The Plot Thickens

JT Ellison — Who is in Phoenix at ThrillerFest and loving every minute of it.

When I’m working on a story, the plot thickens, the
characters are faced with new challenges that will help move the story forward,
and all the loose threads come together in a seamless, cohesive package. Yeah,

What happens more often than not is my plot doesn’t thicken
the way I’d like. Or it gets so unwieldy that I throw up my hands and run,
screaming, to the backyard for a moment of peace and quiet. I’m constantly
surprised at how often that seems to happen.

So, what do you do when your plot isn’t working?

I read a great story about Tess Gerritsen. She was writing
VANISH, her Macavity and Edgar nominated latest. I’m paraphrasing here, but she
was struggling with her plot. It just wasn’t happening. A sudden flash of
brilliance told her that she needed to entirely change the gender of the bad
guy. Girl. Suddenly, everything fell into place.

Now, reading that made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I
mean, if someone as brilliant, accomplished and seasoned as Tess can have an
issue with her plot, then we’re all in very good company.

So last week, when I was staring at the notes for the
convoluted plot of my newest book, trying desperately to figure out a way to
make it work, I had to concede. Several months ago it seemed like a brilliant
idea – unique, never done, and so far reaching that my readers would be
astounded that I pulled it off. I was wrong. The plot gods were conspiring
against me. It just wasn’t going to work.

It’s really a horrible feeling, to tell you the truth. This
story has been percolating for months, ever since Hubby and I were out with
friends, enjoying an adult beverage. The story came alive for us, right there
in the bar. I had that lightning bolt flash, started scribbling on cocktail
napkins, and before long, there were several patrons sitting with us,
“helping”. Maybe that’s where it went astray. More likely, the scope of the
story was just too big.

I started thinking that there was no way this could be a
Taylor Jackson novel a couple of months ago. Life has been so crazy over the
past months that I brushed the thought aside every time it reared its ugly
little head. But when I refocused my attention on the story, I realized that it
was well and truly hopeless. I had to start over.

With some much appreciated guidance from my agent, I trashed
the original plot. It hurt me to do so, but at the same time, it was
liberating. All of a sudden, the ideas began to flow again. The story morphed
into a much more doable scenario, one which was a lot more realistic. I’ve got
the new story in my head now, and scenes are building themselves from the dark
recesses of my mind. I’ve talked it out, put the general storyline up on the
whiteboard, and it’s coming together.

I’ve always said that writer’s block is your story’s way of
telling you something isn’t right. I’ve proved my theory again.

Wine of the Week — Vina Rey Tempranillo

Also, from Jan Burke’s wonderful Crime Lab Project…

Two Phone Calls for Forensic Science

Those of you who are Americans can help to improve forensic science services in all 50 states and the U.S. territories by making two phone calls, one to each of your U.S. Senators.

Please ask your senators to increase funding for the Coverdell National Forensic Sciences Act.

To learn your senators’ phone numbers, go to the U.S. Senate Website. In the upper right corner, you’ll see "Find Your Senators" and a pulldown menu for your state. Congressional contact information is  also available on the Crime Lab Project Website.

Please make these phone calls today!

3 thoughts on “The Plot Thickens

  1. Jan Burke

    J.T., many thanks for mentioning the CLP request!

    And as someone who recently threw out several false starts before finding the novel I was looking for, I feel your pain. And offer my congrats, because there is nothing quite like it when things do fall into place, is there?


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