Friday, April 30, 2010

Plotting Basics

Some people find plotting to be difficult. One thing to remember is that a plot is like a road map that takes you from home to the final destination. While some of us would get in the car and just drive, most people at least have a vague idea of where they want to go. The problems with having no road map are multiple but the two most common ones are driving in circles and coming to a dead end.

Before a writer starts to map a plot there are some things needed. The first is an idea. Writers are often asked where they get their ideas. I usually tell them the problem is not getting ideas but in finding too many and deciding which ones either interest me or might be marketable. Ideas often come from people, places or things. A chance meeting with a friend, observing someone doing something strange or interesting. Visiting a new scene or even an old one. Reading an article or a chance phrase in a book. magazinem newspaper or on the internet. This is where ideas are found. Everywhere and anywhere.

Before the road map can be constructed, there are some other things one must need. First are the characters, at least the major ones. Minor characters can arrive in a story as needed and walk-ons as well. Besides the general material one needs to know about the characters like physical description, career choice, education, there are two important things to discover. What do they want and Why do they want this particular thing. Doing this for all the major characters will help when it comes time to develop complications. Characters can want more than one thing,and their reasons may be in conflict. One also has to know where the story will be set and when or the time period. These will all help develop the how or the map to the destination. Do not be surprised if some of these things change during the writing. Characters like people are subject to change.

Next week, we'll start designing the road map.


Wendy Marcus said...

I'm more of a pantser than a plotter, but one thing I always do before starting a new story is create a character chart for each of my major characters. I also think the story through in its most basic form, beginning, middle, and end.

I think what you said about identifying which ideas are marketable is spot on. So many times I've heard agents comment that a story may be good, and the writing may be good, but they don't take it on because either there's no market for it or it would be a hard sell.

DR. NORM said...

Good first article on building a plot. Looking forward to the next post.