Saturday, September 11, 2010

Cultivating Vines and Plots

I had to move the grapes I planted this spring. A greenhouse now sits where they grew. So my grapes have been on my mind, where to plant them, how they are going to grow.

Grapes develop in different ways, just like story plots, but they both mature and ripen on a framework planned for time's growth. Some vines are best encouraged to grow from buds low on the trunk because the stems grow up following the sun, perhaps like inspirational works and romances follow the light to happy every after, or at least to a better place. That doesn't mean there aren't low points and dark shadows along the way. Other grapes are started with buds high on the grape's trunk because the gardener knows the variety's branches tend to droop when it grows, like suspense, mystery, horror stories, and many urban-fantasy chronicles. As these stories unfold, no matter how low the branches loop, how dark, convoluted, and forbidding the growth, hope remains for a positive resolution. Since form depends on type, both gardener and writer need to know the variety they are cultivating.

Whether grapes or genres, the type determines your purpose, how you proceed, and whether you make jelly, eat fresh grapes, or serve wine. The cordons growing off the grape's trunk represent the main ideas of your plot, the most important outcomes of the story. They are affixed to a support system of chapters so they can develop in a natural progression of exposition and action. All other vines growing off those cordons represent the many subplots that grow, twist, and spiral about each other, leafing out in a maze of unexpected experiences, revelations and possibilities. This seems very clear cut, but new hybrids are always changing the rules.

Both grape vines and plots require research to determine the best way to produce fruit. Some grapes are genetically short seasoned and ripen quickly. Others take a long growing season to develop the perfect story. Luckily, there are many resources available to explain how to approach either endeavor, yet both involve perseverance, occasional risks, and optimism that the season will produce fruit.

While I wait for this season's corn to finish so I can plant my grapes in their location, I'd discover if those are low or high growing grapes. In the meantime, I need to reexamine the plot of my current romantic suspense. Perhaps I better allow a few more budding ideas to develop.

Rhobin L. Courtright, author Stone House Farm, Champagne Books
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