May 23, 2016
Today’s Writers’ Tip: Writing Fiction Plots Outside the Box
Over the years, I’ve taught different classes and courses on writing at various writers conferences, including the Montrose Christian Writers Conference in Montrose, PA. As of January 2015, I assumed the directorship of the conference, which is a wonderful experience for any writer at any level in his/her career. Every year there are workshops and classes presented by a faculty (this year 17) of many best-selling or award-winning authors, agents, or editors representing various genres and subgenres.
In one of my seminars for beginners, I present anything and everything from query letters and proposals to marketing yourself and your work. I also present a detailed Power Point on the good elements of fiction, including how to write “outside the box.” I thought I’d share a few of those pointers with you in this post.
First, we need to define the term “outside the box.” What in heaven’s name does that mean?
“Write outside the box.”
Well, in plain language, it means to write a plot that doesn’t have a normal humdrum boring story line.
As a short exercise in my presentation, I always cite some average boring story lines and ask my class to change the plot so that it’s outside the box. One example I cite is the following:
“A little girl finds a nest of baby bunnies in her back yard.”
Now, of course, everyone is immediately drawn to the “outside the box” famous children’s story, Alice in Wonderland, where Alice finds a whole new world, not a nest of baby bunnies.
Several years ago, I presented this workshop to a group of writers and asked how to change the story line. One fellow in the back of the room raised his hand and said, “How about if a big rabbit finds a nest of little girls in his back yard?”
I said to him, “Sir, you are DEFINITELY thinking outside the box. Go for it.”
Just for the fun of it, I’m going to list about 10 different story lines. Analyze each one. If you can change the plot to move it outside the box, do so. But some of the story lines are already outside the box and are, in fact, famous stories or books written by best-selling published authors. See if you can identify those that are already great plots.
So, which of these would you like to continue to read?
- A little girl saves enough money to buy a horse at auction.
- A bitter sea captain of a sailing ship hunts for a white sperm whale to kill him.
- A newly married couple tours Paris, France, and enjoys all the sites.
- A boy is shipwrecked on an island with only a wild stallion that won’t let him get near him.
- A middle-aged woman works at Wal-Mart, saving enough money to take a trip to Hawaii.
- A young pioneer woman is left alone on the prairie in her covered wagon when her husband falls from his horse and is killed.
- The neighbor’s cat has a litter of six kittens underneath a little boy’s porch.
- A collie dog, sold and taken away from the boy he loves, travels a long distance through life-threatening dangers to return to his boy.
- A young unmarried girl decides to marry her childhood sweetheart.
- An unmarried woman on a plantation in a southern state faces the harsh reality of post Civil War life and the loss of all she held dear.
Well, how did you do? Did you analyze the boring plots and decide what you could do to make them better? (Numbers 1, 3, 5, 7, 9)
And did you identify the best-selling books/movies in numbers 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10?
THE BLACK STALLION
LOVE COMES SOFTLY
LASSIE, COME HOME
GONE WITH THE WIND
When you analyze what makes these million-dollar story lines what they are, you’ll be on your way to writing, possibly, the next great American novel. And all the while you’re writing, keep on reading. Read tons of books, especially in the subgenre in which you are writing, and learn how the masters did it. Maybe someday, your name will be on a best-seller list with the rest of them!
P.S. Time to register for the Montrose Christian Writers Conference. You won’t be sorry!
Please check http://www.montrosebible.org/OurEvents/tabid/113/page_550/1/eventid_550/58/Default.aspx for all the details.
(More shameless promotion)
ANOTHER WHOLESOME BOOK FOR TWEENS
SNOW, PHANTOM STALLION OF THE POCONOS
Dallis Parker copes with bullying at school by dreaming about owning Snow, a wild Mustang, who most folks believe doesn’t even exist. Then she actually touches the horse, and her life is changed forever.