Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Jigsaw Puzzles and Writing

My hurricane / tropical storm Hilary preparation supplies included the NaNoWriMo “City of Novelists” jigsaw puzzle. My town received only the outer bands of rain, but I opened the puzzle anyway.

As I worked the jigsaw, I noticed the image developed similarly to the process of writing a story’s first draft.

First, I sorted the pieces by edge, color, and pattern, somewhat like creating unique characters.

Next, I assembled the outer edge, defining the size and shape of the puzzle. This step suggested the delineation of the story’s plot.

Then, I put the easy parts together. The distinct sections of color and pattern (such as the park, the roof of the of the National building, the Novel building’s upper brick floors, and the shaded street between them) supported the image within the puzzle frame like a skeleton. The supporting structures reminded me of a story’s key scenes, sometimes called tentpoles.

I fleshed out the gaps in the skeleton with supporting scenes: the ubiquitous yellow expanses and the striped fa├žade of the National building.

All that’s left is the tedious, solid-colored gray road. I enjoyed the puzzle until I got to the drudgery of this last step.

Just like writing.

Developing a plot, creating characters, and writing key scenes get my creative juices flowing. But by the time I get to the last steps – editing, revising, and polishing – I’m not as excited.

I may not finish the intersecting gray roads, but my publisher has given me a generous new deadline to finish the third Detective McGregor book.

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Story Structure

I’ve been reading Hillary Waugh’s “Guide to Mysteries & Mystery Writing” (1991). In Chapter 13, ‘The Mystery Versus the Novel,’ he discusses whodunnit, howdunnit, and howcatchem (p. 163).

My third Detective Scott McGregor story, “Forever After,” is a howcatchem. The reader knows whodunnit from the opening page. The following chapters show howdunnit.

I’m trying (again) to match my howcatchem plot to one of the many story structures. My story has three point-of-view (POV) characters, and the plot’s ‘beats’ include turning points from all three POV storylines.

For an overview of seven popular story structures, check out this Reedsy Blog article.

I feel the shape and labeling of the four-act ‘W plot’ structure resonates most closely with the story I’m revising.

While researching the ‘W plot’ structure, I learned about its storyboarding  basis and realized that approach would create a more focused plot, shortening my revision and restructuring process.

The light bulb switched on. I plot my stories but only look at plot structure templates while I’m revising the draft. Authors who plot their stories using pre-defined plotting templates benefit from built-in story structures.