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FIVE PARTS TO A PLOT

GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR PLOT

The Plot, as defined by Wikipedia, is a literary term defined as the events that make up a story, particularly as they relate to one another in a pattern, in a sequence, through cause and effect, or by coincidence.  One is generally interested in how well this pattern of events accomplishes some artistic or emotional effect.  An intricate, complicated plot is called an imbroglio, but even the simplest statements of plot may include multiple inferences, as in traditional ballads.”

Okay, so now we’ve established a definition, but what does it really mean?

The plot is the story as a whole and it can be  broken down into sections.  Gustav Freytag, (1816 –1895) a German dramatist and novelist, came up with his own idea for  narrative structure.  He called it The Freytag’s pyramid and it consists of five phases.

The first phase is the exposition phase.  Here is where the characters come alive and the readers connect to them by learning about them, how they relate to each  other, their goals, and motives.  Most importantly, the reader connects to the main character, his/her goals, and the outcome if those goals are met, or not met.

The second phase is the rising action phase.  Here is where the character(s) starts on the path to achieve their goal.  This is where the conflict begins to grow, including sub-conflicts, mini plots, which can hinder, help, or both in achieving the main goal.  At the end of this phase, the character should be close to facing their problem/goal leading us up to next step.

The third phase is the climax phase.  Most of us probably already know what the climax is.  It’s that point in the story where the character(s) are close to their goal. The character can begin to see the barriers being removed (or at least easier) and is now ready to engage with the antagonist.  Then, the reader, tossed into the action, gets to see the two (or more) combat.  No clear winner is set, yet, until phase five. Both the protagonist and the antagonist then start to plan on how to win over the other for the next battle.

The fourth phase is the falling action.  I love this phase!  This is where everything goes wrong.  Our main hero makes the wrong the decision or shows flaws in his/her character.  This is where the antagonist gets the upper hand and our hero seems like he/she will never reach that goal.  The reader might even question if the hero really is the hero. However, this phase is also about tying up most of the loose ends so that when the final phase starts, the focus is on the last battle.

The fifth phase is the resolution phase.  Here is where the final conflict happens and one wins.  Which side wins, what lead up to it, why it happens that way, what it means, and what are the long-term effects.

There are other outlines and story structures on the internet.  So find what works for you.  When I looked up plot structures, this really made me think about my own writing and the areas I can go back to and touch up.

So I hope this was helpful and as always, if you have anything you would like to add, make sure to post the comments on my website directly.  This way others can also benefit from your comments.   My website gets over a hundred hits a week (wow, I know right) and most are writers looking for writing tips.

So keep on writing, editing, and reading.

Happy writing…

Shelly Goodman Wright

www.shellygoodmanwright.com

FB  Writer-Shelly Goodman Wright

FB Writer’s Critique Group

Sited http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plot_(narrative)

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TWISTED ROOTS

One will win her heart, One will try to steal it, One will try to kill her.

Can’t wait.

 

What is Pinterest?
Pinterest is a virtual pin board, created about two years ago, but recently it’s been taking off like wildfire.

If you’re anything like me, I love pin boards! A favorite recipe, a cute outfit, a great photo, we either stuff it into a drawer (never to be found again) clip it to the fridge (where it falls in-between the fridge and the cabinet) or pin it to a cork board with all the others. On Pinterest all we have to do, when we find something we’re interested in, is click the PIN IT on the bookmark bar. Then, create different boards to organize the topics, and it’s there for us when we’re ready for it. We also can share with our friends and they can share with us.

There is another side for bloggers and retailers: The pictures which get pined on any one persons’ board, once clicked, will go back to the original source. So say we saw this really cute pink dress on BFF’s board, we can click the photo and find out they sell them at Macy’s for $50.00. An even better example for someone like me, a new author, make a ‘pin’ of the novel cover and then link it back to it’s website where it can be bought or downloaded, and get your friends to re-pin it on their boards under ‘Must Reads’ or whatever title they create. You can also comment on the photo. I put the synopsis under the photo.

