Cherry Adair – Master Class – RomCon University 2014

For a copy of the workshop suitable for working along with Cherry, you can download it at Also get her master document for novel organization.

Plotters versus Pantsers

No one wants to read 17 chapters of interior design.

When Cherry had to write four books in a year, she had to become a Plotter instead of a pantser. In order to write fast, she needs a plan.  This workshop is good for both people who need to plot first, and for people who pants to learn structure.

26 important elements of your novel – (I’m not writing all of them but they all need to be in your books.) They include Black Moments, Plot, Scene Goal (witpots), story goal. Some of this you MUST be a plotter for. You can’t write fast or efficiently without a plan.

Nine Ps of plotting (handout)

Do not let yourself go on  a tangent unless you  know how to haul yourself back. Go wild with whatifs.  Practice, Pacing

Backstory is extremely important to your novel. It is part of what makes your character three dimensional. (the Writer’s Bible covers how to do backstory.) You need to know everything about your character, including where they go to the toilet and where they shower.

10 Tips for Backstory (writer’s bible)

  1. Environment
  2. family
  3. influences
  4. events
  5. character’s growth
  6. fears
  7. quirks
  8. job
  9. history

Cherry writes everything in color. His backstory is in blue. You want backstory in tiny tiny increments. Only tell the reader or other character what they need to know at that moment. They don’t need to know everything you know, they only need to know the person. Until the reader cares about the character, never infodump.

Don’t kill yourself trying to get that perfect first line.  Revise as you go. (Never delete anything ever! Put it in your snips folder.)

(Don’t have 99 characters right off. Don’t have characters with similar sounding name. Don’t make your readers work hard to learn your character name.)

What to have open while you’re working: Snips folder, Master document/story bible, manuscript.

(contrary to write what you know, Cherry likes writing about Venezula, Egypt and diving though she doesn’t want to do anything of this.)

Research: I need bad people “search x country felons” then mix and match traits.

Aside: I build my characters from Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs. Pick your characters birthday as quickly as possible and you can’t change it. Then look up their sign. Then you have to make them, through their backstory, who you want them to be starting from the traits that the sign has.  It gives you meat to build the character, both good and bad traits.

That is awesome.

Instead of using Love Signs when it comes to matching them, pull out three to five characteristics of each (three good, one grey, one bad.) Every time that character is on the page, you have to show at least one of those characteristics on the page, whether it’s their POV or not. It forces you to always be characterizing the people in your scenes.

Slams – emotional body blows. Given to one character. Know your characters’ arcs, goals, if they’ll reach them and slams

10 Backstory Tips
Environment – where they’re from and how they feel about it
Family – Mother’s name, father’s name, siblings, how he gets on with them, when did the parents die, how did they feel about it
Influences – who made an impact on their life?
Milestone events – The things we remember are the times we have a rush of adrenaline.
Character Growth – What changed this person? Was he in love with someone who died horrible? How did it change him and how did he grow? This is not what’s in the book, this is before.
Fears – What are their fears? Make them face it. Show them failing, over and over again, until they conquer it.
Quirks – both characters don’t need quirks. But they should have a favorite word (favorite swear word) when they’re under duress, what do they say? How they get dressed, how they don’t get dressed
Job – Do they love it, do they hate it? Most people just do the job because it pays the rent.What they do, how long they’ve done it, why are they still there if they hate it
Marriage details – do they want kids?
Passions – What do they absolutely LOVE?
History – what happened when and where? Education, school, etc

Ways to introduce backstory
Begin with it — DON’T – write the whole thing out from birth. Change the font to blue or pink (or whatever you designate the character’s as). Then use that sparingly, word for word with the color intact to the manuscript. Do the same with research (Green font). On your revisions, go back and blend. Until it’s rewritten, it doesn’t get changed.

Figure out what keeps you motivated. For Cherry, it’s fluff and texture. Then use that. “Today I have to write 10 pages forward and then I can go back two chapters and fluff a scene.”

