Monday, 24 June 2013

How in Hell do I plot?

I'm a natural born pantser.

It works for me. At least for shorts. I can just about pants a novella. If I have to.

I pantsed a novel. Yeah, the really worked out for me...

So I had to plot my next novel. Yeah. That simple. I didn't know where to start. So I went on a journey.

The Idea.

My ideas, like many, have a tendancy of turning up in the middle of the night. I'd be staring into the darkness when something pops up... 'hm... I don't know... maybe a cop (on the edge) trying to get revenge for the death of their partner...' then I think, 'okay, but what's the hook... why should I write it?' moment of clarity...
The moment of clarity.

... 'and they're all tree elves... like in FernGully.'

Genius. Then I sit on the idea for a couple of days. See if I still like it.

Development - the pre-PC scribbles...

A few days later, out comes a pen and pad. Hell yeah. A pen and pad. Nothing beats actually scribbling shit down.

Page 1: Protagonist details, Three act plot. One small secretary note pad page will contain everything about the protagonist that I can think of at this point, and the plot. One page. Cop (on the edge) must have cool name. Jake? Yeah, Jake's good. Hard. Like he is. Needs a surname. Something more FernGully. Pixiemus. Jake Pixiemus? Love it. Crack addict? Nah. Meth. More believable. Drinks? Check. Smokes? Check. Age? 35. Awesome.

Plot? Partner killed off screen. Pre-book. Pixiemus is a mess. Tracks the organisation that are responsible, and finds out they are pixie-civil-war-re-enactors-from-Mars, who are turning harmless, leaf-juice into a zombie making serum. Pixiemus's family all get zombified, and he must save them all, the forest people, and the world!!

Nailed it.

Page two, next character... and so on.

Get out the Spreadsheet...

...shit's about to get real.

Shit isn't real unless you have helicopters and explosions.
Tab one. Characters. Line by line, painstaking developed characters get listed, their traits, characteristics... and I still don't know if I'm going to use them.

Tab two. Act One. Where the act starts and finishes. Jake Pixiemus, cop (on the edge), married, wife children, fallen angel after the mystery surrounding the death of his partner, Max PinkPettal. Ends at Pixiemus discovering the true identity of the killers.

Tab three. Act Two. You get the picture.

Once all acts are written out in this format, I go back a act one, and fill in everything between the beginning and the end. Something like 20 - 30 plot points. Pixiemus is in trouble at work for vomiting on the Queen's shoes when he was on security detail at the parade. Runs a desk during the day. Follows leads at night. Gets in the way of his family life. That sort of thing.

Start writing.

The word splurge. I start following my plot points like a rat on cheese. But things change. They always will. So once I've started writing? Let the juices flow, um, creatively.

Change the plot.

I find that if I try to stick to the plot points I have laid down my story doesn't grow organically. And basically, it's dry. So. I have my initial plot points in the first column. Then the next are the points as they grow. And each time I writing, that second column get thicker. I write what I have written - so extremely briefly it's miniscule - write down where I'm going. What's changed. Things that suddenly come to mind.

And the third column? Sub plots. Nobody likes to see dead plot lines. Even in the intriguing world of meth-head pixies that ride hedgehogs, someone, somewhere will want to know exactly what happened at the birthday party for little Jimmy Figleaf.

Write 'em down, and tie 'em up.

And finally?

I plot what I'm going to write next time. Just get the gist of where I'm going in my head, so that in moments of thought, I can ponder how that will go. Then when I'm at the keyboard? The hard works already done in my head.

More word splurge.

And that's where my journey took me. It works for me. What works for you?

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