Here’s how to start:

1. Go to pinterest.com and ask for an invite (or find a friend on Pinterest to invite you).
2. Create your profile. (I included my novel coming out and synopsis)
3. Set up your boards (you can always add more as you go along)
4. When your given people to follow with similar interest, do it. This will give you a whole new set of ‘friends’.
5. Start pinning! (I went on Amazon.com and type in things I wanted to pin)

You can also upload photos from your computer and ‘pin’ them to your board. My novel is under production with a publisher, so I don’t have an ISBN number yet, so I download the HD Image they gave me of the cover. It’s already been repined a few times and I just started.

In a nutshell, that’s all there is too it.

Feel Free to come see me once you sign up! Don’t forget to re-pin TWISTED ROOTS. 

Shelly Goodman Wright
Author of TWISTED ROOTS, a Christian Romance/Suspense Novel coming Spring 2012
Author of The Irreversible Catastrophe of Professor Babcock in Steampunk Tales Issue 12 http://www.steampunktales.com
Contributor to Fresh Ink Magazine, Colorado Springs, Co

Book Cover REVEALED

Nothing can be as exciting for a writer to hold their first publication in their hands.

My time is coming soon!

When I first started writing, I had no idea the process to publication would be so long.  I always thought writing the book would be the most work–boy was I wrong.  Besides the editing that happens immediately after and the many drafts to follow, the work to get an agent or publisher to look at it, is an even bigger task.  Once I got the publisher, I was put on a ‘schedule’–copy-editing, conceptual editing (three times), title brainstorming, cover design collaboration, layout, final proof editing, marketing plan and then promotion scheduling for 90 days out (after the first printing, it’s 90 days until the official release–although this is the time to sell pre-release personal copies).   From the time I signed the contract until the release date is almost a year–A YEAR!   Since this is normal practice for most traditional publishers, I’m okay with it.  Although I’m not against self-publishing, I needed the editing–badly, and to pay for the kind of editing I desired, I could have spent well over $7 to $8 grand.  Not doable for a stay at home mom.

So now I’m here.  Just last week the cover was decided and I have to say I’m very pleased with with our team effort.  I started layout Tuesday and should be hearing from the T.V. commercial producer.  Yep, I get a trailer and T.V. time.  Pretty excited about that.

One will win her heart, one will try to steal it and one will try to kill her.

Judges of season seven “The Next Food Network Star” said goodbye to Justin D in this week’s fourth of July showdown.   The judges perplexed by his drastic change in personality felt he was the one to cut this week.   Even Guy, the guest mentor, asked him “which guy are you now?”  Although the judges took into account the food served  and his overall performance in this completion in their decision to cut him, Justin, in my opinion, was trying to please the judges the best way he knew how instead of just being himself.   He lost himself as the stakes got higher.

How many of us writers seek change after query letters go unnoticed?  How many of us get frustrated and seek out agent blogs and publisher blogs to find out what we are doing wrong?  Not to say that is a bad thing.  We should want to learn and fine-tune our skills, as long as we still keep true to why we started writing in the first place.  We get so focused on being published; we lose the passion we started with.

I think Justin lost what he loved in the competition.

So how do we lose our love of writing?  Blogging, reading others blogs, commenting on other’s blogs, marketing our blogs, facebook, myspace, twitter, and the list goes on.  Of course most of this, if not all, is important and helps build our platform—but what is more important?

Did we write today?  1600 words?  1000? 500?

There is also something else to learn from the show in general.  Justin knew his stuff, but he lacked personality.  He was not a strong character and besides the hairdo, it was hard to relate to him or even remember him.

Back to writing:  Are the characters we write strong characters?  Do our readers want to cheer our hero’s to accomplish their goals?  Are our villains hated and despised by the reader?

What reality show do you watch?  Which character do you want to win?  Which character do you want to fail? How can you apply this to your writing?      

