What does braiding a book mean?
Off the top of my head, that seems like an easy question. Since a braid has three parts, a braided book has — hmm.
Goal / motivation / conflict.
A hero / heroine / villain.
Emotions / actions / thoughts.
Description / dialogue / narrative.
A culture / place / time.
Future / past / present.
Protagonist / sidekick / antagonist.
Character / plot / and…
…and whatever seems like the best choice for that blank space.
So which is the correct answer to “what does a braid include?”
All of those! Even if your book doesn’t contain each one of the trios listed above, you’re probably including a few of ’em.
Which Is Most Important?
That depends on what you’re writing. Sometimes when readers aren’t yet familiar with the world you’re building, it’s crucial to provide all the colorful details about the ship or the jungle or the village in Bulgaria.
Other times, the setting isn’t a big deal because readers are so intensely focused on the characters. Why won’t the heroine consider moving? When is the hero going to change his mind, and how, and why? What’ll happen if that fire burns out of control?
Sometimes there are several braids in the story, but — for one or more of them — the three parts aren’t equally sized.
A book that includes a heroine, hero and villain might devote very little attention to the villain because the romance between the couple is so wonderfully captivating.
Or a book that includes narrative along with description and dialogue might emphasize the dialogue above all else because that’s the part readers like best.
That’s perfectly all right. It’s only a problem when…
The Braid Starts Unraveling.
You’ve seen that happen, right? Like when a secondary character winds up taking over the whole book. Or maybe where we finally reach the climactic scene, where the heroine is about to share her dramatic secret, and then we pause for an entire page describing the scent of her corsage.
Maybe the villain does something which adds an interesting conflict but which is completely out of character, with no explanation ever given. Or maybe the story meanders from one random event to another, with never any reason for us to care about any of ‘em.
What Does That Mean?
There’s no balance to the braids in this book.
Which leads to the question of HOW to blend all three parts of any trio you use.
Some lucky writers do that without even thinking about it. They have an instinctive gift for placing just the right amount of emphasis on past-present-future, on goal-motivation-conflict, and on any other braids in their book.
Some writers have to work at it, but they’ve found various tools for keeping their stories balanced. They’ve developed tricks for lining up the strands, shifting and using the Rule of Five so that each aspect of the trio stays in the right perspective.
Each way of writing is successful, because in both cases the writer knows what three strands are the most important for the book in question.
And speaking of questions, here’s one for you:
Plus A Prize
Question: when you start work on your story, what three elements strike you as the most important?
You might rely on one of the trios mentioned at the beginning, or a blend of any three other elements. Whatever works for you is absolutely the right way to go, but a lot of us go in very different ways.
What’s yours? What three elements make up your braid?
If at least 20 people answer, somebody will win free registration to my class on Your Plot-Character-Story Braid…which begins September 5 at WriterUniv.com. And if it turns out the winner is you but you’ve already registered, I’ll just send you a refund!
Laurie, pretty sure the winner gets announced on Monday morning so I’ll be eager to see who that is.
Laurie Schnebly Campbell always loves analyzing what makes a book work, so she’s looking forward to starting a four-week class on “Your Plot-Character-Story Braid” on September 5 at WriterUniv.com. Although she enjoyed braiding her own books, including one that beat out Nora Roberts for “Best Special Edition of the Year,” she enjoys teaching even more. That’s why she now has 17 novels on her bookshelf with acknowledgments from authors inspired by her classes.