I talk often to other writers about plotting. And not-plotting. And how much we do. And whether it’s an outline or a chart. And so on and so on…
If you read my blog at all, this probably isn’t news to you, but I’ll put it out here anyway. Hi, I’m Becky, and I’m a plotter.
I plot a lot–from the overall story arc to what’s going to happen in any individual scene. I don’t tackle a revision without looking at my existing plot and seeing where I need to make changes. And then I do it all over again as I revise each scene.
Yes, it’s about control. I need some sense of where I’m going, before I start trying to get there. I’m sure that I need a stronger sense of that than a lot of writers.
I truly believe that understanding is what helps me loosen up as I write and let in the surprises.
And, oh, the surprises come. I’ve got a plan for my hero to argue, and instead she goes stone-cold silent with anger. I figure out which character is going to create an obstacle, and suddenly that character is all support and friendship, while someone else steps up to punch my hero in the gut. I pick a setting for its peacefulness and calm, and suddenly all hellamundo is breaking loose.
Yes, there are surprises that aren’t so wonderful: characters I forget to weave into the story who stand there like cold statues, doing nothing. Gaps where I realize I’ve leapt way too far ahead, without building to my hero’s choice or action. And of course, those moments where I realize–oh, BLEEP!–that history doesn’t support the storyline I’ve got going.
Those surprises, I believe, are the cost of leaving room for the others. If it were even possible for me to plot so tightly that I wouldn’t run into any dead-ends, or twisty mazes, I don’t think my characters would have room to step in and take charge. I don’t think they’d be able to shout loud enough to get my attention.
I’m not going to get her wording right, I’m sure, but Martha Alderson talks about plot as the vessel that exists to catch your inspiration. Yes, my plot-box probably has more sections than yours.
Maybe your plot has a beginning, a great crisis, and three bad things across the middle. Maybe you’re one of those writers I so envy who create a seriously strong one-sentence premise and write from that. Maybe your container looks more like this:
Whatever we use, however much we plot, I really believe it’s all good. Whatever you have that gives you the freedom to let the words come, keep using it. And enjoy the surprises!