Puzzled by Plotting? | #1


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Writers tend to belong to one of two main story structure camps:

Plotting vs Pantsing

There are of course those writers who are hybrids and use the best of both worlds. For myself, I am for the most part, Pantsing is the camp I align myself to. But there are benefits of plotting. Sometimes when you get to a midway point, pantsing can simply run out of steam.

At the beginning of the year I signed up to a class offered by Savvy Authors. I found it incredibly useful for that midway point in a WIP when my pantsing just runs out of steam. The class offered a number of questions that basically help you flesh out a synopsis/plot line.

So if you are more of a panster but sometimes could use some form of plotting, this may help you. These 12 questions really helped solidify my story line for me and helped me flesh out a synopsis. Try it out. Afterall, you have nothing to lose. You may just find those elusive last pieces of your WIP puzzle.

  • What’s my idea?

Without an idea, there is no foundation, and the idea has to have some solidity to it.

  • Where does my story take place?

This sets the tone and mood of the story, an old dilapidated Victorian mansion gives one connotation while a skyscraper gives another and a space station quite another.

  • When does my story take place?

You need to establish a time period. Is your story contemporary, historical, a few years back, a few years forward, etc.

  • What is the timeline?

If you leave this to chance, you might find yourself a hundred pages into a story and still be on the first day of the story. This is great if that was your plan, but if you’re writing a generational novel, you’re in trrrrrrroooooouubbble!

  • Why is this happening?

There are only so many ideas and stories out there that can be told, you need to know your particular bent or twist that will make your story stand apart from all the others.
Who are my characters?

  • What’s my point of view?

You need to know who will be telling the story. First, decide if it is in first person, third person, objective, or omniscient and then decide if it is multi-perception or told by just one character. Even if told in first person, you can switch POV by placing a character’s name at the beginning of a scene.

  • Who are my characters?

Protagonist – main character(s)
Antagonist – villain(s)
Secondary characters – (all others)
At this point you don’t need to know the fine points of your character, or even their name, but you do need to have a sense of them, male or female, strong or weak, their impact on the story.

  • How will I begin my story?

The beginning Introduces the protagonist/s and tells the reason the story.

  • What is my plot?

This is the basic structure of the story. For example, boy meets girl, girl hates boy, boy doesn’t give up, girl begins to respond, her dog bites boy, boy sues, and then falls in love with his lawyer and drops the girl and the lawsuit, girl opens a kennel for wayward dogs, and they all live happily ever after.

  • What is my complication?

The wrench in the story. It is what moves the story along and aids the plot. Like nails in a coffin. The corpse might pop out if ya don’t nail the lid down.

  • What is my climax?

The climax is the point of the story where everything comes together. This is it, the moment when Indiana Jones picks up the Holy Grail while the Gestapo stands by to claim it , when Scarlett realizes she’s in love with Rhett and he already walked out the door, when Dorothy presents the witch’s broom to the Wizard and he says come back later. It’s not the conclusion. It’s not the end. It’s the high point, and the point when the protagonist could lose it all.

  • What is my resolution and anti-climax?

This is when the main character/s solve the problem and the story winds down. It comes quickly after the climax and you must resolve all the issues, untie the knots , bring home the bacon, put away the horse, bring in the hay….

Questions courtesy of Savvy Authors.

8 Comments

  1. This was a great post! I’m new to your blog, I came via my friend, Rachna Chhabria. I loved th questions and have bookmarked this post to refer to again in the future. Thanks for the good share.

    1. Hi Elizabeth, nice to see you here. I often see your comments on Rachna’s blog posts so it is nice to connect with you as well. I love that about blogging, all the people you get to meet and connect with. 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the post.

    1. Hi Jacqui 🙂 Glad you found the checklist useful. As I said in the post, it was essential to my MS and now I will use it in all my MSS. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  2. I do believe I’m a Pantser. I had to stop halfway through my manuscript and learn how to lay out my scenes and chapters in outline form, because it was becoming larger than I expected, and I was veering off from main plot too often.

    As to POV, I initially tried first person POV, because I write faster in that fashion, on the other hand, there were things I couldn’t do when using that voice, so about a third of the way through I tested out a chapter in third person. That did the trick! Third person for my story is the winner by a mile, but I wouldn’t have known it if I hadn’t taken the risk.

    POV has helped me realize new characters, and sent off some logical complications and sub-plotting, so we are back on track, and better organized.

    I hadn’t thought of climax as not being the end. You are right on target with it being a highpoint and precursor to the finish. So, I realized tonight that I have my climax laid out, but not my resolution.

    Great article! Thank You.
    C.K. Garner

  3. Great Post, Kim. These questions can surely get us out of the trouble we find ourselves in. These questions can be worked on even during the first draft. Then, perhaps we may not find ourselves in trouble 🙂

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