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Braiding Your Story with Laurie Schnebly Campbell

Posted By Carrie Spencer On August 29, 2014 @ 12:04 am In Plot/Structure,Scene Construction,Weekly Lecture Schedule | 98 Comments

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Grab yourself a cup of coffee and snuggle up next to your computer/smartphone/laptop and read this excellent article by my favorite VP – Laurie Schnebly Campbell.

What makes a story braided?

At first glance that seems easy to answer. A braid has three parts, right? So a braided story has…well, let’s see:

Past, present and future.

Hero, heroine, villain.

 

 

chess

Actions, emotions, thoughts.

Goal, motivation, conflict.

Dialogue, description, narrative.

brushes

Protagonist, antagonist, sidekick.

Place, time and culture.

Plot, character and…

books

…and fill in the blank.

Every single one of these answers is correct. Your book might not have all three items listed in each braid, but I’ll bet you’ve covered quite a few of these trios.

Which Ones Matter Most?

That depends on what you’re writing. In some books, the place & time & culture are vital to the story. If you’re creating a world which isn’t familiar to readers, they’ll love all the juicy details about a WWII vampire battalion or the Australian outback or life in a medieval castle.

castle

In some books, the setting is incidental but readers are drinking in every moment of the romance. What’s the hero thinking-feeling-doing? Why does the heroine refuse to go shopping for wedding rings? Who’s going to change their mind first, and when, and how?

rings

In some books, various braids come into play but their elements are nowhere near equal.

A story featuring dialogue, description and narrative might place far more emphasis on the dialogue because the author knows that’s what readers enjoy most.

A story featuring a protagonist, antagonist and sidekick might spend less time on the sidekick because the first two characters are just so compelling.

cooks

And that’s fine. The only problem comes when…

 

The Braid Is Off Balance.

We’ve all seen books where that happens. A secondary character, who’s nowhere near as interesting as the main one, gets far too much space on the page.

Or we’re in the midst of a gripping scene where the hero’s about to reveal his big secret and then we digress for five paragraphs about the aroma of his Merlot.

.

wine

Or the heroine does something random that, based on everything we know about her, flat-out doesn’t make sense.

Or the plot meanders from one unrelated point to another, with no clue as to why any of these events matter.

 

What’s Happened?

 

The braid is unraveling.

So how do we keep it together, with all the elements balanced the way they should be for our readers to stay up until after midnight?

clock

(Although all of us who’ve spent an entire day groggy after reading a fabulous book know that’s not necessarily the greatest gift an author can give!)

For some writers, there’s no effort required to keep the braid perfectly balanced. They know instinctively how much emphasis to place on each element, so readers never get confused or bored or annoyed. Those writers don’t need to plan anything. Like this horseman — whose photo I couldn’t match to any particular hero but I hated to waste it so he gets to make his appearance here — they’re doing it all by feel.

horse

And as long as their instinct holds true, they continue to satisfy readers with book after book after book.

Other writers use a variety of techniques to keep the project balanced. It’s like building any project, which you see in progress by this OTHER potential hero whose photo I also hated to waste…whether you start from the top or bottom, eventually all the other parts will have to be filled in.

construction

And by using tricks like the Rule of Five, those writers manage to keep their story flowing beautifully, with exactly the right amount of tension between each one of their strands.

Either way works fine, because they’ve got a good idea what their three strands should be…even though, of course, those strands are different for every writer.

So that leads to a:

 

Prize-Drawing Question For You

What do you view as the three most important strands in braiding YOUR book? You can choose from any of the trios listed up top, or identify something else altogether. There’s no right or wrong answer; it’s a question of what works best for you. What three elements make your story thrive?

plants

Anyone who answers with that exact number of things — no more, no less — will go into tonight’s prize drawing for free registration to my class on Your Plot-Character-Story Braid…which begins on Monday. (Nothing like short notice, right?)

Laurie, who’ll post the winner tonight so you won’t have to wait long to find out!

***

What do you view as the three most important strands in braiding YOUR book? You can choose from any of the trios listed up top, or identify something else altogether. There’s no right or wrong answer; it’s a question of what works best for you. What three elements make your story thrive?

Join us on Tuesday for Power-up World Building through Point of View with Anna Steffl.

