As promised last week, today I want to share how I’m plotting my current WIP, Troubling a Star (TaS). I have a few different methods that I’ve found useful in the past. Rather than go through all of them, I just want to share what methods I used to figure out the plot of TaS.
If you want to follow how I plot, there are a couple of things you should already know about your story:
- a) what kind of story you want to write (e.g. romance, mystery, adventure, etc.)
- b) your main characters, &
- c) the world/genre of your story (e.g. contemporary, high fantasy, dystopian, etc.)
These are the elements I find come to me quite naturally when I’m beginning a story. Some people will do a lot of world-building and character development at the beginning, which may be necessary if their novel isn’t meant to be very plot-driven.
My favorite books are strongly plotted, and that’s how I aim to write. So I don’t personally find it all that productive to start a new novel by developing characters or the world in too much detail at the beginning because I like to be able to feel out the characters/world while I write.
All I need to figure out before I start properly writing are the plot beats. By that, I mean the things that need to happen for the story to progress. They can entail character decisions, major world events, points at which relationships change. Ideally they’ll cumulatively show the arc of character development in conjunction with the story’s action.
With vague idea of the story I want to write in mind, I’m ready to start plotting. In the past, I’d summary-outline my novel and discover the story in the moment, writing down everything came to mind first. Over the last year, I’ve come to realize that I wasn’t liking where those outlines ended up. So now before I start, I try to first think about the final product as a whole.
I ask myself,
“Can you think of any famous works that seem to mirror the kind of story you want to write?”
With TaS, I knew that I had a character that was a kind of ethically ambiguous witchy character who the young female protagonist would need to face, so I thought of all the works I know that feature similar character dynamics. If you think about it, the ideas I present above could relate to any number of existing works! From the works that came to my mind, I picked the one I thought most closely resembled the story I would like to write, Vassa in the Night.
Without going into too much detail, I soon realized Vassa didn’t actually work very well, for I didn’t want to have my protagonist being trapped and forced to toil in my witch-like character’s underwater world. So I had to think about how my protagonist would need to toil for the witch. Said toiling would consist of the bulk of the novel, so it was important to figure that out.
Then it hit me! Somehow, I had another idea of the kind of journey the witchy character could put her through. I won’t tell you exactly which character specifically, but I will say the current iteration of my protagonist’s journey in TaS is, strangely enough, now somewhat inspired by the sub-plot of a minor character from the Harry Potter (HP) series!
- I took a look at the source material (i.e. the HP book).
- I wrote that minor character’s story out in a bullet-point list.
- I bolded the major beats of that plot (i.e. the points in the story where the protagonist experiences trials and tribulations finally culminating at the point at which the character knows what they have to do to solve their problem).
- Finally I began replacing the source beats with my own. My beats mirrored the ones from HP by fulfilling the same roles that the originals do for the source book. For example, if a beat from the source material is “mysterious note with threat left on desk,” the beat I create would need to include some sort of threat meant to intimidate my protagonist.
I don’t have the ending quite figured out yet, but that’s because the climax of the story is the point at which my story derails from the HP subplot. That is 100% fine, as I still have enough that I can get started as soon as I commit to the specifically tailored beats I develop to fit my story.
Everything can still change when I start write, but the important thing is that I’m not going into the story blind and with no direction. I can start to flesh out the world and the characters, and adjust course as needed.
My main goal is now to just complete the draft. If midway through writing the story I decide I want to change the whole plot of the story, I will write down my ideas so they don’t get lost but I WILL KEEP WRITING WHAT I’M WRITING. The most important thing will be simply to finish the draft that I start. I will follow the plot bunnies later and not let them convince me to stray from the path.
❧ ☙ END NOTE ☙ ❧
This weekend I was inspired to start a new creative project related to my novel that should help me keep all my ideas in one place and track my writing progress in a more personal way. I’m hoping it’ll prove successful and that I’ll be able to share it with you in a couple of weeks. But in the meantime, you can continue look forward to weekly progress reports on Wednesdays with my Novel Progress installments and on Sundays in my Week in Review posts!