Thursday, October 01, 2015

The Arc: The View From Thirty Thousand Feet

My three-book contract with Midnight Ink is up: I sent the June 2016 book, Destiny's Pawns, to my editor and now await feedback and cover art. I was thrilled last week when my agent called to say Midnight Ink's publisher wants to continue the series.

I'm hoping for another multi-book contract, so I'm writing synopses for a would-be three-book continuation. It's a process that has me thinking a lot about story arc.

I'm not much of a plotter: I'm a drive-to-the-end-of-your-headlights writer. I get jazzed by compelling characters and ensuing dialogue (as reader and a writer). My "outlines" are usually five-page character sketches – lengthy, detailed backstories and motivations for each of my books' major players. Then I put those players on the stage, give them a conflict (or several), and see what they do.

This process is different. And harder. Writing the arc for three novels means there is one or more over-arching storylines on top of the individual plot of each novel. This is a delicate balance, a secondary mystery that may not be answered at the completion of an individual book.

I was forced to think about this and to incorporate a secondary plot this summer when I wrote a screenplay. (Les Standiford, author and professor, once told me screenwriting taught him the art of plotting; I concur wholeheartedly.) I wrote a pilot episode, and in it I planted a question to be carried out through one entire novel: Peyton Cote has a photograph she's never shown anyone, a picture of a little girl. Who is the girl? What's her connection to Peyton? A teaser? Certainly. A larger part of who Peyton is and how Peyton came to be who she is? Yes. Additionally, I want a recurring villain, a foil to Peyton, a Moriarty of sorts, someone who could appear and leave, someone who enters – always unexpectedly – and makes the reader cringe before Peyton sees her.

Story arc – the view from thirty thousand feet – is a new way of thinking and writing for me, a lot more work upfront. I'm betting on plotting here. Creating the primary plot and overarching arc of several books should make for better stories for this author and (hopefully) his readers.


Charlotte Hinger said...

I think all of us would profit from learning screenwriting techniques.

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