Tuesday, April 25, 2017

I Called The Plot Whisperer Again

Sandra here and I’m just starting a new work in progress (wip) and although I knew the romantic plot, I realized it wasn’t enough to hold interest in a 70,000-word manuscript. I needed more depth.  So I called the plot whisperer, Martha Alderson.


I have a huge pot of my new favorite Dunkin Donuts’ Chocolate Glazed Donut coffee and a platter filled with Chocolate glazed donuts (and some maple ones too as I love those as well). Help yourself and enjoy the plot tips I gleaned from Martha. 

My new favorite coffee
At the workshops during the Saguaro Chapter of RWA in Tucson this winter, I heard two speakers talk about how they developed plot with readers via their Facebook page. Well I thought that might be fun. It really was interesting. The people that joined in surprised me though.  I thought it would be other writers, but most were friends and family that follow my Facebook and have no experience with plotting. However, I did get some great plotting ideas from their comments. I had given some of the backstory and flaws that would cause problems. Several men wrote about experiences they had similar to those my hero faced. Some wrote to me offline about some personal experiences and within those, I’ll be able to use some emotional markers. So I did get some excellent help in an unexpected way.

However, I was still stuck with where this story was going. Not a fun place to be when you are writing a story. I’m thinking its because I’m spinning this story off another so it can be a series and I’ve never done that before. So I have the characters, but not a real issue for them to deal with since the issues I wanted to deal with involving the setting of Sedona, were already dealt with in Book One.

Well you can never say you’re too old to learn a new skill. What I needed to do was call upon the skills I know and apply them to the current wip. I also decided to take advantage of people I know. I called upon a friend.

Martha Alderson came to the rescue. I met Martha years ago at the Desert Dreams writer’s conference in Tempe, Arizona. She was featured as one of the speakers and demonstrated her strategies for developing plot. She was also featured in two of our past blogs. In August 2013 we talked about developing the story climax and in October 2013 I wrote the first post I Called a Plot Whisperer.  Check this one out for examples of a detailed step by step process.

If you go to her website you will see all the ways she provides help in developing plot. Be sure to sign up for her free monthly plot tips.  They are very useful.

Go here to sign up.


So how did Martha help me?  First off, she sent me a form to fill out. This includes information about my characters. She asks for you to think about your theme and your concept and asks for a list of scenes.

The main part of the list is as follows:  (printed with permission of Martha)

CHARACTER/EMOTIONAL PLOT INFORMATION
Please fill out the following information for your main character(s)
               Protagonist name
               Complete the following 3 items for the beginning, middle and end of your story
                                 Goal
                                 What stands in his/her way?
                                 What does he/she stand to lose?
               Flaw
               Strength
               Dream
               Hates
               Loves
               Fears
               Secret





I sent her most of the items, but I didn’t really know all of the answers. Yet!!!  I didn’t really know what was standing in the way of the goals and discovered it was because I hadn’t really been that clear on the goals in the first place.

How did I find that out? It was during my phone conversation with Martha.  After sending the forms in, she read over what I have given her and then formulated questions. The gift Martha has for helping you develop the plot is that she asks the kind of questions that make YOU come up with the answers. She doesn’t give you answers. She doesn’t develop a plot. But through her questions, you end up with the answers because she stirs up the brain waves so that you think of the answers yourself. This is important because then you don’t lose your own voice when writing your story.

We talked for an hour and I was writing notes furiously. Hopefully, I can read them and hopefully they make sense. LOL. It was very much like brainstorming with a critique partner except that Martha is skilled in this and you get right to the problem in the first few minutes.

The questions she asked made me think of other tangents to follow and other conflicts that could arise. With that information and thought process, I was able to deepen the plot and also develop a bigger story.



What I didn’t really realize is that my hero has his own plot. The heroine has hers and then you have the romance. When you develop and intertwine all three of these plots, you end up with much more than a mere romance. You have conflict, emotion, and accountability that engage the reader.

She also asks questions that bring you to an awareness of what she calls “energetic markers”. These are like plot points that bring the reader to a climactic event or turning point that will change the story or resolve the conflict.



So if you want to plot like the plot whisperer, start asking yourself questions. Start asking Why? When? Where? And if this happens what will the consequences bring? What are the consequences of the decisions each character makes? And what do you want to accomplish? 

So what helpful hints can you share with us about plotting? What has worked for you? How have you deepened the plot?

Martha will be joining us today and is generous with her advice. So if you have any questions for her, please ask away. Those who write comments today will be put in a drawing for a free hour plot consultation with Martha. One other commenter will win a copy of Martha’s book “Writing Blockbuster Plots”  And a reader who comments can have an ecopy of one of my books. Please indicate in your comment what prize you would like to win.
Available on Amazon


Sandra Leesmith writes sweet romances to warm the heart. Sandra loves to play pickleball, hike, read, bicycle and write. She is based in Arizona, but she and her husband travel throughout the United States in their motorhome and enjoy the outdoors. You can find Sandra's books here on Amazon. Three of Sandra's most popular books are also audio books at Audible. You can read more of Sandra's posts here.




158 comments :

  1. I love mentors! Sounds like Martha was one for you when you needed her Sandra :-) Helping each other along this road called life is what we all need from time to time. So glad she helped get your creative juices going again! The character/ emotion plot information looks like it would be a great asset to any writer, it's very thorough and covers a lot of ground (who, what, where and why).

    Please add me for the reader choice of ebook, thanks so much! I might also have to try that coffee, though I'm not much of a chocolate fan. I do love mocha, however :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Trixi. I really do have great friends in this writing business. The Seekers for sure. smile
      Try Folger's Mocha Swirl. You might like that better. It is yummy.

      Delete
  2. I was just sharing that on Saturday, at the worship in Scottsdale. Inner journey, outer journey and romantic arc. YOU'VE GOT PLOT!!! WOOT!

    How generous of Martha to stop by to answer questions.

