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THE PLOT THICKENS

Posted on April 28, 2012

I wanted to talk about how my work evolves from plot to finished piece. This time, I'm taking a look at the summary and all the elements that were added in the writing process that thicken the plot.

Here's the original rough plot for GRAHAM 2:

It is called FLENN'S FOLLY and involves the trolls from the neighboring village suddenly turning up as statues. The blame for their stony reshaping falls squarely on Graham's little sister who somehow manages to look guilty at every turn. The twist is when Graham swoops in and reveals the true villainess is Medusa herself. The gargoyles are immune to her gaze, which is a wonderful application of their stony magic and will make for a great endgame battle (the immunity aspect really changed in the actual story).

The joy of actually working on the chapters is experiencing where the plot starts to thicken. I love when story elements congeal, becoming additive to the plot and building supports and tangents that can only be revealed as you write the piece. None of the thickening elements I'm about to share were in my head at the onset. As they materialized, I had to make sure they never subtracted from the story or took it off on tangents. I find this part of the creative process the most stimulating.

Blossom Possums: These little orphan rodents came into being as yet another injection of the native fauna found in Cascade. How they became orphans adds suspense and a touch of tragedy. It also helps create a quiet moment between Graham and the Widow Stemmel. And, while I think actual possums are rather ugly, these fellows, with their colorful back fur laid out to resemble a batch of beautiful flowers, are decidedly cuter than their Earthen counterparts.

Cascade's Flora: Brumbleberries have been featured in both GRAHAM books. They are, after all, our young gargoyle's favorite fruit. Other plants found in Cascade are introduced in this volume such as: taffy trees, hushrooms, goadstools, merry cones, boomberries, sagbottom holly and whoopsie-daisies. Readers of NORTON THE VAMPIRE (an older book of mine that takes place in Cascade and soon to be reprinted will know the last plant played a big part in that story). Some plants are indigenous while others have been bred by the mischievous and vicious wizards to cause havoc throughout the realm. Sagbottom's gravitational properties are especially endearing and essential to the climax. With the use of merry cones and boomberries such lynchpins in the plot on several occasions, it's funny how plant-driven my story became. In fact, I would guess my readers would grow to even root for the herbaceous life that surrounds our cast.

Widow Stemmel: Graham has strong relationships with the older cast members. He and his grandfather were very close and, through complications involving merry cones and boomberries, he finds himself working for the Widow Stemmel. Not only does she help him open up about his problems, she also offers the young gargoyle another view of the adults in his family as she grew up alongside Graham's grandfather. Her inclusion in the story delivers some of the most weep-worthy moments.

Troll Cave Contemplation: Since Graham and Flenn had to appear in front of the gargoyle council and watch them deliver a verdict on their crimes, I needed the structure of the troll government to be different. The idea of one member of the troll's government body going off to commune with the earth in a cave in order to deliver a verdict, helped emphasize the troll's closeness to the land and their respect of individuality. Their government is much more democratic than the gargoyle council, and the solitude of the cave lent them a deeper emotional investment when it came time to decide about the troll's extinction dilemma.

Squeeters: Vicious insects that could penetrate the hide of even a gargoyle were not on my mind when I started GRAHAM 2. They quickly became essential to the plot as an early-warning system for the detection of the gorgon and as a way to emphasize the bully Blord's family strife. Along with tatterpillars and lava beetles, they helped flesh out the ecology of Cascade.

Groom To Medusa: In the first Graham book, the Flying Mummy tells Graham a bedtime story of how the gargoyle's grandfather rescued him from a horrible fate – that of marrying Medusa. That earlier adventure gets fleshed out and delivers the motivation for our villainess to show up and harass Graham's family. Why Medusa would think of wedding a mummy is revealed in the final chapters and is a twist I am especially proud of.

Laroonae The Harpy: Harpies as disgusting, foul creatures with poor hygiene and next to no appreciation for appearance or dental care is given a reason in the story. And, by golly, it's pretty brilliant if I do say so myself. Hint: It's a magical commonality that both gorgons and harpies share with sirens. It's also additive to the gorgon's characteristics as Medusa has not been shown to have any allure in previous tales. The development of the harpy as a clean specimen of her race creates problems and solutions alike in the story. Laroonae is pivotal to persuading both governments to take action thanks to her unique talent. She also causes Graham's little heart to go pitter-patter for the first time. Aren't young crushes so sweet? She flies in and out of the story, adding another juicy and feathery layer to the mix. Laroonae is such a fun character that her story will continue in Graham's third adventure.

Graham's Father And His Concern For His People's Welfare: Graham's father had to be less of an adversary for Graham and more of a person that gargoyle comes to regard as far more complex than he originally thought. And aren't all dads that way? Early on in the story, Graham encounters his father's devotion to keeping his gargoyle race alive when he spies his handiwork in the far off city of New Asgard. The Flying Mummy relates other aspects of Graham's father that makes the gargoyle reconsider his strict parent as more than just a thorn in his side. Plus, graham spends more time alongside his father and grows to see he is a man of integrity who is saddled with more responsibility than just taking care of his family. It also became a driving force for where the setting of the third book will be and it makes amazing sense. These happy accidents of plotting are what makes the book shine and helps fashion genuine world building.

Young Gorgon Thief: Having Graham foil a robbery was put in play in the first few chapters out of a desire to have the story start with some action. The young gorgon Graham helps catch serves as foreshadowing for the more adult threat of Medusa herself. It also gives our hero a false sense of confidence with how easy it is to take on a gorgon. When the stakes are raised with the potency of an adult gorgon's powers, Graham slips up and that creates wonderful complications. The character is such a find that she will be pivotal to Graham's story in the third book. I can't wait for readers to see her story fleshed out further.

So there you have it, some of the many plot elements that helped thicken the plot. Hope you enjoyed the chance to see the writing breakthroughs that make crafting a story so much fun for me.

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Comment by KEITH ROBINSON on SATURDAY, APRIL 28, 2012...
As usual you have a knack for coming up with fabutasic names. I mean, squeeters?? That's genius! I think you should trademark it asap.
Comment by BRIAN CLOPPER on SUNDAY, APRIL 29, 2012...
Ah, but flesh-shredding caterpillars, that's where my money is. Tatterpillars could be the next SyFy Channel Saturday night movie.

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