Posted by on in Magnolia City

How to X-ray your novel

I don’t like applying the word “plot” to novels, unless you think of it in the surveyor’s sense of measuring off a section of land. Then you get into topography, and that’s the real secret of writing riveting fiction. A book that you can’t put down usually takes you on a roller coaster ride up and down a series of dramatic peaks, the tension rising until you reach the Magic Mountain of the climax.

I’m struggling with this territory now as I rework an old draft of the sequel to Magnolia City, called The Tibetan Magic Show. It tells the story of Hetty’s children in the 1960s. I now realize that the problems with this older novel spring from its spineless plot. Youthful posturing instead of good posture. Many novels suffer from a kind of osteoporosis — weak bone structure. They are flabby, and can’t really stand on their own. A skeleton for a novel should look a bit like the Himalaya Mountains, with Everest as the climax.

I’ve taken a snapshot of the poster on my writing studio wall. It charts out the first half of The Tibetan Magic Show.  A chart like this is an X-ray of the bones of your book. You can see the peaks and valleys.  Also woven in are colored lines which represent the threads I am weaving through the story: loss, redemption and revenge. Notice how they peak along with the high points in the plot. It is this complex tapestry of interconnections that ultimately make up the texture of the novel, one that I hope will culminate in a dramatic denouement.

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Guest Saturday, 19 August 2017