Tim Lees, author of The God Hunter (published by HarperCollins), is today’s guest blogger, discussing plot.
Here’s a confession: I might have been in print a lot sooner if I’d understood a few things about plotting. This may seem odd from someone currently pushing a strongly-plotted adventure novel (The God Hunter, HarperCollins), but that wasn’t how I started out. Back in my early days, I wanted to draw on my own experiences, and those of my friends, partly because I lacked confidence in my own imagination, partly because I assumed (as people do) that those experiences mattered. Well, they did, and in a sense they’ve informed just about everything I’ve written since, but I couldn’t use them as they were, unfiltered romans a clef; I just couldn’t make them work. Real life seldom has the kind of shape you want for a novel. Romances fizzle out; jobs come to an end; travel starts off thrillingly and winds up in exhaustion. Now, you can make good fiction out of any of those situations – it’s been done, and very successfully, too. But not, so far, by me.
So I’d write scenes, short episodes, polishing and rewriting, always hoping they’d add up to something. This was probably good practice, but inevitably, I’d get stuck. What comes next? How do I finish this? Plots, when I’d try to impose them, seemed artificial and contrived.
Somehow, though, in the course of writing millions of words, and reading a fair few, too, my perceptions changed. I realized you could not “impose” a plot. You had to create your characters, introduce a stimulus, and see what happened. At that point, the story would become something different: fiction, rather than memoir, and it could be as exciting to write as (I hope) it was to read.
Plots exist for a reason. They’re not there simply to keep the reader interested, nor to attract a publisher (though they can be useful for that, too). Few of them are original. The plot is the hook you hang things on, the scaffolding for the real meat of the story – the skeleton, if you want to pursue the anatomical metaphor. Plot gives you structure and, if you’re lucky, it tells you what comes next.
I clearly remember the first story to arrive in my head with a plot attached. This was “Starlight”. I was off work, sick, and came up with the characters and scenario. I wrote the first episode, stopped, and presently the next part suggested itself to me. The thing had rhythm. It was moving towards a clear conclusion, which I could already see in the distance. There were highs, lows, lulls and rushes, and the plot just swept me along, from one chapter to the next, until the thing was done. “Starlight” was my second published story. It was something of a breakthrough piece for me, the point at which I finally understood how to marry a strong plot with whatever more personal elements I wanted to include, and that there was no contradiction between the two.
God Hunter by Tim Lees
On-Sale: August 5, 2014 | ISBN: 9780062358813 BUY HERE
Registry field op Chris Copeland arrives in Hungary on a routine mission: find a sacred spot, lay down a wire grid, and capture a full flask of a god’s energy. But when his arrogant new partner, Shailer, sabotages the wires, things go very, very wrong: the god manifests as a mirror image of Chris himself. Chris quickly destroys the god, and, for the good of the company and his own career, buries the evidence.
Six years later, Shailer is a rising star among the energy industry’s corporate elite, while Chris has taken a break from operations. But when a mysterious serial killer begins stalking Budapest-a psychopath who bears an eerie resemblance to Chris-the operative is forced back into the field.
With the help of Anna Ganz, a brusque, chain-smoking Hungarian detective, Chris tracks the monster across the globe. Only the real danger isn’t a killer on the outside . . . it’s Chris’s treacherous colleagues at the Registry who refuse to acknowledge the terrifying forces they’ve unleashed in the name of profit-forces whose origins lead back to the dawn of man . . . and beyond.
Tim Lees is a British author living in Chicago. His short fiction has appeared in Postscripts, Black Static and Interzone, among many other publications. He is author of the collection, The Life to Come, nominated for a British Fantasy Award, and the novel Frankenstein’s Prescription, described by Publisher’s Weekly as “a philosophically insightful and literary tale of terror.” When not writing, he has held a variety of jobs, including teacher, conference organiser, film extra, and worker in a psychiatric hospital. His blog is www.timlees.wordpress.com.