***

Bio: Laurie Schnebly Campbell always loves teaching a brand-new class, so when a writer asked about “braiding” she was delighted at the chance to explore an untouched subject starting September 1 at WriterUniv.com’s http://bit.ly/BraidClass [2]. Although she enjoyed braiding her own books, including one that beat out Nora Roberts for “Best Special Edition of the Year,” she enjoys teaching even more. That’s why she now has 15 novels on her bookshelf with acknowledgments from authors inspired by her classes!

 

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98 Comments To "Braiding Your Story with Laurie Schnebly Campbell"

#1 Comment By Angelina Rice On August 29, 2014 @ 6:25 am

Lovely post, Laurie! For me the three most important strands are plot, character and conflict. I always start with the characters in my mind — their flaws, fears, desires — their back-stories. I make sure the central conflict element rears its ugly head as early in the story as possible. The messier, the better. The plot usually builds from there. But yeah, I have seen that braid unravel before my eyes quite a few times. That dreadful moment when the story stalls and I have to go back to the beginning to investigate where the strands started to ravel out.

#2 Comment By Taylor Reynolds On August 29, 2014 @ 7:30 am

I like the concept of braiding! Thank you for an intriguing post, Laurie.

I’d say my top three are character development, plot and craft. If I lose any of those, I lose my story.

#3 Comment By Carrie Spencer On August 29, 2014 @ 7:47 am

Morning Laurie!

I’m old school…lol….I always try to braid Goal Motivation and Conflict. That was one of the first books I read while trying to learn to write – still trying! – and it’s stuck with me.

And boy, can you tell when the storyline is coming unbraided – it might be a few paragraphs before you realize it, but suddenly you shake your head and think what?? what just happened here?

And yes, too many nights spent staying up late, reading. I ADORE the author while I”m reading, but the next morning…not so much. =)

What’s the Rule of Five? Inquiring minds want to know!

Thanks for another great post Laurie!

#4 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 29, 2014 @ 8:06 am

Angelina, it’s hard to imagine a better start to the morning than reading a comment that begins “Lovely post, Laurie” — thank you! And building your plot from the characters and their conflict makes sense, although the image of strands starting to ravel out is haunting…

#5 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 29, 2014 @ 8:08 am

Taylor, I’m impressed — I never even thought of craft as a potential strand of the braid, and yet that IS essential because otherwise the story would never come through. Kind of like the ability to breathe, I suppose, but a whole lot more targeted to writing!

#6 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 29, 2014 @ 8:10 am

Carrie, I remember reading Goal Motivation Conflict and you’re right, Debra Dixon’s book is a classic! (Although not the kind that keeps us awake until 3am, thank goodness.) Rule of Five is the five touch-points along two of the strands…boy, this really IS a Numbers Day. :)

#7 Comment By Vicki Reid On August 29, 2014 @ 8:39 am

Great post, Laurie. Nice way to start my morning.

My three would be plot, character, and universe or culture, depending on whether I’m writing futuristic or historical romance. Losing my grip on any one of these elements leads to a big tangled mess.

#8 Comment By Yolanda Robinson On August 29, 2014 @ 8:42 am

“Braiding” – What a great way to describe the blending of plot, characters, setting, conflict and all the other ingredients that make up the story. I’m not sure what makes my story thrive, but I can tell you the three things that I find most difficult to balance out – dialogue, description, narrative. I seem to always end up with too much of one and too little of the others.

#9 Comment By Roz Fox On August 29, 2014 @ 8:47 am

I love this concept. I remember thinking once it was like weaving to get character and plot threads pulled together. I see you’re giving a special event workshop in Tucson in 2015–really looking forward to it.

#10 Comment By Mercy On August 29, 2014 @ 8:49 am

What a great post, Laurie. I really enjoyed reading the various braids you pointed out. For me, it would be past, present, and future, because it’s how I think when I’m plotting a novel. What happened in the past that makes for the present situation, and where do I see their future. It gives me a good idea for GMC then, something I struggled with.

#11 Comment By Julia Mozingo On August 29, 2014 @ 8:52 am

Hi Laurie,

How synchronous! Lately I’ve also been delving into the study of story braids, and for now, the three braids that have captured my attention are external, internal, and relationship. Thanks for the great post.

