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Plotting Blitz-Krieg

Did you know that blitzkrieg literally translated (from German) is lightening war?

Last night I had one of those special nights.  You know the type.  Or I hope you do so that I’m not alone.  I was mad at the world, mad at myself, vibrating from an unexpected trigger into an old emotional wound.  Okay, it’s not a wound, it’s a bog of emotional putrescence.

It was an unexpected emotional explosion and after having a lovely little meltdown I grabbed my whiteboard, two markers and the eraser.  (Thankfully I had already taken a picture of the whiteboard and printed it out – the joys of modern technology where my temporary canvas can be permanently captured.)

I erased all my previous work on this plot.  I haven’t been satisfied with my work on it to date but also haven’t been able to work through to a place I am proud of.  So whoosh, all of it was gone and I started just listing the bones of the story out, point form, down the left side of the board.

And since my emotions were burning high, in particular rage, I was willing to change anything in the plot.  This scene seem too easy?  Yes it does, so let’s kill someone, attack someone, or have chaos bite the protagonist in the arse.

I kept going until the very bare bones of the ending.  It still needs work; I’ll need to go through and pace the character development through it and further flesh out some sections.  Possibly even contemplate greater tortures to the characters.

I think I’ll also need to make sure there are some down moments.  Too much intensity for too long isn’t good either.  But I’m happy that I now err on the side of intensity.  A definite improvement.

And the added bonus?  I got to vent my emotions in an unusual and productive way.


Great Plotting: Eileen Wilks

My incarceration by physical injury continues and thus so has my reading blitz.  (Still recovering from a herniated disc.)

This week has been all Eileen Wilks all the time.  And I feel that I have been in the presence of a master plotter.  Yes, her characterization was great:  the characters appealing, realistic and experiencing understandable growing pains as she puts them through their paces.  And her magical world was interesting, cohesive and believable (in the way that all fantasy worlds can be believable).  I’m speaking here of her Books of the Lupi series.  But it was the plotting that blew me away.

To be fair, as a Panster, I’m inclined to be more in awe of someone who is excellent at plotting than perhaps of someone with great characterization.  That said, Eileen Wilks has mad plotting skills.

It wasn’t just the complexity of the individual books.  Though they had that.  The plots were well paced, the twists and turns intriguing.  It all flowed, coherent and tight.  And this woman is a master at ending chapters at a high tension point that has you compulsively going into the next chapter to find out what the <insert your favourite intense word> happened.

What truly awed me was the multi-book plotting that she did.  This author didn’t wait until a character would be necessary or useful to introduce them.  Oh, no, they became a small, integral part of an earlier book and when they appeared in a later book, it was logical and necessary that they be there.

It’s a little hard to talk about this without using examples, but I hate it when people give away spoilers, so please forgive me the generalities.

It also wasn’t just characters.  The advantage of reading a series back to back, or a series’ downfall, is that all of the details are present in the back of my head.  If the wrong age is used, I notice it (and I think that was about the only error I found in the books was a slight age discrepency, though there is a chance I mis-remembered the first mention of it).  If the character is not consistent in small preferences and attitudes, I’m aware of it.

And if they are consistent, I revel in it.

Ms. Wilks did that.  She planted seeds of motivation, of potential trouble, of inconsequential items that are picked up in the next book, or two later, or three later.  When those seeds sprouted and blossomed it made sense on some subliminal level so that as a reader I greeted those blooms enthusiastically because they had been planted so much earlier.  I never felt that she ‘cheated’ by bringing in a needed element at the last minute.

The Lupi books are a tapestry of plotting.  The weaving is complex and thorough and, frankly, if I can handle multiple books half that well–okay, two thirds that well, I’ll be truly pleased with myself.

And yes, in case it wasn’t obvious, I would recommend the series.