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Author Topic: Plot -- Part 4  (Read 5981 times)

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Bob Mueller

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Plot -- Part 4
« on: October 17, 2006, 04:59:44 PM »

 Date:         Thursday, January 28, 1999 06:53 PM

BookMarc #12
Plot - part 4

To finally conclude our journey up Plot-line Mountain, all the ups and downs and sufferings, we are ready for the denouement, or the big finale. But before we do that, we want to ease off a bit. We want things to finally appear to all be going Oself's way. This is a set up. It might even seem formalistic. But it really makes the finale that much more satisfying for the reader, which is really what we're all about.

Okay, Oself has broken out of the trees and brush and brambles. Only a fifty-foot grassy slope awaits him till the summit, where there's a helicopter, ready to whisk him to safety, wine, women, and song. The sun is shining. The air is clear. The birds are singing. Everyone can relax. Oself has it made.

Ten feet up the slope, out jumps a ten thousand pound grizzly. Carrying a rifle. The one that's been shooting at him. A great altercation takes place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth--talk about Cliche City--as well as kicking and clawing and punching and pinching, till finally, ta da, our stout-hearted Oself miraculously, but logically, folks, always logically, overcomes Gladys, the cross-eyed bear, who turns out to be a misunderstood fugitive from the Disneyland zoo. Alternatively, Oself could lose but gain great insight, like how the inside of a bear looks. We're not like those phony Hollywood guys; we can take the tough endings.

You see, by easing off a bit, it makes the final confrontation more vivid. If a thunderstorm slips in on a cloudy day, who notices? But have the sun suddenly blackened by an anvil cloud and you've made an impression. Remember when we talked of Dean Koontz's monster in "Tick Tock?" Well, near the book's end the hero reaches the safe house. It's almost morning when the monster will die. Hero is home-free. But guess who comes knocking at the door?

So that's it. Once the climax is over, get out. "Oself rides off into the sunset." Over with. Don't drag it out. "Oself stopped at Aunt Martha's for a piece of blueberry pie, washed his horse, polished his boots, and rode off into the sunset, meeting a blond with a figure like a brick excrement house, whereupon he altered his destination for Cliche City."

Got the picture?

I think we need one last caution. The ending has to be satisfying. Happy or sad, even inconclusive, the ending should leave the reader satisfied he made the journey with you. Fail to do that and the next time out, you might journey alone. For instance, I read a book once where a Bad Guy destroyed every thing Hero had at the beginning, made Hero do his bidding throughout the book, near the end Hero got Bad Guy's money, hoo rah, but in the very end, Bad Guy got away scot-free and Hero got zilch. I know what the writer was doing, building things up for the last of his trilogy. But the ending didn't satisfy me, and if the author left me swinging in the wind once, why journey again? As a teacher of mine, David Hoof--Blind Man's Bluff-- liked to point out, You make a contract with the first sentence of your book. Better make sure you keep it at the end.

I think that's everything I know about plotting. There might be some things to say about handling different kinds of stories, but I think I'll let that rest for now as we prepare to take up the second leg of our writing tripod, characterization, in BookMarc #13.

Copyright Peter E. Abresch BookMarc February 13, 1998

Date:    Thursday, February 04, 1999 06:30 PM

Yes, I think these are appropriate questions. In fact, I donít think any question is inappropriate.
And yes, the basic three acts formula fit in here. The first act is the statement of the problem, which is when our hero is being shot at with the all avenues of escape blocked off except going up the mountain. Act two is the heightening of the problem, in this case crashing the car and having someone shooting at him, and finally in act three, the solution, our hero finally making it up to the top of the hill. And riding off into the sunset.
As for the desperate moment when everything seems lost, that would be after he thinks nothing will be able to stop him now and then he suddenly faces the grizzly. But there could equally be times before when all looks lost as well. Itís just at this moment, after overcoming everything that has gone on before, and when he thinks itís all behind him, he has one more obstacle to face, and that should be greater than the rest.
But there is one thing to remember here. Nothing is hard and fast. If there was a formula for success, weĎd all be following it. This is more like a road map. Iíve read books where one thing after another goes wrong, and nothing right, and it still works out. It depends upon the finesse of the writer. But, if our hero manages to overcome obstacles that are placed in his way, we have a better chance for our reader to identify with these successes and be more eager for him to get past the next obstacle in his way.
Does this make sense?

Peter Abresch
the Jim Dandy ELDERHOSTEL Mysteries
& BookMarc

Sometimes it takes therapy to put the past behind you. Other times, it takes a 20 gallon trash bag and a couple of cinder blocks.
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