Once again, I apologize for my lack of blog posts. At least this time I have an excuse. I have been plotting. Cue the evil laugh. No, I’m kidding. It’s been the good kind of plotting. Mostly.
So for this post I’m going to talk about different ways to plot, and how I plot. As I learned from LTUE, there’s no one right way to do something. Some people don’t even like to plot. They’re called Pantsers because they fly by the seat of their pants. The way I plot may not be a good way for someone else to plot, hence the variety of ways to plot I will share in this post.
The first thing you’ll need is a plot idea. I know, shocking. If you don’t have a plot idea, then you can’t plot. I like to have a really well thought out idea, main characters, beginning, climax, and ending before I even think about following through on a plot. I like to know where I’m going, so I will do character sketches and a brief summary of the novel (like the blurb on the back of a book) before really digging into the details of the plot.
How do you get a plot? Get your character, and find out what they want. Them getting (or not getting) what they want is basically your plot. Not always, but it’s a good way to start. Go Teen Writers has a whole big thing about figuring out about your character and the plot here. I found it very helpful if you’re trying to figure out the basics of your plot.
I think the next step can be easily summarized in a picture.
Everyone (hopefully) should know the basic plot diagram from school. Ahh, the days of filling this in for every story you read, even though you don’t know why you were filling it in. Seriously, what did I learn that was helpful to the class? It helped my writing immensely, but did it really teach me something for my class? Anyway, the diagram shows the five basic elements of a plot, Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution. Like I mentioned earlier, I like to figure out the exposition, climax, and resolution next before I get into the more detailed plotting. That’s when it gets more complicated.
I like to leave rising and falling action for after the rest is figured out, because I like to know where I’m going. I know where I start (character), and I know where I want the story to end (character gets or doesn’t get what they want). The climax is fairly easy to figure out from there (character struggling to get what they want). I’m a very visual person, so for me I’ve seen clear images playing in my head like a movie of the climax since the idea first came to me. For Rose, it was Phillippe climbing out of the wreckage of the car accident and seeing Rose unconscious, and talking to their families at the hospital when everything comes together for all the characters who missed most of the plot. I’d share the climax of Powerful, but then…
Anyway, after I know those three points, I can start to expand a little more. Who are supporting characters? What roles to they play? What other conflicts do I want in the story?
When I started my outline for Powerful, I wrote down the major conflicts I saw in the plot- Kyla has powers she’s not supposed to, and she could lose her throne because of them. Eli also has these powers, and is using them to fight back against the Council who sent him into hiding. Kyla doesn’t know if she even wants to be Queen, or if she’d be better off joining Eli in his attempts at justice. The Four Kingdoms are majorly separated for no reason, and as Kyla starts to make friends, she gets in trouble for fraternizing with those she shouldn’t be. There are some others too, but that’s the idea.
After I figured out the conflicts, I went to the characters. Kyla eventually befriends one person from each of the other kingdoms to learn about their culture to help her become more empathetic as Queen, so I figured out who those characters are and I gave them personalities. I did my character sketches for Kyla, Eli, her friends, and anyone else who would hold importance in the story. Then, I figured out what their purpose was in the story. Do I really need this many characters? Why is her cousin important? Why does so and so have a name?
Coming from a person who used to be a pantser, this is one of the most important parts in my plotting process. I used to include a ludicrous amount of characters who held no importance to the story. I’d throw whoever I wanted in. I’d model characters after my family members and my friends. Everyone I knew was in my novel. But, why? I didn’t really have a reason to have so many characters. That’s why I went through and did this for Powerful. After that, I knew extra pieces that needed to be included in the story. I knew Kyla’s cousin was a lot more important than I initially thought. She has a role to play. Luzi solves a problem for her. Aya is her first friend. Burk is a spy. Everyone had a purpose, and their purposes thickened the plot.
Once there, you can set up your story board. I don’t actually use a physical story board thanks to Scrivener’s cork board feature, but I know many people who do use Scrivener and still need that physical board in front of them to move the process along. (Little tidbit, a physical board isn’t such a bad idea considering that if your dog walks across your keyboard, you don’t lose have your plot! Thanks, Astrid!) From there you can figure out major scenes, and move ideas around from place to place in the general idea of your story.
I can’t do that. I can’t go randomly. I have to start at the very beginning and work it out chapter by chapter. Usually, though, I have to write a first draft of a chapter or two to get a feel for the style and characters, then I can actually sit down and plot. Hence why I wrote three chapters before plotting. I usually make a bullet point list of ideas for scenes or plot points, then as I go through chapter by chapter, I can take a point from my list and place it into the storyline until none of my points remain and all my chapters are done.
Again, there are many ways to do it, and mine is only one way. It just makes the most logical sense for me, and it flows in a direction of thought my mind can follow.
How do you plot?