How an Intuitive Gardener (Okay: Pantser) Creates Conflict & Outer Motivation

Carolyn Crane File Feb 22, 8 43 40 AMI’m lucky to have my crit partner and good friend, Carolyn Crane, visiting me for a few days. This involves much time spent writing, drinking and talking about writing. Perfection!

She’s even going to help me plot my next series, which is awesome, because she’s WAY better at plotting than I am. As in, she actually *does* it instead of my weirdly organic gardening method of plotting. Apropos of that, I’m over at Word Whores this morning, giving my non-plotter’s take on Development of character outer motivation and outer conflict.

Extended Architects

This is the sunset from the same night as the Wolf Moon rising photos. Really good show that night. The cast hit every note perfectly.

One of my writing friends and fellow Word-Whore, Laura Bickle, attended a panel last night. She was invited to a university, along with a “literary” writer and an art-gallery owner, to discuss Making Money from Art. Laura was described in the publicity materials as a pulp-fiction writer.

Been a while since you heard that term, too?

She says she didn’t mind, but the term is really a slam. It derives from the days when certain, more disposable stories, were printed on cheap, pulp paper. Not like the good stuff you’d want to put in a library. If you’ve ever been to a discussion like this in an academic setting, then you’ll know how the conversation went. The literary writer had one book to his name, but he’d clung to his Vision. Laura has published four urban fantasy books with Penguin in the last nine months, in two different series.

The art-gallery owner was gracious to her and even suggested a collaborative with a fantasy art show and Laura’s books. Of course, a woman like that knows something about selling art, or she wouldn’t be in business.

At any rate, afterwards, Laura and I discussed Vision. She said she’d learned something, a glimpse in the mirror we both shared. As writers, we sometimes let our Vision get in the way of delivering what the reader wants.

I ended up dragging out my new extended architect analogy.

I know: you can’t wait.

Things Writers Can Learn from Architects

1) An architect can have a Vision, but people have to be able to use the building. Don’t let your writer’s Vision be more important than engaging the reader. Without people to occupy it, a building has no purpose.

2) An architect can design anything they like, but they are bound by the laws of physics. There must be a foundation and bearing walls. They can’t just throw in a window in any old spot. Stories have traditional structures for a reason – kind of the physics of the imagination.

3) Originality is great, but if an architect puts the master bedroom next to the front entrance, no one will want the house. People expect certain things in a home, based on how people like to live. They also expect certain things from a story. You can have lovely twists and surprises, but don’t turn it so upside-down that they’re miserable being there.

4) Architects start with a dream and turn it into a solid reality. So do writers. Our readers occupy our realities. Make those worlds places they want to be.

5) Architects make a living from their work. This means putting as much fervor and art into designing a warehouse as a skyscraper. Not all jobs are big jobs. If you want to make a living at it, get good at designing warehouses, too. No newbie architect gets handed a skyscraper right off the bat. Don’t disdain the warehouse jobs.

6) Now, if an architect doesn’t care about making a living – say, if she works as a lawyer for her day job and designs buildings two hours before work every morning – then she can design all the skyscrapers she pleases, however she wishes. Whether someone invests in building them is another thing altogether.

7) If an architect sets out to design a house, they don’t add on skyscraper and warehouse elements. Writers should know what they want their story to be. It doesn’t have to be everything.

Seeing as how this is my new favorite analogy, I could go on forever. I’m also guilty of all these sins. But it helps me to think of how architects work. Yes, all houses are essentially the same. They all have the same elements, the same general lay-out, but within that pattern is an infinite array of ways that houses have unique, gracious and vibrant charm.

Sure, I fantasize about building a landmark skyscraper, one that defines the skyline of a city. Nothing wrong with a little beach cottage though. Simple. Straightforward.

So, what did I miss – any other architect analogies you all would like to add?