August 19th, 2016

Braiding Your Book

Laurie Schnebly Campbell

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.

pepper trio

Emotions / actions / thoughts.

Description / dialogue / narrative.

A culture / place / time.

mouse trio

Future / past / present.

Protagonist / sidekick / antagonist.

Character / plot / and…

book trio

…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?Bulgarian village

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…couple by boats

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 corsagedescribing 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.veggie trio

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:


balloon trioPlus 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?

plugs trioIf at least 20 people answer, somebody will win free registration to my class on Your Plot-Character-Story Braid…which begins September 5 at 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.


LaurieSchneblyLaurie 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 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.


127 comments to Braiding Your Book

  • Fascinating take on this, Laurie. Really made me think. And it’s interesting – my ‘braid’ at the beginning of the book, changes when I look at the whole thing.

    Beginning: Character, fatal flaw, opening scene

    3 elements: Character, emotion, what they learn by the end.

    No big surprise that I write Women’s Fiction, huh?

    Thanks for giving me a new look and insight on a subject I thought I knew!

    • Laura, it always amazes me how many things we learn (and re-learn) the longer we write! Even though it seems like the gut-core of it is pretty well covered within the first year or so, it’s always fun coming across new tidbits on pretty much any subject.

  • My novel is about a prisoner of war, so goal/motivation/conflict are obvious parts of the braid, but I also try to use emotions, actions, thoughts and because it’s the Vietnam era I weave in culture, place, and time.

    • Pam, you’ve got three very solid braids right there — and each one is playing its own part in the complete story, right? I’m especially intrigued by books set i the Vietnam era because I was actually alive then…it’s such a kick seeing childhood memories recreated in novels!

  • Hi Laurie. I love that you use the word “braiding” instead of story structure which sounds so dry and, well, uninspiring. When I was writing No Safe Zone–my latest book–I struggled with the braiding of elements. Going back and forth to get the pacing right and not to let the plot overwhelm the romance and vice-versa was challenging. To me the three key elements are: plot-emotions-description.

    • Adite, I never even thought about the difference between braiding and story structure, but you’re absolutely right. Same with the importance of keeping up the pace, the romance and the plot all at once…I’m looking forward to discovering how you accomplished that in No Safe Zone.

  • In the book I am currently writing, I’m finding that I’m really focusing on the culture/ place / time. The setting and landscape is a character in itself, and building that to evoke strong emotion in the reader has been so much fun!

    • Brandi, the idea of setting & landscape being an actual character is fascinating; I’m always impressed by writers who can make use of it that way. And those who can rouse my emotions via anything other than a human leave me absolutely awed!

  • Your blog comes as I assess whether my first novel, a historical romance, is done. My braid changes. Set in another century, I thought it was essential to introduce A culture / place / time as I introduced my characters. The place and time make all the difference. After readers are transported, thought, the characters take over to reach their goals so I had to emphasize their motivations and conflicts.And I twist in other elements you describe: the sidekick, lots of thought and conversation. Now I’ll be looking at whether they unravel or the story meanders. Thanks for your wise words.

    • Mary, congratulations on approaching the end of your first novel — what a triumph that is; I don’t think there’s ever anything quite as amazing as discovering you can make it all the way from Chapter One through to The End. I hope you have a big celebration planned for when you type those magic words.

  • I wrote a science fiction novel, Operation Mermaid: The Project Kraken Incident. I’m not sure of the exact technical terms, but this is how I braided the novel. At the beginning, it id May 2026, and thousands of women all over the world have been transformed into Mermaids. Homeland Security is working with a group of Mermaids in San Diego, trying to keep it as quiet as possible. Then, a few days later, one of them finds the plans for an old Cold War era weapon, Project Kraken. It becomes clear that someone is trying to rebuild this weapon. The Mermaids have to work with Homeland Security to stop it. One of the Mermaids, who used to deny the existence of Mermaids, falls in love with a merman. Her mother had worked on Project Kraken. If I say too much more, I’m giving away spoilers. I work on tying it all together. That’s my braid.

