Plotlines

Last week while researching the history of Lake Grapevine, a prominent setting in CLON-X, I stumbled upon a completely unrelated article posted by Angela Ackerman titled How Plotlines Add Dimension. 

Quite frankly, I haven’t done much research on the subject of adding dimension to my plotlines, because this issue came naturally to me while writing Brainwash, the first novel in my Darcy McClain and Bullet Thriller Series. 

A one-dimensional plotline would never have held my attention long enough to keep me at the computer, never mind bring me back to write more. The book’s storyline has to be multifaceted to satisfy my own love of problem solving. It’s akin to doing a puzzle. I thrive on complex plots, which is why I chose to write a technical and medical-themed series. 

When I laid out my plotlines for Brainwash I began, as I often do, by choosing my technical, medical, or scientific topic first. My priority is to flesh out the topic as it’s the backbone of my techno-thrillers and usually the most difficult aspect of writing the book. A lot of research goes into any topic I settle on. To make future book research easier, I am constantly reading nonfiction material related to anything technical, scientific, or medical so I have a pulse on the next breakthrough.

In Brainwash, Darcy’s primary goal, i.e her “external journey,” is find Rio’s missing fiancé Johnny Duran. As for Darcy’s personal or “internal journey,” there is her ongoing conflict with her sister Charlene, who is twenty-years younger than Darcy. Complicating their relationship is the death of their parents, which leaves Darcy sole guardian of her sister.

Now that I had my key elements—tech or medical topic, Darcy’s external and internal journeys—I weaved the three into a multi-dimensional story. 

In the series, Darcy’s “relationship story” centers on her plutonic feelings for Dan, her former partner at the FBI, and in a later novel, her close friendship with her best friend Sam, whom Darcy grew up with. In a future book, I will introduce Darcy’s first serious love interest and how that relationship develops and grows throughout the remaining novels in the series.

To date, my most complex plot was in Genocide, book three in the series. I wrote the first draft in 1990 and the novel had undergone extensive edits, but none by a professional editor until 2015. The book was published in 2017. 

Because of the complexity of the plot, its scientific theme, and a cadre of characters, my “test readers” (also known as beta readers), suggested that I simplify the plot. Intimately familiar with both the plot and the characters, I had no problem keeping track of these elements, therefore I had no intention of dumbing down the storyline. 

Instead, I hired a professional editor and left it to her to either agree or disagree with my beta readers’ assessment. Without any input from me regarding my test readers’ comments, my editor was free to make an unbiased decision. She had no problem following my complex plot or the many characters in the book. Then came the biggest test—my readers. 

No one, according to the reviews or the personal remarks made directly to me, had any issues with the complex plot or the many characters. In fact, one of the most rewarding compliments I have ever received was: “Genocide is really four books in one when you look at the richness in the storylines and the fireworks at the end. I keep being amazed about all the topics Krapf has researched and talks so easily about in her books. She made a complex plot with a large cast of characters simple to understand and easy to follow.”

Blog Post Schedule

While reviewing my schedule this week, I thought about Linda McKinley a dear friend and fellow writer. Whenever I’d ask “How’s the book coming along?”

Occasionally, she’d shoot back with “Real life.”

I knew exactly what she meant. Real life interfering with our fictional lives, but what is a writer to do?

Like the medical topic in CLON-X, I’d love to clone myself. The thought of having a force of worker bees is exciting, but I can stop fantasizing. Bottom line, I will be deviating from my normal schedule and will post to my blog on a monthly basis, rather than weekly as I have in the past.

May 6, 2021: Plotlines

 

How Important Is Book Editing?

Someone inquired: “You haven’t posted to your blog in over eight months. What brought you back?” Me: A fellow author asked me to read and review his thriller. Here is my critique of the book.

When I began to write my Darcy McClain and Bullet Thriller Series, I had no doubts that once I finished my debut book I would hire a professional editor and proofreader to read/correct the manuscript. But first, I enrolled in a self-editing class to polish the novel as much as possible before submitting it to an editor. 

This class led me to a read and critique group—the Dallas/Fort Worth Writers Workshop, and several members even offered to be beta readers for my novel: an honor. All three of these—the self-editing class, the workshop, and the beta readers—were instrumental in producing a manuscript that I felt confident in turning over to a professional editor for a read.

There are four main types of book editing: developmental editing line editing, copy editing, and proofreading. All are explained in detail here, courtesy of BookBaby Blog: https://blog.bookbaby.com/2016/04/type-book-editing-need/

Over the years, I’ve availed myself to all four phases of the editing process, and in my estimation, editors and proofreaders are invaluable to producing a quality book.

A month ago a fellow author whom I’ll call Jack, asked me to read and review his debut thriller. I was excited at the prospect of adding a new crime series to my library of good reads, and looked forward to starting the book.

When it comes to writing, I believe you can break the rules as long as you make the break work. So I kept an open mind about a male author whose main character is a woman. It’s been done. 

Jack had me hooked on the plot in chapter one and in chapter two he introduced a secondary character that I fell in love with; an alcoholic veteran struggling to stay sober and one step ahead of being a homeless drunk.

The main character in the book, the woman I mentioned, doesn’t appear until chapter four and I had no real problem with that, but what failed to sit well was her inconsistent personality—assertive one moment, passive the next—an uneven temperament. I expected a take-control persona with a “I’ll deal with the fallout later.” But from what I read, she charged, and then retreated. I rooted for her until the end, but she fell flat. In my estimation, she wasn’t the solid main character an author needs to carry an entire series. 

Every story has a protagonist. No protagonist equals no plot. But Jack had a gripping plot and a strong protagonist, only not the female cop. The hero in the book was definitely the recovering alcoholic who faced his challenges and demons, conquered them, and survived to fight another day as a sober individual. What a great main character!

As a writer, it never occurred to me that an author would overlook such an important aspect of his book, never mind a series, by not fleshing out his protagonist. I’m certain that if he had availed himself to a developmental edit, the editor would’ve caught this critical oversight early on, rather than having a reader catch such a monumental flaw, especially since Jack has already published four novels in his series. 

When I diplomatically broached Jack on the subject as to why he hadn’t hired an editor for a developmental edit, but had settled on a simple proofread, it all came down to one factor—money. But why invest that much time and work into producing a book, albeit an entire series, and risk not hooking readers for the long haul? Shortsighted?