Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Joy of Plotting

I love to plot.

There's nothing quite like a good puzzle, and plotting a novel certainly fits into that category. I keep notes on foreshadowing, conversations, events, character quirks, and setting descriptions. I triple check every detail to be sure each is attended to and resolved. I find that I like to write the first couple of chapters, and then I go straight to the end. It helps me not to wander if I know my destination. All I have to do is connect the dots, right?

Maybe... Just like any connect-the-dots puzzle, the more dots there are to connect the sharper the picture. I like to use a loose framework to plan. The details come as I write. Helene Boudreau posted this structure on her blog. It's simple, and it works well for me.

Inciting incident (The big problem)

Plot Point 1 (first obstacle)

Plot Point 2 (second obstacle)

Plot Point 3 (third obstacle-situation is about as bad as it can get)

Climax A (lighting the fuse)

Climax B (watching it burn)

Climax C (kaboom!)



Another good source for understanding how to build specific plots is 20 Master Plots -and how to build them, by Karen S. Wiesner. I refer to this book each time I start a new project - my own little refresher course!

What plotting strategies and resources do you use?


Bish Denham said...

Great stuff, just what I'm looking for. And thanks for Helene Boudreau's link!

Hélène Boudreau said...

Thanks for the linkage, Nora. I'm glad my post has been helpful.

Happy writing!

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Thank you for this--my biggest struggle as a writer is with plot (I think).

PJ Hoover said...

Apparently I need to use your blog!

I do find full read-throughs helpful, workshops and books on plotting. Anything to get my mind thinking about it.
And distance from my manuscript, as always.

Lady Glamis said...

I recently just posted about motion in your novel. Interesting that I used a quote by Nathan Bransford who said NOT to connect the dots. But I think you're using the term differently.

I'm also doing a series of posts on the Inciting Incident and will be posting the second one next week. It sure is complicated, but it seems to be the way that I have worked through plot on my novels. Thanks for a great post!

Anne Spollen said...

think we all write differently. I make this weird web with words like "buttons show" or "Heather not convinced" then write.

I always WANT to have a method to my madness, but I just sort of go and fix it along the way. Even when I try to organize it beforehand, the plot seems to develop a life of its own. Not sure if this happens to other folks...

Nora MacFarlane said...

Lady Glamis - I don't think that Nathan and I are talking about the same thing at all. His connect the dots statement sounds to me like simply moving from one event to the next. When I say connect the dots, I mean the actions/conflict/events that move from one plot point to the next. BTW - I love the example of the wave you give on your site. Good stuff!

Anne - My husband webs all of his ideas, even when he takes notes in meetings. I can't make heads or tails of it! When it comes down to it, my plot points are guiding lights. I make ALL kinds of detours trying to get to my destinations. That's what makes it fun!

Helene - Anytime. I've referred to your post as I'm working several times.

Bish, Green Girl, and PJ - I love how generous the writing community is in sharing ideas and pointers. It has been a tremendous help to me.

Lady Glamis said...

Yes, two different points made with the same concept. LOL. I think yours works well. Glad you liked my posts!