If you follow me on social media (especially Instagram!) you’ll have seen me posting about songs that are inspiring me or are somehow applicable to the books I’m writing. I’ve also shared with my newsletter a few of the songs that I had on my playlist for The Royal Runaway.
Making a playlist of songs is a part of my book-writing process and I’m so glad my husband insisted on getting a family Spotify account a few years ago (yes, insisted - I fought it. It’s a long story - I love my Spotify now!) because I listen to music all the time and I LOVE having all sorts of songs to stream anytime I want to.
I was in the car recently and some random Spotify playlist was on shuffle and all of a sudden, I realized that the songs that were playing - and the order they were in - actually corresponded to parts of a book.
So I decided to sit down and show you - through music - how to plot a book. No, I won’t be singing… but you might be!
(Before we get started, please note that I pretty much learned plotting from Save The Cat by Blake Snyder. I had read other books about plotting and book structure before that but when I read this one, it all finally clicked and made sense for me. Since then, I also implement other pieces that I’ve picked up, such as ideas from Jenny Cruisie’s workshop at RWA Nationals, some of which can be found here. Two other good genre specific resources for plotting are Writing the Cozy Mystery by Nancy Cohen and Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes.)
Act I -
A story starts off with the main character in their ordinary, day-to-day life. And for better or for worse, they’re okay with that.
But then…. SOMETHING HAPPENS.
They discover they have magical powers.
They get laid off from their factory job.
The President of the United States calls them in and gives them a Top Secret Mission.
The hot guy at the bakery accidentally gives them a cupcake with gluten in it.
Whatever it is… life changes.
Act II -
This is the part of the story where the “fun & games” happen. It’s also a part where a lot of authors start to run into trouble. “Like, we just have them do stuff?”
Well yes, but it’s stuff that’s going to get them in trouble. Stuff that’s going to keep making their quest/ mission/ dating life more difficult and more complicated.
But the characters can’t just keep running around having fun and flirting. Something has to happen that makes everything more difficult. Radio communications go out. The dog is kidnapped. The heroine realizes she just might be having feelings for the bakery guy, which will totally complicate her job of eradicating gluten from the planet.
And so the characters have to dig a little deeper and be a little wiser and craftier and come up with new plans to fight the foe, whether it is a terrorist or a arch-nemesis pop singer.
The main characters fight/ strive/ sleuth and finally! They get to a spot where everything seems great. A murder suspect is in jail. The Soviet submarine has been captured. There’s (really good) sex.
This false high can be placed in several places in the story (and of course there can be multiple happy parts of a book) but I like it right before…
Act III -
OH NOES. Everything our characters believed was a lie. The serial killer wasn’t in jail because he has killed again. There was a double agent on board the submarine. That hot Australian guy was already married!
This is… the BLACK MOMENT….
Well, that’s it. Story is over.
Um, I don’t know about you but I don’t want to read a story like that. And most stories don’t end with the heroine crumpled on the floor seriously contemplating a slow death by Ice Cream Pint. At least mine don’t.
No, I want the characters to dig deep down and scrape some courage up and fight one last battle against whatever they’ve been fighting. Maybe their freedom, their love, their nation is at risk. This is the place for the big stand off, the come-back after half-time, the impassioned closing argument in a sweltering, crowded courtroom.
It’s The Final Countdown…
Our heroes and heroines are victorious!!! (At least in my books and the books I like to read. If you like books without any winning, then you do you. Enjoy your depressing soul-destroying books.)
Everyone celebrates! There is kissing! There is mead! And ale! A ticker tape is thrown and maybe there’s one last smug I Told You So from someone that makes you feel really good that you were on the right side. And then, if you’re really lucky, sometimes there’s… A Dance Scene…
Yeah. You can see it now, can’t you? You can feel the way a story is supposed to go. If you’re a writer - go forth and make that sh!t happen. If you’re a reader, follow my Best Books to Read Now blog posts, my Women With Books podcast or check out my books for excellent stories that always have a dance scene at the end.***
*** Not valid in every case.