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.