Monday, 21 May 2012

The Staircase of Turning Points

The stairs at Cataract Gorge, Launceston, Tas, Australia.
No, I don't have to credit the picture because I took it.
At the RWA's Launceston Roadshow I presented a workshop called "The Staircase of Turning Points".

This technique uses a staircase diagram to map out your turning points in your novel. It can be applied to all fiction, not merely romance.

You must have turning points to keep your story moving onwards and upwards. BUT one thing I didn't put in the workshop is that you can have small breaks for your protagonist to catch her breath - like these stairs at Cataract Gorge in Launceston.

Hmmmm, I should have visited the Gorge beforehand and I could have included it. Never fear, I'll do this next time.

Anyhow, the quick and dirty version is this: The staircase maps out a series of efforts and roadblocks as the protagonists climbs ever onward toward her goal. The protagonist is not going to get what they want first time (otherwise there is no story) but also, nor will they fail and fail and fail all the way until they some how work everything out in one hit and manage to win.

Instead, a story is a series of "effort, roadblock, more effort, still not getting the result they want, more effort" etc. PLUS - some small victories along the way that make them think they might just get what they want in the end.

BUT - when your protagonist has a victory, it often comes with a compromise. For example, Scarlett O'Hara wanted to make a dress out of her late mother's curtains. Mammy was her roadblock, saying there was no way anyone was touching those curtains! Scarlett convinced Mammy it was the right thing to do, so eventually Mammy gave in - on the condition she accompany Scarlett to Atlanta!

So Scarlett gets her dress, she gets to go to Atlanta (where she plans to get money from Rhett, to pay the taxes on Tara) but she has to take Mammy with her, the queen of all difficult chaperones!

And another thing about staircases and writing - get to it!
Come on, onwards and upwards!!!


alexia said...

Great post! A turning staircase with landings is a perfect analogy for plot points.

Heather said...

I love the idea of turning points keeping your story moving upwards. Great post hon, I'm taking notes!

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