Plotting Difficult Topics

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You want to write a novel, but the topic that haunts you is a difficult one. You can’t figure out an approach to the story that will let you say what you want to say. You need to experiment with different approaches.

Difficult Stories: Approaches

In Inviting the Wolf In: Dealing with Difficult Stories, the authors recognize that how you approach a difficult subject can make huge differences in voice, POV, plot and resolution.
They suggest there are the following 32 approaches. In order to explore these choices, I was crazy enough to write out a paragraph for each. I’ll be posting the variations imposed by these choices for the following scenario. Fascinating to me, is how much variation there is and how the approach affects the story–POV, which characters are included/excluded, the focus of the story, etc. I’m not sure I exactly followed the topic as well as I might, but it’s still interesting.

Suggestions for using this: Decide if the story is based on Wickedness (a character’s choice to do something “wrong”) or Loss (circumstances imposed, things to be endured). Then look at the four categories under that: denial (rejection), guilt/shame (failure), grief (loss), action (doing something). Which fits your story? Then, try writing some of the ways this category might play out: testimony (telling the facts), confession (taking responsibility), therapy (understanding life) or transformation (change). Write out a couple possible plot lines, exploring the voice, POV, characters, etc.

The Scenario: A girl watches her mother place a box of candy on the highest book shelf; the candy is meant as a birthday gift for the girl’s grandmother. The girl decides to sneak up and steal/eat some of the candy.

Approaches

Follow the links to see how each approach plays out for the scenario.

  1. Wickedness–What is chosen
    • Denial–My rejection
      • Testimony – What happened
      • Confession – Taking responsibility
      • Therapy – Understanding larger themes
      • Transformation – Modeling change (the classic hero’s journey)
    • Guilt/Shame–My Failure
      • Testimony – What happened
      • Confession – Taking responsibility
      • Therapy – Understanding larger themes
      • Transformation – Modeling change (the classic hero’s journey)
    • Grief–My Loss
      • Testimony – What happened
      • Confession – Taking responsibility
      • Therapy – Understanding larger themes
      • Transformation – Modeling change (the classic hero’s journey)
    • Action–My Actions
      • Testimony – What happened
      • Confession – Taking responsibility
      • Therapy – Understanding larger themes
      • Transformation – Modeling change (the classic hero’s journey)
  2. Loss–What is imposed by circumstances
    • Denial–My rejection
      • Testimony – What happened
      • Confession – Taking responsibility
      • Therapy – Understanding larger themes
      • Transformation – Modeling change (the classic hero’s journey)
    • Guilt/Shame–My Failure
      • Testimony – What happened
      • Confession – Taking responsibility
      • Therapy – Understanding larger themes
      • Transformation – Modeling change (the classic hero’s journey)
    • Grief–My Loss
      • Testimony – What happened
      • Confession – Taking responsibility
      • Therapy – Understanding larger themes
      • Transformation – Modeling change (the classic hero’s journey)
    • Action–My Actions
      • Testimony – What happened
      • Confession – Taking responsibility
      • Therapy – Understanding larger themes
      • Transformation – Modeling change (the classic hero’s journey)

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