Friday, 22 May 2009

Losing the Plot

I'm a good boy! I've reached the climax to Act II!
But I have a problem.
Y'see, that bloody protag won't behave. For all my careful planning and intricate plotting, he keeps making contrary decisions. And these decisions snowball, tainting all that follows.
I need some logic to help me decide how to progress. Hmm ... who to turn to?

Here's an extract from Bob's Story. Here it's without proper context, but assume that this is Bob's ideal report of the perfect Act Two climax:

Drove to an Act Two climax so moving that I thought the story was over. And yet, out of the ashes of the second act, this writer created a third of such power, such beauty, such magnificence I'm writing this report from the floor.

When I first read this, I fell in love with the idea of presenting a 'fake' ending at the end of Act II. Such fakery is the food of reversal! But it strikes me that to 'resolve' the novel at the end of the second act is to finish without a hook. Therefore, I elected to hold this false ending through to the penultimate scene, and then tip everything on its head in the final scene, paving the way for the third act, giving the reader lots to consider in that metaphysical void between acts.
Whether this is what Bob is suggesting or not, I'm uncertain: Where are the 'ashes' of the second act?

Half an hour later ...

Well, I was hoping to find some answers but I haven't. So I'll spend a few hours poring over my synopsis and I guess I'll be back with some more thoughts anon.
In the meantime, here are some random thoughts and worries:

Isn't this such a peculiar vocation! Each writing day I conspire to make my characters as happy as they can be, or I will destroy them. Naturally, I'm going through these emotions too. I'll feel myself welling up and then hurry to the front door with a coffee and cigarette. I feel so bad for Corus and for everyone he has met. Isn't that strange!
A few days ago, I had to draw a map: I had to be sure which village has the cottages with the thatched roofs, and where everyone lives, and so forth. Notably, I found myself rooting through some earlier chapters to remind myself where the sun rises: In front of the cottage or behind it? Devil in the details. This world has become scarily real!
I already had Corus' work timetable written up, but I've had to augment this with the schedules of others so that the fish lady comes round on the same days every week and so forth. I like that this history - this routine - finally settles and becomes another tool available when refining the plot. I was wondering how many novels open on a sunny day with puddles on the ground. Might sound a strange thing to wonder about, but everything and everyone existed before the novel opens, and so it might have been raining the day before the opening chapter.
I couldn't think of a single one!
In the back of my head, I'm coming to terms with the prospect of a big rewrite at the end. Because everything evolves so that it best fits the story, I've made blatant changes to details as I've progressed, and will need to revisit every chapter to ensure consistency. Sometimes this happens from one chapter to the next.

Having absorbed so much information on plotting, I've learned that it is very much a personal activity. Some writers start at the beginning and write through to the end without a plot; some have a notion of where they will end up; some plot in intricate detail. I think I fall under the category of writers who discover what their story is about half-way through, and then write to the conclusion and then rework the first half of the novel.
However, I am quite certain that creating a plot does not hinder one's imagination. On the contrary, I feel secure knowing that the developments and twists work together and I am free to be as creative as I desire provided that I do not deviate from a handful of key plot points in each chapter.

And so I seem to have come full circle.

Off to think some more.

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