#12 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 29, 2014 @ 8:54 am

Vicki, I like your idea of universe / culture as the third strand — because that not only plays into what’s made the characters who they are, but also into what kind of society is enabling the plot elements to happen. Plus, of course, the VERY colorful setting…

#13 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 29, 2014 @ 8:55 am

Yolanda, you’re sure not alone in finding it tricky to balance the dialogue and description and narrative. The fact that you don’t always wind up with too much of the same one is good, though, because it shows you’re equally comfortable in all three areas!

#14 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 29, 2014 @ 8:57 am

Roz, the image of weaving is a great one — I like how many threads you can fit into a woven piece, as compared to just three in a braid. (Maybe that’s the advanced version?) And how cool that you’ll be at the Tucson event; it’ll be fun seeing you there!

#15 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 29, 2014 @ 9:00 am

Mercy, I’ll bet you’re one of those people I envy who’s mastered the art of living in the moment. That’s such a great traits, being able to make use of the past and envision the future while staying focused on the here & now, and it sounds like that’s what your books DO. :)

#16 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 29, 2014 @ 9:03 am

Julia, wow, I never thought of those strands either — external, internal and relationship makes for a lovely trio. (Especially for romance writers.) I remember hearing romance is hardest to write because it involves His, Her and Their story, but it makes a great braid!

#17 Comment By Ruth Dell On August 29, 2014 @ 9:03 am

Hi Laurie.

Thanks for an interesting post, love the term braiding.

My three are foreshadowing, anticipation and revelation.

#18 Comment By Carol Opalinski On August 29, 2014 @ 9:05 am

Great post, Laurie. The Rule of Five sounds fascinating. Looking forward to learning more.

Not sure if this combo makes for a good braid or not but to me the three most important things are: dialogue, emotions and conflict.

#19 Comment By Bernice Russell On August 29, 2014 @ 9:11 am

Laurie, this was a marvelous post. But then, all of your posts are thought-provoking.
I’m a panster, so the characters always come first. I base my entire story on the protagonist, antagonist and sidekick relationship.

#20 Comment By Shannyn Schroeder On August 29, 2014 @ 9:15 am

Although I utilize a lot of the things you talked about, for me, I think it boils down to dialogue, emotion, thought because my books tend to be far more character driven than plot driven. Every book starts with character for me, so their dialogue, thoughts, and emotions drive everything.

#21 Comment By Tabatha Musgrove On August 29, 2014 @ 9:23 am

Hi Laurie!
Love the concept of braiding.
The three most important things in my writing are:
Goal – Motivation – Conflict
Carry on with the super helpful blogs and workshops.
Tabatha

#22 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 29, 2014 @ 9:30 am

Ruth, that’s a great twist on past-present-future — you’re thinking from the character’s perspective and the reader’s perspective as well as the writer’s. And I like how each of those participants has a slightly different take on the three elements…fun stuff.

#23 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 29, 2014 @ 9:32 am

Carol, your latest editor-requests and contest wins show the dialogue / emotions / conflict combo DOES make for a good braid! And it’ll be fun having you in next month’s class, not only for the Rule of Five but all kinds of other…hmm, is there a better word than Stuff?

#24 Comment By Tracy P On August 29, 2014 @ 9:33 am

Ah, the power of three. I’d never looked at it this way to see all the groupings. THANKS! And I’d like to have braids on both sides of my head (and maybe down the middle) to pick more than one (I’m greedy that way) but I’ll take Plot, Characters, and Craft. If any of those are weak, you story braid is out of balance and loses appeal.

#25 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 29, 2014 @ 9:34 am

Bernice, thanks for such a great review — I wish I could quote you on a T-shirt. :) And for a character-focused writer, it makes perfect sense to base your entire story on those three primary characters…interesting that they always include a sidekick!

#26 Comment By Rhea Dixon On August 29, 2014 @ 9:34 am

I usually start with the inciting incident in mind which leads to the conflict and then scenes and finally leaves me to decide on which characters would best fit. I focus on 3 levels of conflict and the right balance between them: external conflict, internal conflict and interactional conflict.

#27 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 29, 2014 @ 9:36 am

Shannyn, I can see how — if you’ve got good dialogue and thoughts and emotion — the plot doesn’t have to be much of an issue. After all, what more do we really need to KNOW about these people as long as we get what they’re thinking and feeling and saying?

#28 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 29, 2014 @ 9:38 am

Tabatha, I’m delighted by your description of “super helpful” — thanks! And you’ve chosen what I think might be the most frequently used trio, because it’s hard to beat a system that’s been used so successfully by so many writers over the years.

