Thursday, September 2, 2010

How do you...

 ... Plot World Domination Your Novel

As I've stated in previous posts, I am a character writer. Which means, I do not write for plot. This also means that I tend to be terrible at it. I'm already proving this by literally getting up to do something else like six times instead of writing this post about plotting.

It's not that I hate plots. On the contrary, I usually complain about them more than I do about characters. The fact of the matter is, you can have created the best, most fascinating character in the world but without something for that character to do, you don't have a good story. Plotting and character really go hand and hand, it's just that usually writers are really good at one of these things and sub par at the other.

So plot is important to me, it's just not what I do first. I usually start with a little nugget of an idea like "I wonder what would happen if a girl was forced to take over the rowing souls over the river Styx" (my current WIP) and then I get excited. So I dive in and start to think about what type of character would be a good fit for this position, why, and who are the people around her? After I've figured out what makes them tick (How do you create characters?), I have to figure out what they are going to do. So then I make the dreaded phone call to my best friend ever, Ashley, and we talk about everything but plot. During this time, I jot down the things that I know are going to happen. Little scenes that have found their way into my head, little quotes, the changes I know several characters need to go through. 

Then we start The Discussion. At this time, I know where things are headed, I just need to figure out how we are getting from point A to point C with a little something interesting happening in between. She is the biggest help when it comes to this. Most of the time, two brains are better than one (especially if you asked a zombie, that's twice the food!) and she knows what type of questions to ask me so I can figure out where to go.

I use chapter outlines. It was especially important with this previous novel because I had two narrators so I needed to know what was happening to each of them at the same time. Basically a chapter outline looks like this:

  • Chapter 1- Aiden (the narrator)- Going to check on his sister, finds she's missing and freaks out. Hunts everywhere (good chance to show the house he lives in and his brother) but can't find her. Realizes he heard his brother leaving a while ago and thinks back to what he said. Something about a park. Realizes his brother took his sister to the park to try to pick up girls. Wonders if his brother is stoned.*
*This is not a real scene from the novel-- it's a cut scene from the first draft but it is no longer in there.

I like working in chapter outlines because they give me just enough to go on without dictating every detail. If I think of something while I'm writing and go off on a tangent then I can look back and know where my chapter was going beforehand and where it needs to go now. They also provide me a jumping off point and if I happen to set the novel down for a few days, I can quickly scan what happened in the previous chapter to refresh myself.

Something else I started doing with this last novel that helped me out a lot was to write a quick timeline. My plots always tend to drag in the middle so to prevent that I sat down and wrote out all the huge plot points and then put them under three sections "beginning, middle, end". From there, I separated all the points and colored coded them each per character. It looks a little like this:

  • Aiden finds Blake
  • Blake waks up in hospital
  • Aiden brings Hannah to hospital to visit Blake
  • Blake confesses that she knows her accident wasn't a suicude attempt but doesn't know what happened
  • Aiden swears to Blake that he will help her figure it out
Doing this helped me see the important parts in the novel and really helped me chop off all the fluff.

So what about you? How do you plot? Do you plot before you know your characters or after? Do you plan or let the chips fall where they may?


Make sure to check back tomorrow for an interview with the amazing Megan Crewe and a giveaway!

1 comment:

  1. Plotting is such a grueling aspect for me. I usually think of a random, rough idea, and just get to it from there. No planning, no nothing. Sometimes it sticks, sometimes it doesn't.


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