Last night I was plotting and wracking my brain for more material. It then began weeping uncontrollably and begging for a reprieve. So, I decided to give it a little boost. I picked up my copy of Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell. Now I know you’ve heard me rave about him before, and while I take many of his instructional books as biblical truth, I ended up noticing something I had forgotten in my reading last year.
On one of the pages I had underlined one of his passages. (I know, I hate writing in books as well but this is necessary.) In one of my recent posts I stated that I wrote from the perspective of “if it has worked for someone, it can work for me”. While that’s true, it’s not exactly the full idea. Scott Bell designed his “Bell’s Pyramid” in order to explain.
You see on the bottom and largest tier he puts the word passion. First, as writers we need passion. We cannot write for days, weeks, or months on any given topic without having a passionate reason to go on. A passionate plot is the beginning.
His next tier he fills with the word potential. Look at your novel and figure out what your “investor-self” would say about it. Is it interesting enough to grab more than your closest friend’s and family’s attention? If writing to a specific genre audience keep them in mind. What makes others in that field successful? What “idea” is it they are passionate about?
His topmost tier is about precision. This tier is about honing your target. You need to make sure that whatever your goal is you never distract from it. Don’t take the attention from where you are headed.
Something big that he hits on is that publishing companies want something that isn’t exactly like everything else. Yet, they don’t want something that is so new and different that they don’t know how to handle it. This “safe zone” is where they are reaching for their next great novel.
So when I’m writing I’m pulling not from one single source but a myriad of sources. I often laugh at myself because if you’ve ever seen the show Gilmore Girls the band Hep Alien often describes their songs as being so-and-so meets so-and-so meets so-and-so, with a little bit of this band and that band thrown in. They list an absurd mash-up of different band genres that they find inspiration from. As writers that’s what we must do. So while we do steal and copy to a point, we only do so in order to make it our own unique style and story.
If you love John Wayne and how he portrays those wild west characters but really love the way Robert Taylor looks then try making some mixture of the two for yourself. Or maybe you like how Fred Astair dances and the way Sean Connery speaks, now it sounds like you have either a great leading man or an incredibly interesting enemy. The possibilities are endless.
So, yes, what others have done did work and can be utilized by you to succeed. Learn from their works. See what makes their plot stand out. Why does their story work? List each plot point, list every character’s attributes and flaws, and then try to design something similar for your own novel.
Have a good one!