The Four Ps.

Near the front of my library is a section displaying new books which the librarians believe readers might enjoy. They are shelved under four titles, Plot, People, Places and Prose, and it struck me that is exactly what writers need to ensure is in their each and every manuscript.

PLOT: Michael Hauge says it’s the writer’s job to ‘elicit emotion’ in the reader, so have you structured your plot to achieve that?  If you’re writing a horror/mystery/thriller, have you built in the elements of fear and suspense.  A fantasy?  Wonderment. A love story? Hope, longing, challenges and celebration. A comedy?  Will the reader laugh out loud?

PEOPLE: Are your characters three dimensional or stock?  Have you created well-rounded ‘real’ people who move your plot forward organically by their actions, hopes, fears and choices? Or have you, the writer, moved them around, like pieces on a chess board, to suit your vision of the story?

PLACE: What’s your setting?  Your world? Is it real and vibrant? Have you got the details – eg historical – right? Does your reader feel they are ‘there’. Can they touch, taste, hear, see, smell their surroundings.

PROSE:   I once had the great pleasure to meet the author Maeve Binchy, and now, whenever I read one of her books, I hear her voice in my head in her cadence and description.  Is your voice unique?  Do you show rather than tell?  Is your prose active rather than passive, drawing the reader in rather than holding them at arm’s length.

Get those four Ps right, and you are well on your way to finding YOUR book displayed on one of those library shelves!

Caroline Russell-King

A couple of weeks ago I stepped waaaay outside my writing comfort zone and signed up for a playwriting course taught by award-winning Calgary playwright and dramaturg Caroline Russell-King.  Writing for the stage is very different from anything I’ve attempted before, but I believe that anything that challenges the writing brain cells has got to be good for developing one’s craft. Fortunately, Caroline creates a very safe emotional space in which to work, experiment and learn.

The one thing I love about taking writing classes is that although you may ‘hear’ the same lessons over and over again – eg plot structure, character development – sometimes a teacher will use a word, phrase or expression that turns the light bulb on and allows you to reflect on something in a different way.

Using the acronym GMOTS, Caroline Russell-King did just that, forcing me to examine various elements of my plot as a whole rather than individually. Like most people, I’m familiar with Goal, Motivation and Conflict, but I like how Caroline Russell-King breaks it down even further.

G – GOAL – Your protagonist wants something.

M – MOTIVATION- Must be High.

O – OBSTACLES – List the obstacles the protagonist will have to face.

T – TACTICS – What tactics does the protagonist use to overcome the obstacles.

S – STAKES – What are the consequences if the protagonist fails to achieve his/her goal?  These MUST be high.

And the real zinger?

Once you’ve worked all that out for your protagonist, repeat the process for your ANTAGONIST. In doing so, you’ll discover hidden layers of conflict in both your protagonist and antagonist.

And conflict is drama, right?

http://www.carolinerussellking.com