Plotting, My Nemesis

I always have difficulty with plot in my writing. This, perhaps, is an attempt to figure out why.

I’m a pantser, in general. It took me a while to figure out what a “pantser” was, so I’ll explain: one who writes by the seat of their pants. The other end is a plotter, one who plots and outlines before writing.

I suppose the only way to improve my plot deficiency is to read book dedicated to plot: YA (young adult). I have a story that I gave the ol’ Freytag’s Triangle treatment, and it looked more like Freytag’s descending foothills. Not good news. I’ve since become hyper aware of plot issues and I suppose it has become a neurosis of mine. I worry that my writing doesn’t make logic sense and/or it doesn’t follow logically or have enough intensity.

I don’t read much YA—as I don’t write it—but upon reading a book about plotting where the author suggesting reading it, I feel I should. YA books must move at a fast rate, and continue the plot tumbling forward to catch the young reader. I will have to put other sensibilities aside, or maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised by what’s out there. In any event, plot is what I’m trying to learn.

At the Mt. San Antonio College’s Writer’s Conference, I attended a session presented by Gerald Locklin, a prolific writer from Long Beach. He suggested the “3” rule, as I will refer to it. A character should come up against an obstacle three times, before failing or achieving his or her goal. This idea has intrigued me, but I haven’t written anything using this ‘formula.’ What caught my attention was Locklin’s own admitted trouble with plot; I had found a connection to my issue. Perhaps I will play with this idea.

What the rule states is that a character should not get the desired goal, whatever it may be, without ‘failing’ twice: at least. These minor failures will address the situation and cause the character to approach the obstacle differently, to “attack” the problem from another angle. On the third try, he or she will achieve the goal, or fail.

Why three? The first incident is trial, a probing. The second incident is a stronger attempt, and the third and final is the catapulting change of life for the character. It can also be: the first is a accident, a trigger of the problem and intial attempt at solving/overcoming/etc, the second a re-evaluation and off approach, and the last, a final attempt to solve the problem. According to Locklin, the character will most likely fail all three times, and the change will be something unexpected, but believeable.

And so I have my work cut out for me in tackling this plotting problem. Oh nemesis, you will be soon replaced by another.

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3 thoughts on “Plotting, My Nemesis

  1. Interesting. I am both a professed pantser and YA writer. I guess in all the books I have read, I’ve never noticed the strict plotting structure, or I should say paid attention to it. Of course, I have always been told masters of their trade, no matter what it is, make it look easy. It is easy when so involved with a good story to miss the mechanics of it, which I would assume would be the goal of the writer. From here on I will have to pay closer attention, and hopefully become a better writer for it.

    Great blog. As usually, you have given me much to ponder and work on. : )

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