Thursday, March 3, 2011

Help! Inmates Running the Asylum!

I'm a plotter. I chart, graph, outline, and generally obsess over every scene in a proposed story. My current work in progress, Broken Chords, is outlined chapter by chapter and sub-divided into various scenes within the chapters. I even have snippets of dialog on the plot line. When I showed this chart to a writing friend she laughed and said what I really had was a rough draft; in all truth, she was right.

Having this 'rough draft' hasn't actually helped me write the book. I'm two chapters in and haven't touched it in a month. I will, I swear, but I went off on a tangent and now my mind is otherwise occupied. It all started when I decided to promote Ring of Lies by blogging about various attractions in and around Savannah. My mind kicked in to overdrive and I ended up creating a fictional reporter to investigate the paranormal lore associated with Savannah. I'm referring, of course, to Paige Stewart and the Paranormal Post short stories that run on different authors' blogs each week.

Now, don't get me wrong, I like Paige and the stories, perhaps too much! See, I find myself with a plot hole. Yes, I know I said I'm a plotter extraordinaire, an obsessed with minutia author who must know her way from point A to point B and every tiny detail that occurs in between. That is what I am; but not this time.

This time, I didn't plot. I had character names, several locations I wanted to cover, and a teeny, tiny bit of backstory for Paige. I really thought these short stories would be mini history lessons sprinkled with some ghosts. NOT! Paige has taken over. She is screaming for her story, all of her story to be told. As Hywela Lyn pointed out in her post here last week, characters assert themselves and we authors are theirs to command; hence this post's title.

I'm listening to Paige shout at me, (no, I don't require psychotropics; not yet anyway, I'll let you know ;), and it's good. The tale she is chattering on about is riveting me to my, well, my mind at the moment but I'm dying to open a new doc. and dive in. The problem is an unforeseen plot hole. Yep, that's why I like, no need, to plot!

I was all set to write this novella of Paige's, I even had a possible home for it with The Wild Rose Press' new submission call for their Black Rose line. All systems were go. But then that nasty plot hole reared its head and squelched the idea. Frustrated, I strapped duct tape over Paige's mouth and started adjusting my inner communication apparatus, (or whatever it is that let's me talk to the people in my head!), so I could get back in tune with Tina, my heroine in Broken Chords.

Just before I opened the Broken Chords file I sent an email to an author friend I hadn't heard from in a few days. Maeve Greyson's first book, Beyond a Highland Whisper, released February 18th. She's a busy bee, making the rounds to assorted blogs and reader's loops promoting Whisper so I hadn't seen much of her on the author loops. I checked-in with her, just a quick "hey, how are ya", and her reply flipped the switch that saved Paige's story.

She asked me how Paige's stories were going and mentioned, again, that I should publish them. I, again, said no they are free reads, but, there is this idea. I started typing away, telling her my tale of whining heroines and really deep plot holes when, out of nowhere, a shovel arrived. Through 'talking' it out and prompts from Maeve, I found the way out of my plot hole! Hallelujah! Bells are ringing, birds are singing, all is well in the land! :)

I'm out most of today and tomorrow and when I sit back down in front of this keyboard my first priority is writing Paige's Party at Bonaventure Cemetery, which appears on Suzanne Johnson's blog, Preternatura, Friday, the 11th. But then, then I get to jerk the duct tape off of Paige's mouth and listen to her prattle while I write her tale: sorry, no title yet but the story revolves around her experiences while investigating the Crucifixion on Cumberland Island for the 'true crime novel' she wrote before coming to work for Clayton and the Paranormal Post. I stink at titles so maybe, once I get the rough draft down, I'll post a blurb and hold a 'naming' contest!

Oops, clock's ticking and I'm running late, as usual, so: how do you dig your way out of a plot hole, or are you a plotter that doesn't fall into one in the first place?


  1. I WISH I could say I never fell into plot holes. My biggest problem is I know what I want to happen, I just have to figure out how to make it happen and be convincing doing it.

  2. Rachel, it's interesting, isn't it, how a seemingly minor or random comment is the key that gets us going? I've had this happen with my poetry, when a comment one of my poetry group members will be the key that allows me to nail something.

  3. Hi ladies! I'm glad I'm not the only one who doesn't always know where a story is going! I have found the most random remarks often lead to great story ideas too!

  4. Hi Rachel! I'm a confirmed pantser and plot holes are a frequent companion. I've come to peace with that fact, or fallacy, in my process and I tend to just work through them. Okay, sometimes I pole-vault over them and come back later to do patch work. It's not pretty, but it's an evolving process. Your attention to detail is remarkable and I completely applaud you. Have fun with Paige!

    Denise Golinowski

  5. You're so lucky to have been able to toss that plot around. So often that's all it needs.

    I did a prett thorough outline (for me) for my latest WIP. But face it, I'm a pantser. I go where my characters take me. I have been grateful though, to my beta-reader who said 'but that's too obvious'. Sigh. Back to the drawing board...

  6. That sounds like a very good idea to write Paige's story. Some times we have to write the story that is screaming to be told.


  7. LOL! I'm glad you thought I helped, Rachel. I just enjoyed reading all your plot ideas. You are definitely going to have to write Paige's story. I don't think she's going to let you rest until you do and I'm looking forward to reading it! (And thanks for the mention about my book - you rock!) :-)

  8. Well I think this is a wonderful idea! I love Paige! Glad the great Maeve helped you. And I'm struggling NOT TO READ HER WHISPERS yet because I HAVE TO REVISE AND FINISH MY OWN BOOK first! That said, I do not plot. I would love to own that ability, but alas, I do not. I'm a rebel panster who falls into and out of plot holes all the time. Drat. When I try to plot I end up getting carried away on minute research details that I know before I begin won't even make it into the ms...yet I go there full steam ahead. I have made a couple of time lines for two stories. One was a Silhouette/harlequin Special Edition reject and the other is a vamp story I haven't gotten past chapter five on in two years. I did semi plot my Perfect Doctor Viv ms that I am currently *supposed to be* buried in revisions of. I did a single page form character plot which I followed sort of. But actual plot, graph, chart (what do you put on these anyway?)...not for me. I can't focus on details like that long enough to get them down without getting lost in my own plotting hell.

  9. I'm nearly a total pantser myself, but every so often I find I'm not quite sure where the story is going. I'm fortunate enough to have a local crit group that I can bounce ideas off. They've been invaluable more than once for that.

    Another trick that's sometimes very useful is a long car trip. It's not something I'd do just to work on writing, but I've had a solution present itself more than once when I needed to take one for some other reason. Yesterday I had to drive from NYC back to southern NH after a business trip, and somewhere just north of Hartford the solution to one of my current problems popped out.