#29 Comment By Heidi Hormel On August 29, 2014 @ 9:39 am

Being the contrarian that I can be, my first thought was not all braids have just three strands ( [9]) :-) But then I read the rules, settled myself down, and came up with three:

1. Conflict
2. Setting
3. Secondary characters

I figure the conflict is really all about the hero/heroine; since I do small-town and/or Western-type stories setting is important — almost its own character; and I definitely have to have friends, family, pets, wild animals, etc. Once I have all of those, I sort of layer in the goals and motivation. Now, I’m picturing my story as a crazy, long French braid with pretty little turquoise and apple green ribbon accents. Too much?

#30 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 29, 2014 @ 9:39 am

Tracy, I’m envisioning a cornrows hairstyle — maybe THAT would provide enough choices to have all the possible elements. :) But you’ve sure done a great job with just the three you picked; I keep seeing strong P & C & C in everything you write!

#31 Comment By Margie Hall On August 29, 2014 @ 9:41 am

I love the idea of story braiding. I guess for me it would be setting, character and conflict. I have always felt the setting as a silent character that anchors the story, of course I’m more of a visual writer.

Great post, it really got me thinking :)

~Margie

#32 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 29, 2014 @ 9:42 am

Rhea, it sounds like you’ve got a good system worked out — starting with the inciting incident and ending with the people would scare more character-focused writers, but I’m betting your attention to the external / internal / interactional conflict makes it work just fine.

#33 Comment By Cecilia Webb On August 29, 2014 @ 9:43 am

Really loved learning the various braids you pointed out. My three strands are Plot, Character and Setting.

#34 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 29, 2014 @ 9:44 am

Heidi, I can totally picture you wearing that style — you’re one of the few people I know who could carry it off! And you’re smart to choose the three elements that work best for your kind of book, because even if that trio wouldn’t suit a mystery writer, it sure suits you. :)

#35 Comment By Marcia On August 29, 2014 @ 9:45 am

Hey, Laurie, love reading all your posts…your simplistic wording makes them easy to digest and makes learning fun! My braid would be (since I write romance) internal, external and emotional outcome. I think this would keep me up nights. And yes, I fought to stay awake during the reading of GMC!!!

#36 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 29, 2014 @ 9:46 am

Margie, being a visual writer makes you extra good with setting — not to mention designing your book covers, which is a nice bonus. And you’re right that in your stories, it actually DOES work as a silent character, which (by the way) is a lovely description!

#37 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 29, 2014 @ 9:49 am

Cecilia, you’ve got some classics there — and I’m always impressed by writers who can make setting work as effecively as plot and character. (Bet you can tell I’m not one of ‘em, right?) It sounds like you can emphasize each strand as needed, and I sure admire that ability.

#38 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 29, 2014 @ 9:51 am

Marcia, what a kick to think of learning made fun — I love that! And good for you on identifying the braid strands that keep YOU up nights, because if it’s not fun to write then what’s the point of all that work? Much better to create stories that keep you engrossed. :)

#39 Comment By Delores Wilkinson On August 29, 2014 @ 10:00 am

Hi Laurie.
I like to write psychological mysteries and from time to time I find myself obsessing over the optimal proportion of Actions,
Reactions and Emotions in my scenes. You know… things like how does a particular sentiment manifest itself in the writing or what is the emotional follow-through to a failure or disaster in the character’s life.

#40 Comment By Sandra On August 29, 2014 @ 10:09 am

Character, suspense, romance

Those are my three focuses. I guess I consider the plot/story a combination of the romance and suspense. Plus, I don’t start with a plot. I start with a character who gives me a suspense element while another character kicks in and says, “hey, he/she is hot.”

I know, I’m strange, but it make writing fun for me. Great post, Laurie.

#41 Comment By Leanna Ellis On August 29, 2014 @ 10:29 am

Goal, motivation, and conflict work for me. Great post!

#42 Comment By Michael Mock On August 29, 2014 @ 10:46 am

I just finished reading a writing-process post that particularly intrigued me: [10] That’s not how it works for me, but it’s interesting that for that author (Steven Brust), it’s the pacing of the dialogue that tells him when the plot needs to move along.

My current braid is probably Hero, Heroine, and… I’m not sure whether to say “setting” or “magic”, since the magic is the most interesting part of the setting.

