Saturday, July 20, 2013

Writing Tip 5/100

Wow, five posts in five days. This might be some kind of record for me. Before I get to the next writing tip, just heard from the amazing Brandon Dorman that he is starting work on the Fire Keep cover. It is going to be epic! Also, if you have writing questions you'd like me to address, just throw them into the comments.

Today we are going to talk about multiple story lines. Think of a story line as something important happening throughout the book. For example, if you are writing a mystery, it might be someone killing people and the police looking for him. If you are writing a fantasy, it might be a girl searching for the magic gems to become the true queen.

Every novel has a story line of some kind. The problem is that story lines rise and fall. There are exciting times and boring times. And by now you know that you can't afford boring times in your books. That's where additional story lines come in.

Let's say that the happy little town of Pleasant View is about to be attacked by flying, steam punk monkeys. (I know, right!) You could start with the monkeys attacking in chapter 1. But the problem is, we (the readers) haven't gotten to know the people or the town, so we might not care all that much when the FSPMs begin ripping antenna balls off cars and flinging them at random pedestrians. (Who are wearing cool steam punk outfits, just because that would look awesome on the cover with the flying monkeys.)

We could start instead with a couple of chapters where we get to see the happy people and their peaceful town, then cue the monkeys in chapter 3. But that's the dreaded B word, which we want to avoid whenever possible.

Instead, what if we created a secondary story line? What if the protagonist is breaking up with her boy friend? At the zoo? In front of the monkey exhibit? We get tension and conflict and foreshadowing. We get to know the MC and her jerk ex-boyfriend. (Who will undoubtedly get killed by a FSPM-thrown antenna ball in chapter four.

And maybe we could have an evil zoo keeper whose crazy shenanigans brought the monkeys in the first place. And a romantic interest. And the MC's parents, who are considering a divorce.

The options are endless. By creating additional story lines we can keep things exciting by raising the tension in one story line while another is in a lull. Story lines can start up later in the book, fizzle out half way through, get solved mid-book. It's like taking a piece of meat and adding potatoes, carrots, baby peas in butter sauce, deviled eggs . . .

Okay, I'm out I've here. I've got to eat. I mean write.    


Cenendra said...

Currently I can't think of any questions. Your tips are so full and satisfying.

David Glenn said...

Secondary plot lines? I was thinking of maybe doing something like that in my next book. Would it be an example of a secondary plot if someone is, for example, off to slay a dragon while someone else stays home but ends up uncovering important information that character 1 needs? If not, what would it be?