Plotting

Here's something I'm curious about: How do other people do plots for their stories?


Personally, I tend to come with the general shape of the plot and then fill in the details later. In my current serial, I generally think about the arc I'm working on in great detail without too much thought to what that means for the specifics of what comes later.


Thus I've got my current serial divided into three parts, but I don't know many specifics about what's going to happen in part two or part three. I've got some specific scenes planned out, but I don't know exactly how I'll get to them. I've just got a vague sense of what part of the story they appear in.


I leave a lot open for spur of the moment ideas even in the well planned parts (like the current arc I'm writing).


Do other people do anything similar? Totally different?


I probably do pretty much the same as you. At the end of every "chapter" (I didn't know there were even going to *be* chapters until the end of the first one came along), I spend a couple of days coming up with a general direction for the next one. Not often a destination, just a direction. Then I wait for the conversations and actions to carry things along. When it works, the writing is easy. When it doesn't . . . well, that's when I spend 12 hours writing 500 words.


I prefer when it works.


The overall story has a basic plot arc, but I don't know if I'm actually going to end up following it, and I have several possible endings in mind. In any event, much of this story has flowed from the characters and their backstory, and the very nature of their universe, which seems to work for me. I guess good constraints really do make it easier.


Good topic.


Mirrorfall was written completely by the seat of my pants, which was cool - the story was old and familiar so I didn't have to worry about the details, I knew where I was headed. However, doing it that way led to some cool new things (Merlin, Madchester and a discussion on clowns).


Mirrorheart, I've actually had to plan, if only because of the SOS chapters (a couple of them had real chapters that had to coincide with them) - it's also not familiar like MF was - as the story is going in a completely different direction.


The next book...think I'll do a basic plot sketch, then fill in the details via the seat of the pants method.


Whenever I sit down to plot out a story, two men burst into my room. One of them is short and wears a hat, one of them is tall and has his hair incompetently slicked down, as if his head were so high up that he couldn't reach all of his hair.


"You the writer?" says the short one.


"I'm- I'm A writer." I say, confused.


"Yeah, but are you the writer?" he says again, pointing a cigar at me. "You the one who can see people from other dimensions?"


"I- I'm sure I wouldn't know-" I stammer, before the big one interrupts.


"Vinnie." he says, trying to get the short one's attention.


"Don't you give me none of that, wise guy!" says Vinnie. "Either you's the guy who sees extradimensionals, or you's ain't. Now which one's it?"


"Vinnie." says the big guy again, more insistently.


"C'mon! Out with it!"


"Vinnie." says the big guy with a large sigh. "It occurs to me that we are having a conversation with him. Thus, he can see us, can't he?"


Vinnie stops. "Oh. Yeah, you're right, Eddie." he says after a visible time spent thinking. This bothers me- I'm one of those people obsessed with seeing characters be balanced with one another, and Eddie seems blessed with both great size and prodigious intelligence, while Vinnie is left bereft of any creator's gifts. The lack of equilibrium bothers me.


Vinnie pulls out a sheaf of papers and tosses them in front of me. "Here's your basic plotline for The Magical Brothers. Follow it, or else."


"What?" I say, quickly losing track of what's going on. "What for? Or else what?"


"The first is not for you to know." says Eddie, calmly. "The second involves egregious pain and a creative use of cloning and telepathy to make it twice as bad as usual."


I look over the papers, trying to remain calm. "Man- this isn't how I wanted it to go at all! I wanted to use a dragon. You've always got to use a dragon!"


"No dragons." says Eddie.


"You know how they usually are worth, like, a big pile of gold?" says Vinnie. "Well in your case, every dragon is worth a kneecap."


"Right, right. No dragons." I say, very quickly, mentally adjusting to the plot I've been handed. "Okay, okay, so then, I'll just follow this- what kind of leeway do I have?"


Eddie shrugs. "You can characterize and work with dialogue as you like, Mr. Laws. Simply stick to the-"


"Don't make anybody gay." says Vinnie.


Eddie looks down at his partner with a furrowed brow. "Pardon?"


"Don't make anybody gay!" says Vinnie, with a shrug and a 'What's your problem?' expression on his face. "I ain't got nothin' against fags, really, but man, I hate that shit when someone just turns out to be gay because the author thought it'd be some big shit or somethin'."


"But one of the brothers has a-" I start to protest.


Vinnie curls his lip at me and I see his fist clench.


"Nobody gay." I say.


Vinnie nods, a big smarmy smile on his face, while Eddie rolls his eyes.


They leave me with the papers and a few vague threats of their return, vanishing as swiftly as they'd appeared. The only signs they'd even been here are the plotline in my hands and the smell of Vinnie's cigar, slowly fading.


That is how I am left with my general plot plan, and with wondering how much subtext I can get away with.


It happens every time.


