Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Throughlines; or, “How in God’s Name Do I Fit This All In There?”



I took Carol Hughes’s Deep Story class last year.  It might not come as a surprise to any of you that I’d forgotten that fact until Bo’sun mentioned that she’d begun classes a couple weeks ago.

I said, “Oh, hey! Right! I took that class. It was awesome!  So much great information.”

To which Bo’sun agreed and said, “I had great ideas about how I would give them their own storylines within the story.”

I promptly thought, Huh. I don’t remember that part.  Maybe I should read back over that stuff.

After an intensive evening of rereading my lessons, my notes, and the class questions, I emailed Terri and said, “WHY DIDN’T I RE-READ THIS TWO MONTHS AGO!?”

She didn’t roll her eyes.  At least she didn’t in the email.  She’s a few states away, so maybe she did and I didn’t see it.

(Aside: If you haven’t taken this class yet, please do.  It’s awesome.  Carol Hughes is brilliant.)

Anyway, what was I talking about?

Oh, right. Storylines for each character.

You see, according to this class, there isn’t just one plot to your book.  It’s broken into Throughlines.  These are the different stories that weave through your book to help you achieve your Main Story. 

The Main Story Throughline (ie, how they achieve the main story goal) is pretty much the main artery of your story.  It’s the main problem and what has to be solved to hit the end.

Then, in romance, there are separate stories for your hero and heroine (the protagonist and the contagonist).  These throughlines are their own personal struggles through the book and they weave into and feed the Main Story Throughline.  The characters’ throughlines map out their journey towards becoming changed (for the better) characters at the end of the story and how they overcome their big fears/major flaw through the course of the Main Story.

Finally, there’s their shared storyline.  How they interact together and how they overcome their differences/obstacles to accomplish their major goal.

There could be more throughlines, of course.  If you have a subplot, for instance.  But, those four are the big ones.

I was trying to plot them all together and I was worrying I wasn’t linking it all properly, that I would leave holes or miss major character growth.  I realized this was putting the cart before the horse. After I wrote it, I’d have to make sure I did all the things I wanted to do.  Destined for rewrites, I say.  As I was reading my notes, I realized I could plot out what each of my characters went through separately FIRST and then weave it all together before writing. 

Epiphany.

Mostly, this reminded me that my hero and heroine are separate people outside the scoop of their love story.  They need their own road to walk.

So, I thought I’d share with you all and hoped it would help you too.

Have you had any plot structure epiphanies lately?  Do you think about your characters’ journeys before you start writing or do you just go and see what happens?

And again, go take Carol Hughes’s class.  This is just a tiny tidbit of the wisdom in it.  It’s worth the money and time.

27 comments:

Maureen said...

Epiphanies? Well, I am taking the same class as Terri is, and you did...and I haven't read one lesson. I saved them all...but can't wrap my head around it all right now. I'm saving everything I can, including e-mail questions and answers. And if I blow anything, Terri will have it.

The closest I've come to a real epiphany when it comes to plot right now is what I am currently working on. I am letting it grow slow and steady. No forcing, no pushing, just generalized plotting...I am totally just letting it go...

Maureen said...

By the way, "How in God's Name Do I Fit This All In There?" describes the room I'm fighting to de-clutter. Though I'd say Did instead of Do...

Marnee Bailey said...

Mo - LOL! I guess that title does work for you, doesn't it? hahaha!!

And that's awesome about just letting it grow. I think that's a great way to get your groove back. Just let the story take you away. :)

TerriOsburn said...

Totally agree! Though I'm way behind. I think I got through lesson 3 while Kiddo had her teeth cleaned then a baby tooth pulled yesterday. There is SO MUCH information that I'm having to read and re-read to absorb it all. And I'm still only getting the surface stuff.

But that Throughline stuff makes the plotting so much clearer. These are two individuals and they have their own lives. They had their own lives before they met. Expecting them to suddenly only have the interactions they have with each other is silly. Or so it seems now.

My brain is a little overloaded right now, but I'll get through all these lessons and pull out the big stuff I want to put together for easy reference. Can't imagine attacking a new story without applying these concepts. They just make the story come to life.

TerriOsburn said...

Forgot to say, no eye rolling here. Well, not at you. :)

MsHellion said...

So regretting the historical research class I'm taking instead. Just saying.

What I like about Carol--from the borrowed bits I get to read is how she clarifies stuff you've already been told about or you know instinctively from reading and writing story.

