Sunday, May 5, 2013
My Quick & Dirty Plotting Secret
In reality, there are usually "only" three plot lines in a Sammy Keyes book. Usually these are the mystery, Sammy's home life, and Sammy's school life. Having multiple threads really helps keep the story chugging along. And it allows time to pass in the other story lines without having to deal with filling in time (which is how stories tend to get bogged down). I've discussed before how I use the story's theme to tie the three plot lines together, so I won't delve into that again now. Instead I'll share a secret.
I learned how to plot by watching Seinfeld.
Now, I didn't watch it thinking, Whoa, this sitcom is teaching me how to plot! I didn't take notes or analyze it. I watched it because it was funny. It was actually the only television show (aside from the news) that I watched. Or, I should say, we watched. Mark and I had "real jobs," and did not have the same days off. Watching Seinfeld on Thursday nights became a standing date and something we both really looked forward to.
As with all shows, some episodes are better than others, and after a while I started recognizing that the best ones were both funny and had several seemingly disparate story lines that somehow tied together at the end. Kramer would be off on one of his goofy jaunts, Jerry would be dealing with (say) his parents, George would be involved in one of his ill-fated schemes, and Elaine would be having some separate crisis of her own. But in the end, zap, all the threads tied together, and in some of those episodes the conclusions are wonderfully satisfying.
Mind you, I didn't realize I was paying attention to the writing, but after years of watching the show, it must've become something I absorbed. And I didn't actually think about how the show had influenced my writing until well after the Sammy Keyes series was under way and people started asking me, Where'd you learn to plot like that? and (having no formal training) I didn't really have an answer. Uh...I read a lot? Uh...Intuition? Uh...I dunno?
But then one day (with a loud click) I made the connection and now I recognize that the (quick and dirty) answer is...I learned to plot by watching Seinfeld. So if you're an aspiring writer and you're sick to death of reading about plotting, go find yourself some Seinfeld. Consider it research.
Thanks for checking in! Hope to see you next week! And as always, I look forward to seeing you in the comments.