Friday, February 06, 2009


There are as many ways to plot a story as there are stories.  But, as we all know, some are better than others.  This leads me to what I call Pretzel Plotting (putting the cart before the horse and making the horse like it) 

In a basic Confessions type story, the expected plot is sin, suffer and repent.  But, it makes a much better story if the suffering comes after, rather than before repentance, as in sin, repent, and then suffer anyway.

For example: The protagonist does something deplorable and gets away with it.  Later, plagued by a guilty conscience, she attempts to make things right.  However, in the process of making things right, suppose she tells a series of lies that make her appear guilty of a crime.  Now we have a woman, repentant for her intolerable act, innocent of the crime of which she is accused, but helpless to defend herself without telling the truth about the despicable thing she did.  Sound like a soap opera?  It is.  But, it is also an intriguing plot with lots of possibilities.

Pretzel Plotting is taking the standard plots and turning them on their ear much as many current Historical Romance writers are doing.  I have recently read over a three dozen such novels for research.  In each of them, her own actions catch the protagonist, and she and her antagonist end up married early in the book.  By the end of the novel, they are madly in love.  A Pretzel Plot based on the boy meets girl/boy gets girl dichotomy but twisted into a more interesting shape.  A good example of this is in The Thorn Birds, both protagonists have long since repented for their earlier involvement.  Nevertheless, in the sequel, everyone is suffering from it.

"What if" is the stuff of which Pretzel Plots are made?  What if Hitler had not died?  What if Eisenhower had not halted his forward thrust to let the Russians enter Berlin first?  What if Custer had followed orders?  What if Pickett hadn't?  What if Scarlet had been named Gertrude Hoffhausen?  Or, Sherman had taken a different route?  What if Tiny Tim had won the lottery?  What if Rocky had fixed the fight?  What if Luke's father had never gone over to the Dark Side?

     Pretzel Plots.  Find your story.  Get fully acquainted with your characters.  Put them in a situation.  Then, turn the situation inside out.  Wrap it in and over itself.  Put your characters through the wringer, but make them tumble-dry themselves.


1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:20 AM

    This gives me LOTS of ideas.


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