And we’re back, again, like bad pennies (well, Zoe and Ana are–we all know Kate is a lady). Today we’re talking about Chapter 6 of Story Trumps Structure: Change. If you have missed a post, you can find the masterlist here.
Ana: I do like the terms ‘putty’ and ‘pebble’ people. Easy to remember, for what it’s worth.
Zoe: Right. Putty people are the characters in the story who change—if you throw putty against a wall, it changes shape. Pebble people are the character who don’t change. If you throw pebbles against your wall, you just end up with dents in your drywall. Both serve a purpose in the story. Obviously your protagonist will be a putty person. (I have a note that says “Do people really have to figure out who their protag is?” because he actually explains how you can tell.)
Ana: I have actually talked to writers who weren’t sure who their protag should be. Though usually they were still in the planning stages and just had a lot of world building and a lot of ideas for characters, or even a whole bunch of characters planned… but no real story to speak of.
Zoe: Ah, so it’s a different approach. My stories always come out of a character.
Kate: I’m a pantser, so I never really know what’s going on. But I think the protagonist thing is why I tend to write in multiple POV’s–if they’re involved at all in the story, in a major way, they’re changing throughout it, so they are a mover in the plot.
Ana: And I think James said every POV character should generally be a putty person. Actually while reading this chapter I was wondering if in every romance, both characters need to be putty, but so far I haven’t been able to think of an example where one was pebble, even though I’ve read a good number of romances that only have one POV. (I like to have two in my own books.)
Zoe: I was going to say that in my novel Loose Id’s putting out later this year, my love interest might be a pebble, but as you were answering, I realized that by the end of the story he changes his mind about an important thing and also he comes to love the main character, and that’s putty.
Ana: I guess it makes sense. When you’re writing a relationship, at the very least, the characters should influence one another..
Zoe: I liked the analogy about the caterpillar. When the caterpillar enters the cocoon, either he’s going to be transformed into a butterfly, or he’s going to die. He’s not going to come out as a caterpillar, and that’s what happens to the protagonist. He can’t come back out the same as he was before.
Kate: And that’s where he talks about illustrating the change in the character by allowing them to make a choice that is different than the one they would have made before the change occurred. Certainly, that’s where the emotional climax should be happening in a book.
Ana: I just remembered I have read one romance book where one of the characters was pebble, even though he was also a POV character. It was a horrible book though. (IMO). I couldn’t relate to the character, and maybe that was part of it. He just didn’t change. (Although he really should have.)
Zoe: Did it leave you asking, “Why on earth are they with this guy?”
Ana: Yes. Although I kind of blamed Stockholm syndrome at the end.
Kate: That blurred line between Alpha and Stockholm–how many times have we seen that?!
Ana: One problem of the book (for me) was that, while it claimed to be BDSM, the ‘submissive’ in the relationship wasn’t submissive, and had no desire to be. But we’re kind of going off on a tangent here…
Zoe: This was a pretty short chapter—if not in length, in content. It’s also the end of Part One in the book, so it recaps what we’ve covered: Orientation, Crisis/Calling, Escalation, Discovery, and Change. These could be considered signposts almost to the story.
Kate: I liked the last thing he said in the chapter, about the protagonist’s journey being Desire, Setbacks, Stakes, and Outcome. Very simple and straightforward, which I still find he does an excellent job of.
Kate: The structure of the six chapters, the topics he picked, reminds me a little of some of the story planning techniques people use–the kinds with worksheets so you can figure out all the important stuff before you sit down to write? The kind I never use, because I have some serious authorial claustrophobia? (I should probably get treatment for that…)
Ana: The thought of filling out worksheets always fills me with dread too. You know those ‘50 questions for your characters’ things? Ugh.
Zoe: Too much like school work, plus most of the questions I’m like, “Why do I need to know that?” Or, I do know that—why do I need to write it down? I’m looking forward to the next chapter where he tells us how to discard our outline, so it looks like we’re getting less structure-y.
Kate: Me, too. *sings* Don’t fence me in, don’t fence me in…
Zoe: Today’s earworm brought to you by Kate.
As usual, feel free to leave comments. And I promise they’ll actually get through this time! We’ll be back Monday on Kate’s blog, starting with Part II: Secrets to Organic Writing!