some cars and picking up others.  We may speed up and slow down for towns and bridge crossings, but we never stray from the track.

Unless, of course, we get derailed.

When this happens, we have  two choices: clean up the mess, pay out the damages and deliver our salvaged cargo or go back to the station and start our trek all over again.

Neither option is fun and both require a lot of work.  Critique partner and soon-to-be-pubbed, Calista Taylor, recognizes her risk for derailment and takes another set of tracks to ward off disaster.  When the writing gets tough and she’s “blocked” for longer than a week, she retraces her steps and finds out where she went wrong. 

With my current WIE (work in edit), I discovered yesterday (45 pages from the end) that I had failed to make a detour when I should have.  Instead of switching tracks, I steamed forward and missed out on adding some cargo to my train that will invariably make my novel much stronger and more intriguing.

While I didn’t totally derail, it was like I jumped the track.  I took a short cut and deprived my potential readers of the scenic route.

What do you do when  you find your story floundering?  When do you realize your writing has derailed and how do you fix it?  Do you automatically trunk a derailed manuscript or do you try to salvage what you can?

Curious minds want to know.