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Dariel Raye

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Capturing the Cat: Developing an Engaging Plot
By Dariel Raye   
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Last edited: Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Posted: Wednesday, June 13, 2012

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Discusses the importance of a good character, action, and theme (CAT).


You're probably wondering how capturing a cat relates to writing, or anything else for that matter. It's an anagram, of course, for the three major parts of a plot. I love cats, BTW. C is for characterization, A is action, and T is thematic development. As an avid reader, i can say without doubt that nothing makes readers more eager to escape into a writer's story more than a moving plot. Much like real life, we are interested in people we have grown to care about, we expect them to take action in their lives, and that action moves them in a particular direction or towards a certain goal determined by their beliefs (theme).
Let's start with characterization. What makes us care about a character? A number of things, but it seems to me there are some universal traits that move most of us to care. We constantly hear the sentence, "everyone loves a winner," but the truth is, we love winners based on how they manage to win. Simply winning all the time does not endear a character to our hearts any more than being born into fortune automatically guarantees our love. We also love characters that have faced constant loss, but refused to give up on some worthwhile ideal.
In Vivi Andrews' "Serengeti Heat," Ava, as the smallest in a pride of lion-shifters, has faced bullying and loss her entire life, but when she sets her heart on Landon, she refuses to give up until he's hers. Here, a heroine accustomed to loss and defeat transforms herself into a winner, reinforcing one of our favorite themes, love conquers all. I loved her from the very beginning, and immediately cared about her life, what actions she would take, and what others would do to and for her. Nothing makes me love a character more than sharing her or his transformation from down-trodden to overcomer. That, to me, is a worthy character - worthy of my concern and my time.
Think of 10 qualities that make people interesting to you, and you have the ingredients for an engaging plot. What does he or she care about? What are his goals? What is she willing to do to achieve those goals? Just as each of us lives by certain themes, applying them to our stories, along with valued characteristics and appropriate actions to support these beliefs and qualities can cure the worst case of writer's block and make every story you write a winner.

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