Monday, August 8, 2011

Lost in the Maze: Buried Plots

Song of the Day: "Is There Nothing We Could Do" by Badly Drawn Boy

As a reader, I've recently found myself lost in the maze of words in some writing. I'll be reading a book or manuscript and find that I have no idea what story thread I'm supposed to cling to as the main plot. Sometimes the main plot points are eclipsed by sub-plots or fancy wording and I don't know when to give particular events sufficient significance. Suddenly I find myself wondering what I missed. I don't know which parts of the story are important and which are secondary. I'm lost.

As a writer, I need to avoid that so my readers don't get frustrated or bored.

The problem is, I don't think I have all the answers to this problem. It's not always easy to spot a buried plot and fixing it can take a lot of work. But here are a few thoughts that may help:

Change the wording and sentence structure. If you normally write with long, flowing sentences throw in a few short ones that are heavy on action or emotion. If you use a lot of metaphorical language, be blunt and straightforward. Or if you rarely use metaphors, use a single powerful one to make your point stronger.

Use shorter paragraphs to give importance to whats happening. Make the event stand out on the page.

Cut down on the number of sup-plots. I think this is a big one. Too many minor threads makes the reader loose track of what's really important. Especially in YA and children's writing, the story should stick to the main character's objects of desire. A reader has to be able to recognize (at least subconsciously) the inciting incident and the main plot points that lead to the climax and conclusion or the story won't make sense to them.

Use an objective correlative that can add significance to certain events, dialogue or thoughts. See my post here for more on objective correlatives.

Add some direct thought rather than just narrative thought. This is sometimes easier to do in third person POV because first person is already direct thought. But if you can make it work it might help set the important situations apart from the other fluff.

That's what I was able to come up with in the few minutes I've been typing this post. Any other suggestions are welcome!

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