    Thanks, Sandra and Martha.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I really wish I could have been to your workshop. You are a great mentor as well.

      Delete
    2. hear, hear. Ms. Tina is awesome.

      Delete
  3. Ugh, plot is not easy for me. I wouldn't mind being put in the pot of a consultation, never know when that might come in handy! :) But it's more right now narrowing down what to do next that I'm done with a series. Choices, choices!

    I gave away all my plotting hints in a article on here....the other hint is to just talk to someone. When you start explaining it to someone and you're bored or depressed....there's just something about having to put it into words, even if you're talking to a wall I suppose, thankfully Hubby is willing to listen.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Congratulations finishing your series, Melissa!

      Delete
    2. Hi Melissa, I missed this comment this morning. Yikes. Super slow internet here. Talking to a wall?? hmmmm now some days talking to hubby is just like talking to a wall. LOL. But it helps me. So I guess that counts.

      Delete
  4. Welcome, Martha. Your plot whisperer tips are always helpful. Although I'm not much of a plotter, I do like to dig into the internal and external conflicts of my characters to see where they'll take me. I'd love to be entered for a copy of your book. Thanks for visiting today!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. HI Jill, You must be a panster. And I bet you have fun getting into those conflicts. Your name is in the dish.

      Delete
    2. Thank you, Jill. Include digging into your character goals to see where they take you, too. You just might find you're becoming a plotter!

      Delete
  5. What a fun prize, an HOUR CONSULTATION!!!!! Thank you, Sandra and Martha.... You guys bless us with your generosity.

    I'm going to enjoy seeing people engage with this... I love plotting. I love seaming a story into a seamless garment. I think it's my favorite part of the process, to get it done and then go back and make sure my stars and planets of story telling are in alignment so the reader doesn't throw old eggs at me.....

    But I know it doesn't come naturally to everyone, so this will be a delightful and insightful day!

    Thank you, ladies! And the coffee is clutch!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, Ruthy, you are a master at plotting terrific stories. It will be fun to hear new ideas.
      Have a great day. (And I know you love Dunkin Donut coffee)

      Delete
    2. Thank you, Ruth. Fun to spend a day sharing ideas about plotting...

      Delete
  6. Please put me in for the plot consultation. Another busy day for me and the continual struggle with vertigo. So glad the Lord is with me as I begin my day and will be with me through out the day. Right now it is a struggle to think so no questions at this moment but if I come up with one I'll ask later today.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Wilani, I'm sorry to hear you are still struggling with the vertigo. Take it easy and rest. Your name is in the dish.

      Delete
    2. I wish for you a peaceful and centered day, Wilani.

      Delete
  7. Sandra, this is a good post and so helpful.
    I won a plot consultation two years ago with Cathy Yardley. Much the same, she draws out YOUR plot by talking to you, but she doesn't do it for you.
    I'm still not much for ebooks, and I do need some help with my Speedbo project, so put me in the drawing for Martha's book or consultation.
    In answer to Ruth's observations, sometimes it comes naturally to me and sometimes it doesn't. If I have strong enough characters, such as Pace and Oona in my Oregon settlement story, the plot will rise out of who they are. But always, always it needs tweaking. That's the one Cathy Yardley helped me with.
    In my Speedbo project the plot actually came out of an event, a sweet Christmas festival that's been held for years in the next town over. I had that first and then I found the characters, an agnostic woman hiding a very deep secret and a wet-behind-the-ears pastor who is in over his head, or thinks he is. They are thrown together over the festival and plot ensues.
    I have MISSED YOU GUYS. This is the first time in days I have been able to visit. Thanks for all you do.
    I have a temporary day job but am writing at night and on breaks. Too far ahead to quit now.
    KB

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi KB, Thanks for sharing. I'm glad you found someone to help you with the plot. I don't usually have a problem, but as I said, I am taking characters from another book. I think I personally do better with a whole new set of characters and circumstances.

      I love how you used an event to develop your plot. I like doing that myself. Maybe I need to think of an event that can happen in the story. Martha helped me think of ways to show the flaws and strengths of the character so that will help also.
      Glad you're back and good for you to keep on writing even with a day job. Many of us have done that and when you have the determination, it works.

      Delete
    2. An event(s) creates goals. Goals create plot

      Delete
  8. Tina is right. Inner, outer and romantic weave together to give us a story. And for Christian writers, that "inner" includes the spiritual.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Wow, an hour consultation is an amazing prize. Thank you, Martha and Sandra.

    This couldn't come at a better time. I kept waking up in the middle of the night thinking about where I need to go back in my WIP and build up the conflict. The overall plot is strong but there are some weaker scenes that need strengthening.
    I'm not a huge plotter. I imagine the story playing out in my head like a movie and do a brief outline. But I think plotting scene-by-scene could help me maximize my time. The outer journey bores me. It's the inner journey and the character arc that I love. For me, the outer journey is just a vehicle for the inner journey. A means to an end. Am I totally off the mark?

    I just realized as I'm typing this comment that my own experience eleven years ago gave me so much insight into GMC. (Well, the M, anyway.)

    I spent 6 months in weekly sessions with a Christian psychotherapist that completely turned my life around and it boiled down to 3 little letters: W H Y.

    My therapist helped me see WHY I had the fears I had, WHY I did the things I did. She helped me understand my motivation was rooted in a false belief. And once I let go of it, I was able to live FULLY IN MY ESSENCE. I wasn't writing at the time, had never heard of Hauge but looking back now, it was only when I figured out my WHY that my life could move forward.

    Thanks for indulging me in my "Aha!" moment.

    Today is a "twocuppa" coffee day. Maybe three!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow! Josee, Great insights and thanks for sharing your experience. Yes, why? is key. And sometimes we know that, but need a friend to ask it again so we think about it.

      And you are not off the mark about the outer being the vehicle for the inner. I really like that analogy. It works and makes it more clear. Thanks for sharing that.