#43 Comment By Lizzie Simon On August 29, 2014 @ 10:46 am

Lovely post, Laurie.
I am tempted to say Dialogue, dialogue and dialogue but if I Had to choose three, I would say, Dialogue, Setting and Conflict. But dialogue is the deal-breaker for me. When I’m reading a book, fresh, humorous, provocative yet unexpected dialogue is what keeps me turning those pages. It’s a major buzz-kill when authors miss the balance between dialogue and exposition.

#44 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 29, 2014 @ 10:59 am

Delores, I love your phrasing — “obsessing over the optimal proportion” sounds wonderfully scientific. And the combination of actions, reactions and emotions makes very good sense; it’s an expanded version of good old scene & sequel with a lot more depth!

#45 Comment By Ingrid Fletcher On August 29, 2014 @ 11:00 am

Hi Laurie!
Wonderful post. Would love to know more about Rule of Five. I’ve always been a sucker for romances. It’s what I like to read, it’s what I like to watch, it’s what I like to write. Unsurprisingly, my pet three are Hero, Heroine and Villain. The villain needn’t always be a person though – just something standing between the hero and the heroine.
Best,
Ingrid

#46 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 29, 2014 @ 11:02 am

Sandra, it sounds like you’ve got a winning combination for romantic suspense…who can resist a character saying “hey, he/she is hot”? And starting from character might make it easier to let the suspense and romance develop at the same pace, which is a Very Good Thing.

#47 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 29, 2014 @ 11:03 am

Leanna, it’s tough to beat a combination like that — as far as I can tell, GMC is the only trio that’s made its way into writing vocabulary as a set of initials everyone recognizes. Well, maybe WIP and HEA, but those sure don’t qualify as braids!

#48 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 29, 2014 @ 11:06 am

Michael, you always contribute SUCH interesting links — I know where I’m going during my next break. And since magic qualifies as part of your setting, I’d vote for using Hero / Heroine / Setting as your braid strands…after all, they each have more than one element!

#49 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 29, 2014 @ 11:08 am

Lizzie, isn’t it a treat when an author totally NAILS the dialogue? (And a major turn-off when the dialogue doesn’t seem to go anywhere, or all the characters talk the same.) Whereas we hardly ever hear anyone raving about exposition…go figure. :)

#50 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 29, 2014 @ 11:10 am

Ingrid, see Carrie’s response re Five, and I like your take on the villain not needing to be a person — if it can be false pride or a sense of duty or fear of intimacy or all KINDS of other internal things, that’s very cool! (Hmm, external things might include a brick wall…)

#51 Comment By Talia Pente On August 29, 2014 @ 11:18 am

Since I’m currently writing an alternate universe fantasy, I would have to say this is my braid (in no particular order:

1. Worldbuilding – as an alternate world and one with magic inherent to it, it’s essential to ground the reader in this twist on what they know. I include the magic system under this heading, too.

2. Structure – as in story structure. If your story structure is good and you hit all your beats really well, you can work with characters that aren’t quite “deep.” This depends on the genre expectation, though.

3. Character – especially in the romance genre because the expectation is that the story is character-centric. Also, if the reader does not connect with the character on some level, you are making things way harder on yourself than need be.

#52 Comment By Michael Mock On August 29, 2014 @ 11:19 am

I need to fill in more about the antagonist(s), but the way I’ve been going so far it looks like I’m treating them as part of the setting – so basically I’m balancing hero, heroine, and a setting that includes both magic and a massive invading army that’s about to overrun everything.

#53 Comment By Lillian Oakley On August 29, 2014 @ 11:21 am

Thanks for a great post, Laurie, as always. For me, it comes down to character, conflict and dialogue. I lose one, I lose all.

#54 Comment By Nicky Cairns On August 29, 2014 @ 11:50 am

I always find it fascinating to see how other people approach writing. This is a really riveting question you’ve asked, Laurie. For me, the most significant strands are Plot – Setting – Character.
I don’t like to work from a detailed outline but starting out I have an adequate idea of where I want the story to go. I love penning descriptions but I have to be heedful not to overdo it ( I understand that bums out a lot of people). Once I’ve built my world, I populate it with characters — the ones that I think would take me where I would like to end up. The scare comes when midway into my novel my characters don’t tally with me. Things start getting off course and the story conks. I have to turn back to re-braid things, find out where a character’s motivation doesn’t make enough sense or where the plot may be tweaked to fit with the character’s temper. Your post made a few things fall into place. Thanks!

