Plotting Out Plotting @ 06:49 am
I never managed to write up yesterday class because: HEAT.
Our house is over a hundred years old and let's just say that a/c wasn't standard in 1911. We have a window unit, but we only have one. Choosing to put it in, means everyone crams into a tiny bedroom. We probably should have considered it this week, but at this point the effort to get it installed might melt us.
So, it's early morning and I thought I should at least recap a little. First of all, a young lady from my class came up afterwards to tell me about this: http://blogs.discovery.com/animal_news/2
After the great involvement of the cliché discussion I was anticipating a bit of what I call the "Bejeweled Blitz" phenomenon. The Blitz phenomenon is this: I used to play this iPad game that I could occasionally, through a combination of practice and luck, score crazy high scores on. I'd hit one awesome one, and the next one was not only never as good, but so bad it was almost embarrassing.
Class wasn't that bad, in fact, because I've finally gotten the students willing to just talk to me (teenagers, think about this miracle, people!) we managed to wrestle out some thoughts about plot. Plot, according to them, is what they struggle with more than anything. So, we talked some basics. I reminded them that, while people like to say so, plot is NOT "the action of the story." If that were true there'd be no such thing as a "gratuitous fight scene." Yet we've all read them. Plot is forward motion ON THEME. Plot has to answer the story's question, the what if? Or the 'will the alien invasion/zombie apocalypse be successful?
Plot isn't always big. It isn't always the wham-bam action. Sometimes it's the idea that hits our heroine while she's brushing her teeth THAT CHANGES EVERYTHING.
So, while I'm not sure I left my students with any tools to achieve that, I also explained that pacing and plot are so intertwined that it's almost impossible to separate them. If your pacing is off, it means your characters aren't addressing plot. Yes, they need sleep and downtime, but that doesn't mean plot isn't happening. You can create plot with the sense of the shoe ready to drop. If your readers have the plot question hanging over their heads (with worry!) and the scenes you write expand on theme, your pacing will never lag, even if, as a writer, you're sure it is.
My friend empty_mirrors and I talk about this all the time, because sometimes you have to slow down a story to explain a part of world-building in order for the action to make sense. The trick to those moments is remembering what the reader is worried about and putting in reminders that you haven't forgotten either. The thing that's looming (will anyone notice that our hero has slipped out into the night... coupled with I'm worried as a reader, since the consequences for being caught are so huge...) you can do your travel logging or whatever needs explaining. Especially if (and this is heavy handed but a fine example) our hero occasionally checks the time and does a risk analysis, ie. "I can spend ten more minutes, can't I?" Because the reader, if you've laid your groundwork should be shouting at the screen/page, "NO YOU CAN'T, YOU MORON, HE'S RIGHT ON YOUR HEELS!!" and thus tension, plot and pacing are created.
At least that's one theory.
The majority of the class was taken up by critique, because I'm insane... no, the thing is I truly believe in the power of peer review. It's important for the authority figure (me) to doll out praise and advice, but it's rewarding, IMHO, for the students who are critiquing to hear how their opinions might differ from the teachers and for the student being critiqued to hear patterns--because when everyone to a person says, "needs more description here," most people figure out that's a good indication that more description is needed there.
My students made me proud by being civil and communicative. I've decided that everything people say about teenagers is a lie. Or maybe nerd/geek/otaku kids are just my people, no matter what age.