This week: Best Laid PlansEdited by: Jeff
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"What is drama but life with the dull bits cut out."
-- Alfred Hitchcock
About The Editor: Greetings! My name is Jeff and I'm a guest editors for this issue of the Official Drama Newsletter! I've been a member of Writing.com since 2003, and have edited more than 350 newsletters across the site during that time. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me via email or the handy feedback field at the bottom of this newsletter!
BEST LAID PLANS
Remember way back ... last month ... when I wrote a newsletter called "The Last One" ("Drama Newsletter (January 20, 2021)" ) and I told everyone that I was leaving my post at the Drama Newsletter to take over a regular spot on the Noticing Newbies? Well, as it turns out, I was still on the schedule for this week.
I figured this was probably a good opportunity to talk a little about one of the most effective ways that writers can create dramatic tension in their work, which is to take your characters' best laid plans and throw a wrench in the works. When you give your characters something unexpected to deal with, it forces them out of their comfort zone and thus creates conflict. That conflict is what creates drama, and the drama is what engages your reader.
It can be difficult, as a writer, to spin things off their axes. This is especially true if you're a plotter, planner, outliner, etc. who likes to have a roadmap of where they're going when you write. You can easily get stuck in a place where you're only writing what's anticipated or what expected for your characters. Getting outside of that comfort zone and letting the characters experience unexpected developments and complications can significantly increase the amount of drama present in your narrative.
Which is not to say that you can't anticipate forcing your characters to experience things outside their comfort zone. You can definitely outline circumstances where your characters' best laid plans go awry. But whether it's part of the outlining/planning process or part of the discovery writing process while you're working on a draft, make sure you allocate some energy and thought to how you can best surprise your characters with unexpected turns of events that put them on their back foot and cause them to reassess their plans.
These kinds of interruptions to a characters' plans can be large or small, and implemented in a variety of ways. It could be something as simple as a chance encounter with another character that spins the narrative off in a whole new direction. It could be something as minor as an unexpected delay that sets a character's schedule off just a little bit. Or it could be something as integral to the plot as a character's fundamental assumption or belief being proved wrong (like a prime suspect that turns out to be innocent, or a perceived friend that really ends up being more of an enemy). Whatever the complication and however significant it ends up being, your story will be all the stronger for any wrinkles you can throw in your characters' way.
Until next time,
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EXCERPT: We finally found him. Bent over, scraping his arm through the field of green fiddleheads that had burst through the melting ground last week, Father's nightgown was soaked through. He had wandered the woods for hours. Saturated with droplets of sublimed snow, the air diffracted morning light in every direction--around Father's frantic silhouette.
EXCERPT: A very excited ten year old girl laces up her hot pink L.A. Gear sneakers. She double checks her Jem book bag making sure everything essential is packed. That would include barbie dolls, paper, markers, fake lipstick, and of course my toothbrush. Mom instructed me to never use anyone else’s. Especially dad’s.
EXCERPT: It began with a bang - a startling sound on a calm, summery night, sun barely sunk below the horizon. I’d already changed into light nightwear and brunch coat to be cooler, but rushed out the front door at the next sound, right on the heels of the explosion—a car roaring down our long driveway. Car trouble? Someone in need of a phone, maybe? The nearest town was still some kilometres from our farm. Instead, as the vehicle came to a shuddering, gravel-spattering stop, a young woman jumped out, shouting, “Your shed’s on fire!”
EXCERPT: A gust of wind, we are running on the shore, our footprints in the sand are washed away by the waves, your laughter. I can still hear it but I somehow feel that it must be a dream because you died on a rainy day. Even at your funeral, water drops were drumming on your coffin as you were laid to rest, and we just paddled around in the mud. It was raining a lot that summer.
EXCERPT: With a ragged old cloth, Miranda vigorously oiled her horses’ bridle in the decrepit ghostly grey barn that was about to be demolished in the next week. She had a new barn being erected in the adjacent pasture and she grew impatient waiting for the construction workers to leave. She had been overseeing the project from day one and knew that the concrete was being poured today and would be set tonight, which made her sadistic plan that much easier.
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Feedback from "Drama Newsletter (January 20, 2021)" about my last issue as a regular editor of this newsletter:
From Submitted2publisher :
I'm sorry to see you leave the Drama page. I've enjoyed reading your newsletters and learned a lot from them. I appreciate when I read something that educates me in the craft or about the life of writing. I pass over newsletters that are the writer's own work posted. They could just post a bunch of members links and be done for all the NEWS I'm getting. I'm sure you're going to help the newbies navigate the site and the world of writing.
I tend to pass over newsletters like that too. My general goal with writing them is to talk about the kind of things I would want to read about myself, and I am careful not to spend too much time promoting my own stuff. I appreciate you always reading and commenting on my editorials. I hope to see you over at Noticing Newbies, or the other newsletters (like this one!) that I'll guest edit from time to time.
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