Plot Thickenings

If someone hadn’t given me a good word of advice a long time ago, I’m fairly sure I’d still be just sitting down to write–no plot, no plan, and in the end, no story.

I’ve learned I must have some sort of roadmap or I’ll end up hyperventilating every time I open my word document because I’m totally lost.

If I plotted as heavily as some wonderfully awesome writers do, I’d be so bored with my story, I’d clean toilets rather than work on it.

So when I write a book, I do a little plotting beforehand, then go for it. (I’m always way too anxious to get to the fun of that first scene.)

For me at this time, plotting means a little Miss Deb (Dixon) for the hero, heroine and the bad guy if there is one–character wants this, because of this, but he can’t have it because of this.

Then turning points–

  1. Inciting incident.
  2. Midbook turning point.
  3. Midbook turning point.
  4. Dark moment.
  5. Resolution.

A little explanation:

  • Inciting incident is the happening that starts things off. In a romance, it’s often the first meeting between the hero and heroine. Other times, it’s something that happens that precipitates the first attraction between the pair.
  • A turning point is something that changes things. It can be something one discovers about the other or something that happens to both of them that changes the direction of their relationship.
  • The dark moment is when something happens that destroys the relationship. Makes it un-fixable.
  • Resolution is when the hero and heroine realize they really do love each other, no matter what. Inspite of whatever the dark moment was.

The best books are written so flawlessly and build on what’s already happened so well that it’s hard to say, There. That’s the dark moment or Turning point! Turning point!

So how can you pick them out in someone else’s books and thereby learn to employ it yourself? The best way I can explain it is when I’m reading along and I do a mentally gasp or sigh, Oh, I do like him or Maybe she’s not really a pain, that could be a turning point.

So I read on, and if things change (in the books I read/write, that’s usually between the h/h) I’ve pinpointed one! 🙂

Now you know how I plot a book. It gives me a roadmap of sorts without the spoilers that would ruin the trip for me.

Of course, I’m always looking for a better way to piece together my mousetrap. How do you build yours?


I’m just gonna jump right in on this one, hopefully I wont shock too many people. So yesterday I went to see Snow White and the Huntsman and, though I’m not a big fan of Kristen Stewart, I can say that I enjoyed the movie, for two reasons. Their names are Chris Hemsworth and Sam Claflin. Meow. ;D

In all seriousness, the characters of these two were the most intriguing in the whole movie. Sure, the Queen’s reasons for her actions are stirring, and (Gasp!) Kristen Stewart smiled twice in the film, but having 2 heroes with such different motivations and backgrounds really just drew me in. I’m gonna try not to spoil the movie, but how do you pick between prince charming and the strong silent type?

This movie had not just one hottie, but two, and I could not decide who I wanted to get the girl at the end. There was the tormented bad boy with a troubled past who falls for the woman he’s supposed to kill, and then there’s the love-struck childhood friend who has been pining for her for years. AH! Who do you root for?! I gave up and thought ‘I don’t care who she gets, I want the other one’.

Who would you pick? Who is your favorite hero/love interest in a book or movie?

Lonely? Heck No

Aw, it’s Thursday morning, and I’m late again.

Can I blame it on my dental appointment yesterday? Or the hundred-plus temps that are frying my brain?

Sad to say, I’m a procrastinator with a bad memory. Always have been.

But that’s beside the point. What I really want to write about today is . . . well, writing. One aspect of it, at least. People say that writing is a lonely profession, but I’ve always thought that was a bad word. (Unless I’m an oddity even among other oddities.) How can you be lonely when you spend your work hours dreaming up, talking with and writing stories with hundreds of people in them?

I’ve always thought the better word was solitary. We do pretty much work alone, as far as real, living people go. Some people can write in the middle of a crowd. Some people deliberately seek crowded places with their laptops. Some work with music, television, kids in and out, and some need complete privacy. I was in that group for a while — not even music playing, or I couldn’t concentrate. I’m working on getting past that. I’ve even been writing on the laptop while Bob watches TV and the puppers are bouncing off the walls. But however we do it, unless we’re part of a writing team who actually share the same office, the work is pretty much solitary.

Granted, there are times when I’m not writing that I might feel as if I’m a freak among normal people. Most people don’t live in their heads, or create whole new worlds, or have hundreds of characters and dozens of plots to keep track of. Most people believe that a figment of their imagination would behave in exactly the way they wanted since they created them. (Most people would be wrong.)

There’s nothing better about the writing life than the other writers you get to share it with. My best buds, the people who truly understand me and don’t think I’m nuts, are all writers. They have people disobeying in their heads, too.

A solitary pursuit — yeah. But lonely? For me, heck no!

