The Play is the Thing by Casey Wyatt

Happy Friday everyone. Casey here!

TRR Sizzling Summer Reads 2013Two announcements. The first: I’m participating in The Romance Review’s Sizzling Summer Reads Party. Check it out starting June 1st!  Click on the lovely beach to the left and you will arrive at the party.

The second piece of news is at the end. (I know, such a tease!!)

One of my favorite courses in college was studying Shakespeare’s comedies and tragedies. An often quoted line among thespians is “the play’s the thing.” I spent seven years in drama clubs and amongst the players it took on a different meaning. The play was the thing. The thing we were striving to perfect and perform to the best of our abilities.

But that is not the thing that Shakespeare meant. The popular line is from Hamlet:

“I’ll have grounds more relative than this—the play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King.”

The thing in this case, is evidence corroborating the information received from a ghost – that his uncle murdered his father. Hamlet would do this by performing a play at court and adding in a few lines about regicide. Then the prince would wait and watch for his uncle’s guilty reaction.

To modern ears and eyes, this seems a rather convoluted and unscientific way to ascertain guilt, but back in the Renaissance, it was a common psychological belief that you could subconsciously influence the guilty person’s mind with a mere suggestion. Thus, the villain would be revealed through either expression (a guilty look) or action (full out confession).

So, what does this have to do with writing? And have I completely lost my mind?

No, my mind is still fully intact. This has to do with plotting your story. This is the third part of my plotting process, after the initial premise and shallow character identification.

I use a three act structure – just like a stage play. There are a million ways to plot a novel and this is just what works for me. Like the other stages of the process, this is high level. Think thirty thousand feet in the air looking down.

Like Hamlet, I throw out a suggestion of what might occur. Later, as I go more in-depth, concrete plot points are teased to surface, much like the uncle’s guilty conscience.

Very simply:

Act One – introduce your character in their everyday world. Then, introduce the event that will move them out of their comfort zone (aka the call to adventure). Like before, I write one, short paragraph.

Act Two – this is where the bulk of the action should occur. The place many authors find themselves with a sagging middle if they aren’t careful. But that shouldn’t been a blip on the mental radar at this point. Right now, think obstacles. You don’t have to specify the problems. Only note the bare bones, overreaching issue (for example – stop evil overlord from achieving world domination or save beloved homestead from being destroyed by greedy real estate developer). That’s it. As mentioned in previous posts, the less the better. The assignment here – write a sentence or two. That’s it.

Act Three – resolution. The happy ending. The happy for now. The main bulk of the plot concluded. For me, I often only know the very, very end. Since I write romance, they all lived happily ever after. I usually don’t have more than a sentence or two.

Again, the plot details will come. Just not right now.

Normally, I would give you examples of my own work, but since spoilers are involved, I’m not. Instead, I’d like to announce –

Mystic Storm is on sale now!


Share and share alike. How do you like to plot your stories? Have you ever laid a mental trail hoping to achieve a specific result?

8 thoughts on “The Play is the Thing by Casey Wyatt”

  1. I cannot think of a more efficient way to learn to write. ACT. At least to create a plot that is alive, that lives. Good for you. I liked your explanation on plotting. I think I have done that in my first attempt at being an author. We’ll see. I am on the other side of the middle, so it is exciting as I come to the horrendous black moment. I am thinking about pitching at national. We’ll see. My experience is limited, so all I can do is hope I learned and my approach is acceptable. You use the term ‘trail’ . . . it is a good description of the syntax a story must have. Jane Aaron’s compact handbook gives some legitimate suggestions about critical thinking, writing, and the like.

  2. Woot! Congrats on the new release and thanks for the lesson in Shakespeare…of which I am not well versed. I do see Patrick Jane’s character in the Mentalist use this tactic to find the guilty party all the time!

    I also appreciate the three act approach to plotting and using the broad stroke view. One of my issues with plotting is that it feels overwhelming to me to try to figure out the whole story. This breaks it down to a very manageable and efficient beginning of the process. Thanks so much for sharing, Casey. Your no-nonsense approach is always so refreshing and helpful:-)

    1. I always feel, with every book, that I somehow I have to know every detail of the plot. And it drives me nuts. I continually remind myself that it will all work out in the end and to trust the process. But it sure isn’t easy 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.