Friday, February 21, 2014

How I Became a Plotter: Working out Plot

It's time to plot out PLOT!

I'm not talking about a plot outline exactly, more of just brainstorming and getting down on paper the crucial events and interactions that need to happen in the plot. Okay, I suppose it could be called an initial outline. I say "initial" because there is another more in depth outline that involves sticky notes and obsessive detail*.

I used this article from "How to Write a Book Now" pretty much exclusively to work out basic plot points, but before I send you off to glean everything you can, here are a couple tips I learned along the way:

1. The article wraps up your outline into a nice neat little paragraph that reads like back cover copy.
While this is fantastic for a query or synopsis I wanted more of a numbered/lettered outline that I could scan quickly for info. It's easy to do this by simply leaving the 8 different elements numbered and writing your info below each title.

2.The article suggests just plugging in one thing at a time.
For instance, number one is "Story Goal" and the article suggests you simply write one main goal. I think for the back-cover-copy result this is fine, but for a laying out all your plot details, not so much. Obviously, there will be a main goal (or problem to solve) in your story, but there may also be subplots or a secondary goal for your character. I added everything and my initial outline ended up laid out something like this:

Story Goal
1. (main goal)
2. (subplot)
1. (consequence of not reaching main goal)
2. (consequence of not reaching subplot goal)
1. Main goal
   a (requirement to reach main goal)
   b (another requirement to reach main goal)
   c "
2. Subplot
   a (requirement to reach subplot goal)
   b "
   c "

*As a plotter-in-training I have may be approaching neurotic levels of plotting and planning but I don't care. Go big or go home, right?

Next time: Sticky Notes and the Big Outline!
Previous Post: Characters (part 2)

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