    • Joseph, that sounds like a wonderfully complex braid — and you’re right that science fiction readers expect a lot more threads to weave together plausibly and mysteriously. If ever there were a book with dozens of strands, it’d be a story like yours!

    • Fae Rowen

      Sounds like a great premise, Joseph! I’m the resident science fiction writer here at Writers in the Storm, so I perk up at the mention sci fi!

  • Hi Laurie,
    Writing inspirational fiction, my three beginning braids are message/conflict/goal. Enjoyed your article.

    • Dianne, way to go on identifying your three elements so neatly and clearly — it looks like you’ve worked out a winning trio already. (And, yes, from reading your work in class I can report that IS the case. 🙂 )

  • Hi Laurie, love this concept of braiding. My stories are character driven so I always start with goal-motivation-conflict. I’m currently at the Romance Writers of Australia conference in Adelaide and am thinking we need to get you Down Under one of these years to present a workshop in NZ and Australia! (ps: leave me out of the draw; as much as I’d love to do the workshop, hubby and I are travelling around the UK for most of September)

    • Ange, what fun to be at RWA right now — which you bet I’d love to present at someday — followed by a UK trip, followed pretty quickly by your debut novel. This is going to be a real pow-pow-pow season for you, so enjoy every minute of it!

  • Love this post, Laurie. I have to say that when I’m beginning a novel, I’m not sure one braid is more important than another, perhaps more prominent (or a thicker strand, as you so aptly put it.) However, I do start with a particular braid. Character, desire, conflict. Like Laura Drake, it is no surprise I write women’s fiction. My settings could change. My time periods could change. But the essence of the story would remain the same. However, without other well-braided strands, I don’t think any story can be compelling. Without emotion/action/thought, no reader would care. Without well written and well balanced description/dialogue/narrative, our readers would be bored. As I read your post, an image formed in my mind. Each strand of each braid is a different color. They must complement each other, not clash. Together they create a rainbow. Hopefully one which will draw our readers in and transport them to the world we created.

    • Christine Dorman

      Hi Stephanie. My starting braid is the same as yours. Echoing Laurie’s terms, I had said character–goal–conflict, but I love how you used the word “desire.” When I read your comment, that word resonated with me, and I realized that “desire” actually is what I mean. My character may not have a goal in the beginning, but a desire is there. The desire will lead to the goal. Thanks for sparking an insight.

      • Thanks, Christine. I read once (maybe on this blog,) and I wish could give credit to who said this: desire moves a story forward, conflict creates tension. That stuck with me. Thank you to whoever gave me that pearl. It’s priceless. Now, I just imagined my braids laced with pearls.

        • Oh, shoot, I’ve been blaming my WiFi for conking out and regrouped down the street, only to discover the problem was that I couldn’t reply to a comment which had already gotten two replies — sorry for the delay!

          Anyway, Stephanie, I’ll bet your women’s fiction is full of imaginative description…you’ve got a great example right here. And the idea of a different colored rainbow for every book is VERY appealing; it’d be fun to see what a visual artist would do with such a concept for someone who’s written dozens of books.

        • Christine Dorman

          “Desire moves a story forward, conflict creates tension.” Ooh, I like that! Thanks again, Stephanie.

      • Christine, isn’t “desire” a great word? It’s what I usually substitute for motivation, but motivation sounds more clinical while “driving desire” sounds more passionate. Gotta love anything that brings passion into a story!

