Thinkin’ on Thursday: Road Maps in More Detail

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

Last Tuesday I wrote about possible ways for Pantsers to make a road map which would help keep them on the straight and narrow with their novels. I also pointed out what can be learned simply by looking at some stats. And I made a promise. A promise to show what else I learned by taking a careful look beyond the numbers, and checking out the actual content.

This time, I put the chapter number at the top of each section. Underneath, I made 4 columns: page number, character, a single verb describing what the character was doing, and a brief description of what was done. The latter was accomplished in somewhere between two and half ‑a‑dozen words (seldom that many). Some of the pages were completed in only a line or two, most took about four, a few complex ones took more, but my first 14 chapters took only 2 pages, while double‑spacing between chapters. So keep it all short — it’s your story: you should recognize what’s going on in just a few words.

If the verb in the 3rd column was passive (that’s a problem of mine) I typed it in all caps. Here’s an example:

4          Wyndell          THINKS                     about (possibly) dead twin

Poppy            coughs                    —

Mum              rushes                    to help Poppy

Wyndell          STARES                    at tools

tells                           himself he’s NOT the One

HEARS                     Poppy saying “have to be sent…”

Those six lines encapsulated the entire page in 30 words.

So what can be learned from this? After the first 14 chapters I drew a lot of conclusions:

The story didn’t really begin until the second page

It was too long by at least half, considering all the passivity which was trying to pass as action: thinking, wondering, knowing, feeling, realizing, watching, wishing, questioning himself, acknowledging, hearing, worrying, believing — none of those were acting! (How should I deal with the fact that too often Wyndell, the main character, was by himself? How do I work in someone for him to talk to?)

I wanted to know what the reader would actually learn from these pages (in however subtle a way). So I made a list of story items revealed, such as:

An Evil Essence is threatening

11‑year‑old Wyndell is making a Luck Hat with scraps

He begins to notice Elements (water, air, earth, fire) responding to him

He wants to know what his Skill will be

His twin is missing . . . etc., etc., etc.

Then I was able to make some decisions about these chapters:

Split the first long chapter into two

Bring in the Sidekick character as quickly as possible

Let Wyndell confront his ailing father

Mix everything up by throwing in a 3rd (and important) character’s chapter

. . . and so on.

I was surprised to find that even though I was aware, in the back of my mind, that the writing was too passive, it took really listing what was going on to see how nothing much was going on outside the MC’s head. And that led me to seeing other ways to portray the events.

It was an interesting and revealing journey. I would recommend this to any of you who know you need to do some rewriting, but are not quite sure where to start. Good luck with your endeavors!

See you next for Saturday’s Softcover!

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