Monday, July 26, 2010

That Pesky Plot Thing

I now have five jars of homemade strawberry jam to get me through fall and winter tea times. I feel like some self-sufficient, skilled pioneer woman. I started making jam about two years ago, and it's become something of a summer tradition. I'm not entirely sure why I do it. I started just to see if I could. I suppose that it costs less to make those five jars than it does to buy five jars of the same size, but if I didn't make the jam, I doubt I'd buy that much. I do think that my jam tastes better than what I buy at the store. I don't even like store-bought strawberry jam all that much and seldom by it (if I buy jam, it's usually blackberry or raspberry), but I love what I make. I also know exactly what's in it -- no high-fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners or colorings. And there's that sense of accomplishment, which may be part of what makes it taste better. There's something nice about knowing that I made it that increases the enjoyment. Maybe I should hit the British import shop nearby and see if I can get some clotted cream and have a proper cream tea one of these days.

Now, of course, the kitchen is something of a disaster area. I have some dish washing to do, and I need to put up the food processor. I need to let the shoulder rest from physical therapy this morning, though. It was another grueling session and I'm really hurting, though I have better mobility. Have I mentioned that I'm ready to have this healed and over with? I've almost forgotten what it's like to move freely without pain or resistance.

I think I'm almost ready to start writing this new book. The characters are coming to life for me well enough that I'm imagining scenes. I don't know if these scenes will end up in the book, but I'm able to picture conversations among the characters. I do have a little more research to do to nail down some details of the situation, and I have this one pesky little thing to figure out: a plot.

I have the situation figured out, and the characters and their big-picture goals in life, as well as their secret yearnings and desires. But what I need is a specific story goal, the thing that they are taking action to achieve -- like catching the murderer, finding the lost ark, destroying the Death Star, escaping from the killer robot from the future, winning the big game, etc. All of these are specific, tangible external goals. When I mention these goals, you probably get a pretty good mental image of what the scene will look like when the characters are in the big scene where they ultimately either achieve or don't achieve their goal. Usually, everything is on the line, and if they don't succeed here, they will have failed for good, with no second chances. Catching the murderer usually involves some kind of confrontation or showdown, for instance, and quite often, Our Hero or someone dear to Our Hero is the next likely victim. If they don't stop and nab this guy now, then all is lost. If they don't destroy the Death Star NOW, then the Rebel Alliance will be destroyed, and it comes down to a big space battle. Escaping the killer robot from the future will probably involve finding a way to destroy it for good, so there's going to be a final confrontation that one of them won't escape from.

And that's the part I'm missing. That means I need to spend some time digging into my situation to find what they want to achieve or need to have happen NOW that they can spend the book building toward, until it comes to the point where it's now or never, do or die, and we'll know definitively whether they've failed or succeeded. I do know the big overall goal -- the equivalent of wanting to overthrow the Evil Galactic Empire. I just don't know what the equivalent to "get the secret plans to someone who can figure out a way to destroy the Death Star before it destroys us" is.

Ooh, and I was just struck by the tiniest germ of an idea that might work. It was good enough that my heart rate actually sped up. Oh, but it's going to be horrible for my heroine. Poor girl. I'm so sorry for what I'm about to do to her.

1 comment:

Chicory said...

I suspect readers as nearly as sadistic as writers because as soon as you mentioned how awful your glimmer of a plot would be for your heroine, my interest spiked.

I made wineberry jam for the first time this year, so I can picture the sticky mess that is the kitchen afterwords. :)