Friday, October 26, 2007

Plotting: The Pros and Cons of Plotting Style - Synopsis Styles

How does a book begin? With characters? With setting? With a theme? With a plot? Yes. Each of these and even the combination of these can be the answer, but once the story has formulated in your mind, what do you do with it?

Plotting styles vary in a multitude of ways. None is right or wrong but the decision of which type is best is what works for you, the author. In my book Writing the Christian Romance, I talk about four basic plottings styles. Each tends to fit the author's personality---synopsis style, chapter outline, index cards, and the infamous SOTP -- the seat of the pants writer who just writes and sees what happens.

The most important thing all authors can do is to learn to take their story idea and summarize it in one sentence. This captures the substance of the story helping you focus and then your job is to expand this ideas by adding the other elements to make it a unique story. For example, the story Cinderella might be this: A young woman, abused by her stepmother and stepsisters, is aided by her fairy godmother to attend the prince's ball where she meets him and love flames, but at the strike of midnight, she must escape and loses her shoe which is found by the prince, and after a lengthy search, he finds her and marries her. Perhaps you can make this even shorter, but the purpose is to provide you with a skeleton plot of your story.

The first and probably the most popular is the synopsis style which is written in narration and in present tense. Though this style gives the story structure, it still leaves room for your detours or creativity. The secret is to avoid too many details. The synopsis style will usually provide a detailed characterization sketch of the main characters which covers physical appearance, personality, and backstory that helps to affect and create the characters motivation, goals and conflicts that result. The plot details will open with the introduction of the characters and setting reference to the initial conflict, and a hook which can be a theme, premise or situation that captures the readers interest. Often Christian authors use a Bible verse to focus on a theme. I place this verse in front of me to help me keep my focus, but occasionally as the story develops a new or added theme can develop.

The plotting will continue with major plot points to show the growth of the characters, romance and faith elements in the story. If the story is not a romance, the plot points will show the change in the story situation as it goes from bad to worse before coming to a resolution.

Finally, with this style of plotting, you will have a grasp of the dark moment of your book---the situation that seems to make matters impossible to resolve---and then how the problem is resolved, the resolution.

The good thing about this style of plotting is that it gives you guidance along the story path with various destinations in mind. Keeping the plotting mainly focused on the conflicts and character growth, you still have lots of room to use your creativity in discovering surprises along the way about your characters or expanding your plot. Writing in narrative style also allows you to use the tone or mood of the story in your plotting language and to capture your own writer's voice.

The main problem that can result is providing too much detail that can stifle your story as you write. Remember that less details allows more room for your creativity to flourish and take you on a more exciting journey.

Next blog, I will take about plotting with the chapter outline.

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