Developing your plot line
Developing the detail of your character will help you arrive at your story. And discovering causality – what causes your character to do things or to be the way they are – will give you plot. But how do you develop that plot?
Keeping a writer’s notebook
What have you written in your writer’s notebook so far? Find out how other writers use theirs and how you can develop a ‘notebook habit’.
HOW YOU MIGHT USE YOUR NOTEBOOK
WHY TAKE NOTES AND WHAT TO NOTE
DIFFERENT APPROACHES TO RESEARCH
THE NOTEBOOK HABIT
Character and plot
A plot is not simply a story. It’s a succession of events with causality highlighted. Making use of the handy question ‘What if?’, you will now be developing your own plots.
WHAT IS PLOT?
DEVELOPING YOUR PLOT LINE
Ideas for stories
Ideas for the starting points for stories can come from many different directions. Even ordinary situations can seem extraordinary by a new or surprising insight.
HOOKED BY LINES AND IMAGES
HUNCHES THAT MATTER
WRITING ABOUT PERSONAL CONCERNS
REFLECTING ON CONCERNS AND IDEAS
EXTRAORDINARY VERSUS ORDINARY
SUMMARY OF WEEK 4
Learn through writing
If you don’t start to write you won’t write. It sounds like advice which is too obvious to repeat but many people talk a good story or book. Comparatively few begin.
Become your own best judge: the aim is to discover your kind of writing.
© The Open University
Generate something new
Beginning a new project should be made easier if you have been using your writer’s notebook frequently and wisely.
Ernest Hemingway said he could tell he’d had a really great day’s writing when even the work he threw away was good. The South African writer Nadine Gordimer describes how she ‘used to write three times as much as the work one finally reads.’
Have the courage to edit your own work, even when you might have spent time and energy in producing it. It’s better to have written ten drafts of a story and end up with something you are proud of, than to have had a great idea for a story, but let it go to waste by being nervous about setting it down in case it wasn’t perfect first time, or by thinking you need certain skills before you attempt it, or by ‘talking it away’.
Remember you don’t need to wait to be inspired. You can find all sorts of ways to begin writing, and you can then reflect on what you have written later and start to do the work of selecting what to keep and what to edit out.
After you have written a first draft, interrogate your writing using this editing checklist. Remember that the aim in editing is in many ways the aim in writing: clarity of expression.
- Is it what you meant to say, really?
- Have you found the best way to convey it?
- Would a particular event really have happened that way?
- Would a particular character definitely use that expression or turn of phrase?
- Does an idea or scene really belong where you’ve put it, or would the piece be better if that element was cut? Could it be used elsewhere, or on another occasion?
- What’s missing from your story? Details or background information?
- Is there enough to engage your reader?
- Do events occur in the best order and are significant events given enough weight, or are they lost beneath less important things? If so, is that what you intended?
- Does it read too slow, or too fast?
- Overall, does the writing convey the right tone – does it create the mood you hoped for?
© The Open University
I love this course.
WEEK 1: STARTING TO WRITE FICTION
WEEK 2: THE HABIT OF WRITING
What works best for you?
There’s no right way to write; only the one that’s best for you. This will be a matter of trial and error.
- Do you work best late at night, or early in the morning? Do you prefer silence or does music help?
- Do you need coffee?
- Would you want to write in bed (some writers do)?
- Would a café or library be better for you?
Heightening your observations
Sometimes, the best inspiration comes after the first line, or more likely still, after writing a few pages
Remember: once you’ve reached the end, you can always go back and ‘add on’ or improve your beginning.
WEEK 3: WRITING IS EDITING
Rereading, reviewing and rewriting your work are crucial and often ongoing activities.
- Do the characters come across vividly?
- Is any of your word usage surprising? Does it help the reader to ‘see’ the characters?
- Now that you look at it again do you think any of the descriptions are predictable and dull?
- Are any of the words and phrases you have used too familiar?
© The Open University
- Identify a monthly and weekly focus.
- Set monthly and weekly tasks.
- Celebrate monthly and weekly accomplishments.
- Track your weekly word count.
- Create weekly personal, work, and project to-do lists.
- Be inspired by quotes from famous authors and writers.
I got as much for the option as I did for writing one of the books, and I discovered that being a book author caused people to respect me much more than if I was a mere screenwriter.
Since my Hollywood book came out, I’ve discovered that top-level people in Hollywood will read my material, with or without agent representation. And, since I have a proven track record in selling both books and scripts, I don’t lose my career if the Writers Guild chooses to strike. I’ll just write another book.
If I teach a class, do a lecture, or give a seminar, I tell writers to write whatever they are passionate about. To sell it, they only need to know the rules of the particular game they’ve chosen to play. When you know the rules, any game is easier to win.