I Called the Plot Whisperer Again

Plot WhispererI met Sandra Leesmith years ago at the Desert Dreams RWA writer’s conference in Tempe, Arizona where I was a featured speaker. Since then, she has featured me in three of her blog posts at Seekerville. This last time I Called the Plot Whisperer Again sparked lots of questions and dialogue and plenty of enthusiasm. I cut and paste a few of the most frequently asked questions and comments.

Character Goals

  • Jill: Although I’m not much of a plotter, I do like to dig into the internal and external conflicts of my characters to see where they’ll take me
  • Me: Include digging into your character goals to see where they take you, too. You just might find you’re becoming more of a plotter

Kaybee: the plot actually came out of an event
Me: An event(s) creates goals. Goals create plot

  • Stephanie: Another post that couldn’t have come at a better time. I wrote chapter one of my very first inspirational suspense story this past weekend, and afterwards my first thought was, “Okay…now what?”
  • Me: You’re embarking on an epic journey, Stephanie! Enjoy. And hold on because things are likely to get bumpy…

Dana: are there different goals, obstacles, stakes at beginning, middle, and end?
Me: The protagonist(s) can carry the same goal from the beginning all the way through to the end — often the inner goal. However, often, because of the dramatic action in the first quarter of the story, the outer goal changes. After the Crisis or Dark Night around the 3/4 mark of the story and what she learns about herself and/or hero and/or her situation, her external goals changes again.

Thematic Significance

  • Lara: Am I the only one who shudders a bit at the words “bring thematic significance”?
  • Me: The thematic significance is what your story is all about — not at the scene level like “this happens and because of that this happens next” (cause and effect) — but at the overall story level. Knowing the thematic significance of your story helps direct every scene and, on some level, your word choices, too. Often your thematic significance may come out of a cliche — love kills, love heals, change creates chaos, things are not as bad as you think, love others as you would be loved, crime doesn’t pay, revenge is sweet, speaking up comes at a price, to forgive others first you must forgive yourself. Then individualize it to your specific story.

Jenna: How do you recommend starting from nothing but a setting in mind? No characters yet, nothing but a specific setting and time frame. I brought extra bold coffee this morning so I can focus!
Me: I’m a sucker for research and recommend looking into the setting and time for specific details that can work into the plot. Kaybee and Sandra were talking earlier about using an event to help deepen the plot. If there is a specific event that is iconic to the setting or the history that stimulates your imagination, start there

  • Laurie: when you’re writing a woman-in-jeopardy plot and the hero has to be, well, the *hero* – how do you make him flawed but not too nice?
  • Me: Look around you for men who are flawed and not too nice. Look inside yourself for what holds you back and can cause you to be not too nice. A hero can save everyone else — heroine especially — and be nearly incapable of saving himself

Plot Planner

Plot PlannerNicki: When developing plots for my story, I find that they always come easiest when I am pacing around in my room listening to music that pertains to what I want to happen in my book, or makes me think about my characters. That generally gets my brain working and I figure out a lot about my books in that time.

Me:  I recommend creating a Plot Planner on banner paper on the wall to get writers up and moving their bodies. Big muscle activity activates different parts of our brain than small muscle (clicking keys). Good to get all areas generating ideas.


Coming in September!

novelwritingI ‘m excited to announce Novel Writing Intensive on-line workshop. If you haven’t started or finished a draft of a middle grade, young adult, or adult novel in order to join me in the revision program, I invite you to the new online class I’ve put together with Literary Agent Jill Corcoran. 

All Genres
For all writing levels
Intensive limited to 8 writers
8 Weeks

In this 8-week on-line program, Plot Whisperer Martha Alderson and Literary Agent Jill Corcoran provide constructive feedback as you develop/refine your novel concept, characters, plot, dialogue, dramatic action, emotional moments, and themes.

Tuesdays 10am – 12:30pm Pacific/1pm – 3:30pm Eastern
September 12, 19, 26, October 3, 10, 17, 24, 31

Weekly 2 1/2 hours Discussion based on assigned homework and feedback from both Martha and Jill that apply to your individual plot and novel elements for a total of 8 Discussion sessions.

For more information, go to: Write Your NovelThe link takes you to A Path to Publishing for a full description and to sign-up,.