Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Plot your Plot

Of all the books I have read about writing, this one tops my charts. As I am a right brained writer, something I have known about myself for quite some time, I found much help, encouragement and yes, sympathy in this marvelous book for those who share my affliction. A right brained writer is one who loves characters, thoughts, whimsy, and thinks their fool heads off, just for fun. Cause, effect, analytical action, and logical sequences are not the stuff of dreams. Not to worry, says Martha Alderson, the author of this wonderful book. The subtitle: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master, was enough to activate my inner one click, add to cart, self.

She writes of the Universal Story: "All of us face antagonists and hurdles, hopes and joys, and by meeting these challenges we can transform our lives. I have come to believe that every scene in every book is part of a Universal Story that flows throughout our lives, both in our imaginations and in the reality that surrounds us. "

As you read Martha Alderson's book, a strange phenomenon begins to take place. Perhaps my right brain is in a constant war with the left. For whatever reason, the more she described how to nail down the structure of a novel, the more flooded I became with ideas, snippets of dialogue, important scenes and all kinds of other inspirational brainstorms that I furtively jotted down and scribbled in the margins of this book. Why it served to fire so many synapses, I can only attribute to her skill. For instance, did you know, that the beginning of a book should be one fourth of the story, the middle, one half and the end, one fourth. Does that not sound easy?

Next comes the diagram. It makes me quiver. Geometry? I DON'T GET IT! I have to really counsel myself through this part. However, she has a list of words to go with it. Blessed, blessed words. It is a really complete set of instructions and I vow to tackle this plot beast once and for all. If I can manage it in the most difficult of contexts, that is, my own life, as I am working on a memoir, then it will be a snap into place in the next book which I will plot from the beginning. I guess I have always imagined that there is some inner plot master, or perhaps a heavenly soul who takes my hand and guides me through the swamp of my left brain wherein all my wanderings will somehow fit as pieces do in a complex jigsaw puzzle. Thankfully, my new friend and plot whisperer is about as good as anyone who can talk to horses, or dogs, and somehow manage to coax them out of their bad habits. She has reassured me that my affliction is perfectly common. Left brained writers set out with a plan, but the characters do not come as easily. Their books are everywhere, from the grocery store to the airport. If I can manage this challenge, I can wed my strength to my weakness, and then all my troubles will be over.

"As soon as the plot and the structure work, your focus can turn to making every word, phrase and metaphor perfect."

I'll get right on it!


Kathy Cooney Dobbs said...

Thank you Liz for your wonderful review of The Plot Whisperer. I'm ordering a copy today! Hopefully, Alderson's book will do the same for me, 'flood my right brain/left brain with ideas, snippets of dialogue and all kinds of other inspirational brainstorms '

Mary Jane Honegger said...

I too am filled with random thought processes that often take on a life of their own when I sit down to write. Sometimes, hundreds of words later, I realize I'm on a completely different subject. As another wordy right-brainer, thanks for the tip about The Plot Whisperer. Maybe Martha can keep me on track.

elizabethbrinton said...

It is like pulling teeth to get to the left side of my brain. Maybe it is hollow! I am going to see if there are exercises or drills- brain pilates anyone?