      Delete
    2. Josee, you worked your way through that false belief that can hold us back. The wound in the past, as Hauge mentions. I have to find my character's wound and I want it to be a specific event that he/she can pinpoint before I can fully enter into my story. In my opinion, that wound is the key. You've experienced it firsthand, which makes your writing more authentic. God will turn your past pain into something positive that will touch the hearts of your readers. I'm sure of it! :)

      Delete
    3. I call it the backstory wound. Backstory wounds create depth and reader identification -- we all have them.

      Delete
    4. The inner and outer journeys compliment each other. Life and a character's truth come through action.

      Delete
    5. Thank you, Debby. You're such an encourager!

      Delete
    6. Unprocessed backstory wounds can hold us prisoners for a lifetime. You are so fortunate, Josee, to have the exact right person appear at the exact right time. Divine right timing. Personal transformation is never easy but well worth the journey. Congratulations!

      Delete
    7. Thank you, Martha. Divine timing is right. I didn't even realize how trapped I'd been until the shackles of guilt and fear were ripped off. Worse yet, I was the one who'd kept them on!

      No looking back now! To God be the glory.

      Delete
  10. Please throw my name in for Martha's book. Thank you for this wonderful advice. I really liked the idea of three plots: his, gets, and the romance. We had a visiting author at our elementary school yesterday who shared a plot outline that she says works for any book.
    OH
    UH OH
    OH NO
    OOOH

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. His, hers, and romance. Phone auto correct is irritating

      Delete
    2. Bettie, I'm so laughing at the outline. But yes, that works. lol And yes, auto correct is terribly annoying. Sometimes embarrassing. I texted my sister one day and she called me all concerned. The text was so crazy she thought I was losing it and was terribly worried. sigh.

      Delete
  11. Good morning, Sandra & Martha! I'm looking forward to reading the questions & comments today. External plotting can definitely be a challenge!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. HI Gynna, Its hard to believe you have trouble with plotting since yours are always so great. Happy writing today.

      Delete
  12. Hi Sandra
    very cool post. I'm not really working on anything right now, otherwise I'd be all over a consult. Wouldn't mind the plotting book or one of yours though...
    Still, this information is very good for me to read about and file away for when I do get crackin' on something.
    Yay for chocolatey coffee.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. HI Deb. Martha's books are a great help. I really like using her workbook. I should have used it in the first place. LOL Glad you like the coffee. It really smells good too. Have a great day.

      Delete
    2. Thanks for your kind and generous words, Sandra!
      Glad you're finding the workbook helpful

      Delete
  13. Another post that couldn't have come at a better time. I wrote chapter one of my very first inspirational suspense story this past weekend, and afterwards my first thought was, "Okay...now what?" I knew the action sequence I wanted to begin with, and I completed that. I also know the type of conclusion I want in the end scene, so I'm ready to write that when the time comes. But everything in the middle has me drawing a huge blank. So, as you can see, I'm terrible at plotting. LOL. I look forward to the Q&A comments with Martha. As for the drawing, please throw my name into the hat for Martha's book. Thank you so much!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Stephanie, Congratulations on getting that first chapter written. That is a big step. First one. Yay. Yes, follow questions and comments today. They will be helpful to you. Your name is in the dish.

      Delete
    2. You're embarking on an epic journey, Stephanie! Enjoy. And hold on because things are likely to get bumpy...

      Delete
    3. I can relate to the yawning middle! :-) Don't give up!

      Delete
  14. I'd love to win a plot consultation! I've got my heroine figured out, but my hero is still a mystery to me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jenny, Start asking those questions and filling out the outline Martha provided. That will help. Your name is in the dish.

      Delete
    2. Yes, fill out the profile for both heroine and hero and don't forget any major antagonists, too.

      Delete
  15. Thank you, Sandra, for the great post! Great fun working together. Exciting to witness scattered pieces form into a dynamic plot. Thanks again

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good morning Martha, Great to have you here. I'm sure we'll have some questions coming up. Thanks again for joining us today.

      Delete
  16. I think I'm naturally a pantser, but I spend far too much time writing tomes of stuff I throw out and so I try, try, try to learn plotting techniques! My question for Martha, or you, Sandra, is about the 2nd bullet point in the questionaire - Complete the following three items for the beginning, middle, and end of the story. I don't understand...are there different goals, obstacles, stakes at beginning, middle, and end?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Dana, Don't feel bad about being a pantster. Some of the best writers are paststers, but we all need to look at the elements of plot ot keep the story true. And there are many ways to do it.
      As for your question, I'll let Martha answer that one. smile Thanks for joining us today.

      Delete
    2. Hi Dana. Thank you for your question. The protagonist(s) can carry the same goal from the beginning all the way through to the end -- often the inner goal. However, often, because of the dramatic action in the first quarter of the story, the outer goal changes. After the Crisis or Dark Night around the 3/4 mark of the story and what she learns about herself and/or hero and/or her situation, her external goals changes again.

      Delete
    3. Thanks Martha, You do such a great job explaining. Whew!

      Delete
    4. Thanks to both of you. That gives me something to think about, Martha. Yes, goals change as we learn about ourselves.

      Delete
    5. This is definitely helpful. I tend to forget that my characters' goals might change. So rather than trying to stick to something that's not fitting, I can let the character take off in another direction!

      Delete
    6. We often find we've been chasing the wrong goals, what others expect of us, doing what we "should" do, trying to be what we're not. As we strip away more and more of what we don't want we find our true goals.

      Delete
    7. Yes, Missy. Just so long as you make clear (this doesn't mean she / he have to say it out loud) what happens to change their thinking / heart and what their goals are now. This is also true for every single scene. Scene centers around what the character wants in those moments that she believes will move her nearer to her goal

      Delete
    8. I agree about that part being really helpful. I kept thinking there's something wrong with my story because my heroine's goal changes. Then I thought, well maybe I'm focusing on the wrong goal and if I could just find the right one I'd be set. *Sigh* Maybe now I can go a little easier on myself :-)

      Delete
    9. Oh, I'm so glad, Lara! Nothing stifles the imagination and kills your energy to write than feeling wrong or not good enough. Perhaps this gives you permission to better trust your own intuition...

