tagged with: setting

Hope you are enjoying your Labor Day holiday. I am taking full advantage of the stormy weather we’re having in South Florida today to catch up on some writing and reading as tropical storm Gordon moves through. Whatever you do today, take some time to rest and prepare for tomorrow.

When you think of a library, you think of a place that is always quiet, where people speak barely above a whisper, so you can read or browse the bookshelves with little distraction. Well, this past Friday evening, one of my local libraries, the South Regional – Broward College Library, did not fit this description. And no one complained because everyone was there to celebrate the 56th independence anniversary of the twin-island nation of Trinidad & Tobago. It was a time of food, fun, laughter and, as happens with every T & T occasion, music.

I was fortunate to have a table at the festivities where I met a lot of fellow Trinidadians, and sold a few copies of my book Coming Out of Egypt. I must tell you I was a little surprised, and pleased, at how much the title drew people’s attention, and here’s why. The story of the two sisters who came out of an abusive childhood begins in their hometown of Egypt Village, Trinidad. Egypt in the Bible represents a place of bondage; a place where the Israelites were kept in slavery for 400 years until God sent Moses to deliver them. The girls’ situation when the story begins is one of bondage – they were abused by their father, although that took before the story began. They eventually flee Egypt Village to elude the police and so they came out of Egypt literally. With the intervention of Marva’s teacher, they begin to overcome some of the effects of the abuse and therefore came out of Egypt figuratively.

That’s the reason for the title Coming Out of Egypt, and I had lots of opportunity to explain that to curious passersby, some of whom were familiar with Egypt Village. I just kept thinking I hope I have all the facts surrounding the setting straight, which is why it’s so important to research settings carefully when you are writing about a place.

You can also follow this gripping series with book 2 In the Wilderness and book 3 In the Promised Land by clicking these links.

When you set about the daunting task of writing a novel, your main task is to plot it in such a way that people will want to read it. And by plotting I mean writing a series of events from beginning to end in a logical manner. In order to do this you may use the first tried and true method, which is,

Sit and write, stand and write, kneel and write, whichever works best for you. And you begin your novel, It was a dark and stormy night. This didn’t work for Snoopy and it might not work for you either. So how do you plot your novel? Here are some plotting methods I’ve come across in books.

1. Write down some background information. This may include notes about your characters and what makes them tick. Next, you put your characters in a place or several places, which will be your setting, then you give your main character a problem. How he/she solves (or does not solve) that problem will be your plot.

2. Using an outline. Some authors swear by this. You start with a problem for your main character, then you write a chapter outline of the plot. This is okay, but I have found that I can never stick to an outline. My characters tend to pull me away from it in more interesting avenues, which I can’t resist.

3. Use 3 x 5 cards. If you can still find these in your office supply store, they might be more helpful than the outline. Here’s why. After you have written your plot points on the cards, you can always move them around to see where they fit best, or discard those that do not work. Maybe it’s better if Sally tells Johnny she is divorced after they have gone on their first date instead of before. So you move that card to where you want the event to occur.

4. Draw a bell curve or a graph. Either of these will give you a visual representation of where the climax of your story comes. To do this, use the points you plotted on 3 x 5 cards or in the outline. Again, I find the cards are easier to play around with. Draw your curve and plot the salient points on your curve in the order in which they appear. Hopefully, the high point of your novel or the climax will fall in, or near, the middle of the curve. If it doesn’t, you may have to do some restructuring. The reason for this is, if the climax comes too early, the resolution tends to drag and the reader may lose interest. If it comes too late, the resolution may seem rushed and the reader may feel cheated.

The important thing to remember is, there is no hard and fast rule for writing or plotting your novel. You may ignore everything that was said here and simply sit at your computer like Snoopy and type. However, if you think you need a little bit of planning before you delve into the literary waters, then play with some of the methods above. If you find one, or a combination, that works for you, go for it.