Flashbacks – DON’T – Drags the story down. If you can figure out a way to do it real time and with dialogue then do it that way. Don’t time jump if you can help it. You can’t tell the character what the character already knows. Just presume that the reader will figure it out. Friends talk in shorthand.

Dialogue – DO THIS – Girl pink, boy blue, girl backstory light pink, boy backstory light blue. You can have her backstory in his POV because she’s telling him about it. Remember that what people say and what they think and feel may not match.

Dialogue interweaved with narrative backstory is good. Narrative backstory slows the story down. You can do it all in narrative to begin and then rework into dialogue when you do your revisions.

If the scene doesn’t have impact, you don’t have to write it.

Every piece of dialogue must work in three different ways. Show character, move the story along, reveal. It can’t just be “how was breakfast?”

400 page manuscript has about 75-100 scenes.
Divide into quarters:
First Q = first act, major turning point
Last Q = third act
Middle Qs = Meat/2nd act
Middle point = major crisis turning point, black moment.

Watch a movie to see where the beats are. Preferably movies you know well. Watch the clock to spot the beats and you’ll be able to predict it.

You may need two black moments, one for the (sub)plot and one for the relationship. Whichever one is the more important needs to be tied up last. Resolve subplots in reverse order of importance.

Your antagonist and your protagonist must be equal or even the protag at a disadvantage. There should be doubt that the hero can win.

Plot the danger thread backwards. Figure out what the black moment is first. (orange) Who needs to be there on the page at which point? THen going forward, you have to figure out who they get to each point.

The beginning of the book sells the book. The end of the book sells the next book.

What is the point of this scene (WITPOTS) If it’s a clue, three times and a payoff. What are the key points of the scene in order to pay it off later, to show character, to establish relationships, what are the stakes, establish skills, layer in Chekovs

Get in as early as possible, get out as early as possible.
An effective beginning needs to do at least three of the following:
Start at the moment of change
Show what kind of story it’s going to be
Introduce and characterize the protagonists
Engage the readers interest
Create a mood
Establish a norm

Mistakes when you’re writing a scene:
Too many people in a scene
Circularity of argument. Arguing is not conflict.
Unwanted interruptions
Getting off track
Inadvertent summary
Loss of POV
Forgotten scene goal (character and scene)
Unmotivated Opponent
Illogical disagreements
Unfair Odds
Too much internalization
Not enough at stake
Too many red herrings (mysteries)
Phony contrived disasters

Six scene questions
1. What does the reader need to know right now
Backstory props, hints, clue, foreshadowing
2. What is the most immediate desire of the character?
3. Will your character achieve their intention or meet with opposition?
4. Does the intention of the scene make sense to the plot? Don’t break the logic of the book.
5. Who will help your character achieve their goal?
6. Who will oppose them?

Chapter 5 Scene 1: Good scenes have important goals and strong conflicts. Each scene must move the plot. Emotion -> thought -> decision -> action
Never let your character relax or feel comfortable in a scene.
How many pages does this scene need? Which POV? Location (Location is a character)? Use the description entwined with the dialogue. Time of day? Season? Time of year? What are the people in the scene wearing? Dress your people with intention. What are they wearing and why are they wearing it? Grooming habits and why? Everything that your hero and heroine do goes to their character.

This is multiple passes! Not your first draft!

Each scene: the higher the stakes, the longer the scene. End the scene with a disaster. Use all your senses. Build your characters from the feet up. Hero must make hard choices. They must deserve to win.

Tips for the black moment can be found in the writer’s bible

If you want to write multiple genres: One genre, one year. then branch out.
You need a deadline. How many pages do you write a day? How long is it? Break it up and do your pages. It can’t be longer than 9 months.

Read your book one time only in order. Otherwise read it out of order.

Focus on something different in each pass.

Move your people around. Don’t put them always in the same location.





2 thoughts on “Cherry Adair – Master Class – RomCon University 2014

  1. […] Workshop #8 – Special 3 Hour Master Event- The Ultimate Plotting Workshop with Cherry Adair […]

  2. […] how to incorporate “slams”. (See last night’s liveblog from […]

Comments are closed.