Monday, June 24, 2013

Plot Doc to the Rescue!

Holly says:

Maegan ~

I’ve done it this time. I’m my own protagonist. I’m up a tree. I’m in a corner. There is no way out. I’m screwed. Heeelllppp!!! Here’s my deal: I need to fix some stuff throughout my book, giving my protag a major case & having her comment/work on it throughout. I sort of alluded to that a while back, didn’t follow up so well. So how do I weave that in? Do I go back & write it in now, or just draw a line in the sand & tell people to pretend it’s there? 2) I left last time that Todd is on the way to Ollie’s. What the frick happens when Todd gets there? He’s got some ‘splainin’ to do as to why he ditched her for dinner, but we’re not going there yet, he’s going to dodge that & she’s going to leave it alone for now. Does he get derailed going over there? He gets called out on something? Or, he comes over? What did Araceli tell him? I’m thinking that perhaps she was dating a cop.  Araceli probably makes some snide comment about Todd being Ollie’s squeeze & how stupid it is to date cops or something, and Todd gleans from that. Or maybe not even that—just that she was dating someone right before this happened, and Todd thinks there might be something to it. Or… something else? Any ideas? As always, thank you in advance for your guidance. You are, quite simply, awesome! 

Hi, Holly!

Let me see if I can help... for those who are reading, I'm going to give a little plot synopsis to get them up to speed:

Ollie (our female protag) is an assistant DA and the daughter of a disgraced and disbarred lawyer... who just happens to be a register sex offender. When her father, with whom she hasn't had contact with in years, is viciously murdered and her estranged sister is arrested for the crime, Ollie wants to believe she's innocent. It's only when other defense attorneys, all of whom are were able to win high-profile cases, start turning up dead that she knows for sure. In order to save her sister, Ollie must find and stop a relentless killer who will stop at nothing to see that justice is served.

Okay. I'm going to address your questions/issues, point by point:

1) I think that giving Ollie s high-profile sex crime case is a great idea! It works for two reason: It will tie in with her issues with her father and if you play it right, will go a long way toward developing her story-worthy problem (coming to terms with what her father did). It will also give us a direct line to the killer... Ollie's opposing counsel could be on the killer's hit list. What if it happens to be a really good friend she met in college, or a former lover (this would be a GREAT complication)--that way the stakes are raised for her even higher. I'd go back and do an extensive re-write if I were you to add these things in--sooner is always better than later.

2) Todd (A cop and Ollie's long lost boyfriend who's made a very unexpected and unsettling re-appearance) will make a fantastic red herring! His sudden re-appearance in Ollie's life, in the mists of all these killings, should make her (and the reader) questions his motives and innocence. Thinking that Todd might be involved in some way (even if he's not) will up the stakes for Ollie even further, especially if she still has feelings for him. 

When he arrives at her house, there needs to be tension between them. His standing her up for dinner should bring all their old issues roaring to the surface for Ollie and she needs to hit him with some pretty hard questions (where have you been for the past five years? why did you come back? what do you want with me now? What did you talk with my sister about?) and his answers need to be vague enough to raise her, and our, suspicions... and then when the tension is at it's peak, he needs to get called away. If he leaves her house under murky circumstances, this will further our suspicions and his status as a possible suspect in Ollie's mind. Of course the questions pertaining to her sister and the case should take precedent over the one pertaining to their personal entanglement. Your story problem should always be the most important  thing on the page. Once it's established, nothing should derail your protag from solving it.

3) the idea of having Araceli (Ollie's sister) involved with a cop is a good one... just don't reveal which one just yet because this could potentially end up being a major clue into who your killer is and you want to save that revelation until the very last possible second. Reveal it in stages. When Todd asked her why she was in town the day of her father's murder, she could tell him that she was "visiting a friend" but she could say it in such a way that alluds to whatever is going on between her and her "friend" is more than just lunch and shopping. Then we can see Ollie pursue this angle... and then she's the one to discover Araceli's "friend" is a cop. Once you roll a "plot rock" down hill, it should never stop moving, gaining speed and mass until it's no longer a rock--it's a boulder and once we reach our climax, it slams into your protag with the force of wrecking ball. It destroys everything. Maybe even find out that Araceli is involved in her father's murder after all (either by choice, coercion or unwittingly). This would be a HUGE twist, finding out that after everything Ollie went through to prove her sister's innocence, that she actually was guilty to some degree. This would ultimately destroy Ollie... but in the aftermath, allow her the find the strength and resolve to finally achieve her story-worthy problem, which is forgiveness. Through forgiving her sister, she'll find the same for her father and finally be able to put her anger to rest and truly move on.

I really hope this helps, Holly! This sounds like a fantastic story you're telling! Keep me informed--I can't wait to see where your story take us.

Are you stuck on your plot? Don't know what your next story step should be? Got your protag backed into a corner with no way out? Give me a shout, I think I can help! Just go to my website: and click on the "CONTACT" icon. I'd be happy to answer your questions on my blog.


  1. Maegan--you are absolutely brilliant. I'm having such a hard time seeing the forest for the trees in my story. Every time I post here & you help me out, it simply clears the way for me. Thank you so much for your help--I could not do this without you!

  2. Holly, I'm so glad that my help was actually helpful! Anytime you need a little tree-clearing, just give me a shout! :)