Yay! Laurie Schnebly Campbell is with us at Romance University! I came “THIS CLOSE” to meeting Laurie this summer, which would have completely made my day. If you’ve never taken one of Laurie’s classes, sign up ASAP, you’ll be amazed at everything you’ll learn!
A braid needs three parts, right? And when you think about the three items you need for your book, probably the first two that come to mind are character and plot.
Which are certainly the most essential, because even if that was ALL you had while writing a book, those would pretty well fill the requirements for an intriguing, enjoyable story.
Of course, there are other elements that’ll make it even more appealing. Your voice, for instance. The setting you portray. The way your people talk. Not to mention the tension, the humor, the emotional drama and all those other things that put the color in your story.
How come none of those are as big a deal as plot and character when you think about the three elements of your braid?
Well, it could be because our stories fall into so many different categories.
Sure, the plot helps make them different, but it’s not the only thing.
And the characters help make them different, but they’re not the only thing either.
No, what really makes each book unique is how the story unfolds when the characters and the plot come together.
We might define that as style.
Let’s say you have a story where the heroine — let’s call her Princess Pearl — is up against ninja assassins. That’s going to be a whole different story than one where Pearl is up against the discovery that her prom date’s has fallen in love with her best friend.
And that’ll be a whole different story than one where the ninja assassins are up against James Bond, or where James’ latest girlfriend is falling for Q or M instead.
You see how that works? The style, whether the story involves ninjas or a prom date, take an enormous shift when you envision it involving Princess Pearl or 007.
(Or, hmm, maybe both at once!)
Sure, those are pretty simplistic setups, but even so there’s a major difference in how each of the four stories will progress. And that’s because of the style. Which is…
Your third strand.
Maybe the story deals with your heroine’s princess party.
Or maybe she’s training to become a ninja assassin.
Maybe an evil wizard tricks him into poisoning the broth.
Maybe she’s a a detective determined to solve the case.
Maybe she’s a pharmacist seeking an antidote for the poisoned broth.
Maybe she’s taking the weekend off for some BDSM fun.
You see how each one of those situations turns your story into something completely different?
They all feature a character who could star in any of those other plot ideas just as well, but the result would be a whole other style of book.
The style — or we could call it the genre — is a big deal. In fact, it might even be the biggest item of the three in your story’s braid.
Once you’ve got your three, what next?
It makes an enormous difference -when- you get each one — all together, or scattered throughout the process.
Some writers have a very clear idea of their style, characters and plot from the very beginning. (“My story features a detective tracking the broth poisoner but falling in love with the wizard’s daughter.”)
Some know their genre (“I’m gonna write about a princess party”) and then create a plot and characters who’ll work within it.
And others begin with a plot (“Suppose a pharmacist discovered a BDSM club but was being blackmailed to keep it a secret”) or a character (“What would make a ninja trainer dream of becoming a chef?”) with no idea what style the story will fit into until they’re actually writing it.
All three ways have worked for millions of authors.
The only trouble arises when the three parts of the braid don’t quite fit together.
Prize-drawing question: What then?
If your braid isn’t as smooth as you’d like, which aspect do you look at first? Character, genre, or plot?
Sure, we almost all look at each one…but we usually have an area we think of as our strongest base. So if you have one of those three, please share it. Because your observation might be exactly the cure some other writer will need!
And if 25 people post observations, someone will win free registration to next month’s class on Your Plot-Character-Story Braid at WriterUniv.com. (If you’re one of those who’s already registered, you’re still eligible because you’ll get a refund AND the class.)
Laurie, who always loves seeing what people turn to first in a braid — or, well, let’s call it a book — and will be back first thing tomorrow with a prize-drawing winner
Oh don’t forget to tune in next week, it’s going to be a great one!
Bio: Laurie Schnebly Campbell always loves analyzing what makes a book work, so she’s looking forward to starting a four-week class on “Your Plot-Character-Story Braid” at WriterUniv.com’s http://bit.ly/BraidClass on September 5. Although she enjoyed braiding her own romances, 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 17 novels on her bookshelf with acknowledgments from authors inspired by her classes.
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