Sunday, 4 May 2014

Plot Problems

When it comes to writing, plans are important. They help to map out the story and to keep track of where the plot is going. However, they can both help and hinder.

Image from Google

For some people they get an idea and bam! they want to get started. Their hands start flying across the keyboard, their fingers can't go fast enough while the words pour out of them. This can be fantastic, the enthusiasm is high, the idea is exciting and you know you're onto something good... that is until the steam runs out.

It's inevitable unfortunately, usually it's three chapters in- if you're lucky you'll get to chapter five- and then, ahh, now what?

This is the part where the plan comes in. It gives us a visual guide of where we're going and what to prepare for. It helps you to work out each twist of the plot, each challenge the characters face as well as the route to the conclusion.

However, believe it or not, you can overdo the planning of the story. If you map out every nook and cranny of the story you can make writing nothing more than a regurgitation of words, making all of the fun of writing suddenly become nothing more than putting together a jigsaw. Using this method can also stop fresh new ideas emerging and taking the plot in an exciting new direction.

The thing to remember is that each writer works differently. For some, as soon as an idea emerges they will sit down and plan the entire thing before even beginning the first chapter. For some others, they plan as they go.

Personally, I have two different kinds of plans: I have a chapter plan and an ongoing plan. My chapter plan is a summary of my story which lists all of the chapters as well as what I want to have happened at the end of all of them. It looks a little something like this:

Chapter 1- Character X meets character Y
Chapter 2- Character Y moves into the new place and realises character X is her neighbour
Chapter 3- Character Y ends up in hospital
Chapter 4- Character X agrees to stay with her for a while

It doesn't make much sense on it's own does it? But when combined with an ongoing plot it makes more sense:
  • Character X is in a café, bumps into woman (CHARACTER Y), he apologises and he goes to sit, woman leaves
  • Character X leaves the café and heads home to see a moving van outside next door
  • He is curious but goes inside and hear an answerphone message from his sister.
  • He calls his sister and they talk about her mother, they finish, he hangs up and hearing a knock on the door goes to answer it to find character Y. They talk.
When they are combined, they give a wider perspective of what should be happening while not being too constrictive- chapters can be added or moved or additions can be made to each chapter eg the conversation with character X's sister can be larger, the walk home can be distracting or he could stop in somewhere.

However, each writer will have their own method. In the words of Stephen King:
"I won't try to convince you that I've never plotted any more than I'd try to convince you that I've never told a lie, but I do both as infrequently as possible. I distrust plot for two reasons: first, because our lives are largely plotless, even when you add in all our reasonable precautions and careful planning; and second, because I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren't compatible."
Or, to see other alternatives look here.

The trick is to use what works best for you.

What method do you tend to use? Do you jump straight in or are you a meticulous planner? Which one do you think works better and why? Let me know!