I know many of you have heard me talk about James Scott Bell (JSB); either on my other blog ItsKidlitKnight, or on my blogtalk radio show, SelfPublishIt!
But I can’t really help it. The day I went into the Barnes and Noble looking for books on becoming a better writer, his was the first one I bought. Plot & Structure is not his only book, though. You can find all of them on writersdigestshop.com. But this particular book has so many good lessons, I consider it my go-to text. Granted, I am a new fiction writer and still have not incorporated all the things he espouses, but I will in time. This particular post; however, is about one thing I do try hard to incorporate: the notion of knowing where you are going in your story.
I often reference Mr. Bell’s approach, which uses ‘doorways of no return’ to indicate when a character is moving further into his conflict and that has helped me to shape my story before I even write it. Bell says the protagonist must be shaken out of her routine and forced into action, and this needs to happen fairly early in the book; about 1/3 of the way in. Some say 1/4 and others don’t indicate when, but I like the idea of the third because it gives me time to introduce the character, set the stage for her issue, and show her normal world. Once that is accomplished I am ready to push her out of her comfort zone! She has to act — usually due to some external force since she is reluctant to move forward, for whatever reason. Then the fun begins! I have time in the middle to create a more detailed world and all its complications that can prevent the protagonist from reaching her goal. She has to have obstacles, the stakes have to increase, and these can be either internal or external things to overcome. The last third begins when she goes through the last door. At this stage there is no turning back. We are headed to the final showdown and the resolution (or not).
Of course, I won’t go into all the details here, but Mr. Bell’s book explains in detail all the things she needs to face before she can reach her goal. It’s an excellent guide with examples so that you can actually see how it’s done.
Well, I’d say more but I have to run to my novel-in-progress class. But don’t hesitate! If you need writing resources, JSB’s book is the first place I’d look.