PULLING WEEDS

Now that I can put another year of Vacation Bible School (VBS) under my belt, it’s time to focus back on writing.  Don’t get me wrong, I love VBS.  It’s the one time a year no one cares if I act like a ten year old all week (and wear pig-tales and braided hair).  I also love the creative process of it all—to transform the church into something amazing.  Okay, our theme this year was a little dry, (New York) but next year…yep next year’s is going to be WAY cool.  J

One other thing I enjoy besides VBS and writing, is working in the yard.   I spent a few hours this morning spraying weeds, raking new cedar over the dirt patches, and pulling the unwanted weeds from the upcoming flowerbeds.

Fun…I know…I’m making you jealous (okay boring you to tears, but hang on a moment).

It was in frustration of the prickly weeds, which stabbed my fingertips when I touched them, and not being able to tell the new plants from the weeds that reminded me of a bible section that talks about weeds.

“ 24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

I love when the simple things in life, remind me of God’s WORD.  Although I still want to pluck those weeds out of the flowerbeds (next time with thick gloves), I know that God sees me among the weeds and He hopes that I will reach out and touch the lives around me—turning weeds into beautiful flowers.

That is what inspires me to write—to touch others.

What inspires you every day?  What are your future hopes and dreams?

    THE OKEFENOKEE SWAMP

 I love getting questions!  The question HOW DO I FORMAT MY MANUSCRIPT for editors/publishers is one I’ve been asked more than once.  Of course, this is my first publishing deal and I know that every editor/publisher/agent will have different requirements, but there is a basic standard that helped me make the conversion process simple and it’s easy to search for. 

The basics:

  1. 1.  Set your font to New Times Roman and size 12 
  2. Set one inch margins all the way around
  3.  Set paragraphs to double space (with no extra space in-between paragraphs)
  4. Do not use all caps for emphasizing (the writing should set the tone)
  5. Do not use a bunch of returns for a new chapter to start on a new page.  Return twice, title your chapter center, return twice and begin the next chapter.
  6. For scene shifts, center XXXXX on a line by itself, with a space before and space after
  7. Internal direct thoughts should be in Italics, but don’t over use it.

            I suggest keeping your chapters in separate files when you first start writing.  It makes it easier to go back and edit work or add to chapters.  In the end, editor/publishers/agents will want this all in one file, but we have a lot more work to do before we get to that stage.  Strolling through a 1000 page document is not fun and left me frustrated.  I found separate chapters (and keeping all my drafts) was the best way to go.

            Now, I hope I’ve given some of you a jumping off point and we can all get some writing done.  It’s time to line the shelves with must reads and tales forgotten with new twists and turns.  We write because we must.  We write to unleash our souls.  We write because writing is our purpose.

Happy Writing…keep the questions coming. 

Shelly Goodman Wright

Author of A LIGHT INTO THE DARKNESS a Christian Suspense/Romance novel—FEB 2012

http://www.shellygoodmanwright.com

WHAT IS THE FIRST NOVEL YOU READ?

I was in sixth grade when I read my first full-length novel.  Finally, the big kids on campus, we could checkout the books in the ‘BACK ROW” (we called it the forbidden row) and there was one cover that stood out for me.  The cover was haunting.  Sad pale faces with blonde hair stood behind an attic window and looked out.  Titled FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC, from the very beginning, I left my reality and jumped into the book.

The author V.C. Andrews had a way with words.  The way they flowed, the way they struck at my heart, how I cared deeply about the pain the children went through.  I’d go to sleep and dream about them.  Somehow, they seeped into my very soul. 

That is when I knew I wanted to be a writer.  I wanted my words, my worlds, and my characters to transport the reader into a different kind of reality.  I wanted them to feel the joy, the sadness, the struggles and the glory each time a character did. 

My mind never stops inventing them either.

Signing a contract deal for my first novel is a dream coming true.  It still seems unreal at this point and probably will be until that first printed book is in my hands. 

I hope after sometime and few more novels under my belt, to help others achieve the same goals.  I hope that when someone reads my novels, I will inspire someone as V.C. Andrews did for me.

