Marlene Bateman Sullivan grew up in Utah, and graduated from the University of Utah with a Bachelor's degree in English. She is married to Kelly R. Sullivan and they live in North Salt Lake, Utah with their two dogs and four cats. Marlene has been published extensively in magazines and newspapers and wrote the best-selling romance/suspense novel, Light on Fire Island. She has written three other cozy mysteries; Motive for Murder, A Death in the Family, and Crooked House, as well as the romance, For Sale by Owner.
Marlene has also written a number of non-fiction, LDS books: Latter-day Saint Heroes and Heroines, And There Were Angels Among Them, Visit’s from Beyond the Veil, By the Ministering of Angels, Brigham’s Boys, Heroes of Faith, Gaze into Heaven; Near-death Experiences in Early Church History, and The Magnificent World of Spirits; Eyewitness Accounts of Where We Go When We Die.
Tips on Plotting
By Marlene Bateman, author of Searching for Irene
Plot is built of significant events in a given story. The events are significant because they have important consequences. For a plot to be effective, there must be something very specific at stake—something vital. Ask yourself what the central conflict is, the struggle that’s the basis of plot. Then ask yourself how to show—rather than tell—why this is so important to the character and how to best make the reader understand, empathize and care about what happens.
- Make Tension Fuel Your Plot. Without tension, there is no plot. Remember, whenever the protagonist’s desires are denied, tension arises.
- Make Certain There Is a Two-way Urgency. Your protagonist wants a particular, important desire fulfilled as soon as possible, and the antagonist wants to wreck the chance of that happening, also as soon as possible.
For Example, if the hero wants to preserve his valuable stamp collection and the villain has stolen it and intends to sell the items piecemeal their wants are on a collision course. But why would the reader care about the stamp collection? If it belonged to President Franklin Roosevelt, an avid stamp collection, the reader will care more. He will care if the protagonist cares.
- Create Tension Through Opposition. The role of the antagonist is to thwart the intention of the protagonist. Make the antagonist as smart, wily, and brave as the protagonist.
- Work to Express the Core Plot In a Sentence Or Two. Pretend you’re writing a description for the TV guide. See how brief and direct you can make your summaries. For example; The police chief of a New England vacation community, although terrified of the ocean, sets out to destroy a huge killer shark. (Jaws)
- Make Tension Grow As Opposition Increases. It’s a chain of cause and effect, which builds and produces conflict and tension, which you need to keep the story going. Every time something happens, the stakes grow larger, the actions snowball.
- Throw in a Surprise or Two or Three. Nice surprises are one of the pleasures of life. When reading a book, readers thrill to the unexpected: a new obstacle, an unexpected confrontation by an enemy, or a sudden twist of circumstance. Every twist in your story starts adrenaline pumping and pages turning. Surprises aren’t hard to create. Look at each important incident in your plot and see what you would expect to happen next. Then have the opposite happen.
- Make Change the Point of Your Story. We expect events to affect the main character in such a way that they force a change in his personality. Your main character should be a different person at the end of the book than he was at the beginning.
- Balance Scene and Exposition. After an intense scene, have some exposition to cover events of a day or two or a week. You can account for the doings of several characters that don’t merit full scenes or describe distant events that have a bearing on the here and now.
- When Something Happens, Make Sure It’s Important. Plot is your compass. You’ve got a general idea of the direction you’re headed. If you write something that is specifically related to the advancement of the plot, keep it. If not, chuck it.
- Make the Causal Look Casual. Everything in your writing has a reason, a cause that leads to an effect, which in turn becomes the next cause. For example; If a shotgun is necessary, show it casually—in a way that the reader almost doesn’t notice. Later, when a gun is called for, readers will remember seeing one earlier.
- Make Sure Your Lead Character Performs the Central Action of the Climax. Keep the main character on center stage with the action. Your main character should act, not be acted upon.
THANK YOU, MARLENE!!