Guest Post by Patricia Bradley
I call myself a tweener, but I’ve learned tweeners don’t all write the same way.
Before I start working on my story, I generally know how it’s going to start, and how it’s going to end. That’s the way my stories come to me. It’s what’s in between that I have to work on. And this is my process.
Some things I have to know before I start writing:
• My Story Question
• My Characters and their goals
• The general turning points in the plot.
• Death—what kind of death will it be? All stories are about some type of death: physical, psychological or professional
• What will propel the story from Act I to Act II and from Act II to Act III.
STORY QUESTION: For my third book, the question my story will answer is: Can a by-the-book detective who has lost her confidence and a private investigator who believes rules are only suggestions team up to catch a serial killer?
Since I write Inspirational, I also need a spiritual story question which is: How do we find freedom in Christ.
Basic things I need to know about my characters:
What type personality does each character have? I like to use the Myers-Briggs personality charts to help me. I pick an occupation and then Google the type of person who would do well in it and then I see if those traits listed fit my character. Somehow they always do.
Livy’s personality is ISTJ:
- Introverted: reserved, controlled, self-motivated, deliberate
- Sensing: realistic, practical, detail-oriented, traditional
- Thinking: logical, objective, pragmatic, levelheaded
- Judging: orderly, responsible, methodical, hard-working
These traits make her a great detective.
Eric’s personality is ESTP
- Extroverted: outgoing, friendly, engaging, energetic
- Sensing: hands-on, practical, observant, physical
- Thinking: logical, objective, pragmatic, outspoken
- Perceiving: responsive, spontaneous, adaptable, adventurous
These traits also make him a good private detective. But, can you see that they might have difficulty working together? I think I’ll have a fun time with these two characters.
Dark Moment from the Past:
This is something that has happened to my characters and has influenced them in such a way that it affects the person they are when the story opens.
My heroine, Detective Livy Reynolds, killed a 17-year-old gunman six weeks before the story opens, and she has not been able to come to terms with it. The shooting has made her question her judgment, her instincts and her ability to respond in similar situations. Her story goal is to get her confidence back by solving the case of her missing cousin.
All his life, my hero, Private Investigator Eric Kincade, has been compared to his older brother and been found lacking, especially after his brother died a hero in Afghanistan. Eric has a law degree, but hasn’t taken the bar exam because he doesn’t want to be a lawyer. When the story opens, he is searching for a Texas state senator’s daughter who turns up missing in Mississippi. Solving this case will prove to his father that he is, in his own way, as good as his brother.
What I have talked about up until now is in Act I. It’s also where I introduce my characters and have them in their ordinary world. I set up where the story is going to take place and present the problem and what’s at stake. Act I also sets the tone: suspense, romance (if contains a romance introduce your hero-heroine either in person or have them think about the other), thriller, rom-com, women’s fiction, action.
At the end of Act I, is what James Scott Bell calls the 1st Doorway of No Return (Plot and Structure). Once your Lead goes through this door, the reader must believe she cannot go back to her ordinary world until she solves her problem.
This is where the Plot (the sequence of events in your story) really cranks up. Before I begin writing, I work out the Ds in my story: turning points that get progressively worse until the big one—The Black Moment.
The Ds stand for Distancing (getting the h/h further from their goal instead of closer) Disappointment (something happens that moves the h/h even further from their goal), Disaster (same thing only worse), Destruction and finally Devastation (Black Moment where everything goes wrong). I don’t describe what happens in great detail and the Ds are subject to change once I start writing, but at least I have a good idea of what I want to accomplish in Act 2.
Something has to be at stake in my story.
What is the ultimate stake? Death. There are 3 kinds of deaths in a story: physical, psychological, and professional. I’m not limited to one type of death in my story, and Livy and Eric will face both the physical and professional kinds.
The middle is the battleground of the story. And in the middle I want to keep my reader turning the page. Each D brings the lead closer to the 2nd Doorway of No Return. In this sense, disaster doesn’t always mean something bad happens to the character. At the time it happens, it can seem like a good thing.
In an example from the movie Return to Me, one of the disasters is when the hero Bob falls in love with the heroine Grace. That’s a good thing. Right? But Grace has put off telling him that she has his dead wife’s heart. And now she knows she must. And when she does, he leaves, just like she thought he would.
Which brings us to the 2nd Doorway of No Return. Once Grace tells Bob she has his wife’s heart, there is no going back and undoing it. That thrust the story into Act III where the final battle is played out—she leaves to go on her dream trip to Europe, and he realizes he needs to go after her.
Act III is where the hero/heroine overcomes all odds and wins the day, and for me that means a Happy Ever After. (HEA)
Act III is the one thing I don’t really plot out.
And that is the way I, as a tweener, plot my stories. If you have any questions, leave them in the comment box and I’ll try to answer them.
Patricia Bradley lives in North Mississippi and is a former abstinence educator, but her heart is tuned to suspense. Patricia’s mini-mysteries have been published in Woman’s World, and her debut novel, Shadows of the Past released in February. She presents workshops on writing. When she’s not writing, she likes to throw mud on a wheel and see what happens.