        • Christine Dorman

          Absolutely! I love “desire” because we all have desires so we can relate as readers. Also, a desire is feeling-based, so it doesn’t have to be rational. With my current WIP, my main character is a teenage faerie who wants to go live among the dragons (as her father, who left the family when she was nine) did. In addition, she wants to convince the Dragon King to give her the gift of shape-shifting into a dragon. The father stuff is very psychological, but the part that people get when I just give a quick description of my main character’s goals. However, a common reaction is, “Why would a faerie want to be a dragon?” While both goals are desire-based, the second one only makes sense once people learn that a) Siobhan (my mc) is a wingless species of faerie, b) she yearns to fly and c) she equates flying with freedom and being a dragon with appearing strong and invulnerable. My beta readers and my editor get it because they’ve read the story (I’m working on the second draft now), but trying to state briefly what Siobhan wants and what is getting in her way tends to be a problem because without the desire / yearning / feeling aspect, her goal doesn’t seem to make sense. Of course, I have to learn how to present it better, and focusing on desire rather than goal or object, I think, works better than discussing goals or objectives. People are complex (even if they’re faeries). We want / desire / yearn for things that don’t necessarily make sense–on a cerebral level. Getting know to know a person or a character is what makes the desire or motivation understandable.

  • Hi Laurie!
    Book braiding is a new concept for me. When I’m outlining an idea I’m always focussed on character/goal/motivation. As a romance author I have this braid for my hero and anothr my heroine. Then when I’m writing I create a bigger braid with hero/heroine/description.

    • Haley, it works fine to have more than one braid in play — and those you’re using involve such great classic elements that it’s easy to imagine them working for just about any story. Especially yours, with (even in tumultuous times) such classic romances unfolding.

  • Christine Dorman

    I really enjoyed your post. It made me think. I was surprised to find that I use almost all of the trios you mentioned.

    When I first begin a book–or even a short story–the three elements that are most important to me are Character–Goal–Conflict. Motivation, plot, and setting come up shortly afterwards usually, but I always start with Who is this person, what does she want, and what’s in the way of her getting it? For me, everything else in the story is related to those three questions.

    Thanks for this post.

  • Like the braid in my daughter’s hair, the strands taper from thick to thin the closer you get to the end. The braid of character growth, conflict, and setting start out with a lot of detail and background that give the story strong roots. Then the strands get tighter and more compact until only the essential elements are left by the climax and the story has accelerated to the finish. Seems to work for me and I love your analogy!

    • Michael, I love your observations about diminishing thickness and strong roots — that’s a wonderful visual image. Your daughter deserves credit for inspiring a lot of writers with a great way to envision the purpose and value of a braid. 🙂

      • michaelcdarling

        Kind of you Laurie! As writers, we are aware on some level of the different parts of a story but it’s never been explained in this way before. At least not for me. This braid idea really has helped me think about those parts and how they need to be intertwined to strengthen the whole. So helpful!

  • Christine Dorman

    Laurie, thank you also for offering the prize.

  • Lisa Heidinger

    I’d never thought of that! And now I’m concerned about an unbalanced braid. But thinking about what I’ve written so far (about 25,000 words) my balance seems to be between dialogue, description, and action. I’m afraid action lags a bit. Maybe I better go back and re-read with that in mind. Thank you! I think you just made it a better book.

    • Lisa, good for you on re-reading with balance in mind — nothing says all three items must be equal at every point in the story, but if you know your readers are going to want all three, it’s good to make sure they’ll get enough of each to make ’em feel like “yep, this book delivered!”

  • The first answer that came to mind for my braid was: Hero, Heroine, and Location. Working those out builds the conflict, motivation, and goal. I never thought of it as braiding before. I’m in the middle of a WIP that’s giving me kitten fits. Maybe this will help clarify some things. Thanks, Laurie, for another great post.

  • Definitely past/present/future for me, with past and present being the larger two strands. How did we get to here, what can we learn from the past, how do we find our way through the present so that we have a better future.

  • Laurie, you always come up with such clever thoughts about writing. I think all of the trios you mentioned go into forging a book. I like the past, present and future, although mostly in romance readers put their own ending on the H & H’s future. That’s fun for them.

    • Roz, good point about readers creating their own vision for the couple’s future. You ALWAYS set us up for a fun process; we get enogh background to know it’ll be happy but there’s room to add all the details that broaden our individual definition of how that’ll look.

  • To find the right balance between inner thoughts, emotions, and actions is very important, but not as easy as one might think. I’ve read manuscripts from author getting lost in descriptions and inner monologues to a point where I had myself to force to finish it. That’s why I think such a course is very important and a must have for every writer who aspires to become more than just an hobbyist. Thank you for bringing this up to the table!

