Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Learning How to Weave Like Silas Marner on Crack...

If you've never read Silas Marner, well. Don't. But if you have, then you understand the reference.

I'm still bitter over having to make a loom for 10th grade honors English, if you can't tell.

Though my blanket turned out decent...

Anyway :)

A reader recently asked me to speak a little bit on the topic of weaving in our stories. Some of you might be crafty, sew-y type people...I am not, hence my inability to use or even spell those words correctly...but I get the general analogy ;)

Weaving plot threads together to make a beautiful tapestry of a story. That's the goal.

Think of a favorite afghan or something you have that's cozy and lovely and has several different colored threads in it. Imagine yourself picking out a, say purple thread, and following it with your eyes as it goes throughout the blanket.

That's the spiritual element of your story. It's there, all over the blanket, but you can watch where it goes and how it connects with the other colors of threads.

The red thread is the love element. It's woven intricately throughout the entire plot, always threading itself back around when it's back out for awhile.

The green thread is the theme, your overall message. This thread should be subtle, yet it's a powerful addition, offering it's own beauty.

See where I'm going with this?

Your book is made of several components, especially if you write Christian fiction that has a romance genre mixed in with another, like suspense or historical or whatever. You have to balance all those "colors" to make a beautiful tapestry. If you dumped all the red in one spot, it'd be chunky. Not delicate. If you dumped all the purple in one spot, it'd be preachy and clunky. Not seamless.

I'm assuming you're with me, whether you own a Singer or have ever woven on a loom (I don't' recommend it). So I'm going to go a little bit deeper here and talk about weaving on a "tighter" level.

What I discussed above is weaving the main components of your story. But you also have to weave the actual plot threads. Not the spiritual, romantic, or other threads that compose your structure, but rather, your specific plot lines that are unique to your story alone.

For example:

If your story is about a female firefighter who moves back to her hometown to help take care of her elderly grandma of whom she feels guilty and in debt to, and moves in next door to an overprotective single father rancher, who is struggling to relate to his pre-teen daughter and inaccurately blaming himself for the death of his wife years have to remember to keep all those elements flowing throughout the book. You can't go 15 chapters in, then suddenly remember "oh yeah, my heroine has family issues with her grandma" and then BAM - add in a quick paragraph addressing those. You need tidbits here and there SEVERAL times throughout the ENTIRE novel, intentionally weaving that thread. That way, when the heroine finally deals with the issue at hand, it's more climatic and the reader cares, instead of just suddenly receiving something left field and thinking "that was random". And not connecting to the emotion of the scene.

Make sense?

(and yes, shameless plug, that's a bit about my recent April release, The Rancher Next Door ;)  )

Weaving needs to be subtle, for the most part. Think subtext. Subtext and weaving go hand in hand.

Another example. If your hero has a phobia of heights, we need to know that in pieces (tidbits!) throughout the story. Build it up. That way when he saves her at the end of the novel atop a 20 story building, we'll be freaking out too and cheering him on, rather than saying "oh, he's afraid of heights? That sucks" and wondering why he doesn't just man up and grab a rope. We would have been on that fear journey with him for chapters already.


Weaving makes the reader connect and care. Bottom line. It also avoids "contrived" writing which editors hate. (contrived essentially meaning sudden, convenient, and unbelievable)

Remember, though, you need to weave the major plot points AS WELL AS the smaller/more subtle ones. The motivations, the conflicts, the goals.

Tapestry. Tapestry. Tapestry.

Any questions? :)

Now I'm cold. Pass the blankies.


  1. Oh my gosh... This post was AMAZING. Lol. Copying onto flash drive now. I love how you used the 3 different threads to represent three plot lines... I've never thought of it that way. Yep. I need to go write, now. Thanks, Betsy! :)

  2. Jimminie, you ARE upset about the past. ;) That's the second time you've mentioned Silas Marner. You've successfully weaved your distaste for that book into these posts, giving us the background tapestry. :) Was that intentional? Good book, FYI, heehee. :)