#55 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 29, 2014 @ 12:01 pm

Well, as long as Massive Invading Army doesn’t need any character development, it sounds like you’re doing just fine! If they’re inspired by some particular antagonist, though, that’s a whole ‘mother ball game…

#56 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 29, 2014 @ 12:32 pm

Talia, good point about the strands not coming in any particular order — probably if they DID, it would mean that one’s out of balance with the others. Which makes for kind of a lopsided braid. Still, it’s intriguing to think about which of the three matters most…if any does.

#57 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 29, 2014 @ 12:34 pm

Lillian, that must make it easier to know when you’re on the right track…no “well, THIS isn’t working but THAT’S just fine.” So you save time knowing right off the bat, if one of ‘em has fallen down on the job, so have the rest. Not a good moment, maybe, but very efficient!

#58 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 29, 2014 @ 12:36 pm

Nicky, I’m so glad some things fell into place — that’s always nice to see happen. And it’s good to know what to watch for when things go off course; seems like the problem always starts with the characters. Which means you don’t need to worry about plot & setting, right? :)

#59 Comment By Kathleen Rice Adams On August 29, 2014 @ 12:38 pm

I burst out laughing at this line: “Like this horseman — whose photo I couldn’t match to any particular hero but I hated to waste it so he gets to make his appearance here…” That is SO Laurie! :-D

The Rule of Five? Did I miss something in one of your classes? (That’s entirely possible, depending on how much coffee I’d had — or hadn’t had — that day.) I’m familiar with the Rule of Three, but now I’m champing at the bit (like that horse up there ;-) ) to know what the Rule of Five is!

I hadn’t thought about story elements in terms of braids until you mentioned it…so now I suppose there’s another class I need to take. :-) My three elements usually are plot, character, and setting, but all those other things you listed tend to fall under those three biggies. Emotion, thought, and dialogue fall under character; action, narrative, and conflict fall under plot; time, place, and culture fall under setting. No wonder my stories are so tangled! Look at all those braids within braids! GAH!

If you’ll pardon me, I must go in search of a brush now… ;-)

Good to see you again, Laurie!

#60 Comment By Michael Mock On August 29, 2014 @ 12:40 pm

Well… the Massive Invading Army needs some development, obviously, but I think the reader can learn more about it at the same time that the hero and heroine do. Seems to be working so far, anyway.

#61 Comment By Becke Martin Davis On August 29, 2014 @ 1:11 pm

What a great concept – very visual! Thanks so much for this helpful post!

#62 Comment By Lia On August 29, 2014 @ 1:20 pm

Great post. Thanks.
Heroine
Hero
Villain
Are the strands of the braid for my WiP.
Keeping them tightly bound together is proving to be the biggest challenge.

#63 Comment By Brenda Pandos On August 29, 2014 @ 1:23 pm

I know I have lots of drama, adventure and snappy dialog in my stories, but when something is off, I have trouble figuring out what exactly. And I love your classes, Laurie, so teach me some new tricks! :)

#64 Comment By Charlotte Raby On August 29, 2014 @ 1:35 pm

Hey Laurie! Great discussion! I tried to come up with something unique, based on my works in progress, but it always boils down to past, present, and future. Whatever the chracters have experienced in the past will affect their deciisons and reactions now (to the present) and that will also affect where they end up in the future!

#65 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 29, 2014 @ 2:11 pm

Kathleen, I’m glad you appreciated the horseman — isn’t he wonderful? He could sure fit into one of your Westerns, right? (Hint, hint.) And no, you haven’t missed anything because the Rule of Five is new…no need to go smacking your forehead. (Unless it’s with the brush…)

#66 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 29, 2014 @ 2:13 pm

Becke, you’ve gotta be a visual writer — I never even thought of that applying to the concept, and we already know I’m NOT a visual writer. (I’ll bet people never ask you, the way they do me, “So, um…what do these characters actually LOOK like?” Color me envious!)