      Delete
  17. Sandra and Martha, thanks for sharing these tips on plotting. Martha's strategy of looking at these questions: what's the goal? what stands in the way? and what does s/he stand to lose? in all three sections of the book was new to me. I've given the characters opening goals that are more the setup of the story, i.e. a way to get the characters together. The characters then want a book-length goal toward the middle. My question: Is the goal at the story's end about the romance or do you see this as another external goal? Clear as mud?

    Janet

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Janet, Hopefully Martha will get to this question. She is in Pacific time so check back later today. Good question by the way.

      Delete
    2. Hi Janet, thank you for your question. You plot out the romance plot just like you do the inner and outer plot -- 3 plot lines that intertwine and bring thematic significance to the entire piece. So, you can ask yourself in each of the three parts of the story -- what is her external goal, inner goal, romance goal, what stands in her way for each and what does she stand to lose for each.

      Delete
    3. Martha, thanks for your input. Normally my hero and heroine's book-length goals don't change at the story's end but complications arise that require new scene goals to get the main goal. I think we're probably both talking about the same thing. :-)

      Janet

      Delete
    4. Hi Janet, Often the Dark Night or Crisis around the 3/4 mark in the story comes in part from the protagonist getting what she think she's always wanted only to find (because of all she goes through in the exotic middle) that it doesn't hold the promise she once believed it would. Then she goes after her true goal in the final 1/4 of the story.

      Delete
    5. Am I the only one who shudders a bit at the words "bring thematic significance"? :-) I've got that in the climax, I think. Not sure about the other plot points. :-/

      Delete
    6. The thematic significance is what your story is all about -- not at the scene level like "this happens and because of that this happens next" (cause and effect) -- but at the overall story level. Knowing the thematic significance of your story helps direct every scene and, on some level, your word choices, too. Often your thematic significance may come out of a cliche -- love kills, love heals, change creates chaos, things are not as bad as you think, love others as you would be loved, crime doesn't pay, revenge is sweet, speaking up comes at a price, to forgive others first you must forgive yourself. Then individualize it to your specific story.

      Delete
    7. I've been reading up on theme, and I think I get it. It's just the thought of needing to make the story work on so many levels... not just to come up with an interesting plot point, but one that is also thematically relevant. From an internal sense, I don't think it will be that hard. For me, it seems a little tricker from an external sense, though maybe I'm just overthinking this (as I overthink everything else).

      Delete
  18. Sandra and Martha, thanks for providing such an interesting post. I'm ready to ask those tough questions of my characters today.

    I'm meeting with my cps. Will refer to your post as we work through our stories.

    Hugs!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Debby, I hope you have great results with your cps

      Delete
    2. I'm curious to hear how it goes!

      Delete
    3. We had a great cp meeting. The other ladies have your books! I plan to order them both. We all signed up for your plot points! Thanks so much, Martha!

      Delete
  19. Hello, Martha! In a romance, there are two protagonists. And in the type some of us write, our publisher expects each to carry his/her own and equal weight, not just be predominantly about one or the other. What are some tips for plotting these complicated, intertwining journeys in "a plain old romance" (one without suspense elements)? It's not just about the "hero's" journey but that of the pair finding themselves in a push-pull, emotional conflict with each other. It's equally the story of both. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Sandra wrote in her post: What I didn’t really realize is that my hero has his own plot. The heroine has hers and then you have the romance.
    Once you have an idea of how the romance plot will play out, time to delve into the protagonists outer goals. Develop goals in direct opposition to each and watch the sparks fly.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Thanks for clarifying Martha. That helps. And we do love those sparks to fly. Your consultation really helped me see this.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Hi Sandra and Martha,

    Thanks for sharing today. I'd love to be entered for the workbook.

    I usually start out plotting my story but along the way a twist will come to me. Or I'll decide part of my plot is not strong enough, so it changes from my original plot.

    I understand my hero and heroine must have opposite goals for conflict to keep them apart, but in suspense they must work together. I want to make sure I've got this right, the conflict between H&H must simmer on the back burner while they work together to elude the killer. THEN they can deal with their personal conflict?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jackie, Don't you love it when new twists pop up to enhance the story?
      As for your question, I'll let Martha answer that. She'll be able to do a better job of it.

      Delete
    2. Nothing better than a great plot twist! (so long as it's subtly foreshadowed along the way). They can still be united in their shared goal to work together while their own personal opposing goals add conflict and tension and keep the reader guessing...

      Delete
    3. I'm no expert, but I'm thinking you can introduce a lot of tension/conflict by having them disagree on what the right was is to go about solving their mutual goal. Just a thought.

      Delete
  23. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  24. The Plot Whisperer...Love it. I think inner character arcs are harder for me. But that's also what I feel is most important in Inspirational fiction.
    I'd love to be entered for the consultation.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Amber, Yes, the inner conflict is the toughest, but the meat of the matter. I agree. Your name is in the dish. Happy writing.

      Delete
    2. I often find that writers who think they're weak with character growth are actually pretty darn good at bringing life to the characters. Lean into it. I bet you surprise yourself!

      Delete
  25. I've been following Martha Alderson for quite some time; her extensive library of YouTube videos are incredibly helpful. I'd love to get anything (book, one hour consult etc) 'cause she knows her stuff. But hearing/reading isn't same as doing! I need to finish two 20k novellas by June 1 so this is timely!
    My Q: How do you recommend starting from nothing but a setting in mind? No characters yet, nothing but a specific setting and time frame. I brought extra bold coffee this morning so I can focus!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jenna, ha ha that's pretty much what I did. So filling out that form and asking the questions certainly did help. If you can focus on the characters fears and goals, they give you the meat of the conflict. Your name is in the drawing.

