I was reading Jennifer Fallon’s blog and she had some advice on plotting, and how not to get lost.

I got to thinking, when is it alright to use “then I woke up”, as a plot device?

  • 3 to 7 years of age – Any time you want.
  • 7 to 11 – Once maybe twice a year.
  • 11 to 17 – (secondary school) Once per teacher.

But what about grown up writers?

  • Horror – only if it is a fake “then I woke up”. Horror writers are probably the only people who can get way with multiple “then I woke up”s by imbedding one within another (within another).
  • Fantasy (cross dimensional quest type) / Realistic Fantasy – you can hint at it (repeatedly) as long as you don’t actually do it.
  • Romance – you can use it as long as the hunky, muscle bound, dark eyed (etc) bloke is actually in the bed when the pale skinned, honey haired (etc) heroine awakes (with hair immaculate and minty fresh breath).
  • Big Ticket authors with contractual obligations – Let’s face it, some of these guys could write about a dog turd in a swimming pool and still get published (actually if Stephen King did it I’d probably go out and buy it).
  • People who like to piss off slush pile readers.
  • Unpublished authors happy with their current status.

    A word about characters, in particular the love interest.

    First, write a big chunk of your novel – the usual business – a flawed but likable (male) character and his friend go off on an unlikely quest. I included the friend’s brown dog for a bit of variation.

    About 50,000 words into the manuscript stop and take a critical look at the book you’re currently reading, then have a quick look at another couple of books.

    Exclaim, “bugger me, they all have a love interest in them, I’m really snookered now,” (or words to that effect).

    Realise you have no idea what to do.

    Watch some US television for ideas.

    • They have to not get along at first
    • Trap them together in a close space that forces their faces almost together. Have them lock eyes, but pull away due to an untimely rescue.
    • Have them smoulder for a few weeks.
    • Smoulder some more.
    • A bit more.
    • Create a misunderstanding that involves an attractive secondary character.
    • They don’t get along again – the cycle repeats.

    At this point fall asleep or gouge your eyes out.

    OK, you’re ready to write in your female character. You can be a bit indiscriminate. Drop her into the gaps in the plot. Have her make the odd comment so the readers won’t forget she’s there.

    “Mm, not much personality.”

    Go back to your library. Based on your reading you realise you have two choices. The elegant helpless female who needs to be rescued at the critical moment, or the gutsy, closet warrior, who needs rescuing at the critical moment.

    Sit back and smugly reflect on your efforts.

    Consider what your wife would say if she ever saw the crap you just wrote, and start again.

    Holidays and writing

    17, January,2007

    Well, I’m back.  Two weeks of sun, surf and howling wind (anyone who has been to Wilson’s Promontory in
    Victoria knows what I’m talking about), but no writing.
      Ah holidays, a great time to write I thought.  I took my mini laptop (10 hour battery life – there is no power at the Prom), a freshly printed draft of the manuscript, and my note book, but I also took my wetsuit, new body board and board fins.  So no writing on the sunny days.    I also bought a few novels from my ‘to be read’ pile.  That took care of the cooler days.  I finally finished book two of Russell Kirkpatrick’s Fire of Heaven Trilogy (but forgot to bring book 3), knocked off a Terry Pratchett (Truth) and made a big hole in a Tom Sharpe (Wilt on High). 

    Any daylight in between was spent doing family things. But what of the evenings I here you ask?   Well, we were down there as part of a group of eight families, all friends for many years.  The evenings were a genial mix of wit, whimsy and wine, except for the night the adults went to see Borat (the funniest and yet probably the most offensive film I have ever seen).  

    So I didn’t get any writing done, but on reflection, I think I needed a break from the book.  I now feel ready for the final push and I have given myself a target.  I want to get the story edited, polished and ready to go into the world by June.   

    Well, I better get cracking then.