Thanks again for the continued support and love. 

Happy Writing!

Shelly

 *NOTE:  Although now, a mother of three girls and a Christian, I would not recommend the series by V.C. Andrews to read (even for adults) as they are filled with incest and adultery.  At the time, I faced a lot of trials in an unchristian home and I sought out reading as a comfort.  I wish I could say I read C.S. Lewis or some other uplifting author, but it is what it is.

Retention (as used in school districts around the U.S.) is just another word for ‘flunked’ or ‘hold back’ a grade.  Even with the NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND ACT, schools continue to practice this method as a way to cope with lower achieving students.  Does it work? 

A few years ago at a parent teacher conference, it was suggested that I retain my middle child who was not performing at grade level. She was on the immature side and, at first; I did not think it was such a bad idea.  Especially, since she was only in first grade.   My husband, on the other hand was against it.  I decided if I wanted to convince my husband this was a good thing, I would have to do my research.  I was surprised to find out the opposite was true.

One of the first sites to pop-up was the The National Association of School Psychologist [www.nasponline.org/about_nasp/pospaper_graderetent.aspx] The one big statement that jumped out at me, states:

“Grade repeaters as adults are more likely to be unemployed, living on public assistance or in prison than adults who did not repeat a grade.” 

Not that I think my sweet little girl would end up down that road, but it does make you sit-up and think about what is going on in society today.  For a practice that does not work, it is interesting that kids being retained has increased over the last 25 years. 

Some of the articles I read on retention refer back to NASP’s (The National Association of School Psychologists) study, so I’ll just say there are quite a few that respect this organization enough to site them.

Another little interesting fact, the U.S. and Canada are the only two countries that practice retention, found on Wikipedia.

A study done by Advocates for Children [www.advocatesforchildren.org/pubs/retention.html], although the study specifically focused on New York’s schools stated: 

“Low performing students who have been retained in kindergarten or primary grades lose ground both academically and socially, relative to similar students who have been promoted. In secondary school grades, retention leads to reduced achievement and much higher rates of school dropout. At present, the negative consequences of grade retention policies typically outweigh the intended positive effects.”

On a site called healthline.com [http://www.healthline.com/galecontent/retention-in-school] they combine some of the research done in one summary and then added:

“Although many school districts involve parents in the decision to retain, in most communities the school system has the right to make the decision, with or without the parent’s support. However, most experts support the idea that parents who are opposed to the decision to retain their child should make their concerns known. Parents should survey other local school systems, both public and private, to see their policies on retention. Parents should also request evidence supporting a retention decision, including details of their child’s academic performance, standardized test results, or other pertinent factors, such as the student’s emotional maturity.”    

There are numerous sites on the internet on this subject and there is no positive study on retention overall.  Sure, I found parents, teachers and a handful of kids who said it worked for them, but the research and overwhelming numbers of students followed, show otherwise.

Obviously, my husband was right and I had to put my foot down on not retaining my daughter.  I was told that if they decided to ‘retain’ her, I would not have a choice, so I left that district.   She is still not performing where she needs to be, so we decided to put her in Sylvan.  It’s only been six weeks and I already see the difference in her confidence and writing/spelling.

She now wants to be a scientist and tells everyone Sylvan is making her smarter. 

Overall, do not blindly listen to what teachers and administrators say is best for your child–do your research.  You are your child’s best advocate.  Retention does not fix what they did not get the first time it only masks the problem.  Ask the teachers where exactly your child has the most trouble and then tackle it, either by working with the teacher, going on line (there are tons of free worksheets on-line in just about every subject) or getting them tutoring.   If your child does not have a solid foundation, the gaps in their learning will get worse and they will get even more frustrated.

For those of you in Harrison District Two, retention is being considered once again, which is why I felt compelled to write this article.  There is another way, let our voices be heard.

Shelly Goodman Wright

www.shellygoodmanwright.com FB Shelly Goodman Wright