      Martha will be back and will be able to help you with your question. So glad you already know of her youTubes, etc.

      Delete
    2. Jenna, I, too, love her videos!

      Delete
    3. Thank you, Jenna, for your kind and generous words! Love knowing you found the support you needed. I'm a sucker for research and recommend looking into the setting and time for specific details that can work into the plot. Kaybee and Sandra were talking earlier about using an event to help deepen the plot. If there is a specific event that is iconic to the setting or the history that stimulates your imagination, start there

      Delete
  26. Good morning Sandra and Martha! Thank you both for such generous giveaways too. This post is spot on for me as I'm struggling with a hero who's "too nice" - I thought I had a wound for him but I'm not getting it to come to life on the page. And I echo Jackie's comment because in a romantic suspense you can use the suspense part of the plot to keep the story action rolling, but I'm having trouble having them work together BUT still be in conflict with their past relationship. I'd love to be in for either the consultation or workbook because I need one or the other! :) And my question is: when you're writing a woman-in-jeopardy plot and the hero has to be, well, the *hero* - how do you make him flawed but not too nice? This is my first crack at a WIJ plot and I've realized that's part of why I'm struggling with this aspect of it. thanks for any insights!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great question Laurie, I'm thinking Martha will be able to answer better than I. I will check back and if she hasn't I'll make my feeble attempt at it. Great question and I usually have that problem with the heroine, not the hero. LOL

      Delete
    2. Look around you for men who are flawed and not too nice. Look inside yourself for what holds you back and can cause you to be not too nice. A hero can save everyone else -- heroine especially -- and be nearly incapable of saving himself

      Delete
    3. Thank you, Martha! I love that - a hero can save everyone but himself. I'll be working on that further today.

      Delete
  27. Sandra, thanks for sharing about your wonderful consult with Martha! Those are some great questions to ask.

    Martha, thanks for sharing your knowledge!

    ReplyDelete
  28. Sandra and Martha -- LOVE the title "Plot Whisperer"!! Don't know which of you came up with it, but it's genius!

    Just like this post!!

    Sandra/Martha, reallllly like the tip quote that says "Plot your story scene by scene to emotionally engage your readers." As a die-hard pantster in the beginning of my career, I never plotted out scenes; just sat down and wrote, waiting for the story and characters to take me where they wanted me to go.

    BUT ... with a large cast of characters like I have in the O'Connor saga, I quickly discovered the truth and sheer genius of this important quote. I soon learned that by plotting my story scene by scene ahead of time, I not only had a better grip on where it was going/should go, but I could far better maximize emotional impact with twists I hadn't even thought about. In addition, I was better able to delve into the character's personalities, which helped me flesh out the scene all the more.

    The best part, however, is the dialogue. When I plot scene by scene, I always incorporate dialogue, quickly writing the scene as I hear it in my head. Often, this realllly rough draft is so dead-on to what I want, that I actually use it in my scene, especially the dialogue.

    I mentioned earlier that I love the term "plot whisperer," and Martha sounds like one of the best, so I definitely signed up for her tips.

    I love to incorporate a huge twist in my books at the end, but I ran into a wall on my fifth book when I needed to come up with an effective way to have my married heroine free to marry my single hero. The logical answer was to kill off the abusive and estranged husband, but then, that wouldn't have been much of a twist. So I remember sitting on my deck in the fall, praying for God to give me a twist nobody would be able to figure out, and BOOM! Just like that, an idea floated down into my brain as softly and slowly as the autumn leaves floating from the trees. I remember being so shocked by the twist, that I laughed out loud and thanked God profusely. To this day, no one I know of has guessed the twist ahead of time, a true testimony to the greatest Plot Whisperer of them all -- the Holy Spirit!!

    Hugs,
    Julie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Plot Whisperer is all Martha's doing. She has a wonderful website and has been doing this for years. Thanks for sharing all your plot drama. God is good at getting us the answers. The trick is learning to listen for them. Thanks again for sharing that and reminding us to listen. Of course it helps to have friends who can prod the ole brain muscles.

      Delete
    2. Thanks for your comments, Julie. For writers who find pre-plotting every scene daunting, I recommend starting with what I call the Energetic Markers, the major turning points of every great story. Give a bit of structure and design to the story. Writing from one marker to the next is easier than writing into the great unknown. I use visual aids to help reluctant plotters. Writers Digest very generously created a web page as a supplement to Writing Blockbuster Plots with lots of templates "showing" how plot works in stories, scene-by-scene. I also have a couple of Pinterest boards showing how writers use the Plot Planner and Scene Tracker and Thematic Clouds to plot out their stories.

      Delete
  29. What an ingenious blog post! It really gets one thinking.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Boo. We're all about getting the ole brain going. Have a great day.

      Delete
  30. And I love what you said about the Ultimate Plot Whisperer, Julie.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Hello Martha and Sandra.
    Thank you Martha for offering a plot consultation. And I love that you don't give you answers, but asks the right to questions so we can come up w/the answers.

    I've told my husband and critique partner, most of the time, I can talk things through until my story is clearer, even if it's by defending an unpopular position. Shoot holes in my story so I know what to fix.

    Thanks again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Connie Q. Yes, hubby's can be a good sounding board. I do that often, but he can't really give me the specifics I need. But he does help me get the juices of the brain to flowing. Then I can come up with some of the elements. But an expert makes it so much easier. smile

      Delete
    2. Completely concur w/that Sandra. LOL. Sometimes Bruce will make a suggestion, and then I wave my hand. "No, you don't understand." I'm lucky he still listens to me.

      Delete
    3. Yep, always good for a laugh though.

