Today’s Writers’ Tip: Writing Fiction Plots Outside the Box
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every other Monday!)
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(Forgive me for posting this blog two days late. It was due on Monday, August 8th, but my Internet was down and had to have a tech support person from Wild Blue come to my house and “fix” the connection. Water from heavy rains had zapped a part of the satellite dish. The tech guy just left.)
A week ago last Friday, I returned from teaching a beginners’ basic course on writing at the Montrose Christian Writers Conference inMontrose,PA.This conference is a wonderful experience for any writer at any level in his/her career to attend. Every year there are workshops and classes presented by a faculty of at least 12 published authors, agents, or editors representing various genres and subgenres.
In my continuing morning class, we discussed anything and everything from query letters and proposals to marketing yourself and your work. I also presented 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 toHawaii.
- 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?
2. MOBY DICK
4. THE BLACK STALLION
6. LOVE COMES SOFTLY
8. LASSIE, COME HOME
10. 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 some day, your name will be on a best-seller list with the rest of them!
Next time, we’ll discuss different types of poetry: free verse, blank verse, and rhyming verse.
Attention! It’s not too late to sign up for our Susquehanna Valley Writers Workshop in Lewisburg, PA, on October 7th and 8th. Go to www.susquehannavalleywritersworkshop.wordpress.com for the details or contact me for a brochure at email@example.com