Thickening the Plot

Good morning everyone!  Sorry I’m a bit late getting this post up, but J Monkeys is heading out for the day (again!) and just asked me to post for her.  Vivienne Ylang here.  Happy Saturday.  Last week I wrote about how I keep my characters real during the writing process.  Today I thought I’d tell you a bit about how I develop the plot of the story. 

Of course, it all starts with a kernel of an idea.  For some reason, the synapses of the brain fire and an idea occurs.  For me, ideas come easy.  I have way more ideas than I have ability to focus and get the job done.  I guess for some people ideas are the hard part.  My mom went back to college to get a Bachelor’s degree while I was in college and she said that writing papers were the toughest thing for her.  The math, the science (she’s a nurse) were a piece of cake, but tell her to write something and she’d stare at a blank piece of paper for hours.  I always found this hard to believe.  I entertain myself with blank pieces of paper all the time – and they don’t stay blank for long.

At any rate, once the idea is firmly fixed in my mind and I’ve got characters to go along with the idea, then comes the plot grid.  Yes, yes, I’m absolutely the planner type of writer.  Why wouldn’t I be?  I plan everything.  I love to plan.  If I tried pantsing my way through a book, it might take 7 years to write.  Trust me on this – I have experience.  I know that being a pantser (pantsers are people who enjoy writing by the seat of their pants) works for a lot of people; I’m not one of them. 

The plot grid is simply a type of outline where the major points in the story are noted down.  I like to use a plot grid I got from another author.  It’s pretty straightforward.  The thing that I like about it the best is that it makes me think about my Turning Points.  This is new for me, I haven’t thought this way before.  Turning Points are those places where the story…well, turns…for lack of a better term.   Most books have three of them: the first “change of plans”, the “point of no return” and the “major setback”.

The other thing that the plot grid has me thinking about is the Black Moment.  This is the final build up to the climax of the story.  The moment when the hero and heroine realize that everything they thought was true earlier in the story is, in fact, either not true or doesn’t matter.  The black moment is what prompts the characters to push their way through the horrors of the climax of the story.

So in addition to continuing to populate my character board (see last week’s post), I’ve spent time this past week working on my plot grid.  I’ve still got a way to go, but that’s ok.  I’m going on a long weekend vacation with the family next week and have decided to push my official start date for this book out to July 9th when the kiddies start Summer Camp and I’ll have some free time.  Even now, writing this post, there have been interruptions galore – demands for breakfast, and movies to entertain them. 

Today’s secret: Think about those turning points and build your way up to them.

Today’s question: What tools do you use to plot your stories?

And as a bonus – since I was dreaming about him just before I woke to write this post – here’s a little something to inspire you.  Joe Manganiello and I were saving the world together.  Hmmm.  Too bad I can’t go back to sleep.  But there’s always tonight.

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5 thoughts on “Thickening the Plot”

  1. Awesome post, Viv. As much of a pantser as i tend to be, I’ve found outlining the turning points and knowing what the black moment will be for my story helps me stay focused and gives me something to write towards. I took Michael Hague’s workshop on story structure a few years ago and it really solidified this idea for me. I highly recommend his workshop. Thanks for sharing, Viv. I’ve just passed the point of no return in my WIP and am racing toward the black moment. Must think of ways to make it all look hopeless. Of course, it’s a dystopian…shouldn’t be too hard.

  2. All this makes superb sense. HOWEVER, as for me, I prefer to be surprised: by my characters, a plot that seems to evolve on its own, a dark moment that startles even me, turning points out of nowhere yet making oh-so-much sense … the serendipitous magic of it all. Of course, I might take two years to write a novel, whereas you ladies turn them out by the dozens!

  3. I too have discovered planning those turning points and black moment help to move the story forward. Like having a red wagon filled with all the points and pulling them out as you travel over the hill n’ dale. Paula is so right about Michael Hauge’s workshop on story structure being helpful. Thanks for the post V.

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