#NaNoPrep 101 Week Three – Construct a Detailed Plot

finished scene cards

This third week of NaNo Prep 101 is titled Construct a Detailed Plot or Outline.

The exercise provided is a fun quiz to figure out what kind of plotter you are. I was not surprised to find that I am now equally 9-Step Plot Dot and Plot Rollercoaster.

How I’m Plotting this year

Last month while I participated in Writer-in-Motion, I wrote a post about how I approach plot: Playing with some plots. In that post I showed examples of how I plot with tarot, use the plot-o-matic, use Rory’s story cubes and other fun tools, I even stumbled upon the Virgin’s Promise plot for the first time while I was writing the post, so I won’t re-hash that here. Instead, I will follow the path I forged last week and start with a review of materials I’ve collected and then plan my actions for the week.

Review of Plot and Structure

Over the years I have collected many writing references and almost every one has a chapter or more on plot and structure. I thought this week would be a good time to review the materials I have and select exercises and ideas for this project.

Books

  • Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer states that a traditional plot includes Reversals – setbacks for characters
  • Discoveries – characters find things out about selves, others and world
  • Complications – the central problem is not easily solved and grows more complicated
  • Resolution – a conclusion that satisfies the reader and resolves story problems

Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass – The second section, chapters 13 through 24 are about Plot Development. The main idea is things can always get worse. Raise the stakes. Throw more problems at your main character. Think things are dire? Make them worse.

Wired For Story by Lisa Cron states that a story needs to follow a cause-and-effect trajectory starting on page one. She agrees with Mr. Maass that you need to make things worse going so far as asking “Does everything your protagonist does to make the situation better actually make it worse?”

Now Write! Screenwriting edited by Sherry Ellis and Laurie Lamson – Every sequence, scene or action moves the story from hope to fear or fear to hope. Make the story unpredictable with plot twists. Set up (at least) three major subgoals for the protagonist to achieve her main objective then describe what goes wrong, so these goals can’t be achieved.

Mapping the Hero’s Journey With Tarot by Arwen Lynch – There are exercises to explore each step of the hero’s journey uses the symbols of the cards. I like this method because it gets me thinking about the character’s emotional journey as well as external and internal events.

Scene and Structure by Jack M. Bickham includes A Scenic Master Plot that goes through possible scenes chapter by chapter.

Building Better Plots by Robert Kernen guides the reader through creating and organizing scene cards to create the story arc. It has some great “Quizes” to help you evaluate your scenes.

Youtube Videos

Pixar in a box collection has some good videos on story structure.

My Plan for this week

Listing my plans for the week is really working. Last week, I created my protagonist, a peer/possible love interest, a friend, and the antagonists.   Writing short stories exploring some of my ideas is helping me visualize how my characters will interact with technology and their environments in my future world. I’m so glad I started early. There’s so much more to think about.

I think narrowing my focus to specific elements of my story, so I can focus my research and extrapolations, is wise at this point.  Here’s my plan:

Brainstorm plot points and scenes: I’m going to set a timer for fifteen minutes and write as many ideas for scenes, events, actions and reactions as I can. Choose my favorites then put it away and read for a while. Then I’ll do it again. Once I have come up with lots of fun ideas, I’ll organize them into beginning, middle, and end.

Put scenes on index cards in Scrivener

Evaluate scenes with Kernen’s Quick Quizes

Explore plotting with Tarot: I will use Lynch’s exercises to flesh out my plot further.

Fill in Outlines in Scrivener

Put scenes into Bickham’s Scenic Master Plot and explore which outline or combination of outlines I want to use during NaNoWriMo.

Play around with structure: I’ll try re-ordering the scenes to find the most exciting way to tell my story.

Free-write raising the stakes: Once I’ve explored the stakes and conflicts, I’ll free-write about how to make them worse.

Interview characters: As I choose scenes and plot-points that I think should be included in my novel, I’ll ask my characters about them. Hopefully, this practice of involving my characters in the planning of the plot will keep me immersed in the story as I work.

How do you plot and outline?

Do you have specific resources and tools you like to use?

Happy Reading and Writing!

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