What about you?

In the Beginning

Beginning. Starting something new. Staring at the blank page. Looking for the beach when the buildings are in the way.

Writing is about the journey from beginning to end. So is life. And faith.

This is my week for new beginnings. A new blog, a new book project, and a fresh idea on what it means to have faith in God and his process of working through the tough stuff. So as my week begins…as my project begins..and as this faith walk begins…I welcome you to walk through it with me.

To come along as we find the beach that’s waiting just on the other side of the buildings.




No Coasting Allowed

Last week I attended a workshop at West Texas A&M University. It’s a Writers Academy and the class I took was Screenwriting Structure for Novelists by Alexandra Sokoloff. I’ve been a pantser in the past but have figured out I need a bit more ‘structure’ in my writing. Alex’s techniques have filled in the gaps for me.

This class was exactly what I needed for my next story. I had a general idea of what I wanted to do in it (can you say extremely vague?), but didn’t even know where the story would end. That’s highly unusual for me. Now I can say I know not just where the story will begin (NOT where I’d originally thought, btw), but also where it’ll end. And boy is it a dynamite ending! 😉

Did I mention I made some fantastic new friends? The members of the class were great. They helped work out plot points for everyone else’s stories, along with Alex. I have to give a big kudos’s to her. She managed to pull minute details out of all of us, no matter where we were in the story or in our writing careers.

By Friday afternoon I was totally brain dead. LOL That’s okay, though, because I’ve got tons of notes and the basic outline of the sequel to Grave Secrets. Yah!

Thanks a lot, Alex! Couldn’t have done it without you. I REALLY appreciate your work…and patience with me. You made me step up to the plate and I feel so much better for it.

Linda Trout

Naming Characters

Ever wake up and feel as if you’re living someone else’s life? You look around and, while everything is terribly familiar, it just isn’t yours?

OR . . . did you ever wake up and wish you COULD live someone else’s life? 😉 Well, heck, buddy. You just might be a writer.

One of the first problems I ran into as a writer was naming my characters. One of my first hero names I chose was Dirk. Why Dirk? I. Don’t. Know. I probably had read it sometime and really liked the character connected to it.

I quickly learned that the hero’s name should actually fit his character–not at all like we name our children in real life.

Ever see that old, old TV show Rawhide? Let’s play a game with their character names. (You can play, even if you never saw the show.)

Three names:

  1. Rowdy
  2. Gil
  3. Wishbone

Now three character sketches–

a- Trail boss. Gruff and tough, business minded with a good heart.

b- Cantankerous old trail cook. Often adds levity to the stories.

c- Young and good-looking with many qualities of a young pup. Gets into trouble before thinking through the consequences. Often gets into trouble concerning women.

Now put them together. Which character goes with which name?

When I was writing Blind Sight, my hero needed a name that was two syllables, the first a hard consonant. I’m not even sure how I knew it. I just did. So as a gift, Marilyn gave me his name. Keegan. I still love that name!

The book I’m working on right now has a bull riding hero with a strong sense of family responsibility. He’s good-looking, nice, and he’s a Christian. His name? Mitch. 🙂

The heroine of my book grew up a tomboy, she’s a barrel racer and a horse thief. I named her Jessie, which is a good thing, because I named the first two or three heroines in my manuscripts Jennifer. (Thank goodness, I got over that!)

So the best way to find a character’s name? Get to know your character. Set up their personalities and let them live for a while. They’ll practically name themselves. 🙂


Where in the Heck is Marilyn Pappano?

No place exotic, that’s for sure. Not even in my head.

Remember the game, “Where in the world is Carmen San Diego?” My kiddo and I used to play it together after school. It was an interesting way to learn about other places. I think it’s kind of gone by the wayside now. Maybe it hitmen were tracking Carmen, and she sliced off their body parts in full-color 3D gore every time you got an answer right, it would still be around, but who knows?

Anyway, I’m currently trying to make a map for Tallgrass, Oklahoma, the setting of my margarita club series. I’ve already finished the first book and submitted the proposal for the second, and it occurred to me that I need to know where all these houses, shops, restaurants, etc., actually are.

So I got some graph paper and began drawing. I couldn’t find the big desk-pad size, so these are 8X11 sheets taped together. I had the sense to work in pencil because 1) I can’t draw a straight line (not even trace one) to save my life and 2) I keep changing my mind where stuff is located. All my city blocks and parks and buildings are squares or rectangles because 3) my curves look drunken.

My map is nowhere near finished, but it’s a start. And, typical of maps, there’s no way it’s going to fold neatly enough to fit into the binder or the file box with all the margarita club stuff. But at least for the moment, I know where I am. That doesn’t happen often. 🙂