Three Dirty Birds Talk about Continuity (only it’s not)

Three Dirty Birds, tweeting about Story Trumps Structure, chapter 16.

Kate: He calls this chapter Continuity, but I do not think that word means what he thinks it means. (/mutilated Princess Bride reference)

Zoe: Yeah, it wasn’t quite what I was expecting based on the chapter title.

Kate: No, I was expecting something about making sure all your facts are in order, and that you don’t say a character can do something early in a book, then have them not be able to it later (unless they’re a witch with problems…)

Ana: Talk about messing with reader expectations….

Kate: The irony.

Zoe: So the first “half” of this very short chapter was about how he had a big plot hole in a book, and no one noticed because the narrative forces just rushed the reader right over it. And his point was… I’m so not sure.

Ana: I know I’ve had it happen to me as a reader. When I really liked a book and then I go look at the reviews and they point out issues I never noticed because I was too engrossed with the story. The reviews kind of spoiled the book for me after the fact.

Kate: The point of the matter being–there shouldn’t be a plot hole big enough to drive a truck through in your story.

Zoe: Was anyone else trying to solve his plot hole problem in the least rewrite-necessary way possible while they were reading?

Kate: Yes! I figure the snakes had to be left in the front of the helicopter, and it would have had to be the kind with the separate pilot’s compartment. A military one.

Zoe: I thought you could leave the snakes out altogether and find another way to kill the pilot…though even crashing the helicopter risks the character’s life—the character he was dead set on burying underground.

Kate: He could have just bribed the pilot, too. A little bit of foreshadowing here and there, and kaboom! Plot twist!

Zoe: Hey, yeah!

Ana: It sounded like it was too late for him to make rewrites, though.

Zoe: Excuses, excuses.

Kate: Never too late! I’ve made changes in proofs! (Not that the publisher likes that, but it was one of those ‘better to ask forgiveness than permission’ situations.)

Yes, I have had a lot of coffee this morning. Why do you ask? I’m a bit hyper. *bounces* Lots of exclamation points today…!!!

Zoe: The other part of the chapter was about subplots, and I found it somewhat reassuring because I’ve struggled with the subplot thing, the feeling that I need to add one, that I don’t have enough going on in my story, that it’s too simple. So it’s a relief to read that I should only have subplots if they’re supposed to be there.

Ana: He said: ‘If you can remove a subplot without changing the outcome of the story, it’s not a subplot–it’s a distraction.’ I think that would go on a sticky note if I had any. I usually have trouble identifying my subplots because everything ties into the main plot somehow. Now I guess that’s not a bad thing.

Kate: My subplots are usually–and I’m not sure how to explain it–but I write the main story from the MC’s POV, then as I rewrite, I look at what the other characters are doing and why they’re doing it. It often changes dialogue, and sometimes the actions of the characters. But usually, the secondary characters are making the best choices they can, given the situation they’re in and what they know.

Ana: Oh yes, please let secondary characters have lives and their own agendas!

Zoe: You don’t like it when they’re treated as potted plants? (Ana: Zoe actually typed ‘plotted plants.’)

Ana: I’d only forget to water them. My plants all grow crispy.

Kate: Any plant entering my house knows they need to be self-sufficient. The scattered corpses of their predecessors are ample warning. I can kill cacti.

Ana: That’s a talent.

Kate: Not good when you’re married to a farmer. 🙂 Well, that was a short chapter–only three pages in the book. And half of it was spent telling us the helicopter story from his book.

Next up: Fluidity!

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2 responses to “Three Dirty Birds Talk about Continuity (only it’s not)

  1. “If you can remove a subplot without changing the outcome of the story, it’s not a subplot–it’s a distraction.”

    I LIKE this! And it clarifies for me one of the reasons I often dislike the ways different authors set up their series of books. The subplot that introduces and publicises the MC or pair of MCs for the next book is often just there to do just that. Introduce. Their appearance does nothing to forward the plot for the current book.

    Anyway, I like this quote so much that I wrote it in my writing notebook. 🙂

  2. Glad to have been of service! It’s actually a good writing book, despite the amount of snark we pour on it. He’s very right about a lot of things (romance and horror excepted), and has a knack for putting it in simple, clear prose.

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