Rethinking a Plotting System…Again
As I get closer to finishing the Breakout Novel workbook, my thoughts are jumping forward to starting the next draft of the WIP. Meaning, of course, they’re jumping into that not-so-little puddle of worry that even this draft, with all the work I’ve done, will still feel tangled and messy. Meaning, of course, that I’m trying to visualize myself organizing scenes, drawing out character arcs, laying out a nice, tidy order of events into which the actual words will just flow.
Hey, I can dream, right?
Plot is my burden, my battle, and my quest.
Every time I start a different project, I find myself searching for the plot system that will work. For me. Forever. I read blogs about plot, I play with my whiteboard, I picture myself with the perfect set of index cards that I basically toss into the air then watch settle happily into place…a place from which I can write.
I know that part of the “problem” is that, as a reader, I don’t really notice plot much. I’ve probably said this here before, but I can read the same mystery three times (okay, years apart, but still…) and not figure out whodunnit. What gets me when I read is the character dynamics, the interactions, the layers of personalities that play out on each other. And those are the pieces I really love about writing. Unfortunately, the best character studies fall flat without story. This, I get.
So…this time around, here’s what I’m thinking.
- I’m going to read Save the Cat. I’ve been hearing about it for years, and lately Debbi Michiko Florence has been singing its praises. I’m going to see if there’s a takeaway for me that’ll push me forward this time around.
- I’ll troll through Robin LaFevers’ blog posts, because I know she’s got some great plot stuff.
- I’m thinking about index cards a little differently. Maybe I’ve missed this before, while everybody else got it (very possible), but I always get confused about who goes on what color card. I mean, my hero is in EVERY SCENE, right? So when does a blue card get assigned to one supporting character and the yellow one to another? What I’m thinking is that maybe those are the background stories, the plot lines that happen off-scene, that we don’t actually see. The events and actions that impact my hero IN the scenes that make it to the page. So I’m thinking green for every on-stage scene, with Caro’s plot points on the cards. Then, oh, purple for her BFF, yellow and blue for the brothers, red for her mother, etc. But the other colors track the back story, the arc of the other characters–what they’re doing while Caro runs around in the foreground crashing into obstacles. Yes? Maybe? If anyone out there realizes this has always been the way to use index cards, and that I’m a clueless wonder for not having realized it before, please feel free to let me know. Nicely.
- See what I can do with Scrivener. As I go through the workbook, I have been tossing scene cards into Scrivener. Maybe I’ll work with my new index card system in this application. I do have a dread of getting all the physical index cards laid out on the floor, forgetting to close my office door, in comes the cat, and….poof! I’m not sure there’d BE any saving the cat, at that point.
- Steal ideas. Here’s where you come in. I know a lot of you don’t plot. To be honest, I don’t actually want to hear from you guys right now. Except, you know, in sympathy and support. BUT…those of you who, like me, want a structured home to pour the stories into, who’ve managed–at least once–to build that home and have it work, how about sharing? Pretty please? With a cherry on top?
Yes, I know there is no perfect system. Yes, I know plot is a living, breathing, kicking and biting thing that resists any attempts to tame it. Does this mean I’m not going to try? Nah. I’ll look around, play with what I find, heave a deep sigh, and dig in. But I’d really love it if I had a shovel that at least has a sharp edge and an unbroken handle, that didn’t give me splinters or fall apart when it hit the first rock. So if any of you have a tool you’ve used and like, do, please drop it into the comments. With my thanks!