    • Ilona, you’re right about it not always being easy to find the right balance — that’s one of the tricky parts of writing that I’ll bet very few of us ever think about before beginning Chapter One. And I’ve gotta admit, my first few manuscripts were VERY short on action. 🙂

  • As always, I enjoy your posts and your classes!

  • I’ve heard a lot about braiding stories but didn’t actually understand the concept because I don’t plot anything out although I do keep a time line to make sure the action fits. I write a blend of the new RWA definitions for Main Stream and Inspirational Romance. After reading the comments, Stephanie Claypool’s character, desire, conflict fits the best. I also use Dr. William Glasser’s Five Basic Needs to add conflict between characters.

    • Judith, what a great idea to use Glasser’s needs — talk about a wonderful source of potential problems! And making sure the action works via a timeline is smart, too; otherwise it’s (alarmingly) easy to get thrown off and discover some fabulous scene can’t actually happen.

  • Hi Laurie! When I start writing a book I’m most focused on the main character, the plot, and the dialogue between my main character and everyone else. I really had to think hard about this one. Hey, it’s only 8 a.m. and I’m not totally functional yet! As always, I love your posts, your classes, and you! Thanks for this.

    • Patti, good for you on meeting such a challenge at 8am…you’ve earned your morning coffee, for sure. 🙂 And considering how important relationships ARE in your books, it makes sense that dialogue is right up there with plot & character as a top focus.

  • Whoa. I have never heard of a braid in the story. Interesting. I’ve certainly braided enough of my girl’s hair, using a French braid too. That’s all kinds of strands. I think I’ll go with Heroine, Villain, Action. That’s hard for me to even think of a set of three.
    Great post.

    • Alice, don’t worry that you’ve been missing out on anything by not thinking in terms of braids. I’d never heard of them, either, until someone asked if I could teach a class on that topic — and you’d be AMAZED at how many definitions there are of what constitutes a braid!

  • I’m currently working in a Dark Fantasy-ish Sword & Sorcery setting, so my braid has to be fairly heavy on Setting, with Character and Conflict joining in to fill out the plot. (I’ve thought before that the setting is, in some ways, as much of a character as any of the characters.)

    Where I really run into trouble, though, is trying to balance Description, Dialogue, and Narrative; I’m prone to over-explaining, and I don’t feel like dialogue is my best skill. (This is true in real life, also!) Give me an action sequence, and I’m good to go; give me a scene where two characters are bonding by complaining about the tribulations of their days, and I feel incredibly clumsy.

    • Michael, welcome to the club of people who find one of the D-D-N elements considerably tougher than the others. It varies from writer to writer, of course, but the good news is that the same skill which makes action scenes easy for you can also be put to work in writing dialogue. (Hmm, want to swap skills? 🙂 )

      • It actually makes me less puzzled by how (and why) people might be able to co-author books, and why anybody in their right mind would want to. I mean, I know it works for some author-teams, I’ve just never understood how they manage it. But, like any good partnership, if they’re buttressing each other’s weaknesses… Yeah, I can see how that might work.

        • The first team I ever saw succeed consisted of two writers who’d met while working on a city government project, and stayed friends. They always agreed if they hadn’t seen their complementary skills in action during the day job, they never would’ve thought to collaborate on fiction. It was a stroke of luck, though, that they both liked writing romance!

  • magsh81

    I labor be your blog posts Laurie. I swear I’m always learning something new. For me it’s all about character, conflict and resolution/growth. I just like be a quirky character with a heart of gold that goes through hell and comes out a better/wiser person.

    -Margie 🙂

    • Margie, you ARE always learning something new because you’re one of those writers who’s constantly on the lookout for ways to improve your craft — which is a wonderful thing. And what’s not to love about a quirky character with a heart of gold going through a journey like that?

  • Hi, Laurie. Another great post that made me think. I start with Hero, Heroine and Location. Once I have those, I can flesh out my characters.

