True confessions time: I like plot. No, strike that. I LOVE plot.
Yes, yes, I know, character is king, and poetic language is queen. But I prefer stories where stuff… happens.
Call it pulp, call it melodrama, call it whatever the opposite of literary fiction is, but when you ask someone what a book is about, that usually means you want to know, what’s the story? And a story means something happens. Preferably something interesting and surprising.
I love plot twists, too. The more the better. Preferably ones that I didn’t see coming, but, upon reflection, make perfect sense.
Common wisdom holds that character drives plot. But, conversely, doesn’t plot define character? After all, isn’t the best way to find out what a person – imaginary or real – is made of, by seeing their reaction to stressful situations? Do they rise to the occasion, or shirk? Do they handle setbacks with grace or present their worst selves? I don’t want to learn about a character by being told – no matter how poetic the language may be. I don’t want to leaf through pages of internal monologue about their thoughts and dreams and hopes and plans. I want to see them DO something. And then I’ll make up my own mind about what kind of person they are.
For those wondering, why, no, I didn’t do particularly well in high-school English class. And I dropped out of my college Creative Writing program when I realized that the kinds of stories I wanted to write – and read – were not the kind considered acceptable by serious literary types.
Which is why I’ve started a program of my own. Kind of. And it fits in perfectly with my writing and life motto of DO SOMETHING.
Instead of telling aspiring authors how to write a book, I am going to show them.
By writing my next novel live online at www.AlinaAdams.com/live, with readers being able to watch every key-stroke, every typo, every dead end and every deletion of entire paragraphs at a time. They’ll be able to comment on the action, too. (After all, what’s the point of criticizing a book after it’s published? It’s too late for me to do anything about it, then.)
Am I out of my mind? Quite possibly. After all, writers are strictly told that they must never, ever, ever show anything but their best work to the public, lest a twenty year writing career (my first book was published in 1994) be swept down the drain by one, ill-chosen word.
But, remember what I said above? I love plot and plot twists. I like not knowing what’s coming up. (The other day, I wrote a scene live where I didn’t even know what the characters were going to say until they’d said it. They didn’t just surprise themselves, they surprised me, too!) I like being pushed to the edge of my seat, and that’s just what this latest project of mine is doing. I can’t wait to find out what happens next, and I hope that sense of excitement permeates my writing.
Meanwhile, I also hope that it might be truly instructional to people wondering how a book comes together, from first draft to publication. Already, I’ve explained my reasons for deleting two entire chapters (I figured if the character was boring me to write, he had to be even more boring to read). I’ve confessed about how I froze up the first time I had to write a sex scene – with readers watching. And I’ve spent hours polishing a single paragraph, going back and forth with my choice of words, only to dump the entire thing the next day and start all over again.
But that’s the writer’s life for you. I don’t want there to be any sense of mystery about it. I want to fling back the curtain and expose the unromantic reality, warts and all. Besides, you might feel better about your own first draft if you see what a mess mine is. Then you can chuckle as you watch me try to wrestle it into submission.
Could I be making a horrible, strategic career mistake? It’s possible. But, at least something is happening!
Got an opinion about plots, plot twists, or writing live for the world to see – and comment? I’d love to hear all about it!
Alina Adams is the “New York Times” best-selling author of soap-opera tie-ins, including “Oakdale Confidential,” “Jonathan’s Story” and “The Man From Oakdale,” Regency and contemporary romance novels, including “When a Man Loves a Woman,” “Thieves at Heart” and “Annie’s Wild Ride,” and Figure Skating Mysteries, “Murder on Ice,” “On Thin Ice,” “Axel of Evil,” “Death Drop,” and “Skate Crime.” She has worked as the Creative Content Producer for the P&G soap operas, “As the World Turns” and “Guiding Light,” for ABC Daytime, and as a writer and producer for televised figure skating broadcasts on ABC, NBC, ESPN and TNT. She lives in NYC with her husband and three children. Currently, she is writing her next book live on the web – and inviting readers to comment as she does. Visit her website at: http://www.AlinaAdams.com.