Monday, May 10, 2010

Threads of God's Grace Woven Through Time by Louise M. Gouge

Hey everyone, Annette here. Manuscript Mondays are all about writing craft. For the remainder of Mondays in May, Louise Gouge will share her series on threads in our writing. I met Louise at Mt. Hermon Writers' Conference five years ago, and I'm thrilled she's visiting this month. Enjoy her first installment on plotting threads.

Threads of God's Grace Woven Through Time:
Part One

by Louise M. Gouge

A few years ago I noticed that many authors have “taglines.” Merriam-Webster says a tagline is a reiterated phrase identified with an individual, group, or product: a slogan. So I decided to come up with a phrase to identify my writing. Because I write both historical fiction and historical romance, I didn’t want to use the word “romance” to label it all. But one element is threaded through every story I write: the grace of God. I’ve done a considerable amount of sewing in my life, so I know about thread. But I’ve never woven anything (unless you count those potholders at Girl Scout camp), so I can’t take the analogy too far beyond what we all know about weaving: the warp (yarn or thread) is placed lengthwise on a loom and crossed by the weft (yarn or thread) to make fabric (Merriam-Webster). Therefore, if my plot is the warp, then one of the main strands of weft will be God’s grace applied in the lives of my protagonists. Because my fiction is not confined to a particular era, I wanted to include a reference to its historical nature. Hence: Threads of God’s grace woven through time.

Many Christian authors weave the story of God’s amazing grace through their plots. The other threads woven through the story will vary, depending on genre. The author writing a compelling romance novel will include three threads: plot, emotion, and romance. The Christian author has the option to weave in the spiritual thread as well. In the next few weeks, on Manuscript Monday, I will address each of these threads in the hope that it will help budding authors to clarify some of their own story objectives. In today’s article, our subject is plot, along with setting, symbols, and themes. In the three following Monday articles, I will elaborate on the emotional, romantic, and spiritual threads.

Plot
We all know that the plot is the storyline. It is what happens, a sequence of connected events.
In any book, regardless of genre, the plot must be strong and interesting with plenty of conflict, or readers will quickly put the book aside. I can’t think of anything new to say to experienced writers that hasn’t already been written about or taught at writers’ conferences. But for newbie writers, I will guide you along the well-worn (and tried and true) path. First of all, somewhere in the first chapter, first page, first paragraph, or first sentence, we must have a hook, an interesting or exciting (and inciting) event or circumstance that makes the reader want more. Then, as the story unfolds, the writer should throw in all the action and conflict the story will allow, whether internal or external. Don’t rely on gimmicks (“God” words, sex scenes, explosions, silly misunderstandings, etc.) to keep the reader’s interest. If the writer keeps moving the story forward with meaningful conflicts, this prevents the “sagging middle” that sometimes occurs when there is a need to impart information but nothing interesting is happening. The writer must make it happen!

Further, be realistic without being graphic. Keep your reader involved and on the edge of her/his seat. Research is essential. Don’t jerk your reader out of the story by failing to check details of setting, which I define as time, place, and social environment. (That’s a whole other study.) These are important elements. But you can also use some of the more literary fiction devices such as symbols (a visible sign of something invisible, i.e., a flag represents patriotism) and themes (addressing an issue innate to being human, i.e., taking vengeance can destroy the avenger) to enhance your story. All of these can be a part of your plot and will so thoroughly enrich it that people will rush out to buy your latest release. Well, we can hope, can’t we? What we do know is that “Story” in inherent in all of us. That’s why children love being read to. That’s why people still buy books in this age of television and movies. And readers know what they like and don’t like. As writers, we need to write the best, most original story we can to entertain them.

Next week, I’ll talk about the emotional thread that is a must for any compelling story.

~~~~~

In March, Louise's latest historical romance released, The Captain's Lady.

Torn between love and duty, American Patriot James Templeton must deny his heart to help win his country's freedom. Templeton's orders from General Washington are clear. His target: Lord Bennington, a member of George III's Privy Council. The assignment: find Bennington's war plans. The risks: the future of the East Florida Colony, Jamie's life...and his heart. In spite of the dangers of their hopeless situation, he's fallen in love with Lady Marianne Moberly, Lord Bennington's daughter. Desperate to protect his country, Jamie carries out his orders with a heavy heart. But Marianne's persistence is a challenge he never expected. With love and faith, they must navigate troubled waters to win their future together.
Steeple Hill Love Inspired Historical, March 2010, ISBN: 13-978-0-373-82832-6
Available at cbd.com, amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com

Award-winning Florida author Louise M. Gouge has been married to David Gouge for 45 years. They have four grown children and six grandchildren. Louise earned her BA in English/Creative Writing at the University of Central Florida in Orlando and her Master of Liberal Studies degree at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. The author of nine books, Louise is also an adjunct professor of English and Humanities at Valencia Community College in Kissimmee, Florida. Her favorite Bible verse is “He shall choose our inheritance for us” (Psalm 47:4), a testimony to her belief that God has chosen a path for each believer. To seek that path and to trust His wisdom is to find the greatest happiness in life. Web site and blog: http://Louisemgouge.com

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