To Plot or Not
Someone once suggested if I had never wrote a synopsis before I wrote the story, I should try it. So I did.
An idea for story took shape in my mind. I knew how it would begin and how it would end. What happened in the middle? I didn’t have a clue. Oh, I had a few ideas. I knew my heroine would find a dead body But I had no idea who he was (yes, I knew it was a male) or why he was killed.
So I outlined my plot. I started writing. For a while it flowed pretty well. My heroine discovered the body. Then I was stuck. Something didn’t feel right. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I couldn’t move on. My heroine wouldn’t let me. No matter how I tried to move on to the next conflict, I couldn’t.
I was totally blocked. The story sat for the better part of the year without me typing even one word. Every time I opened it, I read it, made a few changes and then I got to the part where I was stumped. I stared at the computer, sometimes for hours, trying to come up with something, anything to get me past that hump. I couldn’t do it.
One day, I was emailing my writing buddy about my dilemma. I needed help and any suggestions she could offer would be most welcome. I wrote what I had so far, and where I wanted the story to go. For some reason, in that email, I started to ask what if, which is how I usually wrote. I threw out a couple of ideas to her and answered them myself. Finally, I was unblocked. I even created a new character and another conflict. I ignored the plot outline and went a completely different way.
That was how I usually wrote, asking what if as I wrote, coming up with new ideas. For me, plotting and outlining doesn’t work. I’ll never do it again. For others, it works fine and good for them. I understand it’s not necessary to stick to the outline, but for me, since I wrote it, I had trouble deviating from it. It blocked my creativity. Yes, I should have ignored it long before, but it was too fresh in my mind. It took a year and then some to forget what was on that outline so I could move on.
I guess my whole point is – write the way it’s comfortable for you. There is no right or wrong way, there’s only your way. There are few hard and fast rules in writing. We all have to develop our own style, our own voice, and our own rules. Some authors get up in the morning and sit down to write. Some write later in the day, and still others write in the middle of the night. Again, whatever works best for you. The important thing is to write.
Roseanne, thank you so much for joing us today. I agree there are no rules. Everyone has to find what works for them.
Fifty-eight year old, Rose Asbury knows people think she’s a recluse, but she doesn’t care. She just wants to be left alone. She doesn’t need anyone, and no one needs her and that’s just fine. At least she didn’t until this year. For some reason this year is different. Suddenly she’s melancholy and discontent with her life.
And the man next door doesn’t help matters. Every time he sees her, he insists on speaking to her. To make matters worse her sister’s ghost begins to harass her.
Doesn’t that man ever stay in the house? Rose slammed her car door and tried to ignore the man next door. She wished he’d let her get away without trying to talk to her, just once. But why should this time be any different? She lowered her head and hurried toward her house. She wasn’t in the mood for conversation. At least not with him.
“Hello, Rose, uh…Mrs. Asbury.” He dropped his snow shovel, grabbed something from his garage and hurried toward her.
His relaxed, tall, lean body in a denim jacket and jeans caused a stir of excitement in her. Even his graying temples aroused something in her that she found way too familiar. Stirred up feelings she didn’t want stirred up. She barely glanced at him, yet she felt a tug on her heart.
Darn! Rose pulled her coat closed against the cold wind. Why didn’t he just leave her alone? You’d think by now he’d realize she didn’t care to talk to him. Her stomach fluttered, a feeling she hadn’t experienced in a long time. Hunger pangs, or nerves, that’s all. She nodded a hello, like always, and hurried to her house.
Suddenly, Rose’s feet slid out from under her. Splat! She landed on her butt, fell back and hit her head. Groceries flew everywhere. Oh crap, just what she needed. She looked up into the gray eyes of the man leaning over her.
“Are you all right?”
Heat rose to her face. Other than humiliated, she was fine. A bit sore, but she didn’t think she had any broken bones. She tried to sit up.
“Wait!” He pushed her back down. “You may have broken something.” He ran his hands gently across her ankles and legs and up toward her thigh.
A smoldering heat started deep in Rose’s stomach. She held her breath, let it out slowly. Even through her slacks, the heat from his hand sent tingly sensations down to her toes.
That was it, she’d had enough. She pushed his hands away, sat up and managed to get to her knees. The man tried to help her stand. She ignored him and brushed herself off. Heat radiated from her face, and she knew it turned as red as her coat.
She bent down and picked up her groceries. She still hadn’t spoken to him. She wished he’d leave. She could manage just fine without his help. He picked up some of her canned goods and put them in the bag. She reached for it.
“Here, this is for you.”
“For what?” She looked at the rose in his hand.
“It’s a yellow rose. It means friendship.”
She could see it was a yellow rose, she wasn’t a nitwit. And she knew what it meant. Frank used to bring her roses every week. She took the rose from him. “I…uh…” Hell, she didn’t know what to say. Why would he give her a rose?
“I saw it and thought of you.” He ran his fingers around his shirt collar.
“Here, let me help.” He picked up the bag of groceries and started walking toward her door.
She grabbed the bag from him and ran into her house, too humiliated to speak, leaving him to stare after her.
Stephen watched Rose walk away. Damn woman made him feel like he did something wrong. Worse than a kid getting scolded by the principal. Why he bought that damn rose was beyond him. When he saw the display in the grocery store, it seemed like a good idea. Especially when he saw their meanings. Now he wished he hadn’t bothered.
Crabby old woman, she could have at least said thank you. Okay, so it was cold and she fell, but she did the same thing in the summer. How many times had he seen her working in her yard? When he came out, she jumped up and hurried into the house. You’d think he tried to attack her or had some horrible disease.
All he wanted was some friendly conversation. He shook his head. Don’t know about her. Obviously, she didn’t want anything to do with him. Too bad, she’s an attractive woman. Not that he was looking for anything more than friendship. Hell, he lived here over a year, and she never did more than nod at him. Bet she didn’t even know his name.
Crotchety old biddy.
So why did he bother with her? He really didn’t need more friends. He had the senior center and the neighbors a couple doors down, Len and Millie Fisher. Why he insisted on talking to Rose Asbury, he’d never know.
Still, he hoped she wasn’t hurt. She had taken a nasty fall. Bet she’d feel it in the morning. Bet she’d have a good black and blue mark, too. He chuckled. Served her right, rude old coot.
Something about her, though. He shook his head. Not sure why, but he wanted to break through that tough reserve. He shrugged and walked back to the garage, put the shovel away and went into the house.
Oh, well, can’t say he didn’t try.
Rose set her groceries on the counter and rubbed her hip. Gonna be sore as hell tomorrow, she could tell. Bet it turned black and blue already. Stupid klutz! Talk about the epitome of embarrassment. Bad enough she fell, but why did he have to see her? She made a fresh pot of coffee, picked up the rose and smelled it. Something about the fragrance of the rose made her think of Frank.
“You could have been nicer to him,” a voice whispered.
Rose jumped back. What the hell? “Who’s there?” She spun around the small kitchen. Shivers ran up her spine. She didn’t see anyone, yet she sensed a presence. Cold air brushed past her and settled over the room. She gripped the counter. What the hell’s going on here? “Who’s there?” she yelled again.
“It’s only me.” A shadowy figure appeared in front of her.
About the author:
Roseanne is the mother of six, grandmother of fourteen and great grandmother of one. She teaches writing classes at Long Story Short Writing School – www.lsswritingschool.com You can find more of Roseanne’s work at Amazon.com. Besides writing, Roseanne enjoys reading, quilting, ceramics, and making jewelry. She’s a member of NEORWA.
Roseanne’s book, Time to Live Again is available from Red Rose Publishing.