    • Steph, your books are so full of colorful details that it’s not surprising Location is one of your top picks — any one of your stories would be completely different if it were set someplace else! Same as, come to think of it, if the Hero or Heroine were someone else…

  • Laurie Gifford Adams

    This was excellent, Laurie. I want to print it out so I can keep it. To answer your question, GMC is definitely the first thing I think about. I do incorporate so many of these raids, some naturally, but it’s good to see them all laid out as reminders.

    • NY Laurie, isn’t it astonishing how many possible braids there are? The fact that you’re incorporating some without even thinking about it shows you already have a good instinct for what your readers want…which has to be one reason they’re taking your books off to every continent!

  • Fae Rowen

    Since I’ve always had long hair, braiding is something I can do without looking. I got to thinking about the differences in braiding—and the look— of a French braid, a regular braid, and a fishtail braid, and how different kinds of braids can work in different parts of the story, and in different stories. Thanks, Laurie!

    • Fae, I’m impressed by people who can braid without looking — anytime I see someone doing that while chatting with a friend or watching a screen, I’m bowled over by their skill. Which, hmm, might be exactly the thing all of THEM think about us writers. 🙂

  • Cheryl

    HI Laurie, Cheryl #9. I always start with heroine/hero/villain (whether the villain is a being or emotion or whatever.) In my mind, the rest of the story flows from there. Is she talkative? Is he the quiet brooding type? Does it matter that they live in a tiny home or a mansion? Do we need to examine the past carefully to understand the fear or villain’s actions? Or did they live perfectly happy lives until the mass murderer steps in? (That last one has never happened, past is always part of my stories, so my second braid is almost always past/present/future.)

  • Question: when you start work on your story, what three elements strike you as the most important? Strangely I have never even considered the elements. I am a story teller by nature, and the stories I tell generally come without involving any heavy lifting. My friend, who is also a writer, gets angry when I call myself a hack, but I started writing in first grade and never studied the mechanics. If my characters are happy they tell me where they want to go, and the villain usually shows up when it’s appropriate. Funny though, I had five daughters, and I have done plenty of all types of braiding of long blond hair. This has interesting possibilities for the sequel of my latest. Thanks. Anne
    I passed you on to Facebook

  • Anne, talk about a perfect illustration of how tools are only useful if the writer NEEDS some heavy lifting. As long as you don’t need it, there’s no point in looking at different ways of telling a story…although I’m betting your daughters are grateful for your skill in all those years of braiding. (And thanks for the FB shout-out!)

  • Oops, DHolcomb, I messed up by typing my reply to Anne while yours was hitting the post — but I’m glad you like the analogy. 🙂

  • Janet Ch.

    Until I read this, I didn’t realise there were so many potential braids! As I write romance, so for me, the 3 most important elements to braid are the protagonist’s character arc, the romance arc and using the external plot to illustrate the theme (ie the lesson the protagonist learns during the course of the story.)

    • Janet, you have a very good point about the romance arc serving as a distinctive strand from the character arc and the plot arc — not every type of fiction needs a separate arc for one facet of the story, but genre (like romance, mystery, horror, etc.) absolutely do. Which leaves me awed by people who can write inspirational romantic suspense…

  • First time I’m learning about braiding and oddly enough, my local writer’s group is having a session on braiding as it applies to nonfiction next month. I’m working on a paranormal romance so I’m going to say emotions/actions/thoughts. Vittoria’s a gifted yet emotional girl who has never quite gotten over the death of her mother and oftentimes reacts to situations with her heart over her head. Her actions always lead to new problems and discoveries that move the plot along. With her poignant memories, sometimes shocking and often times humorous thoughts, even if I say so myself, I do love her.

