“I Have No Idea What I’m Doing.” We’ve all felt that way. It’s one thing to have an idea for an interesting character, or even better, an idea for an interesting story. It’s a completely different thing to able to take that idea and make it into something others want to read. That’s all I had, an idea. Along with it a vague idea for a lead character. I was set, right? That's all you need, right? Like the “Pro” that I am, I started writing. That was five years ago.
Got over 8,000 words deep before I looked up from my computer. With what I’m sure must have been a shocked look on my face. I had NO CLUE where my story was going! What was the point? What was my character trying to achieve? At the end of the story where would she be? I shut my computer and walked away. (Smooth, real smooth.) I didn’t look at that document again for two years.
I was working the kind of job that is probably important, but mostly just makes you wonder what on earth you're doing with your life. (Much like I felt about my story’s character) So on my breaks I was looking for an escape so I started rereading some of my favorites. Enter “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”. All the books in the series are amazing. (Really don’t get me started) The third one in particular ways got my mind turning. Where did my mind go? Yep! Back to my dead in the water story. So pulled up the metaphorical dusty old document and started writing again! Learning basically nothing from the last time. (Like an Idiot) I planned out nothing and got another 2,000 words. Then, because everything in life goes my way all the time, my computer's motherboard decided it was sick of my nonsense, and killed itself. (Perfect) I used the fact that I had no money to replace it as my solid excuse to stop writing again.
THREE YEARS! Work stayed the same except for the part where it got worse. I started listening to audio books. You know, as an alternative to actually talking to people. Once again my favorite authors made me want to create a world of my own. Just like that Tolkien's words awakened the dream again. I got the long awaited replacement for my computer. Since my last computer went down in flames the only thing I had left of my original work was a hard copy of the first twenty pages. Transcribe, Transcribe, Transcribe. I spent a month transcribing and rewriting the 20 pages. I didn’t love my story. I loved parts of it, but it was touch and go, mostly go. I finally opened my eyes. After groping my way in the dark grasping at anything that felt like a plot I wasn't going to take another step till I turn on a light.
Valuable resources, Pinterest! Yes, that is where I turn to for answers. Because I’m a 20some female in 2016, don’t judge me. What do those pins lead to articles and (drum roll……) Blogs! I read about a hundred articles and blog posts on plot development. (I’m using the word hundred loosely here) That’s when my hero arrived. I knew what the 3 Act Structure was but I never looked too hard at it till then. The beautiful concept that could save my story.
Pretty simple Act One: Introduction, inciting incident, rising action and first turning point. (Things get bad) Act Two: Obstacles, more rising action, second turning point (Things get REALLY bad) Act Three: Climax, descending action, and resolution. That’s basically the over simplified version. Isn't it glorious! I’ll be talking about this more in upcoming posts. For now just know that I have a literary crush on the 3 Act Structure.
I stopped writing, but this time it wasn't just a stop it was a time to regroup. I would get my plot together and really find out what my character was doing with her life. (At least then one of us would know). It took me five years to figure out I’m not the kind of writer that can work without an outline. You don’t have to have an outline to write, but boy does it help. Especially if you're writing science fiction with overlapping time lines.
Basically that’s how the 3 Act Structure became my new BFF.