Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sharon Wildwind, my Spring Equinox Guest

Happy Ostara, Happy Spring Equinox!

Today is one of my favorite days, the spring equinox. It is a day of balance and fertility (e.g. creativity). I will be celebrating the balance and creativity in my life and writing today.

For now, it is my pleasure to welcome Sharon Wildwind as a guest on my blog on this special day:

What Comes Next is Not the Way to Plot

Today the world balances on its polar axis, and soon the northern hemisphere will make a joyful tilt toward spring and summer. What comes next is longer days, warmer weather, and a plethora of enjoyable outdoor activities.

What next is a good question for equinox, but when I ask a writer about her work in progress, all too often her answer is a litany of events that don't reflect the book's heart.

Tell me about your book.

It’s a mystery-romance about a woman who got in trouble at work and left home in disgrace. Her friend runs a fishing lodge where she used to live. He calls in a panic, insisting she come back, but won’t say why. When she returns, she discovers her brother and his new bride honeymooning at the lodge. She doesn’t like her brother’s wife. Her friend has family problems, too. His grandfather, from whom he’s been estranged for years, decides to hold a family reunion at the lodge. When his grandfather is murdered, the two of them have to find the killer.

This is a what-comes-next summary. This happens, then this happens, then this problem happens, and then they solve that problem, but this other problem comes up. It might be interesting (or not), but is it compelling? It took me a long time to realize there was a better way to summarize a story.

Tell me about your book.

It’s a mystery-romance. A woman was forced to leave a small town in disgrace after making an unethical business decision. Her brother’s unexpected marriage compels her to return. She immediately discovers why her brother didn’t invite her to his wedding, and she fears that his new wife is a gold-digger. The man she once loved was responsible for her being fired. She’s not sure what their relationships is now, especially when his estranged grandfather’s murder forces them to work together. Finding the killer is certain to put her in more ethical hot water.

Focusing on what’s at stake in place of what comes next works for plotting, too. For the writer who prefers to plunge in without a lot of planning, two questions will suffice:
When the story begins, what is the character’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual situation?
What is his/her first challenge and how does he/she meet that challenge?

Karen Hogarth is tired. She’s grateful to have a job, and a furnished room in a boarding house. Working casual means her schedule, and her sleep, changes daily. She hasn’t time, energy, or inclination to make friends. Thank goodness for library cards. She taught herself to knit from a book, is already bored with scarfs, but can’t focus enough to try anything more complicated. She’s not sorry for what she did, but regrets getting caught. Someone needed help and she helped. That’s the way life should be.

Being told her brother is married is her first challenge. Why in the world would he get married without telling her? For his sake, she has to go back, right away. Returning to the small town she left will be inconvenient, expensive, and scary, but this is her brother we’re talking about. She didn’t spend eight years raising him to have him throw his life away on the wrong women.

That should be enough to kick-start the writing.

For writers who like to plan in more detail, repeat those two questions for each major character. Attempt to have characters start from opposing positions. For example, Karen doesn’t like her new sister-in-law; her former lover thinks the woman will be a good influence on her brother. Bingo: instant tension.

Here’s my token to celebrate spring. Hope you have a wonderful equinox.


Sharon Wildwind is a Calgary, Alberta mystery writer. Her most recent book, Loved Honor More, was published in 2012 November, and that completed her first series. She’s currently at work on a stand-alone mystery set in the folk music world. Her web site is and she tweets @sharww.


  1. Great post, Sharon!

    I find it easy to become immersed in the words and forget about the big picture. It is helpful to have this type of blurb handy for my own use too - to refer to periodically while writing, so I can make sure everything is heading in the right direction with my scenes and overall story.

    Happy Firsty Day of Spring!

    1. Seeing the forest through the trees. :)
      Thanks Lorraine!
      PS The snow was melting today! ;)

  2. Excellent point and informative example. Show not tell really does work. Thanks for encouraging us all.

  3. Thanks Mahrie! Sharon does an awesome job, doesn't she?

    Happy Day!

  4. Sorry I'm late in checking in here. Had dental work last week and have been snowed out of my mind on meds for several days. Much better now. Thanks so much to Sarah for allowing me to do this.