Monday, November 7, 2011

Organic Writing

A few years ago, a lot of us were stumped by the term organic writing. Editors began showing up at conferences saying, "What I'm really looking for is organic writing." Or "I want the plot to flow organically."

And, in the audience, writers were saying, "Huh?"

Simply put, organic writing is when the actions of your characters flow naturally -- organically -- because the story is being driven by the character/s. Not dragged along by the plot.

The need for the concept of "organic writing" came about as a result of so many writers coming up with four or five high points (plot points, if you will) for their stories, then struggling feverishly to "hit" those points.

That's one (of many) reasons I don't like to set out my four or five plot points as if they are something special. They are. (I know they are.) But I don't let myself make too big of a deal out of them.


Because I don't want my characters racing ahead, working to get to those points or lagging behind for fear of hitting a high point too soon. I want the story to flow naturally.

That's why I use (and may have made up) Journey Steps. I like to see an action, followed by a reaction, which causes someone to make a decision and as we all know decisions lead to actions.

Journey Steps are ALL the steps your character takes to get from who he is at the beginning of the book (the terrible trouble, inciting incident, day/moment everything changed) to who he is at the satisfying conclusion.

Notice how if you see your entire book as a journey of growth, those four or five points will still fit, but your perception of the book as a journey helps you to see things more ... dare I say it? ... organically ... flowing from the character as he or she grows and changes.

Actions lead to reactions which lead to decisions which lead to actions which lead to reactions which lead to decisions...

That nice little train can be a magic formula for plotting, but it can also be a way to assure that your writing is organic...or stemming logically from characters' true behavior.

If you're working on a scene and it feels like you're doing a heck of a lot to manipulate your character into doing what you're probably not writing organically. And you may want to go back to your synopsis, storyboard or outline and ask yourself...what do I need to set up early on so that the actions/reactions and decisions of my characters flow naturally to those four or five high points of the story.

Happy Monday

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