Photo courtesy m.e.welman.
Admittedly there are times, like now for me, when writing is like this photo:
- It’s fun to look at—I’m enjoying reading what I’ve written so far;
- I’m curious as to what it is—the plot is moving my characters forward and as I re-read the ‘wanting to know more’ is definitely there and;
- My story has some teeth—interesting plot twists; great, relate-able characters and humor.
But like this little green whatever it is (from a hamburger meal my sons insisted they needed to have) I’m not sure that what I have written has the dramatic purpose I had intended. I want my audience to be on the edge of their seats, dazzled and entertained!
And it’s not for a lack of a full outline on my part, no.
It’s the dreaded, awful realization that (despite knowing the full plot) the climax just isn’t enough. And that, my fellow writers, is a real bummer. Because what this means is that what I thought was going to be the single turning point, maybe now, is really part of the rising action and that means a whole reassessment of the entire plot. And more writing.
When this happens to you.
First of all, let me begin by saying despite my grumpiness at this (trust me, I’m really not happy because I thought I had it done–boom, let’s write this bad boy in like a couple of weeks and off to its readers) it’s a good sign. It means I’ve seen the error of my ways before I’ve finished the entire first draft. If this has happened to you, rest assured it’s not the end of the world, but a turning point.You are becoming a better writer.
Because too many times writers become so wed to their fantastic ideas that they lose sight of the fact that they aren’t seeing the whole picture–or plot. And don’t get me wrong, I really am happy with what I’ve written so far, but in turning it into a play (I’m letting my characters speak to me again) I’ve come to realize that the nut of my plot isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. As much as I thought I had it all sewn up, I don’t.
How to fix the problem.
The first step for me was admitting to myself that there was a problem.
Hello, my name is m.e.. and I’m a writer with climax issues.
Okay, I miscalculated the oomph that I thought this particular element of my story would give the work as the build up in the rising action. It doesn’t seem as firm a reason for my hero’s call to action the way I thought it would. I mean, it’s good, but maybe it shouldn’t be the central theme of the rising action, but a sub-theme.
Now, if you don’t know what rising action is, it’s high time you get acquainted with that term. It’s part of Freytag’s Pyramid. Who was he? A 19th century German novelist who made this
little pyramid; a visual for the basis of dramatic structure. Rising action is the development of the conflict leading to the climax; the exposition, characters, backstory and resulting complications that bring the tension (and interest) to your story.
Since I have the full outline of my plot (it’s a play in three acts) I applied it to the pyramid.
When I did that, I realized that I had not woven enough of the reasons for the conflict into the rising action to make the climax as wow as I had originally planned. The way for me to fix this will be to create more inter-connections between my characters and allow their motivations to shine through in the dialogue. Think of it like weaving itself; taking a thread or several threads and interlacing them in and out of each other to create a single fabric. Never underestimate the power of allowing these interconnected relationships to reveal themselves, drip by drip, as a way to grab your audience and create good tension.
What I had done, originally, was to rush to the climax too soon without taking care to give my characters the proper justifications for doing what they did. I was proud of the fact that I had the whole plot outlined but I had not taken into consideration that the hero’s call to action wasn’t strong the way it was written.
Using the pyramid to help me sort out my overall dramatic purpose helped me realize my mistake. Now the rest is re-writing.