Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Author Holly Black on Plot

Holly Black is the bestselling author of several MG and YA fantasy books, including The Spiderwick Chronicles (With DiTerlizzin) and the new Curse workers series. One of the highlights of this Springs SCBWI conference was Holly's closing keynote address, which focused on building your plot.

When Holly began her writing career, she felt that she didn't understand how to construct a plot with a beginning, middle and end.
She felt like she had to get from A to B, that pressure kept her from telling a great story. Then Holly figured something out, getting from A to B was only the the basic goal, and that by liberating her self by using subplots, she could do the real storytelling. 

To start her keynote, Holly described four different types of plots; to stop, to escape, to retrieve and to win. Basically, your book will fall into one of these categories, whether your character is on a quest, trapped in a dungeon, or stuck in a duel to the death, you will find one of these plots fits your story. According to Holly what really brings your story to life is the interaction of subplot with main plot. If  there are only four types of plots, then all stories are relatively the same, it is the subplot that adds the twists and flavor. "Subplots are usually the most interesting part of a book," says Holly.

"Books start when something changes. Plot starts when something goes wrong." Your plot begins at point A and moves in a straight line to point B. Subplots wind their way around the plot like a snake, undulating like a sound wave. These waves are the exciting points, where things go wrong, where your character takes an unexpected turn. You know the beginning and where you are ending, but the in between is the fun stuff.

So what do you do to unveil the subplots lurking in your story? "Talk it out. Get distance. When you are writing, you are in the book," says Holly. "When you are talking, you are above it." Looking down on your story you can see where to put in the kinks. Also, don't be afraid to start your book with a subplot, there's time to develop the main plot as you go. The subplot will add a kick to the opening.

When Holly finally figured out the interaction between plot and subplots, she was able to stop worrying and love plot as a whole. Now, Holly writes bestsellers, her latest book Red Glove came out April 2011. Check her out at http://www.blackholly.com/ .

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