Monday, April 21, 2014

Comparing the plot of a Novel to an Artist's Canvas.

I was talking to a friend the other day about how to devise the plot of a novel.  Afterward I gave some thought to the topic and came up with the analogy that it's much like an artist painting with oils.  The plot is comprised of layers and just as an artist uses layers to build a scene on the canvas, an author uses layers of subplots to build a story.

Each time I set out to write a new novel I start from an idea I've carried around in my brain for months or years.  During the actual writing I jot down notes and ideas, and start a list to capture the details of my characters lives.  One of the toughest parts of crafting a novel is keeping the details straight both in your mind and on the page.  There is software available to help, but I have yet to use these tools. I, like many others before me, prefer to write the way the Masters did, except for the added help of a computer rather than a typewriter.

The bulk of what I write is made up as I go, but eventually I begin putting together a rough outline.  The purpose for the outline is more for brainstorming the story and plot than anything else.  I find that the more I write the less I need notes.  It's only when I'm working long hours on my day job like I have been since the beginning of 2014 that I find it necessary to fall back on the help of an outline.  

If I had the perfect life I'd wake up, take a walk on a beach or through a forest formulating my thoughts, and then I'd return to my writer's office and sit down at my computer to begin a new day of storytelling.  Only in my dreams.  

Instead my routine starts with a shower, breakfast, and a thirty to forty-five minute commute to work five days a week.  I write the bulk of my work on weekend mornings.  If I'm lucky I get a day or two in during the week early in the morning before the day job that still pays me more than my writing.  

The cool thing about the human brain is that it's always in motion.  Sending signals to our muscles, storing thoughts, making memories, or dreaming dreams.  For writers the brain spends some time working out where the plot and characters will lead to next.  When I first began writing I'd write down every thought I had worried that I might forget one.  These days I think up something and let it churn, so to speak, in my mind for days or weeks.  When the time is right It will come to me and find its way into the pages of the novel.  

It seems that as we humans take up new skills and find our passions.  Sometimes rediscovering the things we loved in our youth we form new pathways within our brains.  The more we use these new skills the easier the tasks become.  The mind is an amazing machine.

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