We already knew the first throughline--the main goal, the blurb on the back of your book. Then of course, we've got the Character 1 agenda and inner growth throughline. And Character 2 agenda and inner growth throughline. And because we knew they'd intersect in the story and it's a romance, we knew there'd be scenes where C1 & C2 would interact and the scenes would positively impact their growth (for throughlines 2 & 3)...

I just like how Carol clarifies what it is...and then pragmatically shows you how you go about strengthening and adding that to your own story.

MsHellion said...

Mo, don't worry. I look at my clutter room and think the same thing. It's like layer upon layer upon layer of clutter. I haven't even gotten to the closet yet. I may cry.

Marnee Bailey said...

Ter - I think what's nice about the class is that it organizes things I already had in an abstract way. Yes, on an abstract level I knew that the characters needed to have a goal. But this helps me define what it is I'm trying to do and gives me a plan to accomplish it.

And thank you for not rolling your eyes at me. This time and probably countless others.

LOL!

Hells - I think that's exactly it. She goes through and explains the why of how it works and the how of doing it. It's an awesome class.

Like I said, I try to do it all at once. In a sort of, this event happens so it would be a good time for this emotional development. But, in the way of multi-tasking, if you try to do too much at one time you end up doing all the things kind of mediocre. I think by breaking it down and then putting it together after, I can do a better job at accomplishing the whole.

And, as a whole, clutter is the devil. I've been getting rid of little bits at a time this summer. It's been liberating.

TerriOsburn said...

That's the best part of this class and why it's the best one I've ever taken. She doesn't just say, "You need to crank up the emotion in your story." She says, "You need to crank up the emotion and THIS is how you do it." With details and graphics and lists and it's simple and yet there's ton of information.

And she does point out that much of this we already know, we just never had a name for it. Once you put a name on something and identify it, you can control it better. I'm relieved when I look back at my GH book and see all the things I put in there that according to this class I needed but I did it without knowing what it was all called or why I did it.

This class should really be called "Epiphanies Galore." LOL!

Maureen said...

Did anyone else notice that the subtitle of this blog could also be the the name of an X-rated movie?

I can have a dirty mind, too!

TerriOsburn said...

I thought that!!

Janga said...

I never thought that. Never. Not for a minute. Honest. ;)

I'm definitely a plot panster. I know tons about my characters, but I have only a very broad idea of plot when I start. This class sounds like something I could use, and I rarely say that about classes since I think reading and analyzing what I've read are my best sources of instruction.

Maureen said...

To be perfectly honest, this class scares the hell out of me. I haven't spoken one word so far, not even to say I'm lurking... I'm not even sure I could say I'm lurking. It's more like I'm playing hooky.

TerriOsburn said...

It is overwhelming and she made it clear in her email that many students take months to get through the lessons and could take longer to absorb all the info. But it's priceless info to have. Don't worry about getting it all in your head by the end of class.

We can chat about it on Friday nights.

MsHellion said...

We need some friday night chats....

TerriOsburn said...

Get on Google+ and we can do it.

MsHellion said...

I am on Google +. What else do I need to do?

TerriOsburn said...

Go on the site at our designated time and join the hangout. I'll send you the time in email.

Marnee Bailey said...

Janga - this class is really great. I think it's good for both pantsers and plotters, honestly. I mean, for a plotter, it's good at the beginning. But a pantser can use the same info at the end or during revisions. And even if it isn't something that a writer uses as a "manual" to write, it's good to give an abstract idea a name. I think, anyway.

And I want to get in on this hangout too. I see where it is and I saw how I got invited but then I can't get in to it.

I find Google+ so confusing.

TerriOsburn said...

Marn - I'll email you. Do you have a webcam?

Marnee Bailey said...

yup! :)

TerriOsburn said...

Then maybe your kid interruptions will make my puppy interruptions look less entertaining. LOL! Will send the info!

Marnee Bailey said...

Hahaha!!

Okay! Sounds good.

Maureen said...

I'm plugging the blender in for Friday!

Marnee Bailey said...

Whoot!!

Di R said...

Hi Pirates~
Sorry I'm late. Today is the first day of school, so I spent yesterday taking my son to cc practice, finishing school shopping and walking my daughter through her schedule. She's on the high school campus and is very nervous. So after we got home I had her write directions on the back of her schedule (after 1st period turn left go downstairs...) that seemed to help.

I took Carol's class and loved it. One of the best I've ever taken. I highly recommend joining her Deep Story yahoo loop at the end of class. She answers any and all questions until you grasp the answer. I have mine set to digest and usually get one or two a week.

Di

TerriOsburn said...

Hey, Di! I plan to join the loop at the end of class. I'm only on what, nine others? What's one more? LOL! I think this one will be worth my time.