Friday, December 11, 2015

Scatter Plots

A popular post from August 2011

By Julie Wright

Last week I was sitting on the couch catching up on my reading and my daughter was doing her homework on the floor in front of me. She mumbled the phrase, "scatterplots."

I looked down because whatever she was saying had something to do with plots and that always catches my attention. Turns out she was doing math. She tried to explain scatter plots as being a bunch of points on a graph. She tried to explain what those points did or why anyone cared they were on a graph, but all I heard was blah blah blah. It was math. I do not get math at all.

But it did get me to thinking about a book I read last year that will remain nameless. If I were to give that book a one word summary, scatterplots would do quite nicely.

They were tons of various plots in this book, which is okay--a book with several subplots has depth and provides a richer reading experience. However, none of these were even remotely related. You almost felt side-swiped when a new one showed up. This was the sort of plot structure that left you scratching your head and saying, "What was that? Where did that come from?" And not in the tone that would indicate that the new element was cool or anything, but more a tone of, "I am returning this book to the bookstore and demanding a refund."

Wiki says that: a plot is all the events in a story particularly rendered toward the achievement of some particular artistic or emotional effect or general theme.

A plot answers all those why and what questions. And like I said, it's good to have a main plot and then several subplots because that layering adds depth to your manuscript. But the plots need to work together in a way that makes sense. Characters have to have motivation for moving along in a plot line.

And beware coincidence. coincidence is not your friend. I know that coincidence happens in reality (ask me to tell you about the story of my husband and I getting together sometime). Believe me; I know coincidence happens in reality, but it's a cheater tool in fiction unless you can masterfully hide it under motivation and circumstance.

Plot is the result of your characters, their conflicts, and the way they handle--or don't handle--their conflicts. For me plot works best when it is dictated by the character's choices, their wants, needs, fears, but then I am a character driven writer. Some people are plot driven writers, which means they are driven by the circumstances surrounding a character. But you don't want so many different plots that the character becomes imprisoned by them all. And you don't want all those plots to be so unconnected that the reader is rolling their eyes enough to make themselves dizzy. All the plots need to blend in a way that makes sense.

So how do you avoid scatterplots? How do you blend them together into something believable? I promise it is worth your time to watch the video. Dan Wells can show you the way:
Dan Wells on Plot Structure

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