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Plotting: Pulling Threads

Originally published at Joely Sue Burkhart. You can comment here or there.

Continuing the discussion from yesterday on Connect the Dots, I am working through a large tangled mess of episodes to find the structure of this story. I said yesterday that I picked up a green thread and began pulling it out of the tangles. As a result, I got several scene idea cards. The key for this process was letting go of my determination to FIT this thread into the weave of story I already had.

I decided I just wanted to find out about this thread, independent of the rest of the story or world. If the scene cards happened days in the past before NSR even starts, that’d be fine. Really, I pretended that NSR didn’t even exist.

I did the same later last night with the red thread. At first, all I got were “fact” cards. They were important elements of the past and setup, but they weren’t true scenes. That’s okay–it was still stuff I didn’t know. For example, I didn’t know how Nicholas’s plan to ruin Charlie had actually started, nor what turned his plot from a simple “revenge” plot to something more, thanks to Michael Ito’s influence. (I got the foundation for those details from the character connections and pulling the thread helped define them.) Finally I got to some possible scenes, and I was stunned when I landed on an idea I never had before. As a result, I created a new character, and it ties the Dallas (green) thread to the red thread.

Magic. It really is. I knew I had a thread in Dallas, but I didn’t know how they hooked up. Now, I do.

The other important “freedom” I allowed myself in this process: I didn’t limit myself to POV. I took a story thread and pulled it — but I didn’t enforce one character’s POV, because I don’t know for sure who will carry that burden yet. That freedom led me to this new character that I really like, and I just found out about her yesterday.

See, one thing I set out to do in this story was to NOT follow the standard “cliched” urban fantasy structures as much as possible. Yeah, I have a female lead, but she is not kickass. She’s the “Un-Indiana Jones.” She’s more comfortable in her private library with her research spread out before her than tromping around in the rainforest. I also wanted several other strong female characters (not necessarily kickass either), friends or potential friends, that weren’t obvious sequel bait. This isn’t a Brotherhood world, although strong men definitely play a part.

Pulling that red thread last night gave me a brand new character and I can’t wait to learn more about her.

I still don’t know if this is a large story arc with Jaid as the protagonist all the way through, or potentially other protagonists to carry each individual book. That’s okay. The tangled mess is a little tidier and I’m getting some really good glimmers of where the story is hiding.

One theme of this story that I think I can safely mention without giving away the farm is the quatrefoil glyph ol for the Otherworld, or sometimes simply “heart of.” I think I’m finally getting to the story buried at the heart of all these ideas. If you knew the premise set up for this story, you’d think it very ironic that I’m searching for the ol. Charlie Merritt’s life obsession is finding the ol. It represents his line to cross. How much will he give up to find it? What’s his sacrifice?

Have you ever had a killer story idea, characters, or world, yet you just couldn’t find the ol?

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