    • CT, isn’t it amazing how — the first time you become aware of something — it’s suddenly all around you? Your combination of emotions-actions-thoughts shows we’ll get to see Vittoria’s mind, body and heart ALL at work…so you’ve done a good job of covering the essentials. 🙂

  • Lee C

    My current paranormal romance has H/h/v (hero, heroine, villain) all with GMC (goal, motivation, conflict) and, of course some personal growth for H/h. Since hero is an ancient brought forth to present day America, there is also need for a little back story/ culture which I try to filter in through dialogue and action as the story progresses, rather than dumping a ton of info all at once. Sometimes it seems there are so many braids, the threads are breaking loose all over. Of course, I never could braid or macrame in real life… why should writing be any different? We’re just exercising a different set of muscles. 🙂

    • Lee, I like your concept of a different set of muscles — that actually makes me think “gee, maybe I COULD do macrame.” Or knit. Or anything besides the basic crocheting steps my grandma taught me way-back-when. Next time I admire a co-worker’s craft ability, I’m gonna remember your analogy!

  • I always have to start my story braid with at least the germ of a story concept, next I have to get to know my characters, finally what stands in the way of their HEA. During my story my braid focuses on are my characters growing/ character motivation/ character goals.

    • Bonnie, starting with the germ of a story concept is a very good way to begin. I’m always awed by people who dive in without such a concept, just grabbing a random thought and seeing where it leads and STILL winding up with a perfectly good book…but I’m more in your camp of needing the germ. 🙂

  • Hi Laurie,
    I’ve gotten into the habit of thinking of heroine’s internal change, hero’s internal change, and the external change (plot events). And when I’m plotting my scenes I always default to scene/sequel: goal/conflict/disaster, emotion/dilemma/decision. Or at least I try to. Whenever I run into scene problems it’s invariably because I’ve gotten away from that. Looking forward to the class!

    • Laurel, it’s going to be a treat watching your next story unfold…only 17 days to go! And your system of using the scene/sequel trios for plotting scenes is a good one; it’s always nice to have a tool which you’ve used successfully on hand for ANY new book.

  • Love the post, Laurie!

    When I’m plotting a book, my trio is GMC. When I’m actually starting to write the book, it’s usually character, plot, and backstory, which can be a tricky combination, at least for me.

    But, like Laura, my big 3 can also change, either at the beginning of or during the course of the book. Sometimes that’s dictated by characters or the story.

    Thanks for getting me thinking about this.

  • Excellent post, Laurie. I always struggle with GMC which probably should be the easiest, but I always doubt my motivation, is it strong enough, so I’ll look at it from a different angle now, thanks!

    • Kristin, I think motivation is probably the most underrated element of the bunch — but thinking of it as a driving desire might be an easier model. Goal and conflict, sure, no big challenge there…but as for why the character wants this? That’s where the real fun of plotting comes into play! (And it’s the subject of my March class.)

  • jeanneestridgeauthor

    Goal, motivation, conflict. It wasn’t always that way, but that’s what seems to work best for me.

    • Jeanne, it sounds like you’ve explored a lot of braid elements — and having found one that seems to work best is a great testimony to the value of going through all that exploration. Like people saying “don’t buy the first house you walk into,” the premise could apply just as well to choosing a method for writing!

  • I too enjoyed the post and agree with Kristin about doubting my motivation. My three sections of the braid would be character (in the center), plot and subplot. And for some reason the thought of a man’s bearded braid popped into my head. Whenever I see one, I want to give it a tug!

    • Merissa, now you’ve got me wanting to tug a bearded braid as well — good thing there aren’t any here at my ad-agency office. 🙂 And it’s very handy that you know your books will always HAVE a subplot; talk about a great way of adding extra depth to the original story.

  • Goal / motivation / conflict and setting/description/culture.

    I haven’t worked on this for a while so I have empty spaces in my brain about it.
    I like the braid concept.
    Reminds me of the verse from Ecclesiastes: A cord of three strands is not easily broken.

    • Stacy, what a perfect application of the Ecclesiastes verse — now I wish we had official class T-shirts, because that’d be such a great slogan. Both the trios you mentioned are good, solid ones…I especially like the vivid-ness of setting/description/culture because it’s so visual. Which is, ahem, my weak spot.

