A Balloon. A Circus. Of Freaks.

In the spirit of this mad-clown-and-devouring-balloon-style post, I'll let pulchra lead us off:

Because what I've learned lately is this:

Mis-writing a chapter is like tearing a hole in your plot balloon.

You can move forward at first, even explosively so, but then you notice with some alarm that the rubber ceiling above you begins to sag. Yet you continue on until you realize, with something close to outright panic, that the balloon's fabric has begun to pool in great reams around your feet and press down against your head, because the air's seeped out, see?

It's gone, man, and you can't even see your way out. You have to pull at the rubber and rifle through its folds until you find the hole. Then you have to climb through it and torch the whole mess like you're the evil clown.

Still with me? We're talking about mis-writing one chapter, one that - like Will Elliott's psychotic clowns twisting J.J.'s arms - can force your story into doing horrible things and create one big MESS of a plot.

Unless you realize your plot misstep and correct it.

If you don't, if you ignore the plot signs and press ahead anyway, you could stumble into unholy places - the dark, airless vaults of bad story. The ones that contain a whole CREW of evilly sadistic mega-clowns who (instead of devouring your protag's goofy sidekick and providing some page-turning character development as planned) turn on the big top of your plot itself, taking a chain-saw to the tent posts, dismantling your story's trajectory as surely as the Langoliers Pac-Manned their way through yesterday's reality.*

*No, there were no clowns involved in the 1995 television adaptation of Stephen King's short story. But with Balky a.k.a. Craig Toomy's shaky, sweaty little paper ripping thing, it was a zany creepfest of a bad joke, which, I argue, is about the same as an evil clown.

But with all that big top talk, maybe incorrectly writing a chapter is more like a circus. A Pilo Family Circus.

Okay, sure. Elliott's clowns have NOTHING on Pennywise. But go on, release their dreadful calliope carnage into your MS and see what happens. Dare you.

All of this to say, I just realized where my plot mis-step took place. It was only when the pace began to slow and the story sagged in great big drifts that I knew I'd punctured the momentum of the story. The sharp point? An earlier chapter mistake that revealed something way too early and knocked the wind out of the story.

Send in the clowns, yo.


Lydia Kang | May 3, 2010 at 2:18 PM

Well said! And scarily portrayed. Dude, clowns freak me out!
Yep, don't give up all your secrets too soon. It's a hard one to learn, especially when it hides in that sagging chapter.

Alex J. Cavanaugh | May 3, 2010 at 2:36 PM

You're so right - can continue with that one chapter messing up all the others.

Matthew Rush | May 3, 2010 at 2:40 PM

Wow that's awesome - and lucky - that you discovered sooner than later, too bad it couldn't have been even sooner.

I can't watch these videos at work but I have seen that Hadron Collider rap - hilarious.

And the Langoliers? Isn't that a Stephen King sort story? I can't rememebr.

Lizard301 | May 3, 2010 at 4:16 PM

I actually watched The Langoliers less than a week ago. It was easily one of the worst movies I'd ever seen. However, I LOVE the short story. Go figure.

Alexandra Shostak | May 3, 2010 at 4:46 PM

Cool blog entry! All the pictures were fantastic (especially that first one.) Hha, I love the description of miswriting a chapter and the balloon comparison, too. I've definitely done that before, and had to go back and delete all sorts of things.

Palindrome | May 3, 2010 at 5:05 PM

First, please don't ever show me clowns again. I will cry and run and never come back...okay, I'll come back but I may read between my fingers.

I'm glad I have a great crit group, they'll tell me what's nessa' when I'm finished with the whole MS.

What a wonderful and creative way to put it though...I loved this post...sans clowns. ;)

Zoe C. Courtman | May 3, 2010 at 7:10 PM

Ooh, sorry, Palindrome!! Thanks for reading on despite their ghoulish face-paint :D

Jaydee Morgan | May 3, 2010 at 7:48 PM

Great post. I'm one who pretty much needs my story to go how I'd envisioned/plotted it. When something starts to go astray, I jump on it quick for this exact reason. Some can deal with the changes, I know that I can't.

Cold As Heaven | May 3, 2010 at 8:29 PM

Goodigood. Will keep that on my mind >:)

Cold As Heaven

MissV | May 3, 2010 at 9:06 PM

hmmmm...wondering if I've committed this writing sin? I'm in the middle doldrums now and it's just not moving the way I want it to.

By the way, I was having one of THOSE mornings today so I didn't get a chance to swing by and let you know I tagged you in the five things list.

Carolyn V. | May 3, 2010 at 11:11 PM

Okay, the clowns totally scared me, but so true. I've mis-written some scenes and it makes me sad to have to rip them out of the book. Stupid saggy scenes.

Liza | May 4, 2010 at 11:17 AM

Way to make a point! Wow.

Theresa Milstein | May 4, 2010 at 8:08 PM

Your pictures have made me petrified to continue when there's a hole in my story. I'll never do it again! Promise.

Zoe C. Courtman | May 5, 2010 at 11:38 AM

Hey, Jaydee! I know, right? Nothing like a story veering off track to bring on the anxiety. *shudders*

Haha, Cold. Definitely do :D

Hi, MissV. Chances are the middle's sagging because there's a crucial mistake in an earlier chapter. And I hate it when that happens! (But I love being tagged. Thanks!!)

Ugh, don't I know it, Carolyn! I hate that, too. But you'll feel SO much better when the scenes are cut and the story jolts forward :D

hehehe. Thanks, Liza! Evil clowns always do the trick!

Theresa - let that be a warning!! LOL. Thanks for stopping by :D

M.T. Murphy | May 7, 2010 at 4:42 PM

Great post, Zoe! There are few things worse than backtracking through ten chapters to figure out where you jumped the shark. Been there and done that more times than I care to think about.

And my hat is off to you for sticking to the creepy circus theme without going straight to a Tim Curry pic in full Pennyworth getup from It. Still, clowns don't bother me. It's the leprechauns you have to watch.

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