The Creative “Writing” Process (3 of 4)

Hello and welcome to week 3 of  my discussion around “The Creative Process” for story writing.  Good to have you back.  How is your story coming along?

This week, we will be discussing conflict and creating the plot points for the story.  Let’s get started, shall we?

Part IIIc – Conflict

For a story to move and be interesting, it has got to have conflict.  That shouldn’t be too hard since our lives are full of it.  What types of conflict might we consider for this story?  There are so many to chose from, but just as a start we could use:

  • the family against the planet;
  • the family against each other (remember, there IS a teenager here, not to mention a younger brother);
  • the family against the unknown (there will probably be lots of that in this story);
  • the family against the baddies (there’s got to be baddies of some description); and
  • the lost aliens against wherever they’re imprisoned.

Let’s assume for a moment that the story conflicts go something like this:  The family arrives at the planet in the middle of a fierce solar storm.  All electronics belonging to teenage daughter and young son are blown out as the ship is going through the ionosphere of the planet.  This causes teenage daughter to be grumpier than usual and young son to be bored.  They naturally decide to take out their frustrations on each other.

But the family lands safely and begins their vacation (with much bickering between the siblings).  On their first day, they are accosted by muggers, but manage to get away with the aid of some mace and the timely arrival of a taxi (yes they still have taxi’s in this century).  The family shakes it off and goes on an archaeological dig.  They wander off and become lost.

While they are trying to find their way, they discover a cave, recently uncovered by a rock-slide… and so the conflict goes.  As you can see, each progressive conflict furthers the story and keeps us interested.

Part IIId – Plot Points 

We all know that a good story has an overarching story line, but what else do we need?  Conflict, of course, but there should be more going on.  Each character that shows up in the story has their own motives.  The motives can tie into the various plot points.  Let me demonstrate.

The teenage daughter isn’t really thrilled about the whole family trip.  She just met a boy she really likes (where have we heard that before?) and she doesn’t want to be away for so long.  Also, the baddies are trying to find a legendary treasure.  One that will give them power/riches/fame and they’re not willing to share.  These motives can evolve into major and minor plot points.

We also need to know when to introduce those surprise moments that heighten the tensions.  The rule of thumb I was given once was at 25% through the novel and again at 75%.  You need to know what’s going to happen to make things more exciting and interesting at those points.We also need to consider that there are plot lines and plot points.  The plot points can be referred to by another name: scenes.

It’s very important to consider the length of your story at this point.  Too few plot lines, conflicts and scenes will result in a story that is too short to fit the intended medium (or inversely, too many will result in too long a story).  For me, each major scene is typically a chapter of my story.  On very rare occasions, it is 2 or 3 chapters.  If I consider that my average chapter is 1,600 words long, then I need 50 chapters (give or take) to write an 80,000 word book.  It’s always better to be able to cut dull, lifeless chapters than have to start inserting after the first draft is complete.  Have lots of ideas ready.

I don’t know how you’re feeling at this point, but things are certainly moving along at a fast pace.  Step back now and review what you have got.  Maybe take a walk and think about the sorts of things that your characters might see or do in your story.  Start making some quick notes.  You’ve already got the bones of your story.  It’s time to start adding some meat.

See you next week when we talk about supporting characters and how your story resolution might go.  I look forward to hearing how your own works are going.  


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