Interstitial Moment:

I have spoken about this before, but as I am wallowing in the middle of it right now, am going to once again talk about plot. Of which I know very little.

There are basically two kinds of writers, those who think about their plots ahead of time, make timelines, understand in a billiards-like manner how one thing said or done creates motion. Three of my co-writers on various projects–Robert J. Harris, Bruce Coville, and my son Adam Stemple–are all masters of this modality.

The other king of plotters simply fly into the mist. Yes, Dear Friends, that’s me. I need to watch my characters moving about, listen to how they speak, and follow along after them, waving a manuscript and shouting, “Wait for me!” I am in essence a reader before I am a writer and want to be surprised by where a plot twists next.

But let me tell you, it makes for some singularly scary nail-biting along the way.

Right now I am smack in the middle of a novel based on a published short story of mine–The Thirteenth Fey. It’s meant to be a short novel, a fairy tale redaction about Sleeping Beauty, from the point of view of the fairy who comes late to the princess’ christening and makes the wish about the princess dying on her sixteenth birthday after being pricked by a spindle. Only this fairy (a thirteen year old) is the hero of this telling, the youngest child of thirteen in the Shouting Fey clan.  Contractually the book is supposed to be between 40-50,000 words. (Most YA novels are 65,000 and up.) A companion to the about-to-be-published Snow in Summer which is an Applachian Snow White.

I am at 27,000 words, and in the middle of the real expansion part of the book. And that means plot, plot, plot.

Have I mentioned I don’t know a lot about plot. Yeah, that’s a problem.

There are three places I usually find a bit of plot: in the shower, at night while falling asleep, or in the car. Yesterday, on my way to the dentist, in the car, I found the next bit of plot. Now, there are a lot of things anyone else can find in my car–empty bottles,  books, an umbrella, reusable carrier bags, opened envelopes sans the letters, two pairs of sunglasses, etc. But trust me, that plot was there waiting for me once I’d gotten out of town and on the familiar road.

Why this works almost every time, I don’t know. It has something to do with the lizard brain, the hind brain, the subconscious, the being-prepared for serendipty. All of the above. But once again, the magic kicked in. And by the time I returned home, my teeth cleaner than they’d been on my way there, I had the next few scenes in my head, plus some characters who’d gotten lost along the way and needed resurrecting, a couple of twists, a dynamite couple of lines from the villain, and. . .plenty to do over the next few weeks before it’s time to try the magic car/shower/bedtime trick again.

This may not help you as a writer (or teacher) at all. But there you have it.

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