Brad Parks Guest Blogs
By Brad Parks
Recognizing my genius as a novelist, Nancy Martin has been begging me for quite some time to visit Lipstick Chronicles and enlighten the Book Tarts and their friends on the subject of plotting.1
“Please,” Nancy kept saying. “You are the plotting master.” 2
For the occasion, I have invited the hard-working interns at BradParksBooks.com to do my footnoting, as is appropriate with any work of such significant scholarly impact.3
To establish my credentials on this subject, I should report Kirkus Reviews has called my plots “altars to unerring virtuosity built within temples of pure brilliance.”4 The webinar I conducted about plotting has been viewed more than 267 million times on YouTube.5
As a Very Serious Writer whose Work has been lauded by the most powerful kings, proclaimed by the most talented minstrels, and coddled by the purest maidens, you should know my plotting method is beyond reproach. Anyone who disagrees is wrong like Donkey Kong.6
With that said, my process begins by imagining I am a snowflake.7 I picture myself high in the atmosphere, floating down until I land with a thick, wet thwap on the windshield of a speeding Ford Fusion. This is the vehicle that transports me through my plot.8
The next step is one I call “gathering.”9 I circle passages of newspapers and magazines in angry red pencil and pin them to a large corkboard. I connect the pins with string as certain patterns emerge to me, almost as if they are glowing signal flares in the night.10
Having spent several weeks on this phase – I think of this work much as a sculptor thinks of forging his marble11 – I am ready to begin planning my three act structure. Before the first act, I seriously offend the woman next to me by accidentally dropping my PlayBill then diving under her to retrieve it (hey, it wasn’t my idea to wear a skirt, lady!). In the third act, the Jack Ritter character discovers that the Suzanne Somers character has been acting on false information, and the whole thing involving the landlord is really just a big misunderstanding!12
Next it’s time to create your protagonist. I believe successful protagonists wear sport jackets (black, blue or gray), collared shirts (white or blue), and pleated pants (khaki or gray).13 He should stand approximately 6-foot-1, and weigh anywhere from 185-205 pounds, depending on his latest diet.14
Having created this dashing man, I imagine his life in chronological order, recording on index cards the tiniest minutiae of each day. I file the index cards in a series of colored boxes: Red if it involves show tunes, blue if it makes me sad, yellow if it may be a clue to an international conspiracy involving the Masons, and so on.15
Finally, I’m ready to begin putting words to paper. I work from the end backward, but also from the beginning forward. Simultaneously. For example, in my latest work, I typed “after” then “It,” then “ever,” then “was” and continued back and forth: “happily… a… lived… dark… they… and… so… stormy… And… night.” 16
I continue in this manner all the way through the 90,000-word manuscript, until I meet in the middle at a sentence I call the “golden shower,” in honor of Promontory Point, Utah. 17
I think you will find this method productive, fast and convenient. I have frequently approached authors at conferences, telling them of my process and saying, “I’ll give you my ideas, and if you write them we’ll reap millions from the No. 1 bestselling novels that result.”18
Strangely, none of those authors have taken me up on my generous offer. Oh well. Their loss.
What about you, oh lesser writers? How do you plot your novels?19
1. Brad spent the morning spraying Rust-Oleum in a tightly enclosed, non-ventilated space. He is currently tripping on the fumes.
2. This is the paint talking. In truth, Brad e-mailed Nancy, who was gracious enough to let him do a guest blog with one warning: “Just don’t blog about dieting.”
3. We’ve been playing Farmville.
4. Kirkus has never said anything this nice about a crime fiction author. Ever.
5. Brad is actually thinking of the Charlie Bit Me video .
6. The cliché involving the simian video game star is actually “on like Donkey Kong.” The interns at BradParksBooks.com would like to sincerely apologize to the makers of Donkey Kong™ for the slander.
7. Brad stole the snowflake idea from this guy .
8. We have no idea what he was trying to accomplish with this paragraph. But since no piece like this is complete without a bad metaphor, we’ll just let it go.
9. Funny, so does this lady .
10. We’re not sure he got the details right, but isn’t that what Russell Crowe does in A Beautiful Mind?
11. Marble is mined, not forged. Just sayin’.
12. As a youngster, Brad watched too much Three’s Company when he was supposed to be doing his English homework.
13. Brad just described the outfit he wears at every single conference and book-signing. And news flash, big guy: It’s boring.
14. Hey! What did Nancy say about not mentioning dieting!
15. We kept telling him, “It’s Groundhog’s Day. Just write a funny animal story like Carla Buckley did when she guested-posted. But did he listen to us? Noooooo.
16. Okay, we took a break from Farmville to untangle this. This makes his first sentence “It was a dark and stormy night” and gives him the conclusion, “And so they lived happily ever after.” Great stuff, Shakespeare.
17. Uh, that was actually the “golden spike.” The golden shower is something very, very different.
18. And then they run screaming for the bar.
19. Thank God this thing is finally over. Now please share a comment. Otherwise folks are going to be left trying to parse this drivel.
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Buy Brad's new book, EYES OF THE INNOCENT here.