The art of braiding stories--not hair--is today's topic. A few days ago I reached for the book Crafting Novels & Short Stories. Instead of beginning at the, well, beginning, I opted to skip the norm and go for a different approach. I sliced open the pages of the book and landed smack dab in the middle. Now, that's shakin' things up a bit! Chapter eleven, written by Heather Sellers, explained this concept of weaving the element of braiding into our stories.
The author suggested imagining three photographs lying on your desk. Being an avid photographer, I enjoy the countless photos that line the walls of my home. Each one tells a different story. There should be at least three strands of stories in your novel but never underestimate your reader. They are intelligent, and they will follow your story line. She says, "You can't be confusing, but you can't spell it all out, either."
Three seems to be the magic number here. Three was my junior high volleyball number, is the number of children I have, and is the age of our youngest, cutest and only daughter. Like the layers in an onion, a novel should peel away, revealing other story lines. Sellers says if a story lacks braiding, this is the reason why stories fall flat and lose steam about half-way through the novel. Layering in a novel allows the writer a chance to tell a tantalizing tale or two or three. Don't forget each story line or braid should contain the same elements found in a single story: characters, plot, crisis, resolution. Don't make the elements seemed forced. And always add the element of surprise or discovery!
It's important to remember that conflict comes in two packages, external and internal conflict. External conflict derives from circumstances or things that happen to us, like a car accident, broken curfew, license revoked. OK, maybe I mentioned those three things because my fifteen-year-old son is about to get his driving permit!!
Anyway, let's not forget internal conflict, things that are happening to us on the inside: worry, fear, guilt, or lack of trust. (I am in no way referring to my internal conflict as I sit in the passenger seat while my eldest son drives me around town.)
Don't forget to incorporate braiding into your next novel, and I won't forget to wear my seatbelt.