Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Secrets to Figuring Out Your Plot

HAPPY NEW YEAR, LIFERS! I hope you had a safe and wonderful holiday season! But now, it's back to the grindstone. Time to get back to work on your writing. And we have a lot of awesomeness planned this year here at SLOW! Except for today, by which I mean I had nothing planned because... Well, I can be lazy sometimes. But that's okay because we have so many wonderful followers that all I had to do was ask if anyone had a question about writing or publishing. And lo and behold, you did!

I received a very interesting question, check it:

Such a great question! But a question with many, many answers and still the ones you get might not be the right answer for you. But I shall endeavor to give my opinion on the matter.

1. Know what you need to have. - There are exceptions to every rule, but for the sake of not getting too confusing, I'm going to stick with what I've always known as what a plot is. There's a beginning, middle, and end. Stuff happens to the characters, bad and good. And that's about it, really.

What? You need more explanation than that?! Okay, I can see how that might have been a little vague. Right, well, go download a pdf of Blake Snyder's Save the Cat! beat sheet. It's supposed to be mainly for screenplays but it's just as great for story telling in general. And while you're there, check out all the beat sheets for popular movies like the one for Jurassic Park and that will probably explain what the terms in the beat sheet mean.

(Just to clarify, that whole thing about Save the Cat! was not a paid advertisement, lol. I just think, like a lot of other writers, that that book is pretty fantastic!)

2. Talk it out! - Sometimes we just need to let our writer brain do what it needs to do. It's amazing what having someone in front of you, having someone who can react and ask questions, can do for the inner writer.

Email or chat up a writer buddy, call up a friend, pull your partner or roommate or mother aside for a brainstorming session. Whoever you have that is willing to listen to you ramble about your imaginary world, talk to them. This technique was mentioned often in a Twitter conversation I stalked, I mean, read between Gail Simone and some other comic book pros. A couple of them seemed to used it exclusively for figuring out the plot.

"But how do I explain it if I don't know what I'm explaining?" you my ask. Well, start with what you do know. "There's this guy and he's this thing and this other thing. He lives in this place. And then - " Pretend you're telling someone about a movie you just saw or a book you just read. And if you get to a spot where you don't know what will happen next, let your audience speak. What do they think should happen next? If what they say makes sense, great! If you don't quite like it, go with the exact opposite maybe and see where that road takes you.

3. Get inspired - It never hurts to know your genre very, very well. So read books in your genre. Watch movies and TV shows similar to what you're writing. I'm not saying copy from them, of course. Just look at what those who came before you have done. What did you like about those stories? What didn't you like about those stories?

There are tons of ways to get inspired, to let your writer brain do what it needs to do. Listen to music. Or go somewhere completely quiet. Go for a walk. Look for inspirational images. Sometimes, just a lyric or a picture can inspire an entire scene.

4. Use what you already have - So, you already have your setting. Well, how will that setting affect your characters? You already have your characters? How could your characters' flaws influence the story? I mean, your characters do have flaws, right? Riiiight??? I truly believe that a character's flaws are more important to the story than their good points most of the time. But that's a post for a different day.

And your characters spawn other characters. Your main character must have a mother, father, maybe siblings and friends who, in turn, might have their own affect on the plot.

5. Write it all down. - Write down any little kernel of an idea you have. Always have a pen and paper with you because you never know when inspiration will strike. It's a simple thing, but very helpful.

So, those are my ideas on how to figure out your plot. I really hope this is helpful, but remember: everyone does it differently! If this doesn't ring true for you, keep looking for more tips and KEEP WRITING!

Do you have any tips or tricks for figuring out your plot? Share in the comments! Unless you want to hog them all to yourself... In that case, phooey on you! ;)

0 secret replies:

Post a Comment