Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Analyzing The Lincoln Lawyer for Plotting Tips

Have you ever analyzed a book that kept you riveted to the pages to see how the author did it?

Last January I attended a workshop with Kara Lennox and one of the handouts was a Three-Act Structure. While this is nothing new to most authors, I've never been one who could actually "plot" a novel before I write. It's always seemed to "get in the way" of letting my creativity flow. It's something I have always struggled with, and also the reason I get bogged down when I hit the middle (or Act II).

After seeing previews of The Lincoln Lawyer, I decided to read the book. I never like to see a movie before reading the book behind it. The book always goes into much more detail so I know what really drives the characters (and let's face it, movies don't always follow the book). Having never read anything by Michael Connelly before, I didn't know what to expect. The book in a nutshell  is about Mickey Haller, a defense lawyer with a well-deserved bad reputation. He cares more for money than he does about his clients, always looking for loopholes in the system to free his clients even though they are guilty. When approached to take a case for a very wealthy man, he chooses not to question too deeply why the man wants him. All he sees are dollar signs. As the plot twists and turns, Haller grows in grace and character as he begins to refocus on many things in his life. When he finally realizes that his jaded mind missed seeing "an innocent man" he helped railroad into jail, he knows he has to find a way to free him. But, at the moment, he's caught in a trap to defend a man who is pure evil, while Haller looks over his shoulder waiting to be arrested for a murder he didn't commit. And, oh yeah, he needs to stay alive while doing all this! It's a riveting character-driven book.

After reading the last page, I sat and pondered how in the world Connelly had pulled off writing such a great book. I've always been taught to chase your heroine up a tree and then throw rocks at her. Connelly not only chased Haller up a tree, he tossed huge stones, knocked him down in a briar patch with lethal thorns that ripped at his flesh as he tried to free himself.

I decided to pull out the Three-Act structure and compare that with The Lincoln Lawyer and much to my surprise, the book followed the structure to a "T." I've decided to spend time analyzing further into the book and see how each layer of the book falls into this type of plotting. And, yes, I'm definitely going to apply this to my newest book. I'm determined to learn how to do this right!

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