  • Hi Laurie, Looking again at the beginning of your blog, I’m seeing my personal “laundry list” for my current work emerge. It’s a nice, neat list–and not in terms of how how I think I work, but maybe I just learned something about ME today. Well, heck! I’m always learning when I read what you write about writing. I am so looking forward to the September class. Thanks a bunch for your insightfulness.

    • Elaine, what fun to see your current work’s laundry list all nicely laid out on a screen — wouldn’t it be great if the whole book came together that easily? I’m right there with you in looking forward to September; it’ll be a kick watching these stories take shape!

  • I’ve been considering taking this class and now it’s on my must take list. In the beginning, it’s all about characters/motivation/goals. I need to know where they are, why they’re there, and where they want to go completely separate from each other.

    The rest is characters/conflict/romance. What keeps them apart, and how they fall in love despite that. I’ve never thought of it as braiding the three, but now I’m going to take another look at my current book in a new way. Thanks.

    • Terri, I like your three opening W’s for each character…then the What & the How. It’s cool that those all do all add up to a braid, although you can sure add any other trimmings you want along the way — I’m glad I’ll get to work with you through the braiding details next month. 🙂

  • Lazconnect2001

    Laurie, I never really realized just how many braids are woven into a story. Amazing that ANY book manages to weave all those elements into the perfect blend to capture their reader’s hearts.

    • Lee, isn’t that astonishing? If the process starts to sound intimidating, though, think of the braids as being like letters of the alphabet…when you come right down to it, what are the odds of arranging all 26 letters in ways that’ll leave readers marveling / crying / laughing / whatever? Makes us all sound a LOT more impressive.

      • Lee C

        What a great concept… thinking of the braids like letters. Less intimidating realizing I can rearrange the braids as I see fit, just like each author uses their own specific words to create the desired image for the reader. 🙂

  • Wow, this is an impressive bunch of people! This morning I said if at least 20 left comments I’d give away a prize — we now have 37, so I’m going to wait until Saturday and see if three others come trickling in, because if so then TWO people will win free registration to September’s class on “Your Plot-Character-Story Braid.”

    So…fingers crossed!

  • carrienichols

    Laurie, GMC are the big trio for me but I also love dialogue so I have to be sure to balance some of that out with narrative and description.

    And I can definitely recommend the Braiding Workshop or just about any workshop Laurie does!

  • The three parts of the braid when I start out are character, plot, and backstory,

    • Helen, isn’t backstory wonderful? Not that character and plot aren’t as well, but it’s such fun to piece together all the juicy details that make someone wind up in the kind of life / situation / belief system that leads to the launch of a book…and never even have to THINK about the spelling / grammar / etc. 🙂

  • I’ve been meaning to come to the blog all day! (Busy time of year for work.)

    My three elements are CHARACTER, DIALOGUE, and FLAW/STRENGTH. I much prefer character to plot and think character can create the best plot OR if it’s an action-disaster type thing, show the greatness (and weakness) of character best.

    I love dialogue because I *LOVE* banter in my romances (personal and fiction), so it’s the most fun for me to write. I prefer dialogue to almost nearly other non-character/plot element.

    Last, FLAW/STRENGTH is probably a subset of character, but I think it lends itself as the backbone of several other important elements of great fiction. A great FLAW/STRENGTH (and I prefer the type of flaw that’s got double-edge sword of being a strength as well) brings out CHARACTER, lends urgency and high-stakes to PLOT, deepens MOTIVATION, BACKSTORY, & EMOTION/TENSION, and probably other things I’m not thinking of. *LOL*

    In general though, I would say CHARACTER/EMOTION/&SETTING creates the most memorable books because those are the types of things that impact readers and leave a book being remembered long after its read.

    • Fran, I like your all-caps listing of the elements — and especially the flaw/strength as a double-edged element. Now you’ve got me wondering if that could count as TWO parts of a braid, and if so what the third item would be, which is probably not the ideal train of thought for 4am…

  • Kathye

    I think characters are the most important part. So I’ll go with hero heroine and antagonist.

    • Kathye, using “antagonist” instead of “villain” is a great way of laying out characters — because you’re SO right that an antagonist doesn’t need to be villainous at all. Look at all the complications caused by those kind, loving, well-intentioned friends who just want the h/h to be happy!