      Delete
  32. I struggle with plotting. What a gift Martha has to be able to help others. I would love to be entered for her book Writing Blockbuster Plots.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Sandy, Your name is in the dish. Happy writing today.

      Delete
  33. Great post! Thanks for sharing how to make better plots. Definitely need help!

    ReplyDelete
  34. HI Sally, Me too. I always love getting extra help. Happy writing.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Sandra, your comment about how Martha asks questions so you can come up with the answers -- and consequently keep your voice in the story -- is something I found lacking in some well-meaning contest judges and critiquers (is that a word, Grammar Queen?). Too many times, they wanted to rewrite my story, or change things that also changed the voice. Martha has a fantastic gift. I'm delighted she's making it available to others :-)

    Will be back to read comments later. Right now I have the opportunity to do some uninterrupted writing!

    Nancy C

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Nancy, Yes, I've been the victim of editing and critiquing where I ended up doing what they said and losing my voice. It is a rare gift that Martha has and a joy to work with her.

      What a blessing to have writing time. Go for it. Happy writing.

      Delete
    2. I'll be back to read and comment more later. Right now, I'm off to dig in the dirt. Lettuce and tomatoes await me...

      Delete
  36. More times than I can count, I've hit a plotting wall and started an email to my best buds trying to explain the backstory, what I've go so far, etc. By the time I work out everything enough to make them understand, I've come up with new ideas myself.

    Sometimes I send the email and get feedback and sometimes I delete it because I've found the answer to move forward just a bit more. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great technique! I continually encourage writers to keep the end in sight at all times. What / where is the protagonist(s) moving toward? How will she demonstrate the change or actual transformation she underwent in the middle at the Climax / Triumph?

      Delete
    2. That is too funny Pam. I think that it is great that you were able to figure it out though by writing them.

      Delete
    3. Martha, that is so helpful when you keep asking me to keep the end in sight. So easy to forget. sigh

      Delete
    4. That's why I always begin a plot consultation with the Climax first. Writers are often disappointed. All prepared and ready with tons of backstory ideas and what's happening in the beginning, having to change gears and face the end shakes up the imagination.

      Delete
    5. As I like to say -- beginnings hook readers. Endings create fans

      Delete
  37. Thanks for the blog. Even just those questions you fill out prior to the consultation are helpful.

    Right now I'm brainstorming for pretty much a complete rewrite of a story I wrote before I knew anything. I've had to figure out what my character's goals are and tie that in with some of the ideas for conflict I had before, though at the moment it's still a little incohesive. There are a number of problems I'll have to solve to be happy with the way it turns out, but I've been able to deepen the plot in several ways. (Obviously figuring out the character's goals and motivations has been a big part of that.)

    (1) Set up.
    So much of storytelling, I've come to realize, is the setup. In the original draft (which I pantsered in 3 months), several things happened in the story without any real foreshadowing. Now, as I take a step back and try to set up those facts/events so the reader (hopefully can't predict what's coming but) can see how things logically happened, I've been forced to answer questions that fell between the cracks before. For example, I had a side-antagonist who turned out to have done something not so nice to my heroine, but I didn't know why. It got swept under the rug in the first draft. Now I know why he did what he did, and he's taking a greater place in the story as a result.

    (2) Whose story?—fitting the climax to the right character.
    I've been reading a lot about story structure and character arcs lately, and I realized that the climax I had in mind (which I feel I can't change because it brings the theme of the story home) wasn't a climax for the heroine. The story was previously written in first person (her POV), but now I see the real protagonist is the hero, so I'm working on shifting to third person with at least two POVs (hero and heroine). Which means…

    (3) Differing POVs.
    … I can see more closely into the hero's life and those of the people he interacts with, so I really have to have an overall better understanding of the people populating my story. That's forced me to take a closer look at what's really happening. I think anything that gets you to ask questions like “how” and “why” about your character's and your stories has the potential to help deepen your story.

    One struggle I have is figuring out how many POVs to have. I haven't decided yet whether to include either one of the antagonists. The problem with including even one of them is that they might realistically talk about certain things I was hoping to reveal later in the story. The problem with excluding their POV is that I have to find some other natural way to get the reader to understand what they've been doing throughout the story. Figuring out how and when to drop the big reveals is an ongoing challenge. I seem to be better at coming up with story facts than story events, but I'm working on that.

    Please put me in for the “Writing Blockbuster Plots.” I'm sure I could benefit from the one hour plot consultation, but I'm afraid I wouldn't do a very good job of conveying all the story problems I'm hoping to solve. Plus, I'm usually watching my 15-month-old baby girl, which is very distracting :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Okay... maybe I'm just being a coward. Please enter me for the consultation as well as the plot book :-) Thanks!

      Delete
    2. You are too funny. Go for it. Yes, you are brave. smile

      Delete
    3. Lara, from the sounds of it, you do pretty well with talking yourself through your story. The number of POV's for short romances is usually just the hero and heroine. If you're writing a mainstream novel you can have more POV's. And if you're self-publishing you can do what you want. But you just need to be sure you have the arc for each character so the reader has closure. I'm sure Martha can be more helpful here.

      Delete
    4. I have at least a basic idea of the arcs for the two antagonists, which I'm hoping to flesh out more as I continue... I seem to be good at coming up with non-standard stories. In one sense, I don't care what is usually done—only what is effective for my story. But of course what's usually done is done so for a reason. :-) Whatever choice I make about POV (or whatever), there seem to be tradeoffs... so it seems to be a matter of analyzing my story and figuring out which way works best. It's hard because the way I originally wrote the story, I was going back and forth between the characters' "present day" and a flashback sequence, so I had two stories that eventually wove together. (Meaning that I had two different heros, one with a negative arc in the flashback and one with a positive in the present. So, already, the potential for 3 POVs.) I'm still trying to decide if I can afford to cut the flashback sequence. My recent thinking is that I might include little bits and pieces of it (the key moments) through my heroine's journaling, but at this point it's just an idea. I may just end up doing it the way everyone else does. At the moment (keeping in mind that I change my mind on certain story facts at least 20 times a day :-D ), I'm leaning toward no antagonist POV. However, I may write their scenes anyway and just cut them if they don't seem to be adding anything. At least it will help me to better understand what's happening behind the scenes of my story.

