Ok, so figuring out how to plot is basically a nightmare. Everyone is screaming that you just plot the stuff and then do the writing thing, but then you get halfway through writing and find out that you tied yourself into a knot/left a giant hole/ don’t quite know how to get to where you want to go/have written a totally different story than you intended…
I used to be a pantser (vague idea, maybe some questions I wanted to answer and a ton of gumption) but only for fanfic. So one day I stopped, looked at what I was doing and went “why do I throw myself at this without a plan when I break everything else down in to chunks.”
Eventually I realised that part of it was that I didn’t have any self-belief in my writing. I saw writing as a mysterious art that I just was never going to get the hang off. I didn’t see myself as someone who could write a complete story arc.
Now let’s take a step back, I have always been a storyteller, I’ve written plays, films and TV shows. I’ve published poetry and taken part in oral storytelling competitions. I’ve written backstories and histories for characters and games. Seeing a story through and working with character, plot and series arcs isn’t new to me but I treated writing stories as a separate beast.
So I started to plot.
My plotting happens in segments:
- Finding a theme/device/character/world that I want to work with, sometimes this is from a challenge, sometimes it’s an idea that strikes me.
- A stream of consciousness exercise/mind mapping/question and respond. Now these are basically all the same and for the most part I do them all at the same time. I create a mind map that has the core inspiration at the centre and then start in one corner with a stream of consciousness, I write down everything that comes to mind for that idea. From that I start to branch out, asking questions and jotting down ideas. If I hit on a question that I have more than one answer for I build off it. Finally I mind map out some ideas of how core arcs of the story could go.
This is rambly… let me show you.
Now this is the base of my plotting for July’s Rough Trade (2016) ‘Little Black Dress’ where you are challenged to work on three stories in any fandom but you have to make it a Sentinel fusion. I’ve blurred most of this as it is just questions and world building but I’ve left some bits un blurred so you can pick out what’s going on.
- in the bottom left I started off with by naming all the fandoms I would see myself writing Sentinel fic in. (pencil for the ones I want particularly drawn to and then I added purple to the ones that worked best with my questions later on, this is a running theme I work in pencil and then go over in coloured pen)
- next I moved up to the top left when a question about Buffy made me start thinking about themes (for those who are interested the question was “Have sentinels always existed or are they new? If they aren’t new is it outside of their role in society to kill demons?) This lead to all the green, green is question and response.
- Finally one of the questions drew me into thinking about story arcs and I plotted out 3 answers to “then why tell this story” this takes up the bottom right and has the doodles.
- Next comes the idea tossing, now sometime I might have started from here if my inspiration was a story idea jumping into my head.
personally my idea tossing always ends up in the form of a short synopsis of what I see happening in the story, a rough break down of the main theme and ideologies that are going to drive the characters. I use Scrivener for this as it is my writing/plotting/research tool of choice. (again remember that here I’m looking to plot multiple fics from the same inspiration, from here on out I’m looking at one story.)
- Next I pull one story out and follow a rough guide of:
- building ideas/ exploring problems
- central idea
- finale/ conclusion
I use this to build pretty much everything I write from official reports to thesis papers to plays to fanfiction. Again I use a mix of question and response alongside stream of consciousness. for each section I give a central ‘point’ for example the central point of section 1 is ” how did the Cylon’s destruction of Sentinels in the first war effect the treatment of latter day Sentinels?”, section 2 has “Attack on the Colonies” and so on for each section, sometimes a question I need to explore and other times a key event.
From this document I then research any questions I came up with that I can’t answer off the top of my head or do some world building to make it make sense.
Then I move it all into Scrivener and make it look pretty.
Build a playlist, produce a video and make a banner.