Warlocktopus,

At first I thought you were doing some kinda clever way to say that you let your characters determine the plot. By the end, I think I just want some of whatever it is you're smoking. I think I could come up with some really far out stuff with it. :D


AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!


Lols, warlocktopus. My process seems to be a lot like the general consensus here. I tend to have a general plot for the over-all arc and for the specific episodes, which fill themselves out as I write. Sometimes I know more, sometimes I know less -- with my current project, I prefer to know much less of the general arc and only vague inklings of the specific episodes -- it works better for me that way.


With Superstition, I usually have the ending figured out, and I get myself there.


For AEOL, I've got a page and a half long outline, with the major beats. There are details that fill in as I go.


So pretty much like everyone else here, it seems. I also have some character sketches for each major character.


Iiii unlike others here take a far less organized approach (at least to my current project Night Switch). I had some vague plot ideas at first but now I'm just winging it while keeping my characters in character (hopefully!). My more serious projects usually involve some outlining and such but right now I'm living the dream, I'm posting whatever I type up. Oddly, quality hasn't suffered over Night Switch's run. This either says cool things about my improvisation ability or really, really dim things about my ability to write.


I just write until something readable comes out. That's been working out well... not. lol


I'm current trying charts and little sketches, but I have yet to use them. It seems like it's been working for others though, so I'm hopeful.


I come up with ideas and plotlines and general story arcs.


And then end up writing something completely different.


Every time.


Oh well.


I have a feeling that all the time I'm spending on plotting is going to go just the way you just mentioned.


As long as it gets written, I guess.


I've got the general storyline plotted out, who goes where and what happens when, but aside from that it's all last minute stuff. I tend to write each chapter by hand, then put it away for a day or two before posting. I try not to read it until it's time to post.


While transferring it onto the computer, I edit and rewrite things, as I've usually thought of new or better ideas by then.


As for me, I have only a few things plotted out. How it ends, and what happens to certain characters along the way.


The advantage in my opinion is that I'm free to let the story write itself to its inevitable end


The downside is that because the entire thing is on the fly, I could invariably end up putting the main character in a situation where he ends up dead or otherwise incapable of reaching my desired end result. Which has almost happened twice with my penchant for beating the hell out of my MC.


Luckily I was writing in advance at the time and had time to adjust.


Oh... and Warlocktopus... I love reading your posts.


Warlocktopus....you're my hero.


On topic, I usually write by the seat of my pants. Which sucks when I unintentionally write myself in a corner. I've tried outlines before but I usually end up not following them so I just skip that step now.


Warlocktopus: excellent.


As for my own feeble attempts as plotting, I usually have some kind of vague road map outlining where I need to go, but along the way the story or the characters wind up leading me down a variety of other roads and side-alleys, where they then proceed to batter me about the head and steal my wallet, leaving me wondering what the heck happened.


It's never dull, that's for certain.


I generally know how the next chapter or two are going to go. Sometimes more, since I occassionally get caught up in something that hadn't occured to me and don't make it to my set endpoint.

Overall though, I have a vague plan for a couple chapter ahread, and an overarching story arc that will dictate the general tale, though I don't know how long it will take the overarching plot to progress and reach an endpoint. That's the fun of it. It could take 20 more chapters or 120, I don't know.

Mine is not, however, an ongoing soap opera for college guys. It may seem a bit like that at first, but there is something going on, I promise.


For Tapestry, plotting is actually a lot of fun, because it means that I get to play out the scenes that go 'behind the scenes' in my head for fun. Tapestry is very much a limited viewpoint, so a lot of the story occurs in my head for my entertainment, and I go back through and document it for later using the framework afterwards. I know how scenes next month in-story play out, four months away, eight months away, two years away. That's just how the story goes - a lot of important scenes 'happen' far and away before they're scheduled to appear.


An interesting note is that a lot of subplots and side characters turn up in the meantime that really aren't part of the plotline at all. They're just people, as any sociable main character would meet, which is both fun and possibly misleading for my readers. I have a lot of loose plot threads at any given time, and only one of them will take the story through to the end. Which one? Well, that's classified.


In essence, I know all the signposts along the way, but I don't know the story inbetween those signposts. I take each day as it comes.


I know the overall arc of the story, the 10-year arc. I don't know the arcs of each individual "book." I keep an outline of which day each chapter falls on, and I rely on my wiki. When I start a new "book," I write up an outline that tells me where everyone is at the beginning and where they need to be at the end, with no idea how they're going to get there. That's it!


Personally, what I do is design the characters and world, and then I allow my characters to come to life and they basically write thier own story. Then I would review what maddness spews forth and decide whether its a keep or a killer. :)


More often then not it twists in a a way I could not have imagined, ot rather in the way that only I could imagine. Im not to sure, but most of my addition character are made on a whim.