#67 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 29, 2014 @ 2:15 pm

Lia, the idea of a hero / heroine / villain tightly bound together immediately makes me think of the old railroad-tracks scenario…although that might not be in your book at all. But you’re right that juggling all three can be challenging, no matter WHAT happens to ‘em. :)

#68 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 29, 2014 @ 2:18 pm

Brenda, you’ve got a good trio already at work — I suspect that’s what keeps your stories so readable. As for new tricks, hmm…let’s just let go of the “old dogs” imagery right now, okay? and focus on how incredibly easy those are to learn!

#69 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 29, 2014 @ 2:20 pm

Charlotte, there sure doesn’t have to be anything unique in your braid for it to work — past and present and future are absolutely fine! Even more so with stories like yours, come to think of it, which aren’t always grounded solely in the familiar here and now…

#70 Comment By Natalie On August 29, 2014 @ 2:43 pm

Hi Laurie, wonderfully woven post, as usual ;0)
Since my strongest suit is plotting, sprinkled with the natural taste for intrigue, and since you’ve asked for only three strands, I think for me the major trio is hope, fear and subtext.

#71 Comment By Kathleen Rice Adams On August 29, 2014 @ 3:06 pm

Now there’s an idea: foreheadbrush! Much more intriguing than the traditional facepalm and headdesk.

As for hunky heroes with horses? I’m always on the lookout for those. Do you mind if I rustle that one? ;-)

#72 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 29, 2014 @ 3:13 pm

Natalie, wow, talk about an intriguing trio — good for you on not being confined to one tray of jewels when you can explore so many others! I like how all three of those elements can apply with equal intensity to the reader AND the characters…very cool thinking.

#73 Comment By Liz On August 29, 2014 @ 4:56 pm

Great post, Laurie! I love the idea of story braiding–hmm, for me, the three would have to be:
Characters, Emotion, Obstacles

At least for today!

#74 Comment By Janet Ch. On August 29, 2014 @ 5:00 pm

Hi Laurie. This has really made me think. For me ( I write character led romances) the three elements would be character-change, emotion and conflict.
Wondering now what that rule of five is. :)

#75 Comment By Laurie Logan On August 29, 2014 @ 5:02 pm

Loved your post and am intrigued with the idea of story braiding. I’ve been thinking while reading the comments and keep coming back to diologue, description, and action. And I’m with you, I love back to school time. It gives me an excuse to buy a cool new notebook and a pen or two! :)

#76 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 29, 2014 @ 5:04 pm

Liz, I like your “at least for today” disclaimer — because it’s so true how our favorite tools can change from book to book! Heck, sometimes even from chapter to chapter, although if it gets into a from-sentence-to-sentence change that might be a bit excessive… :)

#77 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 29, 2014 @ 5:06 pm

Janet, I’ll bet you follow that rule of five without even being consciously aware of it — although every writer sure DOES follow their own special favorites to make sure everything’s going smoothly. And for your character-led romances, you’ve picked a great trio!

#78 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 29, 2014 @ 5:08 pm

Laurie, what fun to find another back-to-school fan — it’d be such a kick if we crossed paths in the school supplies aisle this weekend! And it seems pretty safe to figure that’d make a perfect narrative in which to include dialogue, description and action besides…A+.

#79 Comment By Sable J On August 29, 2014 @ 5:18 pm

Fabulous post, Laurie! And timely, too! I’m currently reworking a story (4 years after setting it aside *groan*) and the braid has unravelled entirely. EEP!

Anyhow, My three strands are Conflict, Character, and Voice.

#80 Comment By Patti Garrett On August 29, 2014 @ 5:43 pm

Goal, motivation, conflict.

#81 Comment By Sara On August 29, 2014 @ 6:13 pm

I really enjoyed your post! My three would be what the character wants, why he/she wants it, and what’s stopping him/her.

#82 Comment By Jacquie Biggar On August 29, 2014 @ 7:14 pm

Great post Laurie, lots of interesting braids. I think for me my main three would be, Concept, character, and conflict. Looking forward to the next class, :)

#83 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 29, 2014 @ 7:28 pm

Sable, I’m sorry about your unraveled story…that’s no fun, drat it! But after four years, you’ve probably already seen how much better it’ll be this time around, especially with your braid including conflict, character and voice — a good one I haven’t see mentioned yet.

#84 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 29, 2014 @ 7:29 pm

Patti, you get my vote for Most Direct Answer — that sure works, and I’ll bet there are at least a dozen people reading the posts today who are nodding right along with you in viewing GMC as the classic “can’t do without” elements for a novel!