      Delete
    5. Lara, finding at the end you're writing belongs to a different character than you planned is not that unusual which is another great reason to keep writing to the end without going back no matter how wretched you think your writing is. The end determines the beginning.

      Delete
  38. Welcome back, Martha! Fun to read about how you helped Sandra with her brainstorming.

    I've been putting together a new story idea recently, too, and JANET has been hugely helpful in ferreting out the questions I need to be asking myself about the characters, the conflict, and their motivations. It helps so much to get an objective view of the story.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Myra, Fun. I bet Janet is a big help. You both do great with your plots. Happy writing.

      Delete
  39. Coming up with plots is hard, coming up plots for a four book series is HARD. Coming up with plots for an eleven book series... yeah there's a reason I haven't started that one yet.

    When I am plotting my story I often come up with questions of my own, like why my character would do what they just did. I would then go ask my sister, and her response is normally "I don't know this is YOUR story," which then sends me back to trying to work my mind around the questions. Then when I come up with the answer I go tell my sister and she unconvincingly tells me that it is the most perfect solution ever... I'm pretty sure that she just says that so that I'll stop bothering her.

    When developing plots for my story, I find that they always come easiest when I am pacing around in my room listening to music that pertains to what I want to happen in my book, or makes me think about my characters. That generally gets my brain working and I figure out a lot about my books in that time.

    I would love to be entered for one of Martha's book or a consultation with her.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Nikki, I think telling your sister helps more than you realize because you are expressing the problem and that gets your brain ticking. Your name is in the dish.

      Delete
    2. Love reading your comments -- sign of a great writer. I bet you're great at writing comedy, probably one of the harder genres around. I recommend creating a Plot Planner on banner paper on the wall to get writers up and moving their bodies. Big muscle activity activates different parts of our brain than small muscle (clicking keys). Good to get all areas generating ideas.

      Delete
    3. Thanks, Martha. I do like to write humor in my stories, but one time when I told my mom that I thought my book was an action adventure comedy she said that it was really just an action adventure. I suppose some elements of my books would be a little dark for a comedy, but that doesn't mean I won't put the occasional funny scene in my book just for the kick of it.

      Interesting idea about the banner paper... if only I had the wall space... and the attention span to actually take the time fill it out.

      Delete
  40. This is such a great post. In my past books, I've done a lot of brainstorming with fellow writers at a retreat and come away with a really good feel for my characters and plot. The one I'm working on now is a huge rewrite (as in only the hero is the same, NOTHING else). I have a good feel for my characters, and their external goals, but right now, my story feels unwieldy. I have a lot of questions, but here's the one I'm pondering right now: How do I determine what my opening scenes need to be for each character?

    Please enter me for the book and the consultation. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good question Jeanne. Let me know what you find out. ha ha oh wait, I'm supposed to be helping. Well I think you do need to let the reader know what the goal is for each character and their fear. In romance, we need for the hero and heroine to meet and we see what the conflict will be because we are getting to know the goal and the fear or flaw. When I say that, I don't mean you tell it or even reveal the whole conflict. Sometimes you just get enough hints to keep the reader curious. But focus on the questions Martha gave and that helps pinpoint where to start the story. Hope this helps.

      Delete
    2. Jeanne, You might find it useful to check out Weiland's blog posts on Character Arcs. In particular, she has a posting that covers "The Characteristic Moment" (demonstrating the character's key personality trait, their scene and story goals, hinting at their lie, etc). There's a checklist there you might find helpful. (Google: "weiland characteristic moment" and it should be at the top of the list.)

      Delete
    3. Jeanne, I'm glad you at least got to keep your hero! :)

      When planning my opening, I like to think of how the story will end. I like there to be a feel like everything has come full circle. So you may want to consider your ending scenes (where the characters need to end up) and then figure out where you want them to be in the opening.

      Delete
    4. Yeah, Lara, I love Weiland's how-to books and posts!

      Delete
    5. You took the words right out of my mouth... well, my fingers, Missy! The end determines the beginning. Start there

      Delete
  41. I love this post so much! I read every plot book that I can get my hands on because I'm always having plotting issues. I loved your Facebook Plotting party! I always struggle with giving my characters enough conflict, which comes directly from my lack of good plotting!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi LeAnne, You are so right when you say our characters struggle because we don't have enough conflict. Ditto. I do the same thing. Martha is good at making me get mean. chuckle

      Delete
  42. Hi Martha:

    Just loved your book: "The Plot Whisperer" and I've been looking ever since for "The Pantser Whisperer" for my SOTP friends but I can't seem to find it. Do you have any special advice from the plot-phobic? :)

    Seriously, I just took a writing course from James Patterson on how to write mega-best sellers and it was one of the best writing courses I ever took.

    Here is something of interest from that class on today's topic. Patterson, who is said to sell more fiction than any one else, spends two to three months writing the outline. He may be the ultimate plotter.

    Patterson also gives his outline/plot to his non writing friends to look over. These are not writers but readers. What Patterson is looking for is not a critique. He wants readers to ask him, "Will you hurry up and write this thing, I can't wait to read it." That's when Patterson knows he has the outline where it needs to be. He wants the outline to be so compelling that even he can't wait to write the story. He never has a problem with writer's block.

    Patterson also writes each scene six to seven times. Not because it is wrong but to make it more compelling and a better read. It seems Patterson does most of his hard work writing and editing only after it is good enough to get published.

    I makes me wonder how much more work do authors do after they have the book in good enough shape to be accepted by their editor?

    This course changed my whole outlook on writing for success. BTW: Tina is the one who told me about the course and how to get in under the deadline. Seekerville keeps paying dividens.

