I’ve started plotting Book Seven, which will begin filling in some of the “silent years” between Books One and Two. I collected the information that I had alluded to in the first five books and looked at it in astonishment.
I had way more material than I expected. I dropped a lot of hints in the first five books about the events between 1250 and 1330!
I started organizing all the information into a plot, but it came out as merely a recounting of events, not a story. It’s not enough to write that this happened, and then this happened, and then THIS happened. A plot is human experience in relation to events. A good plot needs emotion and conflict and character investment. It requires a problem, and steps to solve the problem, and a “wow, how are they going to get out of this” moment, and a climax.
Secondly, the story needs some sympathetic characters for the reader to cheer for. As I looked at the plot I was working on, I realized that none of the characters were likable. I had made my main characters people who had been mentioned in previous titles. They filled the roles I had prepared for them, but not one of them was going to appeal to readers as someone to root for. Even I didn’t like them. They were perfect villains, every last one of them, and the storyline was much too dark.
The plot didn’t have the level of action and excitement I like to maintain, either. Where the climax should have been, the story just deflated like an overstretched balloon. I was portraying events, but I wasn’t telling a story.
I had 15 pages of ideas and had experimented with numerous ways of arranging those ideas, and I wasn’t happy with any of them.
Back to the character drawing board. I desperately needed a likeable character, so I created a new heroine. It took a while to figure out exactly how she was going to fit into events that had never considered her existence before. I didn’t know who or what she was, or what relationships she would have, or how she would come into contact with my wonderful villains, whom I liked a whole lot more once I had someone good to counter them. So I let all the characters hold conversations in my head, until one morning while I was driving, the plot “clicked.” I was pretty excited! Suddenly, I knew who this new heroine was, and why the events of the story would matter to her. Ups and downs and human conflict and a thrilling climax appeared where once I had a “history-book” recounting of events.
Book Seven is going to contain a lot of new material in addition to the stuff I alluded to in earlier books, but that’s what makes it a story. The plot is developing quickly and will soon be at a point where I can start writing. That's exciting because two weeks ago, I had nothing but some unsatisfactory notes!
Now that I have characters with goals to achieve, who will experience the events that shape their lives with passion and feeling and finally come into such conflict with one another that everything explodes in an “edge-of-your-seat” conclusion, I can start another amazing journey. It’s the beginning of a story that will make readers say, “Wow, what a ride! I liked the hero, I hated the villain, I loved the story, and I can’t wait for the next one.”