Monday, February 10, 2014

Giving Plot to the Plotless Part 5: Plot vs. Extra

Last time we discussed love triangles and how they factored into the biggest switch in my friend and I's pet project. Well, now let's talk about fanfiction and its merits. This does have a connection to putting plot to the plotless so bare with me.

There’s a reason fanfiction is such a big deal. Because any good book has a world beneath the words on the page. A realm of characters not yet fully explored. A treasure trove of extra moments to make the reader laugh and cry. Books are like icebergs, only the very tip breaks the surface of a veritable ocean of other stories and characters. For this reason, I will debate the worth of fanfiction all day. Because it can change our perspective on the world we thought we knew and offer more depth to what was already there. Heck, even some of the most beloved stories, movies and musicals of all time are the fanfiction of classics (Wicked, anyone?).

So what does this have to do with giving plot to a pile of plotless scenes. Well, this project of ours had a lot of characters, scenes and alternate plot threads. And one of the challenges we faced when putting this jumble of words into a plot structure was figuring out which scenes to cut and which to keep. Which would be part of the main canon and which would remain little extras that only we knew about. Fanfiction, if you will.

You see, fanfiction often allows complete freedom. Alternate universes, non-canon pairings and pointless fluff are all free game. But with a novel, each scene and character needs to be intentional and important to a book with a distinctive arc. A set beginning, middle and end. Cramming what we had into this kind of mold meant some stuff needed to be cut.

Extra points of view, for instance. In a novel, too many points of view get confusing. It’s hard for the reader to form an emotional connection with one character when they keep on being thrust into the heads of several others. Some people can pull off multiple POVs well (Michael Grant and George R. R Martin come to mind) but most books with more than one POV stick with two or three. Maybe four or five if the author feels bold. So, a lot of scenes where only non-POV characters were present in our books had to be cut.

Back when we weren’t sure of the direction of our story, we also took a lot of experimental routes. These were paths we weren’t exactly sure of, and we wrote them mostly for fun. But when it came to the main plot, other, stronger plot lines had to take precedent. Its another sacrifice, but an easier one to make, especially when our experiments turned out a little goofy. (One of our villains turned good and went on a crusade to save stray cats, if that gives you a clue)

And there are a host of fluffy, fun scenes we wrote for the sole purpose of boredom that have to be cut because they don’t have a huge bearing on the plot. They're only there as a funny moment. Which is fine for fanfiction and fun, but in an actual novel, it slows the pacing to a dead halt.

So many things have to be taken into account in a novel. Pacing, arc, tone, character, structure. A lot of details and they become more apparent when you’re trying to stuff what is already written into the right structure. Its kind of like a puzzle. A fun and challenging puzzle with extra pieces thrown in to make things harder. Once the extra pieces are weeded out, the main puzzle goes together easier. It’s a challenge but its rewarding and fun.

So where does one go after weeding out the weaker scenes and establishing the framework and world for their story? Well, we're still on that journey. We're not at the finishing line yet.

Join me next time for the conclusion of this epic- Part 6: The Journey Goes On

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