Monday, May 2, 2011

9 Steps for Plotting Fiction

Does this happen to you...

Your in the car jammin' out to your favorite band and something, maybe it's a passerby or the lyrics in the song, but you're reminded, as you are every day, of an idea.  If given legs this idea could walk on water and soar all the way to number one on the best sellers list.

The problem is, when you try to plot the course of this spectacular novel your idea gets lost somewhere along the way.  You can't keep track of who, what, when, where or how and so you give up for another day.

If only you could figure out the main points, the beginning, middle and end of the book and how they all run along in a nice cohesive line until the end.

Verla Kay is an amazing author of many children's books and she has made it a mission of hers to pay it forward to blossoming new writers.  If you haven't checked out her site, you should! 

She also has a forum and on the board where I found a 9 step formula to plotting out your fiction.  This is also great for revising as well.

In a nut shell, the steps are:

Start with a piece of paper. It should be large enough to write on.
8.5 x 11 is perfect. Draw two parallel lines both vertically and
horizontally across the page, creating 9 comparable boxes, as if you
were starting a game of tic-tac-toe. These boxes represent chapters,
scenes, or sections, depending upon your book's intended length.

Number the boxes, starting from the upper left: 1, 2, 3.
Next row, starting from the left: 4, 5, 6.
Last row: 7, 8, 9.
Title each box…

1 Triggering event
First thing's first. What happens? Why have you bothered to write a
book, and more importantly, why should a reader invest time flipping
through its pages. Your triggering event is the answer to those
questions, so make it a good one. Also, don't make the reader wait
very long for it. First page, first paragraph, first sentence.
These are good spots for a triggering event.

2 Characterization
Generally, books succeed or fail on the strength of their characters
more so than on the strength of their plots. The second box is where
you explore what makes your protagonist tick. No, this isn't an
excuse for drawn out exposition, history, or back story. If your
triggering event is captivating, the reader will discover enough
about the protagonist in Box Two simply by reading how he or she
reacts to the event.

3 First major turning point
By now, your plot is picking up steam, and because of Box Two, the
reader is invested in the ride. Time to throw a curve ball. This
turning point can be either a positive event for your protagonist,
or a negative one, but it should lay the groundwork for the negative
turning point in the sixth square. There is a reason these boxes are
touching one another; they interrelate. For example, Box Three may
introduce the motivation of the antagonist, which then justifies the
events in the sixth square.

4 Exposition
You've earned some time to fill the reader in on important data.
Since this box touches the first square, here's where you shed some
light on that triggering event. Since it also touches Box Seven, you
get to foreshadow your pro-tagonist's darkest hour. Box Four often
reveals a relationship, character flaw, or personal history that
contributes to the dark times in ahead.

5 Connect the dots
Here is where many plots fall apart. Box Five represents the
trickiest part of fiction and since Box Five is the center of the
book it must connect to all the squares around it. Kind of like the
nucleus at the center of a bomb, Box Five should tick systematically
upon elements introduced in Box Two and Four. And like the calm
before the storm, the fifth square should give the false impression
of resolution before heading like a freight train to Box Six. Most
importantly, it needs to provide foreshadowing for the protagonist's
revelation in Box Eight. That's a lot for a little box to do, but
focus on efficient prose to get it right. Your plot depends upon it.

6 Negative turning point
Here's where that bomb explodes and all (word censored) breaks loose. Good
thing you laid the groundwork in Box Three. Good thing, too, that
Box Nine will deliver some just desserts.

7 Antagonist wins
The protagonist is defeated here, and the antagonist apparently
wins. How the protagonist deals with the darkest hour of defeat
depend upon the traits and/or story developed in Box Four, which
leads to his or her revelation in the next square.

8 Revelation
Of course! The protagonist's revelation turns the tide. Here is
where the protagonist connects the dots and overcomes the obstacles
of Boxes Six and Seven via the device introduced in Box Five.

9 Protagonist wins
The negative turning point in Box Six is rectified while the
character's resolve from Box Eight is brought into full bloom.
Congratulations! Another great tale told greatly.

Thanks Verla Kay!


M J Francis said...

Interesting method. I'll have to try that, even if it means applying it to a work in progress. My method is usually more organic (or sometimes haphazard) :)

P.S. Thanks for finding my blog and commenting. Hope you do have time to invest in Requiem.

Sassy said...

This is quite interesting. Glad you found me!

My Meddling Mind

Juliana L. Brandt said...

Thanks for posting this. My WIP has gotten a little dreary and I think this has helped me to realize why :)

Book Lover said...

Thanks for posting this Deanna. Wish I would have found it a year ago lol ;)

Marybk said...

Wow, thanks, Deanna and Verla! I'm so going to try this. :)

Deana said...

MJ, I am so that way too. Hopefully this can help with my chaotic urges...eventhough I am quite fond of them:)

Same here Madison!

I'm so glad I could Juliana!

Me too Mandie

And you are so welcome Marybk:)

Charmaine Clancy said...

Great plotting points!
Wagging Tales - Blog for Writers

Unknown said...

Hi Deana,

These are some great tips. I think you're blog is wonderful, very fun browsing around it. Looking forward to see what's coming next. Thanks a bunch for finding me.

Deana said...

I'm glad you liked it Jennifer, thanks!

Anonymous said...

Right now, you are a god to me! I am a first time "trying to be a novelist" and am trying to finish my first draft. I started my summer thinking "this will be so easy", but holy moly was I wrong! I have found myself sitting in front of my computer... literally, just sitting, and not actually writing! For the past few days I have been freaking out because I feel so lost, I have the story, but just can't make it flow. Icing on the cake? I signed up for a conference with an agent pitch at the end of Oct. soooo I have to finish it! Anways... I'll stop rambling and complete what I originally wanted to tell you! You are a god. This method makes COMPLETE sense to me and it's so... simple! I am not sure why I didn't start here in the first place! Here's to hoping it works. :0) XO Sara

Deana said...

I'm so glad I could help!

Theresa Milstein said...

Thanks for posting this. I'm going to use it! And I'll share it on Facebook when I get home.