    Please put me in the drawing for your new plotting book.

    Vince

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Vince, wow sounds like you hit a bonus with that class. How interesting that he spends so much time on the outline. Actually, I should listen to you and him. I do write faster when I have the outline all set out. Makes so much sense to me. But then I am a plotter. smile

      And how funny to be wanting a book The Pantster Whisperer. Maybe you should write it. smile

      Delete
    2. Lots of writers I work with do some pre-plotting, though not always as extensive as Patterson. Some writers I work with use the Scene Tracker before they ever start writing and generally get a true sense of their strengths and weaknesses as a writer. Using the template during a major revision allows you to analyze each scene according to 7 essential elements + more if you're writing say, a historical or a mystery. For an idea of what I'm talking about, take a look at my Scene Tracker Pinterest board for writers. Another great resource for rewriting is a book a co-authored -- Writing Deep Scenes where we offer 15 scene types with suggestions how and where best to use the different scenes for the most powerful results.

      Delete
  43. I really wanted to ask a question of Martha but I've found so many stimulating ideas in her answers to everyone else's questions that I'm trying to avoid brain overload. I wrote my first story as a panster and then learned about plot points and have been trying to make sure that my panstering developed a good plot. I'm playing around with the next stories and I feel like I'm panstering in my brain and meanwhile my brain is insisting on plot points, so maybe I'm progressing. I'll be searching youtube, pinterest and other parts of the internet to learn more from Martha. Thank you for your wise comments and Sandra thank you for bringing Martha. And Julie your post gave me lots of good direction. Thanks. Please put me in whatever container (no I mean my name) for a chance at a consultation with Martha or for her book. Now I'm leaving to search youtube. Oh and in my first story the female protagonist is a horse whisperer—just saying (smiling)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Barbara, Jus sayin??? Horse whisperer. Well nothing wrong with that. I think from the sounds of it that you would probably benefit a lot from one of Martha's books. You already have the story and if you graph it out like she shows you, you will be able to see if you have the plot elements and if you don't, you will know where you need to put them. Best wishes. and your name is in the dish.

      Delete
  44. Sandra and Martha, Thank you so much for helping with plot development today. As a writer who is a plotter, brainstorming is often hard to try to go deep so enough whys are asked to get to the bottom of the emotion. I'm now working on two things: making sure I give my hero and heroine more than they can chew in order to deserve that happy ending and making sure what I brainstorm and plot actually gets on the page. Thanks for some great ideas as I will be brainstorming again quite soon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. HI Tanya, I'm chuckling about your comment that you hope what your brainstorming gets on the page. I sure know how that goes. You think you've written all the elements in and then a crit partner asks why is this happening?? Guess that is why we want good crit partners.
      Thanks for joining us. Best wishes on that plot development.

      Delete
  45. I am definitely struggling with my plot. I realized as I was writing my draft that I don't know my heroine well enough to write her arc. I stepped back from the story to ask questions about her but I'm still struggling to get all the plot pieces together. I would love to be entered for the writing book or the consultation.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Loraine, that was a lot of the problem I was having. When you know more about your character, the plot becomes easier to figure out. Best wishes on finding that arc. Your name is in the dish.

      Delete
  46. I struggle with plot. These are great tips and I'd love to read this book!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Martha's books are really helpful. They really make it easier to develop that plot when you follow her procedures. Happy writing.

      Delete
  47. I'm working on a plot right now, where I know elements aren't working out. I'm trying to write it from the back, as I know how the story ends.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Walt, Try asking those questions. I don't know if Martha will be back on to help you, but if you try those things first, it might help ring some bells. I know how frustrating it is when that happens.

      Delete
    2. Your intuition serves you well, Walt! Starting at the end and working your way to the beginning is an interesting practice of deconstructing your characters rather than developing them. Another technique is to write from the beginning to the end, asking yourself at the end of one scene -- "because that happens what does the character do next?" Writers get in trouble when they write like this happens and then this happens and then this. No coherence. You can write an entire story following cause and effect.

      Delete
  48. Thank you everyone for joining Martha and I today. What a great day we had with really interesting comments. Martha, it was a real blessing to have you join us today. Thank you for answering our questions and for teaching us so many wonderful plot points.

    Be sure and look in the Weekend Edition for winners of our wonderful prize. Thank you Martha for offering a free hour consultation for one lucky winner.

    I will check in the morning for you late night owls. Martha and i are off. Happy writing all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A day of discussing one of my favorite subjects -- plot! Thank you Sandra and thanks to everyone for your questions and for making me feel so welcome. Happy plotting.

      Delete
  49. I'm sorry to have missed this - the feedblitz daily digest always sends Seekerville posts to me a day late. The consultation does sound amazing, and so does the book. I've signed up for the mailing list!!

    (FYI, a Seekerville admin could fix this, I think: http://support.feedblitz.com/customer/en/portal/articles/887522-my-updates-are-going-out-late-can-i-change-the-scheduled-time-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry you missed it also. But Martha has a lot of resources on You Tube you can check out. Thanks for stopping by. We always check later for those who pop in later. smile Your name is in the dish.

      Delete
  50. Thank you so much for writing this blog. I recently discovered it by way of Writers Digest magazine's most recent edition. I am enjoying the posts and finding great advice as I begin to embark on a lifelong dream to become a serious writer. I have a couple of writing projects started and would love to be entered to win one of Martha's books (though it is likely I'll end up buying it anyway...). Blessings!
    Lee-Ann (not sure how to change the submitter name from my husband's!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi LeeAnn. Welcome. Its never too late to check things out. What several of our followers have done is gone through the archives and printed out the posts that help them with craft. One person (who became published after doing this) said we have the equivalence of a college course in the archives. And we do. We have been publishing craft articles for ten years. So dig in and enjoy all the helpful hints. You will become a better writer for it.

      Delete