Plots That Refuse to Thicken.

18 Jul

This article is #3 in a rolling blog tour. For the previous entry, please see John Hines’ post on plotting. The details on all the participants are at the bottom of this post.

I hate plotting.

I think it all started when somebody (I forget who) said there is no plot that hasn’t already been thought of. Every story has been written before, probably a few thousand times.

Fine, I snort, pushing away from my keyboard. Remind me why I’m doing this again?

Oh yeah. Because I love to write, and I need to quiet the voices in my head.

So the theory is, just because a plot has already been done, doesn’t mean it’s been done YOUR way. Using your characters, your voice, your style, etc. And there are a million variables you can use to make it unique.

(Whew). Back to the keyboard.

I still hate plotting. Maybe it’s because it’s the most ‘technical’ piece of the writing process. Plot involves conscious structure, manipulation, laying of groundwork and red-herrings. I stare at the keyboard, willing my story to come in one frantic burst of inspiration, waiting for my muse to slap me upside the head with the best plot EVER.

Nothing.

Isn’t it enough that I have to create compelling characters with complicated conflicts? I don’t have time for plot, too. I give birth to these people, and this is how they repay me? Can’t my characters come up with their own freakin’ plots?

The good news is, they can.

If conflict forces characters to act and make decisions, then one could argue (and many have, including Foster Harris in 1959) that ultimately, all plots stem from conflict. I like that. It’s simple and concise.

All plots stem from conflict. So all I need to do is create interesting characters, throw in lots of conflict, and the story will take care of itself.

Not quite. I still need to manipulate and plan and structure my novel. But at least the plot events aren’t coming straight from my left brain onto the page, forcing my characters to run around for no reason. The plot events are evolving out of character action and decision.

I’ll repeat that, because it’s important.

Plot events must evolve out of character action and decision.

If I can do that, most of the plotting is done for me. I still need to tweak and edit and manipulate. But my characters are doing the things they should be doing, based on who they are, where they’ve been and what’s happening to them now. The plot is forcing them to change, evolve and overcome conflict.

Bottom line? If I know my characters well enough, I’ll figure out my plot, and it will thicken just fine.

To learn how other authors plot, check out the next stop on the blog tour:

Kathleen Kaska–www.KathleenKaska.com

Below is a list of the participants in today’s roll. Stop by all of them to learn more about Plotting Methods, until you’ve completed the entire tour. And stay tuned, because another tour is planned for Wednesday!

  1. Ryder Islington– www.RyderIslington.wordpress.com
  2. John Hines– www.JohnHines.com
  3. Nancy Lauzon– www.ChickDickMysteries.com
  4. Kathleen Kaska–www.KathleenKaska.com

13 Responses to “Plots That Refuse to Thicken.”

  1. Kathleen Kaska July 18, 2011 at 5:01 pm #

    Imagine how easy it would be if we could teach our characters to revise and edit. Or maybe not.

  2. KT Wagner July 18, 2011 at 7:16 pm #

    I admire writers who can flesh out characters beforehand. I rarely get more than a basic character arc and a name in advance.

    No one on the roll has mentioned it yet, but the other element I create in advance is a theme. Then I wrap my characters and plot around the theme as much as possible. It keeps me from heading down too many side paths.

    Thanks for an interesting and informative article.

    KT

    • nancyelizabethlauzon July 19, 2011 at 1:12 pm #

      Hi KT,

      An excellent point, about theme. You’re right, theme can help keep you focused if you get sidetracked.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Nanct

  3. fandina72 July 18, 2011 at 10:59 pm #

    Firstly, love the title of this post 🙂
    Secondly, love the post itself! A another good reason to know your characters well. Thanks again for a useful, practical post. Printing out as a visual reminder 🙂

    • nancyelizabethlauzon July 19, 2011 at 1:13 pm #

      Hi Susannah,

      So glad you found it helpful. Thanks for you kind words and good luck with your plotting!

      Nancy

  4. 2GirlsonaBench July 26, 2011 at 1:36 pm #

    We usually ask our characters what they want to do, if that doesn’t work we buy them a drink. Or maybe it’s ourselves that get the drink, either way, we get real social with them and see if they’ll tell us what to do. If none of that works we binge on popcorn. Either way, you’re absolutely right about everything you’re saying here. Thanks for the reminder. 🙂

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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