  • Wendy Ely

    Hi Laurie! This looks like a great class 🙂

    Wendy Ely

  • Brandie Nickerson

    I think of romantic suspense. How we weave or braid the two elements into one story.

    • Brandie, good point about how even when there are two elements, there’s still weaving action to be done. The same if there’s five, or seven, or any number that’s not divisible by three — even though trios are satisfying, there are all KINDS of other satisfying ways to blend the elements of a great story!

  • Braid competition –
    Heroine, hero and villain.
    Heroine is narrator Xeno Bio Fayle. Hero is Lieutenant Lynx, and the villain is The alien Tormes and his crew who have arrived in search of – humans – in whom to implant their embryos. An additional strands are tow minor characters in my Sci – Fi story.

    • Grace, I’m so sorry I didn’t see your comment until Tuesday evening — I should’ve checked since Monday morning! Anyway, you’ve got some VERY cool character names; you already have me wanting to watch the movie when this book gets up by a studio. 🙂

  • I like the visual of weaving the different parts together and checking for balance. I’m a panster, so this makes more sense to me than trying to outline.

    • Chris, you’ve gotta love a system that works for pantsers — and it sounds like you’re a more visual type of person, which I suspect means that description is one of your strengths. Probably one you take for granted because it comes so naturally, which has those of us (er, me) who aren’t good at it feeling VERY envious. 🙂

  • I’ve found that the easiest way for me to “see” where my braid weakens, or one strand takes control over the story is to use Margie Lawson”s editing technique: using a different color highlighter to mark your manuscripts in terms of description, dialogue, setting, etc. At quick glance, I can then see what I need to work on; either by strengthening or balancing certain parts of the braid. I’m a very visual learner, and this technique never fails to help me “re-vision” my stories. Great Post.

    • Sandy, isn’t it wonderful seeing everything spread out in colors? I like your image of “re-visioning” because that sounds so much more positive and upbeat than “revising,” which tends to smack of Hard Work. Seeing new threads and balancing colors is a whole lot more fun!

  • Responding to Kathye’s comment and Laurie’s response (“Look at all the complications caused by those kind, loving, well-intentioned friends who just want the h/h to be happy!”) about ten comments above this, because I don’t seem to be able to respond directly:

    This actually reminds me of a movie I saw years ago. It was a fairly bad movie — I don’t even remember the title, though I could find it — but there’s a moment where the heroine discovers that the local Wiccan has made an amulet for her and slipped it onto her neck when she wasn’t looking. She asks why, and the Wiccan says, “I thought you needed the help. It’s supposed to protect you from your enemies.”

    The girl responds: “But {Guy who’s transforming into an extradimensional monster} is my friend!”

    The Wiccan answers with something like, “That could be a problem. I don’t know *anything* that will protect you from your friends.”

    Anyway… horrible movie. Great line.

  • Goal/motivation/conflict. The good old GMC. I think of a character, what he/she wants, and what is the worst/strangest thing that can happen to prevent it.

    • Kristina, talk about a VERY useful set of elements — there’s a lot to be said for the classic trios like GMC. And it’s fascinating to see how many ways there are of interpreting each one of those initials, which is probably one more reason every author who uses it comes up with such wonderfully different books.

  • My three braided elements are character, plot, and dialog. Though, I have many braids, stranded throughout my novel in progress. When I write short stories, my braids are more like storyline, characters, and motivation.

  • Oh, and luv Sandy Richardson’s idea of using highlighters to mark up the seperate braids! will give it a go!

    • Lisa, it’s intriguing that you use different “main” braids for novels and short stories — I’m enjoying the vision of how each type has characters and a storyline/plot, but shorter ones place more emphasis on motivation and longer on dialogue. Another good illustration of how here’s no One Best Way!

  • Aloha, Laurie. Can’t wait to take the Braiding Class so I can finish the outline for my current WIP. When I added my villian, he wanted to take over and that just won’t do!

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