Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Plot Thickens

First, let me introduce myself: I’m Tina Folsom and I am romance author with a background in screenwriting. And that’s exactly where my strengths lie. While other authors can turn beautiful phrases – and I get intensely envious about it – I instead ask myself things like:

·       Where are my turning points?
·       What’s my sequence climax?
·       What’s my inciting incident?
·       Where’s the dark moment?
·       Do I have sex at 60?

Hold it, sex at 60, you’re asking? Trust me, it’s not what you think. Really, it’s not.

Let me explain: it all has to do with the movies. When movies used to be about 2 hours long and there was a break in the middle of it for the projectionist to change the reels (or so I think the story goes – not that I actually remember that – I’m not THAT old!), there had to be a strong significant scene in the middle for people to come back after the break. It’s called the midpoint – and in romance it’s been adapted to “sex at 60”, which means there’s got to be a sex scene at 60 minutes into the movie, or in case of a book at about 200 pages into the book (for a 400 page book).

Try it out for yourself: go to a book store and pick up a romance novel. Open it roughly in the middle, give or take a few pages, and in many cases you’ll find a sex scene there, or at least a very hot emotional or physical scene. But I digress.

Let me tell you more about plotting and why all these things are important even in a book, not just a movie.

Like plays and movies, books inherently have three acts, with Act II being about double as long as Act I, and Act III slightly shorter than Act I. The American public has become so accustomed to the way movies are structured that this expectation has transferred to books. We expect certain things to happen at certain times. We want climaxes, multiple ones at certain intervals.

And that’s how I write my novels: I start with a grid showing me my three acts or eight sequences (2 of Act I, 4 for Act II, and 2 for Act III), and then I pop scene cards into each sequence and plot out my book.

Over the next few months I’ll be giving you more insight into my process of writing a novel, but in the meantime, visit Alexandra Sokoloff’s blog  - she is a great teacher and author, and many of the things I’m talking about today and will talk about in the future, I’ve learned from her. Others she’s refreshed for me, since my studies of screenwriting in LA date back to 2001. Any writer who finds they have difficulties with plotting and structure should definitely read some of Alex’s articles. They are worth their weight in gold.

That’s all, folks! See you in a month!

Tina Folsom
Author of the Scanguards Vampires series


HPMallory said...

Awesome post, Tina. I had not heard that before but it makes total sense. Off to check out that link...

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