Breaking your story down

I wrote last week about what I call beat maps, which can be a good diagnostic tool for finding the flaws in first drafts.

To recap: Open a document and create five columns: Page, Chapter, Time, Day/Date, Scene. Then go through your manuscript and fill out the spaces below. Page, Chapter, Time and Day/Date are obvious. Under Scene, type in “Introduce Penny…” or whatever your first scene does. Keep the stuff written under Scene to two essential elements: that which moves forward your plot, or defines your characters.

It’s a good tool for finding the flaws in your plot, or the drag in your pacing.

But novelist and sweetheart Katy King adds a nice twist to the beat map: She creates one for her A story and another for her B story.

Most novels have, at least, two independent stories going on. In a mystery, the A story is the whodunit and the B story is, say, the love interest. Or the hero’s busted relationship with a loved one. Or a bit of comedy.

Over dinner last night, Katy told me about breaking down her novel’s beat map, to make sure the A story tells a simple, straight-line story from start to finish, and satisfies the readers’ desire for a good tale well told. While her B story delves into the background of the heroine, revealing some facts but obfuscating others.

The A story has to deliver. The B story has to seduce.

Brilliant but simple. A nice variation on the use of beat maps to diagnose your early drafts.

About danahaynes

Dana Haynes is the author of ICE COLD KILL (2013), BREAKING POINT (2011) and CRASHERS (2010) from Minotaur and St. Martin's Press.

Posted on July 25, 2011, in Blog. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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