Something else we’ve covered in the Creative Writing class is plot structure.
I guess a good question to be asking ourselves as we write is: what happens next?
So far, this has tended to be my biggest problem. I love starting a new story and introducing the main character. For a while, the words will flow effortlessly and I begin to feel very proud of myself for my creation.
Then, I come to a stop.
Where do I go now? I ask myself. Where can I take the story next? How can I keep the reader involved?
I’ve learnt that it helps to write a brief plan for short stories. To do this, I separate the piece into three acts, like a play.
The first act concentrates on setting the scene; I will introduce the main characters and some background, telling the reader what has brought them to the current situation. I will also leave a couple of subtle clues as to what happens in act two.
The second act will involve more of the conflict in the story. It will have some action or drama. I love to write in the first person, so this part of the story will often include some internal dialogue of the protagonist.
Obviously, the third act will conclude the story. There will be the moment where things ‘come to a head’. There may be an argument, for example, which forces our protagonist into a corner where they feel vulnerable. Sometimes there is a practical solution to a problem, as well as an emotional resolution.
Gradually, the plan becomes a list of activities or key scenes. Often, a small amount of research may be necessary. I’m writing a ghost story at the moment, for example, which requires some knowledge of Victorian burial customs. My general history knowledge is appalling (as my mother would be very glad to tell you) therefore I have had to call on the 21st century Oracle, the World Wide Web for small details to add weight to my story.
The planning can take a couple of days or several weeks, depending on how much I apply myself to the task. Then, once I’m happy, I then begin to write.