It’s no secret that my favorite part of the writing process is plotting.
I know – I’m in the minority here. I actually bribe myself to finish goals by allowing myself to start character building and plotting the next project.
(I also bribe myself with cookies – I got two cookies for writing this post.)
How I Plot
Technically, I’m a half plotter, half pantser. I still want to be surprised during the writing process, because if I’m surprised I figure the reader is more likely to be. Sometimes characters write themselves in. One of my favorite characters in my last manuscript basically showed up in my notes, demanded to be in the story…and never ever stuck to my plot. As frustrating as it can be at the time to change everything, flexibility is a really important part of my writing process.
I start with whatever spark of an idea inspired me, and create a short synopsis.
Spark: Sidonie Violette dreams of the day when she can touch the ocean, see a shooting star, and step outside the gates.
How do you build a synopsis from here? You ask questions. Why hasn’t she ever seen an ocean? Where is she at night that she can’t see shooting stars? What gates is she behind?
Once the base is decided, you need to know what the focus is on. What could happen to dear ol’ Sid that would be the most interesting? What would shake her little behind-the-gates world up the most? I just mark basic bullets. What are the essential things that have to happen to your character? Extra details can be filled in later – if you want. As long as you have stepping stones, there’s room to keep hopping along.
Yes, I’m serious. I’ve worked through many a plot by playing them in a game, so I could see how it actually looked to me. Find – or build – a town that resembles your novel’s world close enough. Create characters who resemble them, and have similar characteristics.
Maybe you’ve got a nurturing neurotic genius who wants to have a full household of children…but is single. Easily done (in Sims 3 at least). Create that character, plop her into a town, and follow her escapades. Do you have a plot point that you can’t figure out? Maybe you can’t figure out which of your hunky characters will be most compatible with her. Add them to the town, and see how you interact – you may learn some things!
The best example of this is told by Justine Musk who started with a simple vision board of her work-in-progress, tracking images which matched the atmosphere and a few of the events of the novel. What started as simply a vision board of the atmosphere turned into adding images which could work as plot points. You never know when an image you see could inspire your next plot idea!
Use A Book
Wait, what? Yes, a book.
Try using a book which has you plot in a different manner. Until you try you never know when something new might turn out to be wonderful for you.
Want to try a plotting idea that Stephen King has used? Apparently tarot is it. Traditionally tarot was designed to tell a story – many of the cards are basic archetypes or events. Why not lay out these characters and events in a way that forces you to create a story around that plot? There’s several different ways to use this book including in-depth tarot reads that will provide you with everything from your main character to the current main situation to the final outcome – with their hopes and fears, their recent past, and other handy details thrown in.
Maybe you’d prefer a writing assignment for each day. Have absolutely zero idea for a plot? That’s fine – the first few days are entirely unrelated brainstorming exercises to get your creative juices flowing. You’ll start by creating characters, moving on to what plot makes the most sense for that character, and even switching POVs so you know the voice is right. Plotting is spaced out in this book – you will create a full outline, but there’s tips and questions to encourage change it along the way. The best part? There’s no way to burn out on one plotting exercise a day.
Do you have any unique ways to plot? I’d love to hear about them!