#85 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 29, 2014 @ 7:31 pm

Sara, I’m so glad you enjoyed it! And I like your take on what they want, why they want it and what’s stopping ‘em, because that’s a different twist on the standard goal-motivation-conflict which makes it just a little bit more colloquial and easy to keep track of. :)

#86 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 29, 2014 @ 7:33 pm

Jacquie, I’m right there with you in liking CCC AND looking forward to the next class — only 62 hours to go! (Okay, counting down the hours might be a tad compulsive.) But I can’t wish for it to start any sooner because that’d mean missing Labor Day weekend!

#87 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 29, 2014 @ 10:01 pm

AND OUR WINNER IS…

I’m not sure if I’m supposed to announce this or wait for RU to do it…

…but, being a total wuss who wants an early bedtime for launching the three-day weekend, I didn’t want to fall asleep before the promised prize-announcement.

So, the random-org winner of free registration to “Your Plot-Character-Story Braid” at WriterUniv.com is the 24th person to post, Lizzie Simon.

Congratulations, Lizzie, and you can reach me at the email which matches my website BookLaurie — just add @gmail.com to the end of that.

Thanks to EVERYBODY who posted today…I love all the wonderful threesomes that came in!

Laurie, hoping all of you who celebrate Labor Day weekend this weekend have already started enjoying it

#88 Comment By Mabel Holloway On August 30, 2014 @ 12:43 am

Lovely post, Laurie! I guess I missed the drawing. Congratulations to the winner! Any-who… my three strands are G-M-C: goal motivation conflict. Often the simplest things are the most essential ones to get right.

#89 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 30, 2014 @ 10:51 am

Mabel, you’re so right about the simplest things being the most essential. (And often the most difficult, which doesn’t seem exactly fair.) But maybe the fact that they ARE the simplest is a good thing, because nailing those is really all it takes for a good, successful book!

#90 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 30, 2014 @ 10:59 am

Oops, sorry I missed this yesterday — and by all means, rustle that hero & horse! Every photo on this blog came from freestockphotos.biz, which is fabulous for totally free (& rights-free) visuals, and this one is at [11]

#91 Comment By Yoxani On August 30, 2014 @ 4:11 pm

Hi Laurie, I personally think that the 3 main parts are: character, plot , and good description of the story to deliver the right message to the reader.

#92 Comment By anna steffl On August 30, 2014 @ 6:19 pm

Fascinating. I decided to look at the way I construct a scene and it does come down to three processes.
1. Conflict (know it mentally and then use everything to support it)
2. Dialog
3. Setting through POV character

#93 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 30, 2014 @ 6:38 pm

Yoxani, those three main parts sound like very good things to include in your braid — readers want good descriptions of the characters so they’ll know who they’re rooting for / against, and of plot events for that same reason, and description of setting/etc is a bonus.

#94 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 30, 2014 @ 6:40 pm

Anna, what a good idea to look at how you construct a scene — it makes sense that you’ve followed the processes that work best for your books, even without consciously stopping to think about what they are and how many there might be. Cool that it IS three!

#95 Comment By Carrie Spencer On September 1, 2014 @ 7:21 pm

One more post I received this via email…

Hi,
My story would be “past, present and future” braid. It is a Jane Austen style time travel novella. Thank you for the great writing advice, it makes perfect sense how you explained it.
TTFN,
Mike

#96 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On September 2, 2014 @ 3:48 am

Mike, I’m glad the braid concept makes sense — it’s always nice to hear when something worked! And your mention of Jane Austen-style time travel is intriguing; that’s a fun combination. :)

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[3] Weekly Lecture Schedule August 25-29: http://romanceuniversity.org/2014/08/24/weekly-lecture-schedule-august-25-29/

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[5] The Tricky Part by Laurie Schnebly Campbell: http://romanceuniversity.org/2012/01/13/the-tricky-part-by-laurie-schnebly-campbell/

[6] CTW: His Personality Ladder by Laurie Schnebly Campbell: http://romanceuniversity.org/2010/06/25/ctw-his-personality-ladder-by-laurie-schnebly-campbell/

[7] Query Triumphs, Query Disasters with Laurie Schnebly Campbell: http://romanceuniversity.org/2014/04/30/query-triumphs-query-disasters-with-laurie-schnebly-campbell/

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