Posted in books, creative writing, reading, writing, writing advice, writing thoughts, writing tips

Story vs. Plot and how they work together

To fully discuss these two concepts and see how they work together, let’s start with the most basic definitions:

Old Open Bible on old wooden table.Plot: the main events of a play, novel, movie, or similar work, devised and presented by the writer as an interrelated sequence.

Story: an account of incidents or events, a timeline of events told in narrative form.

At first, this may sound a little backwards. When you’re writing a story, aren’t you doing more than just recounting a series of events? Isn’t plot the timeline and structure? Isn’t the overall story what ties events together and makes more than just a series of incidences? Story is character and places and motivations and choices, isn’t it?

Yes…and no.

Don’t confuse the technical definition of “story” with a GOOD STORY.

An uneventful walk to the grocery store to buy eggs is a story, just not a very good one. It has no plot. Plotting requires crafting the elements that will turn a “story” into something interesting enough to attract readers’ attention and hold it. Plot is not the story, but it MUST SUPPORT the story.

Man hit by carPlot should guide the reader through a story, providing pertinent information and raising questions that will keep them interested. Plotting gives the writer the chance to recognize important questions and provide the answers in a satisfying and compelling way. This applies to both pantsers and outliners, though it may progress in different ways.

Take the grocery store example: Why is the character walking rather than driving? Why does he/she need eggs, and only eggs. What will the eggs be used for? What happens when the character gets to the store? What will happen if he/she doesn’t get the eggs? What events will follow purchasing the eggs?

Plotting also helps a writer determine how the story should end, because endings should always be related to beginnings. A good story comes full circle in one way or another. The situation and character at the beginning present a problem that must be resolved by the end in order for the story to be satisfying.

Identifying the beginning and ending points makes it easier to craft the steps, events, information, and choices that will get the character from beginning to end. These should be developed in a logical way that will make sense to the reader and answer all (or most) of their questions. The spaces between these events are filled with character development, backstory, worldbuilding, etc. to create a rich and engaging story, but the plot is still the underlying structure that turns a trip to the grocery store into a good story.

question-mark-1872665_1920Consider the questions asked about the egg-buying character. Eggs are most likely not the real conflict. In attempting to answer some of the questions about this character, the possibilities are endless.

  • Perhaps the character is a teen buying eggs to go egg the house of someone who is terrorizing her at school.
  • This may be an ordinary shopping trip for a forgotten ingredient that goes awry when an explosion rocks the store.
  • The character may be walking because he was grounded for sneaking out the night before and now must run all his parents’ errands on foot.
  • The character may never make it to the store, but is instead witness to a strange creature darting between houses, followed the screams of a man.

Adding some actual plot to a story takes it from being a mundane occurrence to something intriguing and engaging. If a story leaves the reader with no questions or motivation to continue reading, it’s still a story…just not one with a good plot.

Posted in the ghost host, writing

The Plus Side of Insomnia

I had some book goals for the beginning of 2015…and then my husband and I decided to sell our house, so everything book related happily got put on hold in the face of the excitement of moving.

We’re all pretty pumped about moving next month. Fingers crossed everything goes smoothly!
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So, back to insomnia.

Moving is stressful. Well, trying to sell your house and keep it clean with two kids and a dog who is constantly eating crap he should and having…shall we call it intestinal troubles?…that’s stressful. My hubby and I had a tough time keeping up with that in addition to all the other craziness of inspections, offers, surveying, and on and on.

You’d think all that would make you fall asleep as soon as you hit the pillow, but not so much. When I get stressed, I don’t sleep well.

What do I do while I’m lying there staring into the darkness?

PLOT

Sounds ominous, right? I’m not talking revenge or mayhem. I’m talking BOOKS.

With all the hoopla of the last few months…

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I haven’t done much writing, or marketing, or anything actually book related. The last week or so, with all the insomnia I’ve been having, I have at least had the chance to work out the kinks I had been stumped with on The Ghost Host.

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What’s been bugging me about The Ghost Host?

Trying to capture the decision making skills of a troubled 18-year-old girl on her own for the first time.

She thinks she has things under control. Her friends are with her. A guy she really likes has promised to protect her. She and the ghost who’s stalking her seem to be on decent terms for the moment, and the FBI is actually looking like a good move.

Echo doesn’t actually have anything under control, and I was too the point in the story where things needed to start unraveling but I wasn’t sure how to do that. How exactly does a girl in that situation react when her first boyfriend, first time on her own, first kind of job, and first time trying to handle the ghosts on her own?

I finally figured it out.

She makes a lot of mistakes.

So, now that I’m finally making progress on The Ghost Host again, I can hopefully finish the last quarter of the book a start making plans for a summer release.

So, keep checking back to see what trouble Echo and the ghosts manage to get themselves into.