Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Plotting Out a Story...

I have posted this simple format before, but I thought it would be a good idea to post it again. This is a formula I use to plot out my WIPs. It's simple and flexible. Lately I've been reading a lot of posts about plotting and getting started on a new story.

If you are anything like me, I tend to get hypnotized by the blank page, : ). I have a general Idea of what I want to write, how it begins, progresses and ends. Unfortunately it is some times very hard to start writing that first paragraph. Why? Well for me it has to do with all the information I have running wild circles in my head. I simply can't pinpoint the exact place I want the story to start off.

I need to organize my thoughts. To line them up in sequence of events, and I NEED to see it written out. This helps me visualize each scene from start to finish, and gives me a starting point, middle and ending.

So if my fellow aspiring Authors out there, have the same problem I do, I hope the following Outline helps.

From an earlier blog Titled, Where Do I get These Ideas?

Where do you get those Ideas and how do you turn it into a story?

How many times have I heard the question, “Hey where do you get this stuff?” The “stuff” being questioned is my ideas for all the stories I have written through the years. I wish I had a straight answer. But I don’t. I believe the power that ignites my creativity, is simply a byproduct of all my experiences, influences and general desire for freedom of expression.

What I mean by that?

Well take for example the notion, ‘we are what we eat’, or ‘I think therefore I am’. Both these quotes are symbolic of the fact what we choose for ourselves or what fate deals us, eventually becomes an integrated part of who we are.

Can everyone become a great Artist, or Musician or even an Author?

I don’t think so. In fact, I would argue no. It takes a great amount of dedication, love of the media and shear determination to make those things happen. I may be able to draw and write. However, any one listening to me sing or try to play an instrument would most likely go deaf. I chose drawing and writing to express myself, because that is what I find most enjoyable doing. It is my comfort level. My way of going outside the box and expressing my self.

So were do I get my Ideas?

I get them from everywhere. The minute I walk out my door into the real world I watch, observe, listen, smell, feel, taste. I experience with an open mind and zest for learning. I read. I read a lot. Everything from the street signs to the graffiti on the sides of buildings. Then I store it away. Until one day, it flourishes and becomes my next great project.

For example, I could see a couple walking down the street arguing. Simple and benign. At least that’s what it looks like in general. I ask my self why they are arguing. My mind starts to create different scenarios of what could be causing the squabble. He’s cheating. She’s cheating. They’re not in a relationship, but one or the other wants to be…etc…. Eventually the scenarios become more and more fantastical…

She just found out he’s a vampire and that she is some type of concubine that he was sent from the planet Bloodlust to capture and bring back, so his King can sire his heir on… However, in the midst of trying to gain her trust, he’s fallen in love and is now trying to convince her that they need to run away together before the king sends his henchmen down to earth looking for them.

Whew! Okay now I have something to work with!

The trick is how to turn it from an Idea into a novel.

There are so many wonderful essays written by successful authors and editors on how to format or plan out a written work. I have read and reread and read some more, many of these informative articles. What I finally found that works best for me is to take what I have read, use them as tools to create the best “protocol” that works well with my style and voice.

Take the example above, The Idea I came up with about the arguing couple…

If I were to plan out a novel it would go something like this…

1). Create the back-story, this should answer where, how, why and when.
A). Where: The planet Bloodlust first, then Earth in San Diego CA
B). How: space travel or some type of inter-dimensional travel
C). Why: Dying race, Earth females pre-selected to breed with nobility.
D). When: Modern times on Earth.

Once the back story is outlined, (the above is a simple example…depending on the type of genre, more or less will be needed), then I need to select my characters. One of two ways I do this, I use a character chart for my main characters, ie the Hero and HEA. Another way is to create my own brief “Summary” of all my characters and any other terms I may use that will be unique to the story. In the Summary, I also include the specific sequence of events, brief yet to the point. See the following example…

2).Title of Book: Summary
A).Hero(name age, physical description): Brief historical background(ie warrior, soldier, escaped convict…etc..)

B).Hero’s agenda: what is his goal.

C).Heroine/HEA: Repeat above. (Keep it simple and systematic)

D).Antagonist/Villain or Evil Event: Repeat above.

***If the conflict is an evil event, ie the destruction of Planet Earth by some unseen force…etc..: then detail a brief history of what leads up to the event.

Secondary Characters: No major description is needed unless the secondary characters play major roles in that case simply repeat the formats for Hero, Heroine/HEA and Antagonist. If the characters are their for more or less supporting roles to help with back story and plot, then only detail their relationship to your main characters.

3).Introduction: Briefly describe the events that lead up to HEAs meeting.
4).Conflict/emotional: I write romance so I like to detail how my main characters interact with each other.
5).Climactic Conflict: What’s the threat…why is it a threat…what is the danger and how it is going to effect the characters.
6).Resolution: What needs to be done to save the world…how is it done…
7).Eventual Outcome: What is the Happily ever after…

Okay so this is way simple, but like I said it works for me. I’ve made it purposely vague so that anyone who would like to use this format could add to it to suit their individual needs. For me this outline helps organize the basic plot for my Idea. Hopefully, it will do the same for other writers who have gotten that awesome idea only to be stumped by the dreaded blank page. God knows it’s done wonders for me!



Sheri Fredricks said...

I wish I had your blog when I was first starting out. I worked on my first MS for a year without knowing what the heck I was doing. Your outline is going to help SO MANY new writers! And it's a great reminder for us "not so new, yet not too seasoned" writers too. Thanks for the great post, Emma Paul.

Emma Paul said...

It is my pleasure, I'm glad it was helpfull.

Brenda said...

Awesome, Emma. When I started my first MS I didn't plot--I thought I didn't need to because I had it all tucked away in my head. LOL, yeah, sure. I forgot most of it!!! Then I went back and made a real rough, and I do mean rough, outline.

Trish said...

Great Post Emma,

I'm in a strange position at the moment. I used to be a fully realized plotter. Had everything all figured out, and worked off a semi-detailed outline.

Until this last book- in which I had no plot only character and opening scene. But I was so compelled to write it, I started away, without plotting a thing.

And suddenly become a pantzer.

I don't recommend it to anyone.

Emma Paul said...

LOL! Don't worry, I think we